Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trump and US capitalism's Catch -22.


Top Building Trades Leaders Kissing Trump's Ass
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Is it an exaggeration to say that the US capitalist class is experiencing its greatest crisis since the Civil War?  No matter what one’s answer to that particular question, that truth is that the ruling class in the US is in a lot of trouble.

Despite all of Trump’s personal failings, the Predator in Chief is not the cause of this crisis; he is a symptom of it.  Serious representatives of capitalism are conscious of this but they are in a bind.  What can they do? Their system of governance, bourgeois (capitalist) democracy, is in peril.  Universal suffrage is supposedly a right in a capitalist democracy but there is a danger in such freedoms as the electorate, for one reason or another, may not select the favored candidate of the bourgeois themselves.

Still, this is the preferred way to govern for the capitalist class, it gives the illusion of freedom and, at the best of times, a certain social stability that allows for profit taking and capital accumulation. When and if bourgeois democracy breaks down, military dictatorship is another option but not taken lightly, and of course, fascism has disastrous consequences as history shows. The biggest fear of all, is a workers' revolt, the growth of socialist ideas  and the possibility of a democratic socialist revolution----the building of a genuine workers' democracy.

In the last election the situation was so dire, the dominant section of the US capitalist class couldn’t produce a candidate they liked.  In the end, they settled for the lesser evil and that didn’t work either. We have to digest that: they couldn’t get their candidate elected, so they got the buffoon Trump.  

Every day the US and world wakes up wondering what Trump did today.  Capitalism likes stability, it cannot function in this turmoil, owners of capital will not play the game. They would like to be rid of Trump, but there’s no easy way out, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

It is not Trump’s vulgar sexist remarks that bother them, or that he’s a liar, or that he says bad things about Muslims. It’s that he is undermining their precious system, he is undermining bourgeois democracy, its institutions and it’s officials, especially the office of the president that Trump holds.

The dilemma they’re in is made clear in Peggy Noonan’s, column in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. After the election, Noonan showed some optimism, calling on her class to rally around Trump----yes he’s inexperienced but help him govern.  But now, Noonan admits that Trump has “…produced a building crisis that is unprecedented in our history.”  

The legitimacy of bourgeois democracy is threatened by Trump as the Commander in Chief and Noonan warns him titling her Op Ed piece “Democracy is Not Your Plaything.”.  Whenever they use the term “Democracy” they mean capitalist democracy, fundamentally their right to buy labor power and the workers’ right to sell it.

“There is a sense that nobody’s in charge…” she writes, “….there’s no power center that’s holding, that in Washington they’re all randomly slamming in to each other. Which is not good in a crisis.”

Not good indeed. But what can they do?  To remove him, no matter which method, would undermine the system further as people will simply see it as the all powerful state intervening in the democratic process as Noonan explains, “…he was duly and legally elected by tens of millions of Americans who had legitimate reasons to support him. They believe the press is trying to kill him. “He’s new, not a politician, give him a chance.’” It will prove Trump right, he will be the victim, the "swamp" can't be drained.

That the world sees the U.S. political system “as a circus” is a frightening scenario.  It’s not the people Trump is firing that are the problem Noonan says, “He is the problem.” As many of us have said in the past, Trump has always had his own way, had everything given to him, money and the power that goes with it, the power to sexually abuse women, mistreat workers and fear no consequences. But being the head of state, and the most powerful state in the world, that is a different matter. He is the reason the state apparatus is dysfunctional says Noonan. Why would the most talented people step up to help and, “…enter a poisonous staff environment just for the joy of committing career suicide.”

So the US ruling class are stuck in this dilemma but they cannot sit idly by. They initially thought they could control him, rein him in, but it is clear that this is not possible. We can guarantee that the dominant theoreticians of the big bourgeois are meeting and discussing this on a daily basis.

There is talk of impeachment in the air and that Trump is maybe unfit for the office. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a couple of not very favorable pieces on this subject in its latest issue.  The first approaches it from the point of being a CEO in a corporation and how his record holds up there. Not very well I’m afraid. “Appointing inexperienced relatives to important positions is not normally seen as good corporate governance” writes BW’s editor-in-chief.

Another BW columnist, Ramesh Ponnuru refers to the Trump Administration’s responses to the numerous accusations made against him, as “disorganized dishonesty.”, and that Trump has no “internal regulator, that other presidents, like most people have had”. An Administration that attempts to get the public to swallow a “false storyline may be fearsome;…”, writes Ponnunu, “….one that can’t maintain a false storyline longer than a day is merely pathetic.”  In fact, the situation is so pathetic that according to Pannunu, Trump’s own staff refers to him both on and off the record, “…as a petulant child, one who has to be kept from watching too much television or the wrong programs.” Ouch!

I apologize for the repeated quotes but it is important to get a feel for the crisis that the theoreticians of capitalism recognize they’re in. Ponnunu admits that the very cabinet Trump picked is not about to impeach him, “But this is also a president who can’t impose discipline on himself, let alone his administration, let alone our country; who’s easily bored, distracted; who’s presiding over crisis after crisis of his own creation.”

US capitalism is in an economic, political and brooding social crisis.

The Democrats are as concerned about the undermining of bourgeois democracy as their Republican kin and as the anti-everything-Trump party are hoping to cash in and make some major gains in the mid-term elections.  We may well see former SF mayor, the dashing millionaire Gavin Newsom, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. The US capitalist class can then return to a normalized organized offensive against US workers and their competitors abroad.

We must also not lose sight of the fact that the next recession or slump is not far away.  US consumer debt balances hit $12.7 trillion in the first quarter and sudent debt is well over one trillion dollars, more than credit card debt:

The most recent reports indicate there is:
  • $1.44 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
  • 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt
  • Student loan delinquency rate of 11.2% (90+ days delinquent or in default)
  • Average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
  • Median monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $203

Corporate leverage, according to Gillian Tett in the Financial Times, is at $8.52 trillion 57% above the 2008 peak and the IMF reckons that 10% of US corporate assets are “struggling” to meet interest payments and 22% of companies “vulnerable” if the cost of borrowing money rises. Debt allows capitalism to go beyond its limits, to hold off a depression or slump temporarily, but at some point, like a stretched elastic band, it reaches a certain point then snaps back to normalcy or breaks entirely.

The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky pointed out decades ago that the crisis of the working class is a crisis of leadership. That was true back then and it is even truer today. We witness it in the collaboration between the big capitalists and the heads of organized labor in driving down the living standards of workers under the slogan of competition. The consequences are defeated strikes and demoralization as workers feel there is nothing that can be done.

We see it with the betrayal of the so-called workers’ parties throughout the world, even those non-traditional parties like Syriza in Greece whose leaders called a referendum in which the Greek workers stated they wanted to fight the austerity measures forced on them by the Troika (EU, European Commission and the IMF) only to have Syriza leader, Alex Tsipras and the party capitulate 24 hours later.

It is impossible to say what will happen as this Catch-22 unfolds. The only thing we can say with certainty is that it cannot continue indefinitely. For working people, the Democrats, as always, are no real alternative. This party has no real program other than proclaiming to be the Anti-Trump just as Marine Le Pen described herself as the Anti-Merkel.  But as we have stated in the past, sometimes it takes the whip of the counterrevolution to force movements from below, to drive the working class  to fight back, in the process overcoming the obstacle of our own leadership.

Trump and his gang are that whip.  Even if they rid themselves of this buffoon, the whip won’t be put away, it will just be used a little more efficiently.

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