Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Obama & US Workers Win

Barack Obama has won a second term as US President.  Four years ago when he was elected, I wrote that no one on the Left should have any illusions about what it meant - I Was Born By The River.  Still less should anyone have illusions in that regard after four years of Obama Presidency.  Yet, compared to a Romney victory, Obama's re-election is also a win for US workers.

Unlike, pretty much every other developed economy, the US under Obama has responded to the aftermath of the Financial Meltdown with significant Keynesian Fiscal Stimulus, as well as with Friedmanite Monetary Stimulus.  Unlike pretty much every other developed Capitalist economy outside the BRIC economies, and the next tier of developing economies, the US, as a consequence, has continued to grow steadily out of recession.  It would probably have grown even more, had it not been for the fact that after 2010, a Republican Majority in Congress, and Republican majorities in the State legislatures, frustrated Obama's attempts to introduce even more fiscal stimulus.  Unlike, every other developed economy, Obama as the incumbent, managed to win the election, and the two things are not unrelated.  Obama's decisive win in Ohio, which was crucial to being re-elected, came largely on the back of the fiscal stimulus, and the State rescue of the motor industry, which saved thousands of workers' jobs.

In 2009, the Labour Government in Britain, also introduced large amounts of fiscal stimulus, including that which rescued the Banks.  It was that, which raised the level of Public Sector debt, which the Liberal-Tories have made so much about.  Their claims that Labour had overspent are not substantiated by the fact.  Throughout most of the Labour years after 1997, the ratio of borrowing to GDP was in fact only a fraction of what it had been under the Thatcher and Major Governments!  As with the US, the Keynesian stimulus worked to cut short the recession, and restore growth here too.  A look at the charts of the time show that it was following a typical "V" shaped recovery pattern.  Nor, were Capital markets overly concerned.  At the beginning of 2010, UK 10 year Gilts had a Yield of just over 3%, and it was falling.  Markets knew there was no chance that the UK would default on its debt.

But, unlike Obama, Labour responded to the Liberal-Tory attacks over the Budget, by committing themselves to Cuts that were not that much less to those proposed by the Tories.  The Liberal-Tories, having udnermined the economy by their ridiculous claims about Briatin being like Greece, and having walled themselves in behind the narrative of the need for fiscal austerity, proceeded accordingly, and the economy has tanked ever since.

So, although Obama is little different from Romney, the Social Democratic policies he has pursued the base themselves on the shared interests of workers and Big Capital have been beneficial to US workers, compared to the Austerian policies pursued by right-wing populists in the UK and Europe, based on the interests of financial capital, and small capital.  To that extent last night was a win for US workers too.  To the extent that Obama's policies have prevented the US economy sinking further into the economic mire, and appear once again to be leading to a renewed period of growth, that places workers in a better position to fight for, and defend their own interests.

That is not at all to say that Marxists support or advocate Keynesianism.  In different conditions, it could not work to stimulate growth.  There can be no crisis free capitalism.  But, Marxists are not politically indifferent to the polices that Governments pursue either.  For now, those Keynesian policies have, and will continue to offer an alternative to austerity, and economic chaos.  We should citically support Governments that pursue them, whilst continuing to point out their limitations, and the need for workers to organise and fight for their own solutions, based on winning worker ownership and control of the means of production on an increasing scale, and the ability thereby for workers to increasingly co-ordinate their economic activities.

In the immediate future, US workers should press through their Trades Unions, and the links of those Unions with the Democratic Party, for Obama, and the Senate to face down the opposition from the Republicans, and the Tea Party Taliban.  It requires a national mobilisation to ensure that any fiscal expansion is geared to renewing devastated industrial areas, on the basis of locally based and democratically formulated plans, where possible focussing on extending worker ownership and control, in whatever forms are available.  Those mobilisations should seek to win over all those sections of US workers, and small farmers that have been hoodwinked by the Republicans, and present them with a vision not based on bureaucratic, State control, but on the basis of collective, self-government, and self-reliance.  That mentality, which is manifest in the kind of culture of the US represented by things like "Barn Raising", is in fact, a powerful basis for real working class, socialism in the US.

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