Thursday, January 28, 2016

Race, Class and Gender

Those three words became kind of a trope starting I'd say in the 1980s when the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the rise of Reaganomics, the remaking of the Democratic Party into a Wall Street adjunct of identity politics sects, and the Postmodern rejection of ideology in general caused the Marxist analysis to fall into more or less disfavor among academics and at popular intellectually leaning publications like The Nation magazine.

Of those three words, class refers to the Marxist analysis, but the other two meant that everything had also to be put through race and gender analysis. Gender analysis means,loosely, a Feminist analysis, but feminism is a wiggly term and in common parlance it means identity politics that promotes the interests of women. The same with the term "race." There's a white supremacy critique that's similar to the critique of patriarchy, but commonly we're talking about identity politics again that promote the interests of Black people. The problem with identity politics is that it simply seeks to rearrange where you sit on the totem pole. It only seeks to rearrange the hierarchy of power and privilege that are functions of economic status. In other words, of class. If you don't deal with that, if you leave the system in place that reproduces economic class, you might have another group sitting on top, but they will behave the same as the one that's there now. Why? We're all human. We're equal. We're the same species.

I say all this to introduce an article that just appeared in the The Nation that makes the case for racial discrimination -- race -- being a function of class oppression. (Marxism holds that the same can be said of gender discrimination.) The article doesn't explicitly say it's based on a Marxist analysis, but it is. That's The Nation's DNA, brought to the surface again, apparently, by the rise of economic populism, which began with Occupy Wall Street but has become more mainstream now because of the Bernie Sanders candidacy. Those who thought Occupy was a flash in the pan spoke too soon. It was only the initial expression of peoples' discontent at 40 years of Reaganomics, growing economic inequality and employment insecurity, and a recovery that was benefiting only a few people. Socialism is not only in the DNA of The Nation, though. It's appeared in various forms throughout history. It's an expression of our innate sense of fairness and our natural human impulse for compassion that exist alongisde the more base instincts that are expressed through systems like Capitalism. It's the same sentiment expressed by whoever wrote the Sermon on the Mount. You see it surfacing everywhere, increasingly, again; in the fact that "Socialism" in the course of just about a year has lost almost all its force as an epithet, in the fact that more young voters in Iowa identify as "Socialist" than as "Capitalist", and in appearance of increasingly more articles like this one.


  1. So do you think that this presidential election is being influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement represented by the candidacy Bernie Sanders and the Tea Party movement represented in part by the Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others of their ilk?

    If that is anywhere close to true then the American political system is being stretched by the extremes. I do not think that either extreme has enough followers to actually win. But they can influence the election, no doubt there.

    All currently leading candidates, with the exception of Hillary Clinton, seem to represent one extreme or the other. I know that Hillary is seen as far left by some. I think Hillary has a real chance at the presidency if one of the right wing guys get the Republican nod. And the Republican nominee, who ever he is, will have a real shot if Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nod.

    1. Thanks for the comment, NM. What I'm saying is, things like Occupy, and Sanders' rising poll numbers, aren't the influences but are reflections of how people feel about economic issues, and you can find evidence that after 40 or so years of being propagandized with Reaganomics by Republicans, Democrats and the news media, people are moving to the left on economic issues, as in this Washington Post piece from a year ago:

      You and I may be talking about two different things. Hillary may be perceived as being liberal, but if you consider her record, from when she grew up as a Republican and had her first experience in politics as a volunteer for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, to now, when she doesn't think Wall Street needs stricter reforms than the mild Dodd-Frank bill reforms, and doesn't think Glass-Steagll needs to be brought back. That was New Deal legislation that tightly controlled what banks could do with the money they held in savings accounts. It was repealed when her husband was president. He signed the repeal and many people think that that led or at least contributed to the meltdown of 2007-2008 when we had to bail the banks out after they had gambled with that money on risky and fraudulent derivatives.

      When researchers or polling people ask specific questions of people, such as should there be social security, should corporations and the rich be taxed more, should the big banks be broken up, the results show that people are significantly to the left of where their politicians are. People might even think of themselves as conservative, but if you ask them individual questions they agree with almost everything Sanders is proposing. Again, it's about perception. Sanders is no radical, let alone a Socialist. He's simply a traditional New Deal Democrat, i.e. he's where most Democrats were in the 60s and 70s, when Richard Nixon, a Republican, signed the legislation enacting the Environmental Protection Agency, which no Republican would do now. Something like that wouldn't even make it to a vote. Politicians are so conservative now that not even Democrats are proposing sweeping changes like the EPA. We had Obamacare, yes, but that is just a program that forces people to buy private insurance. There was support at the time for single payer -- i.e. socialized medicine -- and the so called "public option" but Democrats, who had the presidency and both houses at the time, refused to even consider them.

      As for Sanders losing to a Republican, there is polling showing that he would do better against every one of the Republicans than would Clinton, and shows him beating each one of them.

      I personally can't get too excited about him because he's too conservative. He backs American Imperialism -- our foreign wars -- almost all the time. he supports our little imperial outpost in Israel. He wants to reform Capitalism like Roosevelt and New Deal Democrats did but he explicitly says he's for leaving it intact, just taxing it and regulating it a little more. Doing that under Roosevelt and into the 60s improved living standards for a generation or two, but Capitalism was left in control of the economy and the major economic decisions and now we're seeing declining living standards again, flat wages, the privatization of the schools, and many other ways in which those New Deal reforms are being systematically dismantled.

  2. Keep it up! Your slowly inching me leftward from my staunch, long standing New Deal position....:)