Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Recapitalization" Is Not "Nationalization"

by Norman Markowitz

The major industrial capitalist countries today are in effect purchasing "equity stakes" in major central banks, guaranteeing credit and deposits, and seeking to "recapitalize" through state investments and, hopefully, controls, a collapsing system. The Bush administration, according to the press is beginning to follow suit,shifting gears away from its $700 billion bailout.

While this is being called "partial nationalization" it is yet a further exercise in state capitalism whose guarantees are primarily aimed at insuring that the capitalist class retains its control over capital.

Many theorists in the socialist and to a much lesser extent the later Communist movements looked positively to aspects of state capitalist development, seeing in its centralization, its placing of state controls over capital, an important stepping stone on the road to the transformation of a centralized advanced form of capitalism into socialism.

But without a strong workers movement(and Communists would say without a strong Communist party to educate the working class and help to coordinate its struggles) state capitalism can and has been a stepping stone to open capitalist dictatorships in Germany, Italy and other countries. Will these state capitalist interventions contain the crisis and keep the "recession" from becoming a major depression? Will they lead in the direction of working class revitalization or in the direction of increased monopoly power.

That will be decided by the struggles ahead, the political struggles in the U.S. both before and especially after the election, especially the struggles to alleviate what we might call the "peoples crisis," unemployment, loss of homes and other personal property, loss of access to credit in an installment plan society, loss of pensions. While the peoples crisis and the capitalists crisis, the crisis of the banks and the stock market, the investors seeing their "portfolios" net worth plummet, the business managers seeing their credit tighten greatly, are inter-related, they affect different people in different ways, with the former affecting most of the world's people, who own nothing butt their labor. Senator Obama has talked about addressing the crisis "from the bottom up," which I interpret as addressing the peoples crisis first. So far that isn't being done. But it can be done and it is what has to be done.

What is also interesting about the European governments actions is how irrelevant the Bush administration and its policies are to what is happening. Bush is in effect following Europe's lead, shucking and jiving so to speak with neither a consistent policy or much understanding of the developing crisis. If this is the world of "one superpower," that the pundits were proclaiming after the fall of the Soviet Union, it is a superpower straight out of Monte Python, with a President for global silliness.

Meanwhile, McCain is running around, being booed by his own "base" for telling them that Obama is not an "arab," but a good family man, throwing in Bill Ayers while contending that the campaign should be kept clean, and expressing anger when Representative John Lewis, who was
beaten into unconsciousnesses during the Freedom Rides in Alabama in 1961, accuses his campaign of "sowing hate" the way Alabama governor George C. Wallace did in the 1960s, hate that reverberated in increased violence against civil rights activists and peace activists. While the Obama campaign and Lewis are backtracking from the Wallace comparison, I wouldn't, in the sense that McCain's Town Meetings are filled with "supporters" who are talking like George Wallace in the 1960s or worse.

Richard Nixon began to bring the George Wallace "base" (nearly 10 million votes in 1968) with coded appeals to racism and authoritarianism under slogans like "law and order" and "silent majority." McCain is using the "town meeting" format at this moment to have his supporters talk like George Wallace in a non coded way, to create a sort of audience participation racism and reaction while the world passes him, his campaign and his party by.