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We have the power to stop this. And there is an alternative

Started by Richard Mellor, February 17, 2009, 10:11:07 am

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Richard Mellor

Capitalism, borne of a dying and worn out feudal system, is experiencing an historic crisis of its own that has yet to run its course despite massive intervention by the capitalist state. The executives of the state, the politicians of the class that rules society, have responded to a debt crisis by borrowing money on our behalf; they have shifted the burden of a crisis of their making on to the backs of workers and the middle class pouring trillions of dollars of public funds in to the system as the capitalists maintain their strike of capital.

Such is the anger and hatred of the speculators and swindlers who have gorged themselves at the expense of working people that the politicians whose interests they serve have been forced to publicly feign anger and disgust at the excess.  The bailout of the criminals as opposed to the victims of the crime adds to this anger.  

They have responded with an ideological offensive.  Like the religious fanatic with the billboard on the streets of some cities, the mass media the criminals control warns day in day out of catastrophe if we don't ignore our better judgment, reject our gut instincts, and hand over the money with a smile.  "The end is nigh" is the only conclusion we can draw from President Obama's repeated warnings about catastrophic consequences if we resist handing over the money.

They are deathly afraid that the tremendous anger that exists beneath the surface of society might break out in to the open. Better that it be expressed through self-blame, through alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence or mass killing than in an organizational form that challenges their rule and control of society's resources.  They want to ensure that we "leave it to them" that we understand that there is only one way out; their way.  The feudal aristocracy played the same game. Every ruling class claims the system it rules is the only game in town, is the end of civilization.  The king was king by divine right. It's not easy to challenge god's will--------if you believe in god that is.

This fear of a revolt from below led to a charade in Washington where their politicians expressed public anger at them for their excesses in forums where the charade could be filmed for the angry public. Henry Waxman, one of their top actors, chided them for the excess and wasteful behavior at the expense of working people. The mass media was not shy in bringing us this play daily; a public lashing of the swindlers by the heroic Waxman and other politicians.  Waxman's role in the de-regulation of the Savings and Loan industry back in the late eighties that allowed the speculators to rob the American people of a few hundred billion dollars was never mentioned of course.

The truth is that the anger in the pits is forcing them to at least give the impression that they are going after their own. "Investment bankers", writes one bourgeois commentator, "......have resembled cartoon characters who have run over a cliff and failed to notice that the ground beneath has disappeared" (1) His column, supporting Obama's cap on executive pay makes it clear, "If the price of the bail-outs being approved is some wage caps, the price must be paid."

He comforts his class brethren at the same time reminding them that the $500,000 cap is only "compulsory for the institutions in the worst trouble and only if they apply for more money than they have already been given."   He assures them that there are ways of getting around this poverty wage----not to worry.

They have made progress as the early resistance to cuts has been worn down by the propaganda machine. After all, isn't this sacrifice, as hard as it is to swallow, better than the end of the world? The end of civilization as we know it?  But they are not out of the woods, he warns his class. The voters have accepted that they have to help the moneylenders but "It would not take many more provocations to take back their permission, at which point the US economy and financial system would plunge in to crisis. A few poorer bankers is a small price to pay for Mr. Obama being able to maintain popular backing for his support program."

The moneylender's actions have put the system and risk and discredited capitalism and the free market.  The myth that the market is the best system has been severely weakened by their actions and they should have been more responsible.  "...they have had to be told what is good for them" Gapper concludes.

Given the state of affairs, the near collapse of the system and the anger that could break out in to the open, these sacrifices are necessary but temporary.  The alternative could be losing it all. "There will be time for them to make profits" "..there will be time for them to get bonuses.......now's not that time.", Obama assures the swindlers in a speech in Chicago in January.

Assisting the criminals in their efforts are the leaders of the working class.  One headline in the press the other day announced that the US auto bosses and the heads of the UAW were in concession talks.  Concession talks?   The auto bosses want more money, more of our money.  And the conditions for getting it are that they cut wages, benefits, work rules and other impediments to profit taking.  They must also shut down production and eliminate thousands of jobs; then they'll be given our money.

So they'll get taxpayer money if they eliminate the jobs of taxpayer's.  They'll get taxpayer money if they are serious about destroying the future for millions of people. And they will have the help of the Union leaders in doing it.

Instead of the auto industry executives being bailed out, the industry itself should be taken in to public ownership under worker's control and management.  It needs to be re-structured in a way that capitalists will not re-structure it. It needs to become a collectively owned and managed transportation industry that will move to eliminate the dependency on the wasteful and environmentally destructive automobile and replace it with a socially responsible and environmentally friendly mass transit system.  The workweek can be reduced to 30 hours or less with no loss in pay as a means of creating jobs.  Its present owners will not------no, cannot do this, the market won't allow it.  But it is a domestic and international necessity.

A national minimum wage of $15 to $20 an hour would put money in worker's pockets which is something they keep advocating.  In fact this is something they are pressuring China to do, increase wages to spur global demand.  "Americans are too broke to resume their role as Asia's demand engine" writes David Pilling in the Financial Times. (2)

On the Facts For Working People Blog we make the above point not simply about transportation, finance or other industries but about social production in general.

"We do not agree with bailing out finance capitalism. We believe in ending it. Our policy is to nationalize all the banks and finance houses under worker's control and management. This would mean that the finances of the country would no longer be privately owner but would be nationalized and be centralized and under workers control and management. This would allow democratically elected bodies of working class people to decide what would be done with this wealth, how these finances would be used. It would end the dictatorship of big business which was on display last week in Congress where the heads of the finance houses were being questioned. And do not be fooled. They were all let leave that room with their ownership and control of their finances intact. Congress was just trying to be seen as doing something about the scandal of the greatest financial in history. In reality they are doing nothing but bailing out the swindlers."(3)

Supported by a reluctant working class and without a conscious struggle to send it to its grave, capitalism will eventually recover, although the crisis has not yet exhausted itself.  But it will not be the same.  The cost of this crisis will be borne by the future generations, our children and grandchildren in the form of lower standards of living and fewer public services.  For workers in the so-called "emerging economies" millions already on the brink of starvation will perish as millions more take their place in the wake of recent events.  The system is rotten to the core.

We are undoubtedly facing a difficult task as a powerful combination of the capitalist class and the leaders of the worker's organization is a formidable obstacle to overcome. But the fact that they are forced to make some minor sacrifices at all is a confirmation of the potential power that slumbers in the lap of the global working class.  There have been numerous outbursts of opposition to their plans and the crisis itself.  From factory occupations in the Ukraine to the general strike in France as well as protests and demonstrations throughout the world.  It is inevitable that in China, where some 20 million workers have been laid off in the present period, there will be huge clashes as workers draw the conclusion that the only alternative is to fight.

The same will occur here in the US. Leon Trotsky, the revolutionary socialist, explained many years ago that the great crisis of the working class and indeed humanity was the crisis of leadership.  This is as relevant today as when he wrote it.  But the obstacle of our own leadership or lack of it will eventually be challenged as young workers step to the fore and challenge the system. More people will lose their homes in the next period.   Bankers are already doing all in their power to ensure that the foreclosure blow is not softened. (4) The dam will burst at some point and all the traditions and rich militant history of struggle that brought us this far will re-emerge.  


(1)   Curbing a few bankers is a small price: Financial Times 2-05-09
(2)   Financial Times: 2-5-09
(3)   http://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/2009/02/fed-up-with-bi-partisan-talk.html
(4)   http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/news/articles/business_news.htm