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Political Report to the United Front Against Austerity: Page 2 of 9

Beyond the Two Party System

The two-party system has obviously become an intolerable straitjacket for the political expression of the American people. It is now necessary to create a mass movement outside of the two parties, a mass movement at least strong enough to destabilize the existing power combinations in the direction of constructive and radical reform. Each party is a colossus with feet of clay. The Republican Party is demographically doomed because its core constituency of white men is dwindling as a proportion of the society. The Democratic Party is increasingly a loose congeries of parochial interest groups, held together only by support of the New Deal reforms. If Obama wins the election, the Republican Party could well dwindle to a regional party of racists and reactionaries in the deep South. In that case, the Democratic Party might split into a Wall Street faction led by Obama and a populist faction around Sherrod Brown, Kaptur, Defazio, and others.

If Romney becomes president, the Republicans will attempt to impose a permanent plutocratic austerity dictatorship. This will involve a restriction of the franchise by voter ID laws, by repeated purges of the voting rolls, by limiting the hours of voting, and by harassment and intimidation. Citizens United has opened the door to plutocratic and oligarchical domination of elections. If Romney can name one or two Supreme Court justices of the Scalia type, the way will be clear for such a permanent dictatorship, most likely fronted by the Republican Party. Naturally, such a low-wage sweatshop economy with no public education, declining rates of college attendance, no child labor laws, and a general atmosphere of Dickensian cruelty will not be able to compete with China and others. But the thoroughly incompetent US ruling class is unable to see beyond the prospect of short-term gain. Replacing this incompetent ruling class is perhaps the greatest historical necessity of all.

A Mass Movement Built Around Economic Demands

The required mass movement must be built on the most basic issues of economic survival. We learned in the 1960s and 1970s that a foreign war, unless the casualties mount to the millions, cannot be the basis for a movement able to contend for power. We learned during the last decade that even a foreign war combined with mass skepticism about a false flag operation is also inadequate to the task. Process reforms like campaign finance limitations will appeal to the good government wing of the petit bourgeoisie, but this is also not enough. Only the bedrock life or death issues of individual and family survival can impel working people to enter the political fray with all its risks.

Union Busting and Drastic Austerity are the Essence of Fascism

So far there are no black shirted or brown shirted storm troopers in American streets, and thus no classical Central European fascist movement, but this is beside the point. In a country with an entrenched tradition of elections and representative government, and a country which is so far not reeling from millions of war dead on the scale of World War I, fascism will inevitably look different in modern America, but the essence is likely to be the same. The top priority for both Mussolini and Hitler was to smash the trade union movement, and this is something the United States is well on its way to achieving by more gradual means. And then came the austerity. In Fascist Italy, the Mussolini regime reduced wages between 1927 and 1935 by 60% to 75%, even as the cost of living was rising by 30%. In Nazi Germany, Hitler cut wages in his first 2 ½ years in power after 1933 by 25% to 40%. Taxes and special contributions skimmed off another 20% to 30%. So, cutting the standard of living of working people by two thirds to three quarters appears as one of the essential features of fascism. Union busting and austerity are fascism. We are here to fight that fascism.

Austerity Psychosis Gave Hitler Victory

We must also recall that it was austerity that gave Hitler political victory. Anton Erlekenz was a moderate trade union official who campaigned against the austerity psychosis in Germany in 1930-1932, before Hitler seized power. He saw clearly that as long as millions remained unemployed, the struggle against fascist ideology, no matter how well intended and executed, was hopeless and doomed. Only by replacing austerity with the recovery program and creating millions of jobs could fascism be defeated.

If a democratic government in Germany had forced the central bank to issue several billion marks of long-term, low-interest credit – as demanded by the trade unionist Woytinsky and the civil servant Lautenbach – the autobahns and superhighways could have been started in 1931 and 1932, putting millions of unemployed back to work. The loss of millions of desperate supporters could have cut Hitler off at the knees. Such a policy might have meant no Nazi dictatorship, and no World War II in Europe. In the era of nuclear weapons, we are playing for even bigger stakes today.

The democratic forms of representative government in this country cannot and will not survive very long in the face of 30 to 40 million unemployed.

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