Necessary Sacrifices: Saving the White Working Class from Neoliberalism? November 11, 2016Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Transhumanism.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, various class-struggle leftists have been emphasizing neoliberalism as the culprit and highlighting the plight of the white working class. Proponents of these analyses exhort us to organize with the white working class for economic justice as a key component of antiracism.
This approach has much to recommend it. I’m not writing about that part. Here I probe the tensions and contradictions in this narrative. I advance the thesis that pursuing the broader cause of freedom may well entail reduction of status and (temporarily) purchasing power for sections of the U.S. white working class. (Advancing technology continues to improve everyone’s standard of living in this scenario.)
According to available sources, on average, the folks who voted for Trump had higher incomes than those who voted for Clinton. Yes, Trump’s election demonstrates the failure of neoliberalism, but it’s not simply about economic exploitation. The most exploited and oppressed workers in the United States were more likely to vote for Clinton or not vote at all than to vote for Trump. Certainly some folks in desperate economic circumstances voted for Trump, but so did lots of higher-income workers, members of the petty bourgeoisie, and members of the bourgeoisie.
People with incomes in the $50,000-100,000 range appear to be one of Trump’s key demographics. Many of these people are presumably working-class in at least the structural sense that they sell the labor to survive rather than living off the capital they own. At the time, anyone in that income bracket has awfully disproportionate portion of the global economic product. They’re in the global 1%. Advocating for their interests may constitute class struggle yet simultaneous fail to advance freedom and justice overall.
It is necessarily wrong for high-income workers to experience declining fortunes in the context of globalization? If we’re to become more equal as a global society, if we’re seek freedom for everyone, then shouldn’t the people closer to the top face some redistribution?
Given the prevalence of trade deficits and outsourcing in Trump rhetoric, this ain’t just a theoretical issue. U.S. citizens, including anticapitalists, express anger that countries like China, Mexico, and India are supposedly benefiting at their expense through trade. They it for granted that it’s undesirable for this to happen, despite the lower average incomes in these countries that are alleged fleecing the people of the United States.
Now, as I understand it, neoliberalism isn’t primarily redistributing from middle-income U.S. workers and to lower-income Chinese/Mexican/Indian/etc. workers. It’s primarily redistributing to the U.S. and global elites from everyone else. I certainly don’t advocate neoliberalism, but I’d take it over protectionist social democracy that benefits U.S. workers at the expense of their foreign counterparts. Defending the comfort and status for relatively privileged workers in the context of misery across the planet ain’t revolutionary: it’s reactionary.
So yes, I want to organize against capitalism with white working-class folks as way to counter the appeal of right populism and fascism. But I refuse to direct my sympathies and energies toward preserving anybody’s privileged economic position. Ideally we expropriate the rich and all experience exponentially increasing access to nice things, but in the short term I’m most concerned widening the availability of basic necessities/comforts and equalizing power.
Contrary to popular U.S. sentiment, a system that favors Chinese/Indian/Mexican/etc. workers over U.S. workers is a more ethical and more desirable system than one that doesn’t.