There Was A Clear Socialist Stance on CHIPS
The Socialists in Office Committee is wrong — there was a clear socialist stance on CHIPS, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just didn’t take it.
I have become quite hesitant over the years to criticize New York representative and Democratic Socialists of America comrade Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because (1) she is so frequently criticized that criticism of her has become memetic, and (2) I frankly do not think that either her or most of her supporters care what I think. But this piece is not so much a criticism of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez as it is a criticism of a recent report back from the Socialists in Office Committee.
At first, I was excited to see that CHIPS was featured, however briefly, in the report back. I had been complaining to my husband just a few days ago about the relative socialist silence on CHIPS with the lone exception of Bernie Sanders when it is possibly the most important economic policy of the Biden administration. But that excitement quickly gave away to disappointment when I read this: “There wasn’t a clear socialist stance [on the CHIPS bill].”
Simply put, this is wrong. And one need not even condemn Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s vote for the CHIPS Act to say that it is wrong. I am not some rosy eyed idealist who thinks that socialist elected officials should always and exclusively vote for socialist legislation. Who knows what games she has to play in order to get anything done in Washington, D.C. — Bernie Sanders himself is certainly not immune to engaging in that kind of politicking.
But this statement by Socialists in Office risks deepening DSA’s apathy about the CHIPS Act, essentially writing it off as a non-issue for our organization and socialists in general, and that is a major problem. The CHIPS Act was aptly characterized by Julia Rock at Jacobin as Intel “strong-arm[ing] Congress,” demanding $52 billion in subsidies with the threat that otherwise it would not invest in the United States. This sort of corporate dictation of what Congress does is reason enough to give even the most conservative of socialists pause. The 17 Republicans who voted for the Act certainly should have raised questions as well.
Not that there are not arguments in support of the CHIPS Act. After all, Comrade Nancy Pelosi stated that the Act would create “nearly 100,000 good-paying, union jobs.”
I am a bit skeptical of this claim. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ attempt to amend the bill to require that companies receiving subsidies do not engage in stock buybacks, offshore jobs, or engage in union-busting was only supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and consequently failed. It appears Pelosi’s claims mainly rest on toothless obligations of companies receiving subsidies to “collaborate” with “labor organizations.” Even outside the real possibility of sweetheart deals from this tepid language, most of these provisions allow companies to substitute collaboration with “labor organizations” with other darlings of the Democratic base such as historically Black colleges, which have not exactly been paragons of good labor practices.
The actual intent of Pelosi, President Biden, and their Republican collaborators like Sen. Lindsey Graham is not to create good union paying jobs in the United States, but instead to retain capital investment in the United States as opposed to China and Russia. That is why, unlike real union requirements, there are requirements in the CHIPS Act prohibiting manufacture in China and Russia. But if the Act does encourage, if not outright require, companies to make chips in the United States, why not incorporate Sen. Sanders’ amendment, at least in regard to the prohibition of offshoring jobs?
The story of the failed Foxconn factory in Wisconsin provides an ample blueprint. The Taiwanese suicide mongers had Wisconsin villain Scott Walker arrange a $3 billion incentive package for them to build a factory on 3,000 acres. Shockingly, even union-buster Walker was better at standing up for American jobs than Congress, and did require Foxconn to meet hiring numbers. Foxconn promised 30,000 jobs, most recently claimed it would get to 1,454 jobs, but has in fact created less than 600. In a hilarious bit of inter-Midwest rivalry, Foxconn has moved on from Wisconsin to now investing in manufacturing in Ohio.
The point of this example is that even where companies are required to create jobs in order to get government handouts, if they can get their hands on those subsidies first, they have no qualms about utterly failing to follow through on their promises. And why should we expect any differently? Simply put, for every one of those “100,000 good-paying, union jobs” Intel and others don’t follow through on, they will increase their profit margins.
So while the CHIPS Act in the most generous interpretation could be seen as finally pivoting back to some restriction of capital mobility, it is otherwise the epitome of what any socialist should not support. I do not know why socialists have been so disinterested in it. If pressed I would probably blame my normal boogieman of aesthetic politics — unlike Defund the Police or opposing funding for the Israel war machine, opposing the CHIPS Act does little to cultivate an aesthetic of how radical you are. Maybe it is more simple, that people just read “semiconductor” and their eyes glaze over. Either way, Socialists in Office does a major disservice by claiming that there was no clear socialist stance on the CHIPS Act. There very much was, it was just not one that all of our socialists in office decided to vote for.