Theory 101: Class struggle in the age of U.S. imperial decline


“…The reason the Black liberation struggle has always led the class struggle in the U.S. is because the proletariat has been restrained by the ever-reforming forces of white supremacy and empire. Black revolutionaries such as Paul Robeson and Huey P. Newton recognized that the class structure had become an international system of global imperialism that plundered oppressed people the world over to enrich corporate oligarchs. They made common cause with oppressed people around the world and defended revolutionary movements in Russia, Vietnam, and Cuba from U.S. and Western aggression.They elevated the struggle of women to the frontlines of the class struggle. They built upon prior clashes with the powers that be and paved a path for such clashes to end with the oppressed people of the world standing tall in victory.

A troubling pattern has emerged in this era of U.S. imperial decline. Instead of a politics of solidarity and class struggle, much of what calls itself “progressive” or even “revolutionary” in the United States has adopted a politics of recognition often called “identity politics.” This term is insufficient as it does not describe the elitist character of the ideology. The focus on separate “identities” has led to numerous academic theories and non-profit career opportunities but no real power for oppressed and working-class people. Heated and often irreconcilable debates have emerged about which oppressed grouping, be it queer, Black, disabled, or women-identified people, is suffering more than the other. Sometimes these categories are combined to add some complexity to the analysis but hardly ever is history or class added to the equation. It is unsurprising that the rise of so-called “identity politics” has coincided with the increasingly destitute position of the poor, especially the Black poor, in the age of mass Black incarceration, endless war, and ruthless austerity.

The politics of “liberalism,” non-profit careerism, and the dead-end discourse of identity must be replaced by a politics of class struggle. Class struggle does not emerge without class consciousness. Class consciousness is the recognition of the conflicting interests of workers and the oppressed and those of their capitalist masters. Such recognition is not about which Supreme Court Justice is nominated or whether the Republicans or Democrats win the Congress even if issues raised by these developments very much represent the interests of the ruling class or the oppressed. Class struggle occurs only when the oppressed classes are activated and in motion against the oppressor class and fighting for material gains that will not only improve the lives of the downtrodden right now but will also open the door to a completely new arrangement of power all together.”

Theory 101- Class Struggle in the Age of US Imperial Decline

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