With Friends Like Joe Biden, Who Needs Enemies?

By Paul S.

Democrats are cutting workers loose like they’re ballast in a sinking hot-air balloon, wagering that they can win solely by supporting capitalist policies without making any concessions to the working class. The only alternative is to build working-class organization independent of capitalist influence.

As the pandemic continues to dwindle in the United States, the Biden administration has begun allowing GOP governors to roll back unemployment benefits all across the country. As Matt Bruenig explains in his People’s Policy Project article, at least one of the unemployment programs is not voluntary on a state basis, meaning the states cannot “opt out” of giving much-needed money to families still out of work due to the pandemic. Biden allowing this to go unchallenged is illegal, but in bourgeois society law does not matter so much as force does. So long as the capitalist class is still in control over the nation, these things will continue to happen.

Joe Biden has long been one of the most right-wing Democrats, choosing at every juncture to appeal to “moderate Republicans” over the working class that looks to the Democratic Party for even a modicum of political support. This is because Joe Biden, and a majority of the Democratic establishment, would much rather have a party that has no electoral commitments to the working class at all. The frightening part about this fact is that it seems to be working. The shambolic, razor-thin margin that the Democrats won in 2020 is built to fail. The PRO Act, the progressive iteration of the infrastructure bill, and the For the People Act — a crucial omnibus voting rights bill — are all languishing in legislative gridlock thanks to the connivance of the most conservative members of the Democratic Party. Joe Manchin is committed to voting against the For The People Act. Mark Warner is holding the PRO Act hostage. Meanwhile, employers are on the offensive all around the nation and in Texas and other Republican-controlled states the state legislatures are working overtime to make it harder to vote. Joe Biden is President of the United States, he has the power to challenge these laws (there are very few things that a President cannot do), but elects not to.

These are all symptoms of a party that, while it still takes in the votes of working class people, does not seek to give them anything particularly meaningful in terms of reforms. There’s a phrase in union circles that goes, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” but nowadays the Democrats are seating us at the kids’ table while they go about their business. The Democratic Party is a house divided. So long as it is a party that contains mega-millionaires like Mark Warner and Nancy Pelosi or pharmaceutical executives like Joe Manchin’s daughter, the Democratic Party cannot deliver on its promises to workers. The party has made its choice on who it represents, and it has chosen to jettison workers like they’re ballast in a sinking hot air balloon.

It can feel dire when workers are left in the lurch by the only party that’s supposed to represent them in the halls of power. The only option we have as socialists is to not despair at the currently grim political situation. We know that the only way for workers to achieve actual political representation is to form their own democratic organizations, free of capitalist influences, and organize as a class. This is the course Democratic Socialists of America has been charting in the last few years, and will continue to pursue at our convention this summer. We must organize the workers who have been discarded by capitalist politics if the socialist project is to have any success.

This is the sixteenth installment of Austin DSA’s “Class Enemy of the Week” series. You can find the fifteenth, on Kamala Harris’ comments to Central American migrants, here.