As the Socialist Party celebrates its 40th year of being America’s only democratic socialist political party, we enter a new generation of a somewhat different nature than what we experienced in 1973.
On the one hand, our goal is still that of the transformation of American society into a cooperative society based on needs, rather than a competitive society based on greeds. But on the other hand, our task is all the more difficult.
Stepping back and analyzing social and economic trends in this country and the world over the past 40 years can allow the discovery that there are a lot harsher realities out there now than there was when we reorganized the Socialist Party in 1973. The world out there is a lot meaner.
1. Our physical environment is decaying rapidly. Climate change and pollution are leading us to a dangerous precipice from which there may not be a point of return. This continuing poisoning of our biosphere is quite potentially leading to our demise as a species. We all recognize the danger here, but more specifically we recognize who is responsible, and that it is the same villain we have always faced: a corporate capitalist system that places short-term profit for a few above any sort of long-range concern for the future. We cannot count on our elected officials any more; there is also the continuing trend of public governments being more and more submissive to business interests. Additionally, the failure of the corporate and political leadership to understand the need to shift away from carbon-based energy sources toward cleaner energy sources keeps the environmental decay going.
2. Our political freedoms are decaying. Revelations over the past several months show that we have a government that does not respect individual freedoms or privacy, nor even the privacy of their own international allies. The electronic age seems to have given these “intelligence” agencies the means for taking all of our liberties for granted in the perverted name of “national security.” Even our systems of legal jurisprudence, which are constitutionally designed to protect our rights of privacy, appear to have been bullied and compromised by the alleged fear of terrorism.
When our government stoops so low as to monitor the players of online video games or the pornography habits of political opponents, we should realize that we may have entered a point of no return here also; the spy apparatus is now so large and so entrenched that it is unlikely it will ever be dismantled.
3. The trend of decaying political and civil liberties above is coupled with the additional trend of the militarization of our police forces, as well as their increasing arrogance and brutality. Domestic disturbance calls are now being met by heavily armed SWAT teams, and the numbers of police involved in shootings and beatings are on the rise, many involving unarmed Latinos and African-Americans. It seems that once again the course is to “shoot first and ask questions later.” There are increasing reports of police corruption, official repression, and abuses of power. There seems to be a pervasive attitude of disdain that goes along with the badge and the gun, along with that arrogance that there is no need to be accountable to anyone.
4. Just as our police forces are becoming militarized, so our military continues to be involved in policing the entire world. The “War on Terror” appears to be a good Bogeyman on which to augment government spending on increasingly sophisticated and expensive amoral weapons systems. One billion dollars for a battleship. Drone technology that can destroy wedding parties in Pakistan but apparently cannot be used to find missing jet liners. Our historically longest war in Afghanistan continues in spite of all proclamations to downsize and withdraw. Military operations in many other nations of the world continue, despite not frequently making the headlines. This military trend seems to be a persistent factor of US foreign policy, and it continues to be geared towards the interest of the same corporate interests that are destroying our environment.
5. Indeed, the same business and corporate capitalist mentality, which is the root of all our problems, is totally unleashed and out of control. The 1% continue to increase their wealth at the expense of all the rest. Corporate regulation is declining in favor of increasing deregulation and privatization, and growing attacks on the social sector seem vicious in nature. The new attacks on so-called “entitlements” are merely another way for the business interests to increase profits. The system has gone haywire on a corporate hayride, and our legislators are either paid lackeys of the system or spineless opponents. The class war is being waged, and it is being waged by an organized system that is bent on defeating any sort of moderate defense of the underdog.
6. While the capitalists are well organized, it looks as though the only groups that can effectively stop The System — organized labor — is disorganized and slowly losing any sort of economic clout. Minor victories are being won and some gains will be made, but as a whole, organizing workers into unions is declining. As the capitalists have moved major manufacturing out of the country, the union backbone of the American middle-class is in decline. In the harsh economic times manufactured by the corporate structure, Labor faces economic pressures from the non-union sector in a race for jobs. Traditional union bases have disappeared, and many people are simply afraid of not having a job. Without an organized union force in this country, there can be no check on the economic abuse of power of business.
7. The loss of an organized work force is reflected within the ranks of The Movement. There has developed a lethargy on the Left even while there is increasing rigor from the Republican Right. Socialism does not have the respectability it once did, and many progressives will avoid the concept out of fear of being branded a “commie” by the right opposition, as demonstrated by the simple if inadequate concept of affordable health care espoused by the Obama Administration. The Left remains fractionalized and passive, even while Big Money stands united and aggressive.
What are the solutions? One wishes we could double-click a mouse and make it all better. But reality tells us it will take a lot more.