Plotting the points of a fightback

January 3, 2017

THANKS TO Keith Rosenthal for his brilliant submission to, "Two poles of an evil duopoly." The article was an innovative and thoughtful application of dialectical thinking to the two parties of U.S. capital--the Democrats and Republicans. I want to add another dimension to the argument that Keith outlined in his contribution.

Keith discussed the way that Democrats and Republicans exist in a dialectical unity--that the momentary success of each individual party conditions the future success of their opposing party, whose success in turn conditions the future resurgence of the original ruling party. The duopoly trades power back and forth like a pendulum, while the only real losers remain workers and the oppressed, who are crushed by the duopoly.

Toward the end of his article, Keith asserts, "Only the gestation and eruption of an entirely new vector can burst through the suffocating bounds of the prevailing reality." What I want to argue is that the pendulum is already moving along multiple vectors simultaneously.

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If the pendulum is moving left and right along the x axis of the duopoly of capitalist parties, it is simultaneously moving in a much longer arc along the y axis of class power. Just as the pendulum approaches one zenith on the x axis, then slows, halts, reverses and moves back to its opposite pole with increasingly tremendous speed, the same is true along the y axis. The difference is that the y axis is a longer arc and can therefore be harder to see.

The combination of these two movements creates a zig-zag pattern, a z formation in which the duopoly has traded power back and forth for the last 40 years, in the course of which the pendulum rises ever higher towards the zenith of capitalist class power.

TO USE a more apt analogy than a pendulum swinging along two axes simultaneously, American capitalism is like a shambling corpse, lurching onto first the left foot and then the right. Each step propels the monstrosity closer to its fiendish goals.

Yet each step forward simultaneously takes it further away from the magic which animated it in the first place, weakening the very ligaments which hold its appendages together. In the last 40 years, the corpse has lurched forward at a breakneck pace, devouring millions in its wake. But the threads are fraying, the sorcery leaks out, and indefinite momentum is no longer possible.

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Just like the two parties, the very success of the capitalist class in driving through its 40-year program of neoliberalism and American empire has created the conditions for the reversal of that program and the ascendency of the capital's dialectically united foe, the working class. The very success of neoliberalism has yielded unforeseen and dangerous consequences for the long-term stability and survival of that system.

Trump is the preeminent example. Trump's victory is the direct result of the transfer of wealth into increasingly fewer and fewer hands, creating multibillionaires for the first time in history. These near-demigods wield power unimaginable to ordinary people. Trump used this power to give himself the platform from which he launched his wrecking-ball campaign into the heart of the political status quo.

Yet Trump, more than any other Republican president, threatens to provoke mass opposition from overreach, and to do so quite quickly. This is not just because of the depth of attacks he plans to level against workers, but also because significant sections of capital are opposed to elements of his program of economic nationalism--not to mention the public attacks he may make on individual corporate entities and those capitalists competing with his family businesses.

This is why Hilary Clinton was capital's preferred candidate. Clinton is a known and reliable entity. Trump is not.

But of course, we are not dealing with a pendulum nor a corpse, but a political economy. Ultimately, Keith is right that the key factor remains the subjective action taken by workers, the oppressed and the organizations that represent them.

But the objective conditions the subjective. The success of the capitalist class over the last 40 years has spawned new contradictions and crises that the current order is incapable of resolving. Whether the corpse is imbued with a new surge of magical energy or finally stabbed through the heart depends on the decisions and actions of the left and, ultimately, the international working class.
Owen Hill, Portland, Maine

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