More articles by
Yacov Ben Efrat
Tea Partiers release Fascist Genie from Bottle
The defeat of US President Barack Obama in the midterm elections may have been expected but was painful nonetheless. After two years with Obama in the Oval Office, the US economy is still struggling and unemployment affects some 15 million citizens. Obama enjoyed unprecedented support upon taking up the presidency; the later disappointment was as deep as expectations had been high. Obama managed to waste all the political credit he was granted within two years. The promised change failed to materialize because he did exactly the opposite of what he had promised.
Obama gave the Americans a bit more of the same. US voters had weathered two terms under President George W. Bush, and now demanded real change. Instead of responding to these demands, Obama sought the agreement of the Republicans who took full advantage of his desire for consensus to undermine his program – and ended up winning a large majority in Congress.
Two years ago, America said no to continued war in Afghanistan and Iraq and demanded the heads of Wall Street bankers who had cynically exploited the public. Obama failed to deliver. Wall Street recovered rapidly thanks to the generous help of Obama, who poured a trillion dollars into the banks while CEOs paid themselves handsome bonuses totaling billions of dollars, but the US remains mired in Afghanistan and Iraq and there is still no way out of the economic straits.
Lessons from history
History has already shown that high unemployment releases the genie of fascism from the bottle. That is what’s happening in America today. The Tea Party movement arose exactly when Obama, with Republican support, poured a trillion dollars into Wall Street while millions of people were thrown out of their homes and jobs. Tea Partiers presented the bankers as the enemy of an unemployed public, the Washington politicians as corrupt, and the state as a totalitarian entity stealing the last crust of bread from the workers in order to subsidize the idle blacks and Hispanics. Xenophobia, which undermines American’s Christian values, was automatically directed at the black president, servant of his banking lords and masters.
Where are the masses who mobilized two years ago to bring victory to Obama, drawing America behind them? How is it that within less than two years they have disappeared, and the street has been conquered with unbearable ease by the deluded extreme right? Where are the trade unions whose members went from door to door to get people to vote Obama? Where are the African-American organizations or the demonstrators against the war in Iraq who contributed to Bush’s fall? They feel betrayed and have lost their belief in their ability to bring about change. They did the impossible and put a black man in the White House, but he did what they all do instead of acting like he was out to change America. The US marched backwards and an ugly wave is sweeping its streets.
America’s chronic disease
Obama failed – and failed to learn. He thought saving the banks would save the economy, but it doesn’t work that way. The money he poured into the financial institutions ended up in stock markets around the world, which continued to have a ball, while productive companies remain unable to invest in development and unemployment fails to fall. Obama is Wall Street’s friend, continuing in Clinton’s footsteps – Obama too sees the market economy as panacea to all America’s ills. But the market economy does not operate for the good of society – its aim is to maximize capitalist profit. America exports jobs to China and imports cheap goods; US companies make handsome profits abroad and avoid taxes at home, while US industries struggle to increase production and create jobs. It’s a closed circuit. America has become the number one victim of globalization for the sake of which it worked tirelessly for thirty years.
Instead of presenting a clear alternative to the Republicans and taking advantage of their dire position following Bush’s failures, Obama resuscitated his adversaries and sawed off the popular branch on which he was sitting. Instead of passing the bill to encourage unionization, he maintained the existing situation which contributed to weakening the unions. Instead of passing a healthcare bill to wrest healthcare from the claws of the private sector, he entered into exhausting conciliatory negotiations with the Republicans and despite all the concessions he made they voted against him.
Instead of punishing the banks and using the money to encourage employment and assisting local government, he created an enormous deficit which was wasted on saving the banks. Instead of getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq, he sent more troops which failed to improve the situation there. Obama feared clashing with the right and creating internal division; the result was that fascism reared its head and is now sweeping across America. This is nothing new – history has already shown us similar dark periods.
Obama is a symbol of missed opportunity. The Tea Party phenomenon is a sign that the US suffers from a chronic disease. Bush’s conservative administration wrote a radical prescription: Bush believed military power would return America to its former international status and economic leadership. He reduced taxes for the rich, hoping their wealth would make the nation wealthy. He encouraged unlimited credit. He deregulated the financial sector. In short, he fulfilled the dream of America’s right – and the results are known to all.
Obama had the chance to apply the opposite policy, but he flinched. Thus the US Congress – both parties – is responsible for the crisis in values, the economic straits and the social collapse of America. The American people have lost their faith in politicians, and from here it’s just a small step to losing faith in the democratic regime itself. As long as the state fails to solve the problem of unemployment, and as long as fear of the future increases, the Tea Party movement will continue to grow. This bizarre popular movement feeds on the fears of the masses. It creates enemies both within and without, and directs popular anger towards them, uniting around the primitive values of white, evangelical America – America which lost its path because it deviated from the way of the Lord and went against the basic values enshrined in its Constitution and the words of its Founding Fathers.
Capitalism at a dead end
The results of the midterms hold a mirror up to America’s real face. Obama may be responsible for the defeat, but the organizations that supported him are not free from blame. For a long time, America has suffered from a distorted regime which paralyzes government and prevents real change. The two-party system is nearing the end of its life after it has been proved beyond all doubt that the Democratic Party does not offer a road to change. Its hands are tied by Wall Street and it does its bidding no less than the Republican Party.
The Tea Party phenomenon reflects an urgent need for an alternative political movement aiming to strengthen democracy and offering an alternative social and economic program which places the interests of the workers above the interests of Wall Street.
The capitalist system is dying and all attempts to revive it have not only failed but have deepened the crisis. US and British attempts to deal with the economic crisis by budgetary cuts are liable to increase unemployment and maintain the lack of growth, while Obama’s attempt to increase the deficit has had no real result. Capitalism has reached a dead end, and as always in such circumstances, fascism is flourishing. We warned against this in the past, and the time has come to gird our loins and thoroughly understand reality. The myth that capitalism will always arise renewed from its own ashes is unfounded – the last time it reached the edge of the precipice, it cost the world some 50 million souls and left Europe and Japan in ruins. The Tea Party movement is a warning light. If we ignore it, as liberals and democrats did last time, it will bring disaster upon us all.