The emptiness of liberal and progressive discourse in the US

Emptywheel at FDL continues the discussion triggered by Freddie DeBoer’s “the blindspot,” which is about the lameness and complicity of the liberal blogosphere, and the lack of a genuine left here in the States.

There’s a thriving left in Britain that has an accompanying blogosphere. A quick glance at Socialist Unity or Lenin’s Tomb will confirm this. One big difference is such blogs don’t much care what the powers-that-be think of them nor do they want to be invited to the pressers or be on the right mailing lists and have inside access to political events. If you want to be an insider, then you must play by the insider’s rules. That means don’t rock the boat or criticize beyond certain parameters else your inside access gets lifted. This has an inherently self-muzzling effect. Of course much of the liberal blogosphere here has no structural criticism of the US or of capitalism itself. Thus they’re mostly docile as far as the elites are concerned.

What hardly ever gets discussed in the US left blogosphere, and what the Brit blogs assume as a basic premise, is that there are classes in society and the interests of the elite class are opposed and contradictory to those of the rest of us. Emptywheel touches on this, but all of us on the left in the US needs to focus on this much more. Yes, there is class war in the US, and the elites started it.

Liberals are allergic to mentioning class war because it’s a socialist idea. Eek, can’t be saying that, besides it would almost certainly get you tossed off White House presser lists. Instead, let’s focus of how evil, wicked, mean, and nasty establishment Republicans are, and ignore the simple fact that their counterpart Democrats support and bolster the power of the elites just as much.

Which brings us full circle, I think. DeBoer suggests we need greater ideological diversity in the blogosphere, and he’s right. But what we need just as badly is some way to articulate and mobilize the needs of the working class before our failure to govern (which the narrowness of our discourse fosters) ends up in food riots.

With the end of the Cold War, the US has had the luxury, for now, of completely ignoring the ideological left because the threats to the country–as the governing class sees them–have everything to do with the market and nothing to do with workers. But ultimately, the combination of failed governance and the market will lead right back to the workers.


  • Liberals are allergic to mentioning class war because it’s a socialist idea.

    We don’t discuss class war here because Americans do not share the obsession with class stratification like Europe. Most people self-identify more with the rich than they do elsewhere, because we believe it could happen to us — against all evidence to the contrary.

    • I agree. In Europe and UK those who want to move up are sometimes called traitors to their class, something which seems insane in the US.

      But we have the opposite problem. Class is seldom discussed. However growing inequalities here, combined with a government all too happy to send the elites more billions, is forcing awareness of class.

      Without that fundamental insight, the US left is mostly drifting, trying to figure out what’s wrong and not getting an answer.

  • gmknobl

    I have no problems talking class. I’m a long time liberal from birth, from Jesus’ teachings taught to me in church and by education.

    And yet I am told in a newspaper that because I’m an employee of the Commonwealth of Virginia I have had a “free ride” and can no longer expect to not pay a dime for my retirement. Aside from the lie that I don’t pay a dime for that, here’s my response to that AND to anyone who thinks I, as a liberal am NOT conscious of class in the U.S. which has, over the course of my lifetime gone from not so much an issue to THE issue confronting us now:

    It’s time to end the RICH’S FREE RIDE! It’s time to end LARGE CORPORATION’S FREE RIDE! Tax them like there’s no tomorrow. Tax them half their income or more! No more of this not even reaching 15% tax, especially when I pay more. Even if I paid that little, it’s a drop in the bucket to what these guys can afford and still support their entire next generation until they die without having problems buying groceries.

    There has been deliberate class warfare in this country since the Southern Strategy went into force. Haven’t you noticed?

    You want a good society that provides for all and provides services we all need? Tax people according to our means. Go back to the levels of the 1950’s or ’60s tax code. And don’t ever believe the lie that a company will pull out of the U.S. because it costs too much to work here. Companies need our money and will be forced to do business in the U.S. regardless, at least if the federal government gets liberal and forces them not to out-source. But that’s another subject…

    So, is that enough class warfare for you?

    • Thank you!

      A big problem on taxes is the tax code has loopholes that allow assets to be sent offshore where taxes are less.

      Another big problem is that indeed, Republicans do play the class card (as in the citified elitists) but Democrats are basically oblivious to it. They don’t understand how condescending they often sound to people in the heartland. Republicans don’t make that mistake.

  • Without a class based ideology and knowing that the interests of the two are incompatible, you will come up with the same old answers, ie; a better leader should do the trick. The present system functions mainly to see to the interests of the elite, surely this is becoming more obvious than ever and surely it isn’t beyond the human imagination to create an alternative, one that functions mainly in the interest of the workers. Anybody that claims to be of the left and denies the class structure of this type of society is obviously in the wrong boat, they are simply establishment reformers. What they are seeking is that non existent beast, compassionate capitalism. However, all of this is pointless unless there is a mass movement that grasps the class structure of society and aims to change it. The alternative society can be built in the shell of the old by short circuiting the system at community level undermining the need for its apparatus.

  • DJ

    If we truly looked at the class structure of the economy, we would find that the vast majority of Americans are royalty. Our median income is more than 50 times the world median income. We burn more energy per capita than any other major country, five times the world average, and contribute accordingly to the world environmental crisis. We see it as a right to have two cars in the driveway of our 4,000 square foot home with all the appropriate electronics. And our military stalks the world protecting our supplies of artificially cheap petroleum to make it all possible. Poverty here means the government helps you pay for your telephone, while most people in the world don’t even have access to a telephone.

    And we maintain this obscenely decadent lisestyle by exploiting the working poor across the world.

    “Oh, no, I would never do that!! It’s the big, bad, multinational corporations!” But if you shop at Wal-Mart, have a television in your home, own a shoe or article of clothing made outside the U.S. or Europe, drive a vehicle that gets less than 70 mpg, or hold large-cap stocks in your IRA, you are complicit. No, I’m not an exception– I’ve made progress, but I can’t get off the back of the poor. It’s just too easy to live in excess.

    No wonder we don’t like to talk about class: If we’re looking for the enemy of the world’s working class, we are it. Sure, we have problems. But compared to the billions who won’t get enough to eat today because they don’t earn enough to pay for the rising cost of food, we really don’t.

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