It’s good that there are now plenty of young people that like the idea of socialism. But if they don’t really know what socialism is, they also don’t know what capitalists will do to resist it.
President Trump continues to toy with the idea of declaring a “national emergency” to push through his border wall and end the federal government shutdown. There does, indeed, exist a national–and global–emergency of the highest order: the crisis of late stage capitalism that has concentrated wealth and power in the hands of an ever-shrinking oligarchy of rich white men who are determined to render the public sector useless for any purpose other than the further enrichment of their class.
Even in the absence of contrived “emergencies” like the periodic, mostly Republican-triggered federal shutdowns (21 since October, 1976), those sectors of government that serve human needs have been systematically starved of funds and otherwise programmed to fail in their missions in order to discredit the very idea of public intervention in the capitalist order. From their penthouse lairs and private island redoubts the Lords of Capital manufacture crises to force wounded publics to choose privatized elixirs for collective pain. The end result is gentrified cities, ethnically cleansed of the Black and brown poor, and a citizenry hopelessly mired in debt and employment insecurity, sicker and shorter-lived than their counterparts in the rest of the developed world, yet footing the yearly trillion-dollar bill to keep the U.S. military bombing and occupying much of the planet under the fatal umbrella of a doomsday nuclear terror machine.
But, there are limits to such monstrous, criminal diversions. When the problem is capitalism, itself, the system provides no solutions, but only deeper contradictions and a profound crisis of legitimacy, in which the rulers themselves proclaim a state of general failure. Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan, although crafted to channel white rage and fear into GOP votes at the ballot box, is a shrieking admission of national decline. Trump arose as the ultimate logic of almost a generation of endless, bipartisan austerity and war that has drained the populace of any prospect of a general improvement in their condition. Corrosive despair pervades the nation, and even white supremacists (a majority of whites in the U.S.) know that the rich have rigged the game.
Having won the class war, there is no countervailing force to stop the hegemonic rich from indulging their worst instincts and excesses, which leads them to blunder after arrogant blunder. Through their control of both electoral parties and the media, the Lords of Capital decree a downward-looking future of ever-tightening belts for the masses, while at the same time wildly celebrating stratospheric corporate stock values and concentrations of individual wealth unheard of in human history. The people see that the very earth moves for Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, who demands billions in tribute from local tax revenues for the privilege of hosting his corporate headquarters–but austerity is the order of the day for the rest of us.
The corporate media did not inform the American people that they no longer have any claim to living in the “greatest country on earth,” but the Internet taught them the truth of their poverty relative to western Europe and, by some measures, even some Asian countries. Americans now know that state-provided health care is the norm in the developed world; consequently, they feel deprived and underdeveloped, cheated. They begin to grasp that austerity is not just about gutting welfare for the “undeserving” classes, but is the policy that compels both Democratic and Republican leadership to say “No” to Medicare for All, an idea supported by 85 percent of Democrats, most independents and over half of Republicans.
Young people of all races understand that they are poorer than their parents, and that the rulers have no vision of a way out for their generation. If this is what capitalism is about, they want no part of it. A Gallup poll shows 51 percent of 18 to 29 year olds have positive views of “socialism,” while only 45 percent prefer “capitalism.” Blacks of all ages have long been even more amenable to socialism.
The truth is, what passes for socialism, thanks to Bernie Sanders and others, is actually New Deal liberalism, programs designed to save capitalism from itself by distributing some benefits and services to the masses. But the Lords of Capital decades ago threw down the gauntlet and swept the crumbs for the masses off the table, decreeing austerity forever and allocating ever-higher proportions of the federal budget to the military. Capitalism divested itself of as much of its working class as possible in the developed countries, and exported jobs and whole industries to the Global South, expecting to somehow hold onto world power on the strength of finance capital and the U.S. military, and to further enrich themselves domestically by privatization of public services and imposition of all manner of corporate fees and rents on every aspect of life. Austerity is organized thievery, unbound–to which the young say, give us “socialism,” whatever that is.
Socialism has become the catch-all for anti-capitalism. Maybe it always was, in the minds of most people.
There is anti-capitalism in great abundance, and although there is not nearly enough anti-war fervor in the capitalist heartland, there is not much pro-war sentiment, either. The military-industrial-national security complex found that out, to their horror, when presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed an end to wars of regime-change and better relations with Russia–and his racist white base didn’t blink an eye! If Trump’s crowd isn’t the natural base for the War Party, then who is? The Russiagate scam is, to a large degree, a desperate bid to rekindle militarism in America. Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is dancing to “War, What Is It Good For (Absolutely Nothing),” and musing about raising corporate taxes to 70 percent.
That ain’t socialism, either, but it’s a harbinger of growing space on the Left. The AOC “socialists” have no idea what kind of capitalist enemy they are up against, but if they keep pricking it, they will soon find out. The Lords of Capital are in their end-game. The next moves are for keeps.