2024 – Our year of socialism or barbarism

by Jonathan Todd

We are entering Rosa Luxemburg’s year. “Capitalist civilization cannot continue,” she wrote a century ago. “We must either move forward into socialism or fall back into barbarism.”

A similar contrast was recently drawn by Doyne Farmer, an American scientist and entrepreneur, which was quoted by Alastair Campbell in a fantastic speech: “We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome.”

Farmer’s Armageddon is a brutal Malthusianism of climate chaos: more and more of the world becoming unhabitable for humans, driving hundreds of millions of desperate people towards shrinking islands of habitability, where warm welcomes will not await. Awesome is a world that has taken the steps to avert climate chaos, which will come with an abundance of fresh air, natural habitats, and clean energy.

Lives of Armageddon or awesome await today’s children. With their fates determined by 2024’s decisions.

Change is not linear. Neither the way our climate is changing: “climate tipping points … lead to abrupt, irreversible, and dangerous impacts with serious implications for humanity” (e.g., collapsing ice sheets and rapidly rising sea levels). Nor our trajectory to net zero: “positive tipping points within our social systems (that) help accelerate progress towards a sustainable future” (e.g., take-up of Electric Vehicles rapidly advancing due to steep price reductions).

“Pace is truly what matters in the climate fight,” says the front of Simon Sharpe’s compelling book on how our rate of decarbonisation needs to increase by five times. We either now speed through positive tipping points to a world of awesome or slip beyond negative tipping points to Armageddon.

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a big step towards awesome. Its massive subsidies for green production benefit all parts of America:

  • Biden was in Colorado recently to celebrate CS Wind, the world’s largest facility for wind tower manufacturing, and a source of 850 jobs in a district represented by a Republican who called the IRA “a massive failure”.
  • California governor Gavin Newsom (Democrat) made his Floridian counterpart Ron DeSantis (Republican) squirm by highlighting the investment that the IRA has so far brought to the sunshine state, which is projected to rise to $62 billion and 85,000 jobs.
  • More than $90 billion in battery investments have been announced, creating 70,000 manufacturing jobs, under President Biden. Eight states have benefitted most of all: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, forming the “Battery Belt.”

This is Biden’s socialism: pushing the world through positive tipping points and making America great again with real jobs, renewed hope, and rerouted supply chains.

“It has been a miracle year for the US economy,” reported the Washington Post. “Inflation has plummeted without triggering a recession … The economy has gained 2.4 million jobs so far this year, and growth has accelerated, with an annualised rate topping 5 percent in the third quarter.”

Yet only 23% of Americans report (on page 20 of polling published by the Wall Street Journal) that Biden’s policies have helped them, as compared with 53% that say that these policies have hurt them. Alarmingly, the equivalent figures for President Trump are 49% and 37%.

Go Big, the title of Ed Miliband’s latest book, sums up the policy approach of the Biden presidency, with much more ambitiously interventionist economics than half-a-century as a centrist politician would have had us anticipate. Biden went big for geopolitical reasons (to reduce American dependency on China) and recognising the failures of decades of laissez-faire economics. “In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year,” according to groundbreaking work by a Nobel Prize winning economist on the fatal flaws in American capitalism.

Trumpism germinated on that grim terrain. The theory of Biden’s presidency is that democracy must deliver for Americans to keep faith with it. Biden has delivered – but he is now behind in polling to Trump, who doesn’t believe in democracy. Not in the narrow sense of abiding by electoral outcomes – as 6 January 2021 tragically attested. Or the broader perspective of respecting the rule of law and independent institutions – as he faces 91 felony charges and threatens to weaponize the federal government against his enemies. His dictatorial ambitions are now being clearly communicated.

Expect barbarism if America reverts to Trump in rejection of Biden’s socialism. America will become much more like Putin’s Russia under Trump: nationalistic, vengeful, autocratic. What happens in America won’t stay in America: Ukraine will be more likely to fall to Putin; NATO will be severely compromised; and the race to avoid climate Armageddon will be lost.

Trump’s floor is high, while his ceiling is low. His base remains fanatical, even if middle America is sceptical. The delivery of Biden’s first term more than justifies re-election. The Democratic base now needs to Go Big for Biden: turning out the vote as if their lives depend on it. In our year of socialism or barbarism, they do.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut      

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