September 2, 2023
From The Militant

U.S. Air Force bombers and South Korean warplanes in drills, South Korea, March 19. As tensions rise, both Democrats and Republicans back U.S. rulers’ preparations for wars to come.
South Korean Defense MinistryU.S. Air Force bombers and South Korean warplanes in drills, South Korea, March 19. As tensions rise, both Democrats and Republicans back U.S. rulers’ preparations for wars to come.

The centerpiece of President Joseph Biden’s reelection campaign is denouncing former President Donald Trump and his supporters as “MAGA Republicans” and hailing the four indictments against his Republican opponent. Democrats, Never-Trump Republicans and the middle-class left are determined to drive Biden’s main opponent out of the race. Otherwise, they fear Trump will win in 2024.

To accomplish their goal, the White House and its allies have targeted freedom of speech and other key constitutional protections. Working people need these freedoms to speak out about and organize against the attacks of the bosses and their two political parties. And to fight against the rising threat of more wars as capitalist competition and rivalries sharpen.

Despite their best efforts, the pro-Democratic Party media are finding it hard to make it look as if what they call “Bidenomics” has created an economic recovery. Some 5.2 million workers who want a job aren’t able to get into the labor force today, and a further 4 million work part time because they can’t get full-time work. Biden claims to have created more jobs than any other president, but the percentage of working age people actually holding a job is a mere 60.4%, below pre-pandemic levels.

Real wages have declined for 26 of the past 29 months, under the impact of rising prices and bosses’ push to hold down wages and attack unions. Workers looking to start a family, or who are trying to sustain one, face mounting difficulties. Rents have soared by 30.5% since 2019, and eviction orders are 50% higher than three years ago in several major cities.

These conditions are aggravated by a drop in world manufacturing output, which slumped to its lowest level in three years in July. The slowdown is especially severe in China, the world’s leading manufacturer, but it’s also marked in France, Germany and Italy, the three largest manufacturing powers in Europe. Sharpening competition for markets and investments among rival capitalist ruling classes drive them to step up attacks on wages, jobs and working conditions.

As U.S. bosses take aim at workers, more of us have begun using our unions. Workers are going on strike for wages that match price hikes and against boss demands for multitier contracts, life-threatening speedup, forced overtime and unlivable work schedules. In the face of deteriorating living standards, millions of working people say they would like to join a union.

Biden and Trump, and all the other Democratic and Republican politicians tell us to rely on them, that they’ll fix up the economy. But in a system founded on the exploitation of the vast majority by a handful of capitalist ruling families, what they really mean is protecting the bosses’ profits at all costs.

This reality is cast aside by the middle-class left in their drive to keep Democrats in the White House. The Communist Party hailed the AFL-CIO’s early 2024 endorsement of Biden, calling for a “people’s front against the MAGA right,” and a vote against Trump “all the way down party tickets.”

Independent working-class action

A course to defend workers’ interests starts with relying on ourselves and our unions in the mines, mills, factories and other workplaces.

“The destructive effects of unemployment and price rises can be fought by the unions,” Laura Garza, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California, told the Militant  Aug. 29. “The SWP campaigns for the labor movement to demand cost-of-living adjustments in every contract and all benefits, so when prices rise our wages go up automatically. A union-led fight for 30 hours work for 40 hours pay is needed to share the work available around and prevent layoffs.”

Garza has built support for striking hotel workers and others in Los Angeles and across the country. “As working people fight together we begin to see more clearly the interests we share with fellow workers here and around the world,” she said.

That’s the opposite starting point of the Democratic and Republican parties. Both uphold the interests of the U.S. capitalist rulers. Like their rivals, the U.S. rulers are expanding and upgrading their military. Washington is determined to strengthen and to extend its military might and alliances in the Pacific, throughout the semicolonial world and elsewhere to counter the influence of Beijing.

Some commentators in the capitalist press and among the military brass fear Washington is ill-prepared for the inevitable wars that lie ahead.

In the Wall Street Journal, commentator Walter Russell Mead complains that after the Cold War “too many American policy makers forgot that our adversaries are impressed by our will and power rather than our virtue.” He contrasts this to how the U.S. rulers acted after they emerged victorious at the end of World War II. Then they recognized “it didn’t matter how many inspiring ideas went into the Atlantic Charter … if the U.S. and its allies couldn’t defeat Germany and Japan on the ground.” Power, not diplomacy, was and remains crucial.

Failure to wield military power ruthlessly led to Washington’s defeat in Vietnam, says Mackubin T. Owens, a retired Marine officer and professor at the Naval War College. Writing in the Spring edition of Claremont Review, Owens argues the U.S. defeat in Vietnam was “the result of hesitancy and squeamishness about wartime tactics.”

In fact, the U.S. rulers did  inflict death and devastation on a vast scale in their attempt to defeat the Vietnamese people’s victorious battle for independence. Owens says that even more lethal force should have been used. Capitalist morality is defense of profits at all costs, regardless of the brutality and bloodletting involved.

Owens’ comments, and Meads’, reflect renewed debate about what the rulers must be willing and able to do to defend their predatory interests in conflicts unfolding today and in the more bloody battles that lie ahead.

“Workers need our own foreign policy,” Garza said, “one that places the interests of workers here and fellow workers around the world above the plunder and wars of the U.S. rulers and their rivals.”

“The only road to prevent future wars, and the threat of nuclear catastrophe, is for working people to take the power to make war out of the hands of the capitalist class,” she said, “as working people did in Cuba.”

“We need to build a vanguard party of the working class to lead millions to carry through a socialist revolution in the U.S., to end exploitation and join hands with fellow workers worldwide to build a world free of hunger, oppression and war.”