No 1451 26th August 2014
Obama was never going to do anything to end the growing impoverishment and all his promised “reforms” have, as predicted, proven to be completely hollow – a smokescreen to hide the realities of capitalism’s breakdown and collapse. Missouri’s anti-police killings protests are an indication of the mass unrest to come as the realisation dawns on the working class and petty bourgeois everywhere that they have been duped. The ruling class has long prepared for such turmoil. Police actions to suppress dissent will become ever more fascistic and working class communities will increasingly resemble war zones. They are preparing for civil war, and the devastation already inflicted across the Middle East shows the level of atrocities they are prepared to commit in a battle for survival, all the way up to World War levels of destructiveness. Competitive Capitalist relations must end for humiliating racist discrimination and divisiveness to end. Only Socialist revolution can create the conditions in which humans can finally start to relate to each other as fellow human beings and build societies in the common interest of all. Leninist debate is vital.
The sustained and angry civil rights street protest response to the police shooting of the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in poverty-stricken and racially divided Ferguson, Missouri, exposes the lying deception and slick trickery of Obama’s 2008 presidential election pledges of “change” and “keeping the American promise alive”.
Obama’s projection of himself as a beacon of “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord” is shown to be as false as the “false promises” he proclaimed to be at an end on the day of his inaugural address, as the class war realities of capitalism’s inevitable crisis breakdown hit home to the working class of suburban America (white, as well as black).
The opposite is true, with poverty levels at the highest for 50 years and 50 million now living under the poverty line, fears of crime, unemployment, homelessness and hunger are now a daily reality for millions of Americans. Conflict and discord is inevitable as people’s desperation and despair spills out onto the streets in explosions of anger and rage; joining the revolutionary turmoil that has already erupted throughout the Third World.
Working class America is a tinderbox and seemingly localised expressions of revolt, such as the Ferguson protests, always have the potential to develop into broader expressions of anger, not just against the immediate issue of the racist police brutality and oppression experienced by impoverished black working class communities across the country, but more broadly against the savage poverty impositions forced on millions of Americans regardless of their ethnic and racial backgrounds, an anger which will at some point take a consciously revolutionary turn.
It was never going to possible for America to “meet the real challenges it faces”, no matter how much time Obama was given (assuming that he had the intention of doing anything about them, which he didn’t). Obama was already sitting on top of the greatest disaster in capitalism’s 800 year history when he took office in 2009, and the unravelling of the capitalist system is now a further 6 years along the road towards total collapse.
Capitalism was on the already brink of meltdown when it crashed in 2008 and the inevitable slump into all out open trade war and eventual shooting war between rival imperialist powers was only temporarily headed off by the panicked injection of trillions of dollars of paper money into the system, and the continued “quantitative easing” money printing measures ever since.
Being the overwhelmingly dominant imperialist power, US imperialism under Obama’s leadership has also managed to buy itself time through massive dollar devaluations to allow its otherwise moribund industries to out-compete and out-price those of its imperialist rivals, including the EU and Japan, and reduce the dollar value of the enormous levels of debt it owes the rest of the world, with the result that weaker nations on the periphery, such as Argentina, are pushed into bankruptcy.
Such trade war realities underlying the diplomatic niceties projected at international gatherings will become increasingly more visible as even the economy of the mighty German industrial powerhouse stalls, now threatened by the deflationary pressures bursting out in the weaker economies of the Eurozone.
US-German rivalries are already on display in Ukraine, for example, where Western backed fascist terror and slaughter has been inflicted on the anti-fascist working class resistance movement opposing the revived-Nazi coup junta.
The US has been the most enthusiastic in pushing for vicious anti-Russian sanctions, ignoring the detrimental impact these trade war measures will have on Europe’s economies through a loss of trade, inward investment and returns from loans to Russian companies. In this context, it may be significant that the US is absent from recent German brokered talks on Ukraine in Paris.
Another sign of growing inter-imperialist tensions can be seen in Iraq, where Germany has again purposefully kept on the side-lines while US imperialism, alongside Britain and France, becomes embroiled and bogged down in war turmoil for the third time.
Germany remains untainted by the humiliating defeats and setbacks already suffered by its rivals in the region and will be able to capitalise on them once it chooses to assert itself more openly as a major world power.
The American ruling class’s world economic and military dominance is terminally threatened by the iron laws of capitalist economics which determine that the decades long inflationary-boom, stretched out by the demented printing of trillions of dollars since the early 1970’s (and intensified since the 2008 crash), will eventually hit the buffers when credit-financed production reaches such a scale that ‘gluts’ in all products start to appear, because there are far more products on the global market than customers able to purchase at a price that is profitable to the companies.
The imperialist ruling classes are desperate to bring these hyper-inflation inducing money printing measures to an end but are fearful of the consequences: even minor increases in interest rates, for example, could see spending on all but the bare essentials dry up; compounding the already reduced spending power of the working class as a result of pay cuts, job losses, price hikes and increased indebtedness.
An indication of the seriousness of the crisis now engulfing the world is the enormous near-zero yielding cash reserves held by multinational companies and hedge funds.
Up to $7 trillion of ‘dead’ cash has been hoarded by multinationals and hedge funds who have seen investment opportunities squeezed by the crisis to the point that there is nowhere for money to profitably go. This is on top of the huge reserves banks and insurers have been forced to set aside by legislation since 2008 as a protection against collapse.
The whole basis of the capitalist economic system is that economic activity is structured around investing in order to realise a financial profit, which is then reinvested in a continually expanding market. Capitalist industries must continue to conquer new markets or go under. Having such huge reserves lying idle is a disaster because it means that markets for profitable investment are severely restricted. Capitalism can no longer able function as it needs to.
Bourgeois commentators may have pie-in-the-sky notions that the “release” of these funds will help to fuel a “recovery” because it would “create new markets” but, if no-one can afford to buy the products on such a titanic scale necessary now, where is this sudden purchasing boom supposed to come from??? Markets cannot be created out of thin air.
The ultimate “solution” for capitalism is to destroy all surplus capital, production and labour, and in the age of imperialism this means investment in war production and the destruction of the surplus capital of rival economies in inter-imperialist world war, now already under way, as it has been has been since Nazi-NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999.
Regardless of the motives and inclinations of particular individuals, top dog US imperialism wants and needs war to end its over-production crisis, and has spent the last 15 years or so putting the world on a war footing.
In a speech delivered near Mons in Belgium on the 100th anniversary of the start of the WW1 slaughter, Cameron consciously dismissed the Marxist understanding that it is the uncontrollable crisis which dictates how world developments are potentially shaped, and that these developments can only be understand through the struggle to identify the internal laws that drive this material reality along:
History is not shaped by invisible forces, but by millions of individuals who plan, and work, and love, and fight, and destroy things and build them again. History is human stories. And so we remember them... So much of modern life is a race to what comes next, a race to the future... But we are all in a long chain of events…
He wants us to believe that history is made by heroes, villains, mishaps and devious designs, with one event following on after the other as if by accident, because to understand otherwise leads ultimately to revolutionary conclusions.
As in 1914, capitalism is driven by the contradictions within its insoluble crisis (the “invisible” material force that shapes all historical developments) to unleash the most barbaric warmongering blitzkrieg destruction ever known across the planet, using whatever pretext it can to step up the war drive, and despite whatever humiliating defeats and set backs it experiences on the way, because the breakdown of the capitalist system gives it no other historic room for manoeuvre.
Hence the return to Iraq yet again to bombard the highly organised and ruthless “Islamic State”/ISIS insurgency (itself a product of Western subversion and deliberately provoked civil war mayhem against Assad’s anti-imperialist bourgeois nationalism in Syria), despite the fact that each blitzkrieging intervention it is forced to make creates the conditions for further Third World national-liberation revolts and the potential for greater and more humiliating defeats in the near future.
The growing defeat and breakdown of Nazi imperialist ruling class dominance in the wake of the most catastrophic crisis of its global ‘free market’ capitalist system, and the turmoil this has engendered, is pushing the Third World and proletarians everywhere towards revolution against the Slump and war destruction conditions imposed on them.
The entire Middle East is now in total revolt, from the dogged and increasingly more sophisticated 66 year Palestinian struggle against the barbarism of the Jewish-Zionist settler colonisation of their homeland to the titanic revolutionary upheavals in Egypt and the huge impact this is still having across the region and beyond, despite being temporarily held back by the brutal and murderous Sisi fascist-military regime.
As the EPSR wrote at the time, the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 represented a qualitative leap in the global class struggle against imperialist diktat, as millions took to the streets to depose the stooge Mubarak’s 30 year rule on behalf of US imperialism’s interests in a movement that was broader and deeper in scope than the small-scale, isolated acts of revolt that characterised the period of the 9/11 attacks.
The absence of a revolutionary socialist consciousness has left the Third World struggles wide open to manipulation, as seen in Egypt where the “anti-leadership” protest movement was easily manipulated by US, Gulf state and Zionist subversion into welcoming Sisi’s military coup against the compromised halfway house anti-imperialism of Morsi’s post-revolution government, and paved the way for the slaughter of thousands of Moslem Brotherhood supporters, and the re-sealing of the concentration camp wall built by Zionism on Egypt’s borders to imprison 1.8 million Palestinians in humiliating and punishing dirt-poor conditions.
Similar confusion purveys throughout the Middle East, with deliberately stirred up Islamic sectarianism diverting the struggles down the path of needless and often self-defeating wars against rival sects when unity around the immediate need of seeing US imperialism defeated and driven out of the region is required.
Unless and until a Leninist revolutionary perspective and clarity on world developments is argued and fought for, such confusion will continue to muddy the waters; but the titanic anti-imperialist battles and victories of Vietnam, Cuba, China, North Korea, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, etc., etc. will at some point soon provide an inspiration for their own national liberation struggles and open the door to the full weight of Marxist polemic and understanding.
The Soviet Union’s heroic victory over Nazi-ism that brought the last world war to an end is already providing an inspiration to the Ukrainian workers’ anti-fascist struggle, despite their sentimental attachment to the legacy of Stalinist revisionism, whose peaceful coexistence “don’t rock the boat” pacifism and anti-theory philistinism held back world revolutionary developments post-1945 (not withstanding the enormous amounts of military and technical aid provided to the national liberation struggles) and is still causing confusion by presenting anti-communist Putin’s restored capitalist state as some sort of solution.
All these complex difficulties will have to be worked through by the international working class and the Third World’s masses in the course of their struggles as they develop in organisation and sophistication; but they cannot come to a revolutionary understanding alone.
Conscious revolutionary parties need to be built everywhere to put their struggles within the context of the need to overthrow capitalism by socialist revolution as the only way for human civilisation to move forward in any meaningful and sustainable way, and to lead and guide their practical actions towards that goal by developing, applying and up-dating the theoretical work already begun by Marx, Engels, Lenin and others.
The civil rights protesters in Ferguson, for example, would benefit from a full polemical debate to understand and grasp the true significance of Obama-ism in the era of contempt for all bourgeois “democracy” notions, and in particular around how the “black president card” was played to create an aura of petty-bourgeois euphoria around the Obama’s candidacy in 2008 in order to temporarily rescue the ”democracy” fraud from the disasters and defeats of George W. Bush’s most despised presidential administration in history.
As the EPSR alone explained, Obama’s election candidacy was a fraud designed to hoodwink the working class with “false promises” of token “reforms” to head off renewed discontent in the wake of the recent 2008 crash, whilst allowing US imperialism to continue to step up its drive to world war three; and that Obama would be as much a fascist as Bush Jnr in his position as commander-in-chief of US imperialism and head of the imperialist warmongering onslaught required to create the necessary conditions for inter-imperialist war.
This perspective was objected to by a section within the EPSR who acrimoniously broke away because they felt that Obama’s election was “a step forward” for the working class, and that he would be compelled by the rising rebellion of the American working class and the expectations they placed in him to carry out measures that would benefit the working class in general, and the black working class in particular.
This argument was amounted to nothing more than a variant of old “left pressure” reformism with a black nationalist twist, and was completely out of synch with imperialism’s unstoppable need to impose draconian crisis conditions on the working class in order to maintain its ruling class dominance; and that, far from being of any benefit to the working class, Obama would be running capitalism in the interests of the ruling class, regardless of any token “reforms” he may make.
Although Obama’s flagship “reform” to provide “affordable healthcare for all”, for example, has had some limited impact, there are still tens of millions living (and dying) in the US without any health insurance whatsoever, and nothing has been done to tackle the rank profiteering of the pharmaceutical companies and insurers:
It turns out ObamaCare didn’t solve the problem of “pre-existing conditions” after all. It made premiums more affordable for people with chronic health conditions that are expensive to treat — but at the price of sticking them with unaffordable co-payments for their medications.
The nonprofit AIDS Institute is suing four Florida health insurers for discriminating against HIV/AIDS patients. The complaint says these patients now face prohibitive out-of-pocket drug costs. Sadly, most of the plans sold via ObamaCare all across the country have similar problems — leaving those with chronic diseases without affordable access to the specialty drugs they need.
The Affordable Care Act limits the degree to which insurers can charge higher premiums for sicker patients. But ObamaCare plans found a way around these rules: impose higher out-of-pocket costs for all or most specialty drugs.
Consider the Florida suit. Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute deputy executive director, says the plans follow a “pattern where every single [HIV/AIDS] drug for some plans was on the highest tier, including generics.” Under these policies, drug costs for AIDS patients can exceed $1,000 a month.
And Florida’s hardly unusual. A new report from consulting group Avalere Health found that a large majority of all ObamaCare exchange plans include similarly high out-of-pocket costs for patients with certain illnesses.
The breakdown of Silver plans (the most popular category) is particularly revealing. In seven classes of drugs for conditions from cancer to bipolar disorder, more than a fifth of these plans require patients to shoulder 40 percent of the medicine’s cost.
And 60 percent of Silver plans place all drugs for illnesses like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis in the “formulary tier” with the highest level of cost-sharing.
Nearly every Silver plan across the country, in fact, puts at least one class of drug exclusively in the top cost-sharing tier. In effect, this leaves patients with a given condition — whether HIV or Crohn’s disease — without a single affordable treatment option.
Pre-ObamaCare, about half the states had a system in place for helping people with pre-existing conditions: state high-risk pool plans, which for years offered government-subsidized coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. But the Affordable Care Act banned those pools.
So now, with exchange plans failing them, the chronically ill have nowhere left to go.
The author of this piece goes on to blame the insurers and claims that the pharmaceuticals need to charge high prices for some brand medication to fund research, but this is the argument all monopolised private industry makes to justify exorbitant prices - from train providers to gas companies (the need to fund infrastructure investments) - and is used to suck essential resources out of all health services, including those of the Third World, leaving the world’s poor to suffer in ill-health and die needlessly.
The following Democrat critic of “ObamaCare” also fails to address the profiteering:
Aside from the very real and obvious problems that Obamacare will never sign up anywhere near the number of young, healthy uninsured Americans needed to make the system viable, Obamacare does nothing to address the root problem in healthcare: costs, which have a domino affect on everything.
A $1,132 blood test is insane. Obamacare does nothing and will do nothing to address that, which means the obscenely high health insurance premiums will remain, and the uninsured still won’t be able to afford coverage. If you don’t qualify for substantial subsidies, which most people don’t, premiums for even the lowest tier plans for a single person making over $45,000 are around $200 to $300 a month. Even worse, they come with high deductibles of $6,000, 40% co-pays and limited access to what doctors they can see.
Even though my blood test in the end cost me nothing, the insurance company will still get a bill from the lab for something along the lines of $1,132, which it will pay. That cost will be passed on to everyone else in the form of insurance premiums that will be high enough to cover the cost of the test AND make a profit for the insurance company.
Obamacare, even in concept, was certain to be a failure. The better option would have been a government run, public option similar to the NHS in the United Kingdom or Canada’s system. Democrats had the votes to pass a public option, but they didn’t because their leadership, namely Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, decided it was better not to embarrass Obama, who had already decided to capitulate to the health insurance lobby and drop the public option. The public option would have offered healthcare coverage and access for a fraction of what private insurance companies charge because the government isn’t in the business of making a profit. The US would basically have Medicare-for-all type coverage. Consider that General Motors has stated that the health insurance premiums they pay for their employees add over $1,500 to the cost of every car, and you start to see the impact lower healthcare costs and a public option would have on the overall economy.
Experts on the economics of healthcare and the Congressional Budget Office all say the same thing: Obamacare in its current form does nothing to reduce the cost of healthcare in the US. The best the supporters of Obamacare can offer is that it is slowing the rate of increase meaning that Obamacare is making an insane system get even more insane but at a slower rate, which is Cuckoo’s Nest healthcare reform.
Obama and the Democrats were pummeled (and will continue to be) over the president’s promise that “if you like your health insurance you can keep it” when insurance companies started canceling policies that didn’t meet Obamacare standards. The news media and Republicans had a field day as the media kept showing video clips of Obama at town hall meetings in June, July and August of 2009 saying “if you like your health insurance you can keep it”.
The problem is Obama wasn’t saying that about Obamacare. Back then, he said that about the public option. Obamacare (in its current form) wasn’t even on the drawing boards at the time. Obama made that promise in response to Republican attacks that the public option was a government take over of healthcare. Obama’s answer was that it was no such thing, that it was an option, that people could choose it or, “if you like your current insurance, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. The point he was correctly making was there was no obligation to sign up for the public option. That’s why it was called an option.
The fact that Obama decided he’d rather take a massive political hit as well as put Democrats on the defensive rather than set the record straight and remind people that he had made that promise about the public option (which he eventually decided to drop) and not Obamacare is all anyone needs to know about what Obama really thinks about his own reforms. Recall that Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders, both of whom loudly supported the public option along over 50 Democratic senators, caved on the passage of Obamacare only because it’s was perceived as better than nothing.
Democrats should admit the flaws in Obamacare (they already more or less are with all the implementation delays) and point out that most of them had supported the public option in the first place, even if that means throwing Obama under the bus. Democrats can start campaigning to replace Obamacare with the public option before Obamacare fails another test, this one in November.
An “American NHS” may solve the problem of high medical costs being passed on to everyone via insurance premiums, but only by passing them on to everyone via taxation. It would not end the profiteering. What remains of the British NHS after the cuts savagery it has experienced (with much more to come) now exists largely as a means of propping up private industry by funnelling state funds to them. It no longer has anything to do with providing “health care to all”, despite its initial aspirations.
The entire health industry needs to be taken over as part of a socialist revolution. Only then can a health system be created which puts the needs of the people first, as revolutionary Cuba’s fantastic achievements against all the odds demonstrate.
Obama-ism was a cynical and slick campaign to deceive enough Americans into believing that having a black president would mean something, in order to head the working class off from revolution at a time when the true catastrophic nature of capitalism’s crisis was visible for all to see; with the sheer panic of the ruling class and hangers on aired on TV daily as the world economy crashed (Wall Street started to crash on 6th October, and the presidential election took place on 4th November - just a month later).
His promised “changes” were purely cosmetic and, as the EPSR wrote at the time of his election victory, Obama would at some point be faced by “explosive mass reaction” once this thin veneer of “left reformism” created around his image had peeled away:
But even this temporary euphoria at the first time ever election of a black president – combined with a female vice-president – will turn sour soon enough when the hopes and aspirations for total change are completely still born.
Potentially far greater upheavals and eruptive discontent will be unleashed once it is realised that the despair and hatred evoked by the last presidency will be continued more or less the same whatever cosmetic changes to (say) health provision, or token taxes on the ultra-rich are promised, or even delivered in a minor way initially.
Being fooled yet again is a recipe for a dramatic transformation into complete hostility to the democracy racket itself, in the historical period of capitalism’s greatest ever failure and catastrophic slump disaster. [EPSR 1341 ,11th Nov 2008]
That there would be an eruption of anger once the euphoria had died down and the reality that it was all a deception had sunk in was not only predictable, but was predicted by Marxist scientific understanding, and the mass discontent in Ferguson proves the correctness of this position.
To say this is not to engage in some sort of petty bourgeois academic point scoring, but to demonstrate the importance of theory. A correct understanding of world developments can only be gained by means of a thorough theoretical debate within a party and in front of the working class (drawing the most advanced layers of the working class into the debates), until the best approximation of the truth possible is achieved, given the limited resources available at the time.
It is crucial for working class leadership to “get it right” so that it can warn the working class what they are up against at any given time; help them avoid falling prey to defeatism if they face set backs and defeats in their struggle by deepening their revolutionary consciousness; and inform their tactical decisions.
Lives can and do depend on having a leadership that can correctly assess any given situation, as the thousands of butchered Moslem Brotherhood supporters in Egypt can testify.
It is also necessary to admit when the judgments made have fallen short or shown to by events be wrong, and then to re-examine the arguments made at the time, in the light current knowledge, for the benefit of all.
It is not enough to suggest that “we all know the truth now so doesn’t matter what was said at the time” as general philistine anti-theory capitalist culture inculcates.
So will the breakaway objectors now explain how they got Obama-ism so badly wrong???
(Even the confused black nationalism of the “Sons of Malcolm” were able to admit they were wrong about Obama, despite still getting the entire world perspective wrong - barmily presenting the rising tide of world rebellion as “all set up by the CIA”, including the mass Egyptian revolutionary upheaval in 2011, and writing off the white working class as any force for progress.)
The Ferguson events cannot be seen as specific to one locality and restricted to race, as some bourgeois commentators have argued. They are symptomatic of general working class feeling in America and feeds into the broader world unrest. The crisis is the driving force, not racism, although painfully deep-seated and unresolved racial problems are clearly a major factor, as this piece shows:
“This whole area, this city is a racial powder keg,” one man at a protest in Ferguson, Missouri told the Los Angeles Times, two days after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. In an attempt to explain why the St. Louis suburb has been filled with demonstrators, showered in tear gas and rubber bullets, and patrolled by armored vehicles in the days since, reporters have unearthed a “history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement” that, editors of The New York Times wrote, “produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets.”
The racial disparities that define Ferguson are indeed shocking. More than two-thirds of the town’s residents are black, but almost all of the officials and police officers are white: the mayor and the police chief, five of six city council members, all but one of the members of the school board, fifty of fifty-three police officers.
Most of the time, those officers search and arrest people who don’t look like them. In 2013, 92 percent of searches and 86 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson involved black people. The skewed numbers don’t correspond at all to the levels of crime. While one in three whites was found carrying illegal weapons or drugs, only one in five blacks had contraband.
But is Ferguson really exceptional? The town is just north of one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country, St. Louis. Most cities in America, however, are still highly segregated when it comes to their black and white populations. The high percentage of black Ferguson residents below the poverty line—28 percent—is in fact consistent with the percentage of black Americans who live in poverty throughout the country. The point is not that Ferguson’s particular history and statistics don’t matter; rather, it is that whatever shock, outrage and action they inspire should be amplified exponentially. It’s easier to accept ugliness, though, by pretending a mirror is a window to somewhere else.
The unequal application of the force of the law is also well documented across the country. Five times as many whites use illegal drugs as black Americans, and yet black people are sent to prison on drug charges at ten times the rate of whites. And disparity is evident in other police forces; for example, only 10 percent of the New York Police Department’s recruits in 2013 were black.
The whiteness of Ferguson’s political leadership is a national trait, too. Since Reconstruction, only four states have elected black senators: Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina and New Jersey. Voters in twenty-five states still have never elected a black representative to the House.
We know also that the killing of a young, unarmed black person isn’t unique to Ferguson. It wasn’t unique to Sanford or Jacksonville; nor to Staten Island; Beavercreek, Ohio; Dearborn Heights, Michigan; Pasadena, California; or any of the other cities that, as Jelani Cobb writes, now bleed together in “the race-tinged death story” that “has become a genre itself.”
There’s a crisis all right. But Ferguson is not its heart so much as a capillary finally burst. That many find the sadness and rage in Ferguson more needing of explanation than the militarized response is particularly telling.
Although the writer details the humiliating racial factors at play, the analysis is restricted to race; it does not see the broader crisis behind the specifics of Ferguson and black working class experiences and goes no further than “left” reformism by implying that there would have been no unrest if there was no racism, which is a complete misreading of reality.
Without the illusions in Obama-ism, the “sadness and rage” would have needed no explanation, whilst the “militarised response” to the unrest should be a warning to the wider working class of capitalism’s inherent fascist nature.
The achievement of black political emancipation within capitalist society was largely won in 50 years ago with the signing of the Civil Rights Act which outlawed segregation and discrimination.
It was a real victory which came on the back of the near revolutionary upheavals of the 1960’s (influencing the civil rights leadership of Martin Luther King, who was assassinated because his sympathies were drawing closer towards the anti-imperialist struggles and Marxism), and amounted to the completion of the 1776 American bourgeois revolution.
From that moment on, “equal rights” were enshrined in bourgeois law, and a layer of black middle class emerged; although it was many decades too late to prevent the majority black population’s disproportionate position within capitalist society from being fossilised in the fabric of America’s economic and social system.
Despite the supposed “legal protection” the Act enshrined, and the decades of anti-racist campaigning and awareness-raising that followed, racism, social segregation and discrimination has continued to persist and millions of African-Americans have continued to live in impoverished and dehumanising conditions (as the piece demonstrates).
Ending discrimination in law allowed many black Americans to enter the middle classes, and even the White House, but it could do nothing to end the impoverishment of the majority; and such successful examples as there are only serve to perpetuate the prevailing conditions because, if anyone can now “make it” in modern capitalist society, then those who fail to do so are said to fail out of their own wilfulness.
Just as 19th century Malthusian “workhouse” bourgeois ideology saw it, the poor now “deserve” their fate, which they brought on themselves, and should be punished for it.
Bourgeois society is not only unable to solve the social and economic problems that perpetuate these alienating and culturally humiliating conditions, it is unwilling to do so because that would mean abolishing the class nature of society, and thereby abolishing the bourgeoisie who benefit from it as a class.
Racist scapegoating becomes an indispensably tool for ruling class survival in times of revolutionary crisis because it prevents the working class from seeing the true cause of the crisis, as they enter into dog-eat-dog competition with workers of other races for increasingly diminishing resources.
The civil rights breakthrough was welcome because it dented a particular aspect of backwardness in capitalist society, and demonstrated the direction humanity can progress once capitalist competition and profiteering is abolished; but without the need to overthrow the monopoly imperialist capitalist system by socialist revolution placed at forefront of all campaigning, unemployment, hunger and homelessness will continue to persist, black youths and those of other marginalised working class communities will continue to be gunned down on the streets, recalcitrant nations and peoples will continue to be blitzed and bombed to destruction, and those who fight back will continue to be imprisoned, tortured and murdered by state forces and death squad militias.
Single issue activist campaigning for “reforms” will not only not stop all this savagery and destruction from continuing and growing rapidly as the imperialist system plunges into devastating slump and war, it will continue to be easily manipulated by imperialism, as it was over the Obama black president “breakthrough” (or as in the Egyptian tumult by supporting the fascist military coup against Morsi) into preventing the working class from seeing the reality of capitalism’s Great Depression crisis, unless or until it seriously takes up the struggle for revolutionary communist perspectives.
The extent to which the police have been militarised will have disconcerted large sections of the middle class as the fascist nature of the police response to the protests shakes lingering illusions in bourgeois “democracy”.
Only 12% of Ferguson’s registered voters participated in last year’s municipality elections, with fewer voting in the mayoral elections, indicating its working class’s rejection of the entire “democracy” fraud, and if African-Americans turned out in greater numbers for the 2012 presidential elections, it only demonstrates the temporary effectiveness of the Obama black president trick.
One largely white middle class response to the crisis was the emergence of the Tea Party movement, which expressed their discontent with establishment politics.
Written off as nothing but “reactionary racist bigots and cranks” by the fake-”lefts”, this movement is actually far more complex. It is currently under the influence of reactionary libertarian conservatism, but it takes the American bourgeois revolution and defence against what it rightly sees as erosions of the rights guaranteed in the constitution, including mass surveillance and the militarisation of the police, as its starting point.
Its defence of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms as a protection against governments who use such oppressive actions against the people does not necessarily take it in a reactionary direction and, as the antagonisms created by capitalism’s crisis becomes deeper and rawer, the contradictions within the movement may have the potential to push it in all sorts of unexpected directions.
Whilst some of the more backward racist elements of the Tea Party movement have defended the police’s militarised crackdown on the protests and failed to see the contradictions within their own position, others have already declared sympathy with the protesters and drawn out the fascist character of the police response, including Rand Paul, possible Republican front-runner for the 2016 presidential elections in an article for Time magazine:
The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation.
If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.
The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.
The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.
Glenn Reynolds, in Popular Mechanics, recognized the increasing militarization of the police five years ago. In 2009 he wrote:
Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … Police look inward. They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.
It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.
The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observed this week how the rising militarization of law enforcement is currently playing out in Ferguson:
Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?
Olson added, “the dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.”
How did this happen?
Most police officers are good cops and good people. It is an unquestionably difficult job, especially in the current circumstances.
There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement.
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.”
Bernick continued, “federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”
Bernick noted the cartoonish imbalance between the equipment some police departments possess and the constituents they serve, “today, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country—tanks included.”
When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.
This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown.
Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.
The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.
Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.
Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.
None of this is to suggest that an opportunist career politician from the Republican party would be any less of a disaster for the working class than Obama, but capitalism is driven by the crisis to continually intensify the fascistisation of society in preparation for the civil war necessary to suppress working class revolt, and the contradictions within Tea Party Republicanism could cause huge problems for the ruling class if they were successful in winning or influencing the presidency, especially as the living conditions of its middle class support base disintegrates.
“You can’t call it fascist yet” was one of the arguments raised against the EPSR’s perspective by its objectors. As events in Ferguson show, and as was earlier seen in the vicious police attacks and suppression of peaceful Occupy activists in 2011, Obama’s America is looking far more fascist than it was even under Bush.
Obama has given the ruling class six more years to prepare for the brutal suppression of all dissent, and it will use as much fascism as it needs to crush the revolutionary movement that will inevitably emerge in response to the crisis.
The widespread unrest that erupted in Los Angeles after the brutal police beating of Rodney King in 1992 terrified the ruling class in its implications, and it has been building up its civil war arsenal ever since.
The militarisation of the police has been building up since the 90’s, with tanks, grenade launchers, armoured vehicles, assault rifles and much more transferred from military to police control once the Pentagon gave the green light in 1997, a process which has escalated in recent years, not because police chiefs are buying military kit “just because they can” as some petty bourgeois police “reformers” have suggested, but in preparation for future revolutionary upheavals and the potential for LA-style uprisings in cities across America:
Here’s how it all happened. A little-known Pentagon program has been quietly militarizing American police forces for years. A total of $4.2bn worth of equipment has been distributed by the Defense Department to municipal law enforcement agencies, with a record $546m in 2012 alone.
In the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1997, the “1033 program” was born. It allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces.
Though the program’s existed since the 1990s, it has expanded greatly in recent years, due, in part, to post-9/11 fears and sequestration budget cuts. The expanse, however, seems unnecessary given that the Department of Homeland Security has already handed out $34bn in “terrorism grants” to local polices forces – without oversight mind you – to fund counter-terrorism efforts.
Note the 2012 record for equipment distribution, under Obama. So much for “not being fascist”!!!
This spending can only seem “unnecessary” to petty bourgeois who cannot, or will not, see the revolutionary implications of the greatest and most far-reaching economic crisis in world history.
For the ruling class, it is necessary, as the sort of Nazi atrocities inflicted on “rogue” states or movements abroad will be required at home in a war for their survival as a class.
Downtown America will look more and more like Gaza, Afghanistan or Iraq (as some commentators have already observed about the police response to the Ferguson protest), as the war is brought home against their own revolting proletarian masses.
That the American working class will once against turn to socialist revolution as the only way to progress humanity forward is inevitable as all supposed “reformist” avenues are blocked off by the crisis, and as their attempts to assert themselves as a class are responded to with the full force of ruling class violence (merely hinted a in Ferguson).
As the EPSR stated in 2003:
Conditions and traditions for socialism and revolution in the USA are the least problem of all. The revolutionary civil war to end the feudal-slavery aspect of anti-Black discrimination is still a “good” precedent in general culture, and still only 140 years ago, when the parents were alive of some people who are still alive today.
The American Revolution itself, to end foreign domination, is still a powerful cultural tradition, only 220 years old, and aspects of it can still be heard echoed throughout modern US society.
The huge ethnic working-class minorities, still vastly discriminated against, - could almost make a socialist revolution on their own. And the workers movement in general developed powerful communist traditions and ferocious trade-union struggles from the beginning.
On top of all that, the anti-war movement over Vietnam was almost unprecedented in its style, scope, and achievements, - registering a quite remarkable objectivity about that war’s stupidity in spite of the humiliating pain of failure for the US.
The philistinism and ignorance of the American political scene remain sickeningly high, but the potential for quite dramatic transformations should not be underestimated. [EPSR Perspectives 2003]
US imperialist defeats and set backs in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are already helping to break down the prevailing culture of philistinism and ignorance at home, as is the Slump.
A party of revolutionary theory is vital to finally defeat this anti-communist philistinism and lead the working class to communism. It needs building now.
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