The Third International after Lenin

Friday, November 18, 2016

As they say at Starbucks, it's a free country: The deplorable U.S. working class

Steve Clark's 2000 article "Two conflicting class views" deserves to be read in its entirety. 

But one of its points, made in response to middle class radicals' dismissal of the revolutionary potential of the U.S. working class, will ring a bell for readers today buried under a mountain of "racist white working class" liberal-left hysteria resulting from Trump's election.

Excerpt from a 2000 article:

'Buchananite proletariat' 

When we hear about the stable or improving living standards of "much of the working class," a view typical among better-off professional layers (and much of the trade union officialdom as well), that is a clue that the phrase "Buchananite proletariat" encompasses quite a broad spectrum. "Them!" Pérez takes as proof of the SWP's orientation to such a layer--whatever it may be--the statement in the May 8 Militant editorial that "if the only voice working people and worse-off layers of the middle classes hear speaking out against such indignities [as brutal federal police assaults, farm foreclosures, and regressive taxation with complex codes to benefit the rich] are those of reaction, if no angry and determined working-class voice is heard pointing a class-struggle way forward, then the radical siren song of fascist demagogues will gain an ever more receptive ear."

Like so many of his class, Pérez cavalierly dismisses this judgment. So be it. As they say at Starbucks, it's a free country.

But the unions, farmers movements, and organizations of the oppressed in the United States would place themselves in deadly peril were they to follow that lead, instead of the class-struggle line of march of the communist movement.

One need not go back to the 1920s and 1930s in Europe to confirm what the consequences would be. The more recent example of Chile in the early 1970s is closer to home for many of us. The political default of the social democratic, Stalinist, and centrist parties handed over leadership of growing layers of the middle classes, as well as sections of the working class, to the fascist-minded forces led by Pinochet's officer corps. The women's "march of the empty pots" spelled the impending doom of the Allende regime and the coming horror for the toilers.  
Rightist 'culture war' 

Shortly after the April 22 Miami assault organized by Clinton and Reno, Buchanan's "Internet Brigade" (which we're supposed to ignore, while referring to layers of working people as "Buchananite") opened its home page with a reactionary cartoon. The cartoon depicted a mock movie poster with a sexist caricature of Janet Reno as Rambo, letting loose with a clip, and the words: "Fighting for Marxism: No man, no law, no court ruling can stop her" (see elsewhere on this page).

On one level, the cartoon bore testimony to the statement by Barnes in a November 1992 talk in Capitalism's World Disorderthat "the assaults on the rights and basic humanity of women" by Buchanan and other ultrarightists "are so strident and vulgar that they sometimes seem irrational. But they are not." To the contrary, as part of their "culture war," these voices of capitalist reaction are going after "the economic, social, and political gains women have won in the last half century."

And the "Fighting for Marxism" reference should serve as a reminder that, as the class struggle heats up, fascist groups will shift their bead from Establishment figures in the bourgeoisie to the fighting vanguard of the working-class movement.

But the key caption--"Coming Soon, to a Neighborhood Near You"--was aimed at a much broader audience than the woman-hating and anticommunist cadre of the ultraright. It targeted the tens of millions of working people and sections of the middle class--men and women; urban and rural; native-born and immigrant; Black, white, and otherwise--who know from the murderous record of federal, state, and local cop agencies that the prognosis is accurate, and will become more so.

What the leadership of the fascist cadres don't say is that as class polarization accelerates, government commandos will be joined--and at a late stage increasingly pushed aside--by the extralegal deputies and fighting units of reaction.

Barnes's New Year's 1995 talk in Los Angeles was in part a celebration of the recent publication of New International no. 10, which featured the twin articles "Imperialism's March toward Fascism and War" and "Defending Cuba, Defending Cuba's Socialist Revolution."

"Fascism and war is the logic of the march of finance capital," Barnes explained to participants in the Los Angeles gathering. "That is what imperialism has inflicted on humanity twice before in this century, and that is where capitalism is heading once again."

Barnes then called attention to the article on the Cuban revolution in NI no. 10. "Because as Cuban working people have shown," he said, "what is far from inevitable is that the outcome of the workings of capitalism will be triumphant fascism and a third world war. Along the road to such an unthinkable catastrophe, the ruling capitalist families all over the world must try to fight their way through hundreds of millions of working people like us and like those in Cuba."

The U.S. proletariat in its vast majority will not become "Buchananite." But its capacity to triumph in the streets over those who do will be determined by what those in the working-class vanguard do now, in the course of day-to-day activity, to develop and strengthen habits of discipline, proletarian functioning, and communist political clarity....

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