Monday, March 7, 2016

The Working Class Has the Capacity to Transform the World

By Steve Halpern

After the so-called “Super Tuesday” primary results, the race for President of the United States will probably be between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Many so-called liberals who favor the Democratic Party have been incensed by the Trump campaign.

Clearly, Donald Trump has spewed vicious hatred against Mexicans, women, Moslems, and anyone else who might disagree with the Trump point of view.  For these reasons, liberals have labeled Trump supporters as “stupid.”  They make the argument: Why would anyone support the hateful Trump, when people can support Bernie Sanders who supports the idea of free education and a single payer health-care system?

Another question might be asked.  Why would anyone support Trump or Sanders if people are satisfied with the government as it is now?  While President Obama argues that unemployment has gone down during his presidency, the facts tell a different story. 

The politics of Trump vs. Obama

When we look at the percentage of the population that has jobs, this percentage has not changed since Obama has been President.  In fact, when we look at these numbers over the past twenty years, the percentage of people who have jobs has gone down.  This is the exact opposite of Obama’s argument.

We might look at a few other facts when we compare the politics of Obama to Trump.

·      Today one out of about every six people in this country doesn’t have enough food to eat.  Trump calls for lowering wages.  Obama cut the food stamps program by $8.7 billion.
·      Most immigrants in this country come from Mexico.  Trump calls for building a wall to keep Mexicans out.  Obama has already used this wall and has been deporting about 1,000 immigrants every day he has been in office.
·      Trump calls for torturing Moslems and preventing them from entering the country.  Obama has been at war against nations that have majority Moslem populations.
·      Clearly there has been a racist tinge to Trump’s message.  While he calls for keeping Mexicans out of this country, he refuses to denounce the Ku Klux Klan.  However, the number of Black people who are in prison, parole, or probation are way of proportion to their percentage of the population.  In fact, anyone who lives in this country has a better chance of going to prison than citizens of any other nation in the world.  President Obama has done nothing to reverse this trend.
·      In the year 2008 there was a near meltdown of the world capitalist system.  While there were sufficient materials as well as workers to dramatically improve the standard of living, banks nearly closed their doors as they did in 1929.  President Obama used literally trillions of dollars in a so-called plan called quantitative easing to avert a capitalist created catastrophe.  Literally every aspect of Donald Trump’s campaign has been about making the government give even more support to corporations.
So what is the basis for the argument that the politics of Donald Trump are significantly different from the politics of President Obama?  Bernie Sanders says that he will support Hillary Clinton for President if she wins the Democratic Party nomination.  This means that the Sanders’ campaign was never significantly different from mainstream Democratic Party politics.
Understanding these facts, we might ask another question.  Is there a way for working people to become involved in politics that can bring about a vastly improved standard of living?
The production costs of commodities
Before I look at this question, I will cite a column that appeared in the February 29, 2016 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The article is by Benjamin Powell, who is an economics professor at Texas Tech University.  The theme of Powell’s column is about how he opposes Donald Trump’s argument that, “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries.”
In his column, Powell cited a 2005 video showing that half of the $300 price of an iPod goes to Apple and its distributors in this country.  The other half of that price goes to various other enterprises that also profit from the sale of the iPod.
In other words, the overwhelming majority of the money spent for iPods as nothing to do with the cost or distribution of this commodity.  This money is about profit as well as support of enterprises that have nothing to do with the manufacture and distribution of Apple products. 
This means that when we purchase any commodity, we need to pay for many so-called services that in no way contribute to the quality of the goods and services we purchase.  I’m talking about interest payments to banks, insurance policies, advertising, corporate law firms, as well as sophisticated submarines, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets.  So, while the cost of producing most commodities goes down because of advances in technology, prices continue to go up.
So, while there is a massive amount of surplus value created in the manufacture of commodities, the world capitalist system is in crisis.  Corporations are driven to increase sales, as well as to cut costs.  This state of affairs can only result in a complete collapse of the economy.  This at a time when humanity is better equipped to eliminate poverty than at any other time in our history.
What political strategy can advance the interests of all working people?
In any capitalist system profits come before human needs.  Every worker has experienced the frustration of having our work compromised because of the drive for profits.  Yet, as I’ve shown, our salaries only reflect a tiny percentage of what our labor is worth.
Imagine, for a moment, that working people had control over society.  Advances in technology would mean that we would be able to work fewer hours.  When emails eliminate the need for a mail service, postal workers wouldn’t become unemployed.  This could mean that we would all be able to work fewer hours.
Imagine that all the work we do would have one and only one goal.  That would be to make life better for everyone who lives in the world.  We have the potential to guarantee everyone the right to a home, food, clothing, transportation, communication, education, health care, as well as cultural activities like music, dance, the theater, and art.  The resources exist right now for this to happen.  The problem is that profits and not human needs are the priority.
Imagine that discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin was a thing of the past.  Without the corporate demand for profits, humanity could begin to advance a better standard of living for literally everyone on the planet.
There are those who believe that these ideas reflect a clearly impossible dream.  They argue that human beings are naturally greedy and selfish.  Understanding the reality we face, the only way for humanity to advance is through a cooperative struggle against the corporate drive to drive down our standard of living.
We have a revolutionary heritage
The United States became a nation because of a political revolution against the British monarchy.  The government formed as a result of this revolution was made up of northern capitalists and slave owners.  The slave owners took control of the government and were thrown out of power by another revolution known as the Civil War.
For over 100 years the first nations of this country known as Indians waged an armed struggle to defend themselves from the theft of their land as well as their culture.
After the Civil War the labor movement went on a long and tenacious battle to improve the standard of living in this country.
Black people have been battling to gain equal rights since the formation of this country.  However, after the abolition of slavery, the formation of reconstruction governments, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the government has done everything in its power to reverse these gains.
We need to recall that there were women who went to prison because they demanded that they have right to vote in demonstrations in front of the White House.  Today, the government is working to bring back the days when women didn’t have the right to abortion and lacked the right to decide if and when to become a mother.
Prisoners in California went on a hunger strike in opposition to solitary confinement.
Immigrant workers have demonstrated all over this country demanding an end to the vicious government policy that has been deporting 1,000 people every day.
Understanding this history of struggle makes me conclude that working people have the capacity to transform the world.
For these reasons, I’m supporting the Socialist Workers Party candidates Alyson Kennedy for President and Osborne Hart for Vice-President.  Members of the SWP have been doing their best to advance the struggles of working people.  Unlike the pro-capitalist media, The Militant newspaper reports on struggles of workers from around the world.
Last year working people enjoyed a real victory when three of five Cubans received their freedom from the jails in this country.  SWP leaders have interviewed these five Cuban patriots extensively and published these interviews, as well as their artwork, in books distributed by Pathfinder Press.

While the Socialist Workers Party is relatively small, the international working class is very large.  Today working people produce all the goods and services we need and want.  Think of how much easier and rewarding this could be if working people had control over the government as well as the economy.

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