The past couple weeks in the United States have been very congenial to a Marxist worldview. I don’t remember any time when the bourgeoisie has so clearly been waging war on the proletariat – or when that kind of language seemed an accurate description of contemporary society. The best known example of this is the ongoing conflict in Wisconsin, where the newly elected Republican governor, Scott Walker, attempted to strip public-sector workers of both their generous benefits and their rights to collective bargaining. With a limited grasp of the local situation (such as Margaret Wente demonstrates in this breathtakingly ignorant column), one might imagine that this is primarily a matter of shared sacrifice in a time of burgeoning government debt. That view is plausible, and entirely wrong. For not only did Walker recently enact corporate tax cuts in a volume comparable to the workers’ benefits, the unions agreed to let their costly benefits be cut if they could keep their right to collective bargaining. This action isn’t about reasonable budget cuts, but about union-busting, plain and simple.
Meanwhile, a couple of related recent American events you might not have heard of. In Maine, newly elected Republican governor Paul LePage has ordered the removal of a mural in the state Department of Labour depicting the state’s labour history, along with the renaming of conference rooms named after César Chávez and other labour organizers. The governor’s spokesman proclaimed that these symbols are “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.” At the symbolic level too, the government has explicitly picked a side in a class struggle. Continue reading