Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Editorial: The state of our United States

What has five years of Reaganism meant for the people of this country?

First Published: Unity, Vol. 9, No. 3, February 21, 1986.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With candied catch phrases about the family, peace and security, opportunity and work, President Reagan in his State of the Union address called upon us to rally behind his vision for the future of the country. His hope is that we will not just accept but enthusiastically join his crusade to cut social welfare programs, pour billions of dollars more into the military, escalate the arms race, and violate the sovereignty of other countries.

Reagan’s policies are those of an imperialism on the decline, unable to support and pursue policies which in the past moderated to some degree the class conflict, exploitation and oppression of this system.

Unleashing capitalism

Reagan’s basic program is to unfetter, in his words, “the lumbering giant,” that is, monopoly capitalism.

We have seen over the last several years what that means: the gutting or even elimination of government programs that big business thinks inhibit its ability to make money, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

It has meant shifting federal money from social welfare to the military, open government encouragement for the destruction of trade unions, and ending what there was of federal government support for civil rights.

It has meant tax breaks for the rich and preaching about morals and the family for the rest of us.

Increasing poverty

What has five years of Reaganism meant for the people of this country?

Millions have been driven into poverty. In 1983, by government statistics, 15.2% of families in the U.S. were in poverty as compared to 11.1% in 1973.
Just between 1980 and 1983, an additional 1.3 million Black families fell into poverty. More than one out of every three African Americans now lives in poverty.
The number of children living in poverty increased by three million from 1968 to 1983 even though the total number of children decreased in those years by nine million.
The gap between the rich and the poor has grown. The top 10% of families increased their take of the total income from 29% in 1969 to 33% in 1982. Meanwhile the bottom 60% of the population is getting 32.7% of the total income, the lowest on record.
The administration is reporting a 6.8% unemployment rate in the U.S. today, but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C., think tank, estimates the unemployment rate more at close to 8%, which means 9.3 million workers are unemployed.

Politically, Reagan and his Attorney General Edwin Meese would like to limit individual democratic rights. Unbelievable as it may seem to many people, they want to reduce the scope of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution! They want to establish a new form of “states’ rights” that would allow individual states to pass laws that at present would be illegal under the Constitution.

“States’ rights” would see the establishment of state religion, mandatory prayer in the schools, and the restricting of individual rights to free speech, association and assembly.

Already the Supreme Court is steadily limiting the scope of civil liberties, such as allowing more use of illegally obtained evidence in trials and corroding the separation of church and state.

A broad front against Reagan is needed

Traditional liberal forces grouped in the Democratic Party have been unable and unwilling to fight the right. Their abdication from the democratic struggle makes this struggle even more important for progressives and the left to take up. In this period of declining imperialism, the left must strive to take the lead in the democratic struggle against the right.

An important arena this year will be the senatorial, congressional and state elections. Thirty-four Senate seats are up for election, 22 of them held by Republicans. The Republicans could conceivably lose control of the Senate, which would make more difficult approval of various Reagan judicial appointments. A strong showing by progressives in the congressional elections could strengthen the ability of Congress to restrict some of Reagan’s efforts to intervene flagrantly abroad. Who controls the state legislatures could have a critical impact on redistricting of congressional seats due in 1991. This in turn could determine who controls Congress in the 1990’s.

Who sits in Congress and on the Supreme Court and other such matters will have a profound impact in determining what the context of our struggle will be for many years to come. In the future, we believe that, given the information and the choice, the majority of people in the U.S. in the course of protracted struggle will choose socialism. The more democracy there is, the better it is for broad participation and understanding of the people. Therefore, the left must be the hardest fighters for democracy.

The fight against the well-organized and well-financed right will be difficult. It appears now that the left is small and disorganized. The left’s strengths are not so easily seen. But our strength is there and growing: in the struggles of workers against takeaways, in the struggles of African Americans and Chicanos for democracy and justice, and in the struggles of youth for education and an end to intervention and oppression here and abroad.

The effort must be made by the left because who else is there in 1986?