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Interesting question.  The US is home to some of the largest social movements in the Western World, yet the US is also the farthest behind in terms of actual gains for the working class, women, and minorities.  How does this work?  describes the situation in the US and proposes that one of the key concepts missing from the American polity is a party, or even a politic that can bring people of the lower classes together to bargain for their interests collectively.  In other words, there is no real socialist option or ideological umbrella to foment behind in the political arena.  Most certainly there are groups and popular movements, each with individual muscle, but more strikingly evident, a lack of sinew and connective tissue to bind these various groups together in the polity.

This situation in which the progressive forces in the US are atomized is no mere accident.  The ruling classes have made it their project to remove socialist language and though from political discourse precisely because of how powerful class consciousness and solidarity are.  The success of the ruling classes venture is evident and brought to light by Navarro:

Moreover, the American business and conservative class, aware that the division of victims favors the victimizer, supports such division, hindering and impeding the transversality of such movements and showing great hostility toward the socialist project, which uses the concept of social class as the starting point of such transversality. This project—the alliance of the popular classes against the ruling class—is the most feared, since transversality would allow a union of actions that would weaken the ruling classes’ ability to exploit the rest of society. When the 1984 presidential candidate Jesse Jackson (whom I had the honor to advise) presented himself as the candidate of the black minorities, the New York Times (the voice of the political and media establishment) wrote an extremely laudatory editorial. Four years later in 1988, when he presented himself as the working-class candidate in the Rainbow Coalition, which united all races and genders of the working class, the same newspaper wrote an editorial accusing him of “wanting to destroy the USA.” When, in the last primaries of 1988, journalists asked Jesse Jackson how he was going to win the vote of the white worker from Baltimore (an industrial city), he answered: “by making him see that he has more in common with the black worker, for being workers, than with the owner and manager of the company, for being white.” Jesse Jackson won the primary of the Democratic Party in Baltimore and almost won nationwide, despite the enormous opposition and hostility of the political and media establishments, including the apparatus of the Democratic Party. More recently, during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the socialist candidate Bernie Sanders emphasized the need to unite the “working American families” in a coalition that cuts across identity differences. He almost won the primaries, despite the opposition of the Democratic Party apparatus (including the opposition of the feminist movement NOW, which supported Hilary Clinton as its favored candidate).

Following the rise of so-called populism based on identity causes, it is important to underline this point. Promoting populism with its great diversity of anti-establishment movements, celebrating such diversity without any criteria in terms of transversality that can unite such movements, is to reproduce what has happened in the United States, the country of social movements (except for the socialist movement) where the left (and women and the minorities) is enormously weak.

 

    The election of the Republican candidate Donald Trump has really screwed the American society up.   The 45th POTUS whose actions and policies that can only be described as ignorant ineptitude has brought the United States to the brink of a major societal schism between a substantial group of alienated, antediluvian, racist white nationalists and those who believe in a heterogeneous, pluralistic society.

Anyone remotely familiar with the workings of American society knows that race and racism play a major role in shaping how cultural and social decisions are made.   What has been, until recently, described as the undercurrent of systemic racism in the US now dominates the front pages of the various US media conglomerates.

Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, along with the associated violence, are cropping up from coast to coast in the US.  The racism that had been just below the surface in US society has arisen to dominate the news cycle and has taken hold  in the American societal consciousness.   This resurgence of this overtly racist behaviour stems directly from the current republican administration’s seemingly tacit endorsement of white nationalism/white supremacist attitudes and opinions.  This support/lack of censure from the White House has emboldened the once submerged racist elements in US society to once again walk in the sunlight and publicly make their point of view known.

That people somehow believe that the colour of their skin makes them special somehow in this day and age is quite beyond me, yet the racism that informs the current white supremacist movement is the very same racism that has been woven into the fabric of our societies.  The current turmoil in the US is a testament to the lack of effective measures against the systemic racism in society.  Oh, one most certainly acknowledge that there are laws now and many a policy that are meant to address racism and, of course, are moves in the right direction.   But, marginal moves in the right direction are not enough.  Not addressing the root causes of the racism that infects US (and Canadian) society will only ensure continued conflict over the issue of race in society.

The solutions for tackling racism in society are quite beyond the scope of a short essay, but I do want to offer one insight that might help in tackling the racism problem our societies face.  What I’d like to highlight is the divide and conquer strategy that has been used by the elites in society from pretty much time immemorial till the present to keep the poor classes fighting amongst themselves.  Poor whites and poor blacks inhabit the same economic class, yet the poor whites in the US have been given structural societal benefits to ever so slightly improve their lot in life, and of course with their ‘improved’ lot they have also been given a scapegoat/bogeyman  (the poor black population) to blame for their problems and to be afraid of.

Thus, the poor fight themselves, and not the actual root of the problem – the rich elites who have crafted this inherently unequal society – so the system that feeds and encourages structural racism can continue unabated while the ‘poors’ cut their own throats for the scraps that the wealthy leave behind (and of course the boons of society continue to go to the ‘correct’ classes).

Of course we must continue to confront and fight the current racism that has raised its ugly head in society, but I think we should also be looking for the root causes of these divisions, such as the elite’s divide and conquer strategy, and address those issues as well.

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