the crash of 2001-2004 and holding your nose ...

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Aug 18 21:36:17 PDT 2000

Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2000 18:49:22 -0700 From: John Gulick <jlgulick at>

On one thread, Peter K sez:

>It's interesting that both Cockburn and Vidal are predicting imminent
>economic collapse. In his August 21/28 Beat the Devil column, Cockburn
>writes "The likelihood is that either Gore/Lieberman or Bush/Cheney will
>preside over an abrupt delfation of the stock-market bubble."

Gary Hart, making out like Henrik Grossmann (where are you Rakesh ?) argued more or less the same thing at the shadow convention, which otherwise (based on my reading of transcribed speeches) was a bunch of atheoretical pissing and moaning about the sullying of Jeffersonian democracy and the defiling presence of "big money" in bourgeois politics. Like someone on this list quipped earlier, it's perfectly proper to have a different theory of the state for each day of the week (who originally coined that expression, anyway ?), but really now, don't you think that DLC revanchism in the Dem Party might have something to do with capitalist restructuring since the 1970's, and not just the fact that Verizon and Brown Williamson paid for a yacht tour to Catalina and back ? It's quite disconcerting how sloppy the "liberal-left"'s political sociology has become in the last 10 or 15 years, ever since the radical intellectuals abandoned more sophisticated versions of neo-Marxism. If we haven't gone off the po-mo deep end, we're all instrumentalists, conspiracy theorists, and populists now (save for some profound thinkers on this list) ...

On another thread, ChuckO sez (wassup ChuckO ?!):

>It would be interesting to see what happens if Bush wins and the economy turns
>sours. If that happens, will Nader be even more popular in 2004?

The extreme likelihood of a (severe ?) recession between now and 2004 (probably sooner than later) seems not be entering very many folks' political calculus, save the wunderkinds I have quoted here. (Unless, of course, IT has ushered in a new era of self-correcting markets and abolition of the business cycle). However one wants to define the multifarious "movement" and its contradictory goals, what's the difference between having Ozone Man or Shrub presiding over a bursting bubble ? If you're concerned about keeping the "movement" alive and advancing, who would it be better to have in office in time of economic crisis, Gore or Bush ?

I provisionally suggest that in the rather unlikely event Gore wins (I thought it likely until D2K concluded with all kinds of heinous splits papered over) and presides over a crash and credit crunch, the DLC types and Blue Dogs will join up with the Fortune 500 Repubs to impose and enforce austerity. The contradictions between the labor liberals and the center-right in the Dem Party will blow up and the Dem Party will be destroyed as a presidential vehicle for years to come (for better or worse). Maybe (a slight maybe ?) the Wellstones and Jackson Jr.'s et. al. will bail out of the Dems for a third party, a third party which can mean only so much in a political system lacking proportional representation and to a lesser degree campaign finance reform, both probably unattainable in an environment of heightened class war.

In the likely event Bush wins and presides over a market meltdown, will the crisis management (and exacerbation) to follow be more severe than with Bore at the helm ? I think so -- I'd anticipate the Blue Dogs teaming up with Repubs of all stripes to savage the public sector, eviscerate labor, fatten up the prisons, etc. (Of course the numerical/class fraction composition of Congress makes a big difference). The Wall Street (non-Blue Dog) Dems will be caught between a rock and a hard place, given their ruling class backers on the one hand, their organized labor/salariat people of color/middle-class feminist etc. electoral base on the other. From this clique we'd probably witness some capitulation to the right, some attempts to maintain the increasingly untenable alliance with the inside-outside liberals on the other. I'm guessing that if this scenario plays out, the capitalist offensive will be slightly more severe than it would be otherwise, and at the same time the ever-more fragile DLC-liberal alliance will still be maintained.

This is all terribly speculative and not very well thought-out, of course, but I'm just trying to generate a new thread.

In a nutshell, if Gore wins and presides over a crash, attacks on the multicultural working class, dissidents, etc. will be harsh, and tensions in the Dem Party will explode. Perhaps a fatal weakening of the Dem Party for a long time to come. More agitation for a bona fide third party and the electoral reforms necessary to make it flourish, but that's a long-range and difficult goal (especially with the two neo-liberal parties against it), and it's not really a concern of a good number in the movement who are oriented toward direct action, building up power outside of and opposed to the state, etc.

If W wins and presides over a crash, attacks on the multicultural working class and dissidents will be even harsher, and the unhappy marriage between labor, liberals, and Wall Street in the Dem Party will be sustained, though barely. If the Dem Party's rank-and-file survives layoffs, bankruptcies, swelling of the prison-industrial complex, etc., the Dems could even hypothetically win the 2004 presidential election. A lot rides on the timing of the crash (2001 gives the Blue Dog-Repubs breathing room, 2003 doesn't).

Does a Gore victory mean the puncturing of the Dem Party as a serious national force and a Bush victory the preservation of it ? Does a Gore victory mean radicalized popular forces with no viable political vehicle (and if so, so what ?) and a Bush victory mean compromised popular forces with a credible but completely tainted political vehicle (and if so, can a 90 percent outside 10 percent inside be pursued under these circumstances) ?

All this amateurish analysis is presented with the understanding that the major objective is the cultivation of an autonomous progressive anti-capitalist movement, that is 90 or 95 percent outside electoral politics, building up independent strength, and 5 or 10 percent in, making occasional tactical forays to prevent civil liberties from being wiped out, to protect people's livelihood that allows them to fight another day, etc.

Anyway, just some food for thought. I still have little or no idea how I'm going to pragmatically cast my vote, since my analysis is so fuzzy. I do find it rather puzzling that my convoluted logic might compel me to vote for Gore instead of Nader, although a moralist streak in me finds it abhorrent to vote for someone who crows about the engorged NASDAQ, burying Iraqi soldiers alive in the sand, and (yuck !!!) the soft-focus plight of "working families". I'm also puzzled while I'm wasting so much time agonizing over bourgeois "representative" politics ...

John Gulick

P.S. My handicapping of the popular vote:

Bush 50% Gore 41% Nader 6% Buchanan 2% Other 1%

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