The Real Movement

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How the DSA is responding to the pandemic emergency – II

Continued from here

Now, here’s a question: if you agree with the DSA on this basic analysis, why would you have anything to do with this group of losers?

Basically the DSA is saying that in six months to a year things will settle down and life will pretty much be the way it was before the pandemic. That means, in six months to a year the folks who run this shit will still be running this shit and people like the DSA will still be carrying their water. Why would you want to be a water carrier when you can be a player?

I’m just trying to figure out how these folks brains work.

The answer must hinge on the idea that as the economic position of the working class deteriorates, it will become radicalized. However, with the exception of Andrew Kliman, who has his own peculiar method of calculating such things, I know of no economist who argues that the economic position of the working class has been improving for the last forty years. Every other economist seems to agree the economic position of the working class has been declining the entire time.

Yet there is no evidence that the working class has been politically radicalized by this decline. Even if we leave aside electoral politics, historical evidence of labor militancy have almost vanished in the last 40 years. Strikes are almost non-existent today, labor union membership and organization has collapsed; and not just in the United States but across the world market.

It is possible that declining economic position of the working class has not led to their increasing militancy, because their declining economic position is itself a product of their declining militancy and organization. We are then forced to explain the common source of both the declining militancy and the declining economic position of the working class.

The most likely explanation regularly cited in the literature is a persistent superabundance of workers relative to the demand for labor power in the market. This superabundance would tend to undercut both the wages of the working class and the class solidarity necessary to support labor organization and unity of the working class.

*****

But what does this mean about the present pandemic emergency?

Nothing fucking good, I can tell you that.

Even if we assume, for sake of argument, that the authors of the DSA People’s Recovery program are absolutely correct and the system overall survives, so that, in six months or so, wage slavery will basically be intact and functioning as before, the economic position of the working class will have deteriorated violently and traumatically.

The superabundance of the working class relative to the demand for labor power may have increased as much as ten-fold or twenty-fold, shattering all possibility of labor militancy. Two, perhaps three times as many workers will be unemployed as belong to the unions associated with the AFL-CIO. While the system overall may survive as the authors argue, the economic position of the working class will be fundamentally impaired permanently.

And, to be clear, this is not a situation that is likely to be reversed by a new expansion of capitalist accumulation any more than the Great Depression was, because, like the Great Depression, what passes for a recovery will come on top of an already existing crisis of absolute overaccumulation of capital that is already clearly shown in the growing gluts in food production, the oil industry, auto production, etc..

It helps to remember that the absolute overproduction of capital in the 1930s was resolved only by the wholesale destruction of the productive forces during World War II.

Moreover, it is highly unlikely that most nation states are going to attempt to stimulate their way out of this economic catastrophe. They have neither the inclination nor the means. And, as the OPEC dispute shows, it is unlikely they will achieve some sort of negotiated shut down of excess productive capacity.

This means, after a severe collapse of global economic activity of 30% to 40% or more in this emergency, we may see a modest bounce back of 5-15% in the first year, before things settle down in the 2% to 5% growth range for as far as the eye can see.

We are, therefore, looking at decades of 10-20% unemployment, if we are lucky. Such chronic superabundance of workers beyond any conceivable need for human labor power is hardly the suggestive of a new upsurge in working class militancy.

Continued here

How the DSA is responding to the pandemic emergency

I was listening to a speculator on one of the business channels this morning who described the stock market rally of recent weeks this way (paraphrasing):

The real economy is in dire shape, but we know this. The stock market is a discounting mechanism for this. It is looking beyond the present information into the future. In that future I see the UK stock market going to 7000 before it goes to 5000. (It is presently at around 6000.)

This made me think of the proposed People’s Recovery program of the Democratic Socialists of America that I read last night. It might help to look at the People’s Recovery program as a discounting mechanism and ask ourselves what members of the DSA are discounting.

Clearly, the authors of this document are discounting the present dire situation, which is only natural from their viewpoint. They are saying to the rest of us, essentially,

“No matter how the Trump administration and the other nation states screw things up, the system overall will survive.”

And, there is no doubt about it, the fascists have screwed things up. They have interrupted the capitalist accumulation process, they have shut down the global economy. Despite this massive fuck up, the authors of this program think in six months to a year or so wage slavery will basically be intact and functioning as before. The present pandemic emergency barely calls for any change in the DSA program at all.

So, everything listed in the proposed People’s Recovery program of the DSA is more or less the same as what the DSA demanded before the pandemic:

  • Medicare for All and total medical debt forgiveness.
  • A healthcare jobs program.
  • Workplace protections and a jobs guarantee.
  • A rent freeze and an eviction moratorium.
  • A homes guarantee.
  • Protections for all workers.
    • 30 days paid sick leave for each and every worker
    • hazard pay and benefits for all workers whose services will remain essential through the crisis
  • End the deadly Cuba blockade and drop all sanctions.
  • Close the border camps, end cash bail, abolish prison labor, and make inmate phone calls free.

The authors did add two demands, apparently:

  • Full staffing at the San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Safe staffing at the San Francisco Unified School District

But even these two demand assume the continued existence of SFDPH and SFUSD in an otherwise unaltered state.

*****

There are two things to say about the DSA authors’ view of what this pandemic emergency has wrought:

First, the DSA authors are not saying the situation isn’t dire at present. Instead, they are saying that no matter how dire it is, the system as a whole will survive. Which means, Trump may be reelected or be gone; Biden may replace him or fail to win the election. In any case, no fundamental change will occur in the mode of production. It will chug along as before and stumble from one crisis to another as before.

Second, the DSA authors are assuming generally deteriorating economic conditions for the working class — including long-term job losses, persistent homelessness, a large-scale medical emergency, constant threat of job-related medical hazards, rising threat of war and international tensions and growing antagonism against migrants. This deterioration of the economic position of the working class is not inconsistent with the continued survival of the system, but an expression of the continued survival of the system.

In fact, the DSA program should not be thought of as a program at all. It is actually a snapshot of the United States taken three months ago and projected six months to a year into the future. Preexisting trends with which we are already familiar will be exacerbated, of course, but, aside from this, nothing fundamental will change.

We could call the proposed DSA program a description of the United States with unmitigated pandemic emergency measures.

Continued here