I start any thinking on the economy by rejecting the capitalist parameters. Capitalism can be understood, it can be overcome. So when folks talk about the choice being the bailout or catastrophic financial collapse I won’t be defined by those options and the left shouldn’t either.
Lot’s of Republicans who voted against the bailout have raised some pretty strange views on socialism as reason for their resistance to it. Socialism is NOT bailing out banks. If this were actually a move to nationalize the banks instead of giving them a handout I might be more supportive. It is not, despite what some junior Congressmen may say. Nothing about this bill challenges capitalism.
The leaderships of both parties and the White House couldn’t get this through this time, not because of a knee-jerk American reaction against state intervention in the economy, but because it is rightly seen by a good deal of the public as $700 billion to get the fat cats out of the squeeze they got themselves into and they did not want to face an electorate in a few weeks this angry. There is real RAGE in the country at the minute. The government is trying to counter that rage with a campaign of fear.
When propelling the country into war in 2002 and early 2003 these same parties painted the invasion of Iraq as an either or as well. Either we invade Iraq or we will find out, in the form of a mushroom cloud, how wrong we were in not invading Iraq. Well, what a choice! They are now saying the same thing about the bailout and point to the 770+ point drop on Wall Street to prove it.
Never mind that many of these stocks are over valued anyway and much of the value in the market is based on speculation and, as was clear yesterday, emotion. Why all of a sudden this crisis? Was there no crisis before the bailout was rejected? Certainly the crisis in capitalism, not the vote in the House is responsible for the mess.
Now does that squeeze affect the rest of us? Sure, we live under capitalism- it always affects us. That is why workers have to take out loans to live; the capitalists have drove down wages so much over the last several decades that workers can’t live without debt. How about that catastrophe? We have been living under it for years now.
We do not have to abide by their arguments. If the government really wants the economy to improve for millions of workers they could start by using that $700 billion in massive public works; quality, free public housing, a new coast-to-coast public transportation system, a new public health clinic in every neighborhood, a program of environmental clean up and the retooling of the energy infrastructure for solar power would be a couple of good places to start.
I am sure that a “compromise” will be found and the bankers will get their money (did any one notice the $25 billion given to the auto companies over the weekend?). The capitalization of the credit markets is only a part of the problem. The fundamental problem in the economy is the driving down of wages and living standards for workers. This was the goal of neo-liberalism, and capitalism true to its contradictory form, has screwed itself while screwing the rest of us.
There are solutions to this mess but, in the medium and long run, they can’t be found in the dynamics of capitalism. Any real solution has to put these predatory practices out of business, not recapitalize them so they can start the awful process all over again. Nor is the solution simply in the stabilization of the finance markets- even an immediate infusion of capital into the banking system brings with it its own set of potential catastrophes (like a jump in inflation).
Unfortunately this isn’t the end of capitalism. There have been serious crises before. Capitalism has shown itself to be far more resilient than we have, at times, given it credit for. The lessons of the previous crises should be underlined. Without an organized working class in political opposition the capitalists have been able to get out of their crises on their terms.
The reforms that have been squeezed from that system in the past are a by-product of that opposition, their repeal a testimony to the lack of opposition. The creation of that class opposition is our task and it is urgent.
The left may not be able to affect the immediate outcome of the debate in Washington, but we can enter the debate around the country with our vision; the productive forces of our society developed by the producers themselves for the public good and not private enrichment.
If we don’t, at some point, win that debate we will forever hobble from crisis to crisis all the while the human and natural resources of the world are exhausted, bled white from the logic of capitalist accumulation. The currently posed “alternatives” are just more coal into the furnace of a runaway train. Either we stop this train or, at some point, it goes over a cliff.