“Millions of Black people have been funneled into the mass Black incarceration state as a means to account for the disposability of their labor and the threat that their resistance has historically posed to the system at large.”
The ruling class has screamed “Russia did it” for over two years since Donald J. Trump became President of the United States. There are many reasons to loath the “Russia did it” narrative. First, there is no solid evidence of the claim that Russians influenced the 2016 elections no matter how many times it is peddled as verifiable fact. Second, the hysteria over Russia has dangerous, potentially nuclear roots in the massive buildup of NATO’s military equipment, troops, and operations along the Russian border. Third, Russia has absolutely nothing to do with the disastrous conditions facing working class and oppressed people here in the United States. While the latter two reasons to loath the panic over Russia are no less important, the third requires more attention than what has been paid so far by the so-called “left” in the US.
The US ruling class privately owns the most ruthless form of imperialism to date. For the last forty years, the concentration of wealth and profit in the hands of ever fewer numbers of capitalists has been achieved through an all-out assault on the concessions won by workers and oppressed people over the last century. The “Janus” ruling made by the Supreme Court in late June only added insult to injury by legally ridding of the “closed shop” in the public sector. Open shops strip unions of their obligation to collect dues from workers and are a boss’ dream.These “free for all” unions become starved for cash and unable to effectively fight the boss, effectively paving the way for their demise. Black Americans are more likely to form unions and work in the public sector than anyone else and thus will be hurt most by the ruling.
“Open shops strip unions of their obligation to collect dues from workers and are a boss’ dream.”
Wall Street is hungrier than ever to break the remaining unions in the country. Over the last forty years, union density has dropped dramatically. Barely ten percent of workers in the US are organized in a union and most of these workers reside in the public sector. The assault on teachers and municipal workers residing in mostly poor, Black communities ultimately laid the basis for Janus. However, privatization and the anti-union assault conducted by finance capital does not exist in a vacuum. The assault is an inevitable product of US capitalist relations.
Russia is implicated in the crisis of capitalism in a key way. No, Putin did not hack the US capitalist economy and decide to divert all wealth toward the coffers of people like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Rather, it was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that paved the way for high-tech, debt-reliant global capitalism to reach its most acute phase of stagnation and crisis. The presence of the Soviet Union made the socialist bloc a true competitor on the global stage. Social movements in capitalist countries possessed far more leverage to gain concessions from capitalists with the Soviet Union around. Capitalists feared that the Soviet Union’s socialist model would spread to their backyards without a relatively robust welfare state. While US imperialism was busy fighting socialism abroad beginning after the Russian Revolution of 1917, it spent just as much time repressing and appeasing any social movement that arose to ensure domestic tranquility and safety from the scourge of socialism.
“Capitalists feared that the Soviet Union’s socialist model would spread to their backyards without a relatively robust welfare state.”
After 1991, US-led global capitalism had already built a high-tech military machine and a system of production that was unable to absorb the fruits of its ever more efficient labor. The system of capitalism effectively became a system of corporate elimination as the fall of the Soviet Union gave finance capital even more territory from which to seek lucrative investment opportunities. Free-trade agreements and automation not only devalued US labor but also began to eliminate labor en masse. Unions were broken, wages were lowered, and finance capital began to rely on credit to bankroll production and consumption. The process of corporate elimination had truly begun.
Ruling class investment in technology under capitalism serves a contradictory purpose. While technology speeds production and the exploitation of labor, it also leads to the devaluation of labor. Workers become more and more impoverished and unable to absorb the alienated fruits of their labor. Finance capital has attempted to ameliorate the situation with credit. Credit, however, only provides a temporary resolution to an irreconcilable problem. In a rapid race to the bottom, capitalists are investing in labor saving technology at a rate that is sending the system into more frequent and harsher crises on top of the general condition of stagnation that exists.
“Free-trade agreements and automation not only devalued US labor but also began to eliminate labor en masse.”
Recent reports from monopoly giants like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart verify the irrefutable fact that capitalism cannot resolve its own contradictions. McDonald’s is well-known for paying low-wages. Yet its profits have declined, leading the monopoly to automate its lowest paid workers out of existence. Wal-Mart has recently installed a surveillance system capable of recording the conversations of its cashiers. The goal is to not only control workers and stop them from organizing but also ensure that the maximum amount of surplus value is extracted from their labor. This trend is coming for every worker. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, thirty million more jobs will be automated out of existence by 2030. As some have pointed out, many of these jobs are purposeless anyway, serving only to keep the worker alive on a meager subsistence level.
A US war with Russia, Syria, Iran, and China will do nothing to stop the US ruling class from replacing variable capital with constant capital, or in non-Marxist terms, wage labor with robot labor. The old liberal adage that workers should be compensated for productivity has never been true. Labor is only compensated because it has only itself to sell. The amount that labor is compensated depends on what it needs to reproduce itself, the rate of exploitation, and the level of struggle waged against capital by laborers who become dissatisfied with their conditions. With only a small fraction of workers organized at all, capital has full leverage to take all possible measures to accumulate profit before the next crisis shrinks the size of the ruling class even further.
“Wal-Mart has recently installed a surveillance system capable of recording the conversations of its cashiers.”
The word elimination can be applied to many aspects of the capitalist crisis and not just to the permanent automation of large sections of workers. However, automation and economic stagnation are intricately related to the other forms of elimination that the ruling class has ruthlessly pursued over the last four decades alone. Millions of Black people over this period have been funneled into the mass Black incarceration state as a means to account for the disposability of their labor and the threat that their resistance has historically posed to the system at large. The US military state has simultaneously imposed a state of siege over sovereign peoples in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, which has led to the overthrow of dozens of democratically-elected governments and the deaths of tens of millions. As the capitalist system has plunged further into crisis, its state apparatus has become increasingly more repressive and brutal in its methods of social control.
None of this is Russia’s fault. In fact, Russia has been the target of the same military-industrial complex currently protecting the robber barons of our day from those whom they have looted and oppressed. This makes Russian President Vladimir Putin a convenient object of scorn. Putin is viewed by most self-titled liberals and progressives as a white supremacist, an “authoritarian,” and the mastermind behind the 2016 election. That’s because the US ruling class wants to eliminate him, too.
Regardless of what one thinks of Russia or Putin, neither should be considered enemies of the poor or oppressed in the US. This privilege should be reserved for the class of six individuals who own more than half the world’s wealth and the state apparatus that protects them. The corporate media and the two-party state will continue to shriek and howl about the threat Russia poses to US “democracy.” Yet it is US “democracy” that poses the real existential threat to human existence, itself. This mother of all contradictions is set to reach a breaking point; the only questions are when this point will occur and whether the progressive and revolutionary forces of the world will be prepared to seize the time.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: The Fake News of US Empire (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected]