Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Class-Based Politics

Greetings readers of Mirror on America! My bio at the About the Bloggers page tells a little bit about me. I am a long-time reader of Mirror on America and an admirer of the writings of the Angry Independent and the various contributors of this blog. When AI offered the opportunity to have more co-bloggers participate in the blog, I jumped at the chance. I also operate my own blog called An Ordinary Person and Politics in America where I deal with politics from the standpoint of an ordinary person living in the US.

I was wondering how best to introduce myself to the readers of this blog. I figured since it is about politics I might as well do it with an illustration of the basics of my own political beliefs. Below is one of the pieces that I originally wrote for An Ordinary Person which is about a political argument that I had with a dinner guest about a couple of years back. The conversation was illuminating to me in not only defining clearly what I really do believe, but to clear up any misunderstandings I had with my friend (and myself) on what I do not.


On Class-Based Politics

Yesterday I had an interesting exchange of ideas with a dinner guest. The conversation turned to politics, particularly the state of politics in American society. We both agreed that the Democrats are doing a terrible job against the Republicans. Where we diverged are our ideas of what will make it better. My friend is a Democrat by affiliation.

According to him, what needs to happen is for Democrats to get their act together and beat the Republicans. I diverged from him when I said that I have totally abandoned the Democratic party as representing my interests as an ordinary, working person. I told him that the Democratic party in the past decade has veered to the right in matters of economics that there is virtually no difference anymore between Democrats and Republicans who espouse a pro-business, corporate-dominated agenda based on free market ideology. Democrats, for all intents and purposes, now espouse the same things as Republicans in matters of economic policy (no matter what rhetorical style they use in appealing to the public).

I told him that what is needed is class-based politics where working people are organized politically to fight for their own interests.

This is when the discussion turned interesting. It turns out my friend disagrees with me. What surprised me is that his disagreement was based on him defending the idea of the US political and economic system as being primarily created for the benefit of business. Furthermore, to challenge it is tantamount to espousing Socialism or Communism. Basically he made several points:

• What is good for business is ultimately, good for workers

• The US is a capitalist country

• In Socialist economies people become lazy and complacent. They develop a tendency to over-rely on government handouts and not make any independent moves to improve their lot in life.

• Capitalism is ultimately better for workers than Socialism. Socialism doesn’t work.

• The US system of political democracy allows for representation of all points of views, even workers. There is no need to change the system.

What I said in response ultimately boiled down to:

• There is something wrong with the inequities that currently exist in American society. The skyrocketing cost of higher education, crumbling public schools, the persistence of racial and class inequality, the inequities of a for-profit-based healthcare system, etc.

• The American capitalist system works primarily to the advantage of and for the benefit of corporations and the rich. If you have money you will have access to the best this country has to offer. If you don’t you don’t.

• The Democratic party is not addressing these issues in any substantive way. The interests of ordinary people simply aren’t a priority for the Democrats. The Republicans at least are honest and upfront about their pro-business, pro-free market agenda.

• What is needed is a political party of, for and by working people to fight for their interests in the political arena.

Mind you I said nothing about Socialism or that the capitalist system is inherently evil. It was he who offered the “Socialism is bad” counter argument to what I was saying.

Just to clear things up here is what I believe:

• I believe in democracy. I believe in democratic participation. I am not out to “change the system” from its current model to a Socialist or a Communist model.

• However, I believe that the two-party political system is too narrowly focused and too dominated by pro-business and free market interests to represent the interests and concerns of working and middle class people.

• I also believe that the two-party system is rigged by the two major parties to keep out any outsiders who will challenge the dominance of the two major parties.

• I am perfectly willing to work within the confines of the US political and economic system.

• However, I also believe that the interests of ordinary, working people are not properly represented in the US political and economic system.

• The capitalist class is for its own interests, period—whatever makes them the most profit. They will choose the bottom line over the interests of working people when these interests clash 100% of the time.

• The business class and millionaires are overwhelmingly represented in positions of power and influence in this country. Working people are not. In order for things to get better for working people, this needs to change.

The first step to change is for working people to organize themselves into a political party which will fight for their interests in the US political system. Notice I say nothing about overthrowing the system or the government. What I actually advocate is a more active role in participating in the system to make sure the interests of working people get their proper due.


rikyrah said...


Glad to see you!!!

And, I agree with you.

I'm a Lou Dobbs Democrat. I began listening to Mr. Dobbs because he was the only one asking questions about the consequences of our so-called Free Trade Policies and who it was hurting.

I DO blame the Democrats for not fighting for the little guy and giving away so much to Big Business,who doesn't care about anything but Big Business.

You need a BALANCE.

There is no BALANCE because the GOP just doesn't care about the average guy, and too many average guys don't even recognize that.

I understand the average guy that doesn't vote.

I don't understand the average guy that votes Republican.

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]Democrats are doing a terrible job against the Republicans.[/quote]

[quote]I told him that the Democratic party in the past decade has veered to the right in matters of economics[/quote]


Is there anything in particular, in your opinion, that leads you to believe that the Democrats inherently serve the interests of Black people?

I notice, almost routinely that when a Black person attacks and/or departs the Democratic party he is frustrated that the Democrats are not LEFT enough.

Why is it that we as Blacks focus on national politics as the measure in the Democrat/Republican battle INSTEAD OF making not that the highly favored DEMOCRATS are running the political districts that Blacks are concentrated in? Why can't we look toward Baltimore, Philly, Detroit - all 80% Democrat cities and show THESE as shining examples of what the Black community can expect from THE DEMOCRATS? Where as these cities should be show cases they are basket cases.

The ultimate question must be asked - are the Democrats who are Black working in the ultimate best interests of the Black community OR are they more loyal to their dogma and the reality on the ground is no consequence to them in their battle for the retention of power of their beloved party?

My friend Rikyrah says "the GOP doesn't care about the little guy". Why is it that we can't look at Detroit and mention that BIG BUSINESS did "care about the little guy". It funded his salary, his pension, his health care. When the people who CLAIMED to care about the "little guy" - the Unions - drove a bargain that eventually made the unionized Big 3 uncompetitive financially it was this LITTLE GUY who ultimately took it on the chin.

[quote]I don't understand the average guy that votes Republican.[/quote]

Rikyrah - I don't know why the average Black voter in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton, Newark, Detroit, Benton Harbor, New Orleans, Chicago, Gary - all Democratic strong holds CONTINUES DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING and expects their communities to get better.

Is it possible that VOTING alone is not the solution? Who do the Asian vendors VOTE for?

Brian said...


you wrote:

Is there anything in particular, in your opinion, that leads you to believe that the Democrats inherently serve the interests of Black people?

Why are you posing this question to Liberal Arts Dude? He is Filipino-American.... not Black. Furthermore... he was not making a racial argument at all...whatsoever. Why go straight to a racial question? His argument (and a pretty good one at that) was made from a socio-political & economic perspective.... not a racial one.

And I agree with Rikyrah... the average guy is not really represented anymore at all.

Notice the Presidential candidates are speaking to Middle...and upper middle class Americans... not the poor and working classes...or those who are trying to enter the Middle Class.

Brian said...

Liberal Arts Dude...

I agree wholeheartedly with your observations. I have been thinking along these same lines for years.

Any other Country with the kind of disinfranchisement that we have here in the U.S. would have mobilized and formed viable alternative Parties by now. This is what happens in European Parliamentary Democracies all the time... even in Asia....India for example. The people in those Countries don't just sit around.

The U.S. is one of the few major "Democracies" with only two viable political Parties...and it is the largest so-called Democracy in the World with such a narrow 2-Party system of representation.

We have been stuck with two viable Parties for so long that Americans see anything different as being abnormal and contrary to our system...and therefore, not worth pursuing. Yet ironically we are supposed to be part of one of the greatest Democracies in the World.

It's ironic that our soldiers are fighting for Democracy in Iraq...a nation with dozens of political Parties. Yet there is no such political diversity or political choice here in their own Country (at least not viable choices).

If the U.S. was the great healthy Democracy that some Americans proclaim it to be... then we should have at least 4 viable political Parties. A nation of 300 Million has to have more than two sets of viewpoints or political philosophies. Smaller nations have 2 and 3 times the number of viable Parties that we have. There should be at least several dozen members of Congress representing a 3rd and 4th Party. That would force the two dominant Parties to have to negotiate, compromise and form alliances... This is what happens in France, Canada, India, Norway, Germany, etc all the time. That's the sign of a healthy Democracy. Countries with multi-Party systems (more than 2) generally tend to be more accountable to their people.

Until the U.S. has a serious multi-Party Democracy... we should expect to see a continued lack of confidence in the system...and more disinfranchisement in general.

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]His argument (and a pretty good one at that) was made from a socio-political & economic perspective.... not a racial one.[/quote]

OK Angry - I can modify my question and STILL be on point:

Liberal Guy:

As we consider the Rust Belt portion of the United States and how they are currently dominated POLITICALLY by the same type of a political machine that you seem to it fair to make note of the structural economic depression that this region experienced over the past 30 years as pro-labor, pro -union politicians implemented POLICIES that ultimately made these areas unattractive for the JOB CREATORS to remain? What good is it to have the POTENTIAL to make a union wage of $40 per hour (salary and benefits) when you don't have a job to express this wage?

Then we look at the Toyota plant in Georgetown KY. The UAW hopes to flip this plant that has for decades resisted joining the union by having UNEMPLOYED workers from Big 3 auto manufacturers get jobs at Toyota and provide the tipping point necessary to get the union in.

Why might someone want to RECREATE the conditions that had them to lose their last job? Is Toyota beating their non-union employees and forcing children to work there?

When do we begin to inspect the underlying assumptions that a particular ideology is in fact 'Better for the Little guy" by looking at the harsh facts on the ground?

redante said...

Hello AI and Rikyrah!

Many thanks for the warm welcome! I am happy to be here and look forward to participating actively in Mirror on America!

Hello Constructive Feedback

You make a very interesting point. According to your logic since these
economically depressed areas are dominated politically by Democrats, it is the Democrats and their ideology who are hence responsible for the economic troubles in these areas.

I don't quite buy this logic because there are other areas in the US as well that are dominated by Republicans which are also economically depressed. Rural areas in Virginia, for example, are economically depressed and are largely Republican territory. Would you apply the same logic that it is Republican ideology that is the cause of rural VA's economic doldrums? On a state level, the governor of Virginia is a Democrat. Yet Northern Virginia has a booming economy. Is it Democratic ideology that is the cause of Northern VA's prosperity?

One thing that you don't take into account is that the economies of
cities and states do not operate in a vacuum. The national economic agenda is set from Washington DC and correct me if I am wrong but the past several decades have seen a move in Washington towards more of a free-market type of ideology by BOTH Democrats and Republicans.

This rightward shift culminated in the passage of legislation such as NAFTA in the early 90s. I would argue that these free market trade deals are the primary cause of the loss of manufacturing jobs as employers headed to Mexico and areas overseas where there is cheaper (and more exploitable) labor and looser environmental laws.

Where we seem to differ in opinion is answering the question of what to do about it. You seem to object to "progressive" or "left" solutions that base their assumptions of being "for the little guy."

My question to you: If not that, then what? What do you suggest the "little guy" do politically and economically?