Below are the remarks by Mary-Alice Waters at a Feb. 10 presentation of three new books on the U.S. class struggle at the Havana International Book Fair (see accompanying article). Waters is a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and president of Pathfinder Press. Copyright © 2017 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Special thanks goes to our chairperson, Javier [Dueñas], the director of Casa Editora Abril, who helped us put this panel together. And above all I want to express our appreciation to Fernando [González], Enrique [Ubieta], and Elier [Ramírez]. It’s an honor to have such a well-qualified panel to speak on the questions at the center of these three new books — questions involving the political consequences in the United States of the inexorable advance of capitalism’s global crisis. It’s a crisis unlike any we’ve known in our lifetimes.
I want to emphasize one point above all.
If you had read these three books a year ago, nothing happening today in US politics would be a surprise to you. Nothing.
But it’s not too late. If you want to be prepared for what’s coming, please get them today. And read them. We’re making a special offer. Three for the price of two, so there’s no excuse not to read all three.
American ‘carnage’In his inaugural address three weeks ago, President Trump used the phrase “this American carnage” to describe the conditions of life faced by broad layers of US working people today, both rural and urban. That word — carnage — was singled out by the hysterical anti-Trump media as an example of the president’s twisted refusal to acknowledge what those who’ve benefited so greatly from the “Obama years” portray as an economic recovery.
It was a “dark” speech, these commentators said. It failed to recognize that “America Is Already Great,” echoing the imperialist sloganeering of Hillary Clinton’s liberal Democratic Party campaign.
But carnage it is.
That’s exactly the right word. It’s the word you’ll find in the pages of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record, published months before the changing of the guard in Washington.
Its accuracy is backed up by massive documentation in the pages of these three books. Each of them recounts the consequences for US working people of the social policies put in place, with bipartisan support, over the quarter century ago since the inauguration of Bill Clinton, policies supported and continued by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
You’ll find here the machinations used to conceal the true level of joblessness, as well as workers’ declining real wages.
You’ll find the consequences of slashing social welfare programs for women and children.
You’ll find facts on the soaring prison population, the record numbers of deportations and prosecutions of immigrants, and the large increase in federal crimes for which a judge can impose the death penalty.
You’ll find the growing suicide rate among young adults, and the epidemic of narcotics addiction in small cities, towns, and devastated farming and mining areas.
You’ll find the toll on the working class of Washington’s endless wars and its repeated deployments of workers and farmers to Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And much more.
More important than charts and statistics, however, is the visual evidence available to anyone willing to look as they drive across vast areas of the United States. I hope Fernando will speak about what he saw, with his own eyes, when the US Bureau of Prisons gave him the “opportunity” to drive through the rural Southwest in a prison bus transporting him to Safford, Arizona.
Growing class inequalitiesIt’s not only the social inequities that have accelerated in the last quarter century. It’s the class inequalities.
It’s not just the wealth of the multibillionaires, including Trump and family, or multi-multimillionaires like their rival Democratic Party family, the Clintons. It’s also the steady expansion of high-earning professional and upper middle-class layers who dominate the media and populate the universities, administrative and “intelligence” agencies of the federal government, “Silicon Valley,” and tens of thousands of “charitable” foundations and other “nonprofit” institutions that promote worldwide the capitalist and imperialist interests of their financial backers.
Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? — one of two books by Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party — that we’re presenting here today, deals with the growing significance of this social layer.
In these privileged circles, it’s common to hear someone remark that they can’t understand how Trump won the election — “I don’t know a single person who intended to vote for him.”
This class isolation was captured by a Washington Post columnist a few months ago who was voicing his fear of the rising anger of millions of working people in the US. “Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us,” he wrote. “We must weed out ignorant Americans from the electorate.”
For him, this “ignorant electorate” clearly includes the overwhelming majority of the working class in the United States.
It is not Trump’s crude insults, his vulgar misogyny, or anti-immigrant demagogy that this well-remunerated social layer finds most unsettling. What they fear is something different. They fear the millions of men and women — Black and white, immigrant and native born, religious and nonreligious — who recognize their own lives, and the lives of their neighbors, in that word carnage.
When Hillary Clinton announced during the election campaign that those who weren’t going to vote for her — those who weren’t going to vote to continue the carnage — were nothing but a basket of irredeemable “deplorables,” at that moment she was finished.
Opportunities and responsibilitiesThe election was a protest vote in the framework of bourgeois politics, the only framework that exists today for the millions.
It registered the blows dealt since the 2008 world financial crisis to the stability of the two-party system through which the US capitalist class has long governed. Neither party will emerge intact.
Trump’s inauguration boast — “This American carnage stops now” — will not come to be, of course. There are no capitalist policies that can achieve that, and there is no imperialist politician who can change what is going to happen. The law of value is stronger than any of them, or all of them together.
Until we, the working class and our allies, are strong enough to put an end to their system, their crises will continue to be paid for by working people the world over in our flesh and blood, in the misery of hundreds of millions.
As a result of these conditions — and the disrespectful response by the rulers and their political servants to the victims among working people — there is today greater openness in the US working class than at any moment in our lifetimes to discuss the broadest social questions and political issues. For communists that means growing opportunities along with enormous responsibilities.
Contrary to the picture painted by the liberal media and across “the left,” there is less racism and less anti-immigrant chauvinism today among working people than ever before in US history. Ultraright fringe groups are more marginalized than ever following Trump’s victory.
There is more space, not less, to fight to organize the unorganized, demand amnesty for foreign-born workers, mobilize against police brutality, advance the struggle for women’s rights, and oppose Washington’s imperialist wars. There is more space to rebuild our unions as instruments of solidarity and struggle.
Most important, there are more opportunities than we’ve known in decades to win young workers and other youth to the need to build a party, a communist party, within the vanguard of the working class.
It is along that road that the men and women capable of making a socialist revolution in the US will be forged, as they were here in Cuba.
That is what the books we are presenting here today are about.
In the name of my party, the Socialist Workers Party, I want to say to you, however, that until that battle is won, we will continue to act on Fidel’s words to the Federation of University Students two years ago:
“I do not trust the policy of the United States” — here in Cuba, in the US, or anywhere else in the world.
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New books ‘capture reality faced by US workers’
Panelists at Havana book fair discuss capitalist crisis, response by working people
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