President Joe Biden’s Feb. 7 State of the Union address offered no real surprises.
Like any loyal imperialist politician, Biden included the obligatory pro-war rhetoric. He blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Ukraine war, calling it “a murderous assault, evoking images of the death and destruction Europe suffered in World War II.” And, he added, “Putin’s invasion has been a test for the ages.” (whitehouse.gov)
The ages! That’s a long time.
Biden then went on the offensive against China, saying “if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.” Again, he promotes the lie that an unarmed, unpiloted balloon from China — and now a few “unidentified flying objects,” from who knows where — had to be shot down, because they somehow threatened the most powerful empire in human history.
The bulk of Biden’s message was a lot of bravado and blather — bravado about the low official unemployment rate, economic recovery bills, cutting into Big Pharma’s billions in profits (slightly) and trying to force a 15% minimum tax on corporate earnings. This tax rate is still pathetically low; as Biden admitted, a nurse or a teacher pays a much larger percentage of their income in taxes.
And the president reassured any nervous billionaires that “I’m a capitalist.” That puts him in the same class camp as Disney, Yahoo, Microsoft, Dell, Amazon, Twitter, Google, Intel, Meta and other monster corporations that have announced huge layoffs this year, even as Biden tries to take credit for “creating” millions of new jobs all by himself.
He wanted to make it clear that he was for a “kinder, gentler” capitalism, and that “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism. It is exploitation.”
What Marxists know, and what millions of workers are coming to realize, is this: You’re either on one side or the other. You can’t be a capitalist and be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” Capitalism, competitive or otherwise, is by definition a system rooted in exploitation.
There were bits and pieces of Democratic Party liberalism, such as the calls for Congress to pass a law enshrining reproductive rights, to pass the pro-labor PRO Act and to pass the Equality Act, to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination. But there was no mention of the spate of anti-trans bills in state legislatures.
The parents of Tyre Nichols were in the audience, and Biden decried the police killing of their son. But he made the point that “most cops are good, decent people.” The record shows that these “good, decent” cops and their associations (which are not real unions) usually line up behind the “few bad apples” and try to block any charges or disciplinary action against them.
The speech had more hot air than a weather balloon.
There was a promise to “end cancer as we know it.” What makes that possible? “With democracy, everything is possible.”
Garbage! In fact the capitalist mode of production, with its pretense of democracy, has spawned private, for-profit health care — the biggest obstacle to ending cancer, COVID-19 and other life-threatening conditions.
Biden’s speech had two contradictory aims: to prove, on the one hand, that he is a loyal servant of the capitalist ruling class, while on the other hand to convince the working class that he is doing all kinds of things that benefit them.
The capitalists can decide if Biden is the best person to carry out their dirty work for another four years. Some seem to prefer someone like Florida’s ultraright, ultrabigoted Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Workers need to break with both the Republicans and the Democrats and fight for a system that puts human needs before profits. Socialism, not capitalism, can unleash human potential to a point where, if not “all,” many more “things are possible.”