Monday, February 9, 2009

The specter haunts again

President Obama is frequently compared to FDR in terms of the crisis he has inherited and the challenge of addressing it. There's one big difference, however. The working class was in motion by the time Roosevelt took office, some three years after the start of the Great Depression. Such massive motion that the capitalist system was in danger of toppling. This is what pushed that president to move swiftly and aggressively to shore up the system with unprecedented jobs programs, new worker safety nets like welfare, Social Security, and unemployment benefits, and so on. He had to save capitalism. And he did (with the added help of an imperialist world war).

In contrast, this current crash is too new to have yet resulted in widespread working-class action. It will, without a doubt. But at this moment the capitalist class is still too cocky, too drunk with the easy riches it's been rolling in, to see the peril that lies ahead. And so the pressure on this president is from the top, to do the minimum necessary to keep the profits flowing. Thus the recent spectacle of a phony political debate over a "stimulus plan" that offers massive tax breaks for corporations and creates so few jobs that it will make only a dent in the cascade of layoffs staggering the workers.

Not surprisingly, European rulers are more nervous. They've endured revolutions. Their countries have much stronger unions. Their workers and students take to the streets when their rights and benefits are threatened. And so voila: their old nemesis Karl Marx graced the cover of Time magazine's Feb. 2 European edition. Guess what? He's coming soon to a capitalist's nightmare near you too!