We’ve now entered the long, hot summer of the 2012 electoral campaign farce. Both Democrats and Republicans are positioning themselves for the last leg of the political marathon, kicking clouds of dust in the faces of the American workers as they go. Mitt Romney is like Scott Walker on steroids, an unapologetic gangster capitalist raising record amounts of money from the 1% of the 1%. But is Obama fundamentally different? He represents the same corporate interests and is financed by virtually the same sources—Wall Street is an expert at hedging its bets. No matter who sits in the White House, big business is the winner. Ever thus under capitalism.
To be sure, Obama has ratcheted up the “populist” rhetoric of late, in a desperate attempt to relight a fire under his many dejected supporters. On immigration, Obama issued an executive order to the effect that he would not enforce the deportations of undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children. However, this is a far cry from the only real solution: immediate and unconditional legalization and equal rights for all.
On the health care front, the Supreme Court has narrowly upheld “Obamacare.” Desperate for even the slightest relief, many people celebrated this as a great victory. But let’s not lose sight of the reality: Obamacare represents a massive handout to the profit-driven private insurance companies. 27 million Americans will still not be covered, and those who are covered, will have to pay out the nose for the privilege. This is a long way from the only real solution: a socialized, national health care system.
Without a labor party, and with the labor leaders falling over themselves to get out the vote for Obama, the workers’ interests are not represented in the slightest. And yet, the capitalist crisis affects the working class above all. It boils down to one simple thing: jobs. There were 12.7 million unemployed Americans looking for jobs in May, an average of 3.5 for each open position. For the April-June quarter, the economy added an average of 75,000 net jobs a month, not even half of what is needed to keep up with the growing workforce. To add insult to injury, one-third of those jobs were only temporary hires. Layoffs in May were at the highest level since July 2010. For those fortunate enough to sell their labor power to the bosses for a wage, paychecks do not keep pace with inflation.
Both major parties are pointing fingers and promising the moon and stars if only they come out ahead in November. Romney assures us he will use his corporate magic to pull millions of jobs out of a hat, while Obama demagogically promises to roll back taxes to the pre-G.W. Bush days for those earning over $250,000 per year (which were already at historic lows). In short, neither party has a real solution. In its epoch of senile decay, capitalism is organically incapable of creating jobs. As the Marxists always explain: this system is based on profits, not job creation. The only serious way to truly address the needs of the working class majority is by going beyond the artificial constraints of capitalism and the cult of private ownership of the means of production: to socialism.
A socialist government would make the rich pay for their crisis by abolishing all indirect and regressive taxation, and by introducing a heavily progressive system of direct taxation on the rich. It would would nationalize the banks under democratic public control. No more bailouts and handouts to the rich! Any bank that is “too big to fail” is too big to be privately held and run for profit. Interest rates would be limited to the necessary costs of banking operations. All public officials, including the directors of the public banks, would earn no more than a skilled worker. If the current fat cats are not prepared to serve society on reasonable terms, they should be shown the door and replaced by qualified graduates, thousands of whom are willing and looking for work.
A socialist government would abolish unemployment and provide work or a place in education for all. It would immediately introduce a 30-hour week without loss of pay, to provide useful and fulfilling jobs, at union wages and conditions, with a state pension and voluntary retirement for all at age 55. Any factories threatened with closure would be nationalized under democratic workers’ control and management. In fact, all the decisive levers of the economy—the Fortune 500—would be brought under public control and integrated into a rational and democratic plan of production, distribution, and exchange.
A massive program of public works including a construction program of affordable public housing, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, transportation networks, and other infrastructure would improve quality of life and create millions of jobs. This is the only serious way to address the jobs crisis. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to do this, as they both serve the capitalists and their outdated and rapacious system.
Only the working class—organized in unions, mobilized on the streets, politically united in a labor party, and fighting for socialist policies that go beyond the narrow limits of capitalism—can turn this situation around. It’s high time the labor leaders broke with the bosses and their political parties. If the current leaders refuse to do so, the working class will have to fight for a new leadership, one that is armed with a class struggle and socialist approach to the life-and-death fight against austerity, cuts, and concessions. In the momentous years of class struggle that this system’s inherent contradictions are preparing for us, there will be many opportunities to forge such a leadership.