Battling Old Ideas with the New
While making a new world possible, the electronic revolution is rapidly eliminating the value of labor and destroying the basis for the capitalist system. Since the corporate ruling class desperately wants to maintain control, it is doing everything it can to keep us from recognizing our unity as a rising new class of workers. Mainstream news outlets, social media platforms, leaders, and politicians fuel and manipulate our public debates—playing us against each other and diverting our attention from what’s really going on. This ruling class strategy is precisely why this country often feels more divided than ever, while the reality is very different. Every day the great new class of workers that is being thrown out of the system grows to have more in common, and that’s why the ruling class is fighting so hard to divide us.
TV news includes whole segments devoted to what’s “trending” in social media, and television networks build programs around social media to help further ruling class ideology. As the basis for capitalism has eroded, both mainstream political parties champion ruling class solutions to our problems, whether their agendas play to “conservatism” or “liberalism.” These old ideas jeopardize our future.
As long the workers cling to old ideas, the ruling class benefits from the impression that every concession makes the system look like it works, even if just barely. Politicians champion workers without looking out for their rights. Corporations fund sustainability and diversity programs. Police wear body cameras. Handfuls of CEO’s and celebrities in the media lose their jobs over abuse of power. Social media and late night comedy make fun of one party or another and obvious corruption while yearning for a return to “the good old days.”
Meanwhile, the police state grows. Most television seems to embrace various kinds of populism while showing the tools of fascism as methods used by responsible rulers to ensure our safety. TV crime shows regularly show the accumulation of our personal data as crucial weapons for capturing dangerous criminals. When the gap between the rich and the poor is growing as fast as it is now, the corporate-run State needs workers to embrace ruling class control, and this mindset is generally driven by fear.
With Old Ideas, All Roads Lead to Fascism
The past three decades of job loss has rightfully made workers afraid. In that fear we have been encouraged to cling to ideas born from the country’s origins and distorted by its history. Many of America’s finest ideals of freedom, equality and justice stem from those escaping the aristocracies of the European Old World. Early Americans saw this country as a New Eden, and held the idea that we lived in a new world without the problems of the old one. Many Americans have been taught in school that the United States has no classes, and that they can be anything they want to be, based upon their personal initiative.
U.S. workers have always fought for a vision of America that expressed the deepest strivings of the people: independence from the chains of exploitation, the guaranteed ability of every person to contribute to society, to achieve freedom from want and an expectation of a better life. Americans have fought for this vision, but it could only be partially realized. At one time, Americans worshipped King George. Conditions changed, and they fought a revolution to break away from monarchy and English domination. At one time, the American people embraced slavery. Conditions changed. They came to understand they had to end slavery, and they fought a war to do so. Today, conditions are changing once again. New technologies make possible the realization of the vision for which generations of Americans have fought.
America has a rich history of the workers struggling against exploitation and oppression. On our scattered fronts, Americans recognized the country wasn’t exempt from the problems of the old world—the old aristocratic class system that limited freedom was simply replaced with a new one. Europeans who came to America with money incorporated many of the first American businesses, and others survived by selling them their labor. Though many Americans arrived as indentured servants, by 1641 African-Americans became trapped in a system of lifelong slavery. A private property-based class system developed that we live with to this day, though most workers own nothing or little to nothing.
To keep workers from tackling this reality head on, and to keep them from grasping the power new technologies have placed in their hands, the ruling class uses historical prejudices to divide people. But it is not limited to the nationalist and racist prejudices we associate with past fascist movements. Two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, often express compassion for those being left behind; but the great masses of workers no longer matter to the system that gives Gates and Buffet their power. The new class of workers, having no stake in the current system, needs control of a new cooperative society that will provide for our needs.
The continuing control exerted by the old system led Buffet to tell The Washington Post in 2011, “There’s been class warfare going on for the past twenty years, and my class has won.” Today’s ruling class depends upon controlling a population being pushed out of the system by automation. By the 1980s whole armies of workers were losing their jobs, and concepts such as “downsizing” and the idea of “a permanent underclass” became household words. At that moment, American poverty rates began to escalate alongside a 500% jump in incarceration rates. Today 45 million Americans live below the poverty line, and well over 2 million Americans live behind bars. It became obvious that what we were seeing was not an underclass, but a new class.
The same year Buffet described the class war as won, Forbes published an article entitled, “The 147 Companies that Control Everything.” A corporate ruling class has taken over the government and controls all production, our media, our food and now, through privatization schemes, our education, our water, and our environmental future. The interests of America’s ruling class are tied to the fate of a worldwide ruling class, just as America’s new class is tied to the fate of those who are imperiled by the worldwide turn toward fascism.
A Revolutionary New Patriotism
The ruling class has used individualist ideals to keep us divided, when conditions demand we come together as a revolutionary new class to fight for the very necessities of life. America produces enough food to feed the entire world, but over 41 million Americans go hungry. We have five times the houses needed to end homelessness in America. We have the technology to provide clean water to everyone in the world, yet 63 million Americans suffer unsafe drinking water. The United States stands virtually alone in the developed world by not offering universal health care. Many countries offer free higher education, while the United States moves toward privatization of public schools. Recent business trends move toward increased privatization of all aspects of American life that were once considered public, including our drinking water and even our national parks. On a global scale, the argument over climate change is an argument for the survival of our species in the face of the insatiable demands of a capitalist system that gobbles up tens of thousands of acres of oxygen-giving rainforest every day. Meanwhile, capitalists fight over the world’s resources with nuclear arms aimed at one another.
It is a basic truth that in 2018 our future depends upon the new class coming together politically. That new class is made up of every American worker who once sold their labor in exchange for the necessities of life, and who is now facing absolute loss of control over their lives. Specifically, that means workers must recognize the potential of today’s technologies to provide all of our needs and fight for our food, shelter, water, health care, and education.
Fundamental to that understanding is a recognition that the ruling class’ strategy is to divide us, to divert our attention and win us over to a fascist solution. Seeing through that strategy, we are moving from the social awareness of injustice many of us share to a social consciousness that leads to recognizing ourselves as a class. In this way, the new class will develop a class consciousness that will enable us to gain the power as one, providing for our mutual needs.
We must have a new economic system based upon cooperation. We must counter the old ruling class ideas of individualism, American exceptionalism and patriotism with a new patriotism that recognizes our class and our country as a part of a changing global system that must advance our understanding of freedom, equality and justice. By embracing the world as it really is, we can build a new world that embraces the potential, the hopes and the dreams that lie at the heart of every worker in America.
March/April 2018 Vol28.Ed2
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