2004 promises to be a most interesting year. The chaos in Iraq has put Bush in a tight situation. Despite the Jessica Lynch-esque capture of Saddam Hussein (who was actually captured by the Kurds and handed over to US forces according to recent reports), US soldiers continue to die regularly in increasingly sophisticated attacks. The mood of the country changes from week to week, but overall, Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with the administration’s handling of the post-war occupation. The millions of protesters who hoped to stop the war before it began were disillusioned by the invasion, but they are still out there, joined by millions of others who now see the war as a farce and a sham.
On the surface it appears that the economy is stabilizing somewhat, with gangbuster growth in the final half of 2003. But continued joblessness and the relentless impoverishment of millions is the real story. After emerging from a short recession in November of 2001, the recovery has been weak and uneven. The already weakened dollar could rapidly tailspin into a rout with far-reaching consequences. Despite recent improvements in the official unemployment rate, 2.3 million workers have lost their jobs over the past 3 years. There are also 433,000 Americans newly categorized as “discouraged workers” who have given up hope of ever finding a job. Many economists estimate the real jobless rate is around 9 percent. Add to that the millions of under-employed workers, who are considered to be working, yet cannot even afford decent housing and the basics of life, and you get a more accurate picture of working-class life in America at the beginning of the 21st century.
The discovery of the first case of BSE (more commonly known as “Mad Cow” disease) in the United States also highlights the real nature of the for-profit system. Mad Cow is the result of making cannibals out of cattle. Producers can save money by grinding up animal parts and feeding them to each other. The result is a disease that literally eats holes in the brain. With tight profit margins and rigid production schedules, any and all corners are cut in order to drive down costs. Our food supply is simply not safe so long as it is run in the interests of the mega-corporations and not human health.
2004 brings us a presidential election. Memories of the 2000 debacle will be revived, and millions of politically dormant people will be re-awakened to increased consciousness and activity. Working people and the youth in America are looking for a solution to a situation in which millions are overworked and underpaid while millions of others are unemployed; housing is booming, yet tens of thousands of families live on the streets; the stock markets are up billions of dollars, yet the gap between rich and poor widens further, and the number of Americans falling into poverty is rapidly on the rise; health care costs are skyrocketing, yet some 44 million have no health care. Unfortunately, there is as of yet no party which represents the class interests of working people. Despite their demagogy, both corporate parties are the servants of big business. After decades of ramming through anti-working class legislation themselves, and standing by cravenly while their Republican “opponents” did the same, the millionaire Democrats seeking the presidential nomination now find that they have “forgotten those in need”; that the growing disparity between rich and poor is a “great moral crisis”; that “those who make the most should pay more [taxes]”. As we explained after the 2002 mid-term electoral debacle, the Democrats would be forced to pose more to the “left” in order to mobilize their traditional base: workers, women, and minorities.
So what exactly have these folks ever done for workers, women, and minorities? Nothing. It is a historical law that all significant reforms are not granted from above by benevolent rulers, but are the result of revolutionary struggle by the masses from below. Now, after decades of watching the gains of the great social movements of the past rolled back, working people are gradually starting to realize that these ladies and gentlemen are not their real friends; that they will have to rely on their own strength and forces if they are to improve their lives. As of yet it is not a fully worked out and developed perspective, and millions of working people have not yet broken decisively with the Democrats who betray them at every turn. But the election will provide the Marxists with many opportunities to explain the real class interests behind the two main parties, and the urgency of building a mass party of labor based on the unions.
At a time when the main reason Democratic front-runner Howard Dean is attracting millions of supporters (and dollars) is precisely his image as a “reformer” and a new Franklin Delano Roosevelt who can alleviate the crisis facing millions of Americans, he is already backing away from the label “raging Liberal”. His demagogic speeches against the Iraq War, for expanded health care coverage, money for education, social services, etc., have attracted millions of Americans fed up with Bush’s policies and arrogance.
But this self-styled “FDR” is just as much a part of the capitalist machine as the rest of them. If faced with a backlash against Bush’s policies, the ruling class will quickly shift their support to a Democrat to save their system. We should not forget that FDR, far from being a savior of the working class, was in fact the ultimate savior of the capitalist system at a time when the working masses were on the move and the threat of socialist revolution was very real. His New Deal and maneuvers to pull the US into WWII succeeded in cutting across this process, and Dean or any other Democrat would do the same in order to stave off revolution and save capitalism.
Our alternative to the two parties of big business is simple: only a working class party can represent the interests of the working class. Only when the working majority have a real say in how things are run will we be able to have full access to quality health care and education; full employment and benefits; an end to war, discrimination, and exploitation. Boom or slump, the capitalist system is a system of exploitation in which the profits of the few are gained at the expense of the many. There can be no “final crisis” of capitalism; until it is overthrown by the united struggle of the working class it will continue to grind along on the backs of working people in the US and around the planet.
Patiently explaining this to the workers and youth of America and the world is the purpose of Socialist Appeal. Even more important is actually doing something about it. We invite you to contact us about working with the WIL in the struggle for a better world. In 2004, let’s build the forces of revolutionary Marxism in the US and internationally.