Class warfare: what goes around comes around

As if on cue, spokespeople of the Republican Party are excoriating everyone from the president to the occupiers of cities around the country for fanning the flames of “class warfare.” It has no place, these Republicans say, in our political culture.

Really? This from the party that for the past 30 years has been all about class warfare.

What was the destruction of PATCO, if not class warfare?

What was the Volcker/Reagan engineered recession of the early 1980s, if not class warfare?

What the “Contract for (against) America” authored by Newt Gingrich, if not class warfare?

What was George W. Bush’s mammoth tax break for the top 1 percent, if not class warfare?

What was the Republicans’ relentless chopping away at our social safety net, if not class warfare?

And if you think the current batch of Republicans, including its presidential aspirants, is any different, you must have been asleep for the past three years. They live, breathe, and practice class (and racialized) warfare. In fact, in some ways, they are worse than the Reaganites of yesteryear!

If they have their way, we can forget about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, voting rights, civil rights, women’s rights, Roe v. Wade, collective bargaining rights, same sex marriage and so forth.

As one commentator said, “They want to roll back the 20th century.”

But it ain’t gonna happen.

Indeed, this moment is defined by a marked upswing, if not a qualitative turn, for our side – the people’s side – of the class struggle. The most dramatic expression of this is the occupation of Wall Street. It is the newest wrinkle in a broadening, quickening, and to a degree spontaneous upsurge against the 1 percent that don’t create, but control the wealth.

Far more than weekend football, this phenomenon is capturing the imagination of tens of millions who are fed up with Wall Street’s greed and worried sick about their own diminishing economic prospects.

What is interesting is that this movement is spreading to other cities – several dozen are now “occupied.”  It is also winning the support and solidarity of labor.

But this isn’t surprising. After all, the “occupy” and labor movements are of similar, if not identical, minds as far as the causes and solutions to the economic crisis: it’s the fat cats intent on holding on to their unseemly riches.

If there is any divergence in their views it may lie in the attitude toward defeating the right in the 2012 elections.

Labor sees the defeat of the Republican Party – the party of right-wing extremism – as the critical terrain on which the class struggle will be fought out. Meanwhile many of the occupiers are suspicious of the political process.

This difference of opinion, however, is small compared to what unites them at this moment – a readiness to take action against the narrow circle of finance capitalists that first caused and then shamelessly benefited from the economic crisis.

For Republicans, the nationwide occupations are distressing to say the least. It explains why they never miss an opportunity to tell the American people that the occupations are “un-American,” designed to incite “American against American,” and the work of a “mob.” But their refrain is falling on increasingly deaf ears.

No longer can they have it both ways: insisting on class peace while waging class warfare. The jig is up. The 99 percent are at the gates. What goes around comes around.

Photo: ItzaFineDay // CC 2.0


Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.