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



Hymn to Working Class New York


Thoughts on 9/11 that were written right after Hurricane Sandy:

By Mark Naison (September 11, 2015)

As we struggle through the aftermath of the worst storm in New York’s history, my thoughts turn to the first responders- firefighters, police officers, EMS workers- and the role they played in the last great tragedy to strike New York, the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Continue reading “Hymn to Working Class New York”