[Marxism] Notes on the Debt Ceiling Debate Scam

Lynn and Cindy lynncindy at comcast.net
Mon Jul 18 08:50:30 MDT 2011

Notes on the Debt Ceiling Debate Scam

By Lynn Henderson

In an article I wrote almost a year and a half ago for Socialist 
Viewpoint, Obama's No Deal, New Deal, I indicated that: "U.S. 
capitalism will use the present crisis itself to dramatically 
intensify the class war against America's middleclass/working 
class. Use it to 'reform' what they now label 'entitlements'. Cut 
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other hard won social 
gains.  Use the crisis to drive real wages even lower."  We are 
certainly seeing that and much more to come. How do they hope to 
accomplish this?  The Democratic and Republican parties are now in 
the midst of a manufactured "crisis" and phony debate on extending 
the debt ceiling.  It is a smokescreen.  Despite all the 
rhetorical name calling and posturing,  it's hard to imagine a 
time when the two ruling class parties of American capitalism have 
been in more complete agreement on every major political question, 
foreign and domestic -- especially on the need to impose an 
austerity regime based on slashing social spending and further 
cutting wage costs.

They also know these actions will produce anger, frustration and 
potential social unrest.  So they want to do it in as confusing 
and indirect way as possible.  They want to prevent the 
fingerprints of either party being too exclusively and too 
directly on the results.  They want to create a narrative in which 
they were forced against their will to take actions and make 
"compromises" which while painful were necessary and responsible 
and for the good of the entire nation.  But most of all they want 
to maintain the illusion that there are major philosophical and 
practical political difference between the two parties.  As anger 
and resistance grow they want to keep any response within the 
confines of capitalist electoral politics.  They remember the 
danger during the Vietnam War, even if others do not, when 
resistance got out of the confines of capitalist electoral 
politics and into the streets. They hope to use the present phony 
debate on the debt ceiling as a vehicle for furthering these 

What has been surprising to everyone is how tepid the response has 
been in the world working class to the attacks that have already 
occurred and those that are clearly in the works. Those of us who 
consider ourselves to be revolutionary socialists have to take a 
hard analytical look at this and probe its roots.

The biggest defeat the world working class ever suffered was the 
victory of Stalinism in the first workers state created by the 
1917 Russian Revolution.  Even we who trace our roots back to the 
Left Opposition and Leon Trotsky, who dissected the nature of 
Stalinism and its implications for revolutionary developments, 
tend to underestimate the impact of this defeat today.  In the1938 
Transitional Program Trotsky wrote: "There are now only two 
possible courses for the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet 
Union; either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the 
world bourgeoisie in the workers' state, will overthrow the new 
forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or 
the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to 

When more than 50 years later the former part of Trotsky's 
prediction became a reality not only for the Soviet Union but for 
the workers state in China as well, it did not come as an 
unexpected shock to us.  But for most of the world working class 
with little understanding of the nature of Stalinism it certainly 
did, with the strong implication that socialism seemed to have 
failed and could no longer be considered a viable alternative. 
Because we had recognized for so long the counter revolutionary, 
capitalist thrust of Stalinism, I believe we have underestimated 
the devastating impact the playing out of its final act has had on 
the world working class.

The dramatic decrease in seeing socialist solutions as a viable 
alternative to capitalist crisis disorientates and short-circuits 
the development of effective resistance to the escalating ruling 
class attacks.  This is true even at the level of pure trade union 
activity.  Virtually all past militant trade union upsurges in 
U.S. history contained and were dependent on a significant 
anti-capitalist, socialist current - the Molly McGuires, the 
I.W.W., the rise of the C.I.O. etc.  Often these anti-capitalist, 
socialist currents had flaws - ultra-leftism, syndicalism, 
Stalinism but were never the less essential.  This anti-capitalist 
socialist content is even more decisive today.  Trade union 
struggles and strikes can not succeed on pure bread and butter 
issues but will have to move almost immediately to broader social 
and political questions. Today this socialist current is 
dramatically absent.

In Europe we see the beginnings of more resistance, but even in 
Greece it is confused and diffuse.  In Greece, Spain, and Portugal 
the capitalist parties and leaders that are imposing the most 
draconian austerity measures all call themselves socialist.  We of 
course know they have nothing to do with socialism but for workers 
everywhere they are the most visible and almost only example of 
"socialist" politics they are exposed to.

In the U.S., middle class liberals are beginning to openly grumble 
their disappointment with Obama and his policies; no doubt this 
sentiment will grow.  The Black Princeton professor Cornel West 
who did 65 campaign events for Obama now expresses his bitter 
disillusionment by describing Obama as "a black mascot of Wall 
Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.  And 
now he has become head of the American killing machine and is 
proud of it."  West says he can not in "good conscience" ask 
people to vote for Obama again - except, he adds, if the 
alternative is really bad. To liberals the Republican alternative 
always turns out to look really bad. Liberals and liberalism have 
never been an independent force in American society, especially 
when there was no radical organized left and militant trade union 
movement which they could piggy-back off of.  Historically their 
primary role has been that of working to assure such movements 
remained in the confines of Democratic Party electoral politics. 
They will not and cannot initiate, let alone lead, resistance to 
the growing ruling class assaults.

In the past our political current has characterized this epoch as 
dominated by a "crisis of leadership".  That is, capitalism was 
rotten ripe for socialist revolution but the principle element 
lacking was a revolutionary leadership.  I believe the crisis 
today is broader than that.  We face not only a "crisis of 
leadership" but also a "crisis of ideology".  A major task of 
revolutionary socialists today is rescuing socialist ideology from 
its massive Stalinist defeat and convincing crucial segments of 
the world working class that it is not only a realistic but 
indispensable alternative to the growing capitalist crisis.  It is 
hard to envision the emergence of an effective fight back without 

                                          July 11, 2011

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