Convention Discussion: The Crisis of capitalism, Obamacare & the Communist Plus

BY:| May 22, 2014

Submitted by Wadi’h Halabi, Massachusetts

What is the Communist Plus on ‘Obamacare’? Whose class interests does the law serve? What’s its likely impact?

Into the countless struggles against capitalist exploitation and injustice, the Communist Plus brings the working class a thousand weapons: a historical-materialist understanding with deep, nuanced insights into the opposing forces that shape social systems, their rise and fall. With the Communist Plus we can understand why advances in science and production lead to growing poverty and ignorance, and deepening national and gender oppression, social inequality, environmental destruction – the list is long.

The Communist Plus understands all class struggles in the framework of a single world economy, two main global classes and a single global class struggle. That understanding is behind our historic slogan — Workers of the World Unite!

Since the Russian Revolution and to this day, our side in the class struggle has included states formed by socialist revolutions whose interests are essentially the same as those of workers in capitalist countries. The Communist Plus provides us with an understanding of the class character of states, parties and other organizations, and their real interests. It illuminates the source of capital’s unavoidable crises and wars – and the possibilities that those can open for human liberation.

There is more! The Communist Plus is not just powerful analysis but the corresponding practice, channeled through the independent organization and education of the working class, internationally and domestically. It is philosophy and practice aimed above all at overcoming the weaknesses of the primary exploited class under capitalism, and developing the necessary alliances with other oppressed classes. This is essential to effectively challenge the power of the exploiters, complete humanity’s transition from capitalism to socialism, and begin to address human needs.


The setting for ‘Obamacare’ is the general crisis of capital, which, in the US, broke out in the open in 2008. The first definition of a crisis for exploiters is not mass hunger or unemployment — it is a crisis of profits: Labor must be weakened and cheapened! “Overproduction” must be limited, even of food, until profits can be restored! (Their second definition of crisis is a threat to their power; that has not yet emerged in the US.)

The contradictions underlying the 2008 crisis had been deepening through the 1980s. They hit unions such as the British coal miners’ union in 1984, and states such as an unprepared Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991 of internal weaknesses, echoing the Socialist International’s collapse from internal weaknesses following the crisis of 1907. Capital’s growing contradictions also led to crises in states such as Indonesia (1997), Mexico, Brazil, etc., before finally hitting the US and Western Europe.

Obamacare was used by the Democratic administration to renege on promises made to unions during the 2008 elections, such as passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (“card check”). This would have made it somewhat easier to unionize workplaces. (The Democratic Party held a majority in the Senate and House then.)

Obamacare also obscured the state-led devastation of unions in auto. This was in the “managed bankruptcy” of GM and Chrysler, two of the most unionized corporations in the US and Canada. Wall Street insider Steven Rattner was named to head the devastation. Rattner recounts in his book, “Overhaul”, that he received instructions from the White House to shaft the unions (the word used was not as polite).

With Wall Street/White House backing, US courts reversed decades of gains by the unions. Sacrifices by tens of thousands of workers, many of them Communists, were thrown out the window, without resistance or mobilization by our Party.

Today some unionized auto plants have three tiers of workers; and there are team assembly workers in auto actually slaving below minimum wage after their temp agency’s fees are deducted. Talk about the state apparatus weakening and cheapening labor, while erasing billions in pension and other debts owed primarily to workers or weaker capitalists, and even attacking smaller exploiters, such as car dealers, hundreds of which were shut down.

This is the historical, class context in which Obamacare was introduced. In March 2014, the Unite Here union indignantly reported that Obamacare will effectively transfer about one trillion dollars in the coming decade to private insurance companies. That’s small compared to the $15 trillion in US support so far to the owners of capital, but every trillion helps. And there’s little in the law that prevents the insurance companies from raising rates while reducing coverage.

In addition, the Unite Here report pointed out that the law strengthens monopolization in insurance, while providing employers an incentive to cut workers’ wages by reducing hours to below 30 per week, and effectively forcing many “low-wage service industry employees to spend $2, $3, or even $5 an hour of their pay” to buy health insurance. Few in the industry make more than $10 an hour. (“The Irony of ObamaCare: Making Inequality Worse”, Unite Here, March 2014).  As Victor Perlo’s work demonstrated, insurance is one of the pillars of finance capital. The Communist Plus should have prepared workers and unions for this outcome – before the law was passed! The same holds for the lower wages and rising inequality.

What about an assessment of Obamacare from the ruling class’s point of view? Consider this from Fortune magazine: “[US corporations’] employees won’t like the restricted provider networks and higher deductibles that typify plans sold through the [Obamacare insurance] exchanges, but they won’t be able to do much about it. As tens of millions of people eventually sign up through the exchanges, the policies available there are likely to become the new standard… [On the whole, Obamacare is] surely good for business.” (“Why Can’t the Haters See Obamacare is Good for Business,” Fortune 5-19-14)

The Communist Plus should have warned about this too. Plans are likely to restrict patients in what hospitals or doctors we can use. Hospital bankruptcies and closings are likely to accelerate. The wages of workers and even doctors are likely to fall. The bill contains no provisions to improve public health, from infancy to maternity, from home to work and beyond, even though that is critical to human health.

Union health plans are practically singled out for attack under Obamacare. This prompted 40% or more of the unionized workers at the General Electric plant in Lynn, Massachusetts to support Scott Brown in the US Senate election in January 2010, the Tea Party’s first significant electoral victory. (Brown, who has since moved to New Hampshire, could mount another successful US Senate campaign in 2014 – in part based on understandable anger as Obamacare provisions set in.)

But what if a “single payer” plan, like that which prevails in Canada or Britain, had been an option in 2009? (The Administration and legislators explicitly excluded that possibility.) Of course we would have called for single payer. But even then, the Communist Plus requires us to teach no confidence in the capitalists and their state. “Single payer” is being deliberately underfunded in Canada and some other countries, setting the stage for its weakening, and pushing some to seek out private, uncovered care.

There is consistency between domestic and foreign policy. While supporting the new health care law (and the auto industry ‘restructuring’), the state was also preparing, for example, for the aggression on Libya. That was justification for raising the price of oil from $80 to over $100 a barrel. This helped boost oil monopoly profits by billions, while cheapening labor worldwide without need for contract renegotiations, expanding plunder of China, limiting Europe’s “overproduction” of commodities from food to steel dependent on oil, etc.

It is to our Party’s credit that we have participated in the annual international meetings of Communist and Workers Parties (“Solidnet”). But when we declare, as we did in 2011 (echoing our 2010 statement) that “Obama is the most pro-labor president we have seen since the Roosevelt era”, that is not consistent with class reality.

We need to reintroduce the Communist Plus, and to work hard to rebuild unity of the workers of the world. The first step is building conscious unity of Communist Parties to address all the unmet human needs, not least for a healthy world.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

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30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014


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