BY ARGIRIS MALAPANIS
Discarded by a majority in his own party and the U.S. ruling class as a spent vessel, House of Representatives Speaker Newton Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, announced November 6 he will resign from his post in the House and quit Congress altogether when his term expires in early January.
Gingrich led his party in scoring a major victory in the 1994 elections, when the Republicans gained 52 seats and control of the House for the first time in four decades. He was identified as one of the foremost proponents of the Republicans's program at that time, the so-called Contract with America, that advocated cutbacks in social programs and undermining of democratic rights. The 1994 elections registered a further shift to the right of capitalist politics, as the working class was being battered - with the downsizing of factories, longer workdays for less pay, and chipping away at social gains such as funds for schools and health insurance - without a fight. Two years later, the Democratic administration of William Clinton codified this continuing bipartisan shift to the right by signing into law the "welfare reform" bill that slashed federal cash aid for children of workers with very low income and approving "anticrime" and anti- immigrant bills.
The announcement by Gingrich he would quit his posts came three days after the November 3 elections, when the Republican party suffered a net loss of five seats in the House despite projections it would gain 10-20 seats. The elections confirmed a reversal, for now, of the previous trends in bourgeois politics: a shift to the left that has been obvious for more than a year.
In the weeks before the November 3 vote, politicians of both parties, especially the Democrats, tried to portray themselves as defenders of Social Security and of increasing funding for education. They demagogically distanced themselves from the earlier course of slashing the social wage. They were not unique. Some Republican congressmen, in their hunt for votes, went out of their way to paint themselves as the greatest supporters of funds for public works, like Rep. Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania.
Politicians of both parties went out of their way to convince working people and middle-class layers who are Black that they would defend their interests best. This was nothing but demagogy, registering recognition of the new stirrings in the fight for Black freedom. Reflecting the shameless and racist attitudes towards working people who are Black among most bourgeois politicians and pundits, David Bositis, of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, was quoted in the "Week in Review" section of the Sunday, November 8, New York Times, saying: "There is no longer a problem with the Democratic Party being associated with black voters - none.... Before it was: `We've got to divorce ourselves from the black community.' Now, it's no longer a problem. It's an asset."
Underneath this shift is the acceleration of working-class resistance to the belt-tightening demands of the bosses in most imperialist countries and the threat of a collapse of the world banking system or other major financial catastrophe.
Rep. Robert Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana, has emerged as the front runner in the race for House Speaker. The setback the Republicans suffered on November 3, also sparked a fray for the other major post in the House, that of majority leader. Rep. Richard Armey is being challenged by at least two of his colleagues for this post. Elections among the Republican caucus for these positions will be held November 18.
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