"Life Teaches" - V.I. Lenin
The events of the past year have awakened millions of Americans to the bitter reality of life under capitalism. To many, the entire planet appears to have gone insane. The world has been shaken from top to bottom by natural disasters, wars, famines, political crises, riots, and revolutionary uprisings. This is a graphic reflection of the impasse of capitalism in the epoch of its decay and decline: an era of wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions.
Instability is now the norm, and it is precisely this constant uncertainty as to what tomorrow holds that has forced open the eyes of millions of American workers. A growing crisis of confidence in the political institutions of the country and the very system these are based on is inherent in the situation. The U.S. ruling clique, once arrogantly confident and self-satisfied, is in a shambles. As Bush's approval ratings continue to plummet, those closest to him are embroiled in political scandals that almost certainly go to the very top of the Administration.
As we explained after Bush's re-election, colossal arrogance sooner or later leads to colossal mistakes. In their haughty haste to capitalize on September 11 and take the country to war, these Machiavellian upstarts trampled on the rights, working conditions, and dignity of American workers. For a time, the majority was willing to "wait and see", in the hopes that these measures would indeed lead to improved security and a stronger economy. Nothing of the sort has happened; the proverbial chickens are now coming home to roost with a vengeance.
The world is even more unstable than before, and the likelihood of another tragic terrorist attack is as likely as ever. More troops than ever are bogged down in Iraq, where tens of thousands of civilians and well over 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed so far, with no end in sight. As for the economy, while the GDP may be growing and some companies are posting record profits, working Americans are doing all the work and receiving none of the benefits. The struggle over health and retirement benefits is at the center stage of a rising number of bitter labor disputes as the bosses seek to drive down wages and conditions to 19th century levels, all-too-often often with the help of the "partnership with the bosses" trade union leadership.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, after 25 years of relative economic expansion, just 25 percent of Americans have jobs offering wages above $16 an hour with health and retirement benefits. For the vast majority, the fruits of the growing economy are nowhere to be seen.
A majority of Americans now oppose the Iraq War and Bush's job performance in general; his overall approval rating is the lowest of any President since his father lost the 1998 election. A majority favors impeachment if it is proved Bush and co. intentionally misled the public in the run up to the Iraq War; 55 percent already believe this to have been the case. Even his own party is fast losing confidence in him, and it is reported that his inner circle is bitterly divided.
Bush was once seen a strong and confidence-inspiring leader, but this myth is rapidly evaporating. Rumors of Bush's increasing agitation and even incoherence abound. Unable to cope with the real world, GW appears to be sinking into denial and outraged indignation, and according to senior aides, often rants about political enemies that are "out to get me". All this with more than three years to go in his presidency.
But there is no confidence in what would replace Bush if he were to be impeached and removed. It is not a question merely of individuals, but of the class interests these individuals represent. Vice President Dick Cheney is next in line should GW fall from power. Such a change in personnel would be only cosmetic, as Cheney is known to be one of the main architects of Bush's Administration. In such a situation, it is almost certain that the Democrats will reap the benefits in the 2006 and 2008 elections; not on the basis of any real merit, but because there is as yet no mass working class political alternative in this country.
The problems besetting the Republicans at present are entirely their own doing, and have nothing to do with the Democrats, who have sat back for the last 4 years and allowed Bush and co. to get away with anything they liked. The Democrats have only just now begun to cautiously come out in opposition because they can smell an opportunity to get their own noses in the public trough, and because the excesses of the Bush clique threaten to destabilize the entire political framework of the country. More than ever, these two corporate parties have become virtually indistinguishable from one another. The Democrats receive only slightly better approval ratings than the Republicans, which shows the potential for a genuine alternative based on the labor movement and working people in general. Such a party could rapidly grow into a real force in U.S. politics.
It's been 2 months since Katrina, whose destructive power was followed by hurricanes Rita and Wilma. The devastation of New Orleans cruelly exposed the ugly underbelly of poverty and racism in America. For a brief moment, the unprecedented polarization between the "two Americas" was exposed for all to see. These disasters revealed the deep structural problems in American society: a Band-Aid will not do to remedy them. Now that the cameras have turned their focus elsewhere, corporate America and their lackeys in government are moving fast to gentrify the entire Gulf Coast, driving out poor, mostly black families, and bringing in poor, mostly illegal immigrants with no rights to do the work of cleaning up. It's no surprise that Bush's first response to Katrina was to sign an executive order suspending prevailing wage protections for those working for government contractors.
The usual suspects have been brought in to reap the same bonanza profits they are making in Iraq: Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown & Root, and Blackwater Security. More corporate handouts are planned for the oil companies and casinos while thousands of the region's residents remain displaced and unemployed. What is needed is a grass roots, democratically-controlled crash program of reconstruction to provide quality jobs, housing, education, transportation, and health care to everyone in the region - and for that matter, to everyone in the country.
Under capitalism, this simply will not happen. We can trust only our own class if we are to put an end to the attacks and set backs we have suffered in the last few decades. Life certainly does teach. With each new shock, the American working class is gradually coming to the conclusion that only we can stop Bush and the system he defends. Sooner or later, a "tipping point" in consciousness will be reached, and then there will be no stopping the American working class. Now more than ever, what is needed is a party by and for working people. Now more than ever, what we need is to fight for socialism.