End of Bribery, Dawn of Class Unity
As the technological revolution continues to rip industrial capitalism apart, it is also creating the possibility of uniting a growing new class of workers displaced and excluded from production. Computer-assisted systems are entering production everywhere, fueling an eruption of global poverty and homelessness, which has reached America’s inner city “ghettos,” as well as the mainly white towns of the Rust Belt. Like lava flows that harden into rock, this new equality of poverty is laying down a foundation for class unity across lines of color and nationality.
So many millions are suffering that even the billionaires and the politicians admit that America has entered a crisis. But their explanations never reveal the truth of this crisis. Instead, the ruling class is intensifying its propaganda, blaming one section of the masses for the problems of another, masking the real basis of today’s economic disruption. Unemployment is blamed on immigrants and workers in other countries taking jobs from U.S. citizens. Crime is blamed on gangs of minority youth. And the police abuse of people of color is blamed on individual white racists and not on the shift to systemic police brutality of all poor people.
Such divisive propaganda has deep historical roots – for over 100 years, the capitalist ruling class has used the political tactic of material bribery of key sectors of workers, who got better jobs, housing and social privileges in return for loyally supporting colonial super-exploitation of other peoples. Such bribery was justified in each imperialist country by vicious propaganda, dividing workers along lines of color, nationality, religion, and immigration status. The particularities of American capitalism resulted in bribery and propaganda being focused first on turning white workers against African Americans.
U.S. Bribery a Product of American Imperialism
White supremacy played a crucial role in the conquest of Native Americans and the enslavement of millions of Africans. But a new stage in American capitalism and its manipulation of racial ideas emerged after 1877, once the Reconstruction alliance of freed slaves and poor whites was crushed by pulling federal troops out of the South and unleashing the Ku Klux Klan. An American form of fascism was imposed on the region of the South known as the Black Belt, a system of brutality and racial division later cited by Hitler as providing a model for the Nazi system. Soon Northern finance capital had turned the Black Belt South into its first American colony, a region of widespread poverty for both Blacks and whites, from which super-profits were extracted and invested into the expansion of industrialization in the North. This is when the political tactic of bribery emerged, to win the loyalty of an upper stratum of workers for the imperialist exploitation and wars that soon expanded the new American Empire.
An American working class split by such bribery simply could not unite, despite the best efforts of activists and revolutionaries. Workers in the North were granted a material bribe compared to those in the South, soon reflected by a flow of whites and Blacks out of “Dixie,” and by laws and chain gangs aimed at limiting that migration. Native-born workers in the North were bribed with high skilled industrial jobs, to block their uniting with European immigrant laborers confined to unskilled work. During the Spanish American War of 1898, the bribed sectors and their leaders in unions and political parties organized these workers into supporting the imperialist takeover of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines. During the Great Depression, bribery coupled with white supremacist ideology ensured that the struggle for industrial unions led to the 1935 Wagner Act, which achieved union rights for factory workers, but not for the field work where African Americans and Mexicans were concentrated. And even as American workers fought European and Japanese fascism during World War II, bribery and divisive ideology allowed fascism to continue to rule America’s South, ultimately provoking the heroic Civil Rights struggles.
Until today, the struggle against capitalist class ownership and control of the economy could not take root. Working class unity was always blocked by the strength of divisive ideas of race and nationality, which rested on and were reinforced by bribery. That formula limited the workers to isolated victories and reforms within the system. Today, robotic production and sophisticated computer programs are permanently eliminating more jobs than they will create, step-by-step eliminating both the industrial-era working class and the system in which it grew. We are witnessing the emergence of a new class, a section of workers being pushed outside the economy, hence beyond any material bribe. Their very survival is at risk until society is reorganized to distribute the social product according need, instead of by ability to pay.
Broad Class Unity is Possible
Reorganization of society is the essence of the rising struggles for housing, education, health care and a safe environment. For example, homelessness is so widespread; the homeless are organizing and making demands on local governments in every corner of the country. Their struggle includes people who are not homeless, yet know that they might be one job, or a paycheck, away from it.
From Flint, Michigan to Standing Rock, North Dakota thousands have united across lines of color and ethnicity to demand that the government guarantee clean water as a human right. In every region of the country, immigrants and citizens are working together, to stop raids and arrests of the undocumented – those who fled poverty in their homelands only to be blamed for the growth of it here. That they are not to blame is understood by the millions who oppose the raids and by those organizing to recreate the Underground Railroad and Fugitive Slave Rescues. Clearly, the limited unity of the past is giving way to new expressions of broad class unity.
Even though robotics and laborless production are eliminating the ability of the ruling class to control society through bribery, class unity won’t automatically be achieved. The old ideas that bribery once sustained continue to be promoted by the political operatives and propaganda organs of the ruling class. Ruling class propaganda taught us that past struggles of Mexican farm workers and Black sharecroppers were “racial” battles and not battles of America’s working class. Now, such color consciousness makes it harder to see that today’s struggles for economic survival in communities of color are part of the emergence of the new class, and not something separate. Color consciousness can also result in workers of color assuming that whenever white workers fear immigration, it’s simply because they are racists – even though the truth is, plenty of Latino workers also fall into such useless attempts to hold onto a dying system. The possibility and necessity of class unity will not be understood unless revolutionaries bring those ideas into the struggles and expose the ideas of the class enemy.
High tech globalization is undermining the very basis of capitalism. To maintain private ownership and control, America’s ruling class is overseeing the wholesale merging of the State and the corporations, enforced by fascist repression. This transformation necessitates developing a fascist mass base for their attack on the rest of society, especially against the new class being pushed outside of the economy. For instance, President Trump met with national construction union leaders in January, promising them jobs building the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, which had been opposed by the nationwide Standing Rock movement of Native American tribes, environmentalists, and others. Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers Union praised this decision and condemned any unions who supported the Standing Rock movement.
Those words clearly invite a brutal crackdown against the movement in return for the promise of jobs, and it reveals the dangerous role such misleaders will play in the implementation of fascism. The main misleaders of the working class have always ensured that the biggest movements and mobilizations stay safely locked into capitalist ideas and corporate structures. However, because the system cannot resolve today’s rapidly growing poverty, new leadership is emerging from the ranks of the new class, those who are dedicated to the struggle to meet the people’s needs.
Uniting with a Vision of a Shared Future
From homeless activists taking over vacant private property, to the unemployed rising up against the constant killing by police, people have no alternative but to fight, yet there is no way they can win without a vision of a new kind of shared, communist system. The growing new class is a threat to the system itself, because the new class cannot solve its problems within the system of private capitalist ownership. But they cannot break free of that system without understanding that it is what they are fighting against, and without a vision of the new system that is becoming possible. Achieving that vision will require the development of class unity.
The good news is that despite the growing suffering, class unity is more possible today than ever, for objective and subjective reasons. Objectively, the equality of poverty is a growing, material reality. Subjectively, ideas of equality have taken root among the masses in our country as never before. The Civil Rights era and later struggles cleared away some of the obstacles to interactions among people across color lines, so today many Americans have interacted through union struggles and electoral campaigns and by living among immigrants. Millions have also developed greater awareness about America’s diverse people through cultural forms like hip hop and social media. Combined with the reduction in bribery, especially of white workers, these ideas are helping make class unity more possible than ever.
What is needed now is for the revolutionaries to enter into the struggles not just with activism, or with being anti-racist. People are already fighting back against the attacks on their workforces, families and communities. What they lack is an understanding that the new technologies are ending the era of capitalism, where a few billionaires own everything. Instead of a fascist future aimed at maintaining private property, the millions who are under attack can use the new technology to create a new society, where the new technology is utilized to meet the needs of humanity. The long nightmare of conquest, division and exploitation is reaching its end. Let’s awaken humanity to the dawning of its shared future!
May/June 2017 Vol27.Ed3
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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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