“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”
— opening line of Gravity’s Rainbow
The Democratic Party’s crescendo screams at us but is somehow hollow. MSNBC — the official mouthpiece of the Democratic Party — has dropped all pretense of being a news network. They complain, of course, that Fox News has dropped all pretense of being a news network. Both are right. The Green nominees — Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker — are drowned out. The “independent” progressive media has been eerily silent. Bought or not, their silence on Hawkins/Walker is deafening.
A Black Biden rep on MSNBC is asked what “lock ’em up” Joe will do for the Black community. She repeats over and over that Biden/Harris is a great team for doing something. Not a word about what that something would be.
His track record includes advocating cuts to Social Security, voting for invading Iraq, and the 1994 Crime Bill that ended in Mass Incarceration. He says he would veto Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. We needn’t dwell on this.
Venality? Cynicism? Depravity even? Of course. But the current debacle simply marks the final playing card of a long-held strategy once known as Social Democracy.
The Iron Chancellor.
Its father, ironically, was none other than the Iron Chancellor of Prussia, Otto Von Bismarck. Beset by a growing, militant socialist movement, he wrote in 1884:
“The real grievance of the worker is the insecurity of his existence; he is not sure that he will always have work, he is not sure that he will always be healthy, and he foresees that he will one day be old and unfit to work. If he falls into poverty, even if only through a prolonged illness, he is then completely helpless, left to his own devices, and society does not currently recognize any real obligation towards him.”
His offer of welfare programs stripped of all socialistic aspects was acceptable to the Junker aristocracy. In exchange, the working class would march off to fight the country’s imperial wars. Sound familiar?
The working class leadership, constituted as the Second International, pursued a strategy of militant trade unionism, yet took the deal. It was the Age of Imperialism. It launched nearly a century of Reformism.
They proclaimed it a new road to revolution. In 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began its preamble with “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” But now, they did have something in common, a share of the prosperity gained from the Great Powers’ various empires. The class struggle was fought bitterly, savagely repressed, fiercely advanced, often with massive strikes and bloody massacres, within these limits.
The Age of Reform.
So they were grudgingly granted the right to fight for reforms, the eight-hour day, the right to unionize, etc. The main path was to win incremental reforms, with the promise that such incremental reforms would accumulate and eventually add up to socialism. But they did not fight for the working class to rule. Militancy of tactics is not the same as the fight for power itself.
In the U.S., it peaked out with the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, whose regime achieved the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, while pursuing the brutal War in Vietnam which led to some 55,000 dead Americans, and a moderately estimated 2.5 million dead Vietnamese.
From there, it’s been all downhill. More U.S. bases around the world pursuing war against more and more insurgencies accompany an irrevocable bipartisan slide to austerity. As economist Michael Hudson explains, “The West is becoming a highly centrally planned economy, but its planning center is Wall Street.” The shocking disintegration of the U.S. manufacturing economy, accompanied by the total dominance of the financial sector, is at a crunch point. Whatever goes on in the so-called political arena, the fact is that the material basis for steady, incremental reform has been dismantled.
Yet Joe Biden assures the wealthy that their standard of living will not change. “Nothing [will] fundamentally change. … the rich should not be blamed for income inequality.” He begs, “I need you very badly.”
So the U.S. Left clings to a strategy of incremental reform that no longer has any material basis. The slogan of the 1930’s, “Prosperity is just around the corner,” is a sad joke. The Age of Reform is dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Pushing up daisies.
The Age of the Tyrant Kings.
As Antonio Gramsci wrote, “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters.”
Is there really anybody out there who will deny that the US government lies pretty much about everything and anything? … In fact, I would argue that lying is both necessary AND expected from any US politician … The truth is that lies have become the norm of the western political discourse. … in a society which expects everybody to lie, facts simply don’t matter anymore.
Now more than ever have the American people been reduced to helpless spectators to a contest of the Tyrant Kings — DNC versus Trump — going at it hammer and tongs for the right to preside over stage-managing the destruction of our nation. With the demise of “facts” comes the abandonment of any sense of public morality. A CNBC poll reports that majorities of voters in six “swing” states “consider President Trump and Joe Biden mentally unfit to be president.” The spectacle of the presidential conventions has been perfected, a debate-free, week-long Academy Awards extravaganza as the two parties vie to win the ratings contest.
Glen Greenwald reports on a CDC report in the August 28 Intercept:
“One question posed by researchers was whether someone has ‘seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days’ … For Americans between 18-24 years old, 25.5 percent — just over 1 out of every 4 young Americans — said they had.
“Suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States in 2016. It was the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34 and the fourth-leading cause among people ages 35 to 54.”
It’s not getting better.
And yet the Green Party is still standing, with its presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and running mate Angela Walker presenting us once again with the choice of “Socialism or Barbarism” put forth by Rosa Luxemburg in 1914 on the verge of World War I. But it’s not exactly the same choice. It was Socialism or Barbarism back then. It’s grimmer today. The choice is now between fighting for Socialism (or rather “Eco-Socialism”) in the midst of existing Barbarism. We are like the tiny furry mammals that existed even in the time of the dinosaurs.
The left has yet to adjust to this.
In his July 11 acceptance of the Green Party nomination, Hawkins outlined the five major crises that are demanding immediate answers:
“Our country needs the Green Party now, because we are living in a failed state. It has failed on the life-or-death issues we face: the Covid pandemic, systemic racism, growing economic inequality, the climate emergency, and the new nuclear arms race.”
Emergency measures, taken in order:
- Medicare to Pay for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment and All Emergency Health Care. That’s for everyone at any age, folks.
- Giving $2,000 a month to individuals (Including children) making Less than $120,000 a year. Even the partial COVID restrictions and lockdowns have had a devastating effect on people’s incomes. This is the whip used to force working people and students to risk their very lives to re-open the economy, no matter the price in human lives.
- Moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs. Cancellation of rent, mortgage, and utility payments, with the Federal government taking up the slack. Suspension of student loan payments with zero accumulation of interest.
- Restore the expanded unemployment benefits that provided $600/week to those receiving benefits.
- Federal aid to state and local governments sufficient to keep essential services running. Emergency funding to maintain full US Postal Service Revenue during the Pandemic.
- Universal Mail-in Ballot Option for the 2020 general election.
“We need police commissions selected by the people in the community with the power to hire and fire police chiefs, get the racists and sadists off the force, oversee police policies and budgets, and investigate and discipline officers of misconduct.
“We are not talking about review boards appointed by the politicians who created the abusive police departments we have in the first place. The politicians — and the real estate industry power structure behind them — set these police departments up to do what they do, which is to keep downscale people, particularly Black people, down, and out of upscale communities.
“We need to reimagine public safety. The homeless don’t need a vagrancy charge from a cop. They need a home.
“We must end the war on drugs and mass incarceration. With 4% of the world’s population, the US has 25% of the world’s prisoners. It is the largest prison system in the history of the world, bigger than Nazi Germany’s, the Soviet Gulags, or South Africa’s apartheid.
“We must defund the police and move a big share of their funding to needed social services.
“Enact the Commission to Study and Develop Proposals for Reparations for African-Americans Act (H.R. 40 and S. 1083).”
Economic Bill of Rights:
We must make permanent the “Emergency” measures outlined in our response to the Covid-19 crisis. Then we must expand them. That would require adoption of the Green New Deal’s Economic Bill of Rights as fundamental HUMAN RIGHTS:
- The Right to a Living-Wage Job
- The Right to an Income Above Poverty
- The Right to Affordable Housing
- The Right to Comprehensive Health Care
- The Right to Lifelong Free Public Education
- The Right to a Secure Retirement
Green New Deal:
The above addresses our people’s immediate survival needs, but we would only be buying time if we did not address the now-raging Climate Crisis. It’s no longer something to worry about “some day.” It is today upon us. Coastal communities are being devastated by hurricanes. They are not being rebuilt. We are no longer our brother’s or sister’s keeper. The West Coast is ablaze. Chicago ripped by 90 mph wind gusts during a “derecho” wind as it cut a 700-mile swath through the Midwest. Heat waves are springing up around the country, fast approaching killing temperatures. The ferocity of Climate Change grows exponentially with every coming year.
The phenomena are worldwide. ArabNews reports, “More than 70% of people worldwide living in threatened areas are in eight Asian countries: China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan.” Corporate-sponsored measures only amount to mere “portfolio diversification.” The entire U.S. transportation system centers on burning oil. Drastic measures are called for. They are not being taken. The outlook is catastrophic.
The heart of the Green Party’s Green New Deal — pioneered by the Howie Hawkins campaign when he ran for New York governor in 2010 — is a Green Economy Reconstruction Program. This would require a massive overhaul of how our economy is owned and managed, in order to realistically deal with the scope of the threat that Climate Change poses. The U.S. response to the Covid-19 crisis at every step ran up against the responses of corporate America and our so-called bi-partisan system at every level of governance:
“We can’t afford it.”
“We aren’t allowed to do that under the laws of the Free Enterprise System.”
“The Rich and Powerful won’t allow it.”
A free-for-all pitting state versus state, it became an orgy of profit-making at the top, and terror and desperation among communities across America, particularly in Black and Brown ones. Bankruptcies are ruining people’s lives daily, while generating “investment opportunities” that have sent the stock exchange sky-rocketing.
Corporate America toys with “going Green” in ways that generate profit for them while the leaving the fundamentals of power and wealth untouched.
Our Green New Deal would have to challenge that power. The Democratic Party is certainly not about to. We must:
- Nationalize the Federal Reserve as Public Monetary Authority
- Nationalize Biggest Banks
- Capitalize Local and State Public Banks
That would free up the resources to rebuild America along ecologically sound principles:
- Nationalize Big Oil and Gas to break the back of their economic power. For them, Climate Destruction is not a bug. It is a feature.
- Build an Interstate Renewable Electricity System with public power utilities.
- Build an Interstate High-Speed Rail System.
- Develop an Interstate High-Speed Internet System.
- Reconstruct our rotted-out Infrastructure.
Yes, this will be enormously disruptive. Entire communities may have to be relocated. Employed. Housed. Fed. Provided with healthcare.
The Economic Bill of Rights establishes the principles that will guide this work, and the nationalization of the major banks and the Federal Reserve will provide the means without which such Economic Rights could not be afforded. Recreating the Civilian Conservation Corps would guarantee a decent job to anyone who needs or wants one. Upon this foundation, we can use our democratic, de-centralized human creativity toward:
- Green Manufacturing.
- Agriculture and Rural Reconstruction
We are not an island, a secure bubble safe from the storms that would ravage our entire planet. We call for a Global Green New Deal. The problems are Global. The powers arrayed against us are Global. Defeating them must be Global.
One existential crisis looms over all, the threat total Nuclear Annihilation. Hawkins has written:
“Capitalism’s competitive economic structure yields a conflict-ridden international system that generates endless wars. Sooner or later, wars will lead to nuclear annihilation if we don’t change the system and abolish nuclear weapons.”
Specific points include immediate:
- Recommitment to the recently abandoned arms treaties.
- No First Strike.
- Nukes Off Hair-Trigger Alert.
- Negotiations toward Complete Nuclear Disarmament.
“An enduring peace requires replacing capitalism with ecosocialism—capitalism’s nationalistic competitive militarism with ecosocialism’s international cooperative security. We call for deep US military spending cuts and converting to a defensive military posture. The savings will be a peace dividend to reinvest in a Global Green New Deal for economic human rights, clean energy, and regenerative agriculture around the world.
“[Initiate] vigorous new negotiations for further reductions toward complete nuclear disarmament and for scaling back the world’s militaries to strictly defensive forces. We will oppose US military intervention for regime change and speak up for human rights wherever they are violated.”
So what is this “Ecosocialism” thing, anyway?
Good question. Capitalism is self-destructing to be sure. But that self-destruction does not inherently assure our own survival. Remember the story of Samson and the Temple. Samson died.
It is we, the people, who must take responsibility for rebuilding a new world.
“Socialism” has been defined in so many ways over the years, and has gotten problematically intertwined with Reformist Social Democracy. (After all, even the most flaming revolutionaries see some necessity of fighting for reforms along the way. Nor does militancy per se equal revolution.) The crises delineated above cannot be resolved under our current system of capitalism because the rich and powerful — who control our economy, our media, our police and our military — want it that way. In fact, their wealth and power feed off these crises.
So they cannot allow us the luxury of Democracy. As Samuel Huntington wrote for the Trilateral Commission in 1975, “Some of the problems of governance in the United States today stem from an excess of democracy … The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Non-involvement, I would add, whether voluntary or not.
Resolving crises of poverty, police, Climate Disaster and war requires our breaking the back of the rich and powerful who will fight us to the death to maintain their wealth and power.
As interesting as various blueprints for change may be, the fact is that the reality of Socialism will ultimately be determined by the actual struggle for it, as determined by the conditions we live under, as masses fight for their survival.
If one must distinguish between Socialism and Ecosocialism, it is that reorganizing the world to deal with the horrors of unchecked Climate Change is the critical task facing world Socialist reorganization. Therefore, Ecosocialism.
This puts into focus the political bankruptcy inherited from the Age of Reformism. Simply put, we are in a race for survival. Examine the track record of Reformism for the last 50 years. Clutching pathetically to the apron-strings of the Democratic Party, 50 years of lesser-evilism is just “too little too late” at best. It’s not that the Democratic Party is just useless. Actually, the Democratic Party has served as the battleship chains that have actively prevented us from confronting these existential crises with real solutions.
Does the mere casting off of chains eliminate these crises? Not at all. But casting off these chains is a pre-condition for engaging what is to be done. The current American malaise demonstrates that these chains are being cast off, even as the desperate cry that “We must stop Trump” reaches a new crescendo and a new level of despair. Whether in the streets or in the voting booth, we must turn that malaise into effective — and structural — action. Like the tiny creatures that survived the Age of Dinosaurs, we may be smaller, but we can also be faster and smarter. So the Green New Deal and Ecosocialism lay out, at least in the broad strokes, our path forward. We can’t wait four more years.
— Jeff Roby
September 14, 2020