Striking a Blow Against Corporate Rule in 2020
America is increasingly heading into full-blown constitutional crisis. As impeachment hearings proceed, traditional processes of law and democracy are breaking down. Subpoenas are defied. The president tweets threats of civil war. Witnesses are threatened. The authority of Congress is denied. Election interference is openly solicited. Phony “national emergencies” are declared.
The administration aggressively disputes, ignores, flouts the law, and may even refuse to accept the results of the 2020 elections.
Around the country, voters have been purged and blocked from casting ballots. States are enacting laws to make it a felony to protest. In Kentucky, the president of the State Senate tried to overturn the recent election for governor. In Florida, the legislature acted to nullify Amendment 4, the voter-approved initiative that re-enfranchised the formerly incarcerated. In Texas, after 19 African American women judges were elected, there is a bill in the legislature to abolish judicial elections.
Wikipedia defines a constitutional crisis as “a problem or conflict in the function of a government that the political constitution or other fundamental governing law is perceived to be unable to resolve.” Constitutional crises can lead to paralysis, collapse of governments, loss of political legitimacy, and even civil war. The most serious constitutional crisis in America was the secession of the Southern slave states and Civil War in 1861. But there have been other crises as well, like the disputed election of 1876, that led to the violent overthrow of Reconstruction state governments in the South. Constitutional crises may appear to be matters of self-interested political infighting, but we ignore them at our peril. They have life-and-death consequences for millions of people.
The constitutional crisis in America today is not just about Donald Trump. There is no question that Trump must be impeached. The country cannot tolerate his criminality for another moment. But the constitutional crisis is deeper than just the president, or any partisan divide. The Trump presidency serves the ruling class by working to consolidate a fascist social base and speed up its transformation of the State into a corporate dictatorship. But the merging of the State and corporations will continue down this road with or without Trump. The people need a plan to stop fascism regardless of which spokesperson of the ruling class puts forward fascist solutions to the crisis.
Underlying Economic Crisis
The crisis is one of democracy itself. It arises from underlying economic and political causes. The ruling class may be divided over some of its tactics, but it is united on its mission: to protect private property at all costs against any inroads by the democratic will of the people.
Technological advances (microchips, computers, smart phones, software, 3D printing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and social media) are, step by step, eliminating the role of human labor in production. This is creating a new class of workers who essentially exist outside the formal productive process. They are increasingly plunged into poverty and forced to confront the private property system in the political arena just to survive.
At the same time, corporations that no longer have need for employees can no longer tolerate political interference by working class constituencies. They are forced to launch a fascist offensive aimed at ultimately rewriting the Constitution to protect private property and eliminate democracy and majority rule.
While the crisis is undoubtedly dangerous, it is also an opportunity. The ruling class is united in its defense of private property but are fighting among themselves over how best to move forward. This provides an opening for the workers to organize and get educated. The workers being forced out of the economy have to fight politically to survive.
The clash between the social struggle and the ruling class is polarizing all the old social and political organizations that have historically tied the workers to the corporate domination system. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Democratic Party. One section of Democrats is aggressively fighting for single payer health care, housing, and the abolition of ICE, while the other is equally aggressively opposing them. Two opposites like this, one attacking public property and the other advancing it, cannot remain the same party.
Analysis of the details of the Green New Deal and Sanders Economic Bill of Rights shows that together they constitute the broadest and most articulate expression of this motion. They are political vehicles. The fight for basic human needs expressed in these programs is objectively striking at the connection between the Democratic Party base and the corporate ruling class. In fact, major Wall Street donors to the Democrats have threatened to support Trump if either Warren or Sanders wins the Democratic nomination.
The Green New Deal calls on the Federal Government to embark on a ten-year national mobilization to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition.” It would “create millions of good high-wage jobs” and ensure “high-quality health care; affordable, safe, and adequate housing; economic security; and clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.”
It would also end and repair historic oppression of what it calls “frontline and vulnerable communities,” identified as “indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”
The demands of the new class that is being displaced from the economy finds expression in Sanders’ Economic Bill of Rights, which calls for a Federal jobs guarantee, a right to health care, housing, education, retirement, and a clean environment. Sanders’ Housing for All platform calls for spending $2.5 trillion to build ten million units of affordable housing, end homelessness, fund community land trusts, and impose national rent control.
At the same time, Sanders addresses some of America’s most urgent social issues. His anti-mass incarceration program calls for stopping excessive sentencing “with a goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.” He has called for a moratorium on deportations, breaking up ICE and the Border Patrol, dismantling border concentration camps, reuniting families, demilitarization of the border, and a swift and fair pathway to citizenship.
The power of these programs depends entirely on their connection with, and ability to impact, the actual struggles of the dispossessed. Workers across the country are locked into militant but defensive struggles for their economic survival. Renters are rising for rent control, and workers are striking to fight takeaways and protect services for their communities. They are resisting heroically. Programs like the Green New Deal, the Sanders’ platform, and to a lesser extent Warren’s, offer an important opportunity to unite, embrace, and rally around a positive vision of the better life that America’s wealth can provide for all, if it were distributed according to need. Sanders and Warren are able to promote these programs because for the first time in history, their campaigns have mastered the ability to fund themselves essentially from the working class.
Role of Revolutionaries
The opportunity exists to work with these programs to inspire people with the hope they need to strike a blow against the corporate rulers. The government is increasingly intervening in the economy to ensure circulation of commodities. The only question is whether this will be done in the interests of the people, or in the interests of the corporations. The Sanders, Warren, and Green New Deal programs offer an arena to organize and fight politically for public ownership for public benefit.
Workers cannot win their economic demands, until they break free from corporate politicians and confront the corporate power structure of the Democratic Party. The formation of Lincoln’s Republican Party offers important lessons on how this can happen. The emerging anti-slavery majority first built a large following inside the establishment Whig Party. After exposing the party’s inability to reform, it took the party’s base and started a new party that replaced the old one.
The recently dispossessed make up the center of gravity in the social struggle. Many of them are inside the Democratic Party, attempting to use it as a vehicle for advancing their immediate demands in the political arena. Revolutionaries have to position themselves where politicization of the social struggle is pushing workers toward political independence. The task of revolutionaries is to propagandize and teach, as the workers find their way forward toward an independent political party, and ultimately toward formation of a workers’ party.
The revolutionaries today fight to win the immediate aims of the workers, but in the movement of the present they also represent and take care of the future of that movement. The role of revolutionaries is to organize and educate the new class to make it happen. The demands expressed in the Green New Deal and Economic Bill of Rights cannot be realized without a political revolution that actually wrestles state power away from the corporations and reorganizes the economy along cooperative lines. RC
January/February 2020. Vol30.Ed1
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011