Political Decay and Economic Crisis: US Ruling Class Faced With No Easy Options

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Political Decay and Economic Crisis: US Ruling Class Faced With No Easy Options
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Political Decay and Economic Crisis: US Ruling Class Faced With No Easy Options. The discussion was initiated by kinglear.
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bourgeois decay

Congratulations to "Internationalism" on the excellent articles in their latest edition. The analysis of the bourgeoisie's contribution to recent environmental disasters in the US is convincing and blame is justly meted out. But it is the article about the political difficulties the ruling class in the States is facing with regard to the next presidential election, which filled my heart with glee. They are in deep shit, confusion and hysteria, and quite likely to achieve a result they definitely don't need ie the possibility of a right wing looney as president. Or, another result they don't need, a second term for the humanity-loving peace-loving Obama, who will be forced out of the closet to engage with vicious attacks on the working class. This is good. Why is it good? Because what our Italian comrades call "the phony war", whereby the working class obeys the Unions and adheres to bourgeois legality in it's struggles, and gets nowhere, will be seen for what it is more quickly. The class will cast off it's meek and mild, apologetic timidity in the face of bourgeois demands for more sacrifice, and go on the attack. And all that class consciousness which has been simmering underground for so long now, will burst out like a volcano. Solidarity will be the order of the day. The bourgeoisie will never know what hit it. Marxist theory will be proven in praxis. Hesitation will be over. Confidence regained!

Mmmm. I hope you're right

Mmmm. I hope you're right (assuming you're not being facetious). I'm not getting any sense of 'class consciousness simmering underground'. Yes, the bourgeoisie seem in deep shit, but in Britain, Russia, America .... there's no sign of a faction making left/radical noises in preparation to head off class struggle - and no real sign of such struggle. In Britain they're even cutting back on policing. Yes, there's a news black out on Spain/Greece - and yes, class struggle can be seen in the East, and yes there's social dislocation in North Africa/middle East. But given the hammering workers are taking internationally, I cant share your confidence. I'm still looking for a convincing explanation of this passivity, too. (But maybe Thursday's strike will indicate the wind's changing. Maybe.)

Dear Shug, I wasn't intending

Dear Shug, I wasn't intending to be facetious but now that you've indicated it's presence...maybe you're right. All I want to do is try and be optimistic in a situation where optimism seems low. It's childish really, like whistling in the dark. But I don't think anyone will be accusing you of optimism, so don't worry. And after yesterdays show of passivity (the June 30 processions) you are vindicated. No indication of wind change there. You are looking for an explanation of the passivity you see all around. Maybe the political decay, the decomposition, is now so advanced that any hope for a real fight back from the proletariat is no longer a possibility. But as you don't go for the "subterranean maturation of consciousness" idea, maybe you don't go for "decomposition" either: in which case I doubt you're going to get any explanation for class passivity that will be acceptable.

I really wasn't trying to be

I really wasn't trying to be Kent to your King Lear, or trying to have a go at you. Nor am I being willfully pessimistic (I hope). But "subterranean maturation of consciousness" smacks a bit of wishful thinking to me, and 'decomposition' doesn't seem either a particularly useful or necessary refinement of what our milieu understands as capitalist decadence.  Certainly, I dont accept the idea that 'decomposition, is now so advanced that any hope for a real fight back from the proletariat is no longer a possibility' - since accepting that would seem to mean abandoning Marxism both as a political programme, and as a tool for understanding the world. As for the idea that I'm not going to get any explanation for class passivity that would be acceptable, well, all I'm suggesting is we acknowledge the elephant in the room, and recognise that it needs analysis. What's happened to combativity in the West over the past 25/30 years (a generation)? Do we look at how debt has been used to mask the freezing of wages - tying workers at the individual level, or the use of immigration,  or the exporting of jobs to the East, or the destruction of both the Stalinist and the social democratic model - and if we look at such phenomena, are they universal - do they apply to both America and Russia for example? What is the global perspective - are we so fixated on a western capitalism that we are missing the bigger picture?  I'm really not trying to score points here - but there seems to be an issue that's worthy of debate.

Shug makes some good points

Shug makes some good points about needing an analysis of class passivity. Is this related to changes in the labor process itself, or as he mentions, captialist class strategies for assuaging the working class, such as massive consumer debt, etc.? What is the prospect for the continuation of this passivity now that the resort to massive consumer debt is more and more difficult to pull off? The ICC has often written about the disorienting effects of the campaign around the "death of communism" over the last 20 years, but has that really been the most important factor in blocking struggle or has it been the use of consumer debt (in the advanced countries at least)?

Shug, why don't you find the concept of decomposition particularly useful? Could you expand on what you mean when you say the idea of "subterrean maturation of consciousness" is "wishful thinking"?

I don’t know to what

I don’t know to what extent consumer debt is a factor – though an Anglo-centric perspective would suggest it is significant. But in Germany, Japan, Russia? I don’t know. Not too sure about the ‘death of communism’ effect, either. I suspect the domination of the neo-con programme is even wider than just exploiting that. The social democratic/welfare state template of the 20th century usefully, for class rule,  bound workers to their national capital – but also perpetuated a sense of collectivity that potentially was threatening. In the UK – ‘our’ British Rail, Post Office, Gas Board, NHS etc might have seen class struggle throughout their existence, but also engendered a sense of  ‘us/we’, some spurious but powerful sense of collectivity that has been stripped away by the nakedly dog-eat-dog neo-con ethos. It could be argued that class rule has become potentially more brittle because of this, but equally it could be argued that the bourgeoisie has looked at the balance of class forces and decided ‘feck it, we aint under threat at the moment – we can afford to cut back on the window dressing.’ What seems interesting is that the past 3 years have seen the obvious bankruptcy of the neo-con model and yet its ideology soldiers on – there is no obvious bourgeois alternative being offered, which, again, might suggest that there’s no perceived need to confound class struggle. I don’t find ‘decomposition’ useful as it doesn’t seem to add anything to the idea of capitalist decadence other than some sociological superstructure that was never in anyway denied by the original theory. ‘Subterranean maturation of consciousness’ seems to depend on subjective rather than objective analysis. Neither notion bothers me that much, but as a parasi.. (oops)  an outsider, they just seem to add another layer to what appears to be ICC holy writ.

The collapse of communism and

The collapse of communism and the "victory of capitalism" had a massive effect on the working class. Throughout its whole existence, the bourgeoisie of the west consciously used Stalinism as a weapon against the working class ("you want communism - there it is"), just as the other side to this was the defence of Russian capitalism and its eastern bloc satellites as "gains" of the revolution. Then when Russia and its bloc, to the surprise of almost everyone, collapsed in 1989, the western bourgeoisie eventually got itself together to consciously unleash a massive and incessant ideological campaign, one of the biggest I've seen,  to promote the victory of capitalism and the end of class struggle. It couldn't but have an overwhelming effect on the working class. We know where we are now though living through this victorious era of "peace and prosperity".

I don't think that optimism or pessimism is useful. But what revolutionaries should have, based not on wishful thinking or idealism but on the material history of their class, is confidence in its ability to rise to the occasion. And this can only come about from the deepening of the crisis and the unleashing of attacks on the class. Subterranean maturation of consciousness is another way of describing what Marx called "the old mole" and I think that this is perfectly valid and a part of the confidence and solidarity with the working class.

I think that in the above posts there's some underestimation of the actual movement unfolding before our eyes. As the ICC along with other elements of the communist left has been saying for some time, the bourgeoisie will be forced to impose savage and general attacks on working class conditions. These unprecedented attacks for generations are now underway and the response in Greece, Spain and Portugal from the working class has been interesting - particularly following the social movements in the Middle East and the Mahgreb and the youth movements in France 2006 and the UK last year. Hundreds of thousands of workers have come onto the streets with demands that are de facto internationalist (and explicitly internationalist in many isolated expressions). We are not seeing massive strikes like the isolated corporatist, nationalist, more or less doomed to defeat UK miners' strike of 1984 (and good riddance to such strikes) but a much more profound and widespread movement with enormous potential that is being expressed in Greece and Spain today involving great concentrations of generations of workers and their families coming together and refusing to support the national interest and refusing to support any of the bourgeoisie's political apparatus.

I don't at all underestimate the difficulties that the working class faces in these movements in order to put its clear independent stamp on the struggle - they are many - but to talk about the "passivity" of the working class faced with the developments of these movements (this movement) misses the point.

I thought the discussion of

I thought the discussion of passivity had more to do with the long period of "set-back" in the class struggle following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Interestingly, this period coincided with the explosion of consumer debt in the major Western countries (or Anglo-Saxon countries, as Shug point out). But that method of containing the working-class seems to have mostly reached its limit. What is the perspective now? Clearly though, and I think even the ICC admits this, the response from the working class had not been in proportion to the level of the attacks that are being carried out on it, especially not in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Of course, if they don't resolve the NFL "labor difficulties" soon, maybe the U.S. working class will notice what's happening to it? Any chance Man-U will go bankrupt soon?