[Marxism] Comment on my article “The Rise of the Leninist Right?"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jan 26 07:00:25 MST 2018

Farans Kalosar commented on “The Rise of the Leninist Right”? A 
commentary on a Berkeley professor's nonsense 

     Cihan Tuğal Global Dialog is the magazine of the International 
Sociological Association, a professional society founded by …

     ...white working class ...:"

Not sure the phrase necessarily assumes working class=white: it may 
merely mean the white segment of the working class--or working white 
people who are neither poor nor rich. Since these would be the 
beneficiaries of white privilege, it makes sense that some of them would 
make more money and enjoy higher status than the average worker. A 
recent article--in Time to be sure (fair disclosure)--put it this way, 
not that i endorse this, but it does not simply equate WC and white:

     This puzzlement becomes a problem in politics. What delivered the 
Electoral College for Donald Trump in 2016 was a regional effect: about 
80,000 votes in Rust-Belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin and 
Pennsylvania. The key group was the now-famous “white working class,” 
who trended for Trump. Analyses that deny this often assume that 
“working class” is a euphemism for the poor, and point out that the poor 
did not deliver Trump the election. This is true, but irrelevant — no 
one is arguing they did. The “white working class” that trended for 
Trump is the have-a-littles, not the have-nots: Trump performed best 
among voters earning between $50,000 and $100,000. 

The "have a littles"--a group that IMHO does exist, whatever their 
relation to the dynamics of social class--certainly have less than they 
formerly did:

     According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for non-management 
private-sector workers last month was $20.67, unchanged from August and 
2.3% above the average wage a year earlier. That’s not much, especially 
when compared with the pre-Great Recession years of 2006 and 2007, when 
the average hourly wage often increased by around 4% year-over-year. 
(During the high-inflation years of the 1970s and early 1980s, average 
wages commonly jumped 8%, 9% or even more year-over-year.)

     But after adjusting for inflation, today’s average hourly wage has 
just about the same purchasing power as it did in 1979, following a long 
slide in the 1980s and early 1990s and bumpy, inconsistent growth since 
then. In fact, in real terms the average wage peaked more than 40 years 
ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same 
purchasing power as $22.41 would today. [Pew Research study cited in 

Whether the term "working class" applies to statistical income groupings 
as such is intensely problematic. This is of course one reason why 
Marxists look at the underlying dynamics of capitalist social relations 
rather simply than at income and prices for a definition. But the 
expression of those dynamics changes as perhaps the mass of profit 
requires ever more extreme maneuvers for its preservation and growth and 
automation makes inroads on the need for toiling masses tout court. The 
even more problematic traditional notion of "labor aristocracy" perhaps 
also needs an update in the light of developments since 1973 and the 
crash of 2008, especially as this applies to white people and their 
undeniably privileged status historically in the United States.

The point is that some workers have always identified their interests 
with those of their masters, never more so than among American "white 
people." It would be extremely surprising if significant numbers such 
people did not fall into line behind the neoliberal othodoxy put forward 
behind the flimsy "populist" mask of a Trump or a G.W. Bush, as many did 
behind Nixon in the heyday of the reactionary "patriotic" labor unions.

In view of this, indeed, the surprising thing may be how hard it is to 
put one's finger on "working class" support for Trump, not that 
statistics can be squinted at in order to conjure this up. This could be 
construed as a hopeful sign.

Nevertheless, given the changing nature of work through automation and 
the success of the so-called one percent in the U.S. in exporting 
manufacturing, if not the high consumption on which profit largely 
depends, it seems clear that the definition of "working class" in the US 
at present needs a refresh. Until we have more clarity on this, the 
"white working class," like Casper the Ghost (if not so friendly), will 
keep on popping out from behind the furniture to surprise and confound us.

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