Monday, July 15, 2019

Does The Militant Support Smaller Government?

The Militant (publication of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)) prints two articles of interest. The first, by Roy Landerson, is entitled 2020 election debates show crisis of bosses twin parties, while the second, by Brian Williams, is Almost half of all US workers live ‘paycheck to paycheck’.

The first article is a critique of the Green New Deal, championed by the irrepressible Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Mr. Landerson asserts the following:
Millions of working people distrust both capitalist parties and want to discuss an alternative to the anti-working-class course of successive Democratic and Republican administrations.
In the face of this, the liberals work feverishly to corral working people back into the rulers’ two-party shell game, to convince us we absolutely have to back the “lesser-evil” among the bosses’ parties or disaster beckons.
There are so many things wrong here, beginning with the word millions. 95% of voters cast ballots for either Democrats or Republicans, and most of the remainder plump for the Libertarians. The fraction who subscribe to the distrust that Mr. Landerson describes is tiny--likely less than 1%.

So it is a stretch to suggest that "liberals have to work feverishly" to corral working people back into the shell game. Very few sheep have gone astray--and those that have are mostly voting for Trump. The clamor for an independent labor party of socialist stripe is minuscule.

Yet corralling is precisely the motivation that's attributed to AOC. She's not entitled to any honest opinion--hers is solely a mission of bait-and-switch deception. I think this is grossly unfair. However much I disagree with AOC, I'm certain she really believes her own bullshit. She is truly convinced that "climate change" is the crucial issue of our age, and that mass poverty is the only solution.

It's nonsense on stilts. Unfortunately, it's nonsense that claims the allegiance of a large part of the electorate--much larger than those demanding a labor party. The Green Party, for example, was founded on such a program. Most grouplets on the Left have enthusiastically signed on to climate-catastrophism, e.g., Socialist Action, even if they refuse to support the Democratic Party.

The Militant, to its great credit, understands the "nonsense" part, though Mr. Landerson unfairly imputes dishonest motives to AOC.
The hook Ocasio-Cortez advances to try and convince workers to back her call for a bigger, stronger capitalist state is fear of climate-change-generated disaster. Hysterical — and unscientific — claims of impending catastrophe are supposed to make you happy to turn your life over to the government.
Then comes the really strange part:
President Trump says he has “cut more regulations … than any other administration,” part of the Republicans’ claims to be partisans of “small government.” ... 
The Democratic aspirants all claim they want ever more regulations and government agencies to place the “smart” meritocrats in every government nook and cranny to do “good” for the downtrodden, who’ve proven too dangerous to make decisions for themselves. ...
Trump says all socialists like big government. But if you look at the real continuity of the revolutionary working-class movement — from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution to the program of the SWP today — you see the opposite is true. Writing in 1871, Marx explained that the Paris Commune, the first time that the working class held power, “made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions — cheap government — a reality by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure: the standing army and state functionarism.”
So apparently The Militant claims to support small government, in solidarity with workers who support Trump. They agree with the premise that regulations and the administrative state are the enemies of freedom.

But then comes the ludicrous claim that Marxists are NOT for big government! Tell that to the Cubans, whose very livelihoods are stifled by myriad rules and red tape. The former USSR was no slouch in the regulatory department, either. But apparently Revolutionary America is going to cut all defense spending and government functionaries.

And it is on that very weird promise that workers are supposed to vote SWP in 2019 and 2020.

The second article, by Mr. Williams, claims that
Four in 10 U.S. workers struggle to pay their bills, a recent UBS bank survey showed, and would confront a crisis if faced with a $400 emergency expense. One quarter of U.S. residents skipped necessary medical care in 2018 because they couldn’t afford the cost.
And more:
After adjusting for inflation, 50 percent of U.S. households have less income today than they did 30 years ago, the Federal Reserve Bank reports. While more jobs are available today, increasing numbers of workers are forced to work two or even three jobs to make ends meet. Wages are less than $18.58 an hour for half of all U.S. jobs, and more than a third pay less than $15. Some 4.3 million workers seeking full-time jobs are forced to accept part-time hours, the government admits.
Mr. Williams never explains, but one assumes that his cure for this will be higher taxes and more regulations--all in a futile effort to raise people's standard of living by fiat. Of course that will fail in a major way--see Venezuela for a recent example.

But if that's Mr. Williams' view, then it openly contradicts that of Mr. Landerson, who (correctly) argues that government regulations are the problem rather than a solution. This is very funny for unintentional reasons: "Landerson" is likely a pseudonym--the name does not appear on The Militant's masthead. I'm reasonably certain that the person behind the name is Mr. Williams himself. So he's schizophrenic--in one article he tells the truth (that regulations make people poorer), while in the second he suggests the opposite (that we can, by magic regulations, make people richer by fiat).

A couple additional points:

Debt Explosion: Mr. Williams complains that workers are too far in debt. Of course that's true--and not just workers. Practically everybody wants to spend beyond their means, and merchants are happy to extend credit. Ray Dalio has an excellent video on that topic here. But what is Mr. Williams gonna do about it? Prohibit people from taking on debt? Talk about a nanny state infringement on freedom.

Speed Up: Mr. Williams is exercised about automation, which he terms speed up. The example he picks is Amazon, which now uses robots that "that swarm around the 2,500-worker Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York bring goods for pickers to pack at breakneck speed, raising the rate from 100 items an hour to between 300 to 400."

And this is bad? Surely using machines to augment human labor is a good thing. Indeed, increases in productivity are the only real way people can actually get richer. But like all his socialist brethren, Mr. Williams is a true Luddite.

Brian Williams is a smart guy. Back in the day we nicknamed him Brainy--it still fits. But his ideology traps him in contradictions.

Further Reading:


  1. A report on the latest "Militant Labor Forum" (about the Green New Deal) in NYC, from the Facebook page of a True Believer:

    "I just got back from the Militant Labor Forum. Both Seth Galinsky and John Studer spoke. John Studer, the paper's editor said that the 'Militant' has given too much emphasis to the "Green New Deal." If the Democrats were actually trying to get it passed, it would represent the threat that has been written about. But it has become increasingly clear from both statements of the candidates and of their press representatives that they have absolutely no intention of introducing this as legislation in Congress. It's simply a propaganda campaign.

    "Adjustments will be made in future issues of the 'Militant.'"

    Will they once again send out replacement issues of The Militant and tell readers to dispose of the old ones?

  2. Well, duh! Mitch McConnell introduced the GND in the Senate, and the Dems didn't even show up, so scared were they to vote on it. The GND would be a total economy killer, and everybody knows that.

    Still, Studer, et al, shouldn't dismiss it. It may not be legislation, but it has captured the allegiance of a major part of the Left. They will have to address it one way or another.