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World Capitalist Crisis and the Rise of the Right

Author(s): MARLENE DIXON


Source: Contemporary Marxism, No. 4, World Capitalist Crisis and the Rise of the Right
(Winter 1981/1982), pp. 1-10
Published by: Social Justice/Global Options
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MARLENE DIXON

World Capitalist Crisis and the Rise of the Right

To understand the rise of the right and the basis for both liberal and New Deal programs, can

present crisis facing the U.S. working class, we be sustained only by high-growth economies.
must first understand the location of the United Given the present long-cycle crisis within the
States in the general world crisis of capital accu capitalist world-economy, previously affluent,
mulation. This crisis in accumulation has led to high-growth economies slide into stagnation.
the decline of U.S. hegemony within the capitalist Under the present conditions of crisis in capital
world-economy abroad and to the imposition of accumulation, characterized simultaneously by
austerity policies domestically. It is this world stagnation and monopoly-controlled inflation,
crisis which has led to the rise of the right in the bourgeois governments shift to policies which
core capitalist countries.
they believe will "stimulate the economy." We
know these policies as "supply-side" and "mone
tarist" programs (Reaganomics and Thatcherism,
respectively). These policies bear most heavily
I. Domestic Political and Economic Reflections
upon the working classes because they simultane
Of World Crisis
ously cut wages and taxes; thus "austerity" means
reductions in real wages and loss of transfer
Although we can date the decline of U.S.
payments (i.e., loss of social benefits and programs
hegemony from 1966, the effects of that decline, because of tax cuts).
outside of inflation, did not become a part of
Given the domestic and international position
public awareness until the failures in auto and
of the United States, it is clear that the election
steel began to reveal the extent to which the
of the Reagan forces was not merely the alterna
United States domestic
economy was in crisis.
tion of Republicans for Democrats, nor was it
Inflation, stagnation, escalating unemployment a to conservatism.
merely temporary regression
suddenly became a part of everyday life in the
The election of an extreme conservative adminis
wake of the failure of Chrysler and the enormous
tration signals the demise of an entire era, the
bail-out of the corporation by means of public failure of American New Deal-Fair Deal liberalism
funds. At the same time, the so-called "taxpayers'
and, indeed, the failure of Western bourgeois
revolt," launched by Proposition 13 in California,
liberalism worldwide. In the U.S., no better
was symptomatic of middle class rebellion against indicator of this fact could be found than that
inflation and a system of taxation which placed
many of the actions and fundamental attitudes
the burden for social legislation on the middle
attributed to the Reagan forces in fact in
income strata of the The began
population. simultaneous
the Carter presidency: the resumption of a cold
"rise of the right" and the Democratic Party's war foreign policy with respect to the Soviet
admission of the failure of New Deal liberalism (a
Union; increases in defense spending and military
malaise which grew within the ranks of the party
readiness; deregulation of business, especially of
during the 1970's) reflected domestically the
oil tax reduction of
monopolies; supply-side cuts;
social and political consequences of the world
government regulation; slower growth of the
crisis. The domestic political and economic
money supply. RepublicansThat both and
meaning of the crisis to the U.S. working class is Democrats are responding to a systemic crisis also
that allegiance to Keynesian policies of public
demand which is the socioeconomic
explains why the positions of Democrats and
management,
Republicans in both houses of Congress are
indistinguishable in substance.

This is a revised and expanded version of an article which


is also in Spanish
II. Decline of U.S. Imperialism
being published in a collection of essays
about "The United States to be published And the Rise of Militarism
Today," by
Siglo XXI and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de
Mexico. In of the United States, we must
any analysis

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1 Contemporary Marxism: Dixon

always begin with an understanding of the world from an inability to discipline allies economically
situation. This is unavoidable because the United or politically) threatens the world with reckless
States is still in possession of hegemonic power actions which could result in nuclear confronta

within the system of nonsocialist states and tions. Indeed, the present Reagan government is

because it remains the national base of about obviously attempting to condition the world and
half of the world's transnational corporate the masses of the American people to the "neces

powers. So long as the latter remains true, it sity" of "confronting the Soviet menace" with
regenerates the imperial function of the U.S. the ultimate weapons of bourgeois freedom and

government and the economic and military power democracy, that is, the U.S. arsenal of tactical
it commands. Nonetheless, the most salient nuclear and the neutron bomb.
weapons History
aspect of U.S. imperialism is its present state of has dark lessons for us concerning the last convul
decline. The basis for the decline of U.S. imperial sive throes of falling empires. The habits of
ism is, first, the world crisis in capitalist accumu empire, when empire begins to fail, seem to
lation (a crisis of overproduction) and, secondly, produce a fatal refusal to admit that one is
alterations in the relative positions of core states losing gamethe and
recklessness pro a suicidal
within the context of inter-imperialist rivalries. voked by power entering senility. While the
The first point, the general world capitalist crisis, United States is far from impotent in its present
has resulted in the steady decline in productivity decline, neither does it have statesmen at its helm,
of the U.S. national economy. The second point, and so the government of the United States

inter-imperialist rivalry, has produced a competi should be considered a clear and present danger
tive failure of U.S. manufacturing and export to peace, sanity and the ability to support rational
strength, which has steadily undermined U.S. solutions to the world's manifold and explosive
hegemonic power, both economically and politi dangers. Militarism is clearly at the center of
cally, within the core-state bloc made up of the Reagan's so-called "revolution." Military expendi
USA, Japan and Western Europe. ture will be justified in terms of its ability to
These conditions have produced a situation produce jobs and profits (not to mention the
in which the United States is forced to rely attempt to derail internal resistance by turning it
increasingly upon its military superiority vis-a-vis outward against imaginary enemies). While the
other great (and small) powers, while at the same U.S. "military-industrial" complex arose during
time losing its ability to force its major allies to an
imperial era in which the United States dealt

to a U.S. imperial design that is


from a position of which never needed to
yield readily strength

economically (or politically) disadvantageous to take the risks of nuclear war, in our new, post
its key allies. A very important example of this imperial era we can no longer trust the self-restraint

situation is the between West of self-interest —self-interest may dictate risks, as


present struggle
powers and the United States over the United States declines from imperialism to
European
missile in Western Europe, the militarism.
deployment
financing of NATO and the role of detente
with the Soviet Union in the foreign policy III. Stagflation, Austerity and Organized Labor
of West Germany and other continental states.

The present disarray of U.S. imperial foreign The 1980's open an era in which none of the
policy with respect to Europe and the Soviet classical or Keynesian theories serve our under

Union is clearly advantageous to progressive standing, as each assumes that a competitive


movements and states in the world; but at the market economy exists, when in fact the market

same time it presents the correlative danger that is substantially monopolistic, by characterized
the U.S. governmentemploy its military will monopolistic competition, especially during peri
power unilaterally. I suspect this possibility is ods of stagnation when capital becomes even
much greater with respect to the Middle East (and more concentrated and centralized. It is the

eventually South Africa) than to Central and monopolistic market produces structure that
Latin America, in the short run. However, in the stagflation, in which unemployment and inflation
long run, this tendency of weakness (and surely rise simultaneously. The monopolistic basis of
the reliance of great powers upon military solu stagflation is neither monetary pull nor commodity
tions is a sign of weakness —a last resort, resulting or labor cost push, but fundamentally is monopo

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World Capitalist Crisis

listic profit push in the high-concentration costs reduction of labor costs. U.S.
through
industries of a highly monopolistic economy. We capitalism will accelerate relocation of industry
may see the operation of "monopoly profit push" from high-wage to low-wage countries, and will
when there are price increases by private and reindustrialize advances that
using technological
public monopolized industries precisely during will increase the capital-labor ratio of numerous
times when both productivity and accumulation industries. Furthermore, has
capital already
are stagnating; if there were a competitive rather launched a domestic anti-labor crusade through
than monopolistic market, competition would a combination of methods: infla
union-busting,
drive prices down; but because the market is tion with its reduced real wages, reduction of
monopolized, prices are never driven down. welfare transfer payments, and internal industrial
At this time, when capital suffers from an relocation revival of putting-out
(including
excess of productive capacity and excess finance The crisis has
systems). present begun to reveal
capital, the prime objective of capital becomes the extent of the bankruptcy of U.S. class
the increase of the rate of profit by reducing costs collaborationist trade unionism. Therefore we are
of production and eliminating competing capital.
clearly entering a period of turmoil and transfor
While business is only too happy to be showered mation in the labor movement. It will be the task
with tax reductions, deregulation and reduced of the parties of the working class to formulate
welfare expenditures, there is absolutely no realistic solutions to both immediate and
long-term
evidence that these policies will result in lowered crisis.
inflation, more jobs or greater investment. On the The Reagan also marks, I think, a
period
contrary, with overcapacity in major industries tactical in the
major change ruling class' manage
and excess funds in their ment of other classes.
capital own accounts Whereas the previous
and in the banking system, there is no theoretical stressed industrial at
period peace home, involving
or practical reason business should act so as the incorporation of working class labor organiza
why
to "restore prosperity" by increases in investment, tions into the "Establishment," the Reagan forces
output or productivity. The result must be that are more concerned with those whom Nixon
ihe promised anti-inflationary effects of supply termed the "Silent Majority," and whom we call
>ide policies will not materialize; nor will promised the small bourgeoisie and the new petty bourgeoi
imtput in response to lower tax rates. I might add sie: small businessmen, rising bureaucrats, small
.hat all of this is very well known to the and the like. This shift
higher independent professionals
jusiness circles, who will not be in the least in the tactical class and strata alliances undertaken
lurprised when the promised salvation by supply by the Reagan forces is but another indicator of
;ide Reaganomics fails to appear. the weakness of the old labor
accelerating move
To say that the election of Reagan to the ment. A good portion of Reagan's tax program is
^residency signals the end of an era is to say aimed at getting these members of the petty
hat the and tactics of the onto the
programs, strategies bourgeoisie Reagan bandwagon. He is
abor movement in the United for the present, as could
States are no succeeding be predicted.
onger viable. Postwar U.S. imperialism and Most we can the
importantly, expect Reagan
within
legemony the
world-economy produced period to abandon the "minorities," that is, to fail
l high-growth economy within the United States to support what gains have been made by the black
vhich was completely dependent the and the petty bourgeoisies
upon petty bourgeoisie of
:ontinued exploitation of the hinterland and an other minority groups. The petty bourgeoisies
>verwhelmingly dominant position with respect of these groups were largely created by the
o other industrialized states (primarily Western welfare state, and so they will fall as the welfare
Europe and Japan). U.S. welfare-statism requires state falls. The conditions of the nonwhite
economic conditions (of expanded accumulation) working class and the nonwhite "underclass" (by
vhich do not exist in the present and will not which is meant the permanently
unemployed,
:xist in the proximate future if we are in a whose income is dependent
period upon welfare) will
>f long-cycle become
contraction and consequent restruc
increasingly and massively impoverished,
uring of the capitalist world-economy. and so present a constant danger to the current
With respect to the national economy in this ruling powers. Reagan's support for extreme
ieriod of stagnation, capital is
going to try to cut right-wing organizations is clearly preparatory to

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4 Contemporary Marxism: Dixon

i full-scale assault domestic unrest and the It is to make a final observation on


against important

growth of leftist forces. the and repression


state in the U.S. Those who
predict "fascism" in the U.S. (drawing upon
IV. Austerity and the Rise of the Right either the Nazi or the Central and South American
models) have not, in my opinion, paid sufficient
Muchcan be said concerning the rapid devel attention to the economic and social preconditions

opment of the U.S. right in the last few years, but for such state forms, nor have they properly

it is a serious error to attribute this growth to analyzed the actual history of state repression in
of political or the U.S. Historically, the United States has always
purely spontaneous expressions
conservatism. In the first numerous been a repressive state and remains so, but it is a
religious case,

public opinion polls have shown that the majority repression which is and has always been extremely
of citizens do not agree with Reagan's social selective, practiced against all forms of socialism
in the second case, the so-called right and against rebellious racial and national minori
policies;
ties. Consequently, the majority of the white
wing (or Moral Majority, or whatever) represents
a tiny minority of the general population. The population, at any given time, has been kept
class as a whole adopts a permissive or ignorant of actions by the repressive state appara
ruling
attitude toward the right in full tus. Selective and essentially secret repression was
supportive
that austerity policies will result in not demystified until the Watergate scandal and
knowledge
In fact, the allegedly the Freedom of Information Act the
turmoil and resistance. exposed

of a "New Right" is a very repressive and illegal activities of the FBI, CIA
"spontaneous" growth
deliberate of the conservative and other official and unofficial organizations.
policy right-wing
minority of the ruling class, who have supplied
U.S. state repression has always been extralegal

the right with vast sums of money, provided


because of the bourgeois nature of the state

official and media legitimacy and exposure (while and the necessity of affirming the power of
are subject the Constitution to protect national
progressive actions and organizations stability.
to a near-total news blackout), and finally, We see these extralegal methods in the repression
refused to or contain against the labor movement by the use of gangsters
seriously prosecute legally
violent right-wing organizations, including the Ku and goons, against blacks through the use of

Klux Klan, terrorist organizations of ex-Cubans lynch laws and the Klan, against socialists by all
and other formations. of the above. Now, under the Reagan Administra
paramilitary right-wing
tion, the right-wing witch-hunters and paramilitary
The right is an of the repressive
expression forces, the FBI and the CIA have all been given a
necessities and interests of the bourgeoisie, and
license to operate against liberal and progressive
movements as mass
rightist presented falsely forces in the United States.
movements are so as to provide have been
manipulated These forms of selective repression
legitimacy for state repression and, if necessary, termed "friendly fascism," and it is precisely this
to allow the substitution of right-wing "terrorism" level of that we can expect from
sophistication
can become
for open state terrorism. This tactic
the U.S. Given that this analysis is true, and I
to
especially pernicious when it is made an excuse think it will be true unless there is an economic
militarize civil society in the name of "fighting of considerable then the left
collapse magnitude,
the terrorism of left and right." This tactic, in the U.S. must take care not to underestimate

brutally and frequently used in Latin America the with either to its
Reagan regime, respect
under U.S. tutelage, has also been used in the U.S. or to its brutality.
sophistication
against black urban populations and the Native
American movement, to give but two examples. and tne
V. The Bankruptcy ot Liberalism

What this portends in the immediale future Fall of the Democratic Party
is a form of violent that as
repression appears
from the state; a concerted, conservative Before
critically examining, however briefly,
separate
of and Constitutional the topic of resistance to the New Right and its
reinterpretation legal
and the judiciary; a delegitimi concerted attack against organized labor and the
rights by Congress
zation of progressive organizations and causes by whole of the working class, we should examine
the White House, universities and the mass media. some of the roots of the present conditions of

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World Capitalist Crisis

both liberal Democrats and the labor movement —this all the more when Marxian
capitalism
in the postwar accommodation between capital political economy has been defined as "subversive"
and the working class. The overriding fact of or "metaphysical," as was true in the U.S. Bour

U.S. national life from 1945 to 1965 was the geois liberalism based its legitimacy and most of
hegemonic power of the U.S. in the Western its ideology on the New Deal programs generated
state system and the expansion of the U.S. and during the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations.
U.S.-related business during what was an "imperial The Cold War liberals attributed the success of
era." In order to secure the home front, the ruling the "New Deal" to "free enterprise," "free

class had not only to suppress the U.S. left; it had unionism" and "democracy," just as they believed
also to win the allegiance of the organized labor that peripheral countries needed capitalist "de
movement. This was accomplished by offering velopment" and "capitalist free enterprise" to

organized labor a share of the imperial pie by save them from the horrors of "totalitarian

means of increased real The era" communism." The ideology of bourgeois "democ
wages. "imperial
was also the basis for the institutionalization of racy," "free enterprise" and bourgeois economics

class collaborationism in the U.S. labor movement, kept them, then and now, from perceiving that
with the cooptation of the labor the Keynesian accession to liberal orthodoxy was
leadership
into the ranks of the new petty bourgeoisie. a result of World War II and the postwar expansion
It is to realize that it was not of Western neoimperialism within the world
important
the whole class, but sectors of the capitalist economy, which followed the previous
working only

working class, who benefited from a share of the great stagnation (1914-1945) in the normal course of
and unorganized the uneven waves of capital accumulation. Liberals
imperial pie. Nonwhite workers
were excluded from the deal. This is why the were in no way prepared for the inevitable—yet
era" was marked by escalating clashes another long period of stagnation, which is the
"imperial
between the "Establishment" and the excluded present situation. Rather, U.S. liberals have
minorities, poor whites, women, defected from their own ideology, opting instead
groups—nonwhite
the for or
students, disabled, Native Americans, to name "responsible conservatism" whatever other

some of the more It is also labels they invent to hide their own opportunism
only prominent. why
the U.S. labor movement never from themselves.
really represented
the U.S.working class as a whole, but only The disarray in the ranks of U.S. liberals and
privileged sectors within it. within the Democratic Party and the labor
It is also important to realize that the coopta movement stems directly from the fact that
tion of the U.S. labor movement into the ruling liberalism's economic
premise false, and was
liberal establishment after World War II was now liberalism finds itself bankrupted. This is
accomplished through a massive purge of the because: 1) liberalism assumed that capitalism
labor movement during the "McCarthy" period. was capable of unlimited "development" and that
It was in the postwar period that the "Cold the "free enterprise" system was the
(capitalist)
Warriors," U.S. liberals who were ideologically guarantee of unlimited development upon which
anticommunist, anti-Soviet and antisocialist, came could be based an unlimited affluence; 2) further
to dominate the political, intellectual and moral more, liberalism the existence of American
rejected
life of the United States. These "Cold Warriors" as the essential of core
imperialism component
were also the New Deal liberals who dominated state affluence, which explains why it took 10
the Democratic Party, and thus they became the years for liberals to admit that Vietnam and all
ideologues of the U.S. labor movement as it the other U.S. interventions were neither "policy
developed in the postwar years to the mistakes" nor moves commu
present. "necessary against
Consequently, any discussion of the U.S. labor nist aggression"; 3) finally Cold Warrior liberalism
movement is also a discussion of U.S. liberal could never admit that the capitalist welfare state
"New Dealers." was incapable of solving the major social and
The New
Deal era in the United States lasted economic problems of the United States —and
for a long enough period that Cold War progres indeed, the world. Such an admission would have
sives and the labor movement came to regard to consider socialism an actual and legitimate
what was, in essence, a short-term phenomenon as response to the problems created by capitalist
if it were an eternal characteristic of "developed" exploitation, at home and abroad, and would

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6 Contemporary Marxism: Dixon

therefore force a repudiation of their most The failure of the air controllers' strike points
cherished shibboleths.
Liberalism, being the clearly to the political and economic impotence
ideological expression of fractions of the bourgeoi of the labor movement. It is very clear that the

sie and wedded to capitalism both tactically and present direction of American labor, that of
materially, could not make the leap to socialism translating class collaborationism into class capitu
as a logical extension of the liberal welfare state. lationism, cannot be sustained, while the basis of
class collaborationism will continue to be
It is the collapse of the liberal program in severely
weakened as the outmoded in heavy
the United States that has led to the collapse of plant industry
continues to decline, accompanied by plant
the liberals. The so-called "triumph of the right"
closings, wage cuts and and as
is in fact the emergence of the ruling bourgeoisie unemployment,
reindustrialization (in the direction of high
as the open ruling power within the state apparatus.
technology manufacture) creates jobs in the
Reagan is nothing more than an actor, and the
non-union sectors.
presidency is nothing more than a role, whose real
In the face of the Reagan presidency, the rise
directors stand off-stage, as everyone knows. The
of the right, the triumph of business conservatism
fiction of the government as the of
representative
in the federal government, the imposition of
the "general welfare," which had been upheld by
austerity the whole of the class, the
the liberal upper-middle class and supported by
upon working
preparations by state and federal government to
the New Deal, has become too costly a fiction to
contain popular rebellions —in the face of all this,
be maintained in the face of steadily declining
there exists no defense, no institution or organiza
profitability.
tion within the system prepared or able to resist.
The liberal Democrats have defected to the right,
VI. The Fall of Organized Labor and the labor movement stopped fighting for
anything more than a junior partnership with
In considering the U.S. labor movement, we management the day the last communist was
must never lose sight of the fact that it is not driven underground. When the AFL-CIO chose
representative of the U.S. working class, but Poland and Solidarity as its inspiration for "Soli
represents only those fractions (totaling only darity Day" (the first mass demonstration sanc
20.9% of the total work which it has tioned
force) by the labor movement since 1947), they
organized. These fractions are not representative could not have been aware of the ironical
truly
of the whole class, nor are they united, because had made at their own —for
jest they expense
each fraction as an interest group for its the U.S. class needs its
operates surely working "solidarity,"
Not is the labor movement and the first bosses" that will have to be
membership. only "party
divided within itself, it also divides the class as tossed out on their ears will be the labor bosses of
a whole, for organized labor in the United States the AFL-CIO.
is allied with management (capital) against the
working class, including the rank-and-file members VII. Future Directions: The Working Class
of its own constituency. This reality is illustrated
by the fact that of all elections to enable unions Strategically, we must grasp the overwhelming
to represent workers, rank-and-file workers voted fact that there has emerged in the U.S. a new
to have union representation in only 45% of cases "Establishment ideology." The present ruling
in the first half of 1980 —down from 60% in ideology within the U.S. is defensive and conserva
1965. tive, aggressively and arrogantly capitalist. With
The labor movement is a movement the collapse of bourgeois liberalism, there is also a
today
haunted by a decade of defeats and setbacks, collapse of ideological hegemony, and for the first
forced to negotiate for less, not more, to prevent
time since the end of World War II, we on the left
and Inflation has been have the to free ourselves from the
runaways layoffs. cutting opportunity
the wage dollar every year, while unions continue New Deal, most especially as it ties the organized
to lose more elections working class and mobilized "minorities" into a
employee-representation
than they win. Business, meanwhile, concentrates class-collaborationist alliance, nationally and inter
its expansion in the "right-to-work" closed nationally, with the sophisticated and conserva
(no
or union states of the Southwest. tive managers who rule the transnational corpora
shop)

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World Capitalist Crisis

tions. This means that the left must be prepared of codetermination and other such protections
to change its attitude toward the problems of and democratizations.
social struggle in the United States. Above all, the However, in what we might call our medium
left must be prepared to abandon the New Deal; view, we must go beyond the predictable turmoil
it must be prepared to go beyond gradualism and of the next four years, in which much of the left
economism; it must be prepared to offer something will be limited to work within the existing labor
more to the working class than "reform a little to movement. Yet, if we know full well that the
the left of center." labor movement is both weak and obsoles
existing
Domestically in the USA, it is crucial to cent, then we are preparing for the organization
intensify agitation for immediate democratization of a new union movement, just as the CIO broke
and politicization of existing unions within the the bounds of the AFL in the 1930's. Furthermore,
labor movement. The next step for the U.S. the organization of the U.S. working class is
labor movement will be for the left to organize pitifully small, representing only a minority of
labor unions of a "new type," mass organizations the class. The left must move
employed working
to be sure, but mass organizations organically into all sectors where labor is unorganized.
linked to proletarian parties. The working class Furthermore, a long view requires that we must
left in the U.S. must learn from the errors of the look to the of the "welfare
organization poor"
policies of the CPUSA, which liquidated its and of women, women. Above
especially working
unions into the CIO and the New Deal, with the all, the clear intention of the ruling class to
result that the U.S. is the only advanced capitalist aggressively intensify racist policies and to use
country in the West whose labor unions are racism as a weapon both to divide the class and to

politically impotent —and therein lies the great legitimate superexploitation the of black and
distinction between Europe and the U.S. The brown workers, combined with the social aban
European left has the great unions of the Commu donment of the and
permanently unemployed
nist Parties, while the U.S. has no left within the ghettoized, demands multinational parties and
labor movement! This has meant that for 30 multinational mass movements with
years greater
the USA had no working class left. (This
has urgency than ever before.

explains why the whole U.S. left has been domi Yet, even as we are aware of the growth
nated by progressive anticommunist, anti-party of racism and its use by capital to justify austerity
members of the petty bourgeoisie or "new middle and superexploitation, we must not lose sight of

class," and why the U.S. "left" is the veritable the other great sector of the class subject to the
font of In contrast to same form of attack women. Women,
anticommunism.) Europe, —working
in the U.S. big unions practicing business unionism of all races and nationalities, make up nearly half

represent 30 years of failure, betrayal and oppor of the work force and are at
universally exploited
tunism. The times demand more than a mix of a rate than are men. Thus, a white woman
greater
left-liberalism and timid social democracy. The earns more than a black woman but less than a

postwar repression left the U.S. working class black man. The Moral Majority, the Catholic
without its own political voice —for the liquidation Church in the U.S., the anti-abortion forces, all
of proletarian unionism into New Deal are for the same reason that
bourgeois supported by capital
liberalism meant that the class was racists are serve to
impotent. supported by capital —they
That ancient liquidation must be overcome, both a sector of the labor force
keep key underpaid,
through attempts to reestablish democracy in our
underorganized and unmilitant. Black men,
existing unions and through efforts to create new Chicano men have learned that are
may they
organizations for the previously unorganized and
equal and that racism is a vile system of lies;
the permanently unemployed (the so-called the have not learned
majority, unfortunately,
"underclass"). that sexism and machismo and prejudice against
Programmatically, in the short run, organiza women are also a of vile lies. Women, at
system
tions of the working class could return to demands the same time, are disciplined by husband and
abandoned by class collaborationism, like the church, state and to accept their
school, secondary
notions of guaranteed annual wages, of stabilized status and their role as rightfully superexploited
production schedules, of a controlled ratio of labor. In the United States, the women's movement

prices, profits and wages, of industrial councils, or must be rebuilt to serve the needs of the working

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8 Contemporary Marxism: Dixon

class and of working class women as a super utterly failed to accomplish anything except to
exploited sector of the class. In other lands, sow chaos and conflict among its own forces, is
women's movements need to be built, and gains not a viable alternative to the old "United Front"
made by women fighting in revolutionary struggle approach. It seems that the bloc form of "popular
need to be defended and maintained by postrevo fronts" being developed in Central America
lutionary governments and movements. (which does not demand the liquidation of
The left must not limit its sights to the labor organizations) may very well be a model which
movement. Even when there is a clear could offer a new and vigorous alternative to past
relationship
between a of the class and its mass forms of mass-community organization in the
party working

organizations in labor, a labor union by its very United States. Such an approach may evolve into

nature is limited to economism in nonrevolution a form in which parties, community organizations,


or even The trans women's forces, racial and national minority
ary prerevolutionary periods.
cendence of the limits of syndicalism has always forces may unite around a common program of

been the special function of parties. One direction struggle that serves the principal needs of the
in which emerging working class parties shall have collective constituency, but does not demand

to move in the coming period will be the commu organizational liquidation. Nor does it deny the
differences and even conflicts that may exist
nity. The most obvious reason for organization
within communities of the working class is the between various groups (for example, such as
of the "welfare state" (or transfer might be true between black and Latin or Asian
dismantling
payments to the working class) by austerity workers, or between women and men).
we must immediately work
programs, which will exacerbate health, housing, Internationally,
nutritional and educational conditions which are within the existing labor movement to educate
already severely inadequate. Furthermore, the the working class to the fact that it is low-wage
imposition of austerity programs by state and labor and compliant governments which create

local far the climates promoting runaway shops. Therefore,


governments (a process already advanced)
will leave the working class —especially the the left mustbe prepared to agitate within the
unemployed —helpless unless forms of popular U.S. working class for a strong anti-imperialist,
mass and electoral struggle are developed amongst anti-interventionist line, demanding that the U.S.
the people. labor movement reject class collaborationism. The
These forms of mobilization have the U.S. government must be domestically foiled in
popular
to be and its attempts to shore up dictatorships and repres
potential independent oppositional
of or even on the sive states, for it is these regimes which guarantee
powers, capable resisting going
offensive against both the state and the increasingly cheap labor by destroying indigenous labor
visible rule of the big corporations. Yet these unions and national liberation and socialist
movements must also alter their traditional forms movements. The demand for worldwide wage
if are to be to the new social and equalization upwards to the levels of the core
they equal
economic conditions. They must, for example,
countries is in the interests of labor within the
abandon a single-issue approach, so that various core countries, for if they do not unite behind
constituencies may be united rather than divided that demand, wages in the core will be depressed
in the course of struggle. This will demand broad to the abysmal levels of the periphery.
party and mass movement programs as guidelines In the longer run, we must begin to work for

for struggles in civil society. Yet, because commu true labor internationals, where the working
nities have constituencies with widely divergent classes of nation-states learn that they are, in fact,
needs and social circumstances, forms of struggle members of a world proletariat and, as such, can

that recognize differences and respect the need fight aggressively against their exploitation by
for different political emphasis must take the transnational capital by using the immensely
place of the more traditional (and often sectarian) powerful weapon of transnationally organized
demand for the liquidation of specific constituen labor. A tiny hint of the enormity of the power
cies into some wholistic organization (or party). of the world proletariat was given by successive
However, the "coalition" form of organization in air controllers' strikes in Canada, Spain and
the United States, which has no discipline and no Portugal which could have brought transnational
programmatic basis of unity and which has corporations and the U.S. government to a halt.

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World Capitalist Crisis

The transnationalization of the labor movement by the even more severe measures that
austerity
must be our ultimate future goal. will be imposed by wage controls (but will not, of
course, be imposed upon profits, just as with
VIII. Future Directions: The Ruling Class Nixon's New Economic Policy).
Since wage and price controls will surely fail
So far we have dealt with the problems of to rally and revive the economy, the next major
the class and the workers' movement response of the bourgeoisie (building upon a
working
in relation to austerity policies and organized system of state economic controls) will be to

labor. It now would seem useful to turn to the propose a degree of centralized planning previously
unheard-of in U.S. capitalism, the cornerstone of
subject of what the bourgeoisie will most likely
do in response to the failure of Reaganomics and which will be the transfer of public money into
the consequent worsening of the domestic eco private industry. A revival of the Depression-era
nomic situation. I believe the most likely direction Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC),
of response by the bourgeoisie will be: 1) to call along the lines suggested by Rohatyn's famous "A
for wage and price controls and 2) to demand a New RFC Is Proposed for Business" (New York
system of what may be called state capitalism. Times, Dec. 1, 1974), would serve to rescue large
In the medium view but possibly before the companies and banks in trouble by transferring
end of Reagan's four years, I feel that wage public funds to private enterprise. (This develop
and price as well as possibly investment and ment, which we call state capitalism, is already in
import controls will be put on the national evidence with the Chrysler bail-out, Amtrak,
agenda. The possibility of such controls as a contracting-out of public services, and the transfer

"solution" to the failure of the Reagan Adminis of public money into private enterprise via the
tration's economic policy has already been voiced military budget, to name but a few of the current

by bourgeois economists and business spokesmen,


transfer mechanisms.) In the very long view,
not to mention prominent social democrats and possibly from the 1990's into the year 2000, will
big union leaders. Furthermore, it is the most be a development by the national bourgeoisie that
likely response of the Democratic Party, which is qualitatively different, that expresses the
will have better to offer. Yet these bourgeoisie's recognition of the need for central
nothing
controls will not solve the national crisis in capital ized planning to save their economy, businesses

accumulation, given that the national economy of and profits (this being especially true with respect
the United States, no less than any other nation, to the national, as opposed to the transnational,
is but a of the in sectors of the bourgeoisie). If some form of new
part larger world-economy
which a nation cannot resolve what is a world RFC would come into existence (and I do think it
crisis. What state economic controls will is on the agenda in the not too distant it
systemic future),
do is build a broad bourgeois coalition within would have two functions: the first would be to

which the representatives of big capital and big preserve and intensify class exploitation by
labor will agree to a wage and price policy which socializing the risks, costs and debts of the
will benefit selected sectors of the white organized capitalist class while leaving intact the private
labor movement in return for vast benefits ownership of profits restored by the RFC, while
which will be passed on to capital. The exercise the second would be to act as a stimulant to an

of such controls as would be possible in the economy chronically low on effective demand

United States will by necessity fail to satisfy the (this of course would be expressed and legitimated
economic and social needs and demands of in the name of creating "jobs," just as was the
unorganized labor, minorities, the permanently Chrysler bail-out). One cannot resist pointing out
unemployed and even some sectors of failing that such a system would outlaw strikes as being
small business. The political consequence will be attacks against the national security and the
increasing rebelliousness of these disadvantaged general welfare, precedents long established in
sectors of the working class (where the workers' public employee sectors and recently displayed in
movements ought lead) and in
to be in the the Reagan response to the air controllers' strike.

response, increasing repression to constrain or Onecannot in this brief space devote a full
crush resistance. The legacy of controls will explication of these predictions for the future,
surely be a worsened political situation occasioned but I do feel that these responses of the bourgeoi

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10 Contemporary Marxism: Dixon

sie, and many others I haven't time to present, depressing, for what is to stop the bourgeoisie,
will produce a centralized bourgeois state planning tailed by the new petty bourgeoisie (who will
function which will be designed to play a larger surely get their share of the pie in return for
and more direct role in the "disciplining" of the services rendered), from imposing upon the
working class and in the transfer of surplus working people of the United States a capitalist
value from workers to capitalists. It is also likely oligarchy entrenched within a centralized and
to be a state supported by Republicans (as Nixon authoritarian command state? Taking the material
became a "Keynesian" when expedient) and (or substructural) factors first, it is difficult to see
Democrats, with the Democratic Party, the how, in the absence of a hegemonic global eco
Campaign for Economic Democracy, the Demo nomic, political and military power, any social
cratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) contract-control program can become effective as
and Big Labor all safely in tow, backed up by a long as the world capitalist economy continues to
united front of mainstream politicians and function at all. The real alternative is the substan
intellectuals who will be assaulting the subordinate tial breakdown of international trade or at least

population with a barrage of propaganda in the formation of new political-economic blocs


justification of lower real wages, speedup, no that would lead to the multipolar breakdown of

right to strike and repressive austerity state the world-economy. In short, the oligarchic state
programs to preserve social peace, and of how
capitalist alternative sounds much better than it
state capitalist "socialism," preserving private really is, for even if it were to work as a national
profit accumulation based on public funds, is system in the short run, it cannot work in the

really the "American Way" to "democratic social long run insofar as a national system is embedded
ism" and the answer to the "Communist Threat" within the emerging transformations of the
and the crisis in world capital accumulation. world-system. This means that the leading forces
of the working classes will be faced in such a
IX. Conclusion future with a choice, a clear, unmistakable
choice: capitalist oligarchy or genuine working
At first, the scenario painted seems to be very class socialist revolution.

REFERENCES

Dixon, Marlene Raskin, A.H.


1981 "An Outline of Working Class History, 1917 1981 "A Reporter at Large (Unionist in Reaganland)."
1979." Our Socialism 2, 2 (May Day issue). New Yorker (September 7).

Wallerstein, Immanuel
Frank, Andre Gunder 1981 "The USA in Today's World." (Paper presented
1981 "Whence the Demand for Supply-Side Eco at the seminar, "The United States Today,"
nomics?" (Paper presented at the Cambridge under the sponsorship of the Instituto de
Economics Journal Conference on the New Investigaciones Sociales of UNAM, Mexico

Orthodoxy, Cambridge, England, June 22-25.) City, July 26-August 1.)

Wallerstein, Immanuel and Terence K. Hopkins


Magdoff, Harry and Paul M. Sweezy 1977 "Patterns of Development of the Modern
1981 "The Deepening Crisis of U.S. Capitalism." World-System, A Research Proposal." Review

Monthly Review 33, 5 (October). 1, 2 (Fall).

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