Behind the crisis for the working class and ruling class

WW commentary

The following edited remarks were made by Workers World Party First Secretary Larry Holmes at a partywide meeting on July 1, 2024.

The presidential debate on June 27 has thrown the Democratic Party into a panic and crisis, and that’s an understatement. Beyond the Democratic Party elites, major donors and the capitalist media, in a wide section of society, including among a lot of progressive people, there is a sense of fear, dread, anger and desperation that this crisis means that Trump is likely to win the election.

We are not for “Genocide Joe” or the Democratic Party; nonetheless we understand the way people feel. We are neither indifferent nor hostile to their feelings. Whether or not Biden steps aside in favor of another politician and the extent to which that would make a difference (and it will not in any fundamental way) is something we’ll have to wait and see.

This development raises to a higher level the need for the party to put out a formal position and an explanation of our position on the presidential elections that takes into consideration militant and revolutionary activists, progressive forces and the working class. 

Drafting this statement is easy but also challenging, principally because we are addressing both radical people as well as people whose political consciousness is on a different level. The fact that our propaganda needs to speak to different types of people does not change our politics in any way, but it does influence “how we talk to people.” 

Put aside some subjective and political factors — Biden’s health issues and that Trump is erratic, unstable and is a neo-fascist — both candidates serve the interests of U.S. capitalism and imperialism.

The factors I mentioned are not unimportant, but they are not fundamental. Rather, they are clues to the underlying problem, which is concealed. All of this, including the debate, are unmistakable signs of the profound erosion, hollowness and near collapse of the capitalist political establishment. I’m not talking about the collapse of the capitalist state apparatus — the military, the police and the courts. I’m talking about the capitalist political establishment, the Democratic and Republican parties, or about what in Marxist terms is called the “superstructure” of the capitalist system. 

Why is the “superstructure” crumbling? It is a symptom of the ever worsening crisis of the capitalist system, and in particular in the U.S., the decline of U.S. imperialist domination. This characterization of U.S. imperialist decline is relative. The ruling class in Europe, for example, is more subservient to U.S. imperialism right now more than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Just look at how NATO is dutifully following the U.S. into the wars in West Asia and Eastern Europe, with China in the crosshairs. 

We talk about the danger of World War III while some of our comrades in Europe say that World War III has already begun. 

Back to the political crisis, subjective factors

Protest outside Oxford Union in Oxford, England against appearance of Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s neo-fascist National Rally party, February 2015. Credit: The Guardian

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, is nearly 40 years younger than Biden, articulate and a comparatively competent servant of the French ruling class, distinguished mostly by how open he is in attacking the living standard of the working class in France. His party, considered in bourgeois terms as “center right,” was trounced in the first round of the French elections by the neo-fascist National Rally party of Le Pen (not the father, Jean-Marie Le Pen but the daughter, Marine Le Pen), which came in first, with the “left center” forces coming in second. The second round of the French elections is on July 7.

If the Le Pen Party gains a majority in the French assembly and parliament it will be a big crisis for France and the world. The U.S. and France are different countries in important ways, especially historically, but their election crisis stems from the same thing — the collapse of the center of the imperialist political establishment, which is happening on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a direct consequence of the deepening crisis of the capitalist system. 

When we consider the problems that all of this poses for the movement, we cannot ignore the political crisis in the working class. Part of this crisis is reflected in the ability of the ruling class to take advantage of the vacuum created by the weakness of the working-class movement, to pull sections of the working class into a virulent, dangerous direction of racism and xenophobia directed against migrant workers. 

This is a deliberate attempt to divide the workers into hostile camps and set one section of the working class against the other instead of uniting against the bourgeoisie. Racism is central to it, but in class struggle terms the effect of it is reactionary nationalism against revolutionary internationalism.

How the ruling class is able to do this involves many things, but the thing that stands out the most is the abandonment of the working class by social democratic political forces in general, and in the U.S., by the Democratic party, whose goal has been to stop even a social democrat like Bernie Sanders, much less a social democratic party, from helping them with their political crisis. Remember back in early 2020, Bernie Sanders was winning the primaries — until the Democratic Party elites got together and agreed, “we have to stop this,” and rallied behind Biden. And most of the organized labor movement has accepted these limitations.

Still another part of the crisis is the relative weakness of forces which consider themselves to be to the left of social democracy, a category that has many variants, including those such as ourselves with a revolutionary orientation. These weaknesses are not the only reason for divisions, sectarianism and unnecessary competition — and the point I’m making does not discount legitimate political differences, but the weaknesses, which are affected by the general weakness of the working class movement — which tend to exacerbate all of the negative and destructive problems of the left.

Moreover, all of the problems of the working-class movement — the crisis of the conditions of the working class, the crisis of the ruling political establishment, the crisis of the threat of fascism and repression, the climate crisis, the capitalist economic crisis (which is the central crisis from which all other crises arise) and the crisis of widening imperialist war — are expanding, feeding off of each other and merging into a forest fire engulfing the whole planet. 

In spite of this, large sections of the masses – of the global working class – are in motion in the struggle against imperialism, including forces that are moving in a revolutionary direction, whether outright or incipient.

This phenomenon will grow. There is a path towards turning the situation around — doing what is necessary to help the workers and oppressed organize and assert themselves in the global class struggle and turning the crisis into a revolutionary crisis both in ideas and actual mass struggle.

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