Where We Stand Today
by Randy Shannon
Secretary, PDA Board of Directors
PDA Pennsylvania Coordinator
In 2011, Occupy Wall Street manifested the widespread revulsion and condemnation of the 2009 great financial crisis and linked it to neoliberalism. This popular emotional wave came from the organized progressive movement. Then in 2016 Progressive Democrats of America launching a petition campaign asking Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for President as a Democrat. By a 2018 massive wave of teachers’ strikes and the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 26 million people marked a high tide of popular rejection of neoliberalism. These efforts resulted in a wave of new progressive members of Congress.
Now the capitalist oligarchs are divided. The reactionary camp seeks a solution of intensified exploitation, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia enforced by a fascist-like militia and an authoritarian state.
The liberal camp seeks to reduce egregious and unique exploitation, raise social assistance, and intensely rationalize the productive process. At the same time, they increase militarism to buttress their weakening domination of the global economy.
The liberal camp is using the internet to deepen control of the production of knowledge in order to gain popular assent to their control. They also want to expand social assistance and give workers a sense of agency to cultivate their assent to increasing consumption.
The liberal camp is clearly more tolerant of the progressive majority of American voters. Progressives articulate deep aspirations of the people, which helps the liberal oligarchs cling to popular support. At the same time, they retard progressive motion, as they seek to control the reins of political power.
The neoliberal* policy of capitalism begun in the Reagan Administration intensified exploitation of the people to enrich finance capital, which had become the dominant sector of capital, displacing productive capital. Lower wages, less social assistance, less housing, less manufacturing, union busting, and higher interest rates were part of the neoliberal policy.
Neoliberalism is the response of 21st Century capitalists to the falling rate of profit, the endemic flaw of capitalism as Marx explained. The neoliberal project begun by the Reagan Administration has failed to reverse this trend, only enriching banks and speculators. The Great Recession of 2009 subverted state control of speculation and wrecked the economic and social stability inherited from the New Deal era.
In 2022 more progressives are running in Democratic primaries to fill vacant seats. This reflects Americans’ view that change is needed. For the near future these developments objectively demand an alliance between the liberal oligarchs and the broad progressive movement. This is not an alliance of mutual compromise but a combination of two enemy camps to defeat a third common enemy.
The ability of the liberal faction of oligarchs to defeat those building fascism depends on the extent of their concessions to the progressive movement. Organizing to legislate concessions that the liberals have made is a key first step to winning alienated workers back to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The progressive agenda is watered down in Biden’s Build Back Better, but its passage requires liberals to enforce discipline among conservatives in their own camp.
Many progressives have introduced numerous bills in Congress that are much better than BBB. They address many real issues people now face. The prolonged battle and media attention on BBB pushes real progressive legislation further out of view. A broad front of progressive groups must coordinate to push these progressive bills to the top of Congress’ agenda.
The supply chain issues, the mass resignation movement, the strike wave, the climate crisis, and the covid pandemic affect both the production process, the distribution process, and the service economy. This conjuncture reflects the failure of the current hollowed out government establishment populated by place-holders, unqualified appointees, and grifters. This ineptitude is a consequence of neoliberal policies to “shrink the Government.” The results are becoming obvious during the first two years of the Administration of liberal oligarchs, who seem detached from the urgency of the moment. Too much of the media is entertaining the right-wing charge that the results of neoliberal policy are the fault of the liberal Biden Administration.
The progressive movement is continuing to grow. It is still segmented and organized among different social strata. At the same time there is a tendency toward cooperation and coordination at the top, especially to elect more progressives to Congress. However, the state of this development may not be advanced enough to prevent a right-wing victory in upcoming elections.
The US trade union movement is seeking to play a more active public role on the shop floor for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The widespread strikes against the neoliberal two-tier wage system and for significant wage increases is a conscious rejection of former concessions to neoliberal demands made under former Democratic Administrations. This opens the door to a wider solidarity movement. Significant personalities in union leadership are starting to articulate this new militant stance, but are not yet leading the mass of their union members. The UMWA appears to be an exception as they mobilize to pressure Sen. Manchin to support Build Back Better.
This development in the trade unions deserves the all-out support of progressives. This stage of growing mutual support and cooperation among the trade unions with solidarity of progressive organizations opens the door to significant improvement in our democracy, economy, climate, and global citizenship.
Progressive Democrats of America is seeking to build a wider and deeper alliance against the growing reactionary threat to democracy. We are working to politically defeat the militia-backed cult that controls the Republican Party. Both nationally and locally we are turning toward this year’s primary elections of progressive candidates.
“Neoliberalism is a term used to describe the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with free-market capitalism. A significant factor in the rise of conservative and libertarian organizations, political parties, and think tanks, and predominately advocated by them, it is generally associated with policies of economic liberalization, including privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society…” Wikipedia