[Audio] Class War vs. Culture War | NYC Marxist School 2022

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Welcome to Socialist Revolution podcast. Today’s episode gives a Marxist analysis of the so-called “culture war,” and provides a class-struggle perspective for the fight to end oppression.

[Theme Music]

How is it possible that in the 21st century, the wealthiest country in the world cannot guarantee the right to abortion? Why is this racist, transphobic right-wing frenzy being whipped up? What is the meaning of the “culture war,” and is there a way to cut across this reactionary polarization in society? I’m Laura, I’m an editor at Socialist Revolution magazine, and in this talk from the 2022 New York Marxist School, I provide a perspective for how the working class can fight against these right-wing attacks and struggle collectively to end all forms of oppression.


Divisions in US society

“We’re headed to a civil war.” I don’t know that this is true, but this is what you’re hearing in the news, podcasts, articles, and it’s confirmed by polls that show that the majority of the American population believes that in the next few years there will be a civil war. There’s talk that the country is “hopelessly divided,” that the US “is more polarized than ever.” It’s confirmed by other polls that show that 90% of Americans say they see “strong or very strong conflicts between supporters of different political parties,” compared to an average of 50% in other wealthy, industrialized countries around the world.

Biden himself gave a speech last month where he said: “Too much of what is happening today in our country is not normal,” and went on to warn Americans of the threat to Democracy coming from MAGA Republicans. The response from Republicans didn’t wait, especially on Twitter. Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee said that “Joe Biden is the divider in chief and the Democratic Party is a party of divisiveness, disgust, and hostility towards half the country.” Rick Scott, the Republican Senate campaign chief tweeted: “I hear this raving lunatic attacked half the country tonight because they don’t agree with his liberal agenda.”

This paints a very clear picture of a society that is split into two camps along partisan lines on cultural issues, on issues of “American identity” and “values.” A recent article in the LA Times said that: “Perhaps the most unrealistic of Biden’s campaign promises was his repeated suggestion that he could bridge the deep gulfs that divide American society. The U.S. is more split than ever.” What is the division? What is this supposed culture war?

The term “Culture War” originates in Otto von Bismarck’s “Kulturkampf” in 19th century Germany, in his taming of the influence of the Catholic Church in the state. But the modern common usage in the US was coined by sociologist James Davison Hunter in 1991 in his book Culture War is the Struggle to Define America. This is in line with Biden’s grand claim in his speech last month that this upcoming midterm election is a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

Culture war is defined as “a conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices.” In the context of the US, this is framed as a clash between old “conservative or traditionalist values” and their young “progressive or liberal counterparts.” So this view totally skips any class content, which as Marxists, we would argue that class is the main division in society.

It does this precisely at a time when class consciousness is higher than it’s been in recent memory in the US. At a time when class polarization is growing, there’s a huge increase in the wealth gap, especially since 2020 during the pandemic. The rate of exploitation is growing, inflation is eroding the living standard of workers. Over the last 20 years the share of people identifying as working class instead of “middle class” in the US has increased, especially among young people. The largest portion of the workforce are millennials and Gen Z, these are also generations that identify the most as working class. But the culture war skips over this and frames everything from the point of view of a cultural clash along many different fronts.

There are a million and one “fronts” in this “culture war.” Of course, the question of abortion rights is a huge issue. Also LGBTQ rights, and trans rights in particular. The question of racism, is America racist, what is the real history of racism in this country. The question of voting rights is also related to this, and the racist gerrymandering that is being carried out. The question of what can be taught in schools, “political correctness,” “cancel culture.” Xenophobia, immigration—you see the disgusting theater of Republican politicians in Texas filling up planes with immigrants to send them up to the Northeast to “make a statement” with their racist demagogy.

The question of gun violence and the right to own a weapon. The cultural divide between the rural population and the urban population, between the “college-educated coastal elite” against the “white working class,” blue-collar workers. Climate change and the clean energy transition versus coal-burning and polluting pick-up trucks. Of course, the pandemic, this question of mask mandates, vaccination skepticism that has emerged over the last period, etc.

The list could go on and on. This is not comprehensive. Really, it can be almost anything, the culture war is based on these “wedge issues” that are propped up by either of the two capitalist political parties (the Democrats and Republicans), that are framed from the point of view of supposedly irreconcilable “cultural values” and of the identity of different individuals and groups.

The right-wing frenzy and its effects

Of course this isn’t just talk or Tweets. There are all kinds of laws being introduced and passed in state after state. Over the past three academic years, legislators in 45 states proposed 283 laws to restrict what teachers can say about racism and American history; what they can say about sexuality and LGBTQ issues; to limit the rights of transgender students; to limit access to books and libraries; and explicitly to promote “patriotic” education—whatever that may be.

Some of the most famous bills include the “Don’t say gay bill” in Florida. The real name of the bill is “Stop the sexualization of Children Act,” which sounds even more ridiculous. There are another dozens states that are trying to introduce bills along the same lines.

These things can get pretty ridiculous. An assistant principal of a Mississippi elementary school was fired this year for reading a picture book to second graders. The book was titled “I Need a New Butt!” and it “jokingly describes the adventures of a child who searches for a new posterior.” I guess this went too far in the “sexualization of children” or something like that—but this teacher lost their job!

More seriously, this flurry of reactionary laws represents an onslaught against all kinds of civil and democratic rights: from reproductive rights to voting rights, from students’ right to learn about oppression and LGBTQ topics, to trans people’s right to even exist—this is undermining the gains won by the mass struggles of the past.

In 2018, 40 anti-LGBTQ laws were proposed around the country. That’s bad enough. But between January and March of this year, within just three months, legislators proposed 240 anti-LGBTQ laws restricting healthcare for transgender youth; excluding trans youth from athletics; restricting the rights of trans students at school more broadly; limiting the use of bathrooms; and beyond.

This has very dire consequences. 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the US. Three-quarters of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime. Half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, while 20%—one in five—attempted suicide. These are horrible conditions. The suicide rate among trans teens is six times higher than among teens in general.

The repeal of Roe v. Wade represents a dramatic turning point. Just like that, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people in half of the states across the country have lost or are very likely to lose their fundamental right over their bodies and to an abortion. 13 states have full bans on abortions; another 5 states have partial bans, for example after six weeks, when most women wouldn’t even know they’re pregnant. In another ten states, bans were proposed but they’re being battled in the courts, they’ve been temporarily blocked.

Banning abortion won’t mean that women won’t get abortion. In many cases it will mean that they have to do so through illegal, back channels that are less safe, or spend a lot more money to try to travel out of state. And they are going to be ostracized and punished for it. It is really unheard of that these are the conditions that millions of people are facing in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country on earth.

So, oppression is rampant, has very real, material implications, and will only increase on the basis of this right-wing onslaught. This raises a whole series of questions:

  • Why is this happening now? For example, why is it that in the 21st century the wealthiest capitalist country in the world cannot guarantee the right to abortion to its population?
  • Why is this right-wing frenzy being propped up?
  • Is there a way to end it? Is there a way to cut across this reactionary polarization in society?
  • Importantly, how can we successfully fight against these attacks, and how can we ultimately end all forms of discrimination and oppression forever?

What is driving the polarization? Materialism vs idealism

The liberals are absolutely hopeless in being able to understand this phenomenon.

Earlier this year, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled “America Is Falling Apart at the Seams” which observed that “Americans hostility toward one another seems to be growing,” “society is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down,” and that there is an increase of “all kinds of bad behavior, hostility, recklessness,” as well as a “rise in polarization, hatred, anger, fear.”

The author’s conclusion is the following:

What the hell is going on? The short answer: I don’t know. As a columnist, I’m supposed to have some answers. But I just don’t right now. I just know the situation is dire.

So he admits he doesn’t know what’s going on, but he couldn’t just shut up, so he keeps going in his article, saying that “we can round up the usual suspects”: social media, rotten politics. Donald Trump. “Some of our poisons must be sociological…” “and some of the poisons must be cultural…” “But there must also be some spiritual or moral problem at the core of this…”

In other words: the “culture war” is due to “cultural poisons.” “Society” is divided due to “sociological poisons.” The “moral disintegration” of America is due to “moral problems”— this explains absolutely nothing!

Like the culture war, this New York Times author sees ideas, morality, and values in the abstract as the driving force in history and society. That is a philosophically idealist view of the world. As Marxists, we are materialists, and we understand that ideas in the abstract are not the primary driving force in history. Marxism explains that, in the final analysis—not in a one-to-one mechanical direct way—but that ultimately consciousness is determined by material conditions.

Of course it’s true that Trump, with his inflammatory, ridiculous talk is only further contributing to polarization and chaos. It’s also true that the internet allows people to get exposure to ideas that they would not have otherwise come across, algorithms can create an echo-chamber etc. But for an idea to actually land, to take root, to convince someone of its correctness, it must have some kind of basis in their experience.

What is that experience? For decades, the living standards of the US working class have plummeted by practically every measure. Wages have stagnated since the 1970s and are now being consumed by inflation. Life expectancy has fallen by two years. Even before Covid, it declined for three years straight. 112 million people struggle to afford healthcare. Half of the American workforce doesn’t earn enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment. Well-paid manufacturing jobs have declined for 40 years. Especially between 2000–2010, one-third of manufacturing jobs were eliminated, destroying the livelihood of six million workers.

This is what the status quo represents for millions of workers. And the Democrats in particular were the party that presided over the aftermath of the 2008 crisis; so millions of workers see through the Democratic Party’s false “worker-friendly” image. These are the material factors that have created a deep-seated discontent, and an extreme resentment toward the status quo, the political establishments, and the ruling institutions as a whole. Not social media content or Trump’s racist demagogy in isolation.

Then we could ask the question: what do these issues—declining living standards, poverty, homelessness, etc.—have to do with abortion, or whether trans people are allowed to compete in sports?

Trumpism and the reasons for the culture war

The answer is nothing, if course. They are used as scapegoats. The demagogic right wing has taken advantage of the situation, and they’re appealing in a distorted and reactionary way to those who are fed up with the status quo, fomenting prejudice and bigotry to shore up their base of support. And they get away with it because there is no bold leadership from the left, no class-independent alternative to the Republicans or the Democrats.

It’s nothing new. This has been used throughout the history of capitalism and before—and particularly in the US—as a means to mobilize voters, divide and conquer, to pit different layers of the population against each other. In fact, even this shift to politically use issues of abortion, questions of sexuality, etc., is not new. After the civil rights movement, the racist political base of the Jim Crow South could no longer be openly mobilized around issues of racist segregation. So there was a search for other ways to rile up and mobilize voters.

The white evangelical voting bloc went from being practically nonexistent in the 1960s as a political force, to becoming the most important interest group for any Republican candidate in the 1980s. This was developed consciously and fomented by a section of the ruling class and its representatives, around issues of abortion rights, LGBT rights, etc.

So, in a general sense, Trumpism itself is not a new phenomenon as such—the weaponization of these “cultural” and “identity” issues to divide and rule, the xenophobia, racist demagogy scapegoating immigrants, and so on. But now, in the context of the worst decline in living standards in 200 years, it has intensified. And the most degenerate layer of the ruling class, such as Trump, are willing to exploit the worst instincts of the most backwards and reactionary layers in society to further their narrow interests—without any regard for how this impacts the credibility of the institutions of bourgeois rule.

So, for example, the racist trope that “immigrants take our jobs” gets taken to the extreme with conspiracies like blaming immigrants for the baby formula shortage! This was being repeated by Republican politicians in state after state. You could hear it from workers at the supermarket in rural America.

What if there was a working-class party that said that the reason there is a shortage of formula is because of the inefficiency and irrationality of capitalist production. That it’s because baby food is produced by a small handful of monopolies owned by billionaires who only care about profit and don’t care about your baby’s health or well-being. That if those monopolies can’t guarantee affordable access to quality food, they should instead be run under democratic workers’ control, based on a rational democratic plan of production to fulfill human needs rather than profits.

This kind of talk, if it were put forward by an independent mass working-class party, could cut across the reactionary bigotry. But what did the Democrats have to say in response? Biden met with “retailers and manufacturers … to discuss ways we can all work together to do more to help families access infant formula.” The great liberal politician Pete Buttigieg said: “Let’s be very clear. This is a capitalist country. The government does not make baby formula, nor should it.”

Hypocrisy of the Democrats and Republicans

So, I think that’s crystal clear. The Democrats are impotent because, like the Republicans, they represent the interests of private property and capitalism. And even though the Republicans are the rabid right wing of the culture war, and therefore they are more vocal about it, the Democrats are the other side of the coin. They are also playing the game. Both parties use these issues in a very cynical way.

Ironically, much of the Republican Party prior to the Reagan years tended to lean more pro-choice on the basis of a “libertarian” approach to civil liberties. Reagan, as Governor of California in 1967, signed an act which greatly expanded access to abortion! Later in his political career, he became the most prominent Republican to launch this offensive against abortion rights, shifting his position to appeal to his voter base.

Donald Trump himself was a Democrat longer than he was a Republican, and has given more money to Democrats than he has to Republicans. In 1999 he said that he is “very pro-choice.” He went from that to saying in 2016 that he is “totally pro-life” and that “women who have an abortion should face punishment.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Obama campaigned saying he would codify Roe into law (as did Biden). Not only did that not happen. He also made an executive order in favor of the Hyde Amendment, to ensure that federal funds couldn’t be used to provide abortions under Obamacare.

For his part, after the Roe v. Wade ruling, Biden said that the “justices are going too far,” and that a woman shouldn’t have “the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” His voting record is abysmal on this question. He voted “yes” for the Hyde Amendment; “yes” for the Hatch Amendment, which was basically an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, and five “no” votes to allow funding for federal employees’ abortions. As recently as 2003, he backed an abortion ban that included no exception for the health of the mother. He even has an anti-choice amendment named after him, the “Biden Amendment.”

The liberal media say it’s because he “had a change of heart” or “evolved with the times,” and that he sees things differently now… But it’s totally clear that that’s not the case, politicians in both parties flip-flop around these issues to rile up their voter base. Of course, Democrats like to present themselves as the party of social equality and advocating for marginalized groups. But, actually, much of their response to the frenzy has been to move to the right to try to regain votes from the Democratic Party.

To try to re-win the center ground and not “alienate” some of the right-wing voters, they’ve dropped much of the talk of defending trans rights in the recent period. When asked about it, Hillary Clinton said that “The most important thing is to win the next election,” “whatever does not help you win should not be a priority.” In other words, we don’t care about trans rights if it’s not going to pander to the voter base that we’re trying to target.

During the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, they made all kinds of fake promises to get the masses off the streets. Now they’ve become the party of “law and order,” and they’ve increased police budgets in pretty much every city they control. There are all kinds of other examples. Some Democrats backed anti-abortion legislation in 2019. Others that backed anti-trans bills last year. Nancy Pelosi backed a right-wing candidate this year for the Texas primaries who’s anti-abortion and anti-immigration, calling him a “valued member of our caucus.”

So these are the two sides of this reactionary so-called culture war, which is manufactured politically to rile up different sections of the population, divide and conquer the working class. It’s the fallout from the collapse of liberalism, after years of inequality. Liberals did not care about winning rights, it was achieved through struggle in the streets at a time when capitalism could actually provide some basic living standard for many.

Now, capitalism is in crisis. And when the liberals themselves have been in power, they have carried out the same anti-worker policies, while using “woke” language, preaching “liberal values,” “political correctness”, and all kinds of tokenism. So not only has the “status quo” has been discredited, but for a lot of people also these words and language, “liberal values,” “political correctness,” and other empty phraseology of the Democrats.

So, when the Democrats fight the culture war with Nancy Pelosi kneeling down wearing Kente cloth in response to the BLM movement, this tokenism empowers the right wing of the culture war, because it makes them look like a radical alternative to the hated status quo that the liberals prop up. In the words of DeSantis: “We’re not going to let this state descend into some type of woke dumpster fire”—because the Democrats are a dumpsterfire!

No trust in capitalist institutions

Millions of people are agreeing with the Marxists—which wasn’t the case in previous decades—that the Democrats are worthless. In fact, there is a survey that shows that 40% of adults said that they do not trust either Democrats or Republicans to handle the abortion issue.

This leads to the question, how do we fight oppression? How were the rights won in the past? Concessions were won as a byproduct of mass struggle. It was never a matter of voting for the lesser evil in the next election or begging politicians to legislate to our favor.

If anything, things like the repeal of Roe v. Wade should reveal the bankruptcy of all institutions of American Bourgeois democracy, a system that is fundamentally undemocratic. In fact, most Americans—somewhere between 60-70%—said they didn’t want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. According to some polls, 8 in 10 Americans back non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, including 65% of Republicans.

So, why should nine unelected, unaccountable judges grant or take away fundamental democratic rights of tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people, against the will of the majority? Why should our rights depend on the re-interpretation of the Constitution, a document from a couple hundred years ago which was drafted and voted on by a small minority of white male property owners as a compromise to slaveholders?

In fact, here’s the real legacy of American bourgeois institutions. On the basis of the Constitution and its interpretation, the Supreme Court spent more time legally defending slavery and sanctioning segregation and racism, than not. 150 years ago, they ruled that black people weren’t citizens and could never be considered as such under the Constitution, and that therefore slavery couldn’t be banned from US territories. In 1896 it said that “equal but separate accommodations” didn’t violate the 14th amendment, that racial segregation is constitutional, paving the way for the horrors of Jim Crow

When Biden says “this is so bad,” “this is not normal,” “this is not what America stands for,” “these are not American values”—what isn’t? Racism? Sexism? Polarization? Violence? Absolutely, the US is a country built on the bloody legacy of slavery and the genocide of the American Indian population, with exploitation, racism, sexism, and oppression built into its DNA.

So, the latest moves from the Supreme Court and capitalist politicians, more than anything, are lifting the facade and revealing the illegitimacy of the whole framework of American bourgeois democracy. When we say that oppression is systemic, we should be clear: the system today is capitalism, a system based on defense of private property, private ownership of the means of production, and the exploitation of the majority by a minority of ultra-rich capitalists.

Oppression and repressive institutions haven’t existed forever. They’re not “natural” to humanity. Despite what the ruling class would have us believe, the police, military, courts, laws, prisons, presidency, legislature, etc. are not natural, eternal, neutral institutions. They are tools used by the ruling class to keep the vast majority of the population in check. And as we’ve seen, these institutions rest not only on economic exploitation and full-on, but also on the special oppression of different layers of the population, and propping up ideological tools to maintain their rule.

The dead end of identity politics

So, as socialists, we must have no trust in the Democrats or in any of the institutions of the capitalist state. We want to turn this issue on its head, expose both parties for what they are, while patiently explaining that at the root of the suffering, senseless violence, and polarization in society there is a class war.

We raise the need in the struggle against opression to fight with class-struggle methods. These are the only methods that will result even in short-term improvements and reforms within capitalist limits, through the coordinated mobilization of the organized working class. Why? Because the working class is the class that produces everything in society, controls the levers of society, and can shut down production and force the hand of the capitalists by paralyzing their source of profits. This is the only way that we can win meaningful concessions.

There is no excuse why, in the face of all these attacks that are happening in the midst of a revival of the labor movement, all the major unions aren’t taking the lead, trying to build broad solidarity among all workers, calling to the streets. F.ex. they could call a general strike to defend the rights and dignity of all workers, to defend abortion rights, higher wages, union rights, etc.

Of course, as Marxists we don’t think that the working class is a monolith. We understand that especially in the US, it’s a very diverse, complicated, contradictory layer in society. And therefore we can’t deny that many workers are more backward, have racist prejudices, are sexist, and so on. But the culture war framing is designed to take this as the starting point, accentuate it, drive it to a fever pitch to foment those prejudices stronger and drive it to a fever pitch.

Now, in the media, among most of the left, in the universities, pretty much the only ideas that are being presented as an alternative against sexism, racism, to help fight oppression are ideas like identity politics, intersectionality, and other such postmodernist trends. The problem is that like the so-called “culture war,” these ideologies see the identity of groups, or individual identity, as the starting point of its analysis.

It frames society and oppression as the subjective experience of each individual or group within a web of intersecting oppression. Each individual is an oppressor and oppressed at the same time, with a focus on the individual as the primary perpetrator of oppression. So, these ideas emphasize precisely what “divides” the workers, placing them within different categories of identity. This atomizes the movement and leaves every group, or even every individual, to fight for their own rights, separate from the rest—or even opposed to other groups, in contradiction to other groups and their rights.

This only plays into the hands of the ruling class. It foments the same divisions that they lean on and prop up to disarm the movement. This is especially the case with concepts like “privilege politics.” This idea tells white people, men, cis people, etc. to look inside themselves and find their internal white, male, cis privilege as the source of racism and oppression. This cuts across the potential for class consciousness by presenting all white, male, cis people regardless of class, as the dominant group on top of a hierarchy of individuals who are oppressors and oppressed.

But also, this only feeds the right win. Let’s take an example. “Objector districts” are districts in the country where the majority of the population think the election was stolen and that Trump is the legitimate president. The median income in those districts is $36,000, compared to $71,000 for Democratic and $64,000 for non-objector Republican districts. Mortality rates in those districts are much higher, and much higher rates of “deaths of despair”—suicide, drug overdose, alcohol-related liver failure, etc.

A lot of these are in rust-belt areas, so they’re used to being exploited by the mining and coal industry that then hang them out to dry. But also by the pharmaceutical companies that then swooped in and consciously targeted these populations to make them addicted to opioids, leading to an epidemic of opioid-related deaths.

So, they’re “privileged”? Because they’re white, because they’re cis, or male…? You can see how this plays into the right wing. That takes it, packages it, and throws it back at them, using it precisely to twist it into racist sentiments, to intensify the bigotry. A lot of these districts are also districts that used to be white majority, and now there is more diversity so they feel “threatened” by this. All of this is propped up by the right wing, because of how identity politics, intersectionality, and “privilege politics” is the only alternative that is provided in the fight against oppression in the mainstream left circles, universities, etc.

What’s key to understand in all of this, is that no layer of the working class has any material interest in maintaining the oppression of any other layer. For example we can definitely say that the white ruling class and sections of the white petty bourgeoisie reap material benefits from racism because they exploit workers, and they exploit Black workers more by paying them lower wages—which they also use to foment divisions.

But, while some white workers may think they benefit from racism, on balance they do not. Even when they get better jobs and higher pay than Black workers—or male higher wages than women—it’s the boss that is exploiting both and super-exploiting one layer. And overall wages and conditions are driven down across the board due to the poison of racism. And this also stokes division which is bad for the class as a whole, that are consciously fomented.

Working-class unity in struggle would serve to raise the wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers, instead of what we have now where different sections of the working class are pitted against one another to fight over the scraps that the capitalists gives them.

Oppression under capitalism is a class question

We firmly hold that the working class can be united around a common program of class demands. Does that mean ignoring oppression? The answer is absolutely not! The struggle against oppression is part of the struggle against capitalism precisely because the socialist revolution cannot succeed unless the workers unite.

It’s essential that workers understand that it’s the capitalist system that is to blame for unemployment and cuts, and not immigrants. They need to understand that they need to struggle together against the oppression that millions face, if they want to fight for their own liberation. We must draw out the issues we have in common: we’re all exploited and oppressed by the system to varying degrees. The working-class movement must go back to the age-old slogan that “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

In fact, the starkest effects of oppression are rooted in capitalist property relations. Just look at the question of abortion. Obviously, rich women, bourgeois women will always find ways to access safe, high-quality abortion because they can pay for them, travel out of their state, take time off work if they work, etc., which is not the case for poor and working-class people.

But also, statistics show that the number one reason why people undergo abortion procedures is financial. That’s something you won’t really hear from liberals, and that is totally ignored by the culture-war debate and identity politics. Half of all women who got an abortion live below the poverty line. And this was also disproportionately Black, Latino, and other oppressed layers of the population. In Mississippi, for example, 74% of women who received an abortion in 2019 were Black, even though Black women make up just 42% of the child-bearing population in that state.

We know why this is. It’s almost impossible to raise a child in this country. Giving birth cost tens of thousands of dollars. And then after that? “Pro life” people only care about embryos, but not about actually providing a good quality of life after birth. The average cost of childcare is almost $15,000 per year. Actually these are pre-inflation period, so it might be higher now. Some 13 million children in America do not get enough food to eat.

So, attacks on reproductive rights not only harm those of us with uteruses, they harm the whole of society and the entire working class.

Look at the question of LGBTQ oppression. 30% of LGBTQ youth experienced food insecurity in the past month, including half of all Native and Indigenous LGBTQ youth. 22% of LGBT people in the US live in poverty, compared to 16% of cis and straight people. That shoots up to 29% for women and 31% for Black LGBTQ people.

Let’s look at the question of racism and how it has persisted into the 21st century. Of course, thanks to the powerful civil rights movement, segregationist laws were abolished. So, the legal forms of racism are mostly gone, but the social, material, economic component of that inequality, the question of property, was never uprooted. So systemic racism is hardwired into capitalism to this day.

For example, ending the racist housing and banking laws didn’t provide people with houses or savings. The gap in home ownership has remained unchanged since 1960. The wage differential between Black workers and their white counterparts has actually grown significantly since 2002, from a 10% to a 15% difference. The gap in average savings between Black and white families has also remained almost the same, with Black families having only one quarter of the amount of savings.

Studies found that segregation is worse today than it was 30 years ago. 81% of large metro areas were more segregated in 2019 than in 1990. Some of the most segregated metro areas are Chicago, Detroit, New York, Northern New Jersey, and Philly. These are consistently the poorest neighborhoods, the most neglected, the ones that lack access to quality housing, schools, employment, etc. 70% of Black people live in counties with really high levels of pollution that exceed federal standards, which of course leads to horrible health consequences.

This also connects to the question of gun violence. Of course there are mass shootings—some of them are motivated by racism as we saw in the Buffalo shooting. But the vast majority of gun-related deaths, and shootings and gun violence are crime related. So it is related to conditions of extreme poverty, poor quality of life, etc. So in the so-called culture war debate over “law and order,” the role of the police, and the right to own a gun, there’s a class angle. People would not need to resort to crime if they were provided with housing, food, education, a job, etc.

These are just some examples, the list could go on. With every single issue in the “culture war,” we can reframe it, and that’s what we need to do. We don’t need to take the debate as it’s presented in the media, by the capitalist politicians. We need to turn the table on the whole issue and frame it drawing out the Marxist, revolutionary class angles.

This bring back the words of Martin Luther King when he said that you can’t talk about solving the economic problems of Black people “without talking about billions of dollars.” “You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums.”

Fight oppression through mass revolutionary struggle!

So the demands that Marxists raise in the fight against oppression are class demands. We fight not just for full reproductive rights up to and including abortion, gender affirming care—but also for universal access to those services, free at the point of service, as part of a national, socialized health care system available to all. For parental leave with full pay for up to 2 years after birth or adoption. But also demands for affordable housing, with rent capped at 10% of income. For a minimum wage of $1,000 per week, with wages tied to inflation, and a shorter working week of 20 hours or less. For guaranteed free education, free, full-time, high-quality childcare and after-school programs, affordable public laundry services and subsidized quality food, etc.

These are the kinds of improvements that would provide the material foundations for the liberation of women, Black people, LGBT people, and the entire working class. These are socialist demands. They aren’t just the demands that will provide the material basis to end oppression, they are also the kinds of demands that could rally broad layers of the working class around a common program—if a large party or mass organization was putting them forward.

That’s the key question! Labor must break with the Democrats and the Republicans, expose them as anti-worker capitalist parties, and instead fight to build an independent, mass working-class party with a socialist program.

What’s tragic in this whole thing is that much of culture war also centers around scapegoating “cultural Marxism,” “socialism” as it’s framed by the right wing. But unfortunately, there isn’t yet a genuine Marxist force, we are not in the media answering their arguments. So “Marxism” is equated with the Democrats, liberalism, identity politics, and so forth.Insofar as there is any “socialist in congress,” they’re just providing left cover for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, socialism, communism are more popular than ever—especially among young people and some of the more oppressed layers. Unions are more popular than ever, they’re the only institution whose popularity increased a little bit whereas the popularity of all other institutions plummeted. If a lead were given, it would find an echo.

Again, we cannot deny that the US working class is divided right now. It’s a very culturally diverse, complex class, and because there is no visible alternative it is being divided in the way the political debate is framed. So we’re not seeing it’ll be easy, that we can just snap our fingers and we’re going to unite the class. But it’s precisely in the process of common struggle, and especially under the influence of mass forces and mass events, that workers can begin to realize our common interest and develop bonds of solidarity.

There is a very good example from the miners’ strike in Alabama, that is going on for over 500 days. Even the New York Times had to admit that “this requires a measure of solidarity that seems difficult to muster in a deeply divided society.” If they want to win the strike, they couldn’t say that just white people, or just women will strike. The entire workplace must be shut down through all workers going on strike.

The workers were a mix of Trump supporters, Biden voters; Black workers from Birmingham, white workers from rural towns; and they all worked together to win this. They were all united because they understand they are all being slighted by the media and by the Republicans. The party says they support the coal industry, so at first the workers vote Republican because they want the coal industry to thrive to keep their jobs—but they realized that they don’t support the coal workers, but the coal bosses! So they start to realize that the Republicans don’t have their interests at heart, and they realize that they’re all being slighted by their employer, the boss, who is stealing their wages.

There is a very illuminating quote from a worker who said that “I’d like to see from either side, just a change towards the workers of the country. I mean, just me, as an average working-class American, I can’t see to where either side has done anything to help the working class.”

This is the molecular process of changing class consciousness. Of course, mass events, big events like revolutions, have an even much bigger impact. This is just one strike. I think a perspective like this, of bringing the masses out into the street, having a class fight against oppression and capitalism, could’ve seemed abstract a couple decades ago. But now we live in an epoch of revolution. We’re seeing revolutionary uprisings in country after country, from Iran, to Sri Lanka, or Ecuador.

But we don’t have to go to other countries or that far back to find a concrete example. The Black Lives Matter movement in the US is a perfect example of a fight that not only brought out millions of people out into the street—but a fight precisely against racism, against state repression, and the racist violence of the police. This had massive support from a huge portion of the population. 60% of white people supported the movement, and even a 53% majority of Republicans.

And we should point out that of all the people that came out into the street, it was pretty much a perfect representation of the population, in terms of the percentage of white people, Black people, Latinos, etc. Perfectly representing the actual proportion within the broader population.

A mass working-class party would link up all these fights—the fight for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, with the fight against police brutality, and all the broad social demands of the working class—as part of a broader struggle against exploitation and oppression under capitalism. It would escalate the movement into a revolutionary struggle to establish a workers’ government that could tackle society’s problems head on, and in that way, establish the material foundations for the genuine liberation of humanity.

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