Europe and U.S. have same problem: capitalism


The struggle against austerity is sweeping the U.S. and Europe. Not for decades have we seen such a surge of struggle in this part of the world. Moreover, the protest actions are massive and likely to increase in intensity and scope as time passes.

Prompting the surge is the economic crisis in general and the debt crisis in particular. Ruling circles on both sides of the Atlantic are attempting to offload government and private indebtedness onto the working class and its allies.

The most striking example is Greece, where the social democratic government in cahoots with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union has not once but twice squeezed huge concessions from the Greek people, despite massive nationwide protests. Elsewhere in the Atlantic world the assault isn't quite as draconian, but it is punishing nonetheless.

The refrain out of the mouths of the ruling elites irrespective of country is: the country is broke and there is no option but to cut wages of public sector workers, abrogate collective bargaining rights, and shed social programs that were won in earlier periods.

Don't buy this bill of goods!

This crisis is not a crisis of state finances. There is plenty of money if you look in the right places - the banks accounts of the investor class and, in the U.S. in particular, the budget of the Pentagon.

This is a crisis of capitalism. With each passing day it reveals its inability to meet the elementary living requirements of the working class in this era.

Indeed, the choreographers of the capitalist system on both sides of the Atlantic are attempting to shift onto the working class the costs of the reproduction of labor power, by which I mean the costs of livable income, education, health care, child and elder care, retirement security and more - all necessary to guarantee a fresh supply of labor for ongoing capitalist exploitation.

This is not a new feature of capitalism's mode of operation. It dates back to its beginnings. It is at the core of class and democratic struggles since capitalism emerged as a social system.

But what is unique about the current moment is that the major sections of capital in the U.S. and Europe believe that the debt crisis provides them with a golden opportunity to permanently and completely shift the costs of the reproduction of labor power to working people as well as to lacerate their fighting spirit.

But in shifting these costs there is an unintended consequence: it undermines the conditions for the reproduction of the system as a whole.

Why? Because a deeply impoverished working class and a hollowed out social safety net will severely restrain the already insufficient consumer demand for good and services, and thus block any recovery, even a weak one.

Whether the moneybags are able to impose their austerity plans is still to be decided. So far they have the upper hand.

In these circumstances, the role of the left here and elsewhere is to extend, deepen and, above all, unite the movement against the draconian plans of the ruling elites.

Such a task is as much practical as it is ideological. It is going to take tough nuts-and-bolts organizing and concrete initiatives along with efforts to bring clarity to tens of millions about the causes of and solutions to the capitalist economic crisis.

A core element of this struggle is the fight against racism and immigrant-bashing. Both are obstacles to working-class and people's unity. Both have the potency to ideologically and practically derail the building of a powerful multiracial labor-led people's movement. White and native-born people in general, and white and native-born workers in particular, must step to the forefront of the anti-racist and immigrant rights struggles, and in doing so create the conditions to roll back the austerity drive.

Photo: Capitalism's Greek tragedy: White masks are hung outside the Greek Parliament by protesters in Athens, July 7, to symbolize lawmakers who approved a new austerity package. AP/Petros Giannakouris


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  • There are a multitude of ways to address this ... but we need to look at root causes. It is my opinion that one of the major root causes is the amount and power of BIG money in our political system. How does one fix this? I would propose to cap ALL donations to policitians and political parties for ALL individuals, corporations, and organizations. And the amount of this cap needs to be indexed off of the minimum wage. So let's say 200% of minimum wage. So NO "ONE" can give more than $7.25 (current US minimum wage) *200 = $1,450 per year. So that means that me as an individual, Oracle as a corporation, "Restore Our Future" super PAC, AFL/CIO Union, etc. could only give a max of $1,450 per year, period. The index amount (the 200%) needs to require a super majority of VOTERS to approve the change (not politicians). So to change this amount, there would need to be a referendum placed on a national ballot and passed by a super majority of voters across the US. And EVERY political party or person would need to disclose every quarter who and how much was donated to them.

    What does this do? 1) it levels the playing field for everyone (doesn't matter if you are "super rich" or "poor"), 2) reduces the funds available to politicians, making them beholden to everyone, 3) drives politicians that want more money to raise the minimum wage as that would be "easier" than getting the 200% number changed.

    Just my thought...

    Posted by Mark, 05/31/2013 1:23pm (3 years ago)

  • Sorry I'm new to this site, but how exactly do you define capitalism? I have found if you ask this of 10 people you can get 10 wildly different answers.

    Conversely your definition of socialism would be helpful as well.

    Posted by Ben, 07/27/2011 5:56pm (5 years ago)

  • Excellent article. Capitalism is, of course, as Sam Webb says, the problem.

    Recently on CNBC, Joe Cernan took issue with the school his daughter attended. He thought the "positive" side of capitalism wasn't being presented.

    He made the statement that for 300 years capitalism had produced the highest standard of living the world has ever seen.

    Highest for whom?

    --child laborers in the coal mines
    --child laborers in the textile mills
    --piece worker in the NYC tenements
    --the tenant farmers in the south for a hundred years
    after the Civil War
    --the farmers in general
    --the factory workers who were beaten and killed when they demanded unions and a living wage

    The list is almost endless. Capitalism has produced the highest standard of living for those at the very top who control and own the means of production and wealth creation.

    So capitalism is indeed the problem.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 07/13/2011 5:36am (5 years ago)

  • For an oldie-but-goodie, even fun, reading. Lenin's Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat it. Written in the same 2-week period as his State and Revolution. Can you say writer's cramp!!?

    Posted by gary hicks, 07/12/2011 9:15pm (5 years ago)

  • A gobbly gook piece of intellectual mumbo-jumbo. When are you going to speak to the working "tobeys" of the world? Corporations are LOADED with cash but will not HIRE until more is squeezed from the working more and more hungry unemployed become available for less than minimum wage, we may see some reduction in unemployment. BY then. it will be too late. THE TIME IS NOW, viva Fidel.

    Posted by robert kolker, 07/12/2011 7:37pm (5 years ago)

  • If any of you follow the developments in Europe you know they are Socialist Countries. Their problem is their misguided ideas of the Welfare State. Even Marx had enough intelligence to declare,"Those who do not work do not eat!" Translated to economic realities the Working Class cannot support a Socialist Welfare State where- in 65% of a workers wages go to support people who will not work and expect others to support them and prop up the Ruling Elite (Managers).
    Do you as a working person feel you should now be taxed 65% of your wages to prop up an entitlement class of people who do not nor will not work?
    Maybe my ideas on Socialism are not like yours but mine demands all are working and contributing to the social order insteasd of sitting on their rears demanding more government services they contribute nothing towards.

    Posted by Chuckwagonchuckie, 07/12/2011 7:28pm (5 years ago)

  • This is a rough and ready article telling what we have to do.
    What is being done in the Party organization to make sure we support the fight against racist immigration, racist anti-Africanism and racist anti-Arab and Moslem bashing?
    Tell us how these varieties of racism make money and contribute to campaigns to fight workers' democracy and collective bargaining and organizing rights, in our cities, regions, states and in our country. Tell how decimated immigrants, African Americans, with all workers move from one setting to the next, to be decimated once again.
    The PW has an excellent article now telling about the contemporary history of the valiant,tremendous fight of the immigration movement, which with all labor is afoot.
    Pepe Lozano's article features Esau Melendez's outstanding film, IMMIGRANT NATION, with an excellent comment by Emile Schepers, stressing the working class weapon of direct action championed by immortals Gandhi and MLK.
    Lets tell each other to tell the whole working people to organize with direct action brothers and sisters to show the financial rulers that we demand jobs and peace now,
    and if we do not get them now, we will show by direct action that we will peacefully force them.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 07/12/2011 2:07pm (5 years ago)

  • To be blunt, I have been critical of Sam Webb's strategic orientation for the party in recent years, and particularly in relation to Obama and the Democrats. But I have to say that this really is an excellent, excellent piece, which reminds us of the most fundamental set of issues that Marxists must unite around. Great article - I hope it circulates widely.

    Posted by krasnaya zvezda , 07/11/2011 10:56am (5 years ago)

  • Hi
    Wonderfully said, top to bottom. Well done!

    We should probably keep in mind that capitalism in a RESULT of something else. Using economies (money, ownership, and price tags). Not a single other living creature on the entire planet... uses economies. Why do capitalists?

    We ALL see the pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA one dollar bill. We ALL see the servitude infestation in capitalism. We ALL see the "pay up or lose your wellbeing" Chicago mob-like felony extortion widespread within capitalism. We ALL see the "join or starve" felony extortion done to the 18 year olds... by this ugly competer's church called capitalism. We ALL see how forcing competer's religions onto 18 year olds, and/or LURING them into it with bling-dangling and promises of empowerments... kills membership in the cooperator's church (Christianity/socialism). We ALL understand that AmWay (American Way) (New World Order) got "the exclusive" (legal tender) on the TYPE of survival coupons (money) accepted in supply depots (stores) and leverages 18 year olds into the organization via that felony activity. (It puts AmWay-coupon slaving requirements called price tags... on all the survival goods). We ALL understand how sure-to-collapse farmyard pyramids work... from our childhoods. Upper 1/3 are "heads in the clouds" while the kids on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world's knees in their backs. And, we ALL see how such systems are illegal, immoral, and just plain sick.

    We American Christian socialists are patiently awaiting the natural fall of the pyramid-o-servitude, or the busting of the free marketeers felony... by the USA Dept of Justice. We Christians are VERY CLOSE to issuing a cease and desist order until the servitude and inequality goes away... which means it turns into a commune. Commune is a word we LOVE when used in the word "community"... but its one the caps HATE when used in the word "commune-ism". Go fig. PROGRAMMED!!

    Isn't that back-of-the-dollar pyramid... a Columbian freemason symbol? And WHERE is the USA gov located? District of Columbia? (Not even part of the USA!) How much more blatant can ya get? The "Fed" runs a pyramid scheme called the free marketeers. If you're using the "federal reserve note" certificates, or using no-other-living-thing-on-the-planet entitles of ownership, you're bought into a servitude/slavery con/sham... called capitalism. Pyramiding 101.

    Again, excellent job, Sam Webb. You have your head on straight and you're my kind of people.

    Larry "Wingnut" Wendlandt
    MaStars - Mothers Against Stuff That Ain't Right
    Bessemer MI USA

    Admin: For us folk who use black backdrops in Windows, your comment form and captcha form... are black text on black backdrop. This is because its missing CSS color settings. Please repair. Thanks.

    Posted by Wingnut, 07/09/2011 10:31am (5 years ago)

  • Good analysis, yes capitalism is the problem and the dying system is discarding many of us (along with the environment) like ballast on a sinking ship. The question is what are we, as Communists, going to do besides point it out on a web site? What did our party do in the last Great Depression? Do we continue to back Dems even as they cut our throats and the vital entitlements on which our lives depend? Would we back a progressive alternative candidate or even run a Communist Candidate? Do we organize the army of the unemployed by having socials and handing out food and literature to build community in the streets? Do we take a lesson form the Greek Comrades and unite with others to lead a militant fightback?

    Posted by Al M, 07/09/2011 6:59am (5 years ago)

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