Health care and the fight for socialism

24 June 2017

The Senate Republicans’ bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, unveiled on Thursday and set for a vote next week, comes on the heels of last month’s passage of a similar measure in the House of Representatives. These two bills are a milestone in the decades-long drive by the American ruling class to eviscerate the bedrock social reforms of the 1930s and 1960s.

The central feature of both versions is the imposition of more than $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, effectively ending its status as a guaranteed benefit program. The ultimate enactment of this class war legislation, whatever its precise form, will be the prelude to the privatization and dismantling of Medicare, the government insurance program for the elderly, and Social Security, the government pension system enacted at the height of the Depression in the 1930s.

Both the House and Senate bills cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy by more than $700 billion, eliminate requirements on businesses to provide health insurance for their employees, and allow states to exempt insurance firms from having to provide essential benefits such as doctors’ services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, ambulance service, prescription drug coverage, pregnancy and childbirth care and mental health and substance abuse services.

What is involved here is a social counterrevolution. It has been underway for more than four decades, under Democratic as well as Republican administrations. It was accelerated under the Obama administration following the Wall Street crash of 2008. With the coming to power of Donald Trump, the billionaire personification of the American financial oligarchy, it is being raised to new heights of savagery.

What will be the impact of this legislation on the daily lives of working people in America? People suffering from diseases such as diabetes, asthma, even cancer will suddenly find that they can no longer afford to pay for the drugs upon which they depend to survive. Low income people—an estimated 23 million—will be stripped of all health coverage.

Millions of people will suffer needlessly, and many thousands will die an early death. For the authors of these bills and their corporate backers, this is not an unfortunate byproduct, but the deliberate aim of their health care “reform.” For the richest 10 percent who tower above the lower orders and control the political system and its two major parties, the diversion of money from profits and private bank accounts to keep working people alive and reasonably healthy—especially those too old to serve as a source of surplus value and profit—is an intolerable affront. Life expectancy in America is already declining and mortality rates are rising for the working class, in tandem with the colossal growth of social inequality. The ruling class wants to accelerate this process.

Is it an accident that the Republican plans single out for the biggest attacks low income older adults younger than 65, the age for Medicare eligibility? Insurers will be allowed to charge them five times more than they charge younger people. A 60-year-old woman earning $35,000 will have to spend nearly $6,000 of her own money to buy an insurance policy. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that many thousands, unable to afford health insurance, will be killed off before they can begin to collect Medicare benefits, or, if they do manage to survive to age 65, will collect far fewer benefits because they will die an earlier death, their health having been undermined.

No one should mistake the verbal protests and parliamentary stunts of the Democrats for a serious struggle in defense of health care. The assault on the basic entitlement programs dating from the 1930s and 1960s was begun in earnest by Bill Clinton, who ended “welfare as we know it” during his term in the White House.

Barack Obama had the gall to denounce the Senate health bill as a “massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and poor families to the richest people in America.” True enough! But Trump is taking off where Obama left off. By means of trillions in Wall Street bailouts and subsidies to the banks and hedge funds that lifted stock prices and corporate profits to record heights, Obama presided over the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in US history. Along the way he slashed auto workers’ wages and city workers’ pensions and health benefits and imposed brutal cuts in food stamps.

The explosion of the opioid and heroin epidemic that, along with surging suicide rates, is cutting the longevity of large sections of workers occurred on Obama’s watch. His Affordable Care Act set the stage for Trump’s intensified offensive on health care, slashing health care costs for corporations and the government while increasing out-of-pocket costs and reducing benefits for tens of millions of workers. It implemented the principle of partially subsidizing the purchase of insurance from private companies with government vouchers—the framework long advocated by Republicans seeking to privatize Medicare.

The current policy of the Democrats is to plead with the Republicans to negotiate a bipartisan “compromise” that will “fix” Obamacare, i.e., make further concessions to the profit-mad insurance giants by more drastically slashing benefits and raising premiums and deductibles.

The choice offered by the ruling class—between “Trumpcare” and “Obamacare”—is no choice at all. Both lead to untold suffering, misery and death. The working class will not accept the destruction of social gains for which it fought and bled, wrenching them from an unwilling corporate elite in the course of mass social struggles.

America, along with Europe and large swathes of the world, is heading into a new period of class struggle. What the experience of decades of austerity, war and political reaction shows is that the defense of the most basic social needs, such as health care, is today a revolutionary question. Capitalism in its advanced stage of crisis and putrefaction is incompatible with basic democratic and social rights—including the right to a decent-paying and secure job, health care, housing, education, access to culture and a secure retirement.

The working class must advance its own independent program against both Trump and the Democrats, based on the fight for socialism. Profit must be taken out of health care. The health care industry must be removed from private hands and placed under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class. This requires an implacable struggle against entrenched wealth and privilege, and the political system that enforces them.

Barry Grey and Kate Randall

 

WSWS

The politics of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are the progressive path forward

Blairites and Clintonites must bring themselves to admit that “third way” centrism is a relic of the past

Sorry, centrist liberals, the politics of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are the progressive path forward

Jeremy Corbyn; Bernie Sanders (Credit: AP/Frank Augstein/Jae C. Hong)

It has been over a week since the U.K. election that left the political establishment reeling in Britain and around the world. And though Prime Minister Theresa May will remain in office — for now — Jeremy Corbyn was correct when he said last week that the election had “changed the face of British politics.”

The snap election that was supposed to have crushed Corbyn — and the Labour Party — once and for all has instead re-energized the British left, while throwing serious doubt on the Conservative Party’s future. When Theresa May arrogantly called the election in April, polls indicated that her Conservative Party would win by a historic landslide, and the British press — which has been fiercely against Corbyn since he was elected as leader of the Labour Party two years ago — ran giddy headlines predicting the death of his party. There was no doubt whether May and the Tories would win a majority; it was only a matter of how massive that majority would be.

But if we have learned anything over the past year, with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and the “Brexit” referendum result last summer, it is that absolutely nothing is certain in this populist age. May was expected to “Crush the Saboteurs,” as the Daily Mail’s front page read after her announcement in April, but instead she ended up crushing her own party, which lost its majority in the House of Commons after leading by more than 20 points just a month earlier.

Meanwhile, the unconventional and “unelectable” Corbyn, who has been smeared and misrepresented by the British media for the past two years — and who has faced repeated mutinies within his own party — generated the highest turnout for a U.K. election since 1997 and won a larger share of the popular vote than Tony Blair did in 2005. It was an even bigger upset than last year’s Brexit shocker.

Even Labour Party members and Corbynites had been resigned to the Tories winning back their majority; their goal had been simply to keep that majority as slim as possible and to not be completely humiliated. But Theresa May was the only one humiliated on election day, while the leftist Labour leader was clearly vindicated after years of abuse.

And Corbyn’s political success will be felt far beyond the shores of Great Britain. For weeks and months to come pundits and political strategists will continue to ask themselves how this happened, and many will no doubt try to spin and distort what happened last week. But the answer is simple: The old-school socialist triumphed because he ran an effective grassroots campaign with a compelling message that offered principled leadership and a progressive platform to galvanize the working-class and young people of Britain. Though Labour clearly benefited from May’s poorly run campaign, there is little doubt that Labour’s progressive manifesto was essential to its parliamentary gains.

Before the election, Corbyn’s approval ratings were in the gutter after years of his being maligned by the British press. An analysis of 2016 by The Independent found that more than 75 percent of press coverage had misrepresented Corbyn (and his views), while more than half of the (purportedly neutral) news articles were “critical or antagonistic in tone, compared to two thirds of all editorials and opinion pieces.”

By contrast, the British public was broadly supportive of Corbyn’s actual policies. According to a poll by The Independent, along with a May survey by ComRes for the Daily Mirror, the major policies featured in Labour’s general election manifesto earned strong support from the British public, while the right-wing Tory manifesto was widely rejected. It is not surprising then that the candidates’ approval ratings changed places during the election, as their policies were publicized. According to the latest polling by YouGov, May’s approval ratings have plummeted to Corbyn’s pre-election levels, while the Labour leader’s ratings have surged.

It is already quite clear how last week’s election has changed politics in the U.K., but its outcome has also been felt across the Atlantic.

Much has already been said about the obvious parallels between Corbyn’s Labour Party success and the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and what the British election means for American politics. Like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders was seen by the commentariat as a fringe socialist kook who was completely unelectable — and like Corbyn, he created a mass movement that appealed to working people and young voters in particular. Sanders was by far the most popular candidate among millennials in the 2016 election, while Corbyn’s Labour Party won 63 percent of aged 18 to 34 and increased voter turnout for 18- to 25-year-olds from 45 percent in 2015 to about  72 percent last week, according to exit polls from Sky data. Similar to the scenario in the U.K., the majority of Americans tend to support Sanders’ social democratic policies, including his support for Medicare for all and raising taxes on the rich.

Of course, there’s at least one obvious difference between the two progressive politicians: While Corbyn has been personally unpopular in his country, Sanders continues to rank as the most popular politician in the United States. Moreover, Sanders consistently outperformed Hillary Clinton in the polls against Donald Trump last year and would have likely defeated the Republican billionaire handily — barring a major spoiler candidate like Michael Bloomberg.

This reality continues to infuriate many establishment Democrats, who have inevitably tried to dismiss and downplay Corbyn’s success in Britain, noting that Labour still didn’t win a majority of its own. If a centrist Blairite were leading the party, they insist (with no empirical basis whatsoever), then he or she would have been elected prime minister, say centrist Democrats. The same people who were gloating about Labour’s anticipated ruin just a month ago — and using it as evidence that a populist shift to the left would be disastrous for the Democratic Party — are now spinning Labour’s historic accomplishment to fit their narrative. Clearly there is a lot of denial going on here. The Blairites and Clintonites cannot bring themselves to admit that “third way” centrism is a relic of the neoliberal 1990s. They refuse to see the writing on the wall, even as it stares at them directly.

In a column for The New York Times on Tuesday, Sen. Sanders wrote that the British election “should be a lesson for the Democratic Party” to stop clinging to an “overly cautious, centrist ideology.”

He wrote, “There is never one reason elections are won or lost,” adding, “but there is widespread agreement that momentum shifted to Labour after it released a very progressive manifesto that generated much enthusiasm among young people and workers. . . . The  [Democratic] party’s main thrust must be to make politics relevant to those who have given up on democracy and bring millions of new voters into the political process.”

A few days earlier at the People’s Summit in Chicago, Sanders discussed the U.K. election during aspeech, noting that Labour “won those seats not by moving to the right” but by “standing up to the ruling class of the U.K.” He also reiterated that “Trump didn’t win the election, the Democratic Party lost the election.” It seems clear that if the Democratic Party wants to start winning elections again, it should pay careful attention to what is currently happening in Britain.

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, AlterNet, Counterpunch and openDemocracy. Follow him on

The future of Cuba after Fidel

In recent months, Andrea Gutmann Fuentes and Coco Smyth each spent at least a week in Havana, Cuba. Here, they offer their observations about conditions in Cuba today and what the future may hold in the era after Fidel Castro’s death last year.

Graffiti on a wall in Cuba (Coco Smyth)

Graffiti on a wall in Cuba (Coco Smyth)

FIDEL CASTRO, the leader of the Cuban Revolution and longtime Cuban president, died on November 26 of last year.

In both the Western and Cuban media, Castro’s death took on a key significance, though in sharply different respects. In the West, many news outlets rejoiced, hoping that Cuba would pursue a new and less combative course. In Cuba, the media eulogized the death of a heroic fighter who secured a free and independent state in the Caribbean.

But during our encounters with Cubans in Havana, we found that most people refrained from such overheated rhetoric.

No Cubans we talked with assumed that the death of Fidel would lead to a sharp rupture with the politics of the past. Rather, while Fidel’s death may represent the symbolic closure of a chapter in history, no one, whether supportive or critical of Castro, saw his death as marking a fundamental change in the orientation of the Cuban state.

But even if Fidel’s death doesn’t signal a break between the politics of the past and the present, many Cubans are wrestling with the real antagonisms and contradictions drawing Cuba in new directions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IN REALITY, Cuba had been changing long before the death of Fidel. After the collapse of the USSR, Cuba was plunged into an economic crisis now known euphemistically as “the special period.” The Soviet Union had heavily subsidized the Cuban economy since the 1970s, and when it collapsed, Cuba was forced to alter its economic approach.

In 1994, the Cuban state created a dual-currency system, pegging one of the currencies (the CUC) directly to the U.S. dollar. Additionally, Cuba slowly began to open its economy, reorienting towards tourism, allowing remittances, and looking for international investment.

Many of the Cubans we talked with–especially those who remember the revolutionary year of 1959–spoke fondly of the early days of the revolution, before the rise of the bureaucracy stemming from a close relationship with the USSR.

Many of these people approvingly recognized that the Cuban state still prioritizes basic human needs like health care and education for its people. Cuba’s relaxation of restrictions on foreign investments over the past couple decades calls into question how these priorities may change over the coming years.

“The key problem is how we both preserve our social institutions while opening up more greatly to foreign investment,” said a city planner and Communist Party member in describing what he considered one of the biggest threats to Cuba’s future.

Ultimately, he believed–along with other Communist Party members we spoke to–that if planned correctly, the bureaucracy could come to a successful resolution of this contradiction.

However, while Communist Party members were attuned to the significance of these economic contradictions, their answers reflected the limitations of the Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) conception of socialism.

Socialism is understood by the CCP primarily as a set of economic and political programs clustered around public institutions and a strong welfare state, similar to Scandinavian social democracy. These programs include universal health care, public education, funding for the arts and wealth redistribution. Other features of Cuba’s political system after the revolution include state direction of the economy, a one-party state, and a large bureaucracy.

It can’t be denied that Cuba’s revolution brought about a much more just system than what had existed before–and a system which is enviable in many respects, even for citizens of the most developed capitalist countries. But the CCP’s vision leaves out the most crucial aspect of socialism: workers’ democratic control.

As Karl Marx famously wrote, “The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” Socialism cannot be handed to the working class by bureaucrats or benevolent guerillas, nor can it be decreed in a speech two years after the revolution, as happened in Cuba.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

MANY OF the Cubans we spoke with shared experiences that highlighted the contradictions inherent in “socialism” without working-class rule.

One man, a retired physics professor at the University of Havana, spoke of wanting to move to Chile in search of a new teaching job. Unlike Cuba, he said, “In Chile, the professors can protest to raise their wages.” Indeed, it’s a bitter irony that Cuba claims to be a communist country, but workers possess very little collective bargaining power in relation to their employers.

Others spoke of Cuba’s reliance on capitalist economies. An artist we spoke to lamented that because of the absence of an art market on the island, contemporary Cuban artists gear their work specifically for export to Western markets, resulting in what he described as a sort of deference to Western tastes.

Ultimately, attempts to build “socialism in one country” both ignore the centrality of internationalism and working-class rule and cannot sustain themselves indefinitely against the weight of the world capitalist system.

Cubans continue to hope for an end to the U.S. embargo, but the recent election of Donald Trump appears to have dimmed the immediate prospects for completing the normalization of relations that Obama initiated.

The embargo has negatively impacted the economy of Cuba for generations. But if the embargo ends, and Cuba opens up significantly to foreign investment to solve its current economic problems, it will not be able to do so on its own terms, as the PCC suggests.

Economic investment never comes without strings attached. The West utilizes investment and aid as a means of domination and control. Thus, opening to the West poses a threat to much of the progressive content of the Cuban system. On the other hand, without more investment from outside Cuba, the necessary funds to continue progressive programs will run dry.

The long-term choice facing the Cuban ruling class is to watch its economic system falter or to respond to the imperatives of economic openness by cutting back on health care and other public spending, at the price of eroding the positive contributions of the revolution.

The only way to preserve and ultimately complete the Cuban Revolution is for the working class to take power into its own hands in Cuba, as part of a worldwide and internationalist struggle against capitalism.

https://socialistworker.org/2017/06/14/the-future-of-cuba-after-fidel

Hey Bernie! Welcome to the millionaire’s club!

By Tom Hall
13 June 2017

Personal finance disclosure forms submitted by Bernie Sanders, and widely reported in the media, reveal that Sanders’ income was more than $1 million last year. This figure includes both his $174,000 annual salary as a senator and $858,750 from book royalties, including a nearly $800,000 advance for a book, Our Revolution, about his 2016 presidential primary campaign.

The threshold for the wealthiest 1 percent by annual income in the United States is $389,436, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Sanders’ income would put him somewhere in the top one-fifth of one percent, according to US Census data.

The wealth of the average US senator and representative has skyrocketed in recent years, earning Congress a reputation as a “millionaire’s club.” In 2014, the average personal wealth across both houses of Congress surpassed $1 million for the first time in history, with the median net worth of the Senate surging from $2.5 to $2.7 million.

However, few members of Congress are able to amass as much wealth in a single year as Bernie Sanders did last year. Opensecrets.org shows that Sanders’ book royalties alone would been the third-highest outside income in the Senate in 2014, the last year for which the site has figures. At $1.2 million, first place that year went to fellow “progressive” Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who parlayed her brief tenure as a rubber-stamp banking regulator during Obama’s first term into a Senate seat.

We at the WSWS would like to tell Sanders: welcome to the millionaire’s club!

Opensecrets.org’s records show that, for years, you have been forced to subsist on income levels at or around the threshold of the top 1 percent, in the low-to-mid six figures. This, no doubt, is what you had in mind during a primary debate last year when you described yourself as “one of the poorer members of the United States Senate.”

But 2016 was a turning point in your career. The $1 million payday you received last year is payment for services rendered during your intervention in last year’s Democratic primaries. Your fraudulent claims to be leading a “political revolution” against the “billionaire class” were designed to corral popular anger and promote illusions in the Democratic Party, one of the two parties of the American corporate-financial aristocracy, as a party representing the interests of working people.

And while you attracted considerable interest from left-leaning workers and young people with your false claims to be a socialist, you rejected basic socialist measures such as the nationalization of key industries, endorsed American imperialism’s wars of conquest, and defended a truculent nationalism which pitted American workers against their brothers and sisters internationally.

Your intervention was all the more crucial as the Democratic Party was preparing to nominate Hillary Clinton, who was widely and deservedly hated as a stooge of Wall Street and the military. You threw your support to her in the Democratic National Convention and presented her candidacy as a continuation of your so-called “political revolution.” You declared that electing Clinton was an urgent necessity to defeat Trump, in spite of the fact that her pro-war, anti-working class agenda was no less reactionary than Trump’s.

But your work was not yet done. When this produced a debacle for the Democrats in the November election, you were elevated to a more responsible position within the Democratic political hierarchy, working closely with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, whose election campaigns have received tens of millions of dollars in funding from Wall Street. You crossed the country stumping for Democrats with the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Obama cabinet member Tom Perez.

You have even emerged as a de facto leader of a wing of the Democratic Party concerned that the party’s focus on the right-wing campaign over Russia against Trump at the expense of posturing over social issues could open the door to the emergence of a mass popular movement outside the control of the Democrats, a potential threat to capitalism. Nevertheless, you have supported the Democrats’ unsubstantiated accusations of Russian collusion with Trump, which are designed to force a confrontation with the world’s second largest nuclear power.

In your campaign to corral social opposition behind the Democrats, you have received the crucial aid of the middle class, pseudo-left organizations which function as satellites of the Democratic Party. They all presented as good coin your calls for a “political revolution” and either endorsed your candidacy, as in the case of Socialist Alternative and the Democratic Socialists of America, or, like the International Socialist Organization, issued mildly worded tactical criticisms of your decision to run as a Democrat rather than continuing the charade of running statewide in Vermont as an “independent.” As with your own campaign, their goal was to prevent the emergence of a genuine socialist movement within the working class capable of challenging American capitalism. Many of them made the trek to Chicago this weekend to hear you speak at the People’s Summit, an annual gathering of what passes for the Democratic Party’s “left.”

The pseudo-left is also being handsomely rewarded for their services to capitalism. Last year, the Ford Foundation announced that it was donating $100 million to Black Lives Matter; it has since cashed in through such investments as a “black debit card” and other projects promoting black capitalism.

Last year’s million, you have reason to hope, will be the first of many. Given the explosive character of the political and economic conditions in the United States, and the broad hostility workers feel towards both the Trump administration and his Democratic opponents, the ruling class will very likely continue to value your political services.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/13/sand-j13.html

How America Imploded

The Invisible Fist

When I began writing about economics, one curious set of facts immediately leapt out at me. A fact at odds with the theories and models I’d been taught – all of which said America was the exemplar of a successful economy, its platonic ideal.

Right around 1970, the more that I looked at the data, something seemed to go badly wrong with the US economy. Very badly wrong. Incomes began to flatline – and never recovered. Union participation shrank. Basic measures of well being like education, literacy, and health flatlined. Like an invisible fist had KO’d a society.

But why? What was different, special, about that date – 1970, or thereabouts?

Reality intruded, as it always does. The great financial crisis of 2007, which I’d been predicting, exploded. A Great Recession followed, and a recovery that wasn’t followed that, and then, just as I’d suspected, society shifted hard right in response to being abandoned by politicians all too happy to bail out bankers. Trump happened, Brexit happened. And I forgot all about the question I began with: 1970.

I was too young, and perhaps too idealistic, to see then what is all too obvious now.

What really happened to America? 1970 was roughly the year de jure segregation ended. We don’t need to debate the precise date, call it when you will. I date it to 1971, when segregated school buses were struck down by the Supreme Court. And it tells us a very powerful truth about life, economics, and America.

From slavery, through segregation, the US economy’s capital had a ready made supply of cheap labour. That is a crude way to put a barbaric human reality. People were exploited institutionally and systemically for profit is more accurate.

But in 1970 this supply of cheap labour suddenly began to come to an end. Now capital had to to pay higher costs. It couldn’t simply pool workers into two castes, one of whom was disposable, barely human at all. Exploitation was less efficient than it had been. How did the economy respond?

It simply shifted from exploiting one group of people to exploiting everyone as much as it could.

Union busting, overwork, and wage stagnation began in earnest. Then inflation for life’s basics caught fire: education, healthcare, and so on began to skyrocket in price. Quality of life began to fall.

Capitalism was quite literally eating itself. Without a supply of cheap labour, the US economy was doing the only thing it knew how to do: create another one. Except this time it was everyone, not just minorities. Of course it’s true to say minorities still face steep inequities. Yet what’s truer is that now everyone is exploited mercilessly by haywire capitalism.

In every life there is a past to be reckoned with. Pop psychologists say: forget your past! They are wrong. Until we come to face it’s reality, the past imprisons us. With its forged hope and desperate dreams.

We had a dream once, too. An American dream. But if we see the past carefully, we will see that it never was at all. The economy went from segregation to stagnation, seeking to replace cheap labour lost. The dream hides that ugly truth with a pretty lie, as all dreams of the past do.

Dreams of the past prevent us from having dreams about the future. And they are more necessary. For the past can’t be undone. If we are to have a new dream in America, then we must let the old one go. Even now the economy is still what it always was: a predatory machine creating cheap labour. But now it cannot itself afford to. The middle class imploded has nothing left to spend, save, invest. The machine is broken. The dream never was.

Having seen all that, now we can dream of the future. It should be one where capital isn’t merely seeking to exploit cheaper and cheaper labour until everyone is bankrupt but a few tycoons. By definition, no society can ever prosper that way. It should be one where capital is invested in public goods like healthcare and education that benefit everyone. That is what prosperity begins with.

(No, capital doesn’t “have” to do what it did in the US. Marx was wrong about that. In Canada, Sweden, the EU, capitalism and socialism work together quite happily. And those societies have prospered where the US has failed.)

Despite its talk of innovation and growth, the American economy is still what it always was. A predatory machine. It has never changed. That is the problem.

What has changed is us. There is no meat left to feed the monster with. And so now the challenge is simple: change it, or perish as society with it.

Umair

June 2017

Study shows massive growth of political abstention in 2016 US election

By Eric London
3 June 2017

A study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center revealed that “dislike of the candidates or campaign issues” was the most frequent motive registered voters gave for not voting in the 2016 election. Twenty five percent of registered voters who abstained listed this as their primary reason, double the figure from 2012.

The growth of opposition to both candidates was ubiquitous across all racial, age and education groups.

Among African-American registered voters, the percentage of those citing dislike of the candidates as the main reason for abstaining rose from 3 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2016. Among Hispanics, the figure also grew by 16 percent—from 9 to 25 percent.

This 16 percent jump was the largest among racial groups, but dissatisfaction rose among all races. Among white registered voters who abstained, 26 percent listed dissatisfaction with the candidates as their main reason, up nine points from 15 percent in 2012. The figure also grew among Asian registered voters, by 14 points, from 8 to 21 percent.

Dissatisfaction rose among all age groups. Among millennial registered voters (those born in the 1980s or 1990s), 24 percent said opposition to both candidates was their primary reason for abstaining in 2016, up from 11 percent in 2012. The highest rise in opposition was among Generation X (those born in the 1960s and 1970s), growing from 12 to 27 percent from 2012 to 2016. Opposition grew by about 10 points among older voters as well.

Among US-born registered voters who abstained, 25 percent listed dissatisfaction with both candidates as their primary reason, up from 13 percent in 2012. Among foreign-born registered voters, the figure grew from 8 percent of registered abstainers to 22 percent in 2016.

These figures once again explode the lie, advanced by the Democratic Party, the pseudo-left and the Democratic Party-affiliated media, who claim that Donald Trump won the 2016 election because of the racism of the white working class. In reality, voting statistics demonstrate conclusively that Hillary Clinton lost because of a sharp downturn in turnout for the Democrats among all races, particularly among young people. According to the Pew report, racial minorities made up 34 percent of registered abstainers, up 9 points from 25 percent in 2012.

Clinton herself has attributed to her unexpected loss to supposed interference by the Russian government, combined with white racism and misogyny and the intervention of then-FBI Director James Comey. Speaking Wednesday in California, she again blamed Russia for her electoral defeat and broadly hinted at collusion by the Donald Trump election campaign.

She said: “The Russians in my opinion, and based on the intel and counterintel people I’ve talked to, could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.”

She also blamed misogyny among working class voters: “And at some point it sort of bleeds into misogyny. And let’s just be honest, you know, people who have a set of expectations about who should be president and what a president looks like, you know, they’re going to be much more skeptical and critical of somebody who doesn’t look like and talk like and sound like everybody else who’s been president.”

While psychologists could keep themselves busy analyzing Clinton’s delusions, socialists understand the objective significance of the gap that separates the Democratic Party’s own understanding of the election and reality, which reflects the material chasm separating the ruling class and upper-middle class from the rest of the population.

Clinton did not lose because of unsupported claims of Russian collusion with Trump, but because she appealed only to the most affluent voters, ignoring altogether the concerns of working class voters and denouncing as “deplorables” the less educated, mostly white voters who supported Trump.

The fact that political abstention grew especially among African-American and Hispanic voters shows that Clinton’s campaign strategy—based on appealing to voters on questions of racial and gender identity—turned working class minority and white voters away from the Democratic Party. The orientation to questions of individual identity is aimed primarily at appealing to wealthier voters of all racial categories.

Clinton’s orientation to more affluent voters produced a dramatic shift in the landscape of American two-party politics in 2016. According to data from the American National Election Survey (ANES), the Democratic Party won a majority of votes from the wealthiest 5 percent of the white population for the first time since ANES began collecting data in 1948. Not only did the Clinton campaign win amongst the wealthiest 5 percent of whites, she won by an overwhelming margin, slightly greater than 10 percent. The Democrats won by wide margins among wealthier sections of all racial groups.

On the other side, the poorest two-thirds of white voters supported the Republican candidate, also for the first time in the ANES poll’s 70-year history. The chart below shows the shift, with the Republican margin of victory appearing higher on the Y-axis and the income percentile groups listed from left to right on the X-axis, with the wealthiest 5 percent listed on the right of each graph. The fact that the chart for 2016 has a downward trajectory highlights the degree to which the Democratic Party has become the primary party of the affluent upper-middle class.

Income and the White Presidential Vote, 1948-2016

As the WSWS has previously noted, the wealthy of all races are now more likely to support the Democratic Party because it has proven itself a worthy custodian of the affairs of the financial oligarchy, promoting its wars, bank bailouts, domestic spying operations, deportations, tax windfalls and cuts to social programs, all under the foil of identity politics.

The growth in American National Election Survey (ANES) also shows that Clinton was not the victim of “apathy.” To the contrary, each new poll confirms that the working class in the US is moving to the left, coming into conflict with the political establishment and registering its opposition with varying levels of political clarity.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/03/poll-j03.html

The Great Unraveling: The crisis of the post-war geopolitical order

2 June 2017

Less than a week after US President Donald Trump returned to the United States from his overseas tour of the Middle East and Europe, it is clear that a shift in world politics with vast implications is underway. Global relationships and institutions that for decades set the framework for international economy and public life are rapidly unraveling.

The rising threat of trade war and the resurgence of the military ambitions of all the imperialist powers are signs of the advanced state of collapse of the international institutions created after the United States emerged from World War II as the dominant imperialist power.

This collapse is the product of processes that have matured over decades. In 1991, when the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union deprived the NATO alliance of a common enemy, tensions between the imperialist powers were already surging. As US strategists declared a “unipolar moment,” in which the disappearance of the Soviet Union eliminated any immediate military rival, they aimed to use this military advantage to counterbalance the declining economic position of the United States.

A 1992 Pentagon strategy paper asserted that Washington had to convince “potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture,” and to “discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.”

A quarter century later, this policy has failed. It led to a series of imperialist wars and interventions by the NATO powers, led by the United States, that shattered Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries. While costing millions of lives, destroying entire societies, and creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, these acts of militarism have produced debacles and failed to reverse US imperialism’s fortunes. Now, a new stage of the crisis has been reached: The United States’ imperialist rivals are preparing direct, far-reaching challenges to US imperialism’s global primacy.

Trump’s attempts at the G7 and NATO summits to secure better economic terms for the United States from Europe have backfired. He had blamed the Europeans for “not paying what they should be paying” for military spending in the NATO alliance, and denounced Germany as “terrible,” adding, “We will stop” German car exports to the US. Europe’s response was not sympathy and financial aid, however, but a series of actions indicating that the continental European powers are preparing for a political and military break with America.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a Munich beer tent rally Sunday, referred to both Trump’s performance at the summits and Britain’s vote to exit the European Union (EU): “The times when we could fully rely on others are to some extent over—I experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.” Going forward, she added, “we have to fight for our own future ourselves.”

Events in Europe over the past week confirmed that Merkel’s statement reflected a deep crisis in the NATO military alliance founded in 1949 between America and Europe. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that under Trump, Washington had cast itself outside the “Western community of values.” He added that this signaled “a shift in global power relations.”

Then newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, a close ally of Berlin, invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to a high-profile summit at Versailles. Standing next to Putin in a joint press conference, Macron criticized all the main US-EU foreign interventions in recent years. He called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine provoked by the 2014 US- and German-backed coup in Kiev, called for closer economic and intelligence cooperation with Russia and even floated the possibility of re-opening France’s embassy in Damascus, Syria.

Also this week, a new EU military headquarters in Brussels went into operation. Britain, which had blocked it in line with US fears that the EU would become a rival to NATO, could no longer veto it due to its exit from the EU.

Among US foreign policy strategists, it is widely acknowledged that these events mark a historic setback for Washington. “Every American administration since 1945 has tried to work closely with Germany and NATO,” Jacob Heilbrunn wrote in The National Interest, but America under Trump is “pushing Merkel to create a German superpower.”

Heilbrunn added, “Now that France has elected Emanuel Macron president, Merkel is moving to fashion a Franco-German axis that will pursue a common economic and military path. This will signal a significant diminution in American prestige and influence abroad. Imagine, for example, that Merkel decided to defy Trump’s push for sanctions and isolating Iran by establishing trade ties with North Korea, including selling it weapons.”

These tensions are not simply the product of the extreme nationalist policies of the current occupant of the White House, however. Indeed, as the Democratic Party relentlessly demonizes Russia and accuses it of subverting American democracy, it is ever clearer that a victory of Hillary Clinton in last year’s US presidential election would not have resolved the conflicts with Europe. Rather, the tensions are rooted in deep contradictions between the interests of the major imperialist powers, which twice in the last century led to world war.

This is underscored by the escalating rivalries between the imperialist powers in Asia. Last month, as China inaugurated its so-called Belt and Road Initiative—designed to build a web of energy and transport infrastructure integrating China, the Middle East, and Europe—Washington was reduced to a role on the sidelines, as China and the EU developed their ties. The response of Japan and India, Washington’s allies in its “pivot to Asia” aimed at isolating China, is not, however, fundamentally friendlier to US imperialist interests than that of the EU powers.

Last week, Tokyo and New Delhi released a “vision document” for an “Asia Africa Growth Corridor,” aiming to present an alternative to China’s Belt and Road that would develop India as a production-chain hub and military counterweight to China. The goal of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his supporters in the ultra-nationalist Nippon Kaigi organization is not only to outstrip China, but also to rearm Japan and supplant America as Asia’s dominant power.

Abe, whose government is pushing aggressively for the elimination of the constitutional ban on Japanese overseas wars imposed after its defeat in World War II, has repeatedly declared that an Indo-Japanese alliance has “the most potential” of any “in the world.”

The events surrounding Trump’s trip to Europe reflect a crisis not only of American imperialism, but of the entire world capitalist system. None of Washington’s rivals—neither the EU, despised at home for its austerity policies, nor the economically moribund, right-wing regime in Japan, nor the post-Maoist capitalist oligarchy in China—offer a progressive alternative.

Anyone who asserted that a coalition of these powers will emerge to stabilize world capitalism, and block the emergence of large-scale trade war and military conflict, would be placing heavy bets against history. As Trump demands trade war against Germany, Berlin and Tokyo re-militarize their foreign policy, and a new French president comes to power who supports restoring the draft, everything indicates that the ruling elites are tobogganing eyes closed towards a new global conflagration on the same—or an even greater—scale as the world wars of the last century.

The force that will emerge as the alternative to the collapse of bourgeois politics is the international working class. It is being driven into action by intolerable conditions of life, mass unemployment, and social misery after decades of austerity and war. And as corporations like Amazon and Apple, with vast workforces spread over dozens of countries, predominate in a globalized world economy, the working class is increasingly conscious of its character as an international class, whose interests are fundamentally separate and opposed to those of the financial aristocracies that rule in every country.

The collapse of international capitalist relations goes hand in hand with the discrediting of the various social democratic and liberal parties and trade union bureaucracies that emerged to contain the class struggle in the post-World War II era. The surprise vote for Brexit, the election of Trump and the disintegration of France’s two-party system in the recent presidential election testify to the collapse of the old ruling establishments. A global eruption of the class struggle is being prepared.

The crisis that has emerged has vindicated the International Committee of the Fourth International’s (ICFI) insistence that the Stalinists’ dissolution of the Soviet Union did not signify the end of the struggle of the international working class for socialism. Capitalism had not overcome the fundamental conflicts identified by the great Marxists of the 20th century—the contradictions between global economy and the nation-state system, and between socialized economic production and the private appropriation of profit—that led to war and to social revolution.

The way forward for the working class is revolutionary struggle on an internationalist and socialist program in the tradition of the October Revolution a century ago. Workers cannot support the militarist policies of any of the contending imperialist powers. The necessary response to the deepening crisis of global capitalism is the unification of the working class in struggle against imperialism through the building of a world socialist anti-war movement.

Alex Lantier

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/02/pers-j02.html