by Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture:
The U.S. empire, like the USSR, is imploding out of its own corruption, says Harriet Fraad in an interview with Finian Cunningham.
Over the past year, the massive upheaval in the United States from workers going on industrial strike and walking off jobs signifies an increasing awareness of class politics. In the following interview, Harriet Fraad says that American workers are overcoming decades of suppression from anti-communist propaganda as well as a betrayal by the two main political parties.
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Workers are becoming aware of their rights and their conditions of exploitation under the corporate capitalist system. They are angry and restless for an alternative economic system. For the first time in a long time the words “capitalism” and “socialism” are now entering conscious public discussions. Workers, says Fraad, are well aware of their betrayal by the Democratic Party which has sold out their class cause for the benefit of the party’s leadership from corporate sponsorship.
More than ever, she contends, the working majority of the United States needs the representation and leadership of a new political party that galvanizes their needs and rights under a socialist program.
Historically, Fraad points out, the United States always had a strong movement of working-class politics and socialist parties, for example at the end of the 19th century and during the early 20th century. Unfortunately, much of that tradition was destroyed by the pro-capitalist establishment using Red Scare tactics during the Cold War, including the Democratic Party, the corporate media and official trade union bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, the recent acute exploitation of workers during the pandemic period and the grotesque growth in wealth inequality are forcing American workers to question the entire system and to realize their collective political power as a working-class constituency that comprises the vast majority of the 330 million U.S. population.
However, as Harriet Fraad warns, the potential for progressive change in the United States could still be hijacked and destroyed by the rise of right-wing populism under demagogues like Donald Trump. The Republican rightwing and the ineffectual Democratic Party under President Joe Biden are creating the base for fascism which may vanquish the potential for progressive socialism. Thus, America is coming to face an ominous crossroads, in her view, which boils down to this: will the United States embrace socialism or will it descend into fascism?
Dr Harriet Fraad lives in New York City. She has been a practicing psychotherapist and hypnotherapist for nearly four decades. She is also a political activist, a founding member of the women’s liberation movement in the United States during the late 1960s and co-founder of the journal Rethinking Marxism. Fraad is co-author of several books, including Class Struggle on the Home Front and Imagine Living in a Socialist USA. She broadcasts a weekly commentary Capitalism Hits Home covering current labor and economic issues as part of the Democracy at Work channel. Fraad is particularly critical of how the Democratic Party in the United States has elevated so-called “identity politics” over the more central issue of class politics, the fight for workers’ rights and the advancement of socialism. That subject of how the CIA and the Democratic Party played the U.S. population into the trivial pursuit of identity politics will be returned to in a future interview for Strategic Culture Foundation.
Question: Despite a lack of mainstream media coverage, nevertheless there is an unmistakable impression that the United States is undergoing widespread labor strikes and resignations over the past year. Can you give us some figures on this development in worker protests? How significant are these demonstrations in the historical perspective of the American economy, industrial relations and society?
Harriet Fraad: There are over 100,000 people currently on strike in the U.S. At least four million have dropped out of the labor force. There have been over 1,000 separate industrial actions during the past year. These are low estimates. With the exception of Mike Elk’s Payday Report, strikes and labor actions are routinely under-reported by our corporate media. As reported elsewhere, billions of dollars in profits were made by U.S. corporations during the pandemic and the recession that accompanied it. Billionaire wealth surged by 70 percent, or $2.1 trillion, during the same period that saw massive impoverishment of workers and their families; U.S. billionaires are now worth a combined $5 trillion. Meanwhile, wages were not raised.
Question: Do the mass labor strikes across the United States signal an increase in workers becoming more aware of issues of class politics and an increase in militancy to demand their rights as workers?
Harriet Fraad: The class awareness of U.S. workers is, at least up to now, not a conscious class awareness. It is not informed by a socialist media presence, any socialist daily newspapers, television stations, or socialist internet. Historically, class awareness was effectively crushed by a national anti-communist crusade with the public trials of hundreds of people suspected of belonging to the Communist Party or what they considered its fellow travelers in the Socialist Party and the left. The confederation of trade unions, the AFL-CIO, expelled the activist left and its communist and socialist organizers. They were the militants that kept the unions vital. Without them, the union movement lost its wider purpose of worker power. In the 1950s, 35 percent of U.S. workers were organized in unions. Now there is barely 10 percent in unions.
However, class consciousness was re-introduced with the Occupy Movement of 2011. There, the idea of the 1 percent super-wealthy and the 99 percent of the rest of society took root in popular perception. It is significant that former President Barack Obama, a supposed “progressive” Democrat, crushed Occupy sites across the nation in 2012. Having said that, class consciousness across the U.S. is just beginning to be revived.
Question: Can it be discerned that America’s workers and their families – who represent a majority of the 330 million population – are becoming: a) more critical of capitalism as an economic system; and b) more receptive to and supportive of an alternative socialist politics?
Harriet Fraad: For the first time since the 1950s, capitalism can be named as a system rather than the implicitly assumed only system for organizing an economy. U.S. grotesque inequality is exposed and becoming increasingly conscious among workers, especially for the young whose future is dire. Young Americans are mired in student debt, deprived of jobs with a future, and may even lose their planet due to capitalism.
Question: Traditionally, in the two-party U.S. political system the Democrats are viewed as being pro-labor and pro-union, but it seems that over recent decades the Democrats have become indistinguishable from the Republican Party as being loyal and pliable servants of Big Business. Can you explain this trend with historical reference?
Harriet Fraad: The big sell-out of the Democratic Party to corporate interests was launched by Bill Clinton in 1993. He had been elected with union energy and union financial support. Yet, he was most instrumental in making the Democratic Party a party serving corporate capitalist interests and taking corporate money.
When Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he allowed jobs in the United States to be outsourced to Mexico and he gave his blessing to the exodus of millions of U.S. jobs to nations with low wages, terrible working conditions and weak or no ecological protections.
Clinton initiated the Democratic Party’s new corporate strategy of verbally celebrating racial, gender and sexual equality and justice while advancing corporate interests and abandoning the poor and the white working-class. In just one instance, he killed cash assistance for needy families and ripped a huge hole in the American social welfare safety net. He threw millions of poor black and white women and children into bad jobs and terrible poverty while claiming “progressive” treatment for all.
Question: Does this historical background partly explain the phenomenal rise of Donald Trump as a “populist hero”?
Harriet Fraad: Yes. The neglected white working-class gave up on the Democrats that sold them out and they were ripe for Trump’s empty promise to “Make America Great Again”. They were outraged by their perception that the gains made by people of color and women were what took their jobs away. That was a misperception distorted and presented to them by Trump. People of color and women still earn less than white men. It was not people of color and women but rather corporate profiteering that took their better-paid manufacturing jobs to nations like Mexico, China and India with terrible job conditions. It was corporate capitalists like Trump and their servants like Clinton who took their jobs. Trump exploits white working-class rage. In the absence of a powerful present socialist analysis, Trump alone speaks to their outrage. Bernie Sanders, a socialist, had a chance to win as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Sanders was defeated. He was outvoted by traditional African-Americans who chose Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s defeat was aided and abetted by the Democratic Party leadership.
Question: If the modern Democratic Party is a hindrance to the cause of workers, shouldn’t workers then seek to establish a new third party that actually fights for their class interests?
U.S. workers are now beginning to reclaim class consciousness.
America direly needs a unified socialist voice that connects the various movements like Black Lives Matter, Climate Extinction, the Feminist Movement, MeToo# and Timesup#, Labor rights, transsexual rights, socialist and communist parties and the movement to transform capitalist business and all other forms of organizations into cooperatives. They need a movement and a party that is against all arbitrary divisions between people. The movement and party should be an umbrella organization. The handle and stem represent class justice. The spokes and their multicolored fabric are all of the movements that are needed to create class, race, gender, and sexual justice for all.
Question: The corporate news media and academia suggest that somehow socialism is antithetical to ordinary Americans. Is a mass movement for socialism possible in the United States? What would that take for it to mobilize and achieve governance?
Harriet Fraad: A mass socialist movement is certainly possible in the United States. In fact, there has been a long history of socialism in America from cooperative communal movements to official socialist and communist parties.
The Socialist Party was a powerful force in the U.S. from the turn of the century until the First World War. Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate won a million votes even though he ran from prison in 1920. Socialism and communism are not antithetical to Americans. However, when they actually threatened capitalism as mass movements they were severely repressed by the federal government in the service of corporate capitalism.
Question: The social discontent and political disorientation in the United States seems to have reached unstable levels. If a viable democratic socialist direction is not harnessed by the people, do you fear that a reactionary alternative is a real danger? That is, for fascist politics to fully emerge from the incipient forms we see already in an increasingly rightwing Republican Party?
Harriet Fraad: The U.S. empire, like the USSR, is imploding out of its own corruption. America is polarized. There is far greater acceptance of a socialist alternative to capitalism as well as the danger of a well-financed turn towards fascism. On the socialist side, labor, a mass base, is awakening to the outrage of super-exploitation by the 1 percent. People are politically active on the left as they have not been since the 1960 and 1970s. A majority of young people prefer socialism to capitalism. However, the U.S. left does not have a centrally organized national organization around which to unite. If it did, it could mobilize the majority of Americans.