If Democracy Ends? Inside The Economics of Fascism

Richard Wolff was asked what happens if a fascist like Trump takes over the White House again. What happens if a strongman government destroys what is left of American democracy? Professor Wolff response is shocking.


What are the economic effects of strongman governments, what fundamental changes take place to our economy when fascists run it? Or what if the changes are miniscule and fascism is much closer than you thought? Richard Wolff joined Thom Hartmann to discuss the first, secondary and tertiary changes that take place in the American economy when fascists take over. Economist / Co-founder, Democracy At Work / Author of numerous books including, most recently, The Sickness is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself.


The Quickest Way to Solve the Health Care Shortage is Killing Student Loans

It’s the least we can do.

By Paul Blest

Candice Elam reads through her remarks before the classes of 2020 and 2021 graduation celebration for the Rutgers School of Nursing, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Piscataway, N.J.

The U.S. was staring down a shortage of both doctors and nurses prior to COVID-19. Two years and counting into the pandemic, it’s a full-blown crisis.

There are ways that a functioning country could rectify this, but as yet, no one running the federal government has the imagination or desire or ability to seize the opportunity to build something better.

The Biden administration has gone back and forth on both student loan forgiveness and free college tuition, but the pandemic shortage of healthcare staff across the country gives incrementalists the clear opportunity for the kind of targeted reform that they’ve always argued is necessary to produce change. If we want to coax more people into working in healthcare, we should start by making college and medical school free for aspiring nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers, and paying them a bonus when they enter the workforce. In a country where healthcare infrastructure is in the midst of collapse, this is quite literally the least we can do. 

It’s pretty clear what happens if we don’t. A September poll found that two-thirds of critical care nurses have considered leaving their jobs during the pandemic, and a survey the following month found that 18 percent of healthcare workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic while nearly one-fifth have considered leaving the industry altogether.

“This is the worst nursing shortage that I have witnessed in my career,” Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals president Maureen May told Bloomberg last month

In June, the American Association of Medical Colleges projected that by 2034, there could be a shortage of as many as 120,000 doctors, including nearly 50,000 primary care physicians. Millions of Americans already don’t have their own primary care doctors, which rendered much of the guidance on convincing vaccine-reluctant people to get inoculated useless for many people.

But one thing everyone agrees on—healthcare workersthe hospitalsthe powerful American Medical Association—is that we need more doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers, which makes it a good place to start when tackling the debt crisis.

A typical nursing student, for example, is graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It’s even worse for people with advanced nursing degrees, which are required if you want to teach other people to become nurses, even though those teaching jobs themselves are so poorly paid that nursing instructors are leaving the classroom in droves

Medical school, of course, is obscene. The average doctor graduates with more than $200,000 in debt, so it’s not hard to see why doctors come from predominantly upper-middle-class backgrounds or wealthier. The debt burden also pushes a lot of doctors away from doing primary care in underserved areas and towards doing specialty care in the places that can afford it. 

On top of picking up the tab for these students’ education, the government should just hand them a signing bonus once they graduate, pass their exams, and get a job. We already do this for the military, so handing a nurse, say, $50,000 in exchange for a five-year commitment would be groundbreaking only in the sense that the federal government would be leading an incentivization effort that doesn’t involve putting a gun in someone’s hands. 

Thus far, however, even narrow higher education reforms don’t appear to be a priority. Free community college tuition was one of the earliest social programs to be chopped off of Build Back Better, to say nothing of the affordability of four-year colleges. As for student loans, President Joe Biden has done nothing but drag his feet. There has been some utilization of existing forgiveness programs, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.7 trillion-and-growing debt burden for student borrowers. 

The three-month extension of the pause on student loan payments and interest was welcome, but it’s likely that had more to do with Omicron, given the federal government and loan servicers’ full-scale outreach campaign in the final months of 2021 to get people ready to start forking hundreds of dollars to start ponying up again. And judging by the administration’s recent rhetoric, it’s a safe bet to say even one more extension past May would be surprising (with all of the usual caveats about the unpredictability of the pandemic.)

In the realm of all that is wrong with both healthcare and higher education in America, resolving the problem of student debt is a relatively minor fix to address a specific and urgent problem. There are plenty of other structural battles after that, of course: we need more hospital capacity and no barrier to care by making it free at the point of service, and it makes even more sense to expand free college education and debt relief to every American, removing a major barrier to entry for everyone including aspiring doctors. (Teachers, for one, should immediately get permanent loan forgiveness and life-changing bonuses for willingly being sent into a woodchipper.)

But in a political moment where the governing liberal majority is slim and its leaders are without aim or urgency, this is a good start. The worst that can happen is that we end up with an abundance of trained healthcare workers—and after two years of living with this and no real end in sight, no one in their right mind is going to complain about that.


Twenty Years Of Barbarism At Guantánamo: Biden Could End It But Lacks The Political Will

JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth from 2010

By Kevin Gosztola

The first “high-value detainee” at Guantánamo military prison was approved for transfer a day before the detention camp marked the 20th anniversary of confining prisoners in the “war on terrorism.”

According to lawyers from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represented him, Guled Hassan Duran was captured in Djibouti in March 2004. The CIA renditioned him to a secret prison site, where he was tortured and abused prior to his transfer to Guantánamo in 2006. He was designated by President Barack Obama’s review task force for indefinite detention, even though he was not charged with a crime.

Duran is a citizen of Somalia with “prior residence in Germany and Sweden.” Congress prohibited the United States government from transferring any Guantánamo prisoners to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen in 2015. Because he cannot return to Somalia, it could be several years before he is released to a country willing to accept him.  

Thirty-nine prisoners remain indefinitely detained at Guantánamo. They have been in confinement for the past 15-to-20 years without charge or trial.

The withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan in 2021 gives the U.S. government even less of a justification for keeping the prison open. However, President Joe Biden’s administration has displayed little to no political will to close Guantánamo once and for all.

Or to put it another way, Biden has not demonstrated that his administration will make sure he finishes a job he started when he was part of the Obama administration in 2009 and they formally pledged to close Guantánamo.

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In 2021 The International Working Class Said: STAND UP FIGHT BACK!

The year 2021 affirmed how workers worldwide are fed up with this diseased system. Capitalism functions on this logic: capitalists profit from exploitation and division, thus mangling or killing us, then use reforms to strangle any rising working-class consciousness. When we recollect that 281 million workers have been infected by Covid-19 and 5 million are dead, we realize just how deadly reforms are for our class. Nothing short of communism will immunize workers and youth from the horrors of this profit system.

U.S. President Joe Biden is giving war-mongering vibes; he signed his intentions for the New Year with a $768 billion military bill, the largest since World War II (NYT, 12/21). Goodbye 20-year war in Afghanistan, hello World War III preparation. As the U.S., China, and Russia bosses prepare to nuke it out, it will be at the expense of the working class. Haven’t workers experienced enough? Could it be that our lives only matter when bosses say they do?

The despicable ruling class pushes for us to go “back to business as usual” (see page 2) while in our schools and jobs, we are getting sick en masse, hospitals are filling up with Covid-19 infected children, evictions are coming, with police enforcement.

If we learned anything from 2021, it is that if one section of our class is under attack, that attack will soon spread to another. That is the way the infectious system of capitalism works. In order to smash Covid-19 and this racist, sexist system for good, we must think and act collectively across borders. That is what Progressive Labor Party (PLP) fights for – an international, communist world where the needs of ALL workers are primary.

Awaken ye workers—strike, rise, revolt!

As bosses are demanding  more productivity during the pandemic, workers declared NO MAS (no more) and striked against killer working conditions, turning their workplaces into schools for communism.

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Democrats’ Inaction on Tax Credit Condemns Millions of Children to Poverty


By Kenya Elliott

Working-class families are faced with an extra burden as the new year begins – the expiration of the expanded child tax credit. The expansion provided support for families struggling during the pandemic by changing some key factors of the already existing credit. Namely, the expansion increased the annual amount per child from $2,000 to between $3,000 and $3,600, it paid the credit in monthly installments rather than in one lump sum, and it expanded the full benefits of the credit to families who previously had been ruled ineligible due to their income being too low. 

On the same day that the CTC expansion expired, there were almost 450,000 new COVID cases reported, almost double the number reported at the same time in 2021. The 7-day average was over 380,000 cases per day. The expiration of the CTC is just the latest in a wave of COVID protections that have been allowed to end, despite the fact that the pandemic is worse than ever. The Paycheck Protection program ended in March of last year, enhanced unemployment benefits ended in September, the federal eviction moratorium expired over the summer, and we haven’t received a stimulus check since the spring of 2021. 

There was an attempt to make the CTC permanent as part of Biden’s proposed social program budget, as supporters of the expansion had been hoping from its inception. In the six months since the expansion started it kept almost 4 million children out of poverty, reducing the child poverty rate by almost 30% and providing much needed aid to millions of families. However, just like how the social program budget started out with provisions that would provide funding for clean energy, free community college, paid family and sick leave and tax increases on the hyper-wealthy and corporations that were all eventually removed or drastically reduced, right-wing Democrats have stood in the way of the CTC expansion as well. 

Joe Manchin in particular is responsible for killing the CTC extension, citing racist and elitist “concerns” about what families will use the money for, along with the entirety of the social program budget. Research has shown that the CTC extension has reduced child poverty and food insecurity, and that in a time where the system is failing left and right to protect and provide for working-class people, recipients of the tax credit used it to buy food, pay rent and other bills, pay for childcare, buy clothes, create savings and pay down debt. These are all necessities that should be provided to everyone, and while the child tax credit was nowhere close to the full scope of social support that’s needed, it provided an invaluable safety net for families across the country that has now been ripped away.

Despite having control of the House, Senate and presidency, the Democrats have failed at every turn to adequately handle the COVID-19 pandemic. They have repeatedly capitulated to right-wing forces within their own party that stand opposed to instituting, or even continuing, the most meager social benefit programs. They could use their power and influence to apply pressure to Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and other right-wing Democrats who so clearly and blatantly work to obstruct any legislation that would benefit the working class. Instead, Biden and the Democratic Party shrink their proposed bills, remove key elements, and chip away at reforms that working class people desperately need in an attempt to find “common ground.”

By allowing Manchin and others to do away with the most progressive elements of the social program budget, by allowing corporate greed and interests to supersede the needs and wellbeing of the people, by allowing themselves to be controlled by the furthest right members of the party, the Democrats have once again failed the same working class people they claim to represent. They have put themselves in a position where they are unable to pass any but the most limited reforms. COVID cases are at an all-time high across the country, millions of people have gotten sick, and yet the Democrats have let the relief programs that were in place expire, and have failed to implement anything meaningful in their place, leaving millions of struggling people vulnerable to food insecurity, housing instability, serious illness and more.

The expiration of the child tax credit makes the failure of the Democratic Party painfully clear. We need a new system, one that prioritizes human need over the profits of corporations, and cannot be held hostage by the whims of an individual.


It’s Now or Never for Democrats to Protect Voting Rights

“The longer we wait, the more limited the impact of the reforms are.”


photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via AP

At crucial moments in American history when democracy was under threat, Congress took decisive action to protect voting rights—the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This week is going to be a similarly pivotal time for American democracy. After failing to lawfully win the 2020 election and then unlawfully overturn it, the Republican Party has had a single-minded focus on rigging the country’s voting and election system to their advantage, while congressional Democrats have passed no legislation to stop them.

Now Democrats are mounting an aggressive last-ditch effort to protect voting rights, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promising a vote on changing the Senate rules to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are traveling to Georgia on Tuesday to deliver major speeches to build public support for this effort.

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Israel’s Entry Into The US Visa Waiver Program Further Solidifies Apartheid

Moves by the Biden administration to include Israel in the US Visa Waiver Program validate Israel’s racist policies.

By Malak Shalabi 

In 2021, President Joe Biden hosted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House amidst a public protest outside organized by American Muslims for Palestine and others. One of the most alarming items on the agenda discussed in a side meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bennett was the proposition to include Israel in America’s Visa Waiver Program. This would mean that US and Israeli citizens traveling between the US and Israel wouldn’t need visas to enter either country. Now, outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan claims that Israel will join the US Visa Waiver Program by mid-2022.

While this move might seem benign or inconsequential, it would actually solidify Israel’s discriminatory and racist entry policies toward US citizens.

It is worth noting that the concept of “citizenship” in the US, Israel, and globally is weaponized and access to it is used to exclude and demonize groups of people usually from the Global South. We must scrutinize the notion of citizenship and reflect on what defines an immigrant, refugee, or citizen, as well as how all these categories are themselves highly politicized categories.

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The Practical Justice of Marxism’s Vision for a Worker’s State

By Rainer Shea

The version of justice put forth by Karl Marx strikes a practical balance when it comes to the questions of capitalism and the state. It acknowledges the role that the state has in ensuring justice under the present conditions, while not viewing the state as something that will always be needed. Marx comes to this conclusion throughexamining the route that will have to be taken in order to eliminate capitalism, which he concludes is one where a workers state gets built, suppresses capitalism and its remnants, and then vanishes due to society’s newfound lack of need for any state.

The socioeconomic model that Marx sees as optimal for justice to be achieved is apparent from how he defines the version of “justice” which is tied in with the capitalist mode of production. In Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx defines the “bourgeois right” as one which “tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege.” By this, he means the ability for people to accrue wealth in unequal proportions, whether based on their differing socioeconomic positions or on their differing abilities to perform labor. 

Under fully developed communism, he writes, the capitalist productive model which allows for wealth to be distributed in this way will be over, and society will have reached what Marx sees as the truly just socioeconomic system. The system where, as Marx writes in Critique, communism has reached a point “after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly.”

The idea that Marx supported the use of the state in facilitating this process is supported by the fact that in Critique of the Gotha Programme, he also describes a transitional stage as being essential for communism’s end goal of a classless, stateless society. In Critique, he writes that during the stages of socialist development prior to that eventual scenario, “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.” Why does this entail the temporary use of a workers state? Because Friedrich Engels, the partner Marx had in formulating his theories, explained the necessity of such a state in keeping a workers revolution from being undone. In On Authority, Engels writes: “the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed.”

By “the social conditions that gave birth to it,” Engels means the paradigm of class struggle, where the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are engaged in a perpetual battle for dominance. The state is the instrument through which either class can enforce its dominance over the other. And for as long as the bourgeoisie exists, implies Engels, the proletariat will need to use the state to suppress the bourgeoisie. That is until the bourgeois mode of production is made extinct, and the bourgeoisie goes extinct along with it. In The Individual, Society and the State, the anarchist Emma Goldman argues that this isn’t true. That any state, even if it’s a workers democracy, will never simply wither away by its own accord. Goldman writes that “The State, every government whatever its form, character or color — be it absolute or constitutional, monarchy or republic, Fascist, Nazi or Bolshevik — is by its very nature conservative, static, intolerant of change and opposed to it.” By “it,” Goldman meant change.

On the one hand, Marxism acknowledges that Goldman is right about this; indeed, even a Bolshevik-style state won’t give up any control without being prompted by outside factors. But Goldman assumes that the only things which could make a Marxist-Leninist state grow weaker is a revolution, a mass movement against the state’s authority that resorts to violence if necessary. This is true for the capitalist state, but not the case for the socialist state. The difference is that the socialist state was created with the theories of Marx and Engels in mind, and was therefore set up to start giving away its control when prompted by a crucial factor: the shrinking of the power of the bourgeoisie. Because as the bourgeoisie and their instruments of reactionary violence grow weaker, the socialist state’s function—to suppress the bourgeoisie—becomes less needed. Eventually, when communism becomes fully developed, the state’s utility will be totally nonexistent, and the state will therefore vanish.

From the opposite end of the ideological spectrum compared to Goldman, Thomas Hobbes would argue against this idea. He would argue that the state’s extinction is incompatible with justice, because according to him the state is crucial for preventing individual misdeeds. In Leviathan, Hobbes writes that “the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and (in sum) doing to others as we would be done to) of themselves, without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like.” He believed that human nature makes cruelty inevitable without a state around to punish cruel behavior, meaning the Marxist vision of the state’s demise is immoral.

In objecting to Hobbes’ argument is where the perspectives of Marxists and anarchists align. Both of these ideologies take it as a given that after the state is abolished, society will still have adequate ways to hold abusive and unethical individuals accountable. The basis for this idea is that the state is not synonymous with instruments for exacting justice. If someone in a community wrongs another person, that community could rehabilitate the perpetrator, or physically drive them out of the area, or arrange for a process of reconciliation with the victim. The state is not required for such measures. Neither is the “terror” which Hobbes claims to be essential for crime to be disincentivized. All that’s needed is a strong social bond, which is not synonymous with a state or with police.

Goldman and the anarchists recognize this flaw in the Hobbesian position that the state is and always will be indispensable for justice. But they assume that the state should have no role in the transition from capitalism to communism, believing the working class could defend a revolution from capitalist reaction without the help of the state. The analysis of Marx and Engels recognizes both that the state is dispensable when it comes to enforcing justice, and that the state is indispensable for maintaining working class gains for as long as capitalist restoration is possible.


Only Fuzzbrained Human Livestock Fret About Communism

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article

“REMINDER: We are in a dire situation now. The only thing that matters is Anti-Communism. Unless these people are defeated, we’re all toast. So the Right must unite. Every branch of it. Unite and we can win. We’ll work out the differences once the communists are defeated.”

So reads a recent viral tweet by conservative radio host Jesse Kelly, who last month told Tucker Carlson’s massive audience that American soldiers should be “Type A men who want to sit on a throne of Chinese skulls.”

This bizarre 1950s-throwback anti-communist hysteria is growing more and more common on the western right, particularly in the United States with its uniquely sophisticated and aggressive propaganda engine. This despite the fact that the US and its allies are no closer to coming under communist rule than they were in the nineties after the end of the first cold war.

Even if you believe everything the TV tells you about communism and accept it as a given that efforts to eliminate class must always necessarily lead to tyranny and suffering, those of us who live within the US-centralized power alliance are so very, very, very far from living under a communist government or seeing any communist revolution that it makes more sense to spend your time worrying about being struck by lightning or being eaten by sharks than to spend it worrying about communists.

Yet the red-under-the-bed hysteria continues to swell, aided by so-called “right populist” pundits like Carlson and the sweeping propaganda campaign that’s currently greasing the wheels for the new cold war against China. US conservatives are currently flocking to the new social media site GETTR which until recently was an anti-CCP forum owned by exiled Chinese billionaire and Steve Bannon ally Guo Wengui. The site now has, in the words of radio host Garland Nixon, “More anti-china, anti communism/socialism propaganda than CIA.gov.”

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