America and revolution? A Marxist perspective.
Within Marxism, there is the concept of the ‘contradiction’. A contradiction is a precursor for revolution. They reflect a growing awareness by politically active people that the prevailing economic system does not work and that it needs to be ‘burst asunder’. Bursting a prevailing system asunder ushers in a radical change of direction, usually but not exclusively for the better.
Feudalism to capitalism was one such revolution arising out of the view of the growing sixteenth-century middle class that aristocracy and being born to status and privilege was an illegitimate way of ordering society. In the seventeenth-century, it was burst asunder and replaced with a system that empowered the middle class, allowing them the freedom to exploit the working class to acquire what became known as capital. Capital is the accumulation of wealth based on profits made by exploiting working people. Basically, exploitation is paying workers a lot less money than they make for the capitalist as profit.
Contradictions, therefore, create a revolution. It does not have to be violent. But change does need to happen, for change not to happen means people are being oppressed and the revolution when it comes will be more explosive than it would have been if the powerful had yielded some ground.
The western world is in the grip of a growing awareness by ordinary people that they have high levels of economic uncertainty and low levels of political power. The democracies of the western world were set up in the eighteenth century to protect the interests of the capitalist class. The model, therefore, is top-down. Power comes from the top and not from the base. It would have been considered ridiculous to have empowered working people in the eighteenth century so the systems of government in the west do not allow this. Voting in elections does not really empower people, they are forced to vote for parties that probably do not represent their real values and opinions.
In Britain, Brexit was a successful revolution. It happened because of a contradiction, a growing awareness by ordinary people that a remote and an elite, self-regarding bureaucratic superstate could not represent them politically. So, the British people by a narrow margin voted to leave the European Union. This was the last thing the elite in the British parliament wanted, so they oppressed the people with project fear. Brexit was achieved because the Conservative party woke up to the fact that to ignore the Brexit vote would be political suicide. Self-preservation saved both the country and the Conservative Party. Britain, a wealthy but small nation is once again fully independent. Apart from a few naive Blairites Britain has moved on. The fact that Parliament continues to exercise top-down supreme power over the people and potentially over the Government, will, of course, cause problems in the future. This demands a new political settlement that takes democracy onto the next progressive level.
Now America has a similar political set up to Great Britain. It too is top-down and has two main parties which vie for power. Like the British parliament, it is based on attacking and defending policies. It too delivers election results that may not represent the views of the mass of ordinary workers. Joe Biden has been described as ‘woke’. Woke ideology promotes and politicises identity over and above class or ‘lived reality’, so the clash that created Brexit in the UK will be played out in the US as a clash between a confederation of ordinary workers, to whom, somewhat perversely the billionaire Donald Trump spoke, and the woke intellectuals and public service workers for whom identity is a safer basis for revolution than class.
Tackling the rights of a few preoccupied with their identities not only appeals to the ‘woke’ ego but it does not require much thinking and is avoidant of the real problems in America which are class not identity-based. The problem for America and Americans’ however is unlike the UK the confederation of opponents of the new ‘woke’ political establishment self-identify as an armed militia and militias are sanctioned by the US constitution. The Militias’ in America were sanctioned for two reasons, firstly to mobilise in the event of Britain attempting to re-take their ex-colony in the eighteenth century, and then secondly to clip the wings of an over-powerful federal government. The former risk is now non-existent but with a ‘woke’ president and vice president, the risk of civil disobedience will almost certainly increase.
To prevent problems caused by a clash between the working people and the state needs a complicated answer but it is essentially the same argument Blue Revolution propose for the UK, namely reducing the absolute power of the central government and parliament by empowering the people within a legal framework which unlike the current constitution increases the levels of political legitimacy. The issues around poverty and health will alongside increased gun control have the power of the people backing them.
I do not know whether America will experience civil disorder bordering on civil war but in Marxist terms, the contradictions are clearly there between the mass of working people and their state, moreover, it is the same in every politically mature free-market economy the world over.
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