Political Consensus Is Splintering into Class Wars

Political Consensus Is Splintering into Class Wars by Charles Hugh Smith

Understanding how these many wars will be waged is critical to surviving them intact.

In years past, we spoke of class war between the haves and the have-nots. It’s no longer that simple. Now the traditional political consensus is splintering into multiple class wars between overlapping camps of the protected and the unprotected, those who’ve been promised entitlements and privileges that are no longer affordable and those expected to pay more taxes.

In the modern era, the phrase Class War is rooted in the socialist/Marxist concept that the conflict between labor (the working class) and capital (owners of capital) is not just inevitable—it’s the fulcrum of history. In this view, this Class War is the inevitable result of the asymmetry between the elite who own/control the capital and the much larger class of people whose livelihood is earned solely by their labor.

In Marx’s analysis, the inner dynamics of capitalism inevitably lead to the concentration of capital in monopolies/cartels whose great wealth enables them to influence the government to serve the interests of capital. Subservient to capital, the laboring class must overthrow this unholy partnership of capital and the state to become politically free via ownership of the means of production, i.e. productive assets.

This Class War did not unfold as Marx anticipated. The laboring class gained sufficient political power in the early 20th century to win the fundamentals of economic security: universal public education, labor laws that prohibited outright exploitation, the right to unionize, and publicly funded pensions.

(The alternative explanation for this wave of progressive policies is that prescient leaders of the capital/state class ushered in these reforms as the only alternative to the dissolution of the status quo. Labor reforms began in Germany and Great Britain in the late 19th century Gilded Age, and another wave of reforms were enacted in the decade-long crisis of capitalism in the Great Depression.)

Though the conventional view is that this failure of capitalism to devolve as expected proves Marx’s analysis is without merit, it can also be argued that the state-capital partnership was far more flexible than early Marxists anticipated: sharing enough of the wealth generated in the industrial revolution with the laboring class to enable a stable, productive middle class benefited the state-capital class by creating a new strata of consumers (of goods, services and credit) who greatly enriched industrial and financial capitalists and the state, which could raise unprecedented sums in payroll and income taxes.

Basking in the luxury of hindsight, it’s easy for us in the present day to forget the often-violent struggles between labor and capital that characterized the early 20th century: anarchists bombed Wall Street, and the Powers That Be sent in armed forces to suppress efforts to unionize entire swaths of industrial workers.

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