No 1527 19th January 2018
Middle-class exposés and mockery of Trumpism reflect weakness of imperialism’s desperate turn to Hitler-like fascist bluster and crude intimidation. But petty-bourgeois dismay at oncoming fascist reality imposed by crisis-ridden imperialism neither offers a fight against it nor even grasp the depths to which the Catastrophe is driving all capitalism. Liberalism, reformist leftism and the fake-“left” all avoid the revolutionary implications even as US ‘topdog’ warmongering belligerence increases and domestic repression is stepped up. Ruling class fears pressure cooker turmoil building as Slump deprivation and depredations on the working class drive the poorest into the ground even in the richest countries, including the US. Petty bourgeois complacency still clings to “upturn” notions even as NHS crisis, Grenfell fire horrors, Carillion collapse and racked up rail and utility prices screw everyone. Even if Trumpite crudity fails there is no stopping the warmongering path that capitalism is set upon. Feminist self-righteousness, and other single-issues are a diversion and distraction from needed revolutionary overturn
“Sophisticated” late-night satire against Donald Trump’s racist/fascist crudities (or against hopeless British Tory Brexit jingoism and its growing “bootboy” tone) can highlight the disastrous incompetence and splits paralysing the crisis shattered ruling class but does nothing to prevent ever worsening Slump and international conflict.
No matter what appalled middle-class dismay and thunderstruck disbelief might be expressed, or new “shock revelations” be exposed about the White House by intrepid journalists, it will not stop this new crude aggression.
Despite the growing humiliation, desperation and bankruptcy of the imperialist system, it will continue until the struggle for revolutionary perspectives and the need to overturn it completely are taken seriously.
Until then the only possible future is deepening deprivation, degradation and above all war.
In other words, there can be no end to steadily deteriorating living standards, rampant inequality growth, homelessness, food bank desperation and other deprivations being pushed onto hundreds of millions in even the richest countries, until capitalism is totally ended.
And there can be no end to the ever more depraved blitzing, torture and terrorising savagery imposed on or threatened against the Third World, already destroying half a dozen countries in the Middle East and killing, wounding, starving or displacing millions.
To the contrary, similar, or rather much more, barbaric savagery, torture and butchering is being prepared for the entire world, as imperialism heads towards the Third and greatest ever breakdown and World War collapse.
Mockery and disbelief at the extraordinary collapse of “polite” cultural and political norms now underway underlines the difficulties the ruling class is having with its latest turn into jingoism, scapegoating and international belligerence but does not grasp the huge revolutionary significance.
Worse still it disarms the working class from understanding the dangers and severity of the escalating world crisis.
But in the end the utter failure and shallowness of liberal and fake-“left” politics, glaringly exposed, will be a useful lesson for the working class.
Their dismay demonstrates how hopeless and misleading are all the petty bourgeois agendas (including all the fake-“left”), still clinging to deluded beliefs in bourgeois (parliamentary) democracy and “steady left pressure to make the world better”, avoiding revolution by demented pursuit of ever more exaggerated (and anti-communist) single-issue reformism like feminism, anti-racism and LBGT rights, and denouncing and condemning the ferment of anti-Western “terrorism” which has erupted as an early response to the crisis.
They have not got the first idea about the paralysing contradictions of the unrolling Catastrophe of the entire system, let alone the willingness and ability to analyse and explain world events within this framework, the only possible way to understand things and give leadership to the working class.
The enormity and staggering historical import of the world capitalist crisis barely features at all in any of their analyses, even from those offering an alleged Marxist account of capitalist failure, with this central question dismissed or downplayed by the entire “left” and certainly never made the over-arching question that the working class needs to understand.
Speculating about this new racist and arrogant Trumpite belligerence being a “ghastly mistake” which is “not going to last a year let alone the full presidential term” as sections of the liberal bourgeois press are saying, spells out just disastrously this whole “left” misreads events.
They are all in for a giant shock.
Trumpism is exactly what the billionaire ruling class wants to see.
He is not some maverick individual who “luckily” or “accidentally” took the White House by a “manipulated election” – (laughably blamed on “the Russians” as if otherwise things would have been “fair and open”!!) – but the calculated escalation of fascist aggression and international belligerence which the monopoly capitalist system needs to get out of its greatest ever collapse and failure.
In that respect there are parallels with Hitler, in the 1930s.
Neither then, nor now, are such individuals just demonic “monsters”, driving history in the wrong direction which “could be avoided if only they were stopped” (by assassination or impeachment as appropriate) or even by “anti-fascist” struggle (leaving the rest of some fanciful capitalist “democratic normality” intact to be modified by reformist improvements or “better regulation”).
Individuals, however depraved, do not cause history but reflect the great objective movements of huge class forces.
Both are the personification of a more open turn to warmongering and domestic oppression by a large section of the ruling class because of the Catastrophic breakdown of the system.
The pretences of “democracy” and fairness are failing to keep the lid on revolt and rebellion and so are being dispensed with, effectively.
So both trample aggressively over past niceties precisely to set a tone of hate and bullying belligerence, sprayed out in all directions; their almost random and seeming irrational blame of “enemies out there” and vicious scapegoating of different sections of the population jacked up because previous bullying and aggression has failed.
Hitlerite Nazi theatricality and strutting Nuremberg rallies were needed to drag or intimidate a reluctant and shattered German population back into aggressive militarised mode, to continue the inter-imperialist World War suspended in 1918 (by exhaustion all round and the danger of spreading revolution outside (Soviet) and inside Germany).
World War Part Two was needed to complete the great sorting out of the imperialist Great Powers, destroy capital, and establish a new pecking order for the “right” of the main powers to plunder the world (and incidentally to “deal” with the new Bolshevik threat).
Hemmed in but powerful German capitalism had to break out of the Versailles Treaty stranglehold imposed by the other, equally ruthless, Great Powers, as the 1930s Depression threatened the entire system (while socialist Soviet Russia grew by leaps and bounds).
The new Trump pantomime aggression and chauvinism, with its own all-American flavour, is needed because the Catastrophe unfolding now is far worse than the 1930s and, to escape, the dominant US itself has taken on the lead warmongering role.
It is not at all against the interests of the ruling class billionaires including those in Washington who supposedly have such distaste for Trump.
They just pushed out the Steve Bannon crew from Breitbart etc for not understanding that.
There are partial echoes of the 1930s in the put down of the Bannon fanatics who have tried to rubbish Trump’s White House coterie; the populist anti-establishment base which Trumpism used to ride into power is now being ditched, or at least slapped down, for criticising Trump’s East Coast links and tie-ups with the rich.
After becoming Chancellor in 1933 Hitler suppressed the “dirtier” Brownshirt Nazi street movement and its “anti-international-financier” slogans, to line up openly with big corporate backers and the bourgeois military state establishment who secretly funded him from the beginning.
The Brownshirt mix of Depression-desperate petty bourgeoisie, farmers, misguided workers and lumpen-proletariat was always volatile, and some of it too likely to believe its own rhetoric against the bosses, so having served its purpose the bogus “socialist” pretence of National Socialism was submerged into the “Greater German” nationalism; the street violence subsumed by even more brutal and much better organised Nazi police state repression.
Modern America may only have a metaphorical “night of the long knives” (which killed the Brownshirt leaders) for the moment and none of the shiny jackboots but the fascist substance of imperialist belligerence to escape its terrifying crisis goes in the same direction; Trump has packed the White House with Pentagon hawk generals.
Far worse and widespread destruction is the only answer capitalism has got.
Decades of accumulated “surplus” capital and “too much” production capacity must be destroyed to unclog the world profit system.
It is part of a pattern of destruction in crisis-ridden capitalism long ago identified and warned against by Marxist understanding (against all “leftism”) well before the 2008 credit collapse.
But the whole world is reluctant to be dragged back into the all-out devastation capitalism needs.
The masses everywhere are still to this day shattered by the depravities and horrors of the 1930s (mass slaughter in China etc) and much more as the Second World War widened through to 1945.
Adding to the difficulties have been seventy years of pretences about “human rights”, international “rule of law”, anti-racism, the “end of colonialism”, welfare “protection” and “peace” – all such bogus “progress” mixed with non-stop anti-communist propaganda to present a completely upside-down fantasy of a “peaceful democratic world of steadily improving life conditions” under capitalism and a “civilised United Nations”, versus the Great Lie of a supposed “grey and oppressive nightmare of totalitarianism and communist dictatorship”.
This gross brainwashing fantasy, sustained and sold to the working class by “left” reformism like Labour and sick ideologues like the police-fink George Orwell, was needed to hold back a working class which was otherwise heading towards all-out support for communism, sick of the Depression and war depravities they could see as the real face of capitalism and inspired into a revolutionary mood by the heroic achievements and sacrifices of the Red Army in wiping out Nazism.
To keep the non-stop deluge of poisonous anti-communism going has demanded endless bribery of a world network of fascist and reactionary regimes (keeping the lid on the Third World to secure its slave-level exploitation) and huge “welfare” concessions in the rich countries.
It can no longer be afforded.
On top of which the tragic 1989-91 liquidation of the first great workers state, the USSR and its mostly gigantic achievements, through revisionist philosophical decay, which had been gradually rotting the brains of Moscow’s leadership from Stalin onwards, has taken the brakes off capitalism’s inherent greed and rapaciousness as well, now that the need has gone to rein in the worst excesses for the pretence.
Since the first Gulf war and particularly since the 1998 NATO blitzkrieging of the Serbian nationalist-revisionist remnants of once-socialist Yugoslavia, the pattern of escalating world intimidation and war has been taking shape.
And it has gone disastrously badly.
Two decades of setbacks, failures, ever more escalating “terrorist” responses, and mass revolt like the Arab Spring have made winning popular support for warmongering harder than ever.
The depraved nature of capitalist warmaking, torture, mass civilian killing, countrywide destruction and atrocities has been increasingly demonstrated as country after country has been pulverised and destroyed, either directly or by provoked and instigated “civil war”.
And the fact that even revisionist-led (misled) workers states like China, Vietnam, Cuba, and little North Korea have done none of this but help and cooperate internationally instead, is increasingly sinking into more thoughtful minds.
Only the historic capitulation of the fake-“left” (and sadly revisionist leadership too), to the deranged notion that all this turmoil can be blamed on some terrible new kind of ‘jihadist reactionariness’, needing to be countered by the laughably meaningless “war on terror”, has helped monopoly capitalism obscure its own and sole responsibility for this degeneracy.
Nothing has been solved for bankrupt imperialism - Bush’s “New American Century” onslaughts did nothing to stop the 2008 world credit meltdown nor hold off its impact.
Just the opposite, conditions go from bad to worse, not least inside the richest country in the world:
[The gaze of] Professor Philip Alston, an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has now fallen on the US, culminating with the release of his initial report in Washington.
His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.
Of those, nine million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.
Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help - extreme poverty.
The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet – owning as much as half of the entire American people.
A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.
“Look up! Look at those banks, the cranes, the luxury condos going up,” exclaimed General Dogon, who used to be homeless on Skid Row and now works as a local activist with Lacan. “Down here, there’s nothing. You see the tents back to back, there’s no place for folks to go.”
General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, steps over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk.
The two men carry on for block after block after block of tatty tents and improvised tarpaulin shelters. Men and women are gathered outside the structures, squatting or sleeping, some in groups, most alone like extras in a low-budget dystopian movie.
Skid Row (is) bang in the center of LA’s downtown. That way lies 50 blocks of concentrated human humiliation. A nightmare in plain view, in the city of dreams.
California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000.
Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.
She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.
She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.
Given all that, it’s remarkable how positive Finley remains. What does she think of the American Dream, the idea that everyone can make it if they try hard enough? She replies instantly: “I know I’m going to make it.”
A 41-year-old woman living on the sidewalk in Skid Row going to make it?
“Sure I will, so long as I keep the faith.”
What does “making it” mean to her?
“I want to be a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a therapist.”
Robert Chambers occupies the next patch of sidewalk along from Finley’s. He’s created an area around his tent out of wooden pallets, what passes in Skid Row for a cottage garden.
He has a sign up saying “Homeless Writers Coalition”, the name of a group he runs to give homeless people dignity against what he calls the “animalistic” aspects of their lives. He’s referring not least to the lack of public bathrooms that forces people to relieve themselves on the streets.
LA authorities have promised to provide more access to toilets, a critical issue given the deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and is spreading on the west coast claiming 21 lives mainly through lack of sanitation in homeless encampments. At night local parks and amenities are closed specifically to keep homeless people out.
Skid Row has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. That’s a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.
“It’s inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology,” Chambers said.
Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. “People don’t realize – it’s never getting better, there’s no recovery for people like us. I’m 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldn’t be out here. I might not be too much longer.”
That was a lot of bad karma to absorb on day one, and it rattled even as seasoned a student of hardship as Alston. As UN special rapporteur, he’s reported on dire poverty and its impact on human rights in other (countries). But Skid Row?
“I was feeling pretty depressed,” he told the Guardian later. “The endless drumbeat of horror stories. At a certain point you do wonder what can anyone do about this, let alone me.”
And then he took a flight up to San Francisco, to the Tenderloin district where homeless people congregate, and walked into St Boniface church.
About 70 homeless people were quietly sleeping in pews at the back of the church, as they are allowed to do every weekday morning, with worshippers praying harmoniously in front of them. The church welcomes them in as part of the Catholic concept of extending the helping hand.
It was a rare drop of altruism on the west coast, competing against a sea of hostility. More than 500 anti-homeless laws have been passed in Californian cities in recent years. At a federal level, Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who Donald Trump appointed US housing secretary, is decimating government spending on affordable housing.
Perhaps the most telling detail: apart from St Boniface and its sister church, no other place of worship in San Francisco welcomes homeless people. In fact, many have begun, even at this season of goodwill, to lock their doors.
As Tiny Gray-Garcia, herself on the streets, described it to Alston, there is a prevailing attitude that she and her peers have to contend with every day. She called it the “violence of looking away”.
That cruel streak has been a feature of American life since the nation’s founding. The casting off the yoke of overweening government (the British monarchy) came to be equated in the minds of many Americans with states’ rights and the individualistic idea of making it on your own – a view that is fine for those fortunate enough to do so, less happy if you’re born on the wrong side of the tracks.
Countering that has been the conviction that society must protect its own against the vagaries of hunger or unemployment that informed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. But in recent times the prevailing winds have blown strongly in the “you’re on your own, buddy” direction. Ronald Reagan set the trend with his 1980s tax cuts, followed by Bill Clinton, whose 1996 decision to scrap welfare payments for low-income families is still punishing millions of Americans.
The cumulative attack has left struggling families, including the 15 million children who are officially in poverty, with dramatically less support than in any other industrialized economy. Now they face perhaps the greatest threat of all.
As Alston himself has written in an essay on Trump’s populism and the aggressive challenge it poses to human rights: “These are extraordinarily dangerous times. Almost anything seems possible.”
Trump’s undermining of human rights, combined with the Republican threat to pare back welfare programs next year in order to pay for some of the tax cuts for the rich they are rushing through Congress, will hurt African Americans disproportionately.
Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.
The racial element of America’s poverty crisis is seen nowhere more clearly than in the Deep South, where the open wounds of slavery continue to bleed. The UN special rapporteur chose as his next stop the “Black Belt,” the term that originally referred to the rich dark soil that exists in a band across Alabama but over time came to describe its majority African American population.
The link between soil type and demographics was not coincidental. Cotton was found to thrive in this fertile land, and that in turn spawned a trade in slaves to pick the crop. Their descendants still live in the Black Belt, still mired in poverty among the worst in the union.
You can trace the history of America’s shame, from slave times to the present day, in a set of simple graphs. The first shows the cotton-friendly soil of the Black Belt, then the slave population, followed by modern black residence and today’s extreme poverty – they all occupy the exact same half-moon across Alabama.
There are numerous ways you could parse the present parlous state of Alabama’s black community. Perhaps the starkest is the fact that in the Black Belt so many families still have no access to sanitation. Thousands of people continue to live among open sewers of the sort normally associated with the developing world.
The crisis was revealed by the Guardian earlier this year to have led to an ongoing endemic of hookworm, an intestinal parasite that is transmitted through human waste. It is found in Africa and South Asia, but had been assumed eradicated in the US years ago.
Yet here the worm still is, sucking the blood of poor people, in the home state of Trump’s US attorney general Jeff Sessions.
The open sewerage problem is especially acute in Lowndes County, a majority black community that was an epicenter of the civil rights movement having been the setting of Martin Luther King’s Selma to Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.
Despite its proud history, Catherine Flowers estimates that 70% of households in the area either “straight pipe” their waste directly onto open ground, or have defective septic tanks incapable of dealing with heavy rains.
When her group, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (Acre), pressed local authorities to do something about it, officials invested $6m in extending waste treatment systems to primarily white-owned businesses while bypassing overwhelmingly black households.
“That’s a glaring example of injustice,” Flowers said. “People who cannot afford their own systems are left to their own devices while businesses who do have the money are given public services.”
Walter, a Lowndes County resident who asked not to give his last name for fear that his water supply would be cut off as a reprisal for speaking out, lives with the daily consequences of such public neglect. “You get a good hard rain and it backs up into the house.”
That’s a polite way of saying that sewage gurgles up into his kitchen sink, hand basin and bath, filling the house with a sickly-sweet stench.
Round the back of Walter’s house the true iniquity of the situation reveals itself. The yard is laced with small channels running from neighboring houses along which dark liquid flows. It congregates in viscous pools directly underneath the mobile home in which Walter’s son, daughter-in-law and 16-year-old granddaughter live.
It is the ultimate image of the lot of Alabama’s impoverished rural black community. As American citizens they are as fully entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s just that they are surrounded by pools of excrement.
So how does Alston view the role of UN rapporteur and his visit? His full report on the US will be released next May before being presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva.
Nobody expects much to come of that: the world body has no teeth with which to enforce good behavior on recalcitrant governments. But Alston hopes that his visit will have an impact by shaming the US into reflecting on its values.
“My role is to hold governments to account,” he said. “If the US administration doesn’t want to talk about the right to housing, healthcare or food, then there are still basic human rights standards that have to be met. It’s my job to point that out.”
Alston’s previous investigations into extreme poverty in places like Mauritania pulled no punches. We can expect the same tough love when it comes to his analysis of Puerto Rico, the next stop on his journey into America’s dark side.
Three months after Maria, the devastation wrought by the hurricane has been well documented. It tore 70,000 homes to shreds, brought industry to a standstill and caused a total blackout of the island that continues to cause havoc.
But Puerto Rico’s plight long predates Maria, rooted in the indifference with which it has been regarded since being acquired as a spoil of war in 1898. Almost half of Americans have no idea that the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans on the island are US citizens, which adds insult to the injury of the territory having no representation in Congress while its fiscal policies are dictated by an oversight board imposed by Washington. What was that about casting off the yoke of overweening government?
Nor do most people appreciate that the island has twice the proportion of people in poverty (44%) than the lowliest US state, including Alabama (19%). And that was before the hurricane, which some estimates suggest has pushed the poverty rate up to 60%.
“Puerto Rico is a sacrifice zone,” said Ruth Santiago, a community rights lawyer. “We are ruled by the United States but we are never consulted – we have no influence, we’re just their plaything.”
The UN monitor was given a sense of what being a plaything of the US means in practice when he travelled south to Guayama, a town of 42,000 close to where Maria made landfall. Devastation was everywhere – houses mangled, roofs missing, power lines drooping alarmingly overhead.
Looming over the community is a coal-fired power plant built by the Puerto Rican branch of AES Corporation, a Virginia-headquartered multinational. The plant’s smoke stack dominates the horizon, as does a huge mound of residue from the combusted coal that rises to at least 70ft like a giant sandcastle.
The mound is exposed to the elements and local people complain that toxins from it leach into the sea, destroying the livelihoods of fishermen through mercury poisoning. They also fear that dust coming off the pile causes health problems, a concern shared by local doctors who told the UN monitor that they see a high incidence of respiratory disease and cancer.
“It kills the leaves of my mango tree,” said Flora Picar Cruz, 82. She was lying in bed at midday, breathing with difficulty through an oxygen mask.
Studies of the pile have found perilous levels of toxic substances including arsenic, boron, chloride and chromium. Even so, the Trump administration is in the process of easing the relatively lax regulations on monitoring dangerous effluents from it.
AES Puerto Rico told the Guardian that there was nothing to worry about, as the plant was one of the cleanest in the US having been purpose built to avoid any run-off into air or sea. That’s not what the people of Guayama think. They fear that the age-old pattern of being taken for granted by the US colonizer is about to rise to the next level.
When such attitudes are replicated across the island it helps explain why so many Puerto Ricans are voting with their feet: almost 200,000 have packed their bags and quit for Florida, New York and Pennsylvania since the hurricane, adding to the more than 5m who were already on the US mainland. Which gives a whole new meaning to the American Dream – anyone can make it, so long as they abandon their families, their homes, and their culture and head off into a strange and forbidding land.
Charleston, West Virginia, 13 December
“You’re an amazing people! We’re going to take care of a lot of years of horrible abuse, OK? You can count on it 100%.”
Donald Trump’s promise to the white voters of West Virginia was made just as he was securing the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016. Six months later, his audience handsomely repaid him with a landslide victory.
It is not surprising that white families in West Virginia should have responded positively to Trump’s charm offensive, given that he offered them the world – “We’re going to put the miners back to work!” After all, numerically a majority of all those living in poverty nationwide – 27 million people – are white.
In West Virginia in particular, white families have a lot to feel sore about. Mechanization and the decline of coal mining have decimated the state, leading to high unemployment and stagnant wages. The transfer of jobs from the mines and steel mills to Walmart has led to male workers earning on average $3.50 an hour less today than they did in 1979.
What is surprising is that so many proud working folk should have entrusted their dreams to a (supposed) billionaire who built his real estate empire on the back of handouts from his father.
Before he ran for the presidency, Trump showed scant interest in the struggles of low-income families, white or otherwise. After almost a year in the Oval Office, there is similarly little sign of those campaign promises being kept.
Quite the contrary. When the UN rapporteur decamped in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday as the final stop in his tour, he was inundated with evidence that the president is turning the screws on the very people who elected him.
That same day, Republicans in the Senate and House were fusing their plans for tax cuts ahead of a final vote next week. Many West Virginians will be lulled into believing that the changes are designed to help them, as initially everybody in the state will pay less tax.
But come 2027 when deficit-saving changes kick in, the bottom 80% of the population will pay more, while the top 1% will continue to enjoy a $21,000 bonanza.
“Trump’s policies will exacerbate inequality, suppress wages and make it harder for low-income families to seek assistance,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the non-partisan West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
If sewage is the abiding image of the burden of the Black Belt, then a mouthful of rotting teeth is West Virginia’s.
Doctors at Health Right, a volunteer-based medical center in Charleston that treats 21,000 low-income working people free of charge, presented the UN monitor with a photograph of one of its dentistry clients.
The man is only 32, but when he opened his mouth he turned into one of Macbeth’s witches. His few remaining rotting teeth and greenish-blue gums looked like the festering broth in their burning cauldrons.
Adult dentistry is uncovered by Medicaid unless it is an emergency, and so people do the logical thing – they do nothing until their abscesses erupt and they have to go to ER. One woman seen by the center’s mobile dentistry clinic was found to have nothing but 30 roots in her mouth, all of which needed surgery.
In other briefings, Alston was given a picture of life under siege for West Virginia’s low-income families. If Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, then Trump is waging a war on the poor.
People are jailed for years because they cannot afford bail awaiting trial; private detectives are used to snoop on disability benefit claimants; mandatory minimum drug sentences are back in fashion; Jeff Sessions is scrapping federal rehabilitation schemes for those released from prison; tenants in subsidized housing are living in fear that they will be evicted for the slightest infraction – the list goes on and on.
And the result of this relentless drubbing? “People end up fighting each other,” said Eli Baumwell, policy director of the ACLU in West Virginia. “You become so obsessed with what you’ve got and what your neighbor has got that you become resentful. That’s what Trump is doing – turning one against the other.”
And so it was that Philip Alston boarded one last plane and headed for Washington, carrying with him the distilled torment of the American people.
At one point in the trip Alston revealed that he had had a sleepless night, reflecting on the lost souls we had met in Skid Row.
He wondered about how a person in his position – “I’m old, male, white, rich and I live very well” – would react to one of those homeless people. “He would look at him and see someone who is dirty, who doesn’t wash, who he doesn’t want to be around.”
Then Alston had an epiphany.
“I realized that’s how government sees them. But what I see is the failure of society that let that happen.”
Far worse has beset smaller countries without the financial, political and military clout to stave off the crisis at all – Greece for example or, currently erupting in poverty driven riots once more, Tunisia (and to some extent Iran, though the recent upheavals there are undoubtedly subject to attempts at external manipulation by CIA/Zionist skulduggery).
And far worse is coming once Quantitative Easing effects fail, as they must.
The ruling class knows it is sitting on a volcano of potential revolt and turmoil everywhere; the great upheavals in Egypt in 2011 and the confused but bitterly anti-Western wave of “jihadism” are both symptoms of the inevitable future revolutionary upsurges which will increasingly challenge the centuries of world exploitation by a handful of rich nations and particularly the now overwhelmingly powerful US “topdog” which sealed its dominance and “right to exploit” through its Second World War victories.
So Trumpite chauvinism and deliberately whipped-up crude xenophobia and scapegoating “anti-terrorist” hatred, reflected in the UK (and Europe) too around Brexit and stirred up rightwing extremism, are the desperate next step.
Decades of political correctness and posturing single issue politics are being trampled over, (demonstrating what a diversionary fraud these fake-“left” causes have always been) as capitalism tears up the old pretences of a “rule of law”, the niceties of “fairness” and the concessions needed to maintain the democracy façade.
There is no room nor capacity to keep that going in the teeth of hurricane-level trade war/overproduction - and brute intimidation is more and more openly displayed.
But of course this is a desperate path to go down, underlining for the whole world the falsity and lies of the great “democracy” game.
Hence the fearfulness and dismay by the “liberal” bourgeois wing, terrified of the implications, and especially that this degenerate bluster will only make matters one hundred times worse.
It failure is already manifest in the rejection of the US aggression in South Korea; a near revolutionary toppling of the former stooge reactionary president (though gigantic weekly demonstrations) now being followed by popular support for re-unification with North Korea’s workers state, exactly the opposite outcome than aimed for by Washington with Trump’s war-threat bluster.
US blitzkrieg may yet happen because the intractable collapse of capitalism itself is the driving element pushing to war; failure and humiliation means imperialism can only become more desperate.
But the “left” are not anywhere close to explaining any of this because they cannot or dare not face the obvious revolutionary conclusions.
Demented writhing around anti-Russian conspiracy theories, around sanctimonious feminist man-shaming (taking one aspect of capitalist cultural depravity to ever-more hysterical sanctimonious witch-hunting levels - to be analysed further), and other diversionary issues, is all avoiding the really important questions about how to end this stinking foetid system, the only way any kind of rational and balanced society can be built in which to sort out inter-sex, race, environmental and all kinds of other issues and finally build a peaceful world (which shouting “No to War” can never achieve).
In fact feeding illusions in “democracy” and “condemning terror” becomes essentially collusion in two decades of western-invasion or provoked Middle Eastern devastation, the continuing fascist onslaughts encouraged against the eastern Ukrainian workers (by the stooge swastika-toting regime installed by CIA skulduggery in Kiev) and violent and corrupt anti-worker movements in Latin America.
All these are just the prelude to the real conflict coming between the great capitalist trading blocs as trade war isolationism and cutthroat market battles intensify and which is coming whether or not Trumpism should remain (still the most likely even though all predictions are subject to events).
Avoiding the obvious is also the pattern still with Britain’s fake-“left” where philistine complacency and its comfortable cousin, cynicism, still sets the general tone even after ten years of near endless stagnation and “austerity” throughout the “developed world”.
The relentless crisis and its austerity degradation forced onto the working class is more and more obvious.
Disastrous event after event makes the need to seize control from the arrogance, greed and indifferent incompetence of the ruling class ever more urgent.
The traumatising Grenfell tower block fire, for example, was not a one-off horror but the inevitable result of years of multiple cutbacks and dismantled control systems, professional oversight and regulations, allied to crude profiteering and council financial speculation and contempt; and rubbing salt into the wounds, even the immediate consequences have not been dealt with as homeless families are left to rot and constantly fearful residents of other blocks throughout the country remain in limbo (the latest outrage being the refusal of a “private” landlord to make safe a tower block, demanding £4M from the local council in Slough).
Cutbacks in libraries and multiple other services are equally devastating lives and future prospects.
The ruthless privatisation and dismantling of the National Health Service continues apace, bringing it to virtual breakdown this winter; gross levels of drug company profiteering, agency worker fees racketeering and grotesquely overpriced building contracts syphon off huge amounts of the money which the government claims to provide (and will equally syphon of any of the mythical “Brexit” savings should they ever materialise).
A workers state controlling all these things could run a far better health services without any of this disastrous implosion which is steadily and deliberately destroying the NHS (even as the Tories lie through their teeth that “there is no crisis”, a level of black-is-white propaganda which goes far beyond even the “spin” bullshit of the Blairites, and one revealing an utterly desperate and paralysed ruling class.)
Monopoly owned railways and utilities squeeze more and more out of fares and energy prices (irrespective of alleged “inflation levels”) hammering the working class (and more and more the middle class too), the plunder going to bloodsucking shareholders while infrastructure collapses and decays.
Housing is unaffordable and grossly exploited.
The latest collapse in the sprawling Carillion corporate entity, demonstrates that even when it is spoon-fed massively overcharged “private finance initiative” government contracts and deals, the capitalist ethos and profit drive will still come to disastrous collapse and failure.
The price is paid by workers in job-loss savagery and the bankruptcy of the pension funds, plundered by the rapacious incompetence of the bosses (as many times before, such as the British Home Stores debacle).
This whole PFI racket has been using taxpayers’ money to prop up large sections of the capitalist “enterprise” sector for decades, falsely guaranteeing them a “reasonable profit” (in cosy ‘agreements’ with each other about what is a ‘fair take’) long after the ruthless cutthroat competition of the “free market” would otherwise have driven down margins to virtually zero levels; the latest reports on this indicating that the PFI system will milk an additional £190bn from projects over coming decades, even assuming the other companies will survive any better, or worse crisis does not intervene.
A whole ecosystem of lavishly paid consultancies, contract managers, lawyers etc, and smaller companies, hangs from these arrangements, showing the artificial and parasitical reality of the supposed “vibrancy of enterprise culture” much vaunted by the Tory (and Labour) myth-making about “small business”.
It sustains much of the professional and middle class sections of the population and their prejudices against communism.
But this “scratch-my-back” bureaucratic public provision for giant corporations is all paid for through the nose by ordinary people’s taxes (who have no chance to filch their “earnings” away into “tax havens” and slyly avoid paying as the rich do) just as bank bailout still extracts huge sums.
It is not the usual sneer of “socialist mismanagement” (endlessly deployed against struggling left regimes like Venezuela or Zimbabwe) which has brought this collapse, but capitalist “mismanagement”.
No “mismanagement” (i.e intractable contradiction) has ever been greater than the implosion of the world credit system in 2008.
But the “lefts” still will not make the obvious conclusions.
Despite dire warnings post-2008 that the entire capitalist order came close to an economic “nuclear winter” (as Chancellor at the time Alistair Darling described events) and the obvious fact that printing money (QE) cannot solve anything, middle class illusions persist that somehow everything “bounced back” and that the system “will always find a way to keep going”, infecting the working class with a dismal hopelessness.
Shallow impressionism thinks that there is “growth” once again and class collaborating “leftism” does nothing to challenge such deadly delusions; worse it pumps out the notion that “austerity is just a policy by the greedy ruling class”.
Greedy and ruthlessly contemptuous is correct but the real lesson to grasp is just how unsolvably bad is the unravelling crisis.
Rising panic in bourgeois economic and banking expertise is regularly documented by the EPSR (eg issue 1525 and many before).
But those who dismiss this as from “just academics or know-nothing experts” (more philistine anti-theory-ism) need only look to the real world.
The truth is that the long retreat from Marxist understanding - dismissed as “old hat” or “irrelevant Catstrophism” – does not want to concede that revolutionary politics was right all along.
Instead just when this is clearer than ever, they all pile in behind reformism, most supporting the tepid “left” Corbynite Labourism which will never challenge the capitalist nature of society, however much it demands “better regulation” and “proper taxation” (all a hollow joke after 120 years of such “controls”).
Its call for some of Carillion’s past contract awards to be “re-examined” instead of drawing out the lessons of capitalist collapse is just a case in point, along with a dozen other compromises and retreats by the “left” leadership.
As said two decades ago (EPSR No1095 26-06-01):
It is only by the most idiotic and wilful blindness to the crisis-nature of the broad historical framework of the imperialist era that this ridiculous notion of a “return to Old Labour reformism” is still flapping around in the gutter outside 10 Downing Street at all; and, sadly, it is partly the attitude of the fake-‘lefts’ (“we all know about crisis but we don’t need to go on about it”, or “fight capitalism with sound all-round arguments, not with crisis-ism”, etc,) which allows this lunatic “back to reformism” ideology to survive at all. It is a form of sceptical retreat from the full implications of Marxist philosophy, - in a way playing down the reality (that Marxism is essentially a philosophy of capitalist collapse) by saying: “let’s worry about it when it happens”.
...And any occasional bits of ‘left’ rebelliousness not only do not make the slightest difference to this crucial reactionary performance that this ‘reformist’ collective carries out, it actually enhances the great delusion which permanently pulls the wool over the eyes of the working class. It is the ‘left’ Labourites who for a century have always kept the working class hanging on to Labour in the hope that one day, a programme of ‘real socialist’ policies would be introduced, etc.
It is ludicrous to be fooled by bits of maverick ‘left’ Labour behaviour now...The Labour Party needs only ever to be seen collectively as a very very serious component in the bourgeoisie’s subtle long-term class war against the proletariat. It was, and always has been, a deliberately-constructed vehicle for eliminating or overcoming all communist inspiration and Marxist understanding in the workers movement, and it will remain so, permanently. Any notion that ‘Marxist entryists’ were ever close to capturing the Labour Party is just the most obscene deception imaginable. A) none have ever come remotely close; and B) far worse and far more sinister, none of them were remotely ‘Marxist’ anyway.
It will be ten times worse now in any repeat of this entryist farce. If any real communist understanding ever did capture any existing party in Britain, either bourgeois (like Labour) or petty-bourgeois (like the ‘Alliance’, the SWP, the CPGB, etc), - the ostracism and isolation would be clamped down in an instant, - ferociously unmissable.
As for the supposed maverick ‘left’ Labour individuals, without exception they all remain as wedded to the bourgeois parliamentary system as any careerist in the Commons. They love the opulent lifestyle, they love the sense of importance, and they have no real problems with the fact that ALL government in Britain, whether Tory, Labour, Lib-Dem, or Nationalist, - is only ever going to play a marginally tinkering role on the fringes of the general Western imperialist state policy still largely prevailing for the moment throughout the major capitalist countries.
Revolutionary leadership has to be rebuilt instead by a profound struggle for the theoretical understanding overcoming decades of anti-communism and shallow consumerism, to educate and guide the working class for the great conflicts to come.
But what passes for “theory” in the “left” groups continues mostly to be elaborations of anti-communist poison or, equally useless, revisionist Stalin worship refusing to examine past philosophical errors, difficulties, mistakes and crimes.
The latter only plays into the hands of the Trotskyist poison anyway and the still persisting notions it fosters that the Soviet Union (and all workers states) were all a ghastly blind alley, instead of a mostly titanic advance for mankind building a new kind of society with no capitalist bossism.
Revisionist leadership errors are the major flaw which Trot petty bourgeois sourness plays on, suggesting that such difficulties were inevitable “because it was always going be impossible to build socialism in one country” a mainstay refrain of the constant counter-revolutionary defeatist sniping that comprises most of Trotskyism’s political record.
This nonsense is completely at variance with Lenin’s grasp that despite setbacks to the international revolution, the challenge of building socialism could continue in the one country, as set out in many pieces as the Soviet Union consolidated (and as demonstrated by 70 years of huge subsequent achievements).
Two are quoted here and more in EPSR No870 10-09-96:
‘We have approached the very core of the everyday problems, and that is a tremendous achievement. Socialism is no longer a matter of the distant future, or an abstract picture, or an icon. Our opinion of icons is the same—a very bad one. We have brought socialism into everyday life and must here see how matters stand. That is the task of our day, the task of our epoch. Permit me to conclude by expressing confidence that difficult as this task may be, new as it may be compared with our previous task, and numerous as the difficulties may be that it entails, we shall all—not in a day, but in a few years—all of us together fulfil it whatever the cost, so that NEP Russia will become socialist Russia.
Nov 1922 Speech at plenary session of Moscow Soviet
Indeed, the power of the state over all large-scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured proletarian leadership of the peasantry, etc.— is this not all that is necessary to build a complete Socialist society out of co-operatives, out of co-operatives alone, which we formerly ridiculed as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society? It is still not the building of socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it.
On co-operation Jan 1923
None of this implies forgetting the need for international revolution or the notion slipped into by Stalinist revisionism, particularly post-WW2, of more or less permanent “peaceful coexistence” in which gradually strengthening Soviet development could “contain” capitalism until “step by step” socialism would triumph without the revolutionary turmoil previously understood.
But it is completely at odds with the Trots and some crypto-Trot revisionist groups like the CPGB Weekly Worker, who therefore spend reams of their papers trying to demonstrate that really it was Trotsky who had the far better grasp of theory.
Particularly this centres on the allegedly brilliant notion of the “permanent revolution” which supposedly was more or less “adopted” by Lenin in 1917.
In which case of course Lenin’s views can be discounted as subordinate to Trotsky, and therefore Trotsky’s views about the “impossibility” of socialism in a single country are “validated”.
It is largely on such supposed genius insights that a “left” justification of the great edifice of subsequent rubbishing of the Soviet Union is built up, and all the relentless capitalist brainwashing hate-distortions about “totalitarianism” equally swallowed by the petty bourgeois “left”.
They are even elaborated with convoluted and completely unMarxist “theories” about “bureaucratic castes”, declaring Soviet life to be “no different to capitalist exploitation” and in the end alleging it was just as fascist as Nazism (as set out by in Trotsky himself in articles such as Stalin-Hitler’s Quartermaster and Hitler-Stalin Twin Stars, undermining working class solidarity just as the deadly Nazi onslaughts on the workers state were being prepared).
Such accounts are typical in the books poured out for the 1917 centenary of the Russian Revolution, one of which was taken up in a recent discussion article (EPSR 1521-1522) which continues in part below and in following issues.
But it is a parody.
As will be further explored, Trotsky got his grasp wrong in the 1905 first revolution, subsequently in ten years of critical Bolshevik development, and in 1917 did not see and explain the huge material developments exposed by the February revolution which made a complete re-assessment of Bolshevik tactics necessary.
Lenin did not “converge” with Trotsky’s idealist schematics but grasped and analysed new and deep running material developments that noone else had seen.
This was in the famous April theses in which he battled for the Bolsheviks to oppose the new provisional government and split the petty bourgeois dominated Soviets, to carry forwards the Bolshevik elements into a further proletarian led revolution, the great October Revolution.
Some weaknesses in the EPSR’s own account, also examined and corrected recently (1523 04-11-17) will be further elaborated on too.
But the crucial issue of developing revolutionary theory to lead the overthrow of the capitalist system remains 100% correct.
Back to the top
Discussion ( Part 3/5).
Trotskyist hostility...capitalises on the 1917 centenary October Revolution to pour poison on the historic legacy of the Soviet Union.
In the course of describing the 1905 Revolution, Faulkner attempts to demonstrate that Trotsky “almost alone amongst the Russian revolutionaries grasped [its] full implications”. He explains Trotsky’s position:
To complete and consolidate the victory of democracy over autocracy – to prevent the forces of reaction regrouping to crush the revolution – the proletariat would have to establish a workers’ state. Any such state, being class-based, could not be other than an organ of proletarian interests – supporting workers’ control of the factories, peasant control of the land, and dispossession of the rich. Anything less would compromise the victory for it would leave property and power in the hands of class enemies, and by limiting their gains, would undermine the willingness of the workers and peasants to defend the revolution. (Chapter 2)
As Lenin explained, only a class alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry could “complete and consolidate the victory of democracy over autocracy”. To call for a workers’ state in the battle against absolutism, as Trotsky did, was extremely dangerous as it would potentially push the peasantry and the rest of the petty bourgeois masses towards an alliance with the big bourgeoisie against the proletariat, and thereby increasing the likelihood of the revolution ending in bloody defeat.
Trotsky correctly argued in his 1906 pamphlet Results and Prospects that a proletarian dictatorship would be obliged by the logic of its class position to press ahead beyond the democratic revolution towards socialism. However, Trotsky’s demands for the establishment of a workers’ state in 1906, when the proletariat was in the minority, was idealistic as it assumed that the poor peasantry would follow the lead of the proletariat. It amounted to a call for an adventurist “seizure of power” by a minority, which has nothing to do with Marxism’s understanding of the necessity for winning over the majority to socialism first. Russian society was largely petty bourgeois, made up in the main of peasants For them, the key demand was agrarian reform in which land is expropriated from the (feudal) landlords and parcelled out to the peasantry. A proletarian government would have been obliged to push beyond this democratic demand and collectivise the land at a time when it was in the minority, thereby putting it in conflict with the peasant majority.
Lenin’s elaboration of the Marxist understanding of the revolutionary process in “On the Provisional Revolutionary Government” (June 1905) demonstrated that the revolutionary process has historically gone through three main stages, with victory at each state satisfying one of the three main revolutionary class classes – the big bourgeoisie, the liberal bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois masses (the peasantry, shopkeepers, craft producers, etc.), and the proletariat.
Although it is in the interests of all the revolutionary class to restrict absolutism, only the big bourgeoisie would be satisfied by this and would strive to consolidate their gains in a capitalist state.
Fearful of the revolutionary consequences of a democratic victory and the establishment of a democratic republic, the big bourgeoisie would not necessarily seek to depose absolutism, but would instead transform into a counter-revolutionary force that turns absolutism’s tools of suppression against the petty bourgeoisie and proletariat.
It took 70 years following the defeat of the 1848 bourgeois democratic revolution for Germany to establish a republic. The revolution was defeated because the liberal bourgeoisie failed to smash absolutism, instead it capitulated into accepting mild constitutional compromises with the Junker nobility, and then turned against the revolutionary masses. The armed revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry would have been necessary at this stage to ensure that attempts to restore absolutism were defeated. The defeat of the democratic revolution meant that the development of bourgeois capitalist relations took a slow, painful course in which the nobility itself became increasingly bourgeois, at the expense of the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
It is in the interests of both the proletariat and the petty bourgeois masses (which in Russia were the main the middle and poor peasantry), to depose of absolutism, establish its armed revolutionary-democratic dictatorship, and push ahead towards the establishment of a bourgeois democratic republic. Such a bourgeois revolution would allow for the freest and broadest development of capitalism possible, thereby creating the conditions necessary for a proletarian socialist revolution.
The breaking up the rule of the absolutist bureaucracy and the landlords left in place by the bourgeoisie would deceive the peasantry into thinking that the revolutionary process had been completed. Unless the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry is firmly established and holds onto power by force of arms, they would begin to cede state power to the bourgeoisie. However, even under the democratic dictatorship, the rule of capital and private ownership of land and property would remain, and because of this, the proletariat would be compelled to push the revolutionary process further.
The working class would need fight to maintain the revolutionary democratic dictatorship in alliance with the peasantry (whilst maintaining its own separate and independent organisation) until conditions ripened for a socialist revolution to overthrow the rule of capital and establish a workers’ state led by a proletarian dictatorship (or for as long as possible given the growing class antagonisms that would emerge between those kulak elements of petty bourgeois who benefited most the most from the establishment and consolidation of bourgeois relations, and the proletariat and increasingly proletarianised poor peasantry).
Class antagonisms would continue to persist even under the workers’ state, making the potential of provocations and attempts at insurrection against it by the remnant of the bourgeoisie, in alliance with international monopoly capitalist imperialism, a constant danger. This lethal threat to the revolution necessitates its defence by means of the proletarian dictatorship to suppress all attempts to re-establish capitalist class rule, as ruthlessly as is necessary at the time, until the final victory of socialism over monopoly capitalism worldwide creates the conditions in which the state can wither away.
Far from steeling the proletariat and peasantry for the necessity of defending the revolution as Faulkner claims, Trotsky’s argument that it was possible to establish a workers’ state in 1905 had the potential to demoralise the revolutionary forces because it did not instil in them the understanding that the limitations Faulkner describes above were inevitable, even after a revolutionary victory. Faulkner continues:
Thus to Lenin’s formulation of ‘the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’, Trotsky counterposed ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ In opposition to the schematic conception of two revolutions, different in character, separate in time, he envisaged ‘permanent revolution’ – that is a revolution that would not stop part way, but would instead spill across Russia’s borders to the rest of Europe, and would, at the same time, create a popular mass movement of such power that it would strike down all forms of class privilege and inaugurate a new democratic-egalitarian social order. Trotsky’s argument, in short, was that the democratic revolution would inevitably ‘grow over’ into an international socialist revolution. (Chapter 2)
Lenin’s profound concrete analysis of uninterrupted revolution stands in stark contrast to this ‘permanent revolution’ shallowness which idealistically claims that socialist revolution can be achieved whilst denying a leading role for the peasantry in the bourgeois democratic revolution. As already explained, the revolutionary process had three distinct stages, each different in character. However, Lenin was not suggesting that the revolution would “stop part way”. Rather he argued that, whilst fighting alongside the peasantry for the democratic revolution, the proletariat would need to continuously explain to them the necessity of pushing beyond this, and educate and train themselves and the poor, proletarianised, peasantry in preparation for a socialist revolution and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship that would abolish the rule of capital for good and begin the path towards the development of a society based on cooperative socialist relations.
To be continued