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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Plain Talk About Class Warfare And The Two Parties We Actually Have

Republicans always scream "class warfare" if any Democrat points to obvious inequities in our social system, but of course class struggle exists whenever and wherever class itself legibly exists at all, as a matter of course: If there were no class struggle, class itself would be invisible, since it is in the experience of the shifting advantages and disadvantages of class struggle that we are confronted with the substance of class itself. What class warfare is, is a reality, what class warfare isn't, is the public recognition of that reality.

Likewise, Republicans always scream "envy" if any Democrat points to the obvious wrongdoing of those at the top, but of course then goes on to stir up all the envy they can at those at the bottom, seeking to expiate the bloodletting of their own elite incumbent class war-making through the ritual sacrifice of scapegoats scooped up from among its sufferers. Needless to say, righteous anger at conspicuous wrongdoing is the furthest thing from envy, else given the opportunity the angry would emulate what they now call wrong rather than continue to repudiate it.

Republicans represent the interests of elite incumbents in this class warfare -- of course they then peddle class resentments, usually in the form of a mix of white racism, gender anxiety, and xenophobia, in order to fool a sufficiently large minority into endorsing policies actually benefiting the tiny elite minority they really serve to vote against the majority in this class warfare they are making but not allowing anybody to talk about. Democrats represent the interests of the large majority of people who have to work for a living -- but of course few of them are actually people who have to work for a living themselves, and they often have positional affinities with the elite incumbents against whose explicit advocates they are supposed to battling in the interests of the majority, with the consequence that they often do the wrong thing and even more often refuse to offend their fellow elite incumbents by telling it like it is.

When Democrats fail to recognize the class warfare that is actually taking place they fatally undermine their capacity to wage it in the interests of the majority of their constituents, and when Democrats fail to punish those who are responsible for the worst effects of that class warfare (as when they didn't put fraudsters in jail, but instead gave them free money with no strings attached, just as when they didn't prosecute anybody in the Bush administration for admitted war-crimes, but instead decided to "move forward," usually in ways that treated that very gesture as a precedent justifying their own variations on those war-crimes) this does not cause the struggle to go away or the criminality to go away or the suffering to away or the recrimination to go away: it merely ensures that the real criminals go unpunished, the suffering produced by their crimes is exacerbated, and the recrimination is redirected to vulnerable innocents, many of them already the victims of the unpunished crimes in the first place, now positioned in their precarity as targets for renewed punishment.

The "envy" Republicans scream about when people recognize the crimes of the rich and powerful is in fact the righteous recognition that too often the successful succeed because they break the rules they demand others follow, because they appropriate as their own what are in fact collective accomplishments, because they externalize the risks and costs they claim they take and fail upward while others are expected to clean up their messes for them. But what is worse than the profound deception that would call these common sense recognitions expressions of "envy" is that Republicans do not stop there, but instead create and mobilize envy themselves, re-directing resentments exacerbated by the class warfare they are at once making and disavowing onto those who are suffering in that war for fear that otherwise these resentments will provide the basis for solidarity among the sufferers, the grounds for education, agitation, organizing, resistance, and reform among the majority of people who have to work for a living to engage as open combatants themselves rather than always only as casualties in the class warfare begun and maintained and forever waged by elite incumbents.

Both the Democrats and the majority of people who have to work for a living need to remember whose side they are on, and act accordingly, and demand they act accordingly. The Democrats aren't doing their job, but since they are all we have we have to make them do their job, and that means we have to do our job, too. We might begin by insisting everybody speak more plainly about the fact that there are sides and that there actually is a job to do.

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