Resistance to Neoliberalism in France and the Political Economy of the US Empire in Decline

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Resistance to Neoliberalism in France and the Political Economy of the US Empire in Decline
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Eleanor Goldfield hosts the program this week— Across France, millions of people are taking to the streets and blocking them in a rapidly escalating show of defiance and disdain for President Macron and his oppressive neoliberal policies. Kim, an organizer from Rennes in France, joins the show to talk about the context of this growing movement, and the power they hold to not only battle this system but to build something more just. In the second segment, economist Richard Wolff sits down with us to discuss the myriad ways in which our economy is falling apart – as he points out, an empire in decline is a bumpier ride than an empire on the rise. Professor Wolff outlines the compounding traumas of living in late stage capitalism as well as the ongoing shift from the US dollar in international trade – a global blow that will hit the arrogant city upon a hill when we’re already down.

Transcript of Video With Kim

Eleanor Goldfield: All right. Thanks everyone for joining us here at the Project Censored Radio Show. We’re very glad right now to be joined by Kim, who’s a French activist based in Rennes which is west of Paris. She’s involved in a feminist collective called (inaudible) , 35, sorry if I’m mispronouncing that, and part of a small organization (inaudible) De Class, which gathers revolutionary activists around the country and publishes a magazine every two months.

She’s a member of an international network called Alarm Phone, which is an emergency hotline to support people while they’re crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Kim, thanks so much for joining us. Thank

Kim: you. Hello.

Eleanor Goldfield: So just to give folks some, some context here, because the US media has been very quiet about this.

Last week, the the organization, a More Perfect Union reported that on the 23rd there was a call by French unions. For a general strike with reports of some 200 demonstrations across the country with upwards of 3.5 million people on strike and in Paris alone, some 800,000 people turned out and even King Charles of England’s visit was postponed because things were just a little too messy.

Other reports suggest that 400 security forces have been injured. Those reports conveniently don’t report how many civilians have been injured. More than 450 people arrested. And over the weekend several outlets including Unicorn Riot reported on massive protests in Saint Soline France, where tens of thousands of protestors marched against the construction of mega basins.

Water reservoirs that pull water from the community for the purpose of industrial agriculture, including maze. A protestor in Saint Soline told a reporter that they would be headed to Paris to also protest against Macron’s retirement reforms because quote it is the same environmental social struggle. end quote so Kim, I, I wanted to.

Get your perspective on this because in the US we haven’t heard a lot about this at all. Of course, because this is the threat of a good example what, what French folks are engaged in right now and when it is reported on, you see things like what you saw recently in Bloomberg News where they said that Macron is just trying to erase the system’s deficit and boost the economy by raising the minimum age for retirement.

to 64 from 62. And of course that makes it sound like Macron is really just doing his best for the people. But I feel like the massive protest suggests that the people in France don’t agree. Could you give us an idea of what Macron is really doing or trying to do right now?

Kim: Yes. I think it’s funny because the quote you was saying actually Macron tried at the beginning to say the same in France and it was all, the communication of all the government was about to.

Try to explain and re-explain why the, why the reform was a good one. And and I think that actually it was really clear for everyone that it was not about taking care of the economy for all the people, but taking care of the economy for the minority of the people in France, like the big capitalist.

And I think that, yeah, Macron is actually doing his job as a French president. As a president, like he’s trying to, to save money for the big companies for the capitalist. And so I think in one hand, in one hand, he is doing like yeah, he actually, he’s trying to, to enter the competitiveness of French capitalism and is doing quite.

In this way, but like I think that it was really clear for the people because in October we had also some strikes in France. A big company called Total. And I, I, maybe it’s in the same, in usa. They made the biggest profits they ever made during the last two years. And in October there was track from the worker of total because salary was really low.

And there is big inflation in France too, and total. These big profits and wasn’t sharing anything with the workers. So they start a strike about this. So when the, the ref, the re retirement reform came it was really careful people that there was problem between a problem with the worst distribution.

And so it was really clear that they were keeping money for the capitalist and not giving money to the people. And also I think most, like with a political point of view, I think that Macron is also trying in more ideological or political point of view, trying to send the message to the population that is he is a kind of king and he can do whatever he wants and As this way, a really authoritarian way to, to, sorry, my English.

Not so good. Like I saying, like you, you can be on, you can be million on the street. You can do whatever you want. I will decide by myself what is good and. I will, I will try to find the, the word in English because it’s really important word. I don’t know how to say it. Sorry. Disregard.

Yeah. Is full of disregard actually. And for the people, it’s really clear since years now that is really Macron style to be disregarding against the people. Yes. That.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, that that, that sounds very much like the United States actually. Which is of course why we don’t hear about it in our media because if the media told us that you could just go on massive strikes and go out and protest in the street, That would be terrible.

They don’t want us to do that. So I’m, I’m also curious because we hear a lot through alternative media, we hear about the retirement age. And of course in the United States, the full retirement age is 67, so that’s another reason they’re not mentioning it. But, but what else is going on? Is it just about retirement age?

I mean, how, like, what, what. What other reforms, so to speak, is are a part of this?

Kim: Yes, there is a reform about retirement age and I mean, At the beginning, it’s, it’s the first reason people went outside. This was about the right retirement age, but there was also other reform just before one about how to say that in English.

Sorry. Like in France, there is a, a pension for employed people. When when you are, you don’t have any job. Oh, unemployment fund. Yeah. And so the, there was a reform about it just before the retirement reform and also about and there is also another reform, it’s not more an a low project about Immigration called the terminal.

It’s the, the minister of Macron government. And it’s really a, a racist law to try to criminal, to criminalize more the migrant people and to make more difficult the possibility to have papers and to work in France and to stay and to settle so yes, there is these three. It’s a kind of package.

It’s the same logic saying that they want the, the people work or staying in France or not depending the necessity of of bosses and capitalist.

Eleanor Goldfield: And I’m, I’m, I’m curious because it seems like Macron has had a lot of pushback for years. How did he win the presidency again?

Kim: I think.

Maybe, maybe I, I, I, I didn’t finish to answer the, the, the first que the previous question because I think that there is this, this three, this several reforms, but maybe at the beginning is what it was more, more about the struggling about the, this reform. But as you mentioned at the beginning of the interview, There is like 10 days ago, Macron decide to to pass the retirement reform by force using the 49.3.

It’s a kind of text, the constitutional text, that allow him to text the responsibility with his government to pass a law even if the Parliament doesn’t agree. And since at this moment, what happened is that the movement didn’t stop at all. And what start is like for me it’s like a second phase of the movement.

The second movement of the movement because the strike are Bigger since 10 days. And people are more and more into the streets. The movement is bigger than than never. Because now people are also fighting. They’re fighting about the, the. The power. I mean, like, it’s not like they’re not thinking now, yes, we, we want to take the power.

It’s not like this, but actually they are like fighting, saying this guy is not is not playing fair rules, like he is doing what he wants. So we will not stop here. And I think it’s really important because maybe at the beginning it was more economic. The reason people were on the street, and now it’s more and more political in the way that people are, are thinking.

We want to decide. And it’s really important when people start to think we can decide and we don’t have to be to have Reper representative way to do it. And I think, yeah, it’s a new moment of the, of all the big movement that starts in January.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, that’s, that’s great. And. I’m a bit jealous.

But but so, so, so with that I. You know, you, you’re talking about these protests growing, which is fantastic. And I remember hearing about the yellow vest protests from, you know, several years back. And what seems different from them as opposed to a lot of protests here in the United States is that they don’t seem to be just one type of people.

They’re anarchists and trade unionists and people that just, you know, work at a store. And you know, there seem to be people from all over society. So could you talk a bit more about people who are a part of these protests? Maybe what brings some of them out into the streets?

Kim: I think there is really different profiles into the streets now.

Like, I think like it’s really representative of the French society. The trade unions are. Making great efforts to put people on strike and into the street. And for example, there is a really reformist trade union called Safe who actually normally they’re not really trying to organize people.

Like it’s more the, the struggling a little bit inside the companies, but not so much and always like, yeah, we will find a solution really quickly and so on. And now they are still. Calling people to, to be on strike and to keep going, the movements. And for me it’s a really interesting signal about the situation because when the reformists are not stepping back, Like maybe something else is is, is happening.

And I think there is, yeah. Different, a lot of different people. For example, I’m part of Families Collective and as a movement start in January and we were like organizing the 8th of March. We. We start to think about how to make link between the retirement movement and the feminist issues.

How to make the 8th of March a really a feminist track for feminist demands inside the movement. And I think it was really. Emotional, for example, to see that in every big demonstration we made since January, we organized a feminist March inside. And there was a lot of women I never seen before.

And not That’s the profile we used to see in our movement, feminist movement, like more like about 45, 60 years old woman with children big sometimes with grand. Children with dunno. Women were not really they’re not used to to, to be on strike because they are really precarious jobs and so on.

And for me also, it was yeah, it was really representative of what was happening. Like kind of symbol of okay, if there is a middle-aged woman with wages really, really low with children who are inside the street with us. It’s that, yeah, it means that everyone is, is. Part of the movement.

I mean, for, for them it’s, it’s maybe the, the, the profile who, who cannot be so easily on movement and they are with us. So yeah, something is happening. And also there is unemployed people. There is I think there is all the society, not all the society, because it’s not a revolution right now, but there is a large part of the population

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah.

That’s fantastic. And I’m, I’m curious if you think that any of it has to do with like, the history and the culture of France. I mean, it seems like France has a very strong culture of protest. And do, do you think that’s part of it as well?

Kim: Yes, but also Yes, maybe we have we have a kind of culture, but I, I I don’t know because I’m not in, in the US or I, I, I don’t know to compare it, but yes, we, for sure we have.

But we, we also face difficulties to organize people like in every country, I guess, because yes. For example, the TransUnion are less and less powerful. There is less and less people inside. And we, we, yeah, yeah, we, we face difficulties to, to, to organize people as as everywhere.

But maybe what we have is when you say the protest culture, is that it’s true. We have protests almost every three, four years. There is big protest, but what it can the difficulty, the difficulty can bring that is that people are used to, but we didn’t win anything since years since decades now.

So also people are facing that, okay, I can be I can organize myself, I can be on strike. I can I can take the street, I can be made big demonstration, even violent demonstration as a yellow vest and. Don’t win anything. So that’s the tricky thing we always have to argue about that if we don’t succeed to win the last, the past year is because we were, we were not enough people and we have to be more and more and more and to, and to make the, the movement bigger and bigger.

I know

Eleanor Goldfield: the feeling. Yeah. And right now, do you feel that there are people in the streets that are looking to anyone in the government? Is there any real leftist repre representation in France? Because there absolutely is not. In the United States, we have two right wing parties. So is there any one looking to the government for support or is it just like, you know what, y’all are useless.

We’re gonna do this on our.

Kim: I, in the government, actually there is no, I, I think no, but in the Parliament, I think, yes, there is this always this tendency inside a big movement. Like like we are in France Like a belief that maybe leftist, reformist will help us? Yes, I think it’s normal and it’s part of the ideology around us, so, yes.

And people like really spontaneously think that maybe we will have a parliamentary resolution of this conflict. And for example when Macron used the 49.3 text, I mentioned before actually in in the parliament, in French Parliament right now there is a really a big instability because there is one in one way macro with his government, and, but he don’t have a majority of mps inside the parliament.

So there is, yeah, there is a lot of Macron. pro Macron, mps inside of Parliament, but they’re not enough to vote the texts. So what, and there is this this Macron party in one side. The other side there is kind of left coalition. Like really large coalition with socialist too, I dunno to describe this party.

It’s like it’s reformist left party. It’s really hard to just describe like like maybe for the people. There are the real left. Now there are the. Left. And then there is the the far right wing of the Parliament. So there is three fourths inside the Parliament. And when Macron decide to use the 49.3 the this coalition.

Called the left coalition called (inaudible) was saying we will bring it’s really technical stuff from Parliament in France. Like a text, the propose the text to be vote inside the parliaments who can make the government fail. Like to, to, to a text to make yes. I dunno how to say it better.

And so people really trust that maybe this tax will be vote and so the government of Macron will have to leave and to, to go. And there will be new election. Actually it was, it’s almost arrived because there was only nine votes. Missing to make it so it was really oof. And I think that this moment was really interesting because a lot of people.

Was thinking yes, maybe maybe we will not have the reform vote because of this parliamentary text and the other mps VO voting for this and so on. But it didn’t make the people stay at home. Neither. It’s not, it’s, it was not like, oh, okay, let’s them vote and we will. And it was more, okay, we have to put pressure and so we have to be more more and more people outside.

Outside. And also we start making root road Block, we block the road, the roads, and we start to block also companies garbage comp no garbage, no companies. Yeah, okay. Garbage companies. And also really strategical companies to, to put more pressure and when finally it wasn’t vote.

The, the night people were outside. And so I think that even if there is this normal belief that mps will help us, people are making their own movements also.

Eleanor Goldfield: Good. I’m, I’m very glad to hear it. And you said that there were nine, it was nine shorts. So where, where does it stand now? I mean, what’s, what’s the, what’s the, what’s the plan now, or what is, what is Parliament planning to do now?

Kim: Now actually the reform is voted. In, in a really technical point of view as we, we have this reform and it’s finished, but it, it’s over. But actually the movement is not over at all. And so we, we will see, actually we don’t know. For me it’s really clear that in this period in France, there is so much instability.

Like inside the parliament, outside the Parliament, I think that we, we, we, we, we, we don’t know what will happen in one weeks, in two weeks. I think we cannot answer this question right now. I think we know what we have to do, but what will happen? I don’t know.

Eleanor Goldfield: That’s a good way to put it. And when you said, say the reform is voted on, you mean Macron’s reform?

So that passed. It’s done now. Yeah. It’s. And and I I, I’m also curious, I, I didn’t originally send you this question, but I remember reading about it that there are also other tactics you mentioned, like blocking setting up roadblocks and things like that, that there are other Other tactics, like trying to ensure that certain places or companies don’t get energy.

C could you talk a little bit about these other tactics? Because I’ve, I find those incredibly fascinating.

Kim: Yes. Actually it’s it’s a kind of ah, no, sorry. I will find this word because I think it’s important.

Yes, I think this, it’s it’s really interesting because it’s a direct legacy of yellow vest. I think it’s it, it’s not like Yellow Vest didn’t didn’t create this this, this practice. But it was really something really typical of the Yellow Vest movement. And it’s interesting to see that there is a crossover between more trade unionist habits and yellow vest habits and like kind of mix.

Together. So since the 49.3 was used, used by Mac, what happened is, like at during the first night, people went outside and there was big demonstration in the cities everywhere, like even small cities. People were outside. And saying it’s not possible. And it’s it’s a lack of democracy. And is yeah, it was really really a strength a strong sensation of misregard.

And then since so it was Thursday, 16th of March. And since then every night there is demonstration in Paris, but also in small town. And also what not just be, just after, is that people decide to, to, to make the movement harder and to, to start blocking. So blocking, but blocking with, that’s why I’m saying it’s a mix between trade unionist and the yellow vest practices because it’s blocking.

But with the support of the people on strike inside the company. And that’s really interesting. For example, in, (inaudible), we start to block the garbage center of the town where there is all the big trucks for garbage to collect that collect garbage in on inside the city. And we start blocking this with.

Random people like part of the movement, but not working in the company, but with the support of the worker inside because they were not able to be on strike every day. Because there they need to some some money, so to, to be on track every day. It was too complicated. So we have this like we agree with with a common strategy and we start to, to block since two weeks now.

And there is still no trucks. Collecting garbage in the cities, and it’s, I know it’s the same in Paris and in other cities. Also we start blocking the, how to say the, the fuel, the, sorry, find.

I don’t know if it’s a good one. Refineries, the, the places where there is fuel. Yes.

Eleanor Goldfield: Mm-hmm. Re refin. Refineries. Refineries.

Kim: Mm-hmm. And it’s the same that there is a big strike. Inside the refinery since the beginning of the movement. But what’s changed since two weeks now is that there is a lot of support from outside and and when the workers are in the bad position with the bosses or with the police service risk from other people and we are like we are making the piquette together.

So, yeah, it’s really new.

Eleanor Goldfield: That’s, that’s, that’s fantastic to hear. So, so finally wrapping up here, I’m also curious because this is something that, that we, we try to work on in the u U.S. As well as the the work of trying to build something and building alternatives while we fight. So I’m curious if there’s something similar in France, like building alternative communities or mutual aid organizing or, or things like that where you know.

People try to build the alternatives that they’d like to see in the midst of fighting the, the, the system.

Kim: I think in,

I think that actually the, the movement is the alternative by itself. Like, I mean it’s really concrete. When I, when I’m saying this, saying this for example With a big demonstration, it was really clear that there was a lot of people with the kids, for example. And now the police in France is so violent that it’s really hard sometimes to bring children to the demonstration.

So there was a, a collective who decide to to take care of the children during the demonstration. And it’s called Lab (inaudible). Like the bubble. And and for every big demonstration there is people taking care of the children or or for example, I was talking about the picket in front of the garbage companies.

People people are here every day, every night. So they need wood they need wood to make fire. And so there was spontaneously people bringing wood. There was, there was a need of tends to, to stay outside during the night. And now there is, I just saw just before the interview that people.

bring, a big screen and they were inviting people to to a movie screening tonight. I mean in front of the, the company. So I, I think that’s the alternative is like when people are taking the con, the conscious of the way they, they, they can do it, we can do it together and we can take care of ourself together and we can we can manage our.

Things together. And for me, that’s, that’s the alternative like right now, because we, we need to eat to, to keep warm, to take to, to take care of the children. And so, so yes, the, the movement is doing it for himself.

Eleanor Goldfield: I think that that’s beautifully put and a wonderful way to I think a very inspiring way to finish the interview is thank you so much for taking the time.

Is there anything that you wanted to add that maybe I didn’t get to?

Kim: Maybe we will see in some weeks what is happening. I think that maybe one thing we, I, I, I didn’t mention is because it was the question about why Macron was elected finally, and I think it’s really important related to the movement.

I think that Macron wasn’t El was elected because ma lope wa ma lope wasn’t and. I think that it’s a high risk in France like the, the space, the far right is taking, and this movement can be an opportunity for the far rights, so, That’s why it’s really, really, really important inside the movement to bring arguments against racism and to be really clear and, and really tough about this, that there is no, no any place for fascists inside the movement.

And I think in, in in a situation with a lot of instability. Yeah, we have to be really strong about it because The, the enemy, the, the other enemy can also, can also bring the, the lead. And so we have yeah, we, we, we have to be attentive and and to be conscious and to bring discussion about racism and, for example, the, the low the immigration laws are trying to vote now.

Like for weeks now, we are really bringing arguments to convince people to struggle and to fight against retirement reform, but also against this low project. And it’s not always easy to make links, but I think that was surprised that for people it was really clear. There was a. It was a like the racist declination declination of the same logic.

And I was, yeah, I was really happy to see that there was kind of class solidarity reflex, which was still here. And it’s a good signal for the, the weeks we that we arrived. But I think, yes, we. We have to stay focused on and to resist arguments inside the movement.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah. Thank, thank you for, for highlighting that cuz I think that is very much the case here as well.

So I appreciate you pointing that out. Kim, thank you so much for, for taking the time and we again will watch excitedly and a bit jealously what’s going on in France in the coming weeks.

 

Transcript of Video with Dr. Wolff

Eleanor: All right. Thanks everyone for joining us again at the Project Censored Radio Show. We’re very glad to be joined right now by Professor Wolff. Professor Richard D. Wolff is a professor of Economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a visiting professor in the graduate program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York City.

He is the founder of Democracy at Work and host of their nationally syndicated show economic update. His books include the sickness of is the system. When capitalism fails to save us from pandemics or itself, understanding socialism and understanding Marxism, that can all be found at www.Democracy@work.info.

Dr. Wolf, thank you so much for joining

Dr. Wolff: us. Thank you, Eleanor. Very, very glad to be.

Eleanor: So Professor Wolff, there’s quite a bit of worry at the moment about our lovely economic system, faltering and buckling under the weight of its own greed. And as you pointed out many times, that this is by design. And it’s actually been a pretty long stretch without a massive recession or depression.

But then some smaller banks small, but with big clients like silicone Valley Bank and Signature Bank collapsed. But officials keep saying that. It’s all good. There’s nothing to worry about here, folks, just mismanagement on their part. Nothing bigger at play here. What, what, what is your take on this?

Are these banks, the canaries in the coal?

Dr. Wolff: Well, you know, you never know in advance. I’m not gonna engage in predicting what’s gonna happen because that’s a fool’s effort. Nobody can do that. I can’t and nobody else can. But what that means is those that are assuring us that this is not a problem are wasting our time and their time with that effort.

A better way to understand it is to look at the context of what’s going on in order to try to gauge a little bit of how serious this is. And if you allow me, let me spend a couple of minutes kind of going through it. The punchline of what I’m about to say is, This is the worst condition that I have ever seen the American economy in my lifetime.

And I know that that’s true for many of the other people that are economists like me. That is, they’ve spent their lives trying to understand what the production of goods and services really is All. I, I like to mention that my classmate at Yale University where I got my PhD in economics most of my classmates were men.

Very few women went into that field at that time. And so the few that did you know, were in my memory cuz they were the only young women in the classes with us. And one of them who had the same teachers, I did read the same books and articles, took the same exams, and so really does know the field more or less.

Like I learned it was a woman named Janet Yellen. And look how far she has come from those days back then. And I’m amazed because we’re not friends. So I haven’t kept up with her over all those years, but I know what she knows and she knows pretty well what I know. And so I watch her and either she’s had a series of epiphanies that have changed her mind or she’s reading a script and knows better.

And I, I’m afraid it’s likely gonna be the, the latter. And let me explain. We’ve just put the American working class, the mass of our people through an absolutely extraordinary period of time. If you take the long view, 30 to 40 years, here are some of the enormous changes, the distribution of wealth and income radically worse

in terms of inequality now than it was 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years ago, we’ve had a steady widening of the gap between rich and poor. That’s already a profound shaker of an economic equilibrium, but now to get even more dramatic. We have had for the first time in a century of the United States, a serious, real economic competitor.

We’ve not had that for a century. We’ve been king of the hill, the hegemony, the powerful country, the one to which everyone looks, et cetera, pretty much for the last century, the effort, which was never all that serious of Germany and Japan, to be contestants a little bit. That was squashed way back in World War II when they were both decimated and defeated.

So at least the last 75 years, the United States has been unrivaled. For those of you who remember the Soviet Union, they may have been a military competitor. They may even have been in some way a political competitor, but they never were. An economic competitor never close, and they aren’t today. Let me give you a simple statistic, which 99% of our audiences don’t know, and that’s no accident.

The single most widely used measure of the size, the power, the wealth, the import, if you like, of a global, of an economic nation, is something called G D P, the gross domestic product. And so if you wanna compare the relative strengths of two economies, a classic way that economists do that is they look at the G d P of one and they compare it to the G D P of the other.

In the most recent year, the G D P of Russia was one and a half trillion dollars, and in the most recent year, the G D P of the United States was $21 trillion. So understand this is a biblical David versus Goliath. The Russians are not an economic competitor to the United States and never were nor was any other country.

Until the last few years, when for the first time the United States has a real economic competitor, namely the People’s Republic of China. By the way, the g d P of China is about 15 trillion, way more than Russia. But still considerably less than the United States. And even though American businessmen and women love to make speeches about the salutatory effects of competition, it is in fact the last thing they wanna see or feel.

In any area and above all by a society that refers to itself as socialist and a political authority that refers to itself as a communist party. So all that stuff about the healthiness of competition lies, the lives run out the window and everything imaginable is done To squash it, to repress it, to slow it down, the headlines, these days

are full of that, but now let me get to the last three or four years and then you’ll see the context for answering your question about the banks. We had an economic crash in the year 2020. It was the third crash of capitalism in the 21st century. the.com crash of early 20, the subprime mortgage crash of 2008 and 2009, and now the so-called covid crisis of 2020.

We like to give names to. crashes that are particular and different for each one in the hopes that it will obscure the reality that capitalism is a fundamentally unstable economic system. When I explain this to the students in my classes, I usually. Allow for a pregnant pause. And I lean across, across the podium and I look at my students and I say, if any of you lived with a roommate as unstable as capitalism, you would’ve moved out long ago.

And they all laugh because somewhere they kind of get it, even if they’re resisting. So anyway, we had a terrible crash in 2020. Much more terrible than most people understand. Over half the workers in the United States lost their job. Unemployment peaked in 1933 in the Great Depression at 25%, but over 50% lost their jobs in 2020.

Now some for only a few weeks, some for years, but the point is it was catastrophic and it shook the American working class like nothing has in a long time. When you’re unemployed, we have endless data about this. If you have any savings, you use them up. Whatever stresses affect your life, they get worse.

If one of the adults in the room is unemployed Marriages fall apart. Spouse abuse goes up the roof, alcoholism goes up the roof. Yeah, but you, you name it every social, physical, mental health, everything is hurt by having suddenly been deprived of your job, your daily activity, your network workplace friends and associates, the security, all of that gives you, you then have the anxiety.

When do I get my. Back, will I get my job back at what salary? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So we put the American working class through that. At the same time, this country experienced the worst public health disaster and failure to cope in our history with over 1.1 million people. And before those things were even memories, we have had a terrible inflation and before that was under control.

Cause it isn’t, as I speak to you, we have began to raise interest rates, which I mean, it’s really as though. If you pardoned the imagery, you had taken some person and beat them overhead with a stick, then hit them over the head with, I don’t know, a, a rock, then spit at them and then, you know, inundated them with smelly water.

I mean, it’s almost impossible to get your, and now the banks collapse. That’s the point. Yeah. By themselves. None of these things. Is a catastrophe, but that’s not the way to ask. The way to ask is to say, How much trauma, cuz that’s what we’re talking about. How much trauma to how many people in, how many situations before things begin to explode.

And my answer would be that the banks falling apart. We are only at the early phase of that, that I’m confident enough. Will there be more banks that fail? Absolutely. Which ones? Nobody knows how soon. Nobody knows that either. There are already half a dozen that are teetering on the edge. The most famous right now in the United States is the First Republic Bank, which is one of the larger banks in this country.

Even the two that, that collapse, people refer to them as small bank banks. Well, that’s not quite accurate. They were the 15th and 16th largest banks in the country. 15 and 16 is not a number, way down at the bottom. That’s a number kind of scarily. To the top and being a failed bank in, in Silicon Valley the Silicon Valley Bank is no minor matter because the, one of the few bright spots of the American economy in this period of its difficulty is what we call high tech.

It’s the, it’s the peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco. For the bank there to fall apart suggests weaknesses. Not just scattered across a country, but concentrated in the last place you want to hamper or undermine economic growth, risk taking, and so forth, because it is one of the few areas. That we have.

So if you put all of this together as I think you need to, then you’re talking about an economy that is in very, very bad shape in not a position to have yet another catastrophe. You know, remember the. The crash and the, the, the pandemic led to pumping the economy full of money in the hopes of preventing that from crashing.

Then that that solution produced the new problem of the inflation. Then to try to cope with the inflation. You jacked up interest rates that collapsed the banks. You’re beginning to see here a pattern. Too many problems crowding in on an economy in two concentrated a period of time, and then you get something that people.

Can confront in their personal lives. If you have anyone in your personal life who’s very old and has as often happens, several illnesses, various parts of the body are not working quite the way they once did, and you get to that point where the doctor comes to you and says, look, we can give him or her this medication, but it clashes with the other medication that their other pro and we

and you realize you’re coming to the end. I mean, it may not be for a few years. You hope you cross your fingers all the rest. That’s where we are with this economy. We are in very, very, very tough shape. And then when you remember that, we now have a global competitor who is determined to find. Their place in the sun and who have built a network of alliances that Americans have not understood, have not been able to appreciate, have tried and failed to undermine.

I mean, just to give you one idea, the United States idea that in a war between NATO and Russia, That somehow this would be a slam dunk, that the Russians would collapse, that the Russians, you know, economy would fit the sanctions. What was it? The mother of all sanctions and all of that language. None of that has happened.

The Russian economy is in better shape than half the economies of Europe. I just to give you an idea. The average inflation rate in, in Western Europe is about 10%. The inflation rate in Russia is 11%. The inflation rate in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania is between 23 and 25%. In the Netherlands, it’s 17%.

This is a perfectly good gauge. Russia is doing perfectly well while fighting a war with all, pretty much all of the rest of Europe. You know, even countries like Finland and Sweden are trying to get into the, the NATO game. They’re rushing to join a club that’s in the process of disintegration and all the hoopla and celebration is not gonna save them from an underlying reality in which the wind is blowing exactly the other way.

That’s the truth of it. And so the banking crisis, which again is not just two little banks on either coast Credit Suisse in Switzerland collapsed. That’s a global mega bank. It collapsed it. The collapse there was so severe was worse than here that literally over one weekend. The Swiss National Bank, the equivalent of the Federal Reserve in Switzerland, did one of those shotgun marriages forcing the Union Bank of Switzerland, UBS, to absorb credit suisse.

That’s like you had come in and forced to use the metaphor, Citibank and Chase Manhattan to become one. I mean, it’s really. Extraordinary that you had to go to such length in such a short amount of time. And the reverberations they have just begun. You know, I could take the next hour. I won’t, don’t worry, but I could take the next hour and go through a list of the other weaknesses of the American economy.

They’re all gonna play. And all that’s covering them if you allow me, is a very thick layer of bullshit. Bullshit from Biden, bullshit from the Republicans. They both need for different reasons. To pretend that none of this is all that serious, the Democrats, cuz they need to pretend they’ve got everything under control.

And the Republicans who can only pick for criticism, those things that won’t offend their donors. And since they’re donors of the bulk of the capitalist class, they don’t have much freedom either. That’s why we spend all the time really getting excited in this country over whether trans people can visit the same toilets that the rest of us can.

These are pure distractions because even our population understands that below the so-called culture wars is a much more profound problem that nobody knows how to address. Yes,

Eleanor: absolutely. The the distractions are many and absurd. Yes. And I, I did want to ask, because you had mentioned you’d mentioned China and this, this, this, this issue of having another power battling battling with our hegemony.

And I saw recently it was on Twitter. I wasn’t watching Fox News. Everyone don’t worry. Fox News, if you can believe it. Recently did a segment, of course it was skewed, but on how Russia and potentially Saudi Arabia are turning to the yuan for international payments rather than the dollar. And that, of course, as you’ve already pointed out, represents a massive shift in the us reserve currency status.

So what does that mean? I mean, you’re, you, you’ve, you’ve outlined many of the things that are wrong with our economy, but what does this one specifically mean for the US economy?

Dr. Wolff: Well here what you have, I’m really glad you asked here. What you have is a related but separate issue. The United States as an economy is in difficulty and part of the causes of that, and part of the effects of that are that, and there’s no nice way to say this, so I’m gonna be blunt, the American Empire.

Has peaked. It’s on the way down. And Americans, I know this is difficult. Look, you know, the British are an example. It’s taken, they, there’s still a significant number of British people who haven’t figured out that the British Empire isn’t there anymore. You know, if you watch the funeral of the last Queen a few weeks ago, the pomp and the circumstance.

Was a financial burden on a poor economy, not the celebration of the, I mean, the self delusional quality. Make it kind of. Your heart goes out cause you kind of know people must be needing desperately to believe that. Well, America hopefully will learn that the ride up the last century is a lot more pleasant than the ride down of an empire.

Here’s the way I think to understand it. We have had, since World War II. The war in Korea, the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the United States has lost every single one of. I know it’s hard. I know Americans don’t want to think like that, but that’s the reality. They can’t do it.

They are not winning in Ukraine either. It’s just, it’s fantasy, it’s hope, but it isn’t the reality, and that’s what’s, you know, surge after surge. Didn’t amount to anything. You know, victory after victory, the drones, all of this self delusional stuff. One of the foundations of the American Empire were the fact that whereas before World Trade had mostly used the British Pound, if, if a ship went from Africa to Japan, the insurance for that was written in London.

The contracts for servicing the ships or, or providing them with the necessary fuel to all that was done in London. It was done in British pounds. The United States replaced the British Empire literally, and the dollar became the great global currency. The reason that’s wonderfully important is, and it can be explained this.

Where does the rest of the world get dollars from? And the end, because they have to hold them banks hold them as a reserve to show that their currency is something you can, you can accept a Swedish Corner or a, a Dutch, any currency because the bank of that country holds dollars as the reserve, and you’re willing.

To take their currency because you could cash it in for dollars if you were so disposed. So the dollar is accumulated in those banks. The dollar is accumulated in the accounts of businesses that have to transact globally in dollars. The petroleum producers of the world have for decades. Billed everybody for selling them oil in dollars.

So if Saudi Arabia sells oil to Sweden, the bill is paid in dollars, the Swedish company draws on a dollar account somewhere and sends a check or a wire to Saudi Arabia. Well, how do they get, ask yourself, how do they get the dollar answer? They ship goods and services to the United States, things that their working people have.

You know, a Japanese electronics, French wine Finnish telephones, whatever the, and they get in return. Little cheap, green pieces of paper that cost absolutely nothing to produce. So think about it in the simplest terms, fast production around the world. In countries that are poorer than the United States, enriching the already rich United States.

And in exchange we give them a piece of paper, a cheap green, little piece of paper. They can either hold that and they do much of that. End of story just sits there in their vaults or, and you’ll love this now, they lend. To the United States government, they use their dollars. To loan to what are buying, what’re called Treasury bar.

They lend it to the treasury, so that part of the cost of the American government, we don’t have to tax our own people or our own businesses because the kind folks in the rest of the world have produced goods and services, shipped them to the United States, gotten the payment in dollars, and lent those dollars.

To the United States. I mean, if you understand, then you’ll know why every other country in the world, not just China, every other country, would love to be in a comparable position. So the minute the dollar became the global currency, it became the target for at least everybody else’s fantasies. Gee, could we get such a status for the Euro or for the Japanese yen?

Well, they were not strong enough to do that, but the Chinese are, and they are now of the second powerful economy. In some ways, they have matched everything the United States can do, including the high tech stuff. That’s why we are in the process of trying to expel TikTok from the United States. That’s why we go after the Huawei Corporation, you know, imprisoning the daughter of the c e o of that co, you know, childish stuff that isn’t gonna make up.

Hill beans difference. It’s just symbolically if you can’t defeat them or then have a public theater, you know, like a punch and Judy show where the puppets go at it, and you’re supposed to believe that the children don’t understand that these are puppets and there’s not really what’s going on. So what you saw with Saudi Arabia, and you cannot exaggerate the importance of that Saudi Arabia.

Having the, the Foreign Minister of China, hosting the Iranian Foreign Minister and the Saudi Foreign Minister announcing that the Suni and Shiite portions of Islam are gonna stop killing each other. Send the embassies to each other’s countries. Try to live in peace. I mean, look at the symbol. China is the peacemaker of the Middle East, which the United States has been unable to do, assuming it was really trying for decades.

I mean, it, it really is a passing of the baton. It, it’s a, it’s a sign and that you, that it’s that they’re going to trade in Yuan. Which is already happening. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Russia has agreed to accept payment for its oil from China in Yuan. I believe it is accepting the Indian currency from India because it’s shipping a lot of oil and gas to them, and you’re beginning to to see.

The outlines of the emerging alternative to the American Empire, which has these initials that people better learn. Bricks, B r I, C K S, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, with about a dozen other countries that have either already applied for membership in brick. Or have announced that they intend to.

This is, you put that together with the Belt and Road Initiative, the the investment program from China to Europe, and you are beginning to see the outlines of what’s coming. And believe me, the American see it too. The problem is in the American mentality. And maybe this is the history of the human race.

Sad as that might be, that if you’ve been in the empire for a while, you just can’t wrap your head around what it might mean to come to some terms. With the end, every empire has come to an end. It wasn’t reasonable to imagine that the United States would’ve left forever. You know, it’s kind of child.

Britain. You know, there’s a historical note that you might find interesting. When the United States broke away from Britain, the British went to war to stop it. The war of the Independence War 1776, you know, that celebrated in the United States and blah, blah. They lost. They lost. They went

to war again against the United States.

1812, they tried again. They lost again after the two losses. They realized, this is not working. We’re not gonna, and they reached a peace agreement. And the rest of the century, the 19th century, the United States just surpassed Britain by the, by World War I. It was over. The United States was powerful and Britain wasn’t.

And you know, I don’t know if the same story’s gonna unfold with China, but. The flirting with putting the seventh fleet of the United States Navy in the South China Sea. The British now sending expended nuclear shells to the Ukraine Putin’s response, putting the tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which is matching what the United States, you know, they’re, these are children playing with very dangerous toys.

And then you wonder whether really we could be a species that self destructs over these things. Frightening. It’s really frightening. The only thing more frightening to me than that is watching our political leaders living in a universe in which everything I’ve just described seems not to be present.

In their minds. I, I don’t, I don’t recall. I’ve been frustrated with American political leaders pretty much all my life, but this level of disconnect I find really odd.

Eleanor: Yeah, it is, it is absolutely terrifying. Remember when George Bush was the dumb, embarrassing president? Remember that? Yeah.

Dr. Wolff: He looks like a genius.

I know. Yes, yes. but Remember, he too, when did he get on that? He got on that American military mission accomplished in his outs with his army outfit. A mission accomplished. And then we went on to lose the war. I mean, it was. Oh, ouch. You know,

Eleanor: that’s, that’s a metaphor for the United States, right? Yes. Yes.

, so with that, I know that We’re coming to the end of the interview here, but I wanna ask not, not because I think that there is necessarily a silver lining, as you said, the, the way down in the empire is, is, is bumpier than the way up. Yep. But I do keep seeing, you know, Starbucks workers going on strike, Amazon workers going on strike, teachers going on strike.

I wish the rail workers had gone on strike. But there’s still, there’s still discussions about that. There seems to be since the, the, the decimation of the unions and the decimation of socialist organizations and these leftist working workers associations, there seems to be a revitalization of that happening right now.

Do you feel that that’s true? And if so, do you feel that there is a silver lining there that could not save the US economy? Work to support people as we continue through this very difficult time?

Dr. Wolff: Yes. The short answer your question is, I am amazed at the level of militancy that has arisen here in the United States.

I think it portends really good possibilities. I’m optimistic about those. I don’t think those are gonna go away. Whether it’s it’s the retail workers or the fast food workers or the others that have taken the lead I’m noticing how important. Women are in this process, immigrants are in this process.

Young people are in this pro. Those are all crucial components of a more successful labor upsurge than we had last time. I’m a little sad that the official A F L C I O remains. So docile and so passive, but there are signs even there. The latest election in the United Auto Workers has brought an interesting new energy there.

The woman whose name escapes to me right now, but who’s the leader of the flight attendants union she’s a remarkable breath of fresh air. She could be a real. Catalyst leader for, for all of this and I know I’ve, I’ve had her on my show. I’ve, I’ve talked with her. She has the capacity, very sharp, thinks very carefully understands, but I think I’m most excited about what has not yet arrived on the shores of the United States, but is very profound.

And I’m talking about France, Germany, and Greece. And Americans particularly have to understand. The French are stunning. Millions of people now, the ninth time in a row have kept it up. They’ve gone from from saying to the government, you are not gonna solve your financial problems by depriving us of two years of our pensions.

It’s outrageous for you to have thought of it. It’s twice as outrageous. For you to have done it, it’s 10 times outrageous to have not even put it to a parliamentary vote. So you could get, not that, that would make a difference, but you, you couldn’t even dare that cuz Mr. Macron’s own party won’t support him on this thing.

And they’re in the street and they’re showing that the French Revolution from 1789 right through the yellow vests from before the pandemic are alive and. French democracy is really rearing its head and in the last few days, This movement, which was led by the unified agreement of all eight of the uni union federations in France.

They don’t just have one or two, they have eight who can’t agree usually on anything. They’ve all agreed to do this. They do it in a disciplined way. Other social movements are falling in right behind them. And most recently, in the last four days, the uni, the college teachers, the high school students, and the college students, a mass so horrified, are they even, you know, they’re light years away from a pension, right?

They’re young people by and large, but they see the government coming down. They know that they’re next. They know that they will be affected if their elderly. Don’t have a pension for two years, that’s gonna affect the family finances, whether they can afford to go to get an education, et cetera, et cetera.

So you’re beginning to understand that this is a crisis and it’s a crisis for the French government, Mr. Macron I mean, This was a zero when he was elected, but he’s become a minus at this point. Even the rest of the French Bourgeois Z is looking at him. My God, are you bad at your job? But that’s not all.

Then there’s the Germans. The Germans starting a couple days ago shut down the entire transport system. The airplanes, the trains, nothing moves. They didn’t even have a, a railroad disaster like we did here in East Palestine, Ohio. They didn’t, but they are determined that the inflation, which is killing them because of their energy prices.

Part of the Russia, NATO sanction game. They’re not allowing themselves to be the victims that, that you’re gonna squeeze the working class of Germany in order to free the resources to go fight Russia in the Ukraine. I mean, the image, you know, my family is French and German. I’m an American, but my, my folks came.

From there, the image of German tanks rolling eastward, killing Russians. If you wanted to mobilize the Russian people behind their leader, nothing would get even close to doing that. Then what you just, the stupidity of this, it tells you that there’s something really wrong. Over here, they’re not. They’re not thinking, right.

You know, what you just did will not be offset by 25 tanks and this is childishly dumb what you are doing. And then the last one, Greece. The same time we had a railway disaster, which was bad. They had a railway disaster, which was much worse. It killed almost 60 people, most of them young students, either going to their, their school holiday or coming back from it, I don’t remember.

And the people of Greece went into a kind of morning and the kind of. Their conservative government had recently privatized the railroads. The private railroad companies weren’t maintaining the safety just like in the United States, but unlike here where Republicans blame Democrats and everybody goes through the obligatory heart, felt condolences to the ruined families that live in the toxic cloud.

There, the people of Greece went in the hundreds of thousands into the streets confronting the government. We’re not gonna, and you can see in Germany, in Greece, in the, in France, the same issues as here. The Republican Party is about to submit bills in Congress to reduce social security. It’s exactly the same as Macron.

And my feeling is it’s gonna come. One or another form it, it always comes United States later and slower and more moderate. And, but you know, with all of that, it’s coming. You’re not go, we’re not that different from the Greeks or the French or the Germans. And I think it’s coming here and I think what you’re seeing.

You know, Starbucks, the horrific behavior of that faker Mr. Schultz who sits at the top or the new one, that they keep rotating the musical chairs of their, of their leaders. They’re trying to stop Amazon really harshly, trying to stop that union that’s gonna cause all kinds of anger and upset, and the rest of the population is getting pissed off.

Look. If I had time, I would talk to, I think the shootings in this country, the spectacular explosions of people killing one another. The crazy politics, the, the, the, the, in the, the belief of Republicans and Democrats are agents of the devil and vice versa. These are signs of the psychological disintegration here as well is very, very serious and I, and the loneliness.

My wife and daughter are both psychotherapists, so I get a constant report from each of them about what the client’s coming to see them, and they don’t deal with people that are seriously upset. They deal with people who have some problems and want someone to help them work them through so that they’re like most of us.

And the only difference being, some of us have whatever it takes to go see a therapist, and they’re confirming that people are just. On the edge. On the edge, wondering what’s gonna happen if they go over that edge. And I think what you’re seeing in France and Germany and Greece are people who have gone over the edge and the real difference is in those countries.

Collective action to solve a social problem is in people’s minds. Whereas in the United States, we are still stuck in the individualism. We really imagine that each of us in our own way can slither out, escape the social problem, work around it, solve. And when that breaks down, there’s a moment of intense loneliness, but it’s often coupled with a kind of eureka moment where working together with other people becomes the other solution you hadn’t thought about.

It’s happening to the workers at Starbucks, at Amazon, at Trader Joe, at Fill in the blank, and I think it’s coming to the American. People you know though the Great Depression, we had an upsurge of an American working class sharply going to the left. There’s no reason to believe that that cannot and will not happen again.

Eleanor: Well, I certainly hope that is the case and interestingly enough, the we will, we’re pairing this interview with you, with an interview with an activist from France, so very apt that you would bring that up. Okay, good. Professor Wolff, thank you so much for taking the time. Again, folks can learn more and listen to all of Professor Wolf’s work over at www.democracyatwork.info.

Again, professor, thank you so much for taking

Dr. Wolff: the time. And thank you, Eleanor, for having a program where you do this sort of thing. It’s, it’s probably more important than at any point in American history, so please keep doing it. We will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Benjamin Bellier from Pixabay