Pluralistic: Biden should support the UAW (18 Sept 2023)

Originally published at: Pluralistic: Biden should support the UAW (18 Sept 2023) – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

Today's links

A vintage illustration of striking workers massed before a factory. The image has been altered to insert a large, ogrish, top-hatted 'boss' figure holding a comically large loot sack and screaming angrily; he stands before the factory gates, facing the workers. One worker's shirt has been altered to add a UAW logo. Looming over the factory are two figures: one is Uncle Sam, raising a glass in toast; the other is Joe Biden, grinning. A GM logo has been inserted over the factory gates.

Biden should support the UAW (permalink)

The UAW are on strike against the Big Three automakers. Biden should be roaring his full-throated support for the strike. Doing so would be both just and shrewd. But instead, the White House is waffling…and if recent history is any indication, they might actually come out against the strike.

The Biden administration is a mix of appointees from the party's left Sanders/Warren wing, and the corporatist, "Third Way" wing associated with Clinton and Obama, which has been ascendant since the Reagan years. The neoliberal wing presided over NAFTA, the foreclosure crisis, charter schools and the bailout for the bankers – but not the people. They voted for the war in Iraq, supported NSA mass-surveillance, failed to use their majorities to codify abortion rights, and waved through mega-merger after mega-merger.

By contrast, the left wing of the party has consistently fought monopoly, war, spying, public education and elite impunity – but forever in the shadow of the triangulation wing, who hate the left far more than they hate Republicans. But with the Sanders campaign, the party's left became a force that the party could no longer ignore.

That led to the Biden administration's chimeric approach to key personnel. On the one hand, you have key positions being filled by ghouls who cheered on mass foreclosures under Obama:

And on the other, you have shrewd tacticians who are revolutionizing labor law enforcement in America, delivering real, material benefits for American workers:

Progressives in the Biden administration have often delivered the goods, but they're all-too-often hamstrung by the corporate cheerleaders the party's right wing secured – think of Lina Khan losing her bid to block the Microsoft/Activision merger thanks to a Biden-appointed, big-money-loving judge:

These self-immolating own-goals are especially visible when it comes to strikes. The Biden admin intervened to clobber railway workers, who were fighting some of the country's cruelest, most reckless monopolists, whose greed threatens the nation:

The White House didn't have the power to block the Teamsters threat of an historic strike against UPS, but it publicly sided with UPS bosses, fretting about "the economy" while the workers were trying to win a living wage and air conditioning for the roasting ovens they spend all day in.

Now, with the UAW on strike against the monopolistic auto-makers – who received repeated billions in public funds, gave their top execs massive raises, shipped jobs offshore, and used public money to lobby against transit and decarbonization – Biden is sitting on the sidelines, failing to champion the workers' cause.

Writing in his newsletter, labor reporter Hamilton Nolan makes the case that the White House should – must! – stand behind the autoworkers:

Nolan points out that workers who strike without the support of the government have historically lost their battles. When workers win labor fights, it's typically by first winning political ones, dragging the government to the table to back them. Biden's failure to support workers isn't "neutral" – it's siding with the bosses.

Today, union support is at historic highs not seen in generations. The hot labor summer wasn't a moment, it was a turning point. Backing labor isn't just the moral thing to do, it's also the right political move:

Biden is already partway there. He rejected the Clinton/Obama position that workers would have to vote for Democrats because "we are your only choice." Maybe he did that out of personal conviction, but it's also no longer politically possible for Democrats to turn out worker votes while screwing over workers.

The faux-populism of the Republicans' Trump wing has killed that strategy. As Naomi Klein writes in her new book Doppelganger, Steve Bannon's tactical genius is to zero in on the areas where Democrats have failed key blocks and offer faux-populist promises to deliver for those voters:

When Democrats fail to bat for workers, they don't just lose worker votes – they send voters to the Republicans. As Nolan writes, "working people know that the class war is real. They are living it. Make the Democratic Party the party that is theirs! Stop equivocating! Draw a line in the sand and stand on the right side of it and make that your message!"

The GOP and Democrats are "sorting themselves around the issue of inequality, because inequality is the issue that defines our time, and that fuels all the other issues that people perceive as a decline in the quality of their own lives." If the Democrats have a future, they need to be on the right side of that issue.

Biden should have allowed a railroad strike. He should have cheered the Teamsters. He should be on the side of the autoworkers. These aren't "isolated squabbles," they're "critical battles in the larger class war." Every union victory transfers funds from the ruling class to the working class, and erodes the power of the wealthy to corrupt our politics.

When Democrats have held legislative majorities, they've refused to use them to strengthen labor law to address inequality and the corruption it engenders. Striking workers are achieving the gains that Democrats couldn't or wouldn't take for themselves. As Nolan writes:

Democratic politicians should be sending the unions thank you notes when they undertake these hard strikes, because the unions are doing the work that the Democrats have failed to accomplish with legislation for the past half fucking century. Say thank you! Say you support the workers! They are striking because the one party that was responsible for ensuring that the rich didn’t take all the money away from the middle class has thoroughly and completely failed to do so.

Republican's can't win elections by fighting on the class war. Democrats should acknowledge that this is the defining issue of our day and lean into it.

Whose fault is a strike at the railroads, or at UPS, or in Hollywood, or at the auto companies? It is the fault of the greedy fuckers who took all the workers’ money for years and years. It is the fault of the executives and investors and corporate boards that treated the people who do the work like shit. When the workers, at great personal risk, strike to take back a measure of what is theirs, they are the right side. There is no winning the class war without accepting this premise.

Autoworkers' strikes have been rare for a half-century, but in their heyday, they Got Shit Done. Writing in The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson tells the tale of the 1945/46 GM strike:

In that strike, the UAW made history: they didn't just demand higher wages for workers, but they also demanded that GM finance these wages with lower profits, not higher prices. This demand was so popular that Harry Truman – hardly a socialist! – stepped in and demanded that GM turn over its books so he could determine whether they could afford to pay a living wage without hiking prices.

Truman released the figures proving that higher wages didn't have to come with higher prices. GM caved. Workers got their raise. Truman touched the "third rail of American capitalism" – co-determination, the idea that workers should have a say in how their employers ran their businesses.

Co-determination is common in other countries – notably Germany – but American capitalists are violently allergic to the idea. The GM strike of 45/6 didn't lead to co-determination, but it did effectively create the American middle-class. The UAW's contract included cost-of-living allowances, wage hikes that tracked gains in national productivity, health care and a defined-benefits pension.

These provisions were quickly replicated in contracts with other automakers, and then across the entire manufacturing sector. Non-union employers were pressured to match them in order to attract talent. The UAW strike of 45/6 set in motion the entire period of postwar prosperity.

As Meyerson points out, today's press coverage of the UAW strike of 2023 is full of hand-wringing about what a work-stoppage will do to the economy. This is short-sighted indeed: when the UAW prevails against the automakers, they will rescue both the economy and the Democratic party from the neo-feudal Gilded Age the country's ultrawealthy are creating around us:

There's a name for a political strategy that seeks to win votes by making voters' lives better – it's called "deliverism." It's the one thing the Trump Republican's won't and can't do – they can talk about bringing back jobs or making life better for American workers, but all they can deliver is cruelty to disfavored minorities and tax-breaks for the ultra-rich:

Deliverism is how the Democrats can win the commanding majorities to deliver the major transformations America and the world need to address the climate emergency and dismantle our new oligarchy. Letting the party's right wing dominate turns the Democrats into caffeine-free Republicans.

When the Dems allowed the Child Tax Credit to lapse – because Joe Manchin insisted that poor people would spend the money on drugs – they killed a program that had done more to lift Americans out of poverty than anything else. Today, American poverty is skyrocketing:

Four million children have fallen back into poverty since the Dems allowed the Child Tax Credit to lapse. The rate of child poverty in America has doubled over the past year.

The triangulators on the party's right insist that they are the adults in the room, realists who don't let sentiment interfere with good politics. They're lying. You don't get working parents to vote Democrat by letting their children starve.

America's workers can defeat its oligarchs. They did it before. Biden says he's a union man. It's time for him to prove it. He should be on TV every night, pounding a podium and demanding that the Big Three give in to their workers. If he doesn't, he's handing the country to Trump.

Hey look at this (permalink)

A Wayback Machine banner.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Verisign is damage: route around it,1282,60473,00.html

#20yrsago Al Franken’s Supply-Side Jesus

#20yrsago Kevin Werbach’s kick-ass spectrum paper

#20yrsago Fashion is a commons: copying is the sincerest form of flattery

#20yrsago We all pay Hollywood’s price for DVD

#15yrsago California’s Prop 8 would end same-sex marriage

#15yrsago EFF sues Cheney, Bush, and the NSA to stop illegal wiretapping

#15yrsago Copyright’s Paradox: brilliantly argued scholarly book tackles free speech vs. copyright

#15yrsago RIAA wants to fine lawyer who defends file-sharers for blogging about it

#15yrsago Infographic shows Wall Street’s losses

#15yrsago How SEC rule-exemptions led to the Wall St collapse

#10yrsago Expanded “Welcome to Bordertown” audiobook, with Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, Ellen Kushner and more

#15yrsago Testimony of Troy Davis, on death row in Georgia

#10yrsago Script for the Gong Show movie

#10yrsago Ten notes on communication from John Scalzi

#10yrsago Rasl: dark comic from Bone creator Jeff Smith

#10yrsago Scientists march across Canada, fighting the Tory war on facts

#10yrsago Patent trolls Lumen View: “Calling us patent trolls is a hate crime, now you owe us even more money”

#10yrsago Tim O’Reilly explains the mistakes he made and the lessons he learned

#10yrsago Diesel Sweeties music humor book: I’m a Rocker, I Rock Out.

#5yrsago Security researchers can access and modify security footage from Nuuo surveillance systems

#5yrsago Happy Day Against DRM! How We’ll Hill-Climb Our Way to Glory!

#5yrsago Edward Snowden on Malkia Cyril, a multigenerational black rights activist on the front lines of the surveillance wars

#5yrsago Evidence of NSO Group surveillance products found in 45 countries, including notorious human-rights abusers

#5yrsago Seattle can’t afford to fund arts, housing or tourism, but it can find $135 million to repair the Mariners stadium

#5yrsago Podcast: Today, Europe Lost The Internet. Now, We Fight Back.

#5yrsago #SAD: Doonesbury’s collected Trump strips afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted

#5yrsago Photos: Hong Kong Disneyland in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Mangkhut

#5yrsago North Carolina Verizon customers, trapped by Hurricane Florence, say they’re being throttled and upsold

#5yrsago Anatomy of a Reddit cryptocurrency spam-factory

#5yrsago Georgia Republican introduces legislation to kill PACER, the outrageous paywall around the US justice system

#5yrsago Birtherism for everyone: Kansas woman told birth certificate can’t be used for passport renewal

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

Latest podcast: Plausible Sentence Generators
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest books:

Upcoming books:

  • The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
  • The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024

This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Medium (no ads, paywalled):

(Latest Medium column: "How To Think About Scraping: In privacy and labor fights, copyright is a clumsy tool at best

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

1 Like

private education?

That whole “vote blue no matter who” thing really hasn’t worked out. I hate that the Biden camp feels such an inevitability that they don’t even have to try; they know we have no real choice. The idea that right-wing talking heads are floating that Biden might not even debate in '24, and Trump already isn’t… they aren’t even interested in putting on a show anymore. Providing even the thinnest illusion of a healthy democracy. Could we actually see a general election with no debates? I want to believe that couldn’t happen, but I’m honestly not sure anymore. That viral “nothing will fundamentally change” clip has proven to be a little too prophetic.

I really hope we get some good news on the anti-trust front here soon and that these strikes can manage to be successful in spite of the white house. If Biden wants to be on the wrong side of history, so be it; we can’t wait for him to grow a conscience; if it hasn’t developed in 80 years, well, as my magic 8-ball says, outlook hazy.

Whoops - thanks, sorry!

Maybe Biden heard you, @doctorow?

Let’s see how the pics look out of this photo op… I’m also really interested to see how Trump’s speech goes over…

Hopefully, it can keep us out of violent fascism, which has become a real threat to some of us? :woman_shrugging: We see what they really want to do in states dominated by the GOP. Compare Florida to Michigan, in terms of how the rights of trans people are faring, for example. And it’s not like they actually have made things any better for the white male working class that they’ve been making a play for since Nixon…

This point is highly relevant to this discussion. The far right has offered culture wars as working class struggle in place of an actual addressing class issues. Attacking trans people and migrants (who are both constituent parts of the working class) doesn’t solve off-shoring and the cost of living… all it does is give some white working class people an outlet for their frustrations by hurting people they don’t care about or understand-- David Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness in other words. The GOP has literally no wings that are pro-union or pro-worker. They are all, uniformly, pro-billionaire class. They just offer people to be punched down on… so I don’t know how voting for the objectively worse party will improve our problems?

I think we can hold in our heads the ideas that the Democratic party (and the two-party system and our constitutional system) are deeply flawed and in need of a good dose of left-wing populist reform and that the GOP as it exists is deeply dangerous to the rights of anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cisgendered, wealthy man. Women in America have already lost their rights (depending on the state we live in), and so have trans children. Those who are working class are even more screwed in those states, as all these social categories intersect and make some more vulnerable than others. I’m curious if you honestly think that we’re gonna get to those needed changes by electing fascists or if you’re argument is that we need to reform the Democratic party by electing more progressive Democrats (which is happening, as we speak).

I’d argue that our only real path for change that doesn’t come on the back of a societal collapse in America is the push the Democratic party further to the left. We should make it more responsive to our needs by expressing those needs to the party leadership. It’s not ideal, of course, and yes, there are deep, structural problems with the party, and third wayism absolutely needs to die in a fire. But we clearly can’t let the current Trumpist GOP win anything, because of the threat they pose to many of us…

I totally agree on that point. It seems like Biden is going to send a strong message of support to the UAW on Tuesday, but we’ll see. It’s certainly worth being skeptical, but it seems a far more effective a strategy to actively engage the Democratic third wayism and let it be known how absolutely unacceptable this has been. Electing more progressive Democrats will help us to do that.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, 1964

A real threat to you is a real threat to me; don’t misunderstand me, I don’t take the threat lightly. I won’t be the one standing there wondering what happened after they came for everyone else and there was no one left to speak for me.

These things are absolutely the key, but perhaps not quite in the way that you describe. I haven’t read David Roediger’s Wages of Whiteness, but I will risk a response here anyway (and I’ve added that to my reading list).

I don’t think it’s fair to lay the culture war at the feet of the far right, nor the white working class people. It’s especially unfair to say the white working class don’t care about or understand trans people and migrants. The people you’re speaking of that are casting those dispersions are a very loud minority being amplified by media specifically to keep us enraged and engaged, but especially divided.

You clearly understand the root cause of the problem though. One of the most enlightening things I’ve read lately that surprisingly didn’t come from this blog (Cory of course wrote about it at the time, but that was before I’d tuned in) was this largely overlooked article about a largely overlooked study that came out while we were all still firmly in shell-shock from the pandemic:

There are horrors beyond horrors in there, but most surprising and enlightening to me were these tidbits:

But unfortunately, much of the narrowing we see is more an artifact of four decades of flat or declining wages for low- and middle-income white men than it is of substantial gains for women and nonwhites.

That the majority of white men have benefited from almost none of this growth isn’t because they have lost income to women or minorities; it’s because they’ve lost it to their largely white male counterparts in the top 1 percent who have captured nearly all of the income growth for themselves.

Thus, by far the single largest driver of rising inequality these past forty years has been the dramatic rise in inequality between white men.

This speaks volumes to me about what the white moderate is really upset about. About how you get otherwise decent people to vote for someone as monstrous as Donald Trump. How you get them to perjure themselves by throwing their lot in with a charlatan who promised to make things great again and then find themselves unable to admit when they’ve been taken, doubling down when they should fold.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

I understand these people. I’ve watched people I love and care about fall into this trap. People that are admittedly misguided, but far more decent than the lot they’ve fallen in with.

Dr. King understood these people as well and the common cause that we all have. This quote, like so many of his, shoots like a bolt of lightning from the past right into the present moment. He had a depth of understanding of these issues that far transcended the time he lived:

“We must develop a federal program of public works, retraining, and jobs for all—so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened. At the present time, thousands of jobs a week are disappearing in the wake of automation and other production efficiency techniques. Black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done. The unemployed, poverty-stricken white man must be made to realize that he is in the very same boat with the Negro. Together, they could exert massive pressure on the government to get jobs for all. Together, they could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people for the good of all.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Interview with Alex Haley of Playboy, Atlanta, January 1965

You’re right of course, and Bernie himself dropped out, twice, endorsed his opponent, twice, went around the country stumping for his opponent, twice. Thankfully his opponent won the second time.

Trust me, I’m absolutely not suggesting we vote GOP or elect fascists (one in the same). What I am concerned about is the degree to which we allow the two party system to defeat us before the battle has even begun. The way that we capitulate to false compromise instead of demanding change. The way that we allow ourselves to be divided by obvious pandering and manipulation. The way that the “Vote Blue No Matter Who” chant was so incredibly convenient for the DNC that it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they engineered the whole thing. The way that they don’t even need to call our bluff because we’ve tipped our hand with our in-fighting from the start.

In spite of all that, we did in fact win real victories in the progressive appointments in the Biden admin that Cory is always detailing us on. The progressive left significantly shifted the conversation on what is radical vs. what is indeed normal everywhere else in the world.

But Bernie got me dreaming a lot bigger. It will have been 12 years before we even have the chance of another opportunity like that, and we had two chances, and it was stolen from us by the DNC and their plute backers both times. Who can replace Bernie? Yes, someone younger. Yes, someone less white, less male, and perhaps even less cisgendered. But Bernie is the real deal, despite his demographics, he’s spent his entire career standing with people that didn’t necessarily look, talk, or act like him. People without power that could do little on their own to aid him. But he did it because it was the right thing to do. He doesn’t care about what’s politically expedient, he cares about what’s right. Some argue that makes him an ineffective politician. Maybe it made him an ineffective candidate. But he definitely woke me up out of a giant douche / turd sandwich induced political coma. He gave real hope to a generation that was in desperate need of it.

1 Like

Excellent, cause solidarity is the only way through this! :+1:

If not, why not? Who do you think bears responsibility in it’s current iteration if not the coalition that got Reagan elected in 1980?

I wouldn’t argue that, although I also wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand either? That seems to be dismissing their own agency, to say that they can’t embrace both good ideas but also awful, destructive ones, like racism, transphobia, misogyny, etc. People all across political classes do hold a variety of ideas and are not a monolith. But they (at least the actual white working class and not the ones cosplaying as the white working class) are not the ones with the real power to shape narratives. But I know from personal experience that people in the white working classes can hold awful views. People are complex, and one of the biggest blind spots of Marx was assuming a class monolith in general.

But a good example of how race was used to tamp down labor movements, especially here in the south, is Michelle Brattain’s The Politics of Whiteness. She does a great job of showing how these two ideas (race and class) intersected in more rural parts of the south that industrialized during the first major wave of runaway factories (first from the north to the south), and how race was used to “discipline” and incentivize white labor.

Maybe, but it’s enough to be a real problem in our society that must be addressed along with class (intersectionality, as Audre Lorde or bell hooks would have it). I’ve never bought into the idea that everything is just a byproduct of our material conditions, because that just doesn’t get into the complexity of how we understand ourselves in the modern, mass mediated world. I think Roediger has some great insights into to the root of the problem with regards to class and race as it historically unfolded (although he’s primarily focused on the 18th and 19th century, but it helps to get the root of white working class identity that is still with us today). I’d also recommend Nell Irving Painter’s The History of White People (which I’m actually in the middle of reading) to get a better sense of how whiteness as a concept evolved (because, of course, race is a historical construct).

Well, it’s a complex one, and I’m not sure any of us fully grasp it… I feel like we’re all the blind men and the elephant? I think we can understand the parts that we ourselves see and feel directly, but we should take care with other’s views, as their experiences are just as relevant to incorporate into our own analysis…

Maybe… but I’m gonna recommend yet another book, which will intersect with the cultural wars issues and how it intersects with class and labor, and how that shapes our understanding of social status in our society. Bethany Moreton’s book on Wal-Mart discusses the shift from a production-based to a service-based economy, and how that meant that more men ended up in jobs (retail is her focus) long considered lower status, in part because of the association with feminized labor. So, it’s certainly pay and material compensation, but status isn’t just about what’s in your pay packet. It’s about the understanding of the job via a cultural context too. There is a reason why jobs traditionally associated with women (nursing, teaching, retail work) are paid less, and it’s not because these jobs are less important or less difficult. It’s the fact that it’s a “feminized” job too. If and when men enter these professions (like nursing), you start to see wages increase (sometimes), and sometimes the social status of those job increase.

I’m really of the mind that many did vote for him because of his open racism and misogyny - you hear quite a bit that people liked him because he “told it like it is”. Not all of course, but it certainly shows that others who voted for him did not care about the racism and misogyny in his platform, which were pretty obvious to see from the very first speech he gave of his campaign. It was not a speech about labor and the needs of the working classes, it was an attack on immigrants, specifically working class immigrants coming from Mexico and South America, looking for a better life. We really can’t just dismiss that in understanding his popularity among some of his supporters.

He was pivoting to the poor people’s campaign and open opposition to the war… King understood that there was a shared class status among the working classes of any race. But let’s also not forget that he was hated and despised by lots of white Americans at the time. He was not a popular well loved figure that he is today. His Letter from a Birmingham Jail reflects the push back from white moderates at the time.

Yeah, I didn’t think so? But I’m guessing that there are some who still are holding onto the accelerationist idea, that it’s better to just burn it all down by electing someone like Trump (again), rather than work within the system. Given that electing him in the first place got us over a million dead from a pandemic, and just exacerbated a number of major issues (climate change, immigration not getting addressed, etc, etc), I don’t think we can afford another go round of him, or another like him. America melting down would be a disaster that would set us all back.

I totally get that concern and I agree that the two party system has real systemic problems. Frankly, at this point many of the countries with a parliamentary system are not faring much better, so it’s not just our broken political system. I think the answer is to do what Bernie and AOC (and others, Cori Bush, etc) have done - which is work within the Democratic party to change the party into one that better reflects our values. Getting in more progressives means we stand a better chance of making the sort of systemic change we need. But we should not just focus on the federal level. The far right (the racist right) has colonized the GOP from the bottom up. It’s an unholy alliance between the racist right, the Miltonites (Naomi Klein’s disaster Capitalists), and the white evangalical right that has worked from both the top and bottom to get what they want - a white, Christian, Miltonesque one party state, and they nearly succeeded on January 6th, frankly. I don’t see that as buying into the Democrat’s own form of mass media manipulation - that is what the evidence has shown me. :woman_shrugging:

Agreed. Biden, for all his failings, has indeed put some real winners into some key locations. There are some real great things happening that they really should promote more during the campaign. I’m hoping to see Biden walk the picket line with the UAW on Tuesday, because that would be a real historical event. Plenty of presidents have spoken to unions, but none have actually shown up to the line to show real support. And yeah, sure, it’s a photo-op, but I don’t think we should completely dismiss such things out of hand. It’s not just cynical manipulation (even if that’s some of it), but it can help to get more people involved in both Democratic politics and in unions.

I never believed other wise. But he’s also aging, so there’s that. So yeah, more, younger Bernies, please!

I’m not of the belief that a white, straight, cisgendered man can’t be effective in fighting for all our rights… Like, I’m not going to vote for Nicki Haley over Biden (if she were to get the nomination) just because she’s a woman of color. Her politics might seem more “moderate” GOP, but it’s pretty clear she’s as moderate as a Reagan era Republican and that’s still unacceptable. Deregulation and leaning into the culture wars has not helped any of us. It’s only hurt all of us. We certainly need a movement that recognizes our many differences, how oppression impacts us differently, and addresses those. But I don’t see that as in contradiction to class politics, but as part of class politics.

We certainly need more of that, for sure.

Let’s hope we can all keep moving forward and keep marginalizing the far right to get our problems solved…

I see that I have a lot of reading to do. :sweat_smile: Rather than try to respond to each of your points individually, I will try to summarize my overarching beliefs which I think roughly covers the many different facets of this discussion.

I’m certainly not going to discount your experience, nor the many very real forces you describe, and problems that we will still have to solve even if the class war was over tomorrow.

Our country was founded by spectacularly flawed and hypocritical men; wealthy white slave owners who dared write the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” while simultaneously writing “merciless Indian Savages”. But they did write them. Certainly aware of their own hypocrisy in some ways, but in spite of other concessions they were making to the most self-interested among them. I believe some of them wrote those words not as a description of their present conditions, nor ours, but as an ideal for you and I to follow when having conversations like this one. They were well aware of their flaws and the ways they were falling short; “a more perfect Union”. And yes, some of them, perhaps many (the aforementioned most self-interested) found their own truth in those words by excluding women and people of color from “men”.

Perhaps they would have been better off to write “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are flawed and self-interested by varying degrees”. I agree that material conditions can’t explain everything, but I also believe that they can fundamentally disrupt the slow march of progress. I believe that you and I have far more in common, that our flaws and self-interest vary by far fewer degrees, than you or I compared to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Mark Zuckerberg. That the astronomical – truly unfathomable – inequality between us and them is the very foundation upon which the differences between you and I are wrought. That the chief barrier between you and I working out our differences is the existential fear for survival, self-interest, that is ultimately rooted in material conditions.

The oppression of the many by the few is as old as humanity itself. Long before we had the technology to turn racism into a business model people were oppressing others who looked just like them based on, well, anything they could think of.

Yes, the people who voted for Trump have their own agency, they absolutely played into his fear tactics, he gave them someone to look down on, someone to blame, someone to put their own self-interest ahead of, but very importantly it was someone (anyone) that was not him, nor his class. We should absolutely condemn them for their blind ignorance, but we should also pity them for their own material conditions that made this possible. Poverty, lack of education, the way they were raised under, and subjected to, dogmatic authority.

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” - President Lyndon B. Johnson, then a U.S. Senator of Texas, to Bill D. Moyers in Tennessee, 1960

The chief answer to who I think bears the responsibility is that it’s not We the people, by and large, it’s the relatively microscopic, but enormously… obscenely… mind-numbingly wealthy elite that have the resources to manufacture consent. They have the resources to dismantle education. They have the resources to control all the politicians. They have the resources to control all the judges. They have the resources to put their finger on every scale that exists to place a finger upon.

They aren’t using mind-control, you’re absolutely right that they can’t do this on their own, not without the agency of all the people carrying out their will. But you have to understand the Faustian bargain that all these people are taking. That I’m taking when I choose to put money into a 401K even though I know precisely where that money is going, and that the whole system is a corrupt replacement for pension programs. A system designed to force me into allowing them to gamble with the products of my work because the alternative is to simply watch it continually devalued by inflation (of their own design, a feature, not a bug) and an ever-increasing tax burden on the little guy while the true villains of our story pay less and less all the time. It’s all the ways, large and small, that the turkeys are encouraged, but also forced, to vote for Christmas.

1 Like

Also, yes, 100% this.

He wasn’t popular with a lot of black Americans either, particularly young ones. Many felt that his non-violent approach was a waste of time. That progress was too slow and that he was actually an impediment to the timely justice that they deserve.

I think history has and will continue to look upon him favorably, not at all because of what happened to him, but because of the undeniable wisdom in what he wrote and said. It’s timeless and speaks to everyone willing to hear it. I have absolutely no first-hand experience of the struggles he and those like him endured, and continue to endure to this day, but I can still find the truth in his words because they’re universal. I don’t need to walk a mile in his shoes to understand them because of the way he was able to distill his experience into something more fundamental than his day-to-day, or indeed the day-to-day experience of anyone in his time. We need far more people like that who are able to speak to everyone.

And yes, the Letter from Birmingham Jail haunts me. It’s a constant reminder that if there isn’t conflict, if things are too comfortable, and there is still injustice, then we’ve achieved a negative peace, and that isn’t good enough. It’s a good way to reaffirm the positive aspect of conflict, that standing still is akin to deferring to authority, whereas progress requires action. It’s more difficult, but necessary.

1 Like

I should clarify that when I say “working out our differences” above I don’t mean erasing our differences, or pretending that they don’t exist. I mean settling the conflict over them, finding unity. As Audre Lorde put it beautifully, “We must not let diversity be used to tear us apart from each other, nor from our communities that is the mistake they made about us.”

I also just started reading “bell hooks - where we stand: CLASS MATTERS” and it is a banger so far. I realize this is probably the one book she wrote that is all but guaranteed to confirm my views, but there was a PDF version of it available. :slight_smile:

We all always do! And they keep writing new ones, the bastards! :rofl:

They did, but it took people who were oppressed rebelling against their oppression to make it a reality.

Maybe, but that’s certainly a cultural ideology of the capitalist system. People are just as prone to kindness, solidarity, and generosity.

But we should also acknowledge that class identity, is itself an identity, just as socially constructed as much as it’s rooted in material conditions… My life has been shaped in different ways because of my gender. My experiences growing up working class differed from the experiences of the working class boys I knew… Those are material conditions, too and should be incorporated into any analysis of class.

Maybe, maybe not. We can only really know that for written history, and then we have a lot of guess work there, because of who wrote those sources. The widest swath of humanity did not get to express their experiences in ways that were preserved, so understanding that oppression and how it unfolded is largely guess work, primarily of archaeologists. The historians who work in the ancient world are limited in the written sources by those who were what we consider illiterate… the pre-historical period is even more fraught for understanding relations between different groups. We’re not even sure about social order and that sort of thing. Most of what we think we know comes from currently existing hunter-gatherer societies, and we have to expect that they’ve been changed and shaped by time as much as “civilized” society, and are not just relics of the distant past.

One point to keep in mind, that in 2016, the median income of Trump voters were about 10,000 higher than those voting for Clinton… (70,000 to 60,000, if I’m remembering correctly).

We also do have to accept that many of them did indeed vote based on the bigotry he promoted very hard. Plenty of highly educated people still believe in class-based, hierarchal society, and embracing forms of bigotry helps them to get there, I’d argue. Especially since race plays such a major role in shaping our modern forms of class structures…

Is it, though? Again, Trump made it crystal clear who he was blaming and it was not the corporations (except for those that embrace DEI, etc). And all those things are not just to be blamed on the Democrats. The GOP played a larger role in shifting to 401ks, smashing the unions, deregulation, etc. They just managed to blame it on the Democrats, who then leaned hard into in order to “win” back the white working class…

Once Black Power rose the fore, absolutely. But let’s not forget he himself was quite young when he rose to prominence (late 20s during the bus boycott). And SCLC helped fund SNCC after the sit-ins. But by the mid-60s, you had people offering alternative ideas that many embraced (for good reason), most notably Malcolm X, but then the Panthers who had a much more revolutionary program.

Indeed. I think at the end of the day, he was a truly great person, doing truly great work. He really was one of the greatest of his generation - not because he was perfect or anything like that, but because he did the work and put his life on the line for equality.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 15 days. New replies are no longer allowed.