Malcolm Kyeyune on Identity Politics as a Response to Elite Over-Production
" Classes have class interests, and so the idea that you could have a political movement—the left—that was well and truly dominated by one class, yet still wholly committed to the class interests of another class, but also just too bumbling and out of touch to ever do a good job of looking out for the class it supposedly cares about is, to put it extremely mildly, a dubious idea. It is much more likely that a political movement dominated by one class will also be more or less entirely dedicated to pursuing the class interests of that class, while also being unable to take any strong action that goes against the interests of its dominant class.
To start: as the economies in western countries have shifted over the past decades, a new sort of class of people has sprung up and grown in social and political importance. In the united states, the most common name for this class is PMCs; the professional-managerial class. The name is less important than its function and political trajectory. To brutally simplify things for the sake of brevity, the notable feature of many PMCs as political actors is a blend of political liberalism and cultural progressivism, merged with a political project aimed at increasingly subsidizing their own reproduction as a class—ideally by means of state transfers. The state should forgive student debt. The state should dabble in reparations. The state should hire “ideas people” to write up reports and think pieces about reparations. The state should create new racial justice commissions, or just generally create more jobs that can employ people who, by dint of belonging to this class, feel that taking a job at Walmart means that capitalism has failed and it’s time for a Revolution. The most radical, put-upon and economically insecure parts of this class today naturally gravitate toward the left, because the left is—no matter what leftists delude themselves by saying—a fairly focused, competent and credible class project. When Jeremy Corbyn came out of nowhere and became Labour party leader, it was a real grassroots movement that brought him there; a grassroots movement of students and people who either have ambition to move up the ladder or a legitimate fear of looming proletarianization, of falling down the social and economic ladder and finding themselves among the proles.
The particular form of “pro-worker” rhetoric these members of the PMC use mostly boils down to a sort of charity. “Vote for us, and we will give you higher benefits and free broadband,” Labour recently tried to tell the recalcitrant workers of the British north. It didn’t work. This mode of charity is hardly selfless—it would be a free gift from these PMC activists given to their precious salt of the earth proletarians. And like all gifts it would be reliant on the goodwill and generosity of the gift giver. Its main function would also be to feather the ever growing number of nests for this class of comfortable, university-educated administrators. And when some leftists begin seriously debating why racists should be denied medical care from the NHS, one starts getting a sense of just how much hierarchical domination their future “worker’s paradise” promises to deliver to actual workers.
The point here is not a moral one. After Labour lost, one exasperated member and activist despaired over how blind the workers were, how easily fooled they were by tory propaganda. “Don’t they see how evil capitalism is? How brutal and unfair it is?” this activist wrote. “I have many friends with good grades who are stuck working at grocery stores, stocking shelves.” Anyone who pretends to be some sort of materialist cannot in good conscience make fun of sentiments like this; it is completely rational for someone in that position to think that the evils of capitalism are somehow laid bare for the world to see when their friends are forced to stock shelves like a common peon in order to pay the rent. That the other workers at the grocery store probably find this way of thinking completely ludicrous and arrogant is obviously besides the point. Politically speaking, the fury and energy that proletarianization engenders should never be underestimated, because it causes political explosions. Jeremy Corbyn successfully challenged the political cartel that had been running Labour on the back of such a political explosion.
We should not make fun of the activist who despairs at the state of the world when good, solid middle class people with solid grades can no longer achieve the upper middle class lifestyle they were promised. It is however a basic political truth that a worker’s movement consisting of people who are angry at the prospect social and economic demotion—in other words, people who are fighting against the cruel fate of having to become workers—cannot ever succeed. Promising free broadband, or unlimited Space Communism, or some other weird fantasy world where getting angry at having to work like an average person is acceptable because nobody has to work won’t really change that.
On top of this, the more this class of people who are now tethering on the edge of proletarianization grows, the more parasitical they will become, must become. If the destructive spirit of unfettered capitalism decides that it no longer needs a large middle class, the only actor with the power to save this historically obsolete class is the state. The state can do this in two ways: either by redirecting a greater share of its economic resources towards subsidizing this class, or by using its power to reduce the costs involved in this class reproducing itself. It is here that a class conflict is probably inevitable between workers and PMCs. This is what creates a situation where you can have a debate between Cenk Uygur on the “left” saying, “If we deport the illegal immigrants, who will work in the chicken plants?” and someone like Tucker Carlson on the “right,” replying “Maybe the chicken plants should pay a liveable wage, even if it makes chicken more expensive.”
It is important to note that the issue at stake between Cenk and Tucker in the above example has nothing to do with capitalism, or whether or not it should be abolished. It is very easy to imagine a system of capitalism with a hyper-exploited, miserable working class trimming the hedges of happily progressive and socially liberal professionals. It is also possible to imagine a system of capitalism where the workers’ earnings are a little greater and live more comfortable lives in general compared to the first example, but few in the middle class can afford to hire a nanny from Central America. The American left loves to lambast Tucker Carlson—and other similar figures on the right—as insincere or “rich grifters,” but the fact that they are rich actually makes them potentially less unreliable allies in the eyes of the working class, not more. Situations where alliances form between the King and the peasantry to fight the middle class or the nobility are a dime a dozen throughout history.
The interests of the professional-managerial class and the working class—and, to use a non-Marxist term here for a second, the internal proletariat of the West—are now diverging to the point where the differences can no longer be papered over. You cannot try to “do both.” You have to pick a class, and live with the fact that you’ve just made an enemy out of the other class.
The above is by necessity an extremely truncated description of the political situation we find ourselves in. The purpose of this essay is not to convince the good comrades in various Eurocommunist parties, subreddits, or ”progressive” NGOs to somehow return to the fold. No, the time has come to draw a political line in the sand.
The grand political divide that sundered the house of modern “socialism” boils down to the question of which class should have its interests taken care of in the first instance. It is all well and good to talk about “doing both,” or try to soothe workers by saying that once socialism wins, nobody will work, so they’ll all be taken care of then.
The left is bleeding working class support everywhere. The left is picking up support among the more affluent and well-to-do stratas everywhere. The left is merging with greens and liberal “progressives” everywhere. This is not incompetence, or cowardice. It is not personal, nor can it be fixed by the actions of individual persons; it is a vindication of historical materialism, and it is playing out right before our very eyes.
It is time for the “socialism” of the professional and managerial class and the socialism of the working class to part ways. The former is moribund and a historical dead-end. The latter, I believe, still has a case to be made for it. More importantly (and personal experience from outside the left bears this out) it still has an audience that is willing to listen to it.
In my native Sweden, this conflict is already playing out politically. The left keeps picking up affluent liberals (“You know, I used to hate socialists, but now with these scary populists around, I’ve realized some of you guys are all right!”), but is otherwise stagnant and filled with paranoia and malaise, like the left everywhere. But at the same time, there are more and more of us renegades every day—old comrades, new friends, racists and sexist and immoral chuds all—and we have decided to build a populist movement that does away with trying to serve two masters, that no longer tries to convince ordinary people that they need to listen to—or pay the salaries of—these puffed-up hall monitors that the left caters to today.
the moment you get kicked out of the left and are no longer subject to all its taboos and rules, you start to realize what a golden political opportunity we live right in the middle of. The populist right is actually fairly weak—far, far weaker than our old comrades would be comfortable admitting—and their growing grip on the working class is often a function of a lack of competition rather than any noteworthy competence on their own part. Once you do away with the ballast and the social and economic neuroses of grad students and managerial aspirants, working people are actually surprisingly receptive to our message. But then again, that very openness to a non-PMC populism from the left is why we—and they—must be dismissed as racists and idiots at every turn.
Workers aren’t stupid. They’re not evil. They haven’t been “tricked by the media.” They need no false shepherds to guide them, no well-paid moral commissars to teach them to not randomly slaughter their neighbors because of racism. They have abandoned the left parties because the left parties have abandoned them, not “culturally” as some proponents of identity politics would like you to think, but materially. They know their own class interests, and they know that the left is inimical to those interests." (https://www.thebellows.org/on-strasserism-and-the-decay-of-the-left/)