Underlying the crisis of banking and money capital are decades of downward-trending profit rates and contracting production, trade and hiring. The competition-driven operations of the capitalist system, and the resulting policies of the employing class and their government, are imposing ever greater burdens on the backs of working people — unemployment, declining real wages, speedup and unsafe conditions on the job, sharply rising medical costs, vanishing pensions and more.
These social and political consequences are explained in a new book by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, that came off the presses just days before the election: The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People. “Barnes describes the human toll on working people in the United States,” says SWP leader Steve Clark in the introduction, “including the gutting of the meager ‘social safety net’ won in hard-fought battles by the US working class over decades. He explains what growing numbers of workers already sense is happening to us, no matter how vehemently the wealthy and powerful deny it. We are living through … a global capitalist crisis like none of us have ever seen before.”
More and more workers and farmers today “are already engaged in a wide-ranging and angry discussion of this capitalist reality,” Clark says. “Although no one can foresee the timing, the financial capitalists and well-paid professionals who serve them sense that mounting struggle — class struggle — lies ahead.”
That’s why “for the first time in decades, the US rulers and their government have begun to fear the working class.”
Millions voted for ‘a change’Hillary Clinton acted as if she could win the election while turning her back on working people and the increasingly desperate conditions confronting tens of millions across the U.S. She made little effort to campaign in working-class areas of the Midwest, such as Michigan and Wisconsin. In the name of cleaner energy, she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” And Clinton contemptuously called workers considering a vote for Trump “deplorable” and “irredeemable.”
Many of the key places that tipped the scales for Trump to win the electoral vote were working-class areas where a majority, including workers who are Caucasian, had voted for Barack Obama in 2012. In Ohio’s coal-mining Monroe County, Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 8 points four years ago; this time Trump won by 47 points. In Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, home of the industrial city of Wilkes-Barre, Trump won by 19 points, where Obama had won by 5 percent.
Many fewer workers who are Black turned out to vote for Clinton, too. In Detroit, her winning margin was 90,000 votes less than Obama’s in 2012. In Flint, Michigan, her edge was less than half of Obama’s four years earlier. In Milwaukee’s District 15 — an area that is 84 percent African-American — turnout fell by 19.5 percent from 2012.
The election results shattered the illusion among Clinton and her machine that they could count on a sweep of African-Americans anywhere comparable to that for the first Democratic Party presidential candidate who was Black. Nor was there any “surge” in voting for Clinton by Latinos and women.
The story was repeated in working-class and rural areas across the country. As conditions got worse for millions of workers under Obama, many looked for something new, for a “change.” And millions more couldn’t stand either candidate and just stayed home — the turnout was the lowest in 20 years.
Blaming ‘stupid white workers’Many bourgeois liberals, middle-class radicals and much of the big-business media claim Trump won as the result of a racist backlash by what they call “the white working class.” Somehow millions of workers who had voted for an African-American for president in 2008 and again in 2012 had amazingly been transformed into reactionary bigots a few years later!
A growing number of liberals go even further, saying the outcome of the election shows that workers are a mass of stupid, uneducated people, whose right to vote poses mounting dangers.
The president-elect received “massive support from uneducated, low-information white people,” wrote Jason Brennan in Foreign Policy magazine. It was a “dance of the dunces.” Brennan, a professor at Georgetown University, argues that the right to vote should be limited to those who pass a “political knowledge” test. Or, “high-information” people (like himself) should be given extra votes.
Such contempt for — and above all fear of — the working class is typical of what SWP leader Jack Barnes calls the “meritocracy” in his recent book, Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism. Many among this expanding middle-class layer, heavily based in universities, foundations, the media and the “tech” industry, Barnes says, “truly believe that their ‘brightness,’ their ‘quickness,’ their ‘contributions to public life,’ … give them the right to make decisions, to administer and ‘regulate’ society for the bourgeoisie — on behalf of what they claim to be the interests of ‘the people.’”
The petty-bourgeois left reacted to Trump’s election with similar anti-working-class hysteria. “For the most part, those who attend and cheer at Trump rallies are deplorable,” wrote Workers World Party leader Teresa Gutierrez, embracing the smear coined by Clinton. “Most have crossed a line” and “reflect a danger.”
Shakeup in capitalist partiesLeading up to the elections, Trump faced widespread opposition within the top rungs of the Republican Party. Far from being housebroken by such figures, however, Trump is setting out to remake the Republican Party in his own image.
The Democratic Party is in shambles. The wing around Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose primary campaign was blocked by the blatant rigging of Clinton and the national Democratic machine, is seeking to take over the party.
“I’m not here to blame anybody,” Sanders said disingenuously at a Washington, D.C., rally Nov. 17. “But facts are facts,” he said. “When you lose the White House to the least popular candidate in the history of America, when you lose the Senate, when you lose the House and when two-thirds of governors in this country are Republican, it is time for a new direction for the Democratic party!”
Coming apart of ‘globalization’The 2016 election was a further registration of the coming apart of “globalization.” That’s the classless term pro-capitalist commentators use to describe the international expansion over the last several decades of world trade, capital flows and labor migration, as well as the accelerated (and risky) interconnection of capitalist banking and bond trading.
Some among the world’s ruling classes and professionals who do their bidding dreamed this could lead to supernational economic and political bodies, like the European Union, transcending nation states (and thus both trade wars and shooting wars) as the wave of the future.
But the European Union ran aground on the reality that dog-eat-dog capitalist relations, especially under the pressure of economic and social breakdowns, depend on nation states, national currencies, national armies — and the handful of propertied ruling families of each country whose class interests these national institutions serve and protect.
The richer, stronger European imperialist powers in the north, led by Berlin, grew fat at the expense of the weaker south (and, since 1989, east). The fantasy of an “ever-greater union” shattered when the Greek government was forced into bankruptcy, leading to deep assaults on working people there. Italy could well be next.
Likewise Obama’s plans for massive “trade” agreements (with their maze of bureaucracies and regulations) like the Trans-Pacific Partnership — which he touted as a signal achievement of his presidency — are now dead in the water.
These developments, too, help explain the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election, as well as Brexit — the referendum passed in Britain earlier this year to leave the European Union.
What’s more, the U.S. rulers are carrying out seemingly endless wars and bringing catastrophe to working people — from Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria, as well as to working-class and farm families offered up as cannon fodder in the United States and elsewhere.
Their ‘solution’: take it out on usThe policies the U.S. rulers, in both major capitalist parties, have pursued since the 2008 financial crash, such as holding interest rates near zero and “regulatory” legislation, have failed to generate growth and employment or decrease the concentration and risk of banking capital. The same is true for Washington’s imperialist rivals in Tokyo and more recently Europe.
Even before the 2016 election, a growing number of voices across the spectrum of bourgeois politics began acknowledging this failure and urging greater emphasis on “fiscal policy” — that is, government spending and tax measures — instead of “monetary” remedies.
Trump was among them, pledging to kick start “growth” and “jobs” with $1 trillion in infrastructure construction and repairs — roads, bridges, airports, water and sewage systems and so on. Some Democratic Party officials, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have jumped to offer to work with Trump to get such measures through Congress. Long-term interest rates have begun creeping up, and the prospect of rising inflation in the months and years to come is real.
But whatever temporary jobs such government-funded projects might produce, they will not generate the long-term capital investment in expanded industrial plant, equipment, production and hiring that could reverse the worldwide contraction of capitalist production and trade today.
In fact, there’s no policy the rulers can implement that can resolve the underlying crisis of production and trade, nor the unraveling of their imperialist order, that the capitalists don’t take out of the living standards, job conditions, and life and limb of hundreds of millions of working people in the U.S. and the world over. These are all the result of the workings of capitalism itself.
The big majority of the U.S. ruling class mobilized enormous funding and used the newspapers, TV and other institutions in unparalleled ways to elect Hillary Clinton. All pretense of journalistic “objectivity” went by the wayside. CNN became widely know as the “Clinton News Network.”
But the capitalist rulers have quickly put that behind them.
In interviews and statements since the election, Trump backed away from some of his reactionary demagogy, such as building a wall along the Mexican border (he now says it will feature fencing). On the CBS show “60 Minutes” he said he will prioritize deporting immigrants with “criminal records, gang members, drug dealers” — what the Obama administration is doing.
Gay marriage, Trump said, is a settled question by the Supreme Court. He said he’d keep a couple of the provisions of Obamacare, including barring denial of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and only repeal it when Congress adopts something to replace it. The one thing he pointedly wouldn’t back off on was opposition to women’s right to choose abortion.
All these social and political questions and more, the product of bipartisan attacks over years, remain important fights for the working class. That includes defending Muslims and mosques whenever and wherever they come under attack.
Independent working-class alternativeTrump’s demagogy about the problems facing working people did absolutely nothing to advance class consciousness. To the contrary, everything he stands for aims to keep workers divided and weak — a danger to the working-class and labor movement. Like Obama, Clinton and the Democratic Party, he talks about the classless “we” in order to paper over the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of working people and those of the capitalist rulers.
Not just during the election campaign, but day in and day out, year round, the Socialist Workers Party explains that there are “three parties and two classes” in U.S. politics. Two are the parties of the bosses and war makers, the Democrats and Republicans.
And there is the SWP, whose support for struggles and demands of workers and the oppressed and working class program and activity point a way toward the fight for workers power.
As the president-elect puts together his cabinet and the rulers try to find a new road to stabilize capitalism in crisis — including their two-party system — the SWP is deepening its political activity in the working class. Party members knock on workers’ doors and join the discussion and debate, which remains as open and broad-ranging after the election as before, explaining why workers need to unite in solidarity against the attacks of the bosses and their government and build our own political party.
SWP launches campaign for mayor of Los Angeles
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