Is this a socialist moment, or the extreme right’s?

BY:Wadi’h Halabi| June 4, 2019

Is this “a full-blown socialist moment”, as comrade Joe Sims recently wrote? Or the “extreme right’s”?  What guidance does history offer?

In 2007-8, the world crisis of capitalism hit US shores. Workers and oppressed have suffered most.

But crises affect all classes. Capitalists — who live and kill for profits – took quite a hit. The most powerful US families saw their profits plummet 85% (Fortune 500). Their profits have since rebounded, with a vengeance.

Not so for lesser capitalists. Business bankruptcies tripled between 2006 and 2009. Millions of business owners lost their homes. Student-debt ensnared their children.

Insights from crises in England 1640 and France 1787

In 1640 and 1787, crises hit feudal England and France, respectively. In both, the failure of the old system opened the door for the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The “Columbia History of the World” provides a “Cliff Notes” on the French Revolution: “When Louis XVI began his momentous reign in 1774… the French government was repeatedly on the brink of bankruptcy…

“By 1787 the financial situation had become desperate… Louis summoned 140 leaders of the aristocracy to an Assembly of Notables, requesting that they consent to abandon some of their traditional fiscal privileges.

“Instead of cooperating with the monarchy to which they owed their special situation… [the aristocracy] urged the summoning of the old parliamentary assembly, the Estates General, last convened in 1614, insisting that it alone could legally deal with the fiscal crisis…

“Thus the very aristocrats who benefited most from the old regime were the first to undermine it… The Great French Revolution began as an aristocratic revolt… Dissatisfied with government of the people, by the king, for the aristocracy, they sought government of the people, by the aristocracy, for the aristocracy.

“The instrument of revolt would be the Estates General, they thought, for aristocrats, after all, controlled the first estate (the clergy) and the second (the nobility) [and the two could outvote the third estate, the commoners]…

“The King was subjected to enormous pressures to convene the Estates General [eventually agreeing. Soon,] articulate commoners, and some of their radical allies in the privileged estates, wanted the third estate to have what came to be called double representation…

“On June 17, 1789, the members of the third estate proclaimed themselves a National Constituent Assembly and urged the members of the two other estates to sit with them — an unmistakable revolutionary step [that spelled] the end of the aristocratic revolution and the beginning of the anti-aristocratic revolution… Decrees abolishing the feudal system soon followed”. (Columbia History of the World, 1972 ed.)

Revolution in the US will likely resemble England’s longer, messier transition, but its parallels with the French Revolution are unmistakable.

The rise of the Tea Party and Trump are among expressions of a rebellion by ‘our’ ‘aristocracy’ against the hidden US ‘monarchy’ — the families who gained exclusive control of the decisive capital and of the US state apparatus starting in 1932. (Victor and Ellen Perlo’s meticulous work on the ‘empire of high finance’ is essential to identify ‘our’ ‘monarchy’; FDR was the Rockefellers’ lawyer!)

After 2007-8, the US ‘monarchy’ covered the losses of its main properties –especially its banks – while shifting the costs of the crisis on workers, oppressed – and lesser business owners, its social base.

Some of these lesser business owners are billionaires, like the Koch brothers, who’re not insured by the state and excluded from control of the state apparatus. But most are small business owners, not doing well by any means. Nearly 30 million businesses file income taxes yearly. Many are owned by former workers fired or pushed into business, with insecure, stressful lives.

Even higher layers of business owners have not been doing well. A study by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez found that the 1%’s average income FELL 19.1% between 2007 and 2014; that of the 0.01% fell even more, 27.4%. The ‘monarchy’ attacked its social base! (The Perlos’ work is crucial to understanding how even the 0.01% could be hit so hard – Trump doesn’t reach that high, and has suffered multiple bankruptcies.) Hence, the Tea Party rebellion.

But also — the Socialist Moment: Occupy 2011, remarkable teachers’ strikes starting in Chicago in 2014, Bernie Sanders’ 2016 candidacy, AOC’s successful 2018 run. The Wall Street Journal warned its readers: “More workers were involved in strikes and other labor disputes in 2018 than at any point in the past three decades.”  These are among manifestations of an incipient rebellion by workers.

We can detect similar developments in Western Europe, from the children’s environmental movement to the “Yellow Vest” revolts now spreading into Belgium.

As in the English and French revolutions, what could be developing in the US today is a possible revolutionary situation, where the ruling class cannot go on in the old way, nor can its social base, and, increasingly, neither can the masses of workers and oppressed.

As Lenin explained, the revolutionary party is the last, critical ingredient: We cannot force a revolution, but we can prepare.

Internationally, China’s overall productivity of labor in manufacturing has overtaken productivity in capitalist countries — a momentous development that allows China to ‘set terms’. The Chinese state was formed by a great, Communist Party-led revolution. It shares all workers’ interests in completing humanity’s transition to socialism.

The US ruling class has been immensely weakened, home and abroad. Few things in history have been more dangerous than a weakened but well-armed ruling class. We’re foolish to ignore the danger, even more foolish to ignore the weakness. The greatest danger, however, is allowing a revolutionary situation to slip.

Revolutionary moments under feudalism did not have the advantage of Marxism. We do. We also have the potential support of CPs around the world.

Comrade Joe Sims is right — this is the socialist moment. It is the time to be audacious. Workers of the world, unite.


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