[lbo-talk] Condescension (Was Re: labor bitchiness)

Miles Jackson cqmv at pdx.edu
Mon May 28 11:16:10 PDT 2007

Jim Straub wrote:
> A week ago I admitted I thought much of the left lives in fantasy-land with
> regard to their relevance. Doug replied, if leftists are on the moon, what
> planet does the US working class live on?--- the one that overwhelmingly
> votes for one of two political parties which we see as both being hostile to
> their interests, the one that is engaged in far more fratricidal conflict
> within itself than in offensive battle against their masters, etc. I
> attempted to mock my workerist tendencies by saying workers in the US live
> in the gritty real world, where its better to fight the terrorists over
> there than here, and the rapture is coming.

If you're saying that's a gross misrepresentation of the working class, then I agree with you. I couldn't tell you were making fun of yourself.

> I agree, about a bedrock third of workers in the US hold such far-right
> views, and do not deviate from them. I would also argue that many more
> flirt with these views in their political loyalties; this is why Bush is in
> power, and the Dems (another capitalist imperialist party) are the only
> opposition. I think its a significant fact that between a third and a
> majority of the population is on the right, and in both my union work and
> political strategy in general I believe that 'moving' folks out of the right
> is as or more important than mobilizing the left's existing base (which is
> miniscule--- if 'only' a third of workers hold far-right views, how many
> adhere to your own politics, Miles? 4, 5%?). I would not at all discount
> the hugely important fact that many workers, mostly people of color, oppose
> the far-right and Bush very ardently, by and large if not on all issues.

I still think you're exaggerating the conservatism of the working class.

Check out some Pew and Gallup poll data: the working class is solidly democratic, they uphold basic leftist values (e.g., "the government should help more needy people, even if government debt increases"), they strongly support unions, and an overwhelming percentage oppose the war in Iraq.

> As a matter of fact Miles, I get out quite a bit. I've been a working in a
> variety of service sector jobs since I was fifteen, and in the past couple
> years have worked for unions helping workers organize, during which time I
> do literally nothing except drive from one workers house to another, twelve
> hours a day, six or seven days a week, to talk to them about their job,
> their views, and their fight. Doing this in Columbus, Youngstown,
> Cincinnati, southside Chicago, Defiance OH, Las Vegas, Henderson, and Elko
> NV, I've worked in urban, rural, exurban, and inner-right suburban areas,
> with workers of all skill and income levels from impoverished home health
> aides to frankly wealthy registered nurses. The assertion that my views of
> workers are founded on minstrelsy is baseless and malevolent and I take
> offense at it.

I apologize for the offense; let me see if I can put my point more graciously. I strongly support and admire your union work. However, by targeting the groups you do, you're exposed to a biased sample of the working class that does not accurately represent all working people. Sure, people work in Elko, but it's just a demographic fact that the working class is mostly represented by people who live in large urban areas. All I'm saying is that the working class is more hip to the brutalities of capitalism than you give them credit for.


>>> If we're going back to Jim's weird stereotype of the working class as
>>>a block of far right Christian fundamentalists who all support the war
>>>in Iraq, sure, I will mercilessly skewer that view, because it's so
>>>obviously contradicted by data.
>>What the...? You're talking about Jim Straub, right? When has he
>>said anything like that?
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