What the Left Should Know about Opening the Economy

By Louis Colombo (April 27, 2020)

I’ve seen too many posts implying that opening up the economy/getting back to work is simply an effort to boost the profits of the rich. Invariably, these posts come from folks on “the left.”

I won’t debate the truth in that claim, but if this is all that gets posted, seen, shared, communicated, then no wonder that many folks who don’t have the relative “luxury” of working from home, who are weighing the differences between food, housing, medicine, etc, get turned off. For many people, the need/desire to get back to work is about survival, and probably on another level, about self respect. We ignore this at our own peril.

Certainly, there are important questions that we should be asking about what is and should be normal, and I know many people, also on the “left” who are asking those questions and really doing the work.

Let’s not obscure that and push people to the right with a meme or post that’s too glib by half.

No Race or Gender Justice Without Class Politics

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (December 18, 2018)

Race IS a deformation of class. As gender IS a deformation of class. So if you keep class politics, but don’t go after race politics, you’ve ignored all of the ways in which class politics comes in as race politics. If you go after gender and don’t go after class, you’ll have created two different sets of “women”: aspiring/potential CEOs and untouchables.

Racial and Gender justice is late stage, metastasized class injustice; but just addressing it as class politics is like addressing liver cancer and dealing with liver cancer, when you know full well that it has metastasized to the lung and pancreas.

This is all because you have to understand, class is largely a matter of where you fit and how you are treated in the political economy and production chain. How do Black people fit in the political economy and production chain? Well, we started out as chattel slaves, how do you think? So racial justice also means justice for people doing the work the United States made Black people to do. Same with gender justice.

Now this part is very important:
Whiteness is a class statement about being exempt from a certain kind of work, or being exempt from a certain kind of work under certain working conditions.

Whiteness is the expectation to be treated a certain kind of way in your activities. And these expectations are gendered.

So when you talk to Black people who don’t have a labor politics, it means that they don’t care if Black people are doing the kind of work, under the kind of conditions, that made Black people Black, ever get justice. Those Black people are simply want a set of Black people to be treated as if they were White. These are House Negroes.

When you talk to feminists who don’t think about working class women– and there are A LOT OF THEM– and they aren’t out there arguing for nannies to be unionized, that’s a problem.


The Price of Upward Mobility

By Mark Naison (February 8, 2018)

The people I grew up among in Crown Heights Brooklyn, second generation Italian Americans and Jews, were just getting a little breathing space in 1950’s America after being beaten down most of their lives by poverty and discrimination. Many were convinced that the country would never really accept or respect people like them, but they had hopes that their children would have an easier time. I observed their rage, their mistrust and their hopes as i surveyed my future, knowing that because of sports and academics, I would be one of the few kids in the neighborhood selected for training in one of those great centers of elite socialization, Ivy League colleges. What would I do when I got there? Would I run as far and fast away from the people I grew up among as possible? Would i do whatever was necessary to become rich, famous or successful, even if it violated everything I learned in my home and on the streets?

One part of me wanted desperately to be accepted in the new world I was entering and become like the people running the show, wanted to dress like them, talk like them, eat like them, and become comfortable around them. But another part, which emerged very quickly when I got to Columbia, was deeply offended by their arrogance and willingness to sacrifice people who made them uncomfortable, be they poor, be they black, be they uneducated, and push them as far away as possible.

So I never wholeheartedly embraced the elite socialization I was exposed to. I pursued success, but not at all costs. I rebelled, first a little, then a lot. At a time when many other people were rebelling.

But i don’t want to act like I am too proud of myself. These institutions still do a great job of taking people like me and cleaning them up, making them mirror images of the people who looked down on the people they grew up among. Rebels are far and few between. The machine keeps grinding on, taking the children of the working class, and the poor, and turning them into protectors of the status quo.


Does Everyday Feminism Actually Reinforce the Status Quo Against Working Class Women and People of Color?

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (January 22, 2018)

What if a subset of women composed the second biggest obstacle to gender justice in issues like affordable childcare, eldercare, fair wages and Union empowerment for women who work lower prestige jobs, etc. What if this subset of women blamed poor and working class women for being poor and working class as a way of validating their excesses or aspirations to excess?

What if the school to prison pipeline had as much to do with the elementary school teacher than it does with the cop?

What if Betsy DeVos isn’t an anomaly? How would you know? What if the second biggest obstacle for getting justice for poor and working class women, especially women of color, is middle and aspiring middle and upper class women, especially white women? How would we know? What are the means of power and communication for poor and working class people to understand and appreciate this message? Who would say? Judy Woodruff isn’t going to admit this on the News Hour? Terri Gross isn’t going to say it on NPR? If this were true, would Kamala or Kirsten Gillibrand admit it? Where else would you get this information that your “sisters” are a significant part of the problem? Are any of the beautiful people on the news going to tell you?

And what if the primary strategy to deflect responsibility and maintain and profit from the status quo was to blame poor and working class men? Blame their crassness? What if this false sisterhood of all women is the real counter-revolutionary strategy? What if everyday feminism, a discourse that is set from the elite even if it strategically gestures towards the bottom, actively reinforces the status quo against poor and working class women and men of color? What if it took steam as backlash against black men, that is, former property, gaining political power?

White politicos are very quick to say that we should ignore race and focus on class, and that race is just a strategy to divide oppressed people and pit them against each other. What if a false solidarity between middle and aspiring upper class women, on one hand, and poor women and working class women, on the other, is the real strategy to counter-revolutionary politics? A strategy set to divide poor and working class men from poor and working class women, and thereby neuter the justice claims of anyone who isn’t aspiring to be fancy?

What would it look like? How would you know?

By the way, if you look at the math, if you are serious about a Poor People’s Campaign, white women need to be seriously vetted. We need the unity of poor and working class women



Lessons from Trump: Great Wealth in Office is Inherently Corrupt

By Chris Lowe (May 17, 2017)

We watch in awe and dismay Donald Trump’s amazing performance art piece Drunken Juggler President. We prepare to duck and dodge when the next plate in the plate spinning part caroms off toward us, and to groan: Noooo, don’t drop the globe!

The details are endlessly fascinating, in that recurring monster movie dream time nausea way.

But occasionally it is worth stepping back to reflect past the details of the spectacle on larger elements of U.S. politics that his whirling strobe lights may expose.

Today’s theme: Billionaire presidents increase the problem of corruption, contrary to the idea that they are immune to it.

Trump, like Michael Bloomberg and Ross Perot before him, ran on the beguiling proposition that he was too rich to be bought.

Superficially it seems to make sense. Ordinary politicians occupy a scale where running for office costs a lot more money than anyone who is not quite rich can afford, in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Hence the need for constant fund raising. Yet that scale is also small compared to the revenues and profits of large national and multinational corporations. Donations that secure lobbyist access, whether directly to candidates and office holders, or indirectly through industry groups and political committees of various sorts, are a relatively small cost of doing business.

The asymmetry is striking when you think about it.

It becomes tempting to think that a rich candidate can escape the rounds of fund raising, lobbyist access, revolving door staff appointments, networking, and influence peddling.

Trump, however, has taught us that this is an illusion. It turns out that when you have wealth on the grand scale, on the scale with global reach, you have inescapable conflicts of interest in national office.

The ordinary politician may be compelled to trade access for donations. May learn to make his or her way through trading favors, in time honored ways with new expressions, as the political economy grows and develops. May be aware that going too far may lead to cascades of money on that middle scale redounding to the benefit of a primary opponent.

But the ordinary politician retains some control over his or her choice of how to respond to the access and influence.

The politician of super wealth, on the other hand, faces choices that directly influence the prospects of his or her companies and holdings.

Great wealth out of office may buy influence, and may do so corruptly. Great wealth in office is inherently and inescapably corrupt.

In the US, There Needs to Be a Place to Warehouse All the Leftover Pain

By Teka Lark (April 25, 2017)

“In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.”

What I have noticed is that I see a mimicking of this control of mobility among the middle class to the working and middle class communities color.

When I was in Morningside Park (a Black community in Inglewood) and I talked about bikelanes and coffee shops, not only were the status quo upset because that wasn’t my lane, but neighboring less diverse communities were upset. The reason being was that my community was supposed to be the dumping ground of all society’s ills. My community was supposed to be the mammy for everyone else’s community.

It almost seemed as if they thought if my community got a bikelane or Trader Joe’s that would disturb the order and prevent their community from getting a bikelane and a Trader Joe’s.

Like how dare a Black person discuss anything beyond cops, God and racism in a very literal fashion.

Mobility and progress seems to be only allowed if it’s granted from the top down or rather from the dominant culture down.

It seems to me that the way the United States is set up in a way that “middle class” (white people) can’t exist without the slum next door, that there needs to be a place to warehouse all the left over pain.

A place to show “middle class” people what will happen to them if they get out a line.


The March Downward Did Not Begin With Trump

By Teka Lark (November 10, 2016)

The march downward did not begin with Trump. It began with the neoliberals forgetting about the people and their roots.

The Democrats abandoned Asian-American, African-Americans, Latinos and the white working classes and instead focused on just the most privileged of the left. They had no message. The only message they had was vote for us, because Trump is scary. They didn’t think the public was worth a message.

The neoliberals still don’t think the rest of us are worth a message. They still think the only bargaining chip the working class has is their lives.

No, the working class does not just have their lives as a bargaining chip they also have the rest of the US lives as a bargaining chip.

The most economically oppressed in this country have already died. Their dreams have died. Their dreams died with NAFTA. Their dreams died with the War Against Drugs. Their dreams died when all the factories shut down. Their dreams died when Citibank repossed their homes. Their dreams died when four year public colleges went from free to $20,000 a year.

Upper middle class fears are already reality for the working classes of the US. The rest of the US are already doing kickstarters for dental work and living in their cars.

The US many fear that I have seen described in social media feeds is here for many people and they have nothing left to fear.

We must discuss class.

Across racial lines the upper middle class thought they knew best. They thought they could dictate the message. They lined up behind a neoliberal message. They lined up to be the tools of corporate capitalism. They lined up behind gentrification. They lined up behind socially liberal, but fiscally conservative policies. They lined up behind “progress.”

So is this the process the neoliberals were hoping for?

Are Yoga Pants a Symbol of Class Warfare?


By Joseph Orosco

I was walking to class today–an abnormally warm, sunny day for Oregon in October–and I was struck that almost every student I passed looked like they were dressed for going the gym.  The fashion on campus these days seems to be some version of yoga pants/leggings and tank tops for women, and tank top-athletic shorts for men. Continue reading “Are Yoga Pants a Symbol of Class Warfare?”