It seems hard to believe, but it has been ten full years since the September 11 attacks, and nearly ten years since the first issue of Socialist Appeal. A decade later, the country is in many ways a very different place. Long gone are the cars adorned with a dozen American flags and endless chants of “USA! USA!” An entire generation has grown up knowing nothing but George W. Bush, war, terrorism, financial crisis, home foreclosures and unemployment. And in real terms, things have actually gotten worse under Obama. Where is the “hope and change” Americans were promised? Conditions determine consciousness. The conditions we are forced to live in are having a profound effect on Americans’ consciousness, especially among the youth. And this transformation has revolutionary implications for the future.
Just one year ago, the WIL took the initiative to launch the Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor (CMPL – www.masspartyoflabor.org). We understood that, since American workers lack a mass party through which to express themselves politically, building a labor party based on the unions is a key objective need for our class. Now, this does not mean that we think the formation of a labor party will solve the workers’ problems overnight, or that it will magically bring about socialism. Far from it. But the formation of such a party would turn U.S. politics upside down, and would unleash a dynamic that would have a logic of its own, opening up tremendous opportunities to connect the ideas of socialism and revolutionary Marxism with broad layers of workers and youth.
We were told at the time that the unions would never break with the Democrats. But life shows that things can and do change—“never” is a long time! Just 12 months later, we can clearly see how the experience of the last decade, and particularly of the last three years, has had a transformative effect on workers’ consciousness. The Democrats’ actions have made it clear whose interests they defend and represent: the bosses. The union leadership is running out of reasons to continue justifying the labor movement’s support for this big business party.
Now we can clearly see a shift in the situation. From the North Carolina building trades’ boycott of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, to several unions—including the national firefighters’ union—cutting off campaign donations, it is clear the pressure is building for a change in approach. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, has come out in favor of a labor “Super PAC” and for greater union independence when it comes to the elections. Again, this all has a logic of its own.
The crisis has also led to vicious in-fighting among the capitalist politicians. The ruling class is united in its defense of the capitalist system, but it is deeply divided over how best to perpetuate their rule. However, they do not have and cannot find a lasting solution. Because if you accept capitalism, you must accept its laws. But the laws of capitalism are ultimately incompatible with the general prosperity of humanity. Something has to give. Two massive social freight trains are speeding toward each other. That of the capitalists, with all their wealth, privileges, power, and state apparatus; and that of the working class, the only truly productive and progressive class on the planet.
And although it may not appear to be the case on paper, the working class actually has a tremendous advantage in this contest. After all, we are the vast majority of society. Without us, the capitalists are nothing; without them, we can take human society, culture, and technology to presently unimaginable new heights. This is the aim of socialism!
The 2011 World School of the International Marxist Tendency had as its theme “revolution.” A dozen revolutions—past and present—were discussed and analyzed, with a view toward drawing the lessons for today. Alan Woods, in his opening comments, asked a very simple question: “What sparked the English and French Revolutions?” The answer was equally simple, but full of meaning for the present situation. In short, society was bankrupt, and the nobility refused to pay for the crisis. The burden was placed squarely on the backs of the laboring classes and the poor, and the eventual, inevitable result was revolution and a fundamental transformation of society.
We have now had a deficit “compromise” rammed down our throats. The entire deficit can be traced to two things: the spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the corporate bailout in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. As if by alchemy, the private profits of the military corporations have become public debts, and the private debts of the big financial institutions have also been made public. Although we had no direct say in these foreign wars, and had even less to do with the casino of speculation on Wall Street, we are being forced to shoulder the burden.
As a result, an entire generation faces a bleak future. There is talk of a “lost decade,” perhaps even longer, especially for the youth. The post–9-11 world is the best capitalism has to offer. It has nothing positive to offer the majority. So again we must ask: who pays for the crisis? Like the English and French nobility, the rich refuse to pay. For our part, we are confident that sooner or later, the American workers and youth will make sure that it is the capitalist system that is made to pay, by abolishing it once and for all.