A what struggle?
(Eric Idle): … Well now we come on to our special gift section. The contestant is Karl Marx and the prize this week is a beautiful lounge suite. Now Karl has elected to answer questions on the workers control of factories so here we go with question number one. Are you nervous? (Karl nods his head; the presenter reads from a card) The development of the industrial proletariat is conditioned by what other development?
Karl: The development of the industrial bourgeoisie.
(Eric Idle): Yes, yes, it is indeed. You’re on your way to the lounge suite, Karl. Question number two. The struggle of class against class is a what struggle? A what struggle?
Karl: A political struggle.
(Eric Idle): Yes, yes! One final question Karl and the beautiful lounge suite will be yours… Are you going to have a go? (Karl nods) You’re a brave man. Karl Marx, your final question, who won the Cup Final in 1949?
Karl: The workers’ control of the means of production? The struggle of the urban proletariat?
(Eric Idle): No. It was in fact, Wolverhampton Wanderers who beat Leicester 3-1.
I’m probably doomed. While protest groups like Occupy targeted the 1% (probably meaning 0.1%) wealthiest Americans – thus envisioning unity of spirit among all the rest of us in the 99%, the Marxist strategy was for one large class to oppose another large class. Though my parents were born working class, my father earned enough that I was raised to expect all the perks of the upper middle class. Occupy fizzled, and I’m reading more and more Marxist rhetoric.
Acknowledging the class system in America used to be rare in the mainstream media, but since Trump won, there have been any number of mainstream articles about the disaffected working class. As early as February 2016, we saw Peggy Noonan writing about the protected and unprotected classes, and John Michael Greer dividing us into the wage class and the salary class.
A few days ago, Greer claimed that bigotry against the working class plays a massive role in the current vitriol towards Trump. Yesterday, Charles Hugh Smith posted, The Protected, Privileged Establishment vs. The Working Class, stoking anger at the class of all people who have prospered as the working class has foundered:
Any Working Class individual who recognized that globalization, open immigration and neoliberal financial policies were the propellers dismembering the Working Class economically and disenfranchising the Working Class politically was immediately labeled with the worst that “liberal” privileged, protected elites could spew: you’re racist, Luddite, backward, etc. — in other words, you’re not a rootless Cosmopolitan who loves your servitude to capital and the state like us.
Since the Left has masked its abandonment and betrayal of the Working Class with “social justice” speech acts, the worst insults the Left can dish out are those that suggest opposition to the Left’s social justice campaigns.
If these sorts of revolutionaries get their way, at least half of the people I know and care about could be going the way of Sydney Carton. Of course, so did Robespierre.
In contrast, Benjamin Studebaker posted How to Fight Fascism Intelligently, urging the Left to adopt three strategies designed to find common ground with the working class:
1 – Conspicuous Respect: Always treat white people, especially poor and working class white men, with respect. Show concern for their interests, and never verbally bully them or employ physical violence against them. It’s important not only that we treat white people with respect, but that white people recognize us to be treating them with respect. This means that slogans like “Black Lives Matter”, which are not intended as disrespectful to whites but which are nonetheless often interpreted that way, have to go. The same goes for “The Future is Female”.
2 – Parties For Poor and Working People: Never support political parties, movements, and politicians which allow themselves to be seen to ignore the interests of white people, especially poor and working class white men. Even if it’s not true that these parties and movements ignore white people, if they are seen to ignore white people they will inevitably aid and abet right nationalism. It is ultimately the Democratic Party’s perceived indifference to these folks which brought us to this pass – it made them feel “forgotten”.
3 – Policies That Benefit Everyone: When we talk policy, we should always emphasize policies that help all of our poor and working people. If a white working class guy argues that the policies we’re recommending don’t benefit him, we must not tell him to check his privilege – we need to show him how he will personally benefit, and if we get a chance to implement the policy we must deliver on that benefit and be seen to do so. And if we can’t think of a way that he’ll benefit? Maybe we need to change the policy so he does feel included.
Today, Studebaker expands on that in, How to Reframe Anti-Discrimination Politics to Overcome Division. I think Sanders resonated with the working class, but new progressive movements, like Cenk Uygur’s Justice Democrats, should make sure to be responsive to working class concerns.
I anticipate that many liberals and progressives will find it offensive to be asked to respect people that assiduously repost the most tasteless slurs about blacks, muslims and women. For example, my brother just reposted a joke that Trump was able to get more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama ever did. It’s going to take a lot of patience, but it is better than class war.