Monday, September 19, 2022

Wolff is Correct. The US Working Class Can Reverse Course. International Solidarity is Crucial


Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Sadly, this is all true. But it's not just true of Ukraine. The US invasion of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yemen, almost any of the numerous countries that the US has invaded, directly or through proxies like the Saudi's in Yemen, the average US citizen could would fail to describe exactly where these places were. After the US bombed Iraq I remember walking through on of the maintenance department’s work units and saw a picture of Saddam Hussein that was like those used in target practice but very few knew where Iraq was or that Saddam Hussein was a US pal.

It is not simply the uneducated either. People that have university degrees are not exempt from this blindness.

In one way it is not their fault, but in the age of the Internet such ignorance of other countries, their history cultures or geographical whereabouts is shocking. I spent time in Africa as a child, on so many occasions I have been asked if I speak African or was it the racist part, meaning South Africa.

Outside of personal responsibility there are concrete reasons for this. The US, unlike the previous dominant empire, British colonialism, is basically a continent, self-sufficient in so many ways. The state I live in is the sixth largest economy in the world. I think Los Angeles is in the top dozen.

After the initial European invasions, financed by the rising mercantile capitalists in England and the then the independence of these colonies, the vast expanse westward provided more land, more resources, more opportunity for expansion and the extraction of surplus value and profit.

With the decline of British and European colonial power through two world wars, by the 1950's the US reigned supreme. The post World War Two boom brought unimagined prosperity to a huge section of the US working class, primarily, though not exclusively to the white/European unionized sector of the population.  And of course, profits for the ruling elite as the productive forces of US allies and its enemies were destroyed. The US provided the money (at a price) for the rebuilding western Europe and Japan and that money was used to purchase US products. It was indeed a golden era.I should add, that in the US, the Native population usually comes last on a list of repairs for historical injustices.

By the early 1950’s one paycheck provided enough for the home mortgage and suburban communities sprung up everywhere. This era laid the material basis for the concept of the American Dream and strengthened the belief among the masses of people of American Exceptionalism. I am convinced of this, that most US workers wouldn’t have referred to themselves as “middle class” as they do now, prior to World War Two and the economic boom that followed.

The power of the US ruling class, their massive propaganda machine, the mass media they own, particularly, Hollywood, strengthened the ideological hold the US bourgeois has over the mass of the population. If you worked hard anything was possible prevailed----for a while and for a significant number. Who cared where a country was? The US saved the world from communism.

The power of the US ruling class was cemented in stone and the situation was relatively peaceful in this bi-polar world as US imperialism and the totalitarian Stalinist regime existed side by side with their spheres of influence. Containment was the stance of the US ruling class and peaceful coexistence the Stalinist Bureaucracy. The collapse of Stalinism changed all that.

It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow--the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more...Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must be done to make people accept this reality.  Business Week 10-12-74.

By the 1970-s and 80's and the end of the Post War boom we entered a new era where it is said that if you want the "American Dream" go to Finland. But there was no American Dream for millions of Americans and there is no such thing today for any capitalist society.

Another important addition to the causes of the lack of class consciousness and a backwardness that exists in the US regarding other countries and world history is the complete subservience of the head of organized labor to capitalism and the market.

As the last century drew to a close, the Wall Street Journal produced a centennial edition. This included a segment titled - "Events that Helped Shape the Country". Samuel Gompers was the leader of that federation. Under his leadership, and against the background of that economic slump, the leaders of the American Federation of Labor made a decision as to what its general policy should be towards U.S. capitalism.

Here is how the Wall Street Journal reported this decision. "The AFL led by Samuel Gompers votes against adopting socialist reform programs....Gompers believes that U.S. labor should work with capitalism, not against it, and that the AFL’s  proper concerns are wages and hours and better working conditions".  The bosses, the employers, U.S. capitalism, speaking here through their most important public journal, recognize the importance of the decision taken by the trade union leaders of the time to "work with capitalism, not against it". Quotes from this earlier article.

The heads of organized labor today have not abandoned this ideology which is encapsulated in the Team Concept on the job and through the Democratic Party in the political arena. It is the basis for their betrayals and even for the best of them, genuine individuals, their refusal to confront capital with the organized power of the working class both nationally and internationally. In this era there is no long period of reform coming.

This has ensured that the inevitable clash of class forces will be a violent one as US workers are backed against the wall by the offensive of capital. There will be jumps forward but also periods of reaction that we are witnessing at the present. I am convinced the US working class will rise to the occasion and prevail. But nothing is guaranteed.

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