Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on February 23, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

{ 100 comments }

1

Hidari 02.23.21 at 6:40 pm

‘The most important election of our lifetime — until the next one — produced no fewer than three big, wet American winners. Amid plague, protest, and violence, three larger trends emerged to mark the landscape of twenty-first-century politics far more distinctly than any candidate or ideology.

In both a mathematical and a historical sense, America’s most notable winner was that heartwarming index of civic health, participation in the democratic process. More than two-thirds of eligible voters cast a ballot this fall, making 2020 the highest-turnout election since 1900. New coronavirus-related voting options may explain some of this surge, but not all of it, since participation also shot up in states that largely refused to expand ballot access. In other states, like Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota, turnout crested above the practically Scandinavian threshold of 75 percent.

This historic mobilization of the American masses led to the election of a Democratic Party placeholder, whose launchpad to the world-straddling power of the US presidency was a thirty-six-year career representing a province smaller than Cyprus. There is something both absurd and apt about the simple fact that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a contest that generated more mass participation than any of the campaigns that anointed Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The second winner of 2020, not unrelated to the first, was partisan polarization. As long-standing social and institutional ties wear away, and national politics increasingly takes the place of the union hall or the neighborhood club, party affiliation — Democrat or Republican, Biden or Trump, Blue or Red — has become a kind of “mega-identity,” in the phrase of the political scientist Lilliana Mason. American politics, as Obama himself has accurately pointed out, is now “a contest where issues, facts, policies . . . don’t matter as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy.”…

November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class. To be sure, the class-aligned politics of the long New Deal era — which happened to produce virtually every worthwhile national law, from Social Security to the Voting Rights Act — began to erode decades ago. But the last four years have seen a rapid acceleration of this trend, with Republicans winning larger and larger chunks of the non-college-educated working class, while Democrats gain more and more votes from affluent professionals and managers.

The result is a party system in which “issues” and “policies” — that is, competing ideas about the exercise of power or the distribution of goods — can hardly expect to find meaningful expression, let alone material fulfillment.’

Discuss.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/02/the-politics-of-a-second-gilded-age

2

M 02.23.21 at 9:32 pm

I don’t know if this is the right place to bring this up, but this has been nagging at me for half a year. In this comment from July 2020, J-D implies that the word “sully” is somehow used incorrectly in the phrase “sully his own reputation” and that by looking in a dictionary this would become clear. A quick skim of the OED, Merriam-Webster, and Collins indicate that they all agree that it means to tarnish, stain, or soil. The OED even provides a citation from Gibbon’s Decline & Fall II (1791) that pretty much matches this exact same usage, “The purity of his virtue was sullied by excessive vanity.”

I’ve been dying to know what J-D’s true meaning of “sully” is supposed to be and which dictionary (which they claim to “enjoy consulting”) it came from.

3

William S. Berry 02.24.21 at 4:46 am

I’ve read a good deal about ASMR (Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response), and believe it’s something I’ve experienced in the past. I just can’t pin it down to a particular experience that I can remember.

But I definitely experienced it (or something very like it) today!

I lay down on my bed this afternoon and turned on the AV system to watch some ST: Discovery on the OLED (Yeah, I know, corny as hell, but really awesome HD imagery.).

I was sitting halfway up on a pillow against the headboard with a sheet draped across me. My amazingly beautiful black cat, Raven (mi Negrita Musculosa o Negrita Hermosa), jumped onto the bed and lay down on my legs with her head toward my feet. She rested her nose between my knees and began to gently swish the end half of her tail, very slowly, back and forth. Again and again, it lightly brushed the back of my hand next to me on the sheet.

More or less suddenly, I felt a sensation of all-body euphoria; of something like bliss. Not a rush, but an endorphin release that made me feel perfect (which sensation is virtually infinitely far from my normal lugubrious self!). (To be clear, no mind altering substances.)

I didn’t think about it at the time; I just closed my eyes and soaked in it, gradually drifting off to sleep.

Later this evening, I looked at Raven in her bed (on our bed), watching her sleep, and listening to her weird grunts and moans as she dreamed (???).

Watching her as she lay there, her side rising and falling with her breathing, I think I understood something about (one of the reasons) why we love our cats so. We admire them because they are capable of something that we can only dream of: Perfect bliss.

That is what we humans long for but can never experience.

Anyhow, that’s the kind of thing one thinks about when growing old. Or something.

4

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 7:41 am

Perseverance flies 450 million kilometers to Mars, lands perfectly.

Texas experiences severe weather, common elsewhere and not unprecedented there, and it’s a national emergency. Many die; millions are miserable for days.

We know how to make things work, but somehow, too often, we don’t bother.

5

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 9:10 am

Wikipedia informs us that ‘The Pavillon Sully (Pavillon de l’Horloge) of the Palais du Louvre is named in honor of the Duc de Sully.’

My father had a good friend who was called ‘Sully’ because his last name was ‘Sullivan’, and perhaps because his first name was ‘Norman’.

6

bad Jim 02.24.21 at 10:14 am

As contrasted to Lully, who saddled us with the minuet-and-trio part of the sonata scheme that traditionally defines symphonies, quartets and trios. Beethoven adhered to the form even though he called his efforts ‘scherzos’, and some of Haydn and Mozart’s dance movements could perhaps be better termed ‘ländlers’ or waltzes.

7

Hidari 02.24.21 at 10:15 am

@4
As an economist, with a straight face, pointed out a few days ago, the energy ‘system’ in Texas is in fact working perfectly well.

And he was right.

The American socio-economic/political system is working perfectly for the purposes for which it was designed, and in the interests of those who designed it.

This is not the system failing. This is the system working.

8

nastywoman 02.24.21 at 11:59 am

@
”There is something both absurd and apt about the simple fact that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a contest that generated more mass participation than any of the campaigns that anointed Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, or Franklin D. Roosevelt”.

BUT only 17 percent of all Trump voters believe that Biden defeated Trump.
(according to the latest Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll)

Soooo –
there is NOTHING more absurd and apt about the simple fact that an average kid stops believing in the ”Easter Bunny” around the fifth birthday – while Trump voters might believe in Santa Clause -(and Trump) until they… die –

AND what I always wanted to ask you guys -(and especially Hidari)

What does that have to do with… with…

”politics”?

Discuss??!

9

Omega Centauri 02.24.21 at 3:49 pm

bad Jim:
My hypothesis about Texas’s epic failure is libertarian leaning market fundamentalism. The optimal outcome is the sum of individual greedy decisions. In the case of power generators the calculus goes something like this: I could spend 5% more to be able to keep generating during an event that is expected to occur .1% of the time. I optimize my profits by not preparing for it. Were this uncorrelated with other producers, and with the dire need for power, this would have led to a desirable outcome for the systems users and owners. However the corelation is in fact very high, and the many stakeholders experience the externality. A mechanism for making individual producers car
e about the externality was missing, because it doesn’t match the ideology.

10

JimV 02.24.21 at 4:15 pm

From what I’ve read, the Texas power companies make more money (surge pricing and increased electrical demand on the power plants still running, lower infrastructure costs) the way their business is run, without the regulations imposed on the national grids. The system works fine as far as they are concerned. It’s their perfect Mars landing.

We are not all in this together–well, we are, but not in the sense of wanting to help each other as a strong priority. We don’t seem to be built that way.

I doubt if there are any stellar civilizations, but if there are and we ever meet one, I conclude it will be a hive-mind; all in it together, doing what’s best for each other in the long run, feeling each other’s pain.

11

William S. Berry 02.24.21 at 4:27 pm

autonomous sensory meridian response”, I should have said.

12

MisterMr 02.24.21 at 5:00 pm

@Hidari 1
“November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class.” […] Discuss.

Nah, it’s still a class based system:

1) In the blue corner: white collars (generally workers with a certain level of instructions), professionals, the more or les bureaucratic welfare state, with its bureaucratic concept of meritocracy mutuated from school (hence no racism, no sexism);

2) In the red corner: big business, but largely small business and small proprietors, plus those parts of the working class who feel disadvantaged in the meritocratic system discussed above. They have a different concept of meritocracy based on market success, non bureaucratic and often anti bureaucratic, and they believe that one has to use his/her own strategic advantages so that, for example, it is normal that a womant that is more beautiful can get a job more easily (that is anathema for the other group).

The reason people confuse this as something decoupled from class is that, on the one hand, in the collective imaginary “workers” means only blue collar workers and is often extended to blue collar employers too, and on the other that it is in the interest of corner red to confuse the water and not let the disgruntled blue collar worker that they are on the side of capital.

For example, some time ago I was speaking with a friend of mine of Spiderman’s movies, and this friend of mine referred to the Vulture character as a working-class villain, and Misteryo as a capitalist villain, although in the movies it is clearly stated that Vulture is a small business owner (hence a small capitalists) and Misteryo is heading a sort of evil worker union of disgruntled former employees of Tony Stark, hence he is not only a worker (though part of the aristocracy of workers) but even a union agitator!

In short it is just that people can’t get around the stereotipized concepts of class that we see in the movies about 1800, otherwise the difference would be quite stark.

It is a bit as if in 1800 people tought that all blue collar workers were burgeois because they weren’t peasant farmers.

13

Mark Pontin 02.24.21 at 9:35 pm

@ William S. Berry

You wrote: “My amazingly beautiful black cat, Raven … lay down on my legs with her head toward my feet. She rested her nose between my knees and began to gently swish the end half of her tail … Again and again, it lightly brushed the back of my hand next to me on the sheet … I felt a sensation of all-body euphoria … Not a rush, but an endorphin release that made me feel perfect … (To be clear, no mind altering substances.)

You’re almost certainly wrong about the mind-altering substances. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that only reproduces in the intestines of cats. Today about one-third of the world’s human population is infected with it, though most will never know it.

How common ‘cat parasite’ gets into human brain and influences human behavior
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206203240.htm

Infection usually occurs by exposure from infected cat feces and in severe cases can kill: I once knew a woman who lived alone in a big Victorian with a compromised immune system and forty-odd cats that she allowed to cr*p all over the pace, and she died at 56 in large measure from it.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxoplasmosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20356249

Should you wish to seek professional help, it’s possible. You probably don’t, of course. Addicts hardly every do (i.e. the cat lady who died at 56).

14

J-D 02.24.21 at 11:10 pm

… this has been nagging at me for half a year.

!

In this comment from July 2020, J-D implies …

I’d forgotten all about it, but on reviewing the thread, I find it follows an earlier comment in which I wrote

When I wrote that I do not think the word ‘sully’ means what you think it means, what I meant was–
–that I do not think the word means what you think the word means.

But maybe I was wrong. What do you think the word ‘sully’ means?

Now you write

A quick skim of the OED, Merriam-Webster, and Collins indicate that they all agree that it means to tarnish, stain, or soil.

It turns out I was wrong! It does mean what you think it means.

I am mildly anxious about the possibility that this response will nag at you for another six months. I hope not, but I don’t know of anything I can do about it. If I had not responded at all, would that have been worse?

15

William S. Berry 02.25.21 at 2:36 am

@Mark Pontin

I have two cats, not forty. They are completely indoor pets, get regular treatment by the veterinarian, and get their monthly meds (parasites, eyes and ears, hairball, etc.)

My cats have three litter boxes that are fastidiously maintained and deodorized.

Have you considered that people who make remote diagnoses of others over the Internet, and from a position of complete ignorance with respect to another’s situation, might be the ones who need to seek help?

16

hix 02.25.21 at 4:33 am

The good old parasite causes mental illnesses’ story. Always seemed too good to be true for my taste. The implication is we got a magic bullet solution to most mental issues that also removes stigma – a clear simple linear physical cause effect. So one just has to figure out a way to remove the parasite an all is fine. That would be great.

17

J-D 02.25.21 at 4:48 am

“November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class.” […] Discuss.

Partisan allegiance in America is not tightly coupled with class position, but there never was any time in American history when it was. The existence in America now of a party system which is not tightly coupled with the class system is not a product of change, it is a product of continuity. The use of the expression ‘headlong march toward’ is misleading.

In simplified terms, the owners and bosses can’t win elections unless a lot of the workers vote on their side, but there always have been lots of workers who have been prepared to vote for the owners and bosses to win elections: that’s not something new. The problem isn’t to figure out what’s making it the case now but to figure out what’s made it the case all along.

18

Suzanne 02.25.21 at 5:35 am

@ William S. Berry:

I would not be at all surprised if “Mark Pontin” is a pseudonym for my neighbor’s German shepherd.

19

bad Jim 02.25.21 at 6:20 am

Hidari, Omega Centauri, JimV: no argument!

Nevertheless I don’t think the various malefactors actually anticipated this outcome, however much they profited by it, and I seriously doubt that they’ll be able to continue in this fashion.

A better place for further discussion is John Quiggin’s new post.

20

Tm 02.25.21 at 8:28 am

MisterMr 12:
“The reason people confuse this as something decoupled from class is that, on the one hand, in the collective imaginary “workers” means only blue collar workers and is often extended to blue collar employers too”

Let’s be explicit shall we? In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees. It’s an openly race-based, gender-based category and it has next to nothing to do with a person’s position in the capitalist system, with the way a person makes a living. In the American media discourse, not least in those parts of the left that self-identify as “class first”, an analysis based on actual economic class (in the Marxian sense) is practically non-existent.

To spell this out a bit more: According to the way those ctageories are applied, a self-employed Texas oil contractor (almost certainly a white man) making $120k counts as a worker, a hospital worker with some college training in Philadelphia (most likely non-white) making perhaps $40k does not. Office workers and workers in the health and education sectors in the collective imaginary are not “workers”. Apparently they don’t “work”. What else are they doing then?

The structure of the working class in advanced capitalism has obviously changed since the 1950s: higher education has become a mass phenomenon, the industrial sector has declined and tertiary sectors, including education and health care, have greatly expanded. If you try to understand class relations with the categories of the 1950s, you’ll end up spewing reactionary nonsense, which is precisely what many Jacobin writers are doing, what regressive leftists like Thomas Frank and Matt Taibbi are doing, who are now close to celebrating the Republican-fascist party as the “working-class party”. (don’t believe me?: https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/limbaugh-was-great-before-he-sold-out)

21

Hidari 02.25.21 at 10:54 am

The efforts of centrists to tell us that 2+2=78 has been one of the most hilarious of their rhetorical strategies of late, by which I mean, their effort to tell us all that leftists are the ‘real’ reactionaries and that centrists (by which I mean, intellectuals whose thoughts on social progress are more or less indistinguishable from those of the average members of the DNC) are the ‘real’ progressives.

In other news, up is down, left is right, and communists are the ‘real’ fascists.

Back in the real world, the idea that the Republicans will become a working class party is unlikely as of yet (they are still too attached to the nostrums of neoliberalism…so far) but it’s certainly possible, and some Republicans have stated clearly that that is the aim.

Likewise the idea that the Democrats might become, in the future, the party of upper-class educated white males with some POCs of either or any gender ‘sprinkled on top’ (diversity!) is possible though it’s not going to happen in the immediate future. The influence of the Sanders wing is still too strong. But when he goes, who knows? The last election was a definite step in that direction.

But the basic idea that the Republicans and Democrats might switch places on a key topic is hardly implausible. After all it’s happened before (vis a vis race, with the Republicans being the anti-racist party all the way through the later 19th century and well into the 20th, with the Dixiecrat dominated Dems being on the opposite team).

In any case, all of the heat and sound and fury (shrieks of ‘fascist’ ‘Nazi’ ‘communist’ and babbling about non-existent ‘violent insurrections’ and so on) is an attempt to pretend that there are fundamental ideological differences between the two main parties, which there obviously aren’t, as Biden’s essential continuance of the main points of the Trump agenda has shown.

22

Tm 02.25.21 at 11:27 am

J-D: “In simplified terms, the owners and bosses can’t win elections unless a lot of the workers vote on their side, but there always have been lots of workers who have been prepared to vote for the owners and bosses to win elections: that’s not something new.”

This is such an abvious point and yet our self-claimed class warriors are able to delude themselves into thinking otherwise. I can only think of one reason for that, and that is the desire for a “golden age” narrative, which is almost by definition a politically regressive perspective, and it explains why this part of the political spectrum is so compatible with Trumpist discourses.

“The result is a party system in which “issues” and “policies” — that is, competing ideas about the exercise of power or the distribution of goods — can hardly expect to find meaningful expression, let alone material fulfillment.” This Jacobin quote demonstrates not only awful writing but a near total disengagement from empirical reality. Who can look at Biden’s platform and current projects (Covid relief, 15$ minimum wage, health care access and on and on) and conclude that the parties express identical ideas about “the exercise of power or the distribution of goods”? Probably somebody who is also capable of believing that Josh Hawley is a populist and represents a working-class party…

23

Tm 02.25.21 at 11:39 am

William 14: The article quoted by Mark Pontin says: “A number of studies also confirm that mental diseases like schizophrenia, depression and anxiety syndrome are more common in people with toxoplasmosis, while others suggest that toxoplasmosis can influence how extroverted, aggressive or risk-inclined an individual’s behaviour is.” It doesn’t say how frequent these findings are but it’s worth pointing out that most people with cat experience perceive the presence of cats as relaxing and balancing. Which I think explains much of the evolutionary success of this remarkable species. Without that purr power, cats might have been seen as useful by early agriculturalists but probably not as beloved family members…

24

nastywoman 02.25.21 at 11:54 am

and as a ”cat(loving)person” myself –
I would like to inform everybody here – that ”Adolf” is the pseudonym for German shepherds and NOT “Mark Pontin”.

25

nastywoman 02.25.21 at 12:06 pm

AND! –
about this ”politics of class-question” –
can’t we finally ALL agree – that in countries –
(like America-Australia-UK) – where the majority of ”people” (working) tell you –
that they hope very much to become rich -(and famous?) –
one day –
and thusly do NOT want to ”overthrow” or ”revolutionise” ANY system
(”government” – ”politicians”) who-which give them the hope that they can get rich -(and famous) one day?

26

Hidari 02.25.21 at 12:47 pm

‘In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees.’

‘According to the way those catageories are applied, a self-employed Texas oil contractor (almost certainly a white man) making $120k counts as a worker.’

I’m sure this is true: after all, whoever heard of a random, anonymous commentator on the internet making shit up?

But just to prove this point, could you possibly post an example of someone who writes for Jacobin (or a similar socialist magazine) describing a self-employed Texas oil contractor on 120K p/a as a member of the proletariat/working class? Just one link will be fine please.

Alternatively could you provide a link to a Jacobinite (or similar) clearly stating that a female POC on 40K working in a hospital is quite definitely not working class?

Thanks!

27

Orange Watch 02.25.21 at 4:07 pm

MisterMr@12:

The Spiderman observation is a good one, but I’d argue your conclusion is slightly off. The US has recast class as a cultural phenomenon largely tied to a person’s class affect. It’s how the circle of George W. Bush being a blueblood scion with an Ivy League education was squared as him being “jus’ folks”. It’s how nouveau riche spoiled brat Donald Trump is a champion of the everyman, but Bernie Sanders is an out-of-touch elite. Vulture didn’t sound like a college-educated professional – he sounded and comported himself like a hard-luck hustler who was robbing people richer than him and complaining he couldn’t get a fair break. Mysterio OTOH was suave and well-spoken, relying on expertise and guile to con his way into power. It’s probably worth noting there’s some gender politics baked into that as well; Keaton’s Vulture is more “acceptably masculine”, right down to his code of honor in not doxxing Spiderman, while smooth, deceitful Mysterio lacks these “manly” qualities which are typically cast as working class virtues in American discourse. See e.g. every paean about a course bigot “telling it how it is”, ever.

My temptation is to say that it’s not so much that class discourse is absent, but that it’s been entirely recast through the lens of class resentment, so that percieved class is determined not by what you do, earn, or have, but rather what negative stereotypes you lack – which mostly boils down to the ancient intellectualism/anti-intellectualism divide, plus weird contortions on both sides to pretend that wealth has nothing to do with comportment, or politics.

And contra Tm@20’s tired PMC never-class analysis, this isn’t primarily about race. Citing an individual making twice the median household as exemplary of what is held up as “working class” is disingenuous – but not nearly as much as presenting an individual who is middle-to-upper-middle-class as “the real working class”. The latter is also tone-deaf and out of touch. The median family income in Phillidelphia is ~$45k. Someone earning ~$40k by themself is middle class (66-200% median) even if they’re the sole earner. More likely, they’re at the high end of middle class in that community (as opposed to being slightly above median nationally). This is a common PMC slight-of-hand; anecdotally, since Tm has again cited LGM authoritatively, I’ve seen one of their commeters cite their $150k household income of a teacher and a cop as precarious lower middle class. Even in San Francisco (which I have no reason to believe they were from) that’d be 130% median family income, but the PMC seems constitutionally incapable of recognizing that most people are making far less than they do, and that economic anxiety is not the same as economic precarity – which might seem superficially ironic when considering liberal PMC political and economic analysis, but really just demonstrates their class solidarity with their economic peers in the petty bourgeois who share that confusion.

It shouldn’t be terribly controversial to say that shifting voting patterns in non-European demographics shows as well that race-never-class politics are playing with fire – even faced with in-your-face racism from GOP thought leaders, racial and ethnic minorities who poll more socially conservative than the population as a whole are increasingly supporting the GOP. They still support Democrats in larger numbers, but comfortable myths of demographic inevitably seem to be proving just as dangerous as one would expect. Class exists as a driving force in US politics, and by pretending it doesn’t we allow rich conservatives to profitably promulgate the myth that class is purely cultural with no economic element. It’s hard to believe that this goes unnoticed by the PMC who are so heavily invested in maintaining the status quo…

28

steven t johnson 02.25.21 at 4:21 pm

People who oppose Marxism and Marxian class analysis tend to replace it with theories about the Deep State and a quasi-conspiratorial view of state propaganda turning people into robots. Instead of class struggle, much less God forbid a new class taking power, all the good things will come if clear thinking and mutual tolerance triumph. Thus, the most important value is a free press/media and a prudent caution about the latest fads in scapegoating. (Not quite the same thing as dismissing scapegoating as mere symbolism of no great value in itself and worse, diversionary in practice…the social media equivalent of looting and burning.)

This is a superficially sophisticated version of railing about sleazy journalists which is at bottom is bitching about how agitators rile up the masses. The notion that politicians are demagogues riling up the masses is also closely related. The common denominator is a gut feeling the filthy masses are the ones causing the badness. The notion that it’s the depravity of the common man ruining things because, people are crap, is I think far more diagnostic of conservatism than love of “hierarchy,” especially those versions that have only two levels (Good and Bad,) or at most three (Good, Bad and Godly leaders anointed to scourge the wicked.)

All visions of politics that deny a ruling class defined by its social role in production (i.e., property,) but imagine the passions of the mob are the driving event as quite anti-Marxist. In my opinion, of course. There are no academic qualifications for Marxism, though. Another commonly associated anti-Marxist notion is the PMC, the professional-managerial class, a nonsense hodge-podge that adds a quasi-conspiratorial tinge to lifestyle definitions of class.

As to Texas, conservatives see thingsas they are as God-ordained and the good people accept. Those appointed by God to actually run things are there to punish the bad people and are not to actually make things better, as if it were in man’s power to dispose. It is not popular to acknowledge there is even such a thing as religious bigotry, especially given the open hostility to minority new religions, but it is, and it is a powerful factor in conservative politics.

Last and least, a little game? Guess where the quote came from: “I hope and trust some graduate student is already working on the perhaps inevitable convergence between contemporary fascism and the deep misogyny of certain glibertarian gay men.” Birds of Prey taught us gay men hate women apparently. From LGM, Counterpunch, Jacobin, the Monkey Cage, New Yorker?

Or another: “The dominant prewar political tradition was the militarist, nationalist populism of Józef Piłsudski, who had originally risen to prominence as a socialist leader in his own right. Piłsudskism was set first against Russian imperialism and later Soviet revolutionary expansionism, and he played a major role in the defeat of the Red Army at the gates of Warsaw in 1920.” It was of course Pilsudski who invaded the USSR in 1920, to seize territory or reverse Bolshevik victory in the civil war or both. From LGM, Counterpunch, Jacobin, the Monkey Cage, New Yorker?

If it’s more fun to Google, have at it.

29

Starry Gordon 02.25.21 at 6:26 pm

@20, @17, @12 —

If class has become unreadable, this may mean that class is not what we (most of us) say or think it is, or does not function as we suppose it does.

30

Kiwanda 02.26.21 at 12:54 am

TM:

Let’s be explicit shall we? In the “collective imaginary” of the American media system, which the Jacobinites most faithfully reproduce, “workers” are predominantly white men without college degrees. It’s an openly race-based, gender-based category and it has next to nothing to do with a person’s position in the capitalist system, with the way a person makes a living. In the American media discourse, not least in those parts of the left that self-identify as “class first”, an analysis based on actual economic class (in the Marxian sense) is practically non-existent….If you try to understand class relations with the categories of the 1950s, you’ll end up spewing reactionary nonsense, which is precisely what many Jacobin writers are doing, what regressive leftists like Thomas Frank and Matt Taibbi are doing,….

So the Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, and the writers at Jacobin regard working class as meaning mainly white and male?
Here, let me google that for you.

Jacobin:

The working class — black, white, native-born, and immigrant — across a diverse set of experiences and facing myriad oppressions, collectively make up a class of people who are exploited to create profits for the few. Understanding how class works and on what basis class positions are determined help to reveal the structures of power and exploitation in our society.

This does not just extend to workers engaged in the production of physical goods. Teachers and nurses must sell their labor in order to provide services, and thus are part of the working class.

Jacobin:

….party elites can no longer be complacent about continuing to dominate the working-class black and Latino vote indefinitely. Biden is underperforming with voters of color relative to Hillary Clinton, whose own struggle to excite nonwhite voters to the same degree as Barack Obama contributed to her defeat. This racial divide can also be understood through educational attainment: in 2019, 40 percent of whites over the age of twenty-five had attained a college degree, compared to 26 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics, according to Census data….

Jacobin:

2. Building Multiracial Working-Class Solidarity

Despite all the lip service Democrats pay to racial justice, bettering material conditions for working people of color is not high on their agenda. In New York, Democrats have pursued policies of austerity and displacement, and structured the political system to disenfranchise and disempower their constituents — resulting in some of the lowest voter turnout in the country. For these communities, class-struggle electoral campaigns can offer an avenue into the political process, building solidarity and empowering us as a class.

Jacobin:

The real story here is the same as in 2016: working-class African Americans aren’t voting Republican en masse, but they are showing up to vote Democratic at lower rates than the rest of the party’s coalition.

In the highest-turnout presidential election in over a century — where Michigan’s turnout climbed from 62 percent to more than 73 percent — Detroit’s largely black, working-class residents voted at roughly the same rate they had four years ago.

Although 2020 turnout spiked all across Michigan and Genesee County, it actually declined in black working-class Flint. Results from rural black-majority counties in Alabama and Mississippi, and precinct-level returns in largely black districts like Chicago’s South Side, West Philadelphia, North St. Louis, East Cleveland, and central Akron, show a similar pattern compared to 2016: small but consistent shifts toward Trump, alongside flat or declining turnout rates.

Let me google that for you again.

Matt Taibbi:

Trump lost the election because of his handling of the pandemic, the top issue for 41% of voters, who chose Biden by a nearly 3-1 margin. But among people whose top concern was the economy — 28% of the electorate — Trump won an incredible 80% of the vote.

All of this points to a dramatic change. Trump may not have done much, politically, to deserve the support of Black, Latino, LGBTQ, and female voters. But the Democrats’ conspicuous refusal to address economic inequality and other class issues in a meaningful way created an opening.

And then, And then, Thomas Frank:

In his new history of anti-populism, Thomas Frank’s most stunning insight is this: In the 1890s, in the states of the Old Confederacy, the threat of “a political union” between poor black Republicans and poor white Populists so panicked the ruling post-Reconstruction Bourbon Democrats that their official, narcotizing lie of white solidarity was weaponized into the inhumanly degrading dogma of white supremacy.

“The South in the 1890s,” Frank writes, “was filled with poor farmers both white and black, and keeping these two groups at each other’s throats was virtually the entire point of the region’s traditional politics” (p. 42). Hence the usefulness of the lie of white solidarity: For a generation or more after the Civil War poor whites were propagandized to believe that their true interests lay with those of their wealthy Lost Cause betters. But the advent of the Populist movement shattered this lie. “In 1892,” Frank continues, “the Populist leader Tom Watson of Georgia declared in a national magazine that ‘the People’s Party will settle the race question’ by addressing the common economic interests [italics mine] of black and white farmers” (p. 43).

Frank proceeds to quote Watson: “‘You are kept apart,'” with remarkable eloquence did Watson address the poor farmers of the South, “‘that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both'” (p. 43).

And poor whites and poor blacks, as Populist leaders like Watson exhorted them, did indeed begin to make viable political alliances — to the horror of the Bourbon Democrats.

31

LFC 02.26.21 at 2:23 am

Hidari @21 continues his “narrative” that there are no ideological differences between the two main U.S. political parties and that Biden is “continuing the Trump agenda.” [sic]

It’s true that the Dem Party is not a socialist party, it’s not a self-identified labor party.

But of course that doesn’t mean there are no significant differences betw. the two parties. Biden has rejoined the Paris climate accord, is rejoining the World Health Org., is trying to put a moratorium on deportations (a federal judge in Texas has blocked it), is allowing asylum seekers to remain in the country, as intl law requires, as their cases are being considered, is sending $25 million worth of face masks to be distributed via community centers in poor neighborhoods, has a $15 minimum-wage provision in the pandemic relief bill. Some of his Cabinet appointees are better than others, but they’re all better than Trump’s. Biden has rightly ended U.S. support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen (though btw the Houthis, from what I gather, are worsening the overall situation w their assault on what is apparently just about the last remaining functioning city in that country).

Anyway, perhaps Hidari imagines that he is engaging in some version of épater les bourgeois. But, I suppose, let a thousand schools of thought contend, let a hundred flowers bloom, even if their (in)accuracy rivals that of Fox News et al. Whatever.

32

M 02.26.21 at 2:37 am

@J-D 14:

Ah well, that’s all right. I was mainly curious as to what you were so confident that “sully” actually meant. My main theory is that you had confused it with a similar word like “sally” or “sultry”.

33

William Berry 02.26.21 at 3:00 am

@TM

Fair enough. But that doesn’t change the overbearing presumption and rudeness of MP’s remarks.

I only got my two cats around two years ago. I’m coming up on seventy YOA, and for most of those years have experienced, and been treated for, moderate depression, OCD, and anxiety.

My two “girls “ made me feel better almost immediately. I quickly fell in love with them; I greatly admired their beauty, their playfulness, their sense of trust, well before they had a chance to colonize my brain with their magic germs.

But if I am now, in fact, infected with a cat germ that makes me f***ing feel better? Well, that’s just one more thing I have to thank them for!

Hmm. Now, if there were just some way to infect the entire human race!*

*Joking, of course (kinda’).

34

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:40 am

and as we are back at ”class” against ”race” –
AGAIN!

In a country where 74 million voters vote for somebody who pretends to be very rich –
”race” is always ”the winner”.

35

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:51 am

and about the difference between ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans’ –
In dollars – right now – the most obvious difference is 1400$ or 0$ Dolpush –
and this:

”Democrats’ push to pass a $15 minimum wage in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package violates Senate rules, according to the Senate’s parliamentarian, who delivered a likely fatal blow Friday to the effort to give tens of millions of workers a raise.

to pass a $15 minimum wage in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package violates Senate rules, according to the Senate’s parliamentarian, who delivered a likely fatal blow Friday to the effort to give tens of millions of workers a raise.

For weeks, Democrats have been waiting for a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, who oversees Senate procedure, on whether they can raise the minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process, the legislative maneuver that will allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority.

House Democrats are expected to soon vote on a COVID-19 package that includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in stages over the next four years. The provision also eliminates the tipped minimum wage, which currently allows employers to pay workers a lower base wage as long as the workers receive gratuities.

The proposal would give an estimated 27 million workers raises over the next four years. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased in more than a decade.

But without the Senate parliamentarian’s blessing, Democrats now are left with some unfavorable options. They can strip the $15 minimum wage provision from the final COVID-19 relief package and negotiate with Republicans to pass a narrower minimum wage increase separately. Or, they can leave it in and subject it to a procedural vote on the Senate floor, which has a 60-vote threshold — which would ultimately kill the provision”.

36

J-D 02.26.21 at 8:06 am

… The US has recast class as a cultural phenomenon largely tied to a person’s class affect. … My temptation is to say that it’s not so much that class discourse is absent, but that it’s been entirely recast through the lens of class resentment, so that percieved class is determined not by what you do, earn, or have, but rather what negative stereotypes you lack – which mostly boils down to the ancient intellectualism/anti-intellectualism divide, plus weird contortions on both sides to pretend that wealth has nothing to do with comportment, or politics. …

The use of the word ‘recast’ implies that the phenomenon being described is a product of change. But it’s not a product of change, it’s a product of continuity. It’s always been like that.

If class has become unreadable, this may mean that class is not what we (most of us) say or think it is, or does not function as we suppose it does.

If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they both have the same (or nearly the same) understanding of what the word means, then using the word will assist communication and facilitate understanding. If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they have divergent understandings of what the word means (but they don’t know that’s what’s going on), then using the word will hinder communication and cloud understanding. If two people are having a discussion in which they’re both using the word ‘class’ and they have divergent understandings of what the word means and they recognise that’s what’s going on, the discussion is likely (although not certain) to be consumed by futile meaningless wrangling about which definition of the word should be considered correct.

37

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:22 am

Kiwanis: can we assume as consensus, then, that the term working class includes teachers, nurses, office workers, that workers with college degrees are still workers, that the majority of the working class votes Democratic as it has for decades? Because if these points are not in dispute, as you seem to claim, among the left including Jacobin etc., then what is the dispute? How can Jacobin, Taibbi, Frank and others then claim that the Democratic Party is the party of the economic elite, or that their economic policies are identical to those of the Reps, or even that the Republicans have become the „Working-class party“?

38

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:31 am

Kiwanda: can we assume as consensus, then, that the term working class includes teachers, nurses, office workers, that workers with college degrees are still workers, that the majority of the working class votes Democratic as it has for decades?

Because if these points are not in dispute, as you seem to claim, among the left including Jacobin etc., then what is the dispute? How can Jacobin, Taibbi, Frank and others then claim that the Democratic Party is the party of the economic elite, or that their economic policies are identical to those of the Reps, or even that the Republicans have become the „Working-class party“?

39

Tm 02.26.21 at 8:34 am

„ as Biden’s essential continuance of the main points of the Trump agenda has shown“

No further comment needed…

40

Tm 02.26.21 at 11:25 am

OW makes my case further by claiming that my example if a hospital worker making 40k shouldn’t be referred to as working class but rather as „high end of the middle class“. Precious. Let’s also agree that unionized auto workers (who still can make more than $30 an hour) aren’t real workers. What should we call them, the oligarchy?

The responses to my earlier comment demonstrate clearly that we do not have a coherent concept of class. Every single comment above has referred to class in a different way. Clearly if we want to have a meaningful debate, we need to address that. You can choose to shoot the messenger if you prefer but I would suggest trying to deal with empirical reality for once rather than engaging in escapist delusions.

41

MisterMr 02.26.21 at 12:44 pm

@Orange Watch 27

I mostly agree with you, and i think that the genderization of politics is a thing. However, I have 2 nitpicks:

1) I’m italian and my friend who called Vulture working class and Mysterio a capitalist is an italian blue collar: this is not just an American phenomenon.

2) In a capitalist society, presumably most people are working class, otherwise we wouldn’t call it a capitalist society anymore!
This means that people up to some step above the median income are still working class, although it is difficult to say exactly whare the line is.

Here though we are dancing around the central problem, which is factual:

Whose economic interests do Democrats represent? Whose the Republicans? Do the voting patterns match the economic interests served?

IMHO there is a problem here because I think the Reps represent wealth much more than the Dems, but due to the bubbly nature of modern day economy at least in the short term this is also good for workers (until the bubble pops). This is the reason many workers may believe that for example Trump was better economically for them than Obama, whereas I think that the opposite is true and that, for example, the lowering of marginal income tax rates is very bad for workers in the long term.

So we have this situation where the same party has people who essentially are the causes of financialisation who also say they are against financialisation, or believe that the gold standard would be the correct answer against fictitious money (it’s the opposite, USA had to leave the gold standard because it leads to an excessve wealth to income ratio because you can’t devalue wealth) etc.

Since people who vote for right populist parties hold many of these that I think are contradictory beliefs, I think they are actually the ones who are lead by the nose, but then I say this because of my beliefs on how the economy actually works.

42

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 6:09 pm

BUT!!
It wasn’t ME –
who kidnapped Lady Gaga’s dogs!
(even if Hidari would try to blame ME!)

43

Orange Watch 02.26.21 at 6:36 pm

stj@28:

I’m curious: in your cosmology of anti-Marxist badthink, is petit bourgeoisie also a nonsense hodgepodge borne of “lifestyle definitions of class”? Historically, the petty bourgeoisie has included many people who you now seem unwilling to see removed from either labor or capital. For a Marxist, you don’t seem terribly willing to examine certain (inconvenient?) parts of what Marx himself concluded. The PMC is as real and compatible with Marxism as the petty bourgeoisie – it’s an acknowledgement that classes are not monolithic nor united nor tidy, and that labor roles and relations are not timeless, eternal, or even universal. But let’s ask a more pointed question: if all there can be is simple labor or capital, where do police fall? Do class enemy police who broke heads in labor strikes against capitalists become heroic revolutionary workers when they break heads in strikes against loyal Party appartchiks? Where do employees of private security companies fall? What of self-employed private security contractors? Are they little capitalists or doughty workers – or does that depend on who they stand with and against? And what of bureaucrats? Professors? Is a Chicago School econ prof proletarian because they own no means of production? Do they share class interests with a retail clerk, a factory worker, a gig delivery driver, a stock analyst, or none of the above? How many shares of stock does a laborer need to own before they become a capitalist, and does it matter if they’re shares in their own company or another?

You can flatten all classes down to two uniform monoliths, but that’s a lazy oversimplification that reveals more about your goals and methods than reality. It’s also quite handy if you view yourself as a vanguard elite of the underclass that naturally directs and speaks for labor without actually sharing working or living conditions with laborers – a revolutionary cadre that has made a dedicated career of directing, supervising, organizing, and educating the masses who lack their specialized skills, formation, and perspective…

44

nastywoman 02.26.21 at 11:11 pm

and what always completely mystified me:

How come that Idiots on the Internet who don’t know the difference between an American Republican Politician and a Democrats – are able to blame US Democrats for believing in Science?
(and wearing masks or supporting BLM)

AND that’s why I have invented the ultimate test how to tell an US Democrat apart -from a US Republican -(or ”trump”)

You just ask him (or her) – two questions –
Just two:
1. Are you supporting wearing masks in a pandemic?
2. Are you supporting BLM?

And if you get ONE ”no” –
just ”one” – it’s always ”trump” -(or a member of his Republican Party)

45

Kiwanda 02.26.21 at 11:29 pm

@TM You seemed to claim earlier that Jacobin, Frank, and Taibbi believe that “working class” means “predominantly white men without college degrees. It’s an openly race-based, gender-based category”.

A five-minute web search shows that you are wrong, as I quoted. Jacobin writers (many of them), Frank, and Taibbi do not think that.

In what I linked here, you seem to be confusing:
1. Broad demographic categories of voters for each party;
2. Trends in those broad categories;
3. The primary policy stances of each party;
4. The secondary policy stances of each party.
I would guess that J, F, and T think something like: (1) the working class votes for Democrats, but Republicans have been able to make some small headway with them via economic appeals, including in racial and ethnic categories that overall strongly support Democrats. That is, the trend (2) is bad news for Democrats. Meanwhile the primary policy allegiances (3) of both parties are to rich people. Republicans have no other policy goals (4), but will appeal to racists, gun nuts, and religious fanatics to stay in power, while Democrats do not do that, but do not make enough of an economic appeal to working class people. But this may not be an accurate precis of their views; maybe you can find some evidence about that? That is, beyond Scott Lemieux’s sneering and plainly inaccurate paraphrase of Taibbi?

46

J-D 02.27.21 at 3:58 am

The responses to my earlier comment demonstrate clearly that we do not have a coherent concept of class. Every single comment above has referred to class in a different way. Clearly if we want to have a meaningful debate, we need to address that.

One technique which is sometimes useful is to state your own position, whatever it may be, without using the term which is causing problems (‘class’ in this case, but the technique is more general).

47

bad Jim 02.27.21 at 6:42 am

I have no use for attempts to describe the political situation in the U.S. in terms of class. To be sure, donors have considerable influence on policy, but the divide between the two parties is nakedly cultural (racial, sexual, religious, you name it). The laid off factory workers of the midwest did not vote for a New York billionaire to protest economic inequality.

See, for example, Scott Lemieux at LGM:

It’s not that the economic stresses of the middle-class people who showed up on 1/6, say, aren’t real, it’s just that they’re too ubiquitous to be a useful explanation for anything.

Explain why the poorest states in the country angrily reject free health care for their most destitute citizens without invoking racism, or why the most adamantly pro-life states have the highest maternal death rates without invoking religion (excepting Alabama, which seems to be doing something right).

The interests of the titans of fossil fuel overlap but do not perfectly coincide with those of motor vehicle manufacturers, or agribusiness or mass retail or banking. They share an aversion to regulation and taxation, but they are not necessarily loyal to each other.

48

MisterMr 02.27.21 at 9:26 am

If we are speaking of “class”, and if we want to define it, I propose the criterion of the minimum wage, and the wall street criterion:

Who is advantaged by an increase of the minimum wage and who loses from it?

Workers with low wages are advantaged from it (workers).

Big business has to pay the higer wages, but so does small capital like restaurants, family enterprises etc. Those are respectively capitalists and small burgeoises.

Some people have high enough wages to be not interested in it, so we can call them middle class, but only with the understanding that the middle class is a stratum inside the working class . If wages are very very high we could call them aristocracy of the working class.

There is also a managerial class that is somewhat ambiguous, technically they are not capitalists but their role is such that they are closer to caital or the small burgeouise.

Policeman by the way are part of the working class economically.

If we use the wall street criterion: who has enough money to be directly positively impacted by a wall street boom?

It seems to me the two criteria would lead to very similar results, the only big difference is I think workers with high wages (so still working class by criterion 1) who accumulated enough financial wealth to be interested in wall street.

The main point of classes though is not that they are groups of omogeneous people, but that they represent omogeneous economic interests.

So there is the question if, for example, blue collar VS white collar have opposed economic interests or not.

49

Hidari 02.27.21 at 9:33 am

Some highly creative language here to get round the fact that the Dems stated clearly that they would raise the minimum wage to $15 p/h and it now looks as if they will not, in fact, do that.

But perhaps we can all get together and celebrate that, at least, American weapons are killing Arabs in Syria (and yes I know Trump did the same: that’s precisely my point).

50

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.27.21 at 4:56 pm

@Orange Watch “And what of bureaucrats? Professors? Is a Chicago School econ prof proletarian because they own no means of production?”

There was a Soviet joke (or a ‘meme’, I guess?) “пролетарий умственного труда” (‘proletarian of mental labor’). From The 12 Chairs, by Ilf and Petrov.

Afaik, everyone always assumed it was just a bit of humorous abracadabra. But now I see that it was apparently invented by Mr. F. Engels, in 1893, his greeting to the International Congress of Socialist Students. And it looks like the concept has grown in popularity. Go figure.

51

Orange Watch 02.27.21 at 5:25 pm

Tm@40:

Let’s play your game. Who isn’t working class, and why aren’t they? You appear to be wavering between a purely income-based understanding of class and a purely cultural one – but you haven’t clarified what your own understanding of it is, so different people will disagree when interpreting what the undefined concept that you view as unreal and/or unimportant is. It’s quite handy if all you want to do is delegitimitze class as a coherent concept – “Ha, these class-first racist ‘leftist’ crypto-fascists can’t even agree on what class is!” – but it exposes your firm insistence that it isn’t and can’t be an unacknowledged driving force in US politics as transparently ridiculous. This is as insightful as saying “they” can’t have any impact on political outcomes because no one even seems to mean the same thing when they try to guess who “they” is referring to. If the idea is too incoherent to take seriously, it’s too incoherent to dismiss out of hand. People disagree on what race and gender are too – does that mean these aren’t real or useful concepts in politics, or merely that ambiguous terms need defined in context rather than treated as fuzzy, amorphous monoliths?

MisterMr@41:

You are, of course, correct that if we make a simple division of class into capital and labor, most people in any capitalist society will be labor. I’m not convinced that so coarse an analysis is particularly useful at this point, though. Regarding how class and party intersect in the US, arguing with stj is dragging me to the conclusion that while both ruling parties represent capitalists, where they differ is what subdivision of capital and labor they want the masses to aspire towards. Republicans want workers to dream of being petty bourgeoisie – we scrimp, save, shrewdly invest, and become (working) small business owners, though not everyone will have the work effort and wisdom to make it. Democrats want workers to dream of being PMC – if we train, learn, and dedicate ourselves to using institutions to improve ourselves, we can be comfortable working professionals, though not everyone will be patient or intelligent enough to make it. Neither party’s leaders particularly want to provide a better life for mere workers – we’re Americans and should dream the American Dream rather than settling for the unsightly reality that most people in a capitalist society can’t be “winners” by definition. The Democratic vision is less individualistic b/c it relies on group cooperation to ascend from the working class, but both are mostly concerned with making life good for the rich, less precarious-feeling for “their” portion of the middle class, and invest the poors in the party by in terms of protection from the other party’s cultural agenda and/or policies that make will supposedly make it impossible for most people to achieve petty bourgeois or professional status, respectively.

It’s frustrating; I’m a lifelong Democrat who’s never voted for a Republican in a contested partisan race, but the party is run by capitalists and absolutely want top-down rule just as much as Republicans. I can’t help but notice, for example, that when even serious-minded pundits talk about what can be done to prevent minority rule, they never, ever suggest amending the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, even though SCOTUS has made clear that Congress has the power and authority to resolve gerrymandering, not the courts. Gerrymandering must be a fact of life, and we must maintain legislative deadlock while dumping ever more legislative function onto the undemocratic professional judiciary and the imperial presidency. Ofc, a lot of this is merely the Iron Law of Institutions at work, but there is still a strongly top-down, anti-democratic thread of distrust of a lazy, dumb, shortsighted body politic underpinning Democratic policy despite the party’s professions very much to the contrary.

52

Tm 02.27.21 at 9:59 pm

We have heard certain people claim to believe that there are no fascists in America; that the major parties‘ economic policies are indistinguishable; that Biden continues Trump’s policies.

On my part, I don’t believe that anybody sincerely believes these ludicrous claims, certainly nobody who seriously follows politics. I rather think spreading these claims is a propaganda strategy on behalf of the oligarchy directed at low information voters to dissuade them from voting or organizing against plutocratic interests.
Discuss!

53

John Quiggin 02.28.21 at 4:44 am

Agreeing with J-D, there’s no point in using, or arguing about, the term “class” in general discussion of US and Australian politics, where you can’t expect agreement on the meaning. Variables that matter, and are often bound up with talk about class, include
income, education, race and gender. All of these have strong, predictable and (for me at least) intuitive effects on voting behavior. Other things equal, high income and membership of the dominant group favors rightwing voting, high education and membership of a non-dominant group favors the left.

One point where class works pretty clearly as expected – small business owners are overwhelmingly rightwing and form much of the support base for fascist movements when they arise. The Capitol insurrection showed this. https://time.com/5931320/businesses-boycotted-capitol-riots/

54

John Quiggin 02.28.21 at 4:46 am

Largely unrelated to class is the strong age gradient evident in voting generally, and particularly where culture war issues are prominent. This is a relatively new development.

55

e julius drivingstorm 02.28.21 at 5:17 am

nastywoman @ 8

BUT only 17 percent of all Trump voters believe that Biden defeated Trump.
(according to the latest Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll)

Tangentially, the media seems to report Trump’s claims uncritically. They might say that Trump believes the election was stolen from him because that’s what he tells his base. We would be better served if the media more accurately reported that Trump claims to believe erroneously… But his base, like Wrestling fans have no use for facts. Still, those are the facts and should be reported as such.

56

nastywoman 02.28.21 at 7:50 am

@
”I rather think spreading these claims is a propaganda strategy on behalf of the oligarchy directed at low information voters to dissuade them from voting or organizing against plutocratic interests.
Discuss!”

It’s worst – the idea that Democrats and Republicans are ”just the same” –
or –
that ”Biden is just like Trump”
or –
that ”Obama is just like Bush”
was –
IS one of the utmost successful strategies of ”trump”
(the worlds word for: EVIL STUPID)
in order to burn THE WHOLE PLACE down.

57

nastywoman 02.28.21 at 7:53 am

”in order to burn THE WHOLE PLACE down”.

AND if the pandemic haven’t taught anybody else here –
(besides Maria) –
that WE don’t want to burn the whole place down –
I can’t help you guys – anymore…

58

nastywoman 02.28.21 at 8:13 am

on the other hand? –
we always have the… admirable insight of ”bad Jim” who wrote:

”I have no use for attempts to describe the political situation in the U.S. in terms of class. To be sure, donors have considerable influence on policy, but the divide between the two parties is nakedly cultural (racial, sexual, religious, you name it).

That finally explains –
why – when I interviewed more than a hundred ”workers” from the so called ”Rust Belt” before the election of 2016 – there was a majority – who told me that not only ”all politicians are alike” –
BUT also –
ALL ”Blonds are alike” –
(with the exception of ”trump” – who ”says it how it is” – and that ”Belgium is a beautiful city…”)

59

MisterMr 02.28.21 at 8:33 am

@Orange watch 51 and John Quiggin 53 and Gorgonzola 50

The point is that class is about wealth, not directly about income.
I can sell my apartment and if I had sons they could inherit it.
I can’t sell my degree nor can anybody inherit it.

So the cultural divide between an owners class and a professional/credentialed class is indeed a paradigm shift, and it is related to class.

Would/will this credentialist paradigm lead to a more equal society or just recreate differrnces at another level? I think overall it will recreate an economically more equal society but, as it will also create other forms of inequality (for example in prestige) many people might be pissed of from it.

60

Gorgonzola Petrovna 02.28.21 at 9:21 am

@MisterMr “blue collar VS white collar have opposed economic interests or not”

Fwiw, according to the official Soviet ideology, the Soviet society had two allied social classes: the ‘laboring class’ and the ‘kolkhoz peasantry’ (рабочий класс и колхозное крестьянство). Plus the social stratum of ‘working intelligentsia’ (трудовая интеллигенция), that was serving the people – unlike in a capitalist society, where they serve the class of capitalists (https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1936/11/25.htm). ‘Working intelligentsia’ included all educated office workers and professionals.

The Communist Party was a party led by the ‘laboring class’, and therefore it had quotas for ‘kolkhoz peasantry’ and ‘working intelligentsia’: together they had to comprise less than 50%. Which created interesting dynamics in office politics, because a ‘working intelligent’ couldn’t make a career without becoming Party member, and joining the Party was, for a ‘working intelligent’, a difficult task.

As for the nomenklatura (the leaders), all of them had to rise from the ‘laboring class’, joining the Party during their ‘laboring class’ years.

61

J-D 02.28.21 at 10:17 am

<

blockquote>I can’t help but notice, for example, that when even serious-minded pundits talk about what can be done to prevent minority rule, they never, ever suggest amending the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, even though SCOTUS has made clear that Congress has the power and authority to resolve gerrymandering, not the courts.I don’t understand what the relationship is between gerrymandering and the 1929 Act. I know that the Act can’t be the cause or the enabler of gerrymandering, because gerrymandering was going on long before 1929.

62

J-D 02.28.21 at 10:18 am

I can’t help but notice, for example, that when even serious-minded pundits talk about what can be done to prevent minority rule, they never, ever suggest amending the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, even though SCOTUS has made clear that Congress has the power and authority to resolve gerrymandering, not the courts.

I don’t understand what the relationship is between gerrymandering and the 1929 Act. I know that the Act can’t be the cause or the enabler of gerrymandering, because gerrymandering was going on long before 1929.

63

hix 02.28.21 at 11:48 am

Good old wealth/asset value is an even better predictor of right wing voting than income. Albeit it seems to me rather disingenuous to for example argue that high education levels are no indicator of higher social class just because we saw a shift towards predominant left wing voting among the high educated in many nations. I’m fully onboard with the cynical analysis that suggest the nominal left wing party just aren’t all that left wing (anymore) up to being more accurately seen as representatives of competing elites. At least in the US that descriptions seems more than apt. That still makes democrats the obvious lesser evil. It would albeit be naive to expect anything resembling genuine left wing politics. On the contrary a higher responsiveness to people at least in the upper 20% or above than to anyone else seems likely.

64

Cranky Observer 02.28.21 at 9:59 pm

For me any discussing of working class in the US needs to introduce the Japanese concept of salaryman. A salaryman is not a member of the working class by almost any definition used since 1700, is not an owner, not an executive manager, and might just barely be considered a member of a professional managerial class – except they are generally not viewed as professionals. They exist in a netherland, living on salary only with little chance of getting to higher income or capital ownership levels but retaining the chance of falling into the pit by chance or misstep.

65

John Quiggin 02.28.21 at 11:11 pm

@59 and others. Agree, wealth is at least relevant as income. Wealth is cumulative income (including inheritance and capital gains), less consumption. Ideally, you would have an age-adjusted measure, or include an estimate of future income.

The main point is that it’s an important factor, particularly on economic issues, and fits well with some (not all) interpretations of “class”.

66

J-D 03.01.21 at 12:01 am

I’m fully onboard with the cynical analysis that suggest the nominal left wing party just aren’t all that left wing (anymore) up to being more accurately seen as representatives of competing elites. At least in the US that descriptions seems more than apt.

If somebody said ‘The Democrats are not as far to the left as the SPD or the Labour Party or the PSOE or the ALP or the SAP’, I would not dispute it. (I suppose some people might, but I wouldn’t.)

However, if somebody said ‘The Democrats are not as far to the left as they used to be’, I would feel less sure. Was the Democratic Party further to the left than it is now (with Joe Biden as the Democratic President) when it nominated James Polk for the Presidency, or when it nominated Horatio Seymour for the Presidency, or John W Davis, or Bill Clinton? Were Congressional Democrats further to the left than they are now twenty-five years ago, or fifty years ago, or a century ago?

I’m not sure that it would be meaningful to ask ‘When was the Democratic Party furthest to the left?’ and even if it’s meaningful I’m not sure how the answer could be settled; but supposing it was, and supposing the answer was a time that’s not now (which is plausible enough as far as it goes), it’s not clear that’s the same thing as a definite trend away from the left. I’m sure it’s possible to point to some current Democrats who are not left-wing, and some policies/actions the party currently supports which are not left-wing, but I would guess that’s practically always been true.

Obviously anybody who wants to can say (and can say correctly) ‘The Democrats are not as far to the left as I think they should be’. They’re not as far to the left as [i]I[/i] think they should be, at that.

67

KT2 03.01.21 at 12:51 am

Topical it seems.

Scott Alexander quoting Fussel and his book on class 1983 which mentions – 
“prole drift”, the tendency of lower-class signals and behaviors to become higher-class over time”.

A tongue in cheek with a point proposal follows. 

Scott Alexander’s –
-” Book Review: Fussell On Class
Summary and commentary on Paul Fussell’s “Class: A Guide Through The American Status System”

“I.
Paul Fussell wants to talk about class.
(well, wanted, past tense, it’s a 1983 book, we’ll come back to that later)
….
“But I also don’t want to dismiss Fussell’s class system as entirely irrelevant today. Assuming some parts of it remain, how do they resemble/differ what Fussell talked about in 1983?

“Class gives us a hint: it urges us to watch for “prole drift”, the tendency of lower-class signals and behaviors to become higher-class over time. I was surprised by this – I would have expected the opposite, where lower classes gradually catch on and learn how to ape their betters, and their betters need to invent new signals to replace the compromised ones. But I can’t deny that Fussell has a point too – witness rap going from an underclass phenomenon to a middle-class one to one where the Harvard Crimson can’t stop raving about Hamilton.”…
https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/book-review-fussell-on-class

“A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word “Class”Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.

“Read this first: Book Review: Fussell On Class

“Dear Republican Party:
I hear you’re having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. Trump managed to excite people, but you don’t know how to turn his personal appeal into a new platform. Most of what he said was offensive, blatantly false, or alienated more people than it won; absent his personal magic it seems like a losing combination. You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you’re not sure why, and you don’t know how to build on this success.

“I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn’t suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I’d rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.

“So here’s my recommendation: use the word “class”. Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.

“Yeah, yeah, “class” sounds Marxist, class warfare and all that, you’re supposed to be against that kind of thing, right? Wrong.Economic class warfare is Marxist, but here in the US class isn’t a purely economic concept. Class is also about culture. You’re already doing class warfare, you’re just doing it blindly and confusedly. Instead, do it openly, while using the words “class” and “classism”.

“Trump didn’t win on a platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever. He won on a platform of being anti-establishment. But which establishment? 

“Aren’t I just describing well-off people? No. Teachers, social workers, grad students, and starving artists may be poor, but can still be upper-class. Pilots, plumbers, and lumber barons are well-off, but not upper-class. Donald Trump is a billionaire, but still recognizably not upper class. The upper class is a cultural phenomenon.

“Aren’t I just describing Democrats? No. The Democrats are a coalition of the upper class, various poor minorities, union labor, and lots of other groups. It’s an easy mistake to make, because you Republicans absolutely loathe the upper class, and whenever you’re talking about Democrats you focus on this group and how much you hate them. But you make the mistake of saying you hate Democrats, and then it looks like boring old partisanship. Or saying you hate the elites, and then it looks like boring old populism. Or saying you hate rootless cosmopolitans, and then it looks like boring old anti-Semitism. Or saying you hate the government, and then it looks like boring old libertarianism.

“Instead, just use the words “class” and “classism”. Say “Hey, we Republicans want to be the party of the working class. We are concerned about the rising power of the upper class, and we are dedicated to stamping out classism.”
[Image of Trump tweet]
https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F9c9b974a-215e-4383-bdea-d5e78365094f_500x220.png

“It’s the 21st century; having principles is out of style. Politics is motivated by tribal hatred. You tell your people that the other side hates them and wants to kill them; they need to fight back. The Democrats are great at this – cis white men hate you, they deny your right to exist, the cruelty is the point, resist or be destroyed. You Republicans have been caught flat-footed. You can’t openly defend cis white men; that would be transphobic racist sexist. And you can’t openly attack trans black women – that would be super transphobic racist sexist. Plus it wouldn’t work; there aren’t that many of them, and they’re not powerful enough to be scary.

“Trump outmanuevered the Republican establishment by finding a front where he could go on the offensive. He de-emphasized the unfavorable terrain of race/sex/etc, and focused on class. He didn’t use the word “class”. But he captured the idea. He implicitly understood that there was some kind of difference between the average working-class voter and the sorts of people who set trends in the media, academia, government, et cetera. Whenever an upper-class institution tried to make him admit that they were the experts and he should bow to them, he spat in their faces instead. This was terrible; he spat in the faces of epidemiologists trying to tell him about an epidemic! But it sent his message loud and clear – just as South African populist Thabo Mbeki denied HIV/AIDSpartly as a way of spitting in the face of the rich white countries who wanted him not to.

“Consciously embracing the project of fighting classism would let future Republican politicians replicate Trump’s appeal without having to stoop to his tactics. It could tie together all the fractured constituencies of the Republican party.”…
https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/a-modest-proposal-for-republicans

68

Kiwanda 03.01.21 at 4:05 am

@John Quiggin:
There have been lengthy discussions here of terms that are precise and well-defined, like “neoliberal” and “libertarian”, as well as terms that are hopelessly vague, like “biological sex”; why should the definition of “class” be any less fruitful, as a discussion topic?

The salience of “working class” need not be as a predictive variable for political scientists, but might serve as a signifier helpful in forming or maintaining solidarity in common cause. It might be that wage-earners with low incomes, resources, and educations have interests in common, reasons to join in demanding government policies that serve them, or at least, don’t favor rich people. They aren’t inevitably divided by strict and high walls of race and sex.

69

Hidari 03.01.21 at 6:44 am

@65

Adam Tooze pointed out in a tweet recently (the idea isn’t original with him, but he’s been the latest person to notice it) that one of the key reasons that African Americans are oppressed in the US is that they missed out on the ‘thirty glorious years’ of capitalism 1945-1975 and therefore couldn’t take advantage of that period to buy property (because of Jim Crow) which then shot up in price in the 1980s (and since).

Nobody talks about this in the US because it would involve taxing the rich to give to the poor (and not, say, wittering on about ‘micro-aggressions’), and both political parties in the US serve the rich, but it’s very real, and one of the key reasons average African American wealth is so much lower than white wealth (regardless of current incomes from current jobs, I mean). (There’s also the more general issue of financial reparations for the more general trend of the theft of African American wealth by whites since the beginning of the Republic).

Despite the DNC boiler plate rhetoric we have had from The Usual Suspects on this thread, no one sane doubts that for historical reasons, the American working class is disproportionately female and African American (amongst other minorities). Nevertheless, almost all opinion polls show that overt racism is dying out in the US (and the UK) (one eye watering poll I saw recently showed that in 2021 84% of Americans support ‘mixed’ marriages. In 1950 it was 4% (!)).

Obviously that leaves 16% of Americans as hard core racists, a number that is far too high, but the trend is clear. Same with open homophobia and misogyny: the extreme forms are simply vanishing, and public statements which used to be commonplace and simply disappearing.

The Trump regime was simply ‘one of those things’: a weak candidate (Clinton) facing an unusual Republican in an unusual time, and of course, Trump was kicked out after 4 years. Who knows, Che sera sera, and al that, but it does look like Trump was simply a random data point, not indicative of a long term trend towards white nationalism or white supremacy or whatever (the corporate media’s desperate attempts to persuade us all otherwise notwithstanding, and why do they want to do that? Well that’s a story in and of itself).

In other words, the US seems to be becoming more, not less, like a ‘normal’ Western European country, in which the main social stratification is not ‘done’ by race (or even gender) but by class. As the cliche used to have it, in the US class is a proxy for race. Now it’s increasingly becoming the opposite: race is a proxy for class. The key point is what is not discussable. In the 1980s and 1990s, when race was ‘really’ the thing, people talked about class. Now the real issue is class (and inequality more generally) it’s impossible to talk about, and everyone wants to talk about race (watch how inequality, which was quite ‘the thing’ a few years ago (Picketty etc. etc.) has simply vanished from public discourse, replaced with culture war topics and identity politics).

70

nastywoman 03.01.21 at 6:53 am

or couldn’t we all agree that it actually isn’t about the difference in ”wealth” or ”class” or even ”race” – and that it is mainly about being… ”open-minded” –
or NOT?
(or is that too… simple?)

71

hix 03.01.21 at 2:23 pm

Japanese work culture has a much stronger focus on firm specific knowledge than the US one. So roundabout my guess would be, a Japanese company men should fit reasonably well with the typical use of professional in the US as far as social position is concerned.
(frankly i got a bit of a problem with nuances of how the term professional is applied in the US, it’s not quite trivial to understand from a German perspective either.)

72

Orange Watch 03.01.21 at 8:12 pm

J-D@62:

In the mid to late 20th century, political corruption in the US shifted from predominantly patronage and machine systems to our modern institutionalized system revolving around political donations. The existence of older gerrymandering reflects that – we don’t accept a lot of corrupt practices that were buisness-as-usual that we did a century or two ago. Gerrymandering was accepted to a much greater degree in the past than it is now, as was e.g. nepotism. It’s probably also worth noting that gerrymandering has a different character now than it did in the past due to the availability of finer-grain data and superior analytic capabilities. Older gerrymandering was less precise and egregious than what we now see.

The key issue with the Permanent Apportionment Act is that it lacked the districting requirements that you might see in prior decennial apportionment acts, chiefly the requirement that districts be “compact and contiguous”. The 1929 Act was a direct response to major demographic migration in the US, primarily urbanization – the 1920 census was called closely into question because of this and the political upheaval it caused. The major goal of it was to fix the size of the House so rural states would not see their representation ever more diluted, but it also made permanent removal of restraints on states WRT manipulating districting to preserve existing power structures and rural/urban balance within states. It indefinitely “settled” the issue of apportionment as one in which states were free to create large and non-contiguous districts, among other chicanery. It is what SCOTUS points to when shrugging its shoulders and saying that gerrymandering is a political question beyond the reach of courts and that Congress can but does not choose to act on, as it did in 2019’s Rocha v. Common Cause. Briefly, it’s the act of Congress governing district apportionment, and while it could place restrictions on gerrymandering as had happened in previous apportionment acts, it pointed chooses not to. Gerrymandering may have occurred prior to the act, but the 1929 Act is responsible for current gerrymandering because it’s the extant law that is pertinent to apportionment and gerrymandering.

73

Orange Watch 03.01.21 at 8:30 pm

MisterMr@59:

The point is that class is about wealth, not directly about income.
I can sell my apartment and if I had sons they could inherit it.
I can’t sell my degree nor can anybody inherit it.

In the US, while wealth and income are closely related, income by itself translates to improved educational (and thus financial) outcomes for children. Your child can’t inherit your degree (unless you want to count e.g. legacy admissions), but the income derived from that degree will translate into better education than the child of someone poor. The income is still the relevant factor, although research has pointed to differences in outcomes based on family life that aren’t wholly unrelated to parental education rather than to income. And while wealth typically is accompanied by income, income that exists without proportionate wealth can still provide the better starting position to the children of the high-income, low-wealth overextended families. Admittedly, since zip code is an excellent predictor of educational quality and real estate remains the largest form of savings for most Americans, this isn’t always relevant, but private schooling allows families to improve their children’s educational credentials without necessarily having the wealth that those credentials would normally imply.

I do agree that wealth is more significant than income, though. Wealth is sufficient to be a class marker all by itself.

74

J-D 03.02.21 at 2:46 am

The key issue with the Permanent Apportionment Act is that it lacked the districting requirements that you might see in prior decennial apportionment acts, chiefly the requirement that districts be “compact and contiguous”.

Do you think that the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the bill currently before Congress for the ‘For The People Act’ are weaker or stronger than the requirements of pre-1929 legislation?

75

J-D 03.02.21 at 2:56 am

There have been lengthy discussions here of terms that are precise and well-defined, like “neoliberal” and “libertarian”, as well as terms that are hopelessly vague, like “biological sex”; why should the definition of “class” be any less fruitful, as a discussion topic?

How fruitful (as opposed to lengthy) were those past discussions?

A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’. A fruitful discussion might also be had in which the discussants examined some of the different ways in which people use the word, and some of the ways in which those different concepts might be useful.

Unlikely to be fruitful is a discussion in which the discussants have in mind different meanings for the term but never discover this disagreement.

Also unlikely to be fruitful is a discussion in which the discussants state explicitly different definitions for the term and then engage in mutual recriminations over its being used (by other people) wrongly.

The salience of “working class” need not be as a predictive variable for political scientists, but might serve as a signifier helpful in forming or maintaining solidarity in common cause.

Is use of the term helpful in forming or maintaining solidarity? What’s the evidence for or against?

It might be that wage-earners with low incomes, resources, and educations have interests in common, reasons to join in demanding government policies that serve them, or at least, don’t favor rich people.

You understate your case: it’s not merely the case that it might be so; it is so. However, there’s no difficulty in stating the fact without using the word ‘class’.

They aren’t inevitably divided by strict and high walls of race and sex.

This is another example of a plain truth which is easily stated without using the word ‘class’.

76

nastywoman 03.02.21 at 7:03 am

and how can somebody write:
”Now the real issue is class (and inequality more generally) –
and then keep on writing:
”it’s impossible to talk about, and everyone wants to talk about race (watch how inequality, which was quite ‘the thing’ a few years ago (Picketty etc. etc.) has simply vanished from public discourse, replaced with culture war topics and identity politics).

So the real issues are… NOT ”class” – Right?
The real issue have become: ”culture war topics and identity politics” – Right?
BUT what does that have to do with the fact that Millions of Americans idolise –
”Teh Utmost STUPID”?

And on top of it ”real EVIL DUMB”?
And use as many words as @Kt2 67 in order to explain something so simple…?

77

bad Jim 03.02.21 at 9:02 am

nastywoman, millions of American idolize a nakedly racist demagogue because it scratches their itch. To be sure, the results of economic inequality lead to the conditions that enrage them, yet the people they elect deregulate and reduce taxes, endangering and impoverishing themselves, because they have an especially evil enemy.

But look! There’s a fresh thread above! I have new and worse verse!

78

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.02.21 at 9:32 am

@73 “Wealth is sufficient to be a class marker all by itself.”

I’ve known a woman in Woburn, MA, who got, in the 1980s, settlement money from W.R. Grace, on account of her (working class) husband dying from cancer. Some years later, when I met her, she was still unmistakably ‘working class’, working as a low-wage data-entry clerk, living in the same town, but driving a very expensive Jaguar (which is what made me curious about her story). The money spent in a few years, and the Jaguar is all that’s left of it.

So, no, coming into a small fortune is not, by itself, likely to turn a working class person into something else, in my opinion.

79

Tm 03.02.21 at 10:46 am

I’m grateful for the preceding discussion about class because it really makes my point: everybody likes to talk about class but it is hard to find even two commenters on a fairly leftist discussion board who agree on the meaning of the term. I want to make it very clear that I do not question the usefulness of the class concept per se. To the contrary I think that we need to talk about class, and I take offense at those who have been misrepresenting my views. I think I have made it clear repeatedly that I oppose attempts at redefining class along socio-economic parameters like education or income, or (even worse) by vague “cultural” attributes. The “working class” is not coextensive with “low income” or “the poor” – neither are all workers poor nor are all low income people workers (it is weird how in these discussions, retirees are universally overlooked, despite being an important voting block, often with low incomes and voting right wing).

I propose to use class strictly in the Marxian sense to distinguish between those who control the means of production and those who don’t and consequently have to sell their labor. There are gray areas in that definition too, especially members of the managerial elite who are nominally employed but de facto have a great deal of control. There are also nominally self-employed workers who are de facto dependent workers and don’t own any means of production. We need to recognize that any defition runs into difficulties but in my view the concept of class, especially in the US discourse, has become almost arbitrary, and the lack of consistency even within the leftist discourse hasn’t helped.

80

Tm 03.02.21 at 11:01 am

Some of the comments above are really beyond parody.

“Some highly creative language here to get round the fact that the Dems stated clearly that they would raise the minimum wage to $15 p/h and it now looks as if they will not, in fact, do that.” The House Dems have already voted for raising the minimum wage, with Repubs near unanimpously voting against. What happens in the Senate however doesn’t depend only on the Dems. Watch Murc’s Law strike again!

It is seriously claimed (at 51) that the Dems don’t want to reform voting laws because that might help them win elections, and the US democratic Party somehow exists as the only political party in the world that really doens’t actually want to win elections, that even works hard to avoid winning elections. How this party somehow managed to win more elections than the competition remains a mystery. Do we really have to deal with obnoxious stuff like that?

81

Tm 03.02.21 at 12:39 pm

I want to reinforce what J-D 66 says. The statement that the Dems should be doing more for low income people would surely be entirely uncontroversial around here. What is controversial are the claims that
a) they are doing nothing, which is obviously nonsense, but also
b) they used to be much more to the left, more economically populist, more working class based, but recently abandoned their working class base and were bought by the elites; this claim, which I earlier (22) characterized as regressive “golden age” thinking, is a dangerous myth. Politics has always been driven both by mass activism and by competing elite interests. These elite factions and interests have changed over time, as has the composition and econonomic situation of the working class. Analyzing these shifts over time is interesting and useful, but that is not what the narrators of the “golden age” myth are interested in.

Because empirically, the Democratic Party in 2021 is quite progressive, and Biden is probably the most economically progressive president since LBJ (alas without having his Congressional majorities). At least that is what we can deduce from the party platform platform and from words and actions since January 20. Significantly, Biden has explicitly endorsed unionization (https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/the-pro-act, https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/03/biden-comes-out-in-support-of-the-bessemer-unionization-drive).

If the narrative is empirically dubious at best, why its popularity? The perfidious part is the racist subtext. What is really claimed is that the party abandoned the white working class, opening up to racial equality, to feminism, to sexual minorities. And leftists need to call out and resist this reactionary framing.

82

Tm 03.02.21 at 12:45 pm

To be even clearer: What is really claimed is that by opening up to racial equality, to feminism, to sexual minorities, the party abandoned its traditional white male “working class” base.

83

Tm 03.02.21 at 1:04 pm

Ted Cruz’ preposterous tweet (https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/checking-in-with-the-economically-anxious-seditionists) gives me an opportunity to add an important observation. “Blue-collar” worker is another poorly defined concept that nevertheless appeals to the public imaginary. What can be said with some confidence about that category of people is that they are predominantly male (because gender stereotypes die hard) and that its number has been shrinking for a long time and now makes up a rather small fraction of the workforce, although how small is hard to determine given the lack of a coherent definition. But another important fact is that probably most blue collar workers are non-white, so anybody who claims the GOP as “the party of blue-collar workers” implicitly states that only whites matter. Even further, a large segment of blue collar workers are recent immigrants and most of those can’t vote at all. In the whole debate about “the working class” and who represents it most, this segment is the least talked about.

This observation is true in Europe as well. In certain countries, it is safe to say that almost all of those doing poorly paid, manual, often dirty work, are immigrants without citizenship. When political scientists analyze voting patterns, those without the right to vote should not be forgotten.

84

Hidari 03.02.21 at 3:49 pm

People get confused by education: education does not, in and of itself, guarantee entry to the middle classes (it did, but it doesn’t any more). What is the case is that a ‘good’ education (by which I mean Ivy League, or Russell group in the UK) makes it more likely that one can enter into the middle classes, depending on what course you do. E.g. PPE at Oxbridge being a classic example, doing an MBA at Harvard is another.

Also there’s an element of what Bourdieu called ‘cultural capital’ here.

85

Kiwanda 03.02.21 at 3:54 pm

(Sorry if this is a duplicate, although maybe that’s appropriate under the circumstances.)

Ah, J-D, as enumerative as ever. Let me help:

A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’, and mentioned toasters and zombies. A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’, and mentioned toasters, but not zombies. A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’, and didn’t mention toasters, but did mention zombies. A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’, and mentioned neither toasters nor zombies. A fruitful discussion might also be had in which the discussants examined some of the different ways in which people use the word, and some of the ways in which those different concepts might be useful, and gave recipes for fruitcake and Waldorf salad. A fruitful discussion might also be had in which the discussants examined some of the different ways in which people use the word, and some of the ways in which those different concepts might be useful, and gave recipes for fruitcake, but not Waldorf salad. A fruitful discussion might also be had in which the discussants examined some of the different ways in which people use the word, and some of the ways in which those different concepts might be useful, and gave no recipes for fruitcake, but did for Waldorf salad. A fruitful discussion might also be had in which the discussants examined some of the different ways in which people use the word, and some of the ways in which those different concepts might be useful, and gave recipes for neither fruitcake nor Waldorf salad.

86

nastywoman 03.02.21 at 9:03 pm

and about:
”A fruitful discussion might be had in which the discussants stipulated in advance to an agreed definition of ‘class’.

As there is already the ”agreed definition of class”
as:
1.
a set or category of things having some property or attribute in common and differentiated from others by kind, type, or quality.
2.
a system of ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status.
The problem always was – that ”by kind, type, or quality” – ”a system of ordering society whereby people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status” doesn’t solve the problem of somebody believing that ”Belgium is a beautiful city…”

87

J-D 03.03.21 at 9:01 am

Ah, J-D, as enumerative as ever.

Flattery will get you nowhere.

Let me help:

I wish I could (let you), but sadly it is beyond my power: you’re not helping because there’s something else you’d rather do. Whatever it is, I hope at least you’re enjoying it.

88

Tm 03.03.21 at 11:00 am

More re OW 51:

“The “For the People Act of 2021” would automatically register people to vote and restore the voting rights of felons. It would also mandate more than two weeks of early voting, encourage voting-by-mail and expand absentee ballot drop boxes across the country — along with other provisions meant to address concerns raised by election officials during the 2020 election cycle. …

In addition to the voting law changes, the legislation would require presidential candidates to release at least ten years of tax returns, and the spending of presidential inaugural committees — along with other provisions crafted in 2019 in response to Trump’s unwillingness to share his tax returns, and the federal investigation into his inaugural spending. It would also require campaigns to report any contacts with foreign officials.

The nearly 800-page package also includes provisions to bolster election security at the state and federal levels, require social media platforms to maintain databases of political ads, and require states to set up independent redistricting commissions to redraw their congressional districts and prevent partisan gerrymandering — two provisions Democrats point to ahead of the redrawing of the congressional map following the 2020 census.”
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/house-democrats-push-pass-election-reforms-gop-moves/story?id=76182685

Let’s hear Orange Watch explain how Republican opposition to these reforms proves “there is still a strongly top-down, anti-democratic thread of distrust of a lazy, dumb, shortsighted body politic underpinning Democratic policy“.

Truly this is beyond parody. As an aside, whether or not OW is a “lifelong Democrat”, I can’t help wondering how many well-meaning but naive people have been dissuaded from involvement in politics due to being exposed to substancefree anti-liberal rants like this one.

89

Tm 03.03.21 at 12:01 pm

I’ll just briefly address one of the Jacobin quotes Kiwanda offered at 30 (quoting Matt Karp):

“The real story here is the same as in 2016: working-class African Americans aren’t voting Republican en masse, but they are showing up to vote Democratic at lower rates than the rest of the party’s coalition… Results from rural black-majority counties in Alabama and Mississippi, and precinct-level returns in largely black districts like Chicago’s South Side, West Philadelphia, North St. Louis, East Cleveland, and central Akron, show a similar pattern compared to 2016: small but consistent shifts toward Trump, alongside flat or declining turnout rates.”

I looked up the Philadelphia numbers, out of curiosity since I know the city well, using the same source as the author (https://sixtysixwards.com/home/election_recap_2020/). The black West and North Philly neighborhoods voted for Biden at rates of 95% to 98%. In some wards, Trump’s support has increased by all of one percentage point, typically from 2 to 3 or 4 percent. I guess one can call that a “small but consistent shifts toward Trump”, but I would rather consider this proof of an extraordinary consistency in African American support for the Democratic Party.

And let’s be clear, Neither Karp nur anybody else knows who the one or two percent of voters in black precincts are that “shifted” toward Trump, what their economic situation is and what their motivation was. This is speculation without much substance. Most analysts agree that the 2020 exit polls (which caused some alarm after the election) are even less reliable than in earlier years. I recognize that the only detailed data we have are the vote counts at precinct level, which we can correlate with demographic and socioeconomic census data. These data give a relatively good picture of how geographic, demographic and socioeconomic factors interact to explain political preferences. But this kind of analysis cannot really explain relatively small changes.

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notGoodenough 03.03.21 at 12:59 pm

Just to throw something into the ring, I would like to expand a little on previous comments with this brief and no doubt overly simplistic post:

On the merits of an intersectional approach to class

The attempt to segregate forms of oppression into neat categories (e.g. “this person is experiencing racism, this one is experiencing sexism, etc.”) strikes me as odd, and not really all that representative of reality. I am subsequently slightly disturbed when people use this approach as a justification for why preference should be given to one specific form of oppression over another (“well, racism is no longer much of a factor, now let´s fix class…”).

Hopefully I can explain why.

(note: for the purposes of this comment, I will use class as a shorthand for “grouping by a function of socio-economic status within a hierarchy” – but I think my usage will be general enough that people can at least see if they agree with the thrust of this argument)

While intersectionality is another fuzzy concept, I would say my understanding is that it could loosely be expressed as: 1) all forms of oppression should be opposed; 2) one person’s experience of oppression may be different from another’s, depending on one’s location within the manifold of oppression and exploitation; 3) oppression intertwines, and can be shaped by other forms of oppression – e.g. racism could be sexualised, misogyny racialised, etc. In this way, intersectionality is not necessarily an explanatory theory – instead, in its most basic form, it is merely a description of how mingling of different forms of oppression expresses itself in a nuanced way.

I think this may well be a key point because even if all oppression is rooted in the same societal structures, how you experience it will have nuanced differences. For example, if you are of a marked category where you experience racism and sexism, the sexism will often be shaped by your race and the racism often shaped by your gender. Similarly, how someone perceived as female may be oppressed within a ruling class may well differ to how that occurs for someone from a working class.

It seems to me Marx already noted this and spoke in similar terms “but the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.”

Why is this important?

Well, it seems to me that it must follow that any attempt to address the forms of oppression within societies should at least be predicated on an intersectional understanding – otherwise, it will inherently have blind spots and be unable to address the forms of oppression people are actually experiencing to a meaningful extent.

There often seems to be a counterpoint that this sort of intersectional approach is inherently fragmentary, but from my perspective I see the opposite – people who have this intersectional understanding of feminism (for example) are often quite open to class politics. In this way, intersectionality is a step forward – for example, increasingly younger people are talking about class, which is also a good thing.

So to me the argument that people are “wittering” on about race (or gender, etc. etc.) when they should be discussing class instead rings somewhat hollow (even setting aside how little credibility the claim may have prima facie). The reason is because such an argument appears to be inherently divisive and, as previously noted, completely erases any nuance of how forms of oppression is being expressed within a society. Indeed, from a historical perspective it seems somewhat short-sighted – there is a good argument to be made that the anti-racist work undertaken by the Communist Party of the USA in the 1930s lent credibility when it came time to organise black workers with white workers in common economic struggles, precisely because it had proven that it was serious about a unified struggle in practice. So again, while intersectionality is merely a framework, it would seem that this “big tent” understanding is far more valuable than merely demanding others ignore their experiences and rally behind a more exclusory vision.

For even if you believe an intersectional approach mislabels class exploitation as a form of oppression and that oppression seeks to divide the working class to keep us weak (a position I don´t think is necessarily universally justified, but currently neither agree nor disagree with), the importance of battles against oppression cannot be overstated. After all, if you desire revolutionary socialism you must be seen as being the best attack against oppression. As Eamonn McCann noted, socialist organisations are taken seriously by oppressed groups and others when there’s a serious engagement with the experience of those groups.

In short, if politics are to speak to the global working class, it must speak about the working class with all its nuances.

Just a thought.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.03.21 at 10:40 pm

@90,
I don’t know what exactly the term “oppression” is supposed to mean in this context, but discrimination based on race and gender has been outlawed, in the US, for over half-century. I googled the number of lawsuits for race and gender discrimination, and it’s surprisingly low, ~50k in 2019.

Class-based exploitation, on the other hand, (assuming you believe that it does exist, of course) is not only perfectly legal, but in fact represents the very foundation of the economic system.

Therefore, conflating them into one “oppression” might tend to obscure rather than enlighten.

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J-D 03.04.21 at 12:54 am

If the narrative is empirically dubious at best, why its popularity?

I am sure that to the extent the narrative is popular, it is popular as a result of a combination of factors which vary in their effect on different people. I am sure the factor you (Tm) indicate are part of the story, and do not want to be taken as denying their importance, but it seems worth adding mention of a couple of additional factors.

I am sure there are lots of people who used to think the Democratic Party was left-wing, or progressive, or something similar, and who now do not think that it is, or that it is so but to a substantially lesser extent than in their earlier evaluations. People who have this experience of a change of evaluation (not just of the Democratic Party, but of something else) may react with an acknowledgement that their previous evaluation was erroneous, but sometimes people find this kind of acknowledgement of error uncomfortable. A way of avoiding discomfort from acknowledgement of this kind of evaluative error is to say that the previous evaluation was correct and that the Democratic Party was left-wing when that evaluation was made, but has now ceased to be left-wing, or become less left-wing.

A judgement that no change (or no adequate change, or no significant change, or no substantive change) can be expected from the Democratic Party can work as a justification for giving up and abandoning effort. As a lazy person myself, I am acutely aware of the appeal of justifications for abandoning effort.

Again, I am not disputing that the factors indicated by you (Tm) are also part of the story.

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Tm 03.04.21 at 8:06 am

J-D 92: I agree psychological factors play a role that shouldn’t be underestimated.

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notGoodenough 03.04.21 at 8:28 am

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 91

It is a little odd how frequently you seem to turn to legal evaluations in order to assess reality – you used “warranty on a battery in your UPS” to determine how long batteries last (rather than investigate what the science and engineering shows), and now you use number of lawsuits in the USA to determine how often oppression occurs in the world rather than look into more specific data (this seems to me a somewhat idiosyncratic approach). I could, I suppose, provide data, but given you’ve also already demonstrated on a previous thread you’ll happily dismiss actual research in favour of supposition and baseless conjecture, there seems little point to my spending time doing so.

I will note that, given I’ve already stated that I believe class-based oppression exists, your “assuming you believe that it does exist” is rather unnecessary and borders on poisoning the well. Indeed, even if you were unaware of my position (unlikely, given you’ve commented on threads where I’ve explicitly stated this, but to be generous it is not impossible), I would think it fairly obvious even from the way I discussed at great length how I believe intersectionality is a useful socialist tool (though perhaps you are also unaware of what socialism has to say about class – if so, you may wish to break out those google skills again).

I will also point out that I said nothing about conflation into one “oppression” – I specifically noted that I think more nuance is necessary (it would seem obvious that “conflation” and “nuance” are somewhat at odds). Consequently, your concluding remark (like much of your other responses to me) is irrelevant to what I’ve written.

I would also note that again you appear to be implying I hold a position which I do not (and which is at odds with what I’ve written). You should probably stop doing this, unless such misrepresentation is intentional – in which case, I suppose, keep up the good work.

To make some concluding remarks, while I am (generally speaking) quite happy to discuss my ideas (I often use CT to help refine my thoughts), I think our epistemological differences are such that I firmly believe that nothing of any sincerity or fruitfulness could emerge from continued interaction between us. I wish to be clear I do not say this out of any attempt at discourtesy, but rather because I value human experience and our limited span upon this mortal coil.

I will therefore reiterate that given your previous demonstration of disinterest in establishing facts with a high degree of confidence, and that you regularly seem incapable of reading what I have actually written, I see no point in interacting with you again – either on this topic or, indeed, on any other.

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Hidari 03.04.21 at 9:56 am

@91

‘Class-based exploitation, on the other hand is not only perfectly legal, but in fact represents the very foundation of the economic system.’

Precisely. Go to many/most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Obviously there will be inter-ethnic/inter-tribal difficulties and prejudices and so on: but, nevertheless, no matter how high up the corporate latter you go, every face you see will be black (you could argue that in the final analysis these countries are ‘caught’ in a web of neo-colonial oppression, but that’s a slightly different issue). So these are capitalist states where the issue of white supremacy is essentially a non-issue, at least at the micro level.

Likewise, if you go to the Scandinavian countries, you find that these countries have, to a very large extent, achieved gender parity. I’m not saying that everything is perfect there, anything but. But you have a polity where woman can, and do, regularly achieve the highest office, can (and do) regularly get to become CEOs of major companies and so on.

So it seems possible to have a capitalist state with next to no (or at least a very small amount of) racism and sexism, and indeed, that seems to be the direction most of the advanced Western capitalist ‘democracies’ are moving in: almost all opinion polls etc. show a steady decline in overtly racist and overtly sexist ideas and attitudes (homophobia too).

But it’s completely impossible to imagine a capitalist state without oppression of the working class, because that’s literally the point of the whole exercise. If capitalist states didn’t ‘funnel’ wealth from the working class to the upper classes then they wouldn’t be capitalist any more.

People get confused by this because (e.g.) in the United States, for historical reasons the American working class tends to be disproportionately African American/Hispanic and disproportionately female. But, to repeat, overt signs of racism are simply dying out (and are now frequently illegal, as you pointed out). Not that there aren’t ‘hold outs.’. Some people just didn’t get the message. But it’s fading away.

So liberals make the most basic of all ‘Idealist’ mistakes and assume that the black ‘underclass’ (if I can use that phrase without offence) are being oppressed because they’re black, and it’s just racism that makes them working class (leading to the absurd conclusion that if racism and sexism vanished, the working class would just ‘go away’).

But it’s the opposite way round: they are not black people who happen to be working class, they are working class people who happen to be black (for historical reasons: Jim Crow, slavery etc.).

Since their oppression is mainly (nowadays, not in the past, obviously) economic, it follows that their path to liberation is also economic: strong trade unions, a meaningful government ‘safety net’, medicare for all, free child care, guaranteed holidays, a meaningful (and enforced) minimum wage, a state that isn’t afraid to intervene in the economy and so on. All paid for by taxes on the rich. In other words, social democracy, or democratic socialism, whatever you want to call it.

It’s pretty obvious why the ‘right wingers posing as centrists’ of the Democratic Party do not like this way of looking at things and would rather rail impotently against inadequately defined and rather amorphous concepts like ‘white supremacy’, ‘white nationalism’ and ‘fascism’, rather than proposing ‘tax the rich, give the money to the poor’ which used to be their raison d’être, back in the day.

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Hidari 03.04.21 at 3:35 pm

‘Intelligencer turned to our favorite socialist proponent of ruthlessly poll-driven campaigning, David Shor. A veteran of the 2012 Obama campaign, Shor is currently head of data science at OpenLabs, a progressive nonprofit. …

When the polls turned out to be wrong — and Trump turned out to be much stronger than they predicted — a lot of people concluded that turnout models must have been off: Trump must have inspired higher Republican turnout than expected. But that looks wrong….

Trump didn’t exceed expectations by inspiring higher-than-anticipated Republican turnout. He exceeded them mostly through persuasion. A lot of voters changed their minds between 2016 and 2020.

At the subgroup level, Democrats gained somewhere between half a percent to one percent among non-college whites and roughly 7 percent among white college graduates (which is kind of crazy). Our support among African Americans declined by something like one to 2 percent. And then Hispanic support dropped by 8 to 9 percent. The jury is still out on Asian Americans. We’re waiting on data from California before we say anything. But there’s evidence that there was something like a 5 percent decline in Asian American support for Democrats, likely with a lot of variance among subgroups….

The Intelligencer: In other words, a voter’s level of educational attainment — whether they had a college degree — became more predictive of which party they voted for in 2020 than it had been in 2016, while a voter’s racial identity became less predictive?

Shor: Yeah. White voters as a whole trended toward the Democratic Party, and nonwhite voters trended away from us. So we’re now somewhere between 2004 and 2008 in terms of racial polarization. Which is interesting. I don’t think a lot of people expected Donald Trump’s GOP to have a much more diverse support base than Mitt Romney’s did in 2012. But that’s what happened.

Historically, Democrats have won nonwhite conservatives, often by very large margins. What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates; they started voting more like white conservatives….

The decline that we saw was very large. Nine percent or so nationwide, up to 14 or 15 percent in Florida. Roughly one in ten Hispanic voters switched their vote from Clinton to Trump….

Over the last four years, white liberals have become a larger and larger share of the Democratic Party…

In liberal circles, racism has been defined in highly ideological terms. And this theoretical perspective on what racism means and the nature of racial inequality have become a big part of the group identity of college-educated Democrats, white and nonwhite. But it’s not necessarily how most nonwhite, working-class people understand racism.

I think the Trump era has been very good for the Republican Party, even if they now, momentarily, have to accept this very, very, very thin Democratic trifecta. Because if these coalition changes are durable, the GOP has very rosy long-term prospects for dominating America’s federal institutions….’

Read the whole thing, as someone once said.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/david-shor-2020-democrats-autopsy-hispanic-vote-midterms-trump-gop.html

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Tm 03.05.21 at 8:02 am

In related news: Glenn Greenwald declares fascists are the real socialists.
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/03/glenn-greenwald-excited-by-tucker-carlsons-national-socialism

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Tm 03.05.21 at 9:06 am

The American political myth-making machine is a sight to behold:
„Trump didn’t exceed expectations by inspiring higher-than-anticipated Republican turnout. He exceeded them mostly through persuasion. A lot of voters changed their minds between 2016 and 2020.“ (David Shor, 96) This claim (voters switching from Clinton to Trump in significant numbers) is refuted by even a cursory look at the raw data.

Notice how Shor moves seemlessly from „non-white conservatives“ to „non-white working-class people“. This is really nothing but a game of bullshit.

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Hidari 03.05.21 at 9:39 am

One more (and then I’ll shut up I promise)

‘There is a broader trend, though, that as college-educated white people become a larger share of the Democratic coalition and a larger share of the Democratic voice, they do pull the party on cultural issues. Non-college educated white people have more culturally in common with working-class Black and working-class Hispanic voters. So, it should be unsurprising that as the cultural power of college-educated white people increases in the Democratic Party, non-white voters will move against us.’

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/11/12/2020-election-analysis-democrats-future-david-shor-interview-436334

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that this is literally the oppose of the DNC’s so to speak ‘phenomenology’ which posits the idea that cultural (and in every way) working class Black people are oppressed primarily by structural racism, micro-aggressions, white supremacy and the rest of it, and that their world view is therefore going to be fundamentally and totally different from that of the white working class.

The idea that the Black working class might see themselves, primarily, as working class, and that, therefore, they will conceptualise themselves as having more in common with other working class people, be they white, Hispanic, transgender, or whatever, is simply not something that can happen, given these assumptions.

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nastywoman 03.06.21 at 7:41 am

@Hidari:
”So it seems possible to have a capitalist state with next to no (or at least a very small amount of) racism and sexism”,

Yes?

but about ”indeed, that seems to be the direction most of the advanced Western capitalist ‘democracies’ are moving in”

Perhaps? –
After we now got rid of ”the globalist role model” for:

”I have no filter anymore for some HUUUGE expression of my Right-Wing Racism and Misogyny”

BUT about it’s completely impossible to imagine a capitalist state without oppression of the working class… I really can – imagine ”Capitalistic Germans” treating their working class – really, really… ”nice”.

As ”them Capitalistic Germans” seem to know that they ”ow it ALL to their ”working class”.
(not unlike when – once-upon-a-time Milwaukee knew – that the ”owed most of it to Harley-Davidson.)

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