In the old days, when left wing politics had a more class oriented outlook, this type of article would have been dismissed, justly, as liberal clap trap -- precisely the kind of liberal arguments designed to divide, not unite, the labor movement. I recall a liberal Western Massachusetts state senator who had once been a scab in a strike attempting to persuade a mostly African American group of public workers that the mostly white machine shop union in town were racist, in an effort to keep them from joining that local. Those workers rejected his appeal, supported the machine workers in a showdown, who in turned led the campaign for taxes to raise THEIR pay. But that too was in the prosperity instead of austerity era, which changes both the pressures and outcomes. But now so-called "communists" and former "class-conscious" radicals are pushing this line that the election is all, or mostly, about race. And that class -- and thus the entire historical, present and looming economic disaster -- should be ignored: indeed asserting it is read by some as evidence of a "racist" perspective tainted by Trumpism. Race is a huge issue. Indeed growing in frightening proportions, along with divisions by nationality, gender, ethnicity, immigration status, language. It's rise is a perverse but entirely predictable consequence of sustained austerity. All ethnic group have LOST in that sustained austerity. But different groups have LOST different amounts, and kinds, of wealth. To anyone who drills down into the data on lost wealth, just since the Great recession, nevermind back to the 70's, much of which has been published at length in numerous formats on socialist economics, the current upheavals including both fascist and radical surges will be no surprise.
The article has so many transparent errors, I don't have time to cover them all, so just a few.
First, a baseline on "social democracy" -- what is it? especially the kind advocated by Sanders?
Social Democracy is a political program where a labor led party shares power in managing a mixed, mostly capitalist economic system. In some more conservative forms (e.g. Tony Blair), it was less labor led, and thus less, or right, social-democratic. All the earliest social-democratic programs from England, to Russia, to Germany and France, were "socialist" led like Bernie's brand. Some moved in a revolutionary path, like Russia, where there was no democratic or peaceful alternative. Others won parliamentary seats in Europe, and in post-war Northern Europe actually took over governments.
Liberalism, by contrast, prevailed, and still prevails (although Sanders is challenging it) over social-democracy in the US. The liberal coalitions from Roosevelt forward allied with organized labor, but it was always in a subservient role in the modern Democratic Party, even at the height of labor strength immediately following World War II. Liberalism is almost always anti-populist because its wealthy leadership fears "socialism" (expanded public goods and empowerment of working people) as much as, an often more than, fascism). Roosevelt was an exception, but the circumstances were also excepetional. Both Walter Reuther and Dr Martin Luther King, in separate, but ultimately converging, paths championed moving the Democratic Party toward a social democratic, labor and pro-equality/civil rights led posture. Lyndon Johnson, not a social democrat, but the last liberal President to endorse the basic Roosevelt/New Deal "shared prosperity" social contract, was a partner. After Johnson, Democratic leadership under Carter, Clinton, and Obama, all liberal minded, indeed at times progressive, and brilliant, politicians, moved toward "the center" as the only winnable strategy for Democrats contending for the presidency.
What is the center? It is an accommodation to austerity, 40 years of it, where the median worker (in EVERY so-called "identity" category) has not gotten a raise worth dogshit, while productivity and created wealth has kept soaring as it was before. End of shared prosperty social contract. End of raises. End of unions. End of pensions. End of equality of every kind. Think about Reuther and King embracing the hope of equality for all in the era of prosperity. Think about Trumka and the DAPL resistance now, in the era of scrambling-for-crumbs austerity. The dynamics, the external pressures, the politics and ideology of the austerity regime changes nearly every calculation that founded progressivism in the 60s. Class, here at least, is an economic category. Class consciousness arises very differently in harsh, vs relatively prosperous environments. Our youthful local candidate for House of Delegates in Jefferson County, WV, Sammi Brown, says it as well as I have heard anywhere: "Yes, rejecting racial divisiveness is essential -- but the people are hurting in many ways and the pain assumes varied faces. Yes, there were mistakes made by the Democratic party leadership. There is no point in public service or office that does not seek to represent ALL the people."
I always like Ho Chi Minh's parable on unity between historically unequal or uneven racial and ethnic sectors: "The block of wood hates the nail that wounds it. But the problem -- is the hammer"
1. He does not even mention austerity. Which means he does not understand Sanders, or Trump at all. In fact, leave that context out, and you understand nothing at all, as Klein actually admits in the end of his article. Other than suppressing Sanders, and any class approach to the immense crisis in capitalist organization spreading world wide, and admonishing "white workers" to deal with their identity, Klein has no objective, which in this environment can only be interpreted as support for continued austerity leadership in the Democratic Party, and efforts to form an electoral coalition a la Obama but without half of labor- -- I can only say -- that's a doomed loser strategy that will end us in world war.
2. Bernie's victory in WV, considering that environment, is all the proof one needs to understand the deep CLASS components in many working class Trump voters, It has only been reaffirmed by the success of his recent visits to the coalfields of West Virginia, despite both Republican and leading Democratic forces (such as they are now in WV -- Joe Manchin and Jim Justice) trying to prevent the visit. It refutes nearly all every paragraph of Ezra's arguments on the ground. The correlations with Europe grossly misleading, as explained below.
3. Social democracy DOES have an economic and institutional weakness. The weakness has nothing to do with its focus on shared wealth -- that's its strength. It's weakness is nationalism, in an ever more globalized world. Sweden and Denmark are illustrations of both the strengths and challenges. Public benefits of retirement, health care, education and labor rights in both countries created a highly skilled workforce that was seldom required to obtain work as servers, launderers, house cleaners, and other lower paid occupation. -- sometimes lower paid than remaining on unemployment funds for a higher paid job that was lost. Those benefits were achieved politically and thus have the status of citizen rights. However, who is going to do the low paid work now? Answer: immigrants knocking at the doors. Should those immigrants also receive the "rights" -- i.e the expensive benefits -- of citizens? At this point reactionary forces, usually corporate in origin, seek to diminish the hated tax burden of providing and funding these "rights", and under the cover of nationalism infect social democracy with anti-immigrant agitation. One of the earliest divisions in social democracy was, and still is, over internationalism vs nationalism. It led to splits in the labor movements over WWI which proved very difficult to repair until the fascist danger had assumed global and terrifying proportions.
Globalization is unstoppable, except by world war, an alien invasion, or an incoming meteor. If products and capital are going to roam the world, so will people and labor. How to establish "fairness" in the midst of such motion and complexity, that promotes peaceful, and mutually prosperous, instead of warlike, trade effects remains a big challenge