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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 45, October 29, 2011

Capitalism, Republicans, and the American Spring

Saturday 5 November 2011, by Eddie J Girdner


“Help! Thief! I´ve been robbed, I´ve been robbed by the capitalists and the government!” ‘’There aint but two sides, the workers side and the big bosses side.’’
—Woody Guthrie

This cry is being heard more and more around the cities and capitals of the United States and Western Europe today and even further around the globe.

Is there a genuine awakening among the American youth? The recent Occupy Wall Street Movement suggests that an awareness of the destructive and unethical nature of capitalism is widespread and that many young people are fed up with the prevailing system. Similar to the Arab Awakening in North Africa, this movement was not possible to predict, but nevertheless has appeared. It has grown so large and spread to so many cities across America, even relatively small cities, and around the world, that the press can no longer ignore the massive revulsion of the economic system which prevails in the United States. Similar protests have been seen in several capitals of Europe, not just Greece, where a massive austerity programme is giving severe pains across a broad spectrum of the population. Also Asian cities have seen protests.

On Saturday, October 15, 2011, there were demonstrations against the prevailing neoliberal capitalist system in more than 900 cities around the world. Something clearly is happening but whether it will last and what impact it will have is impossible to know at this time. Perhaps this is what the Left in the US and Western Europe has been waiting for during the terrible years since the progressive revolutions of the twentieth century seemed to come to a halt in the l980s. The Fukuyama thesis that history had ended and now it would be neoliberal capitalism until the end of time, after the communist countries converted to capitalism, put all those who hoped for a better and fairer world in a very difficult position. They could simply be dismissed as cranks.

The capitalist bosses of the world cannot actually believe that they will ever cease being the masters of the universe. They simply believe that the 99 per cent of the population will never be able to challenge their economic, social, and political hegemony over existing societies. Democracy is simply a joke among them; it is but a useful ideological tool to continue to rule and fool the masses. The only thing the masses have is votes, and television brainwashing has been able to take care of that problem in past elections.

THIS is seen clearly today in the farcical beginnings of the 2012 presidential campaign in the United States. Again, the people who really care about humanity and who wanted real change have been clobbered royally by the government of Barack Obama. This is not really surprising. It is simply a measure of how naive most Americans really are about the political process. After all, it is not the President of the United States who runs the system, but the system itself that sets the parameters for the policies which must be made to supply the needs of the ruling class. And that system is sewed up by Wall Street and American capital. The only real reason one can see for voting for Obama for a second term, it seems to me, is that Republicans are always worse than Democrats. On the other hand, a liberal will also hang you, but from a lower limb.

Among the field of politicians for the Republican candidate for 2012, currently the top spot is held by Mitt Romney, a former Governor of Massachusetts. He comes from a business family and is pro-business all the way, also pro-war. He says he wants a strong America, more military spending, and more troops in the field. All the standard Right-wing fare. Here is a danger of recycled neo-conservative, George W. Bush policies. Romney wants to increase the number of ships in the US Navy. Romney has chosen as his key advisors three Directors of the Foreign Policy Institute (FPI), the successor to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), that includes the people that took the US into Iraq in 2003. These are Erec Edelman, a former US Ambassador to Turkey, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor, all neo-cons. This think-tank is currently calling for a military strike against Iran.

Among the field of potential candidates, however, it is amusing that he is considered too liberal, that is, too far Left, for most of the other Republicans. That is mostly because he established a health care system in Massachu-setts similar to that of President Obama. Most of the other front-runners are real doozies. While Mitt is commanding 26 per cent of Republican support, running close behind at 25 per cent is a former Pizza King, Herman Cain. He was the President of Godfathers Pizza and is the Republican answer to Barack Obama, since he too is Black and considered to be a business leader among the Black bourgeoisie. Here, the needle is off the wall, pegging and bouncing off the right side of the spectrum. Cain says a pre-emptive military strike on Iran is in order, that Wall Street is not at all to blame for the lack of jobs in America. He says the protestors ought to get a job and that’s all there is to it. He would get rid of as much social welfare spending as possible. He wants to further cut corporate income tax to nine per cent, have a standard nine per cent sales tax and a flat personal income tax of nine per cent. Except for this rather novel (and horrible) plan, which is likely to go nowhere, it is generally the same tired recycled Republican dogma.

On down the line, things are not generally better. Rick Perry is the Governor of Texas, the spot where George W. Bush was before he became the President. Perry would get rid of the social security system, perhaps the only bright spot in really helping the retired and elderly in America. I guess that would serve to put a lot of elderly beggars in the street. Social Security just barely gets them by, even living in rural areas and small towns where the cost of living is cheaper.

Then there is one woman who has a shot at the Republican nomination, Michele Bachmann, extremely Right-wing. She is from Minnesota, but not currently very popular. It appears that the lady ‘’’pit bull’’, Sarah Palin, is not in the race, at least at the present time. Well, that is a relief, if indeed true, but one never knows. Then there is Newt. Newt Gingrich. Recycled Newt. I had thought this Right-wing dinosaur had been killed off years ago, but these guys have a way of resurfacing and they never give up till their dying breath. He is of the same stuff as the others. He says the US will never be safe if the North Korean and Iranian dictatorships survive. So the US should replace the Iranian Government. Regime change again. He thinks this can be done by launching a sweeping effort to arouse students and youth for dissent, to finance all elements opposed to the government, and ratchet up radio and TV propaganda against the regime. There would also be economic sanctions and an attempt to cut off the supply of patrol. The Republicans simply dismiss the Wall Street protests as frivolous and not serious.

The only anti-war and anti-imperialistic candidate among the Republican pack is Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas. He is a traditional conservative and libertarian. He would like to bring most American troops home from overseas, starting with South Korea, where they are still stationed after more than 50 years. He would abolish the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that runs the airports, and get rid of the Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education. Probably Social Security too, but this is not a viable position. The problem is, of course, that these areas would just be turned over to the private sector to be run by the big corporations.

And China bashing is high tone too in these days. As if it was not the American corporations that had rushed to China to take advantage of state discipline of workers and cheap labour. Romney blames China for the economic ills of the US. Of course, the prime beef against the Chinese for a long time has been that they do not allow their currency to rise. He says they pirate American technology and are stealing jobs from the US. He would declare the Chinese state as a ‘’currency manipulator’’ which takes American jobs and the future of America.

Of course, great nations do rise and fall, but in this case, it was US policy since the l980s Reagan Government to export American jobs to China en masse for the cheap labour and quick profits. Americans live off the cheap goods and the Chinese lend the dollars back to America to fight imperialist wars, and buy more cheap goods, around and around. This creates a huge trade deficit with China, but it is American corporations which are profiting from this. Of course, the candidates, who are as pro-business as they can possibly be, hide these simple facts. Again, it is a matter of scaring the pants off the American voters to get them to vote for Republicans, and then these politicians will turn right around and send more American jobs off to cheap-labour countries. Part of the price of having a population so steeped in America and with so little knowledge about the rest of the world.

THE march of American capitalism has been the destruction of a great country: America. Historically, there was the destruction of the native Americans, the forests, the bison, many species of wild animals and so on. But capital accumulation had not advanced so far in the first half of the nineteenth century. It took leaps and bounds, on the other hand, after the Civil War during the late nineteenth century. But land was not yet so consolidated. Marginal family farms would not be squeezed out until the l960s to 1980s. This period pretty much spelt the death knell, as far as making a living on the land and small farms was concerned. After World War II, one could find jobs in America. There were rather plentiful jobs for the two decades following the War when the US commanded half of global trade and production. This began to decline with the rise of Western Europe and Japan in the l950s and 1960s.
After this, began the deliberate policy of the de-industrialisation of America under Ronald Reagan in the l980s. By then, not only were people being dispossessed of their land, their homesteads, in rural areas, but now they were to be massively dispossessed of their livelihoods in the form of their jobs. Work was being sent to China, Mexico, India, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, almost anywhere, else as long as it was a country with large numbers of the poor who were forced to work. The fundamental condition for the flourishing of capitalism has always been a plentiful supply of poor workers, ever since the rosy dawn. This sent more young people in America into the military who were unable to find a good paying, real-wage job. It threw people out of real jobs in the manufactu-ring sector for service sector work in fast food jobs and so on, low paying contingent jobs with little or no benefits. This degraded jobs all across the spectrum, due to outsourcing. It put more people on welfare. It deprived people of medical benefits. It deprived public schools of public funding and ensured low pay for teachers. It degraded communities, and created vast numbers of vacant houses as people moved and communities deteriorated. People were forced to move more often in search of work. Migrant workers all, finding work if they were lucky. The whole country turned into a nation of virtual hobos. Load up the old banger and head out for another shitty job, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, that would not last more than a year or two. It would get worse. Workers would be forced to sign with Halliburton and head for Iraq before it was over, leaving the whole family behind and risking roadside bombs and other dangers in a war zone. Many never get back alive from these ventures that make so many billions of profits for the war-profiting outfits.
Young people could not get jobs to buy houses as in the past. It was public policy in virtually every state to cut funding for universities, public schools, community colleges. Students had to obtain loans through private firms, sometimes backed by the government. There was a sharp political shift to the Right, ideologically, as private business took over more and more areas of the economy. University programmes, confe-rences, media, foreign policy, war, diplomacy, aid, everything became geared to a pro-business, pro-market agenda, so that there was no space, essentially for those with any ideas on the left, Social democracy, even Keynesianism, to function or participate. The great fear mongering warned Americans that medicine was in danger of being (horror of horrors) socialised. When electric drills were sold in America, a warning was pasted onto the package warning Americans not to use the drill to fix their teeth. They were too poor to go the dentist.
If one did not go in for neoliberalism, and the binge of free marketism, then there was no place for one in that society. This really took off with the demise of the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe, as if the demise of state capitalism in these statist communist countries should delegitimise any ideas about social democracy in any other country. Whatever the government does is bad, was the dogma, except when it is abolishing its own function in the economy. The only thing the government can do positively is to stay out of the way of capital, or assist in the capitalist rape of society.
With virtually no competing ideology in the global universe, around the world, this single totalitarian ideology could be clamped upon the entire world, clamped upon all the business training programmes of all the universities. Everyone, from a very young age, could now be robotified into apeing the dogma around the world, the free market dogma. This has just about become universal today, very nearly so. With the demise of almost all Left and progressive ideology, one was seen as old-fashioned and a fool to be a Marxist. T’he ‘’Grand Narrative theories’’ were declared dead. The old universal theories about freedom, liberation, and justice were dead. There was just the free market and for politics, one would have to stick to post-modernism, beyond the Grand Narratives. This was old-fashioned stuff now. So one had to narrow things down. Narrow down to the faddish intellectual fashions one sees today. Gender politics, ethnicity, nationalism, gay politics, and so on. These, well some of them, were also a part of the thrust of the Grand Narratives, to be sure. But all the old concepts, ways of interpreting the world, now had no meaning. Concepts such as imperialism, exploitation, class struggle, class politics, poverty, unemployment, and so on, were heard less and less at academic conferences. All these had no meaning in this new designer intellec-tualism of spaces, neighbourhoods, identities, and other fashionable ideas and notions that began to clutter the pages of academic journals.

NEVERTHELESS, things went on as before, even though the modernist post-modernists could not see it. War went on. Imperialism went on. Capitalism and accumulation went on. Genocide of various sorts went on. People starved. Farmers killed themselves. But now academia was being sanitised of these mind-polluting concepts. But the mental flossing would soon be complete, radically eliminating any notions of social justice or any other such notions that did not include the market. And since there was to be no more political Left, there was a huge gap through which to smuggle religion. Religion became high-tone. Lots of religious studies appeared in universities. First, the academic approaches had been largely critical of the illusions of religion. But with post-modernist thought one could not make the distinction, a value judgment, as to what was more legiti-mate, religious fanticism or secularism.
Perhaps at this point it became harder to critique what was actually going on. I mean, with so much distraction, how could one focus upon the robbing, the ripping blind of society by big corporations and the Wall Street barons? They were so valuable, indeed, that tens of millions of dollars of bonuses had to be shoveled to them every year just to keep them around. Or they would be off to lend their invaluable services to some other bank in the interests of furthering the glorious future of neoliberalism somewhere else. That was the rationale, anyway, for the continual robbing of the banks from the inside, robbing the people with a fountain pen. Those who brought up such points were just voices in the wilderness. So the mainstream fashionable academics got some of the Marxists off their backs, perhaps. This opened up a wide scope for Right business ideologies to prevail. There is little indication that the internet, the web has made the situation more clear. There is too much distraction there and anyway the hegemony of the system is able to largely control most of the web sites. But in America, most, except for the intellectual classes, the common people were out of touch with international global reality. Americans had gone through a profound transition over 30 years and the majority of the population was in a precarious position of which they were not aware.

America no longer had the role it had in the l950s. Centres of manufacturing production, almost everything, had been moved out of America. Even bridges for San Francisco were being fabricated in China to save labour costs. With no manufacturing jobs, what was left for the population, the working class, to do? Business stuff, police work, spying, the military, private companies in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. The IT, internet sector to some extent, the service sector, fast food, pig and chicken production, Pinkerton-style rent a cop security guards, Flipping hamburgers. The Mexicans were driving most of the trucks. The same logic that moved out the jobs now cut off many social services, mostly, and taxed, when there was an income, for the military, the bloated private security companies, profits, for bailing out the banking and other corporate sectors.

At the same time, in the process, taxes for the rich and for big corporations had been drastically cut. The result was more and more debt. Two imperialist wars were fought, not a dime from the economy, all borrowed from China and abroad, all borrowed. No wonder the national debt went to 14.5 trillion, now trucking on up to 15 trillion dollars. And rising its way up to 20 trillion dollars before long, in a few years. All of it was part of the design to deconstruct the country. Deconstructionism. Deconstructed, America had been. Halleliujah! Hallelujah! The bulk of the profits now were in the monopoly finance sector. Monopoly finance capitalism. Money breeding money. Aristotle’s nightmare, head over heels, and being collapsed by the contradictions in the system. Living off the labour, off the backs of the Chinese, the Indians, the Mexicans, and so on. A new kind of global wage slavery, division of labour. Great system for the large companies sitting on tens of billions of dollars (at least a couple of trillion) of cash while the people went without jobs and the biggest problem of the corporations was where to put their money, mostly trusting it to Uncle Sam with the global economy so shaky. The big corporations reaping the rewards, the spoils of the system, multimillion dollar bonuses for corporate chairmen. While the people took the hits of the system, lived off cheap chinesized goods and got stuck with the bill for the wars, got their sons and daughters killed, got the toxic waste defecation of the system dumped on their heads, got higher bills through privatization, lost their homes to the bank and began to get more and more angry.

The empire was collapsing around their ears. Their country had already collapsed. The Financial Moguls of the system had run it into the ground. The system was not sustainable. Got bailed out by the US Government to the tune of almost a billion dollars. But the people had been Foxified and Murdochised to the point that they didn’t seem to really have a clue as to what was going on. The Empire, far overstretched, was bringing the country down. In fact, that, while seeming like bad news for the Americans, it was actually good news for the rest of the world. The great American provider of global security, as we are always told, had destroyed the security of America, the security of the Empire, and of global security. So with that kind of security, who then needed a threat? And that’s roughly where we are today. There are various individuals who looked around and feared the consequences for the race of lemmings marching to the cliff. Some were known variously as the “Tea Party.” But those latter-day prophets couldn’t agree on what was the cause and what was the solution. The Right-wingers, and most of those were Right-wingers, thought that the problem was the market, that is, not enough market. Rather, they thought that the problem was the government. They had drank the poisoned cool aid. Others discerned that there were contradictions in the Empire that would bring the system down. They were right to point to unsustainable debt, but most, at least those on the right, did not understand that it was the system itself, capitalism, or more accurately crapitalism, the American system of corporate or craperate, crapitalism, that required the build-up of the debt and made them poorer and poorer.

IN the summer of 2011 the Right Wing Republicans, many of them Tea Party members, launched a movement to discredit President Obama. It is difficult for anyone to argue that the national debt in America is not a serious question. But it is an integral and even necessary part of the system and it was the height of hypocrisy for the Republican Party to put all the blame on Obama and the Democrats. Without the continuous build-up of the national debt, the system would have collapsed a long time ago. This action by the Tea Party perhaps set a new precedent for unethical political behavior by using the threat of a default by the US Government as a political tool to get the government to cut back massively on social welfare spending and job creating programs. The Republicans also tossed around the idea of a Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced budget. But they fudged this with an escape clause, where the government could ignore the rules in an emergency, or perhaps when politically expedient. When the ruling class needed a little extra cash from the government they were supposed to hate. This too was hypocrisy. It would not happen, but to some extent plays well in the hinterlands where people are fed up with taxes and government deficits.

President Obama called it an artificially created crises by the political Opposition. It put the President in a difficult predicament and one has to say that the Republicans probably won, although people are more fed up with the system in general. Neither political party can afford to advocate an increase in taxes with an election year coming up in 2012, although Obama would like to shift some of the tax burden to the rich. It was said that there needs to be three trillion dollars in cuts to the national budget over ten years. The Republicans, of course, want to cut both medical care and Social Security, which would be a disaster for older Americans who are already living on meager payments in the majority of cases. The Republicans, true to character, would put the burden on the poor and the working class. Nevertheless, as noted, a liberal too will hang one, but from a lower limb.

The agreement, reached on the First of August, 2011, barely avoided a shut-down of the government. But the Democrats took a big hit, having to agree to massive cuts in the budget, determined by a committee. This essentially guarantees an American austerity programme for the masses, the 99 per cent, and the inability to stimulate the economy when such is badly needed, even if they can get reelected on 2012. American big business, on the other hand, is sitting on almost two trillion dollars in cash which they are not investing. A commonly cited figure is that one percent of the American population owns some 40 per cent of the wealth. Or some say that the 400 wealthiest individuals own half the wealth in America. That is why the youth protesting in the streets point out that they, the common people, are 99 per cent, against the over one per cent that owns the country and makes the policies. Unemployment has stayed around ten per cent and the system is not creating many good jobs, just Because the crapitalist system was actually a system of socialism for the rich and corporate sector and capitalism, or free market, for the people. The hard knocks of capitalism were too rough for the ruling class and rich. So they would be preserved for the common man. Let them learn the lesson. The rulers, the ruling class, would stay above the fray, in their socialist realism, while they preached the hallelujahs of the Free Market. It couldn’t last forever For that we can be thankful.

America, contrary to popular opinion, did not destroy communism. The Communists destroyed communism. The Americans destroyed capitalism. And nowadays crapitalism marches on across the globe.

But enough is enough. Occupy Wall Street is the ringing answer to the Right-wing ding-bats of the Tea Party Movement who have almost all of America and are itching to run off with the rest. To be sure, broad segments of the population are totally fed up with the existing system. Now the Occupy Wall Street Movement is challenging US joblessness and homelessness and spilling over to protest the global system of neoliberalism, which it must be admitted, has been a spectacular failure on a global scale. Western Europe too is in collapse.

Where the movement will go, no one knows, but it has gotten off to a rather explosive start. Perhaps the beginning of a global democratic uprising to demand economic justice and the end of neoliberalism is beginning. American youth study, prepare themselves for a career, build up large student debts and then cannot find a job. Jobs for the working classes have been outsourced for quick profits. Perhaps Americans are finally using their democracy to demand social justice, which is truly an encouraging development. One can only hope the politicians and the bosses get the message.

Eddie J. Girdner is a Professor at Izmir University, Izmir, Turkey. He can be contacted by e-mail at:

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