14 February 2010

Crass warfare


Here’s a hypothetical situation.

You work in a town with one factory. You need your job. Moving to another town, starting your own business, or getting some other means of survival is not an option at the moment.

One of your coworkers (let’s call him Bob) is a racist, sexist, homophobic SOB. You are a black lesbian (let’s call you Michelle) who, for obvious reasons, does not get along with Bob.

You and Bob have found yourself in a situation. Your employer (let’s call him Dick) is planning on cutting your salaries in half and doubling your work load. Dick is counting on the animosity between you and Bob preventing any collaboration to thwart his plan. Dick has his eye on a lovely yacht that he will be buying with your recouped wages.

What do you do here? Take the cut in pay? Move into your car? Live on Ramen noodles? Or do you find a way to work with Bob to fight Dick?

The working class has one option to further its interests, and it is not in finding common cause with the ownership caste of the country, but in reconciling the differences within itself and striking at the economic heart of its enemy -- in the workplace and within communities -- where all class power is fundamentally derived.
There's a reason why a great many successful liberation movements--in the USA prior to 1970 and around the world to the present day--has held that success in winning equality for an oppressed group won't come without a component dedicated to fighting against imperialism and in favor of broad economic justice. This is important to remember as the current exploding fad in American public history of remembering the struggles of women and ethnic minorities--we are in Black History Month, after all--is trying to extricate these elements and retroactively jam these movements into accepting the contemporary neoliberal utopia of a post-racial, post-gender free market Pax Americana.

The reason is this: As long as people understand innately--as they will-- that they are getting unjustly worked over by the economic system they are in, they will be looking for someone to blame. Without organizing themselves as a class, that blame will usually fall on someone deemed to be less powerful on more vulnerable. Women, blacks, immigrants, whatever looks like a division to be exploited; it will be a whack-a-mole cycle of blame until the real culprit can be identified.

Unfortunately, such an organization may require temporary tactical alliances with people who have not yet combed through magazine advertisements unlocking the racial symbolism. But if the liberation movements of the past could understand this, why are our current batch of liberals so squeamish?