Thursday, November 11, 2010

Part I: On the initial proposal of the Deficit commission

      I had initially intended to write about the Deficit Commission proposal and the Pacifica situation in the same posting, but it struck me that these might be slightly more digestible as separate postings.  Here is the first of them with the material on Pacific to follow in a couple seconds. Here is part two.
     Some of you may have taken note of the recent proposal by the bi-partisan Deficit commission created by President Obama.  For those of you who haven't, here are a couple descriptions of the initial proposal.  From the standpoint of the vast majority of the country, workers and future workers, the proposals are devastating.  The commission has proposed major cuts to social security and medicaid, as well as proposing removing a number of tax benefits for the middle classes and the poor, including tax credits for parents with children.  Additionally, the commission proposes to make substantial cuts to domestic spending.  At the same time, the commission has proposed to reduce corporate taxes and continue tax credits for research.  Precisely at the moment when the world is in the largest economic crisis since the depression because of the policies of neo-liberalism, we offered more neo-liberalism.
         We should recognize the proposals for what they are, a project of class domination.  Not only do we need to recognize this reality, we also need to respond in kind.  Within the context of where I am, the context of the university, this really can take two forms, introducing the conversation to students in the form of education, and bringing up the issue within our events and protests.  Most substantially, we need to link this issue to the fight over fees and tuition that began last year, and continues this year.  However, the ability to respond effectively is ultimately dependent on the trade unions and the less venal players in the non-profit sector and community organizations.  The trades have already begun to respond, but that response has to break out of the stultified, bureaucratic forms that it currently feels are safe.  Real social movements are participatory and democratic.  The same reality must occur within the community groups and ngos (those that are on the sidelines of the what some have called the industrial complex... we need to get another term to describe that, really.)
      Some may question why the urgency for a proposal that 1. is only in its initial stages, and 2. highly unlikely to pass in the form that it is in.  My response is simple.  This bill sets up the topography of struggle for the next couple of years at least, and we need to make it clear that taking away these resources can only occur at a substantial cost.  We need to take a page from our colleagues in France and England and recognize these benefits as our rights gained from struggle, or perhaps in the language of Sylvia Federici, as forms of the commons created in the struggle against  Fordist capital.  Our inability or unwillingness to do so allowed the government to destroy the welfare infrastructure, strip our ability to organize ourselves into trade unions, and the ability to attend a university without amassing extraordinary debts.  Each of these was enacted with only the faintest of whispers on our part, and has produced the conditions in which attacks on policies and institutions that benefit the majority of the country have been naturalized and enacted by both political parties.  Without action, that process will continue.
     We also need to recognize that the attack on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society has largely been legitimated and structure by white supremacy.  The attack on welfare programs has been legitimated as an attack on the Black body, as has the increased power of the police and prison systems.  White activists additionally have to recognize that this structure of white supremacy is not a simple enactment from above, but is linked into social fabric of whiteness, particularly through the social policies of the New Deal, although the history is much longer.  The current Tea Party movement also marks the extent that unthought white supremacy is linked to the defense of austerity measures.  At its heart, a project of class recomposition has to confront this dimension of the conflict, neither denying nor minimizing it.
       Perhaps Marx phrases it best in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, when he notes that the fight against the proletarian class in the struggle of 1848 was organized on the platform of "property, family, religion, order" as a sign of conquest.  This platform is equivalent to the platform of Reagan, Thatcher, and continues to today for practical purposes.  Within this context, the attacks on women's rights, on the GLBT community, etc. are the cultural face of this new platform of class domination.  At the practical level, this means that we must continually approach our struggles through an intersectional lens, and make our actions and programs continually engaged in these questions.  This also requires breaking out of the generalizations that I am currently engaged in, and thinking about struggles at the institutional level, and the history and terrain of struggle within those institutions.  I'd be interested in hearing from folks about what they have been involved in within this context, and also from fellow students and university workers on their thoughts on how to incorporate this into our struggle around privatization, and how to link this into a larger anti-austerity struggle.

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