SOCIALISM IN AMERICAN ENGLISH
Discontent over social injustices grows in the US. The call for social redistribution – a functioning welfare state gets louder and louder. Socialism is a provocative theme.
By Robert Ogman
[This article published in jungle world on 11/1/2018 is translated from the German on the Internet.]
The social crisis has penetrated the centers of social normalcy. Demonstrations of social conscience are prominent again in the US. The beauty queen of the state of Michigan complained there was no drinkable water for Michigan residents – an allusion to the drinking water scandal in the city of Flint.
Articles about Karl Marx and capitalism appear in the Teen Vogue magazine along with articles about skin care, Justin Bieber and recipes for pumpkin pie. If one believes the Twitter team of the magazine, poverty will only end with the abolition of capitalism.
The gulf between poor and rich grows even if the official economic statistics of the government seem positive. Officially, unemployment may be only four percent but paid labor does not protect from poverty. Less than 40% of Americans have saved enough to pay for an unexpected car repair or a doctor’s bill of ,000 or more. The meager wage increases of the last 18 months only offset the inflation.
Attacks of republicans on the welfare system drive the US population to the left
A moderate “blue wave” or victory for Democrats is expected in the midterm elections. However, there is also a mood that tends to the left. Its drives are stronger than they seem. Teachers revolted against budget cuts in Republican-controlled states. The survivors of school shootings demonstrate against the sales of assault rifles.
Feminists interrupted Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing in the Senate
This new movement was not created by Bernie Sanders or by the Democratic Socialists of America whose membership soared from 7,000 to 60,000. Discontented persons for different reasons are found in this diffuse movement. A new power factor arises in the struggle around the future direction of US policy. The victory of the 29-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a primary election for a House of Representatives seat is one of many DSA victories. Leftist newcomers fought for their places with demands for comprehensive health care, fair wages or criminal law reform.
Last week, the Council of Economic Advisors of the White House published a report that admitted socialism was experiencing a comeback in the US 200 years after the birth of Karl Marx and warned of the “costs of socialism.”
A generation after the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama revised his thesis of liberal democracy as the “end of history.” Marx said a few right things about crises in capitalism, the former neoconservative recently conceded. It is time for “socialism to return” – perhaps as more justice given the extremely unequally distributed prosperity of the country and not absolutely in the form of the collectivization of the means of production.
Potential Democratic voters have a more positive opinion about socialism (57%) than of capitalism (47%), according to a poll of the Gallup Public Opinion Research Institute. Like Fukuyama, they presumably want more welfare state and a progressive taxation of income and wealth. The attacks of republicans on the existing welfare system are now driving the US population to the left. The attempt to abolish the Affordable Care Act strengthened support for the program. 20 million persons received health care through this act introduced by President Barack Obama. Ultimately, disloyal Republicans prevented the revocation of the law. They yielded nationwide under the pressure of residents of their districts whoa re confronted everyday with the crises of the US health care system. The continuing optoid crisis has become an enormous burden. Different from the past, drug addiction nowadays afflicts the rural white middle class and no longer mainly the big cities. Proposals of a universal health care as urged by US Senator Bernie Sanders (“Medicare for all”) enjoy the support of around 70% of US citizens. including a majority of Americans voting Republican. Attempts of republicans to represent all welfare state proposals as Maoist, Stalinist or Venezuelan nightmares are losing more and more credibility.
However, the New Leftist movement in the US is less populist in the sense of a policy against the elites than commonly assumed. On the other hand, this movement is really popular and articulates a new common sense that tackles the enormous social and economic injustice in a solidarity way. A new public spirit is developing in the US even beyond social classes.
TEACHERS IN THE US GO ON STRIKE
Teachers see red. In republican-governed states, teachers have been on strike since the beginning of 2018. This could influence the House of Representatives election in November.
By Robert Ogman
[This article published on 5/9/2018 is translated from the German on the Internet, jungle.world.]
The alleged consensus on a “progressive neoliberalism” (Nancy Fraser) does not exist in the US anymore. This has been clear since the 2016 primary elections… Bernie Sanders barely lost his candidacy for the presidency.
Many progressive movements arose in the US since the 2008 financial crisis – from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, from the migrant “Dreamers” to the Anti-Fracking movement. Feminist protests have occurred in the scope of the #MeToo campaign and nationwide demonstrations for reform of the gun laws.
Dissatisfaction with the dominant conditions was clear since the beginning of the year in a series of teacher strikes mainly in republican-governed states in the US described as red states.
Where some democrats long abandoned the struggle against conservatives, teachers are now going on strike against the austerity policy in education and for better salaries, upgrading female occupations and a progressive tax policy. This distribution struggle is not only understood as a conflict in a subsection. This struggle has the potential of influencing the elections for the House of Representatives, the political orientation of the Democratic Party and the 2020 presidential election – shifting the political hierarchy of power in the US.
The current strike wave can refer back to stagnant wages, cuts in education and a crisis of union representation. The great majority of teachers must accept a constant lowering of their salaries despite rising livelihood costs. Many compensate the losses with side-jobs or move to other states where they are paid more. As a reaction to the 2008/2009 budget crisis, republican-governed states drastically cut their education spending. Ten years afterwards, expenditures in these states are lower than before the crisis. Regional differences are also clear. In 2015, Arizona spent a third less for education than in 2008 while spending in Oklahoma was 15% less. The austerity measures led to worsening conditions for teaching and learning. This appeared in antiquated educational materials, worn-out furniture, poor infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and a teacher shortage caused by migration.
So-called right-to-work laws in many places introduced in the 1940s contributed to the loss of union representation. They make it harder for unions to raise member fees and restrict their possibilities for organizing campaigns and doing educational work. Right-to-work laws are now in effect in 28 states. They were first introduced in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin after the financial meltdown; a referendum on these laws is scheduled in Missouri.
At the beginning of 2018, teachers first lost patience in West Virginia. They stopped their work in early February after weeks of conflicts over healthcare fees and stagnant wages. Tens of thousands participated in a demonstration against cuts in the public health system on February 17 and refused the governor’s offer to raise their wage one percent. In the following weeks, teachers, school bus drivers, employees of school administration and kitchen personnel joined the unions call to strike in all West Virginia’s 55 districts. The actions against cuts in education were the first strikes in 30 years. Against the alleged practical constraints of scarce resources, the movement demanded an end to tax privileges for the coal industry and other energy firms and big businesses and combined general distribution questions with their labor dispute in the education sector. The mostly female strikers were victorious after a nine-day work stoppage and large demonstrations in the capital Charleston. In the state with the third-lowest annual income per household, they fought for a 5% wage increase and formation of a commission to find a solution to the rising health care costs.
The strikes gained great public attention and triggered a chain reaction in other states. At the beginning of March 2018, 80% of Oklahoma teachers and 70% of the parents of school children supported a strike urging a ,000 increase in the annual salary and more investments in the schools. 30,000 teachers participated in the strikes; public service employees joined the movement with their own wage demands. After seven days, the teachers ended their work stoppage on April 12. They were promised a ,000 increase in their annual salary and more than 0 million in investments generated through tax hikes – in a state without legally regulated wage agreements. For the imminent elections, the movement hopes to continue the distribution battle and shift the burden to the well-to-do by introducing a capital gains tax and ending tax privileges for energy firms.
On April 2, thousands of teachers in Kentucky stopped their work and closed schools in all 120 districts. In view of absent employee rights, the work stoppage insisted on collective notifications of sickness. The main occasions of the campaign were the partial privatization of the pension system and plans for tax reforms burdening lower incomes. Kentucky’s republican government planned the introduction of a uniform income tax of 5%. Ten thousand demonstrators against this project took to the streets in the capital city Frankfort. These conflicts may play an important role in the November elections and the May primaries.
At the end of April, the protests against the austerity policy extended into Colorado and Arizona, states dominated by Republicans. Cuts there led to reducing classes in many districts to only four days a week and canceling departments like art and music and other possibilities. Despite their low incomes, many teachers had to buy instructional materials themselves.
On April 26 and 27, 10,000 persons gathered for a demonstration in Colorado’s capital city Denver. The demonstrators emphasized distribution questions and urged an end to the tax privileges for bug businesses to make possible investments in education. A voter initiative supported by the Colorado Education Association seeks to raise the taxation on annual incomes over 0,000.
Arizona has been in turmoil since the middle of March. Since 2009, more than .5 billion in education funding was cut in Arizona. The newly founded Facebook group Arizona Educators United had 30,000 members after only ten days. In social media, they show the miserable conditions in the schools: scruffy textbooks, broken chairs and tables and moldy walls. On April 26, 75,000 persons in red T-shirts demonstrated under the motto “Red for Education” in the capital Phoenix. They demanded a 20% wage hike, a billion dollars in investments and smaller school classes. On May 3, the strikers gained a wage-increase of 19% after days of protest and a Senate session lasting several hours. In addition, 0 million in cuts in the new budget plan was revoked. Many want to keep demonstrating up to the November elections so the big earners will be more strongly obligated financially.
The strike-wave in Republican-governed states also inspired teachers elsewhere. Teachers in Jersey City stopped work for a day in the middle of April on account of a dispute over salaries and health insurance costs – for the first time in 20 years. In Puerto Rico, there was a strike against closing the schools. The situation in North Carolina is also tense. Many teachers seem to be at an end with their patience. The strike movement experiences much sympathy and solidarity; it could contribute to spreading the demand for a political change.
ADDRESS AT THE OCTOBER 2018 RALLY IN BERLIN
By Hans-Jurgen Urban
[This address from October 13, 2018 in Berlin is translated from the German on the Internet. Hans-Jurgen Urban is an IG Metal union spokesperson.]
Dear colleagues and friends!
There can be no excuses after Chemnitz!...
Whoever like Interior Minister Horst Seehoefer declares migration “the mother of all political problems” or would take to the streets in protest reduces democracy to a word-game and makes himself a hypocrite – knowingly or deliberately!
Since arrogance, racism and right-wing populism deeply penetrate society, it is very important that we stand here today.
As a democracy-movement and for human rights, tolerance and solidarity.
Colorful, diverse and indivisible!
The social question doesn’t involve top and bottom, the anti-immigrant AfD (Alliance for Germany) says…
Alt-fascists see an opportunity coming up… We say loudly and clearly: we are fed up with you and what you have done with human rights and democracy. You are hypocrites and arsonists. We are your enemies and will do everything to put a stop to your intrigues!
How they lie with words is unbearable
- when they say “democracy,” they think of the very German or pompously German patriots cheering right-wing ideologies.
- when they exclaim “leading culture,” they mean historical misrepresentation and devaluation of other cultures.
- when they speak of the “people,” they phantasize a homogenous mass that never existed and hopefully will never exist.
- and when they raise the “social question,” they mean “foreigners out and tighten the borders” – so more is left for Germans.
Yes, the right-wing has discovered the social question as a field of their propaganda….
We don’t want to know your ethnic caricature of a welfare state.
You call the victims of today’s capitalism the causal agents of unemployment, poverty and social divisions.
The new social question is still the old question.
For redistribution, gender justice, ethnic pluralism and sexual tolerance
Does anyone really believe refugees are in the way of fair wages, safe jobs and social security?
That we tackle tax evasion, exploding rents and obscene managerial bonuses when we close the b orders and let people drown in the Mediterranean?
Incitement against minorities does not help against social injustice!
I stand here as a unionist seeking a broad indivisible alliance.
My union IG Metal is a “colorful mixture.”
With persons from all countries, with different origins, cultures and life projects.
Diversity makes us rich!
An IG Metal without colleagues with migrant backgrounds is a nightmarish idea.
What a loss in experiences and fighting strength that would be!.
So I like our society – as a colorful mixture with different passions and life projects – and with democratic indivisible resistance!