Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More on the Producer / Predator conflict

While it is economically obvious that those persons who are not Producers simply must fasten themselves on the backs of the Producers through force and fraud in order to survive, very little is written about how Predators also use cultural conflict to achieve the same economic ends.

But there is an occasional effort to write about those culture wars out on the "left."  The one below rings especially true because I was there when it happened.  I remember an intense discussion I had one night in 1970 with a guy who was convinced that the Students for a Democratic Society were the future of the "left" in the USA, and that their founding document, the Port Huron Statement, was a work of pure genius.  SDS pretty much defined the "new left" in the 60s.

I had actually read the Port Huron Statement and I found it infantile horse shit for one overwhelming reason.  Like any bunch of Marxist wannabees, the SDS simply had to engage in some class analysis and as one would expect from such overprivileged pretentious twits, they came to the conclusion that "youth is a class."

The idea that I shared anything with this crowd socially or economically simply because I was roughly the same age was beyond preposterous.  I was the son of a dirt-poor Lutheran clergyman who was a New Deal Democrat and grew up in desolate places like northwest North Dakota where agrarian radicalism was as common as worrying about the weather.  Yes indeed, I am quite certain there were no Swedish Lutheran, Non-Partisan League-style left Populists in Port Huron when the SDS gathered.

Needless to say, we did NOT become friendly debating partners.
When blue-collar pride became identity politics
Remembering how the white working class got left out of the New Left, and why we're all paying for it today
The great political failure of the 1960s was the New Left's inability to bring the labor movement into its great liberationist tent. There were lots of reasons for that, one of them being that most big union leaders didn't want to be in that stinky tent with a lot of hippies, feminists, dashiki-wearing black militants and "fags." (That last comes from AFL-CIO leader George Meany's description of the New York delegation to the disastrous 1972 Democratic convention: "They've got six open fags and only three AFL-CIO representatives!") Also, not a small matter: The New Left opposed the Vietnam War; again, most labor leaders supported it.
Still, the inability to forge a political movement that was as much about class as race and gender rights haunts the United States today. We saw the shadows of that struggle even in the 2008 presidential campaign, as supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama traded charges of "racism" and "sexism," but few paid attention to the increasing openness of white working-class voters, especially men, to pick a Democrat again in a time of profound economic crisis. We see it today in the hostility of many Democrats, and the resistance of the Obama administration, to backing aggressive government action to address the continuing unemployment disaster. The decline of the labor movement hobbled the Democratic Party, and so far nothing has come along to replace it, to represent the great majority of Americans who are disadvantaged by the ever-increasing power of corporate America and the wealthy.
If you want to understand how we got here -- how the Democrats' New Deal coalition shattered in the 1970s, and why progressives are still picking the shrapnel out of their political hides -- you must read Jefferson Cowie's "Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class." more

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