Early on I didn’t fully appreciate the full impact of China’s economic successes on the Biden’s administration’s decision to turn away from neoliberalism in favor of a people/labor, climate, egalitarian centered economic policy. If you doubt this, listen to Ezra Klein’s recent interview with Brian Deese, Director of Biden’s National Economic Council.
In 1979, Paul Volcker, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, raised interest rates to nearly 20 per cent. In doing so, he engineered a deep recession to squeeze inflation out of the economy and discipline labor. A year later Ronald Reagan, the newly elected Republican President, complemented Volcker’s actions by slashing government spending, attacking the labor movement, and assailing the movements for equality. Together their actions upended the prevailing model of profit accumulation and political governance – Social Keynesianism – and ushered in a new regime – neoliberalism, unfettered globalization, and financialization – that both parties, in different ways, adjusted their politics to. No less significantly, their actions threw any opposition within and beyond the state on the defensive. Four decades later that regime of accumulation and governance, thanks to its own economic and political contradictions – none bigger than the Great Recession of 2007 – and a changing terrain of struggle, is hanging by a few threads. Whether 2021 will mark the moment when those threads completely unravel isn’t a certainty, but the sustained actions of the Biden administration and the political coalition could be the coup de grace to this anti-popular economic and political regime.
Thanks to a small handful of Democrats, mainly in the Senate, and, of course, every Republican in both chambers, a break from neoliberalism – trickle down economics, an obsession for price stability over full employment, lavish tax handouts to the 1 per cent, means testing, an insistence on market coordination of the economy, not, God forbid, robust government intervention. the organization of a coordinated assault on labor, and the enactment of policies designed to severely aggravate inequality – is proving to be more difficult than I expected a few months ago. It’s ironic, to put it nicely, that the fate of so many is dependent on decisions of so few.
Any resolution of this impasse will depend not only on what happens in Washington, but across the country as well. Street heat at this moment will likely make the difference between a break from neoliberalism or its adaptation to new circumstances.
Early on I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of China’s economic successes on the Biden’s administration decision to turn away from neoliberalism in favor of a people/labor centered, climate centered, egalitarian centered economic policy. If you doubt this, listen to Ezra Klein recent interview with Brian Deese, Director of Biden’s National Economic Council.
With so much at stake and the margin so thin between victory and defeat or, to put it differently, between political progress or severe political retrogression, one would think that the diverse coalition that elected President Biden and its movers and shakers would be engaged in massive joint actions in support of his domestic agenda. I said a few months ago that the present and future prospects of that coalition, not to mention the country, depend on the success of the Biden administration in legislating its domestic agenda – infrastructure renewal to voting rights to jobs to union rights to criminal justice and immigration reform to climate action and more – in the face of fierce Republican opposition. That is still true.
To paraphrase Marx, the weapon of criticism and insider lobbying at this moment should take a back seat to the weapon of joint and massive mobilizations in support of the legislative measures of the administration, which will, in turn, position Democrats to increase their congressional majorities in the elections next year.
Herein lies the core element of the “independent” role of the broader movement at this moment, not critiquing from the sideline, not each exclusively engaged in their own separate initiatives, as good as they may be.