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by James Cooke
Monday, Aug. 07, 2006 at 4:14 PM
Ever since the classic revolutions that begun the current epoch of ‘democracy’, and more importantly capitalism, there have remained an inherent disunity among those loosely defined as progressives. Why this lack of unity exists, and why our political opponents do not seem to suffer from the same ailment is something worth examining.
There have been historic exceptions to the general rule of liberal disjointedness. A tight unity of political interests has evolved in times of civil war, or social revolution. It cannot be denied that during the civil wars of the modern era, the fundamental divisions have lied along the same lines of ‘Left’ versus ‘Right’. Revolution ferments when the exploited cannot tolerate their conditions any longer, and demand deep-seated institutional change; this is contrasted with the reaction of the ruling classes, who protect their interests at any cost. The forms these rebellions can take are numerous, and range from aimless rioting (L.A riots), to highly organized governments (the Russian revolution).
It should be of no surprise that the battle against fascism also contained these dueling elements. Fascist organizations have always been supported by those most concerned with retaining their privileged positions. The enemies of fascism have historically been the working classes, who recognized their natural enemy and struggled against it. If the left doesn’t unite fast enough, the right wins, repression ensues, and the oligarchy is strengthened. History has also displayed the lefts unwillingness or inability to unite, even when doing so is absolutely crucial. Often – with Nazi Germany being the case in point— a lack of unity leads to a fascist victory and the consequent descent into barbarism.
It must be asked then, what is the uniting factor? Under what banner can the numerous left factions gather under to express a common interest? Before this can be defined, it may be necessary to first discuss a broader, but absolutely essential phenomenon.
Vital to advocating a political solution to any social issue is first understanding the cause and scope of the problem. The left is often led to believe that the current chaos that is society was caused by Republicans in general, and ‘neo-conservatives’ in particular. This group is supposedly a small faction of fanatics that crept out of the abyss, with no adequate explanation for their origin or insane policies. The conservatives of America, best represented by those with tremendous wealth, understand society much better than their liberal counterparts.
The Right has a plan for success, based on a comprehension of the interests of their constituents; this strategy is initiated by the neo-conservatives, who advocate tirelessly for their corporate sponsors by aggressive wars for raw materials and markets, and repressive measures at home to quell protest, lower wages, and privatize public life. The slogans that the conservatives promote unite their followers; because the Right’s power emanates from its position within the profit-system, any policy that sustains capitalism is beneficial, i.e., free trade, militarism, worker ‘sacrifices’ of wages and benefits, destruction of Social Security and Medicare, etc. This group understands its relationship to the economy and how to best express its needs. They are the controllers of society’s wealth, enacting legislation, endorsing foreign policy, and directing the media’s perspective on all issues that help retain their economic advantages. After uniting the powers of commerce behind them, Republicans offer the backward masses tidbits of religion, fear, and patriotism.
The way the elite’s interest is reflected in the media is becoming all the more difficult to rationalize. When tens of thousands of jobs are destroyed from a corporate giant, stocks surge and the company is thanked for contributing to the economy. When GM negotiates a wage and benefit-slashing program, economists applaud. We are being told that social programs have no funding, at a time when more wealth is created than ever before.
The explanation for this odd contradiction is simple. Global profit-rates are shrinking and investors are becoming desperate. The global market is dominated by Hedge funds, where investors throw trillions of dollars into gambling on currency fluctuations and countless forms of speculation, frantically looking for a fruitful return. The latest round of globalization has increased this internationally-wide tension, demanding that corporations cut every corner to increase profit-rates. A company that chooses to increase wages and benefits, focus on environmental safeguards, or invest money in infrastructure will find its stock-holders balking, its investors will flee. A corporate plan not based on short-term profits is rejected out of hand; such is the desperateness of the situation.
Any political party that assumes the profit-system to be the best way to organize social life will inevitably be dominated by its recent evolution, and it’s every increasing demands. This is the reason why EVERY ‘progressive’ nation (those practicing welfare capitalism) is finding itself in a bind that only bowing before globalization will solve.
The Democrats, who also are dominated by profit-system ideology, are able to offer no alternative for the same reasons, and are thus having a strenuous time in finding any Republican policy worth protesting. The Democrats too are reduced to parroting the line of ‘accepting economic reality’.
Bush, as the representative of capitalism in crises, acts solely on its behalf. Because of this, all non-profit making enterprises will be met with resistance, or crushed; public institutions, the environment, the status of workers, and peace are all threatened with extinction.
The banner of resistance under such conditions must be centered on the destruction of the profit system, meaning, the advancement of socialism. You cannot separate imperialism and capitalism. Our countries insane military budget cannot be rationalized as simply the workings of the ‘military industrial complex’ – one must ask, why does such an institution exist at all, and in whose interest? Not only do war manufacturers benefit from war, but all American corporations. The corporate dominated media and politicians are evidence of this, either of which will invent the most creative reasons on why ‘staying the course’ is necessary, why ‘Israel must defend herself’, and why Iran and Syria must accept colonial status or be dealt with by an ‘international coalition’.
There are no progressive issues that can be considered outside of the context of the current crises of the profit-system. As the crisis deepens, and more war inevitably ensues, the uniting of the left becomes all the more critical.
The Right understands their relationship to the economy and develops strategies and tactics accordingly; the left has failed to do this. To unite, the left must first understand
The profit-system, who dominates it, and who suffers beneath it; a strategy capable of changing this relationship must be revolutionary in nature. Protesting the most outrageous elements of corporate domination will not change the essential property relations that are the foundation of such catastrophes. The vast majority of humanity has a common interest in nationalizing the privately run institutions that control social life while democratically running them— this alone is the goal of socialists.
Capitalism cannot be reformed. It is unable to create the conditions of justice and equality that its creators envisioned; monopoly and imperialism are its inevitable result. The relative peace within the economically-dominant countries over the last 50 years was built on the blood and bones of the third-world— globalization however, promises to equal the playing field. Progressive demands for social justice and equality that ignore the economic foundation of society become empty phrases; the slogan that best emphasizes the demands for the majority of humanity has never been so relevant: socialism or barbarism.
The two organizations that best express the ideas voiced above are the Socialist Equality Party (www.wsws.org) and the Workers International League (www.socialistappeal.org).
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