A Marx is Not a Socialist
My last name is “Marx” but I don’t identify as being a “Socialist”. I listened at The Socialism Conference last evening to an impassioned speech by Naomi Klein, which made a lot of excellent points. I’ve also met a lot of caring, intelligent people at the Conference who are passionate socialists.
Perhaps I am nitpicking, but I have serious problems with a lot that I hear and don’t hear. I hear far too much about a basic binary separating: “The Owning Class” (or similar words) from “The Working Class”.
The Owning Class – The Super Wealthy – The Billionaires – The Upper ½ of 1% or The Upper 1% - and similar terms make a lot of sense to me. I clearly am not one of them and never will be one of them.
Am I “working class”? In the United States in 1940 64% of 25-34 year olds had not completed high school. Six percent had bachelor’s degrees and another seven percent had completed some college. In 2009 the 64% had dropped to 12%. The six percent had similarly grown to 32% and the seven percent had grown to 28% - https://www.statista.com/statistics/234586/educational-attainment-rates-in-the-us/ .
In 1940 we had far, far less of a “professional class” of people, than we do today. A similar term might be “middle class” and/or “upper-middle class”. I would question how much understanding I have of people whose household incomes often are anywhere from perhaps 20% to 40% of our household income.
When I think of those who are: white vs. BIPOC, Cis vs Non-Binary, differently abled vs abled and similar, further direct connections and related understandings drop significantly further.
I believe that we face powerful forces from the Super-Wealthy/ Power Elites who aren’t even all “right wing”. The “liberals” amongst them rarely confront the increasing wealth gap between the lower 90% or 95% or 99% and them more than tokenly.
Upper-middle class people such as myself have a significantly amount of potential power in confronting the wealth and income disparities. We also have significant disincentives from sticking our necks out and taking “risks”. While we might not lose our jobs, we might not get tenure or get promoted. A lot of teachers start out most idealistically. Public schools can easily pull many of them away from the schools teaching poor children to the “better” suburban and elite urban schools.
If we want to really successfully confront the Super Wealthy, we need to consciously build activism among upper-middle class people. We also need to listen to working class people much more seriously, and support their work among “their people”.
A question was asked yesterday evening about what we should do now – related to the issues that we face in 2023 in the United States. Obviously “organizing” and becoming “more active” were stressed. I did not here a clear message that we should be directly confronting issues such as:
Abortion, Racism and/or Trans Justice. We focus upon class, but we don’t focus upon “The Patriarchy”. We discuss the importance of Feminism, but we say nothing at all about the need(s) to reach men and boys, particularly those who are BIPOC.
While it is understandable that Biden and the Democrats use – soft sells – on abortion – separating themselves from the Republicans, we aren’t seriously confronting the multitude of issues that threaten the lives of many. Not being able to afford to take time off of work and go to another state for an abortion is a serious problem for many. The “compromises” – like a supposed six week or 15 week limit upon having legal abortions are both lies and dangerous limitations.
We don’t confront the fears that are stoked related to our Trans and other Gender Non-Binary fellow USians. We don’t seriously discuss the fears of “crime” that we have in our cities and how Racism is key here to the messaging.
Yes, we do deal with intersectionality of issues! We also need to hear the concerns and fears of those around us and in “other” communities. We need to help others see the truths that aren’t shown on CNN or MSNBC – or spoken to by Biden and the Democrats.
We are often stuck in simplistic binaries. We may ridicule Democrats, while Democrats ridicule Republicans. We need to reach many more people in meaningful ways. It isn’t easy, and we need to build our allyship in various ways.
I appreciate the important lessons Socialists share with all of us. I hope that we will build a real deeper perspective that notes how wealthy people like Serena Williams can be victims of Racism in multiple, deep ways (nearly dying and her first child nearly dying in childbirth), where it isn’t simply or primarily about class.
I’m always happy to work with others on the issues that I bring up, while my primary work remains with Reproductive Justice, Racism, and a little on Israel-Palestine – seeking to get more privileged white men – on board and avoiding the “detours” from the work.
Caring isn’t enough! Let’s work positively together!