9 January 2008
Observations from the front line
That both a black man and a woman are the ‘front runners’ in the ‘race’ for the presidency speaks reams about the desperate state of the Union these days, not that the up-coming US election has much relevancy to anything of import but the illusion that voting every five years is a reflection of real democracy, has to be maintained.
And regardless of what the polls say, it’s obvious that the corporate press are pushing for an Obama win, perhaps because the Clintons are vulnerable to attack and also because Obama can be better sold as a ‘fresh face’, (no obvious skeletons in his closet). Yet look at who Obama has grouped around him—almost without exception they are all from the Cheney/Bush propaganda team.
As for the Republican race, it’s largely an internal affair as it’s pretty obvious that the power elite have decided that the people need a ‘rest’ from the Bush Gang (aka the Carter years following the Nixon debacle) before, hopefully, getting back to ‘business as usual’. The question however is whether there can ever be a return to business as usual.
So on the one hand we have Obama presented as Hope and Change to the public whilst the reality is that he is bought and sold by the same power elite who selected Bush. And on the other, Hillary Clinton, the ‘backup’ candidate, just in case.
Picking Obama/Clinton is a win-win solution, a stroke of marketing brilliance as there’s nothing to choose between the two candidates, so whether it’s Obama or Clinton who ‘win’ the nomination, matters little as long as one of them does (any viable alternatives have long been sidelined).
The important thing is that the populace are sold the idea that electing one or the other of these ‘brands’ sells the idea of Change and Hope. Thus whichever one ‘wins’ matters little, what’s important is the illusion that by voting for either of the two candidates heralds a new Era of Change, change from the disastrous rule of Bush and his gang of gangsters.
So what’s going on? Why have the US ruling elite taken such a drastic step as boosting both a black man and a woman for the next president, an event unprecedented in US electoral history?
The reasons for this abrupt turnaround should surely be obvious; number one is the economy and number two is the complete loss of legitimacy, something all the ‘advanced’ countries are experiencing. So, just as with the Carter years, they need the appearance of a clean break with the past.
Furthermore, it reveals a ruling class in disarray and divided over what to do. The Bush years, led by the alliance of the weapons, financial and energy sectors and until recently, a totally complicit corporate media, are caught in a paradox of their own making.
On the one hand in order to maintain hegemonic control of the global economy through unlimited access to resources and markets, meant the projection and use of overwhelming military power but in so doing it has undermined the economic basis of the rule of Capital, eg the $9 trillion government debt, the collapse of the credit system, itself the product of cutting social spending to the bone and depressing wages, so that millions of working people whose consumer spending kept the ‘wheels of industry’ turning can no longer afford to buy the products produced, not in the US but in China and other points East and South.
A closer look at the contradictions of deindustrialising the US reveals the nature of the paradox (ditto for its junior ‘partner’, the UK).
In order to maintain the level of profit US capital was forced to move production to low wage countries but in so doing they created another competitor, China to add to Japan and the European Union.
The process has been inexorable. For example, starting in the 1970s, local US production (concentrated in the Noryh and North-east) first moved to the Southern states then to Mexico and other points South, then onto Taiwan, then to places like South Korea and then Vietnam and finally China and India, creating new competitors along the way as inevitably, each move kick-started the Western-style industrialisation of these countries.
Parallel to the process of the globalisation of production and distribution, the financial sector has followed a similar pattern, aided by the deregulation (de-criminalisation) of all constraints on the fraudulent scams dreamed up by a host of financial whizzkids, all anxious to cash in on the cash cows of futures trading, ie hedge funds and speculation in currencies and all manner of what are euphemistically called financial instruments.
Ultimately, such fraudulent activities had to crash supported as they are by the domination of the so-called fiat currency, the dollar, which in turn held its dominance by being the only currency with which to buy oil. And as we have witnessed, once the dollar dived, losing over half of its value in the space of a decade, it makes the US economy even more vulnerable to its foreign competitors.
In turn this has meant that the US has had to rely on its military supremacy to maintain its ruling position, but without the economic power to support it, military force is ultimately useless, short of Armaggedon (and there’s no guarantee that in its final death spasms, US capitalism won’t decide to take us all down with it).
Which brings us back to Obama and the US ‘election’, which in reality amounts to little more than buying time and with no guarantee that a solution can be found to what appears to be the end of the road for the capitalist system.
There are of course those, on both the left and right, who argue that the sheer innovative power of capital will produce a solution, normally of a technological nature (eg, some kind of ‘fix’ for the climate crisis) but ultimately, all depend on capitalism being able to expand—find new markets, another revolution in production, destroy the competition and so on. But the world is finite, there are only so many markets, only so many new low wage countries that capital can relocate to in order to reproduce itself.
Added to this heady mix we now have the climate crisis, which I have long maintained the ruling class have been well aware of perhaps for decades and even hope that it will ‘solve’ the crisis of over-production/under-consumption, and furthermore ‘solve’ the problem of surplus labour without the need to initiate a Third World War (let Nature take the blame and do the dirty work on Capital’s behalf).
The dominant ruling classes of the ‘advanced’ countries hope they can ride out the conflagration and emerge triumphant into a world ‘cleansed’ of its competitors (just as it has before). This is the ‘Plan’, but will it work? Are they capable of forward thinking beyond the short-term ‘bottom line’? All the indications are that they are propelled by the forces of capital accumulation over which they have at best not only very little control but very little comprehension.
Karl Marx, who in a sane world should be their guru and guide, has been dismissed as irrelevant, yet the causes of the current situation was unpacked by the Master over one hundred and fifty years ago.
The $9 trillion question is whether capitalism has run out of road and if it has, what are the alternatives and even more importantly, are we in a position to implement them?
The irony of the situation is not lost on yours truly. Here we are, at the beginning of the 21st century, where the analyses of Marx are finally coming true but without a revolutionary movement to carry out the transformation.
Thus we have reached an historically unique moment for which we have no guide even though we can identify the forces which have led us to this situation, truly a paradox of global dimensions. No doubt in the fullness of time, new forces will emerge, some of which we are already witnessing but not in the so-called developed countries, the locations where they are really needed.
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