U.S. and World Economy

My Thoughts on The Debt Ceiling Debate Scam

By Jack Heyman

Socialist Viewpoint is initiating a discussion based on the article, “Notes on the Debt Ceiling Debate Scam,” by Lynn Henderson that appears in this issue. There is no doubt that the commanders of U.S. capital will escalate their havoc on the lives and living conditions of workers across the globe. There is no end to their wars or to the cutbacks they will impose on the workers.

Henderson’s article has opened a dialogue on the state of the current world capitalist economic crisis; a realistic assessment of the state of the anti-capitalist, Socialist and Communist left; and what it will take for the working class to fightback and win. We welcome serious contributions to this discussion such as this one. —The Editors

The main focus of Lynn Henderson’s article, “Notes on the Debt Ceiling Debate Scam,” seems to be the bankruptcy of Stalinism, portraying it as the “biggest defeat of the working class.” I’d say that title goes to the fall of the Soviet Union, the degenerated workers state. Capitalism and imperialism have had nearly a free hand to wreak havoc in resource rich third world countries. Furthermore, in the developed countries they’ve had virtually no challenge to their austerity programs, not so much by the miniscule Stalinist parties but by the mass social democratic parties, especially in Europe’s soft underbelly, Greece, Spain and Portugal. China, the deformed workers state headed by a Stalinist party, has been navigating through a dangerous capitalist passage, accumulating tremendous wealth during this period of a world capitalist credit crisis at the expense of the Chinese working class. Obviously I disagree with Henderson’s characterization of China as capitalist and see the possibility of a political revolution there.

I’d also point out that there’s been some resistance to oppressive capitalist policies as in France, where the working class organized successful strikes against the government’s attempt to raise the retirement age. French dockers unions were actually able to keep their retirement age even lower than the national pension age. It required coordinated militant dockers strikes inflamed by the government’s attempt to make them work longer at an especially dangerous job. Also on the U.S. West Coast the longshore union was able to organize 1) the first ever strike against an imperialist war in this country on May Day 2008, 2) the first ever strike against the bloody Zionist state, 3) the Bay Area ports shutdown last October against the police killing of a young black man, Oscar Grant, and finally 4) this year another ports shutdown here in solidarity with the besieged state workers in Wisconsin—all were defiant actions against both the International union bureaucrats and the maritime employers. The employers are suing ILWU Local 10 for this last action, trying to quell the union’s militancy.

Yes, there’s a lack of class struggle in general in the world. I’m neither blind nor a Pollyanna. But there’s a pervasive, building anger amongst workers because of the oppressive capitalist austerity programs. This gives Trotskyists a golden opportunity to expose the machinations of pro-capitalist union leaders and the bankruptcy of capitalism and its social democrat and Stalinist props. What’s lacking is a class struggle leadership in the trade unions to break from the Democrats here and a revolutionary workers party in the international working class to coordinate struggles on a worldwide basis.

Jack Heyman is a retired longshoreman and rank and file leader of local 10, ILWU.

—July 25, 2011