The government shutdown of October 1 and the pending economic disaster set for October 17 have generated a storm of confusing news and opinion articles. Each of the two capitalist parties blames the other and, with the help of their cooperating media personalities, produces a deluge of arguments for their view. Americans and the watching world cannot be blamed for being confused. Some people use the confusion as an excuse for apathy.
But those of us who care about people and progress cannot afford confusion nor apathy. We need to focus the lens of Marxism on the crisis so that we can understand it and set a course of action. Even a precursory examination will show that the working class is suffering from the government shutdown and would suffer even more if a worlwide economic crisis results from a possible U.S. debt default. At the same time, the capitalist class is not united in favor of the government shutdown and possible debt default. Even though major capitalist spokespersons favor the crisis and some of them, for example the oil-rich Koch brothers, are clearly funding the anti-worker movement; other capitalist figures, including the national Chamber of Commerce, oppose the shut down.
These differences among the capitalists are tactical in nature. All of them would like to see government policies favoring the wealthy, it's only a matter of what tactics should be applied that separates them.
Once we have established with certainty that the interests of the working class lie in resolving the government shutdown and avoiding the debt default, we are clear on which side we are on. Using the long view of historical materialism, we can see that the current crisis is one phase of a long and drawn out war against the working class conducted by the more aggressive wing of the ruling capitalist class. For some years, they have used the strongest tactics to try to lower the living standards of our class through cutting pensions, lowering wages, raising regressive state and local taxes, lowering the taxes that affect them most such as income, luxury, and estate taxes, cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare, cutting food stamps, cutting Medicaid, moving work abroad, instituting automation, and conducting an all-out drive to disarm the union movement.
One possible scenario to end the current crisis poses a "grand bargain" in which the Republicans allow the government to function only after they obtain major cuts in retirement benefits.
It should also be clear that our class must rely primarily on itself to resolve this crisis. That means that the working class and its allies must be mobilized to demand an end to the crisis without cuts in our standard of living. In order to co-opt such a possible mobilization, Congress unified on a bill to provide back-pay to the furloughed government workers. But we should never wait on the government workers or any other sector of the working class. We need to mobilize in the strongest and most public manner. Those of us who understand the problem and the solution have a special responsibility to throw ourselves into these mobilizations!
Peoplesworld.org has an excellent article by Art Perlo explaining what is happening. See
Perlo recommends an article by the AFL-CIO explaining the debt ceiling: http://tinyurl.com/nba4feb
He also suggests:
Call the White House (202-456-1111). (you might not be able to get thru because of the shutdown!) Leave a message for President Obama: Thank you for standing firm against the Tea Party. No grand bargains that cut Social Security.
Call your Senators and Representatives. If appropriate, tell their office staff: Thank you for standing up to the Tea Party. Please work for a budget that restores all the cuts that were made in the past. Support the Harkin-Sanchez bill that expands Social Security instead of cutting it. IF they are Republicans, tell them Stop holding the American people hostage. Abolish the debt limit and pass a budget that meets our real needs for jobs, infrastructure, education and healthcare.
Sign the AFL-CIO online petition protesting the Republican shutdown of government: http://tinyurl.com/oxh7r2b
Help build support for the Sanchez (HR 3118) and Harkin (S 567) bills to strengthen Social Security by increasing benefits and COLA. Learn more about the Strengthening Social Security Act athttp://tinyurl.com/nuyd7zs. To ask your Representative to co-sponsor the bill, go to http://tinyurl.com/l3lhvp2
Perlo's suggestions are good ones. Let me add this one: Hit the streets at every opportunity!