Where We Stand Today

Jan 14, 2022 | PDA Blog

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 privatizationderegulationglobalizationfree tradeausterity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society…”  Wikipedia

14 Comments

  1. Jay Jurie

    Randy, as in your reply to Tom Gogan, there are a number of treaties which we should all urge the public to learn about and press their representatives to endorse and the US to sign, such as the ban on land mines, among others. –But would agree the one against nuclear weapons is the most important. Also agree this was beyond the scope of your post, but do hope it gets taken up and pursued.

  2. harry targ

    Can we use this in D and I?

  3. Donna S Dewitt

    Thanks, Randy. I think this is a good general analysis and provides thought for further in depth studies of the critical issues addressed.

    • Randolph W. Shannon

      Donna,

      I appreciate your feedback and would welcome your thoughts on any points that you care to discuss.

      As the former President of the SC AFL-CIO you’re my homie since I grew up in Darlington County. Your thoughts on the state of the labor movement would be most instructive.

      In Solidarity,

      Randy

  4. Bob

    Labor unions have had disagreements among themselves as to how to survive the attacks heaped on them by the greed masters who are running America and the world . While production has risen, wages were frozen . Inflation has brought the economic crisis to a head . 25 % of the workforce is going to quit their present job and seek other ways to survive ! If they survive the pandemic .

    • Randolph W. Shannon

      Bob, Thanks for your comment.

      With the decades of repression against unions (remember PATCO), the export of manufacturing to low wage countries, and the growth of the service economy the labor movement has declined. At the same time labor has struggled to defend the gains made by tremendous sacrifice. Today union organizing is in a revival.

      I concur that disagreements within the labor movement have reflected these hard times. They also reflect differences in the economic status of different trades and occupations. The power of finance capital aka Wall St. is more dedicated than ever to stopping union growth.

      The opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better by a decisive minority of US Senators Manchin and Sinema along with every single Republican Senator reflect the determined corporate opposition to unions.

      Let’s focus on gaining some ground in the 2022 election.

  5. Ira Grupper

    Very well stated, Randy.
    Ira Grupper
    Louisville KY

    • T Gogan

      Interesting analysis , but not a word here about the ongoing threats posed by US militarism / US imperialism. How can that not be addressed in any progressive analysis of the current situation?

      • Randolph W. Shannon

        Hi Tom,

        Thanks for reading my article. I understand your criticism.

        First please note that in the third paragraph I did talk about militarism. “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.”

        I think that militarism is a key element of the liberal oligarchs for several reasons that they consider strategic. Among them is enforcement of their control of subject states, challenging China’s Belt & Road initiative, forcing client states to continue to buy US military hardware, suppression of local democratic movements, and overthrow of independent governments. I’m sure you can elaborate and supplement this list.

        However, in my opinion, these objectives are meeting resistance on a global scale. Millions of people are more actively resisting the neoliberal hegemony. And China is playing a leading role in supporting local movements for independence.

        I think a key issue for citizens of the USA is acceptance, ratification, and adherence to the TPNW, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

        This blog post was focused on an analysis of the strategic position of progressives and the way forward through 2022. In my judgement a more extensive discussion of the ‘ongoing threats posed by US militarism’ would have detracted from the thrust of the post.

        Would you care to draft a blog post about this subject?

        In Solidarity!

      • Bob Johnson

        I assume that is because Progressive capitalists have to support that Presidential Congressional Corporate Military Industrial Complex of Revolving Doors or be denied their tiny sway they have in it, just as Bernie Sanders must support the insanely wasteful boondoggle aircraft program his constituency depends on.

        • Tina B Shannon

          Your assumptions are wrong. Randy and I, and most of the progressives I know in my community, have worked face to face with public for decades to organize against military spending. And what exactly do you mean by progressive capitalists? You’re referring to workers/proletariat who mistakenly identify themselves as capitalists?

        • Randolph W. Shannon

          Bob,

          Yes there is a lot of truth in your comment. But I don’t think there are any “progressive” capitalists. The dominant faction today is most accurately called the ‘liberal’ wing as opposed to the reactionary faction.

          Its true as you say that a lot of their capital in invested in the military complex. And they production of this waste takes place in almost every single Congressional District. Any withdrawal of those facilities for any reason is used by the corporate media to attack the incumbent MOC. So they control jobs, cash flow, and influence political opinion in the CD.

          No surprise then that Congress increased the military budget this year over and above what any authoritative government entity requested or recommended.

          Even though this appears to be an insurmountable force, I believe that we should maintain a steady criticism of the MIC. First of all the quantity of jobs per dollar spent is the lowest of any industry. MIC firms are extremely profitable with cost over runs, budget padding, bribery, etc. At the same time this capital could create multiples of the jobs in the MIC and relieve economic distress and poverty.

          Lastly, the arm race has become clearly a no win competition. And nuclear weapons are an irrational pursuit by dangerous and deranged people.

          We just can’t afford the MIC and it should be a primary target of progressives.

      • Tom Edminster

        Agree w Tom Gogan.
        Unilateral militarism (encoded in AUMF amendments to War Powers Act..) & investments/expenditures in past present & future wars… need to be challenged by progressives, inside & outside Congress, including in “house of labor.” AFL CIO preclusion of policy statements & pushes on foreign policy (& thus on waging war, and use of public/federal monies) is…regressive, absurd, “short sighted” at best ..& invites a return to …the blinding narrow nationalism which has so served …the Empire….&& involved the sacrifice & mutilation of US humans in uniform…not to mention… those humans on the other end of interventions, special ops, extreme renditions, & drone attacks..
        Post 9/11…challenge & revisit AUMF, the fig leaf doctrine of “national security,: & all the regressive investments in the machinery of war..: CO2 emissions …employment transitions &.social care for military & line level veterans & families need to be addressed.

    • Randolph W. Shannon

      Ira, thanks for your comment. Anything that you particularly liked?