Monday, October 20, 2008

Change? Yeah, Right

“It is now clear that the U.S. financial system is in cardiac arrest.”
– New York economist Nouriel Roubini

“The world is on the edge of the abyss because of an irresponsible system.”
– French Prime Minister Fran├žois Fillon

“If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down.”
-George Bush

And those are supporters of capitalism. Here’s what one socialist has to say :

“The world will never be the same after this crisis. A new world has to emerge, and it is a multipolar world. We are decoupling from the wagon of death.”
-Hugo Chavez

Chavez is kind in calling global capitalism a “wagon” of death , given the speed at which this missile is hurtling towards destruction. Problems unnoticed by establishment leaders only a short while ago have become major threats to the superstructure of an economy which has been rotting at its foundation for quite some time. But present fears expressed by those most responsible for speeding up the process of decomposition never question the system. Only greedy people and bad ideas are responsible for market chaos , and it’s easy to find individual demons for the blame game. But we need to see the whole picture and not just the trees on which mind managers focus our attention, while they blur the rest of the forest. We live as renters in a fast deteriorating public environment , while we are directed to protect only specially chosen private landlords.

This system has always privatized profits and socialized loss, but never to the massive extent of recent experience. The sorry state of political disorganization allows this gigantic rip-off to go on without a furious demand for a new economic order. We collectively lend billions to the banks, and then go to them as individuals and plead for a loan or credit line. But don’t hang by your lip expecting leadership for a new order to come out of this election.

That seemingly endless Halloween Horror of a campaign will likely bring victory (?) to the lesser evil half-white, over the greater evil half-wit. Both serve corporate command, sharing slavish devotion to the privately controlled market, the global empire and the Jewish colonial state in Israel. Representing those with the highest capacity for accumulating wealth , the greater evil has directed his campaign at those with the lowest capacity for accumulating knowledge. The lesser evil has relied on a massive ad campaign stressing symbolic hope and is certainly less debased than the other, as polio is less deadly than cancer. But whichever one moves into the publicly subsidized usually All - White House , both assure that we will still be suffering a malignant disease . The taxpayer burden of support for rich welfare chiselers, now claiming billions in payments almost every day, will continue no matter which chairperson capital has had rubber stamped by a minority of the electorate.

A choice of Nader or McKinney would be for real change, but given the control still exercised in support of crackpot realism , few will cast such a vote. Perverse democracy reproduces perverse leadership, with differences that are physically minimal and only appear significant to the psychologically desperate. But they mean continued disaster for a society still addicted to the political drugs administered by servants of the status quo, presented to them as agents of a word without meaning in this context: change.

The drain on taxpayers is greatest in supporting a global killing machine of weaponry, armies and foreign military bases to make wars that preserve the empire . It will still be a while before this imperial energy guzzler finally runs out of gas, but its over extended forces were helpless in Georgia , and further signs of its diminished capacity are evident, for which we should be at least slightly grateful. The ghouls who wish to increase bloodshed in Afghanistan , like the half-white and the half-wit , can only do so by decreasing bloodshed in Iraq. The end may indeed be near, but it can’t come soon enough for those still in the path of this “wagon of death”.

But singling out presidents, CEOs and other market culprits only clouds the mind with satanic symbols so that a demonic system escapes perception, let alone understanding. For the present that system will continue bringing great wealth to some, but for the future, it threatens more wars, poverty and devastation for all .

We need real democratic change, from the roots of our political economy, and we need to create it before it is forced on us by further calamity . Americans should take heart at foreigners who, with far less material wealth, take control of their own social environments. They are ridding themselves of corrupt and unjust old orders run by and for minorities , and creating truly democratic new ones for the benefit of previously unrepresented and terribly exploited majorities. We will eventually have to do the same thing, for our own survival. The signs are clear that this farce cannot go on much longer, unless we believe in race suicide.

Just don't expect anything substantial to happen after November’s vote , except for; a possible market boom, tales of new riches , the survival of capitalism, and shortly thereafter , the next bust. Let’s hope it isn't the final explosion, and we’d best be working to uncouple ourselves from this “wagon of death” long before that occurs. While prayer for that outcome may be useful to some, action will need to be taken by all for real change to occur.

And that doesn't simply mean changing the age, sex or race of a leader, but the nature and practice of democratic organization of a society in order to truly serve all of its people. In the process of creating such change in the USA, we would not only save ourselves, but help serve humanity as well.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the
fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be
archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that
the author is notified and no fee is charged for access.
Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on
other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author

frank scott
email: frankscott@comcast.net

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Great Depression and the Myth of FDR

For once the ticker tape was not exaggerating.

Panicked traders scrambling to dump everything at once bellowed like a herd of wounded beasts. On the floor of the exchange Post Two descended into outright madness as General Oliver Bridgeman's plummeting U.S. Steel stock flushed the entire economy away. Crouched down to scribble frantically on a pad of paper, Bridgeman leaped up shouting over the din in a vain attempt to stop the hemorrhaging prices.

At Post Four - Anaconda, Caterpillar Tractor, Southern Pacific, U.S. Pipe and Foundry, General Motors - a sweaty trader went insane, shrieking hysterical orders until friends took him by the arm and led him away.

Leading industrials dropped forty points and the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted a record 13% in a single day. With ruined investors devastated, a reporter announced that brokers were working "like shell shocked soldiers," sweat pouring down their faces, their collars and shirts torn to shreds.

Outside the exchange, a hint of violence charged the air as a silent crowd stood on the steps of Federal Hall, hands in pockets, hats pulled low, eyes fixed grimly ahead. A strange noise arose from the streets - first a murmur, then a hum, finally a roar of stunned disbelief.

At the House of Morgan Thomas Lamont dangled his prince-nez and addressed a mob of reporters: "There has been a little distress selling on the Stock Exchange . . ." Representatives of thirty-five of the largest wire houses on Wall Street issued a joint statement claiming that the market was "fundamentally sound" and that "the worst has passed."

So occurred the Great Crash of 1929. The reason was a growing disequilibrium between capitalism's immense productive capacity and its aggregate purchasing power. In the twenties low wages and high profits caused industrial productivity to outstrip consumer purchasing power. By the end of the decade a microscopic minority of investors possessed far more wealth than it could productively spend or invest while 70% of non-farm families lacked sufficient income with which to sustain an adequate diet. Six million families, 42% of the total, earned less than $1000 a year and could not make the profit system respond to their unmet needs.

Soaring productivity exacerbated the problem, as mechanization, increasing sophistication of industrial processing, and greater specialization of the labor force produced more for less and concentrated wealth in ever fewer hands. Foreign investment, installment credit, and stock speculation postponed the day of reckoning for a short time, but when hugely inflated stock prices and proliferating numbers of stocks spooked buyers in October 1929, the market went into a deep crash.

Amidst the vast economic misery occasioned by the collapse, an increasingly militant working class resistance emerged, ushering in social democratic reforms that had been won decades earlier in more civilized societies. In 1932, the Norris-LaGuardia Act was passed, exempting unions from antitrust prosecution. Three years later the Wagner Act legalized the right to organize, elevating workers from an anonymous mass of productive atoms to a legitimate class whose grievances had to be negotiated. The same year the Social Security Act opened the door to government funded old-age insurance - over the screams of private industry. (Old age pensions had been enacted in Bismarck's Germany in 1870, in Austria in 1881, Norway in 1894, Finland in 1895, Britain in 1897, and France, Italy, and Denmark in 1898.)

The upsurge of strikes, demonstrations, and factory occupations that made such changes possible alarmed the business community, which worried about revolution and the guillotine just a few years after having declared history over with an assumed permanent victory for the business classes. The National Association of Manufacturers warned in 1938 that "the newly realized political power of the masses" posed unprecedented danger. "Unless their thinking is directed," it added, "we are definitely headed for adversity." A corporate counteroffensive quickly developed new methods of strike-breaking, manipulative "human relations" policies in personnel, and enormous propaganda efforts dedicated to smearing union organizers as treasonous "Reds."

Contrary to much mythologizing, President Roosevelt sought to harness the working class to capitalism, not emancipate it from the exploitative system, and he actually started out more conservatively than Herbert Hoover. He handed government authority to people who wanted to control workers and retain power in the business classes. He was sincere in his efforts to ameliorate the worst symptoms of the profit system, but only in order to stabilize it and prevent stronger measures from being undertaken by angry workers determined to find a permanent cure to the booms, busts, panics, and breakdowns that had plunged millions of workers into untold misery for generations. For example, the Wagner Act was designed to reverse labor's radical direction and restore passivity and continuous production by institutionalizing the authority of conservative labor leaders over the rank and file. The goal was to direct labor militancy into legalistic procedure and away from sit-down strikes. In general, FDR's labor laws sought to make labor "responsible" by inducing its leaders to become dependent on state and corporate support that could later be contracted or withdrawn.

Similarly, federal relief was implemented to cool off mass protest, defeat Norman Thomas's bid for the presidency as the Socialist Party nominee, limit violent upheaval, and banish the threat of revolution. Wherever organized labor was strong, the New Deal offered concessions, but where it was weak it declined to help; and when militant upheaval abated, aid was sharply cut, imposing suffering worse than any since the Crash itself.

Such policies were only to be expected from FDR's appointees, most of whom were decidedly anti-working class. His first Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, was from the overtly racist and anti-labor wing of the Democratic Party. Jesse Jones, a conservative millionaire newspaper owner, headed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and later the Commerce Department, and was a great friend of the monopolists. War Secretary Henry Stimson was a Wall Street attorney who negotiated General Somoza into power in Nicaragua. The under-secretary of State was Edward Stettinius, a U.S. Steel millionaire. The Chief of the National Recovery Administration was General Hugh H. Johnson, who went to San Francisco and declared the 1934 general strike there a "menace to the government," which it certainly was. But he offered no clue why government that ushered in economic collapse shouldn't be menaced with workers' control.

New Deal reforms did go well beyond prior legislation, but they never contemplated far-reaching changes in the system that had created the disaster. The Roosevelt Administration's reforms called not for a realignment of classes, but for industry cooperation in implementing government-directed reforms. As a result, men were paid to rake leaves and build mausoleums, but not to work idle machines producing the means to feed and clothe themselves. Only massive public enterprise could have moved the U.S. fully into the era of social democracy, but the New Deal shunned social planning and rejected government responsibility for full employment, in favor of high joblessness and unemployment insurance. Charity for workers and entitlement for the corporations that held them down continued to be the operative values.

In fact, the New Deal was a boon to private industry. The "code authorities" of the National Recovery Administration were drawn heavily from the ranks of big business. They restricted production and set prices that benefited major corporations at the expense of their smaller rivals,, and primed the production pump by funneling torrents of public cash into the hands of financial elites. In nine years the Reconstruction Finance Insurance Corporation extended big business $15 billion in loans.

The federal housing program awarded subsidies to construction firms and insured the loans of mortgage bankers. Agricultural price supports and production cutbacks aided large producers while displacing tenant farmers and sharecroppers when federal acreage rental programs withdrew lands from cultivation. The Civilian Conservation Corps provided subsistence jobs for just three million of the 15 million people out of work. The Works Project Administration sporadically employed 9 million people at wages below the norm in private industry. Of twelve million people working for less than 40 cents an hour, only half a million benefited from the minimum wage law - just over 4% of them. The Social Security Act covered but half the population and offered no medical insurance or protection against pre-retirement illness. Welfare programs were funded not by a wealth tax, but by regressive payroll and sales taxes.

Finally, only the massive war orders of the 1940s lifted the economy out of the Depression, so if anyone deserves credit for curing that catastrophe it is Adolf Hitler, not Franklin Roosevelt.

As for the grotesquely lopsided distribution of wealth that precipitated this and every other economic crisis under capitalism, researchers have found that income inequality persisted unchanged through the Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman years.


Sources:

Professor Frank Stricker, "Causes of the Great Depression," California State University Dominguez Hills course materials 1993

Howard Zinn, "A People's History of the United States," (Harper, 1995)

Michael Parenti, "Democracy For the Few," (St. Martins, 1995)

Daniel R. Fusfeld, "The Economic Thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Origins of the New Deal," (Columbia, 1954)

I. F. Stone, "The War Years, 1939-1945," (Little Brown & Company, 1988)

Noam Chomsky, "Deterring Democracy," (Hill and Wang, 1991)

Noam Chomsky, "Year 501 - The Conquest Continues," (South End, 1993)

Richard O. Boyer and Herber M. Morais, "Labor's Untold Story," (Cameron Associates, 1955)

John Spritzler, "The People As Enemy - The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II," (Black Rose, 2003)

Gardner, Lloyd C., "Safe For Democracy: The Anglo-American Response to Revolution, 1913-1923," (Oxford, 1984)

Wiesen-Cook, Blanche, "Eleanor Roosevelt - The Defining Years, 1933-1938," (Penguin, 1999)

------Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), "Portraits of Empire," and "Rise To Empire" (forthcoming), all with Common Courage Press

Friday, October 10, 2008

CHANGE?

“It is now clear that the U.S. financial system is in cardiac arrest.”
– New York University economist Nouriel Roubini

“The world is on the edge of the abyss because of an irresponsible system.”
– French Prime Minister Fran├žois Fillon

“If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down.”
-George Bush

And those are supporters of capitalism. Imagine what socialist critics of the system are saying? Here’s an example:

“The world will never be the same after this crisis. A new world has to emerge, and it is a multipolar world. We are decoupling from the wagon of death.”
-Hugo Chavez

Calling global capitalism a “wagon of death” might seem rather kind, given the sonic pace at which this missile seems to be speeding towards destruction. Problems totally unnoticed by mainstream economists and politicians only a short while ago have become major threats to the entire superstructure of the global economy. Its foundation has been rotting for quite some time, but present cries of fear and panic coming from those most responsible for speeding up the process of decomposition will not look to the system, but only the evil people and bad ideas which they blame for this deadly mess.

In the short term it will be easy to find demons for the individual blame game, but for the long term we’d better begin looking at the whole picture and not just which trees our mind managers choose to bring into sharp focus, while they blur the forest.

The shock and awe of murderous foreign policy has always been an extension of the shuck, jive and owe of domestic economic policy. But none of that works any more, even though it may still take a while for this imperial energy guzzler to finally run out of military gas. Already, the puppet in Georgia saw how weak the imperial protector was when he foolishly invaded Ossetia and expected aid from the U.S. and its NATO lackeys. But over extended global forces could hardly help, and the Russians easily prevailed while asserting themselves, once again, as a global power . Further signs of systemic diminished capacity are evident, for which the world should be slightly grateful. For the murderous ghouls who wish to do so , the only way to increase bloodshed in Afghanistan is to decrease bloodletting in Iraq. The end may indeed be near, but it can’t come soon enough for those still in the path of this “wagon of death”.

And the seemingly endless Halloween show of a presidential campaign will finally bring victory (?) to either the Democrat half - white lesser evil, or the Republican half - wit greater evil. Both are servants of the same corporate command, sharing slavish devotion to global empire and the Jewish colonial state of Israel. One may certainly be less debased than the other, as polio is less malevolent than cancer. But whichever one moves into the subsidized housing at the usually all-White House, both assure that we will still be suffering a malignant disease . It will only add to the taxpayer burden of support for the rich minority of welfare chiselers, now claiming hundreds of billions from the majority bill payers, every minute of every day.


Corporate media and members of congress responsible for letting things get out of hand are fond of singling out overpaid CEOs and other market culprits, but naming individuals only continues clouding minds with satanic symbols so that a truly demonic system cannot be perceived. That system works to continue bringing short term wealth to a few, but only by threatening everyone else with long term destitution.

A vote for Nader or McKinney will be for real and not simply rhetorical change, but only a few will cast it , given the control mind management still exercises over the population. That control may not last much longer, and good riddance. Like the perverse economy, perverse democracy can only reproduce perverted leadership, with differences that only look significant to those who can afford to pay for them. But they represent continued disasters for those unable to afford the drug of servants of the status quo , presented to them as agents of populist change.

We desperately need real democratic change, and not the kind that is forced on us by calamity and war. The kind being affected by foreigners who are demanding and taking control of their own social environments, ridding themselves of the old order by creating a new one. We will eventually have to do the same thing, for our own survival. The signs are clear that this farce cannot go on much longer, unless we consider committing race suicide.

Just don't expect anything substantial to happen after November, except for a possible temporary market boom and tales of new riches and the survival of capitalism, which will soon be followed by the next bust. Let’s hope it isn't the final explosion. But we’d best be uncoupling ourselves from this “wagon of death” before that occurs, and while prayer may be useful to some, action will need to be taken by all for real change to occur. And it must be not simply in the age, sex or race of an individual leader, but in the nature and practice of a democratic organization of society to truly serve all of our people. We could help save humanity in the process. We’d better get to it, fast.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the
fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be
archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that
the author is notified and no fee is charged for access.
Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on
other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author

frank scott
email: frankscott@comcast.net