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Strategy and Political Power in America: The Role of the South

The question for revolutionaries today is, how does the introduction of robotics affect the question of political power? And what are the strategy and tactics for today? From slave-labor to wage-labor to laborless production, and the rise of a new class that has nothing to gain from aligning itself with the ruling class – these qualitatively new times demand that society be reorganized to be compatible with its new means of production.

The ruling class will use every means at its disposal to protect private property and to maintain itself as the ruling class. It will draw upon the worst aspects of American history, including white supremacy and other forms of racism, and it draws upon the lessons of a fascism born in the womb of Southern history, to sacrifice bourgeois democracy and put in place a new fascist State to maintain its control nationwide. It is a fascism rooted in the merger of the corporations and the State and the direct intervention in the economy in the interests of protecting private property; it is the erection of a police state antagonistic to a growing new class which it no longer needs; it is the cultivation of a fascist social base to consolidate and support fascist rule.

The new class created by automation is objectively moving into a position where it can begin to overthrow the shackles that have chained it to an economic system and a political order that has never been anything more than an instrument of class domination. The material ties that have bound the American worker to the ruling class are being taken away. But as we will see, it is really a matter of contending for political power, for the power to be able to remake society in the interests of humanity.

The South Key Since America’s Founding

Every nation, every country constructs its society, its social and political life, upon its economic base, its mode of production. When that economic base changes, changes in society must follow. This means every society is compelled to build a political, legal and social superstructure that is compatible with its economic base and that guarantees the political hegemony of the ruling class.

At America’s founding,  the task was to construct a bourgeois democratic republic that facilitated the domination of the agrarian economy based in slave labor of the Southern states and which assured the political hegemony of a slave-holding agrarian bourgeoisie.

While slavery was never mentioned in the Constitution, the three-fifths clause provided that the Southern states would receive 60 votes for every 100 slaves possessed by the slave-holders. The very first president of the United States was a slave-holder, as was every president save one until Lincoln in 1860. The Southern-dominated ruling class controlled the Congress as well as the Supreme Court for the better part of the first 80 years of the country’s history.

The Civil War eventually decided the question of slavery in favor of a wage-labor system, but it was a battle between two sections of the bourgeoisie over how society was to be reorganized to be compatible with a rising industrial capitalism in the North. A new Union dominated by finance capital was to emerge victorious.

In the Civil War, even as the matter of who was to exercise ruling class hegemony ended in the subordination of the Southern ruling class, the critical question that emerged was how to organize the Southern economy to guarantee its profitability to Wall Street, especially in relation to the production of cotton. In this regard, how was the dominant class to control the Black workers, straining to exercise their newly found freedom, and their restive counterparts, millions of impoverished white workers?

The Black Belt South: America’s First Colony and First Fascist State

During the brief period of Reconstruction, both Black and white workers began to make initial efforts to fight for labor rights, working conditions, education, health care and voting rights. The 1877 Hayes-Tilden “compromise” represented a deal that would stop that process in its tracks. The Southern states were to regain the state’s right to deal with their own workers in their own way. Reconstruction was abandoned and the Redeemer governments were the instrument to establish the Black Belt South both as the first colony of U.S. imperialism and as its first fascist state. The Southern worker had no rights the ruling class was bound to respect.

The share-cropping system and rule by terror under the banner of white supremacy drove the Southern people back into near-slavery. This guaranteed the super-exploitation of the colonial worker and the profitability of the South. White supremacy came to be even more integrally entwined with the exercise of political power in America. The ruling class used white supremacy to divide the workers. However, this white supremacy was used to achieve and maintain the supremacy of the capitalist class.

The Southern Strategy

The white worker, even the most destitute, came to be tied to the ruling class, driving a deep wedge within the Southern working class. As such, the control of the Southern working class, Black and white, was guaranteed. Just so, was the control of the South the key to political power for the nation.

The Democratic Party in the South openly proclaimed itself the party of white supremacy, establishing the white-only primary and a Solid South. Every Southern state voted as a solid bloc, and the political party that received that vote was virtually guaranteed political supremacy.

From the Roosevelt Coalition to Ronald Reagan’s Southern Strategy the South has played a pivotal role in the exercise of political power in America. Southern politicians stood as a reactionary brake against progressive reforms. Social Security was passed, but to this day the U.S. does not have universal health care. Progressive labor laws were passed, but Taft-Hartley was amended to allow for Right-to-Work, which every Southern state adopted, and which today is making inroads throughout the nation.

The South continues to play the same role but under different conditions. The form changes, but the content remains the same. Then and now the South acts as both an economic and political reserve of the ruling class.

The transition from a solid Democratic South to a two-party system began in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement. In the 1964 election for president, Lyndon Johnson carried 45 states and Barry Goldwater, the Republican carried only five Deep South states; Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. This was followed in 1968 by Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, and the process was completed with the election of Ronald Reagan and the establishment of a South dominated by the Republican party.

The Southern political program – states’ rights, low taxes, anti-labor, little or no regulation of the corporations, small government (which translates as slashing social benefits for the working class, including health care, shelter and education) – this is the core of the political program that has come to dominate the political scene of America.

Still today key Congressional posts are headed by Southern politicians, and they continue to block any progressive reforms and to pass anti-worker and reactionary laws. The Supreme Court is essentially a states’ rights court, and the road to the presidency runs through the South. Even Obama had to split the South in order to win. The candidate who can sweep the South is guaranteed victory.

The process of how political power in America is and has been exercised emerges as a historical formula, a law of development of political power in America. What we have described here illuminates that those who control the worker in the South, Black and white, control the South, and those who control the South control the nation. Wall Street controls the South and the nation.

The Struggle to Unite a Section of the New Class

Only a class at least partially outside of the economy can overthrow a system. The new class, because it is being forced out of the system, is the only social force that can lead in the construction of a new society. If united and conscious of its historic mission, it has the potential to lead society to a new cooperative society organized in its own interests and in the interest of all of humanity.

Because the new class is objectively revolutionary, the ruler’s strategy is to stop the revolution from proceeding on this class basis. Their tactic has been to pit one section of the workers against the other. They have used racism, their historic weapon of control, to do this. However, as the environment and needs of capitalism change, the form of the rulers’ control must change to accommodate their goals.

Yet every action brings about a reaction. An already volatile situation is being stirred up. On the one hand, the new class will only get larger as a result of automation, further undermining private property. Many are already working low-paying, dead-end, part- time jobs or none at all. The South remains the poorest part of the nation. On the other hand, the changes under way are bringing about an upsurge in the fascist movement.

The most impoverished and exploited section of Southern workers, Black and white, is an integral part of the new class in the nation as a whole, and plays a key role in the development of the new class as a force that can contend for political power.  Central to that process is the question of class unity. The racism of the past period that served to divide the class is now being supplanted by a new form of racism that is directed squarely against the new class. Class unity is paramount, and our strategy relies upon the new class in its fight to gain the necessities of life and to reorganize society in its interests. As the new class goes, so goes the nation.

November.December Vol25.Ed6
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
P.O. Box 477113 Chicago, IL 60647 rally@lrna.org
Free to reproduce unless otherwise marked.
Please include this message with any reproduction.

Photo of Protest

30,000 March in Support of
Chicago Teachers Union Strike
Photo by Ryan L Williams
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.

'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011

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Rally, Comrades! is the political paper of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America. If you are one of the thousands of revolutionaries around the country looking for a perspective on the problems we face today, and for a political strategy to achieve the goal of a world free from exploitation and poverty, then Rally, Comrades! is for you.

Rally, Comrades! examines and analyzes the real problems of the revolutionary movement, and draws political conclusions for the tasks of revolutionaries at each stage of the revolutionary process. We reach out to revolutionaries wherever they may be to engage in debate and discussion, and to provide a forum for these discussions. Rally, Comrades! provides a strategic outlook for revolutionaries by indicating and illuminating the line of march of the revolutionary process.

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