By Chris Fry
In the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Malcolm X announced that the “chickens had come home to roost.” He was slandered for this by the corporate media and political establishment. He was even suspended for 90 days by the Nation of Islam leadership. But the “atmosphere of hate”, as he explained later, with the CIA assassination of anti-colonialist leader Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba, the widening U.S. war in Vietnam, the Klan bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four Black children, all of these acts of imperialist violence actually caused the Kennedy shooting in Dallas that November.
In the aftermath of the May 14th of this year’s shooting of 11 Black residents in a Buffalo grocery store, the denial of hard-won voting rights, the Supreme Court’s preparing to overturn the fundamental reproductive rights of women enshrined in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the attacks on Critical Race Theory, the banning of books in schools that support the rights of the LGBTQ+ members of our communities, the open embrace of the white supremacist “racial replacement” theory and heavily armed vigilantes by the Republican Party, one must ask, why is a powerful portion of the economic and political elite waging this “culture war” now, even in the midst of its ongoing proxy war in Ukraine against the Russian Federation favored by the whole ruling class?
The answer lies deep in the bowels of U.S. imperialism. A crisis is unfolding in the capitalist system that the billionaire class and their minions in both bourgeois political parties cannot resolve.
For four years, the Boss Trump regime paraded as the violent ultra-repressive alternative for the ruling class, bringing their “wars home” from the Iraq, from Libya, and from Afghanistan to the streets of St. Louis, Kenosha, Portland, Washington D.C. and elsewhere, even to the halls of Congress, to show the billionaire class that an “army” of white supremacists could be mobilized as an auxiliary to the police and even the military to protect them from the youth who have demonstrated so militantly against police murders of African American people, from the thousands of people who stormed airports in 2017 to defend Muslim immigrants, from the millions of women who mobilized against Trump’s record of rape and assault.
Of course, this all coincided with hefty tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
Try as he might, Trump could not prevent Biden from taking office. But he retains his firm grip of the Republican Party, the most organized mass political organization and the most loyal to the ruling class. It, along with Fox News, has become the ideological “nerve center” of the fascist and neo-Klan movement.
With the utter failure of Biden to resolve the deepening capitalist economic crisis of inflation and recession, with the abject surrender of the hard-won African American voting rights, with the failure to disarm the armed right-wing militias and fanatics, and now with the inept and weak response to the upcoming Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, where women are being told to protect their reproductive rights by voting for the same Democratic politicians who have failed them, all of this has emboldened the Trumpists and, more importantly, made them more attractive to the billionaire class.
Biden has now engaged his proxy war against the Russian Federation in Ukraine, a dangerous gambit to show the ruling class here that he can maintain and expand U.S. corporate global hegemony. But of course, this offers zero benefits to the workers and the oppressed here, still threatened by the deadly Coronavirus and still mired in inflation and shortages, where desperate families are unable to even find baby formula to feed their newborns.
Capitalism: Pandemic to war – a system in crisis
On April 12, the Labor Department announced that the year-to-year inflation rate for March spiked to an 8.5 per cent annual rate, the highest increase since 1981. Prices for staples like food and gasoline, essential for working and poor families, spiked at double-digit rates.
Just two weeks later, on April 28th, the Commerce Department announced that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the chief measure of the status of the economy, shrank by 1.4 per cent in the January to March period.
On May 4th, Jerome Powell, the chairman of the “central committee” of the U.S. banking system, namely the Federal Reserve, announced a large 50 basis point hike in its “benchmark” interest rate, the second of several planned rate hikes.
“Inflation is much too high and we understand the hardship it is causing. We’re moving expeditiously to bring it back down,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said during a news conference, which he opened with an unusual direct address to “the American people.” He noted the burden of inflation on lower-income people, saying, “we’re strongly committed to restoring price stability.”
Of course, Powell doesn’t care one whit about poor and working people, who, according to many economists, face a deep recession or even a depression from these rate hikes. But he is concerned that the vast wealth extracted from the world’s working class funneling into the billionaires’ vaults retains its value:
A new analysis released by Oxfam America on Monday, to mark tax day in the US, found US billionaires now own a combined $4.7tn in wealth. Much of this goes untaxed; last year ProPublica analyzed leaked tax returns and found the 25 richest people in the US paid a true tax rate of just 3.4% from 2014 to 2018. The average taxpayer, meanwhile, pays a true tax rate of 13%.
Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an April 28th speech to the Brookings Institute that the White House economic policy consists entirely of empty platitudes and wishful thinking:
Her address at the Brookings Institution looked at lessons learned from economic downturns of the past and said countries need to build in “recession remedies” to protect people in the U.S. and globally going forward.
With “large negative shocks” inevitable, she said, policymakers have learned from the Great Recession that it’s imperative to exit economic downturns “as quickly as possible.”
“Countries will fare better if their economies are more resilient and less fragile,” she said. “Improved understanding of breaks in supply chains, increases in commodity prices, bursting of asset bubbles, and labor and productivity shocks can help policymakers implement reforms that bolster our economic resilience.”
An April 23 article from the Guardian discusses an interview by Chris Anderson with billionaire Elon Musk, who is acquiring Twitter to ensure that it maintains its loyalty to the ruling class and to the demagogic Trumpist doctrine of hate:
“There are many people out there who can’t stand this world of billionaires,” Anderson said to Musk in the interview. “Like, they are hugely offended by the notion that an individual can have the same wealth as, say, a billion or more of the world’s poorest people.”
Only an idiot would be offended by something like that, Musk essentially replied. “I think there’s some axiomatic flaws that are leading them to that conclusion,” he told Anderson. “For sure, it would be very problematic if I was consuming, you know, billions of dollars a year in personal consumption. But that is not the case. In fact, I don’t even own a home right now. I’m literally staying at friends’ places … I don’t have a yacht, I really don’t take vacations. It’s not as though my personal consumption is high.”
Musk, who is worth almost $300bn, did concede that the one exception to his incredibly ascetic lifestyle is his $70m private jet, but said its use was justified because it gives him more hours to work. It’s essentially in the public good.
Of course, to Musk, like the rest of his parasitic class, it’s the power derived from his enormous wealth, not the consumer goods, that drives his and their ambitions and their greed. Whole sections of the ruling class will go to any lengths to protect their grip, including dispensing with any semblance of bourgeois democracy and intensifying their attacks particularly on resistance from the oppressed communities. This situation demands a determined and organized response from our entire class.
What is the answer?
Already there has been a tremendous upsurge by the working class to the degrading economic situation that we face. Millions of workers have quit low paying jobs in the “Great Resignation” to find higher paying ones. And many bosses have had to offer pay and benefit hikes to hire and retain workers.
But the current rate of inflation surpasses these increases of income. Many companies collapsed before and during the pandemic, allowing others to have a near monopoly, permitting them to raise prices at will. This spontaneous move by the workers, entirely justified, will not solve the problem.
Union organizing has also accelerated during this period, with Amazon and Starbucks being prime examples, but there are many others. These are all great “schools” of struggle, with its message of solidarity. That is particularly shown by who is leading these organizing campaigns. An article by the Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor stated:
Global capitalism may have met its match. Southern African-American women are challenging Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama, and it’s unclear who will be the victor. Eighty-five percent of the Amazon warehouse workers who are voting on whether to form a union are African American, and the majority are female.
After Black workers forced open the doors of those unions that had been closed to them, African Americans became the group most likely to be union members.
A March 4 Washington Post article titled “More Starbucks stores want to unionize. These women and nonbinary workers are leading the push.” stated:
Many of the Starbucks organizers are women and nonbinary people, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group helping stores unionize. In large part, this is because Starbucks’s workforce is more than 70 percent female. Labor experts say it’s also because women are playing an important leadership role in the kinds of social movements that often feed into labor drives, including fights for racial justice and climate change activism.
But here too these key worker organizations can only hope to win increases of income and benefits within the capitalist system, which is absolutely critical. By themselves they cannot create a path to a new social system designed to put people before profits, to put the economic system under the control of the actual producers of wealth, the workers and oppressed.
As the capitalist system descends into deeper and deeper crisis, the ruling class will turn more and more to the Trumpist strategy of racist demagoguery and repression and mobilize the full weight of their political, media and police forces, including all these fascist and neo-Klan organizations, to maintain their domination. And proxy and direct war will always be an essential part of their agenda.
But as the ruling class loses its control of the social and economic situation faced by the masses, activists can and will create political organizations and strategies of struggle to counter the bosses’ messages of hate and bigotry meant to weaken and divide us, to fight all forms of oppression inflicted on our class, and to lead the way to a new society based on revolutionary socialism. We can win! We will win!
This article was corrected on May 21,2022 to reflect that Chris Fry is the author, not David Sole.