In his latest piece, Paul Craig Roberts poses and answers his rhetorical question: What became of the left? His answer is that “the European and American left, which traditionally stood for the working class and peace (bread and peace) no longer exists.”
Not a terrible answer since he defined the Left. But the Left does exist. The Left has just been extremely marginalized, and it has been rebranded elsewhere, a rebranding to which Roberts is somewhat gullible.
The cause championed by those who pretend to be the “left” of today is identity politics. The “left” no longer champions the working class, which the “left” dismisses as “Trump deplorables,” consisting of “racist, misogynist, homophobic, gun nuts.”
Roberts is quoting Hillary Clinton who he (quotation marks aside) fallaciously calls “the ‘left.’” Clinton, who is definitely not of the Left, is the person who denounced Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” – at least half of his supporters.
Roberts notes that this “Left” is a “pretend Left,” so why not just stick with the honest designation of pretend Left? Roberts’ thesis is: there is no Left, but there is a “pretend ‘left.’” That pretend Left is, in fact, the Right.
Yet Roberts’ definition of the Left is grossly inadequate. It is Roberts creating a strawman. The Left does not boil down to one single attribute: the working class. To assert this is to fail to comprehend what the Left is about, and it reveals a lack of understanding of the political continuum.
Of course, the working class is an essential element of the Left. However, the working class is comprised of men, women, tall people, short people, heavy people, thin people, healthy people, less healthy people, Blacks, Whites, Asians, Indigenous peoples, heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, … the cornucopia of humanity.
Surely, Roberts must be aware of the preeminent war strategy: divide-and-conquer. If the working class divides into small units, it looses its strength in numbers and is more easily oppressed by the capitalist class, assisted by its coordinator class, and those otherwise bought off.
Consequently, all segments of the working class must care for, stand up for, and support each other. It is through mass solidarity that the working class has power to effect change. A general strike is far more force than a strike by the male kitchen staff of one downtown restaurant.
So, yes, Roberts needs to comprehend that “the ‘left’ champions alleged victimized and marginalized groups—blacks, homosexuals, women and the transgendered. Tranny bathrooms” etc. because the Left is about solidarity. Also, what does Roberts mean by “alleged victimized and marginalized groups” [emphasis added]? For someone who so often writes of police brutality, it is strange that Roberts writes of “alleged” victims.
Why the insouciance? Why is it so difficult for Roberts to, if not embrace then, accept diversity, to care for all peoples despite their differences?
We are all workers or would-be workers — 99% of us. The solidarity of all workers is a sine qua non to resist capitalism’s divide-and-conquer.
Racism and victimization are the explanations of everything, all of history, all institutions, even the US Constitution. This program of the left cuts the left off from the working class, who have been abandoned by both political parties, and has terminated the left’s connection to the people.
The Left is the people. The Left is all people regardless of skin pigmentation, gender, etc. The Left is a people divided, but it is tactics like those expressed by Roberts that split the Left. Roberts blames the Left for its supposed demise. But the Left did not seek to bring about its purported downfall.
So who is to blame?
The failure to achieve and maintain solidarity belongs to some extent to those people on the Left. But it is the Right (the capitalists, corporations, board of directors, stock holders, and the organs of society controlled by the Right: government, military, police, justice system, education, media, etc.) that seek to divide and keep divided the masses, so that the 1%-ers can continue their wealth and power accumulation unabated.
The Left is arrayed against the wealth of society (concentrated in the 1%), those who control access to jobs, control information, those who promote fear, those who control and wield violence. The Left, despite its numerical advantage, is up against a seeming juggernaut.
Roberts recognizes at some level the greed of the Right and the importance of solidarity for the Left. He writes,
The collapse of the left as an effective and real political force followed the Soviet collapse. …
The Soviet collapse caused communist China and socialist India to change their economic policy and to open their economies to foreign capital. With no rival, capitalism no longer had to restrain itself and allow widespread access to the growth of income and wealth. Capitalists began collecting it all for themselves. Many studies have concluded that the productivity gains which formerly went mainly to the work force are now monopolized by the mega-rich.
Then Roberts argues for splittism: them vs us.
Instead of responding to Trump’s support of the working class and his actions in their behalf during the first week of his presidency—Trump’s termination of TPP and his demand to auto manufacturers to bring manufacturing back to America—the “left” has rallied around a victim group—illegal immigrants. The “left” even elevates non-US citizens above the US working class.
Trump was elected by the working class. If the left is defined historically as the champion of the working class, then Donald Trump is their champion and the “left” is their enemy.
The logic of what Roberts seems to be arguing is that since Trump, according to Roberts, is for the worker, then all Trump’s policies must be supported or at least be unopposed.
The Democrats are a no-go zone for Roberts who finds, “The Democratic Party died during the Clinton regime when Clinton allied with the Democratic Leadership Council…”
Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs realized long ago that the US political duopoly were of same cloth: “The Republican and Democratic parties are alike capitalist parties — differing only in being committed to different sets of capitalist interests — they have the same principles under varying colors, are equally corrupt and are one in their subservience to capital and their hostility to labor.”
While recognizing the overwhelming forces against workers, Roberts touts Trump as an ally of the worker. Thus he asks, “Who is going to help Trump help the working class?”
What Roberts fails to clearly see in Trump is that he is also a splitter. He would split workers along ethnic origins and nationality. The president speciously pursues what he calls an “America first” policy.
Debs rejected such patriotic blinders: “I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.”
The Left and the Right
Debs was crystal clear on what the Left was, and it was not workers solely concerned about the conditions of workers. Said the socialist, “The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough.”
It ought to be remembered that, despite all his good words today in support of workers, Roberts was part of the Ronald Reagan regime that devastated workers when it fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Reagan entrenched the freedom for capitalists to “break unions, strip them of the right to strike, redistribute wealth upward, and create massive economic insecurity.”
The working class have never recovered from this crushing blow.