by Glen Ford, published on Black Agenda Report, May 7, 2020
The Democratic Party is a servant of corporate capital and cannot possibly be converted to a people’s party. The rise and demise of Bernie Sanders proves the point.
“The people were force-fed the reality that the United States has no health care system capable of defending the public against invading viruses.”
The crisis of late stage capitalism emerged full-blown in the first months of 2020, when the U.S. corporate state lost its legitimacy by proving both incapable and unwilling to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people it governs. For the first time in almost a century, the great bulk of the population has lost confidence in the US State’s ability to provide for the public good, and a growing minority perceives the national government as a tool of oligarchy – a term that only came into general American usage in the tumultuous period since the previous presidential election cycle.
The delegitimization of the U.S. corporate order began as a self-inflicted wound, when the Democratic half of the electoral duopoly, backed by the bulk of the corporate media and ruling class, sought to politically invalidate Donald Trump’s presidency. It was, however, impossible to nullify Trump without gravely tarnishing the institution of the presidency, itself, and staining all the organs of governance. The Democrats’ non-stop campaign to invalidate a sitting president was more destructive to the legitimacy of the U.S. State than even the incompetent and purposely disruptive antics of Trump, himself. Half the politicians and most of the media were calling the occupant of the White House a kind of traitor – a “dupe” of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The world watched in wonder and disgust, and the U.S. public became accustomed to seeing their Head of State pilloried by late-night TV comedians and 24-hour cable news.
“A growing minority perceives the national government as a tool of oligarchy.”
In any other country, four years of such non-stop internal political warfare – actually, a very public conflict within the ruling class over who was fit to govern – would be perceived as a sign of grave instability in the ruling order. The Democrats and their corporate masters, however, had no intention of fatally wounding the Trump regime, which was backed by another section of the ruling class. They sought only to give the Democrats an edge in the 2020 election. This was never about “regime-change,” since the corporate rulers that control both parties would still be in charge whether a Republican or Democrat sat in the Oval Office. But the people were told daily that nothing less than “American Democracy” was at stake; that their national institutions were so weak and vulnerable that low-wage tricksters in a Russian social media boiler room could change the course of a national election by spending $100,000 on Facebook. Compared to the U.S., El Salvador seemed a pillar of stability.
Lots of Americans believed that the ship of state was, indeed, listing dangerously due to an illegitimate occupant in the White House whose presence had undermined all of the institutions of state and the security of the homeland at large, while the more overtly white supremacist section of the populace perceived themselves besieged by a wholly different set of darker-skinned demons and their allies in government. Meanwhile, Black America had been feeling politically naked and afraid ever since Donald Trump replaced the First Black President – a psycho-political whiplash of the highest order. Some feared the days of racist mob terror might return – a uniquely Black version of American political apocalypse.
“Black America had been feeling politically naked and afraid ever since Donald Trump replaced the First Black President.”
And then The Virus slipped into the asylum, triggering a sudden economic collapse not seen since the Great Depression.
The Crisis was no longer a theatrical experience played out on warring media, that could be escaped by changing channels and abandoning newspapers. Suddenly, half the country was put on lockdown with nearly everyone’s future in doubt. An economy that had been churning out low-wage jobs and ever higher-earning stocks collapsed almost overnight. And suddenly the people were force-fed the reality that the United States has no health care system capable of defending the public against invading viruses, and that the rulers have no intention of ever creating one.
To their horror, the people learned that the corporate state could not mount any effective defense of the public’s jobs, small businesses or health. The people became instantly reliant on their own devices and the heroism of medical workers deprived of equipment, medicines and protective gear. They were imprisoned in their own homes – from which many might soon be evicted – or forced to risk their lives by returning to virus-infected workplaces. The State could manage only one economic response to the crisis: creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and funneling it to giant corporations, the only “citizens” that count. The State’s emergency subsidies to working people and small enterprises were grossly inadequate in conception, and largely undeliverable in practice. Government agencies that had never properly served working people and the poor collapsed under the weight of a system in deep crisis.
“The State could manage only one economic response to the crisis: creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and funneling it to giant corporations.”
If a Marxist had written this story, her own comrades would accuse her of creating a child’s version of political economy, a caricature of capitalism in decline. The truth is that the U.S. ruling class and its army of minions do behave like cartoon versions of racist, capitalist, warmongering villains. They have created a stage, of a kind, on which they perform as God’s gift to global humanity, the manifestly anointed ones whose wealth-producing genius is a light unto the world, so bright and powerful as to stop history in its tracks and make God say, “I truly have outdone myself” – and then take a long rest while “the market” and its handlers guide the universe. But, when the real crisis hits, the political class is revealed as clowns and buffoons serving the Lords of Capital, whose only mission is stay on top of the pyramid and to hell with those crushed at the base, locked in the dungeons below, or ejected from any productive role in the structure.
From the oligarchs’ perspective, the unfolding crisis has no moral or ideological downside at all, since their prime mission over the past 40 years has been to force the planetary working class to compete for jobs with no benefits, no workplace protections and standards, ever-dwindling wages and zero employer obligations to the laborer. With the complicity of both corporate parties, periodic crises speed up this diabolical process, as in the aftermath of the 2008 meltdown, Austerity has nothing to do with containing the overall cost of government, but is solely designed to deprive working people of social supports so that, in desperation, they will accept any “gig” that is offered. The oligarchs conspire – that’s the correct word — to reduce the working class to permanent precarity. That’s their American – and global – Dream.
“The truth is that the U.S. ruling class and its army of minions do behave like cartoon versions of racist, capitalist, warmongering villains.”
The Lords of Capital delight in economic crisis, since they are best suited to ride it out and buy up the best of the broken corporate pieces, and to more deeply exploit a cowed and frightened workforce. Crisis is followed by deepening consolidation and monopoly, further empowering the surviving titans. In the absence of an effective fightback by workers, the Lords of Capital emerge from crises more hegemonic than before – as acknowledged when Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder conferred “Too Big to Fail” status on the banking cartel that had wrecked the world economy.
The corporate class’s belief in “creative destruction” puts them on an opposite moral plain from the rest of us. When weaker corporate players and the people lose, they win. Our famines are their feasts. They are the top predatory class, whose nature is concealed by narrative spinners in corporate political parties and media. The current crisis netted the super-rich $282 billion during just three weeks of mass death, fear and horror.
The Democratic Party is a servant of corporate capital, and cannot possibly be converted to a people’s party. The rise and demise of Bernie Sanders proves the point. As we at BAR always maintained, the Democratic Party would split or scuttle itself rather than become a vehicle for an anti-austerity presidential candidate. Sanders was the Great Gray Hope of folks that imagine easy roads to victory over the most vicious and voracious ruling class in human history, but that was pure fantasy. In the end, Sanders chose to remain in the good graces of the party rather than use the presidential candidacy bully pulpit to agitate for the people. He punked out as a champion of the people’s health and economic welfare at the very moment that Covid-19 emerged as a catastrophe.
The real resistance to the Lords of Capital must come from the streets and workplaces, Fighting parties are born in struggle. Only fools believe they can infiltrate the corporate duopoly and turn it to the people’s purposes.