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Which Side Are You On?


Which Side Are You On?

Adolph Reed Jr.

Miguel Salazar in a recent essay purporting to address the question "Do America’s Socialists Have a Race Problem?" (The New Republic, December 20, 2018), seconds a perspective on current debates within the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) that answers his question in the affirmative.


Racism and other forms of discrimination increase when wealth and income gaps widen, decreasing when those gaps narrow.

With the wealth and income gap continuing to widen during the past half century and no end to that trend in sight the question we need to ask anybody seeking election or re-election is: WHAT WILL YOU DO TO NARROW THE GAP ?


This piece reminds me of an old adage coined by MLK when speaking of the different liberal factions of his time. He suggested that they suffered from the “paralysis of analysis.”
Analyze this hapless Clintonian scum. The Democratic Party seemed to sit on its laurals after the signing of the civil rights act and the Medicare/Medicaid act. It’s almost as though they gave up after LBJ dropped his pen and said that, by signing the civil rights act he may just have lost the South for the democrats for at least a generation. The unions and the counter culture movement then had to fight for the soul of the party. And when the unions won out the democrats all but committed suicide as they they planted their thumbs firmly up their asses and stared on in slack jawed confusion as conservatives passed free trade laws, stopped enforcing Taft-Hartley, and permitted big business to ship millions of union jobs overseas. Then, having all but destroyed the democrats primary funding and organizational apparatus by evicserating organized labor, they concentrated their efforts on killing the rest of the Democratic Party through voter suppression laws that kept people of color away from the poles.
Done and done.
And the democrats plan to counter these aggressive republican moves of the 70’s and 80’s? Why suck up to Wall Street and big business for the funding that disappeared when the unions died of course, all but erasing the line between America’s only two major political parties.
That was the plan all along. We now live in a nation that will need to re fight the wars for civil rights and workers rights, all in a backdrop of unchecked and inevitable global warming.


BigB, with respect, aren’t you overlooking something? The Democrats lost their constituency not only because of the demise of unions (which was the outcome of unstoppable economic forces), but, primarily, because racist ignorant whites couldn’t stand the idea of racial equality. I honestly don’t know which of these two factors was more important, but I suspect the latter was critical.
People tend to attribute fault to other people, it is a natural thing with humans, someone must have done it! In reality, it is very likely that the morphing of the Democratic Party into the party of the educated class, and the transformation of the Republican Party into the party of the uneducated, racist white working class was unavoidable and occurred on its own, with nobody being responsible but the “culture itself.”


I consider myself fairly well-read (perhaps a false consideration). After reading this essay, I have no idea what the point(s) are.


Anybody who reads through the entire article should give themselves a reward.


The following appears to be Reed’s central error here:

" . . . because of the overwhelming power of white supremacy (and related systems of oppression) in the United States, the route to socialism must give priority to challenging those hierarchies."

This is about 180 degrees false, as has been historically demonstrated. White supremacy has been tremendously powerful in the United States, and vicious. However, the power of monetary supremacy is greater, graver, and more central–in part because it includes white supremacy, almost in its entirety.

Supremacy by wealth is so systemic and so endemic within American society that it often goes unquestioned. This is no longer true of racial bigotry, though racial bigotry continues to trenchant and a virulent force otherwise. White supremacy is systemic apart from bigotry by wealth when minorities are denied access to resources and services directly, without reference to wealth. In our racially bigoted society, resources and services are denied to minorities mostly because they are apt to be denied money, access to the means of production, access to ancestral wealth, and access to the customs and means around ancestral wealth.

In hopes of being completely clear, let me repeat that none of this makes racism in the US a second-rate problem or a problem that has expired. What it does is make it one of the many problems extended and maintained by trenchant inequality of wealth and income.

This means that it must be attended to primarily by attending to the economic system. That does not mean that socialists have no racial problems between them or do not have to worry about that. It does mean that putting economic problems aside will mean that progress is not made on either point. If most Black people–here I choose only the one most obviously mistreated demographic–are poor, and I have a prejudice against poor people, it is a very quick inference to look at a Black person and apply whatever prejudices I might have to that person regardless of his or her income or wealth. That person’s white neighbor may be able to put on a suit–maybe even pass, if he or she has a certain manner of speaking. But the prejudice against the identifiable racial minority will remain, with no other support.

Putting a few token persons of one or another demographic in positions of power has never solved these difficulties of hierarchy. Conversely, removing even a small part of the differences in income and wealth produces greater equality and reduced oppression throughout the system, with measurable effects. Moving against economic oppression should also not mean that people should not or cannot or even must not confront racial bigotry where it is found. But an organization that refuses to confront income and wealth differences will not and does not do this.

An organization that turns its back on socialism is not socialist. It does not become more so by calling itself Socialist.

I return to cite this every few weeks, but here is a simple refutation of Mr. Reed’s position, given in 17 minutes. It is a TED talk about what economic inequality does to societies by epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson. His book The Spirit Level goes into the sources for his data at length, all in its final chapter, as an afterward, as it were (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ7LzE3u7Bw).

I might turn Mr. Reed’s question back on him. Which side is he on himself?

But I suspect that the articulate author here does not wish to serve those who would enslave him or me financially. If he does not, though, he owes himself another pass through this idea. I am not on any side to pretend that appointing people of differing demographics to power by itself legitimizes or ameliorates the steepness or injustice of its hierarchy.

Again, just to be as certain as I can that this is as clear as I can make it, that should not mean that Mr Reed or I or any of us put aside the matter of race. It just means that it damages our attempts irreparably to put aside the questions of income and wealth to do so.


I don’t quite get how you missed this point, but what I’m arguing seems to be basically the point you’re making.


Try buying a larger chalkboard?


I also found the article somewhat difficult. The way I see things is that the ruling oligarchs by and large really don’t care about race/sexual orientation or what we would call identity politics to the extent that some in the “liberal” media present them.

This is not to say that many right wing politicians and the the movement conservatives as a whole don’t use identity politics to divide us by said identities. The culture wars are all about that.

But what the oligarchs really care about is their wallets. They will go to their deaths to rid themselves of all social obligations to anyone else thru the taxation of their obscene wealth.

The true battle lines are drawn upon the intersectionality of class politics and identity politics with the emphasis being on economic issues which should unite us all.

We just had 8 years of an african american president who I thought would be the FDR of our time and this turned out to be a misconception on so many levels. Obama had for a brief period a filibuster proof majority of democrats and still we got milquetoast liberal solutions to an absolute economic catastrophe.

The 99% is engaged in class warfare which effects and should unite all identities in class interest against the ruling oligarchs.


Thanks for the short comment. It helped more than you will ever know.
Think of Sen. Sanders’ primary run as Miracle-Grow in 2016, for the DSA garden of 2018 and well beyond, hopefully.
As an Oregonian, the fact that my governor is bi-sexual and a woman, means zilch to me. That she, and Tina Kotek, are trying to navigate thru a wild and woolly time in our state, potentially means a lot. Not necessarily for myself, but for a future which actually lives up to all the high-sounding hype, we’re hearing or reading.
To be continued, of course.


Once more, we should heed the experience of Eugene Debs

The Socialist Party is the party of the working class, regardless of color—the whole working class of the whole world.


Which is all of us. Our work and consumption plus war keep the economy humming along.


So, you’re saying that fascism and racism are the results of “natural” human evolution and not the consequences of making poor choices?
Keep in mind, racism had been an integral part of the Democratic Party since the days of the civil war. Since the emancipating Lincoln was a republican most southern whites became democrats. They remained there until LBJ signed the civil rights act. In short, working class white men have always, by in large, been racists. However, prior to the civil rights act they had swollowed their pride and supported collectivism during the rise of organized labor. It should be looked upon as no coincidence that when white male working class voters let their racism cause them to abandon the Democratic Party that they actually emboldened the anti Union forces on the political right.
The New Democrats that are emerging today seem to have figured out that white working class and poor men are a lost cause, and that the only way the Democratic Party can remain a viable political entity in the 21st century is to form a cohilition of people of color, LGBTQ folks, and women.
You see, collectivism amd cooperation are choices. And just like fascism and racism, we have the power and the intellect to either embrace or reject either. That is perhaps the biggest irony of being an American. We have granted ourselves the freedom to do the right thing, however all too many of us use that freedom to do the opposite.


A fine post. But if I were to ask everyone I talk to today who Eugene Debs was I would be met with vacant stares from most.
However, they can still learn…


Does that mean rich people are less likely to be racist and poor people more likely to be racist? I always thought Hitler was quite economically well off.




No, It means that rich and poor people are more likely to be racist when material and income divides are greater.

And it means that racism cuts deeper when it is further armed by income and wealth differences, which inevitably arm the dominant bigots, raise the general valence of bribery and corruption, and reward in-group plotting.


No, i believe Reed is making the same point you are. Sorry his language is so abstruse. Here’s his close:

As we approached the 2018 mid-term elections and since, it has become ever clearer that a major struggle between now and 2020 will be over how we define the “progressive” electoral agenda, whether it should be weighted toward advancing candidates who are nonwhite, female, and gender-nonconforming or those who support such policy initiatives as Medicare For All. Of course, those goals are not necessarily in conflict. The question, though, is which should take priority when they are. We must be clear that they are not interchangeable.

That is also a critical point to keep in mind, as we have been and increasingly will be confronted with “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” liberals, who want, in the name of electability or bringing the party together, or whatever else, to water down Medicare For All or other components of a social-democratic agenda before we’ve ever had a serious effort to organize a popular base in support of them. It has been and will be all too easy for the occasion to elect “the first” black/Native American/woman/lesbian to substitute for the need to advance an agenda that can appeal broadly to working people of all races, genders and sexual orientations. Our side’s failure to struggle for that sort of agenda is one reason Trump is in the White House. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that helped bring about that result.


Agree with you’re post, except the 2nd paragraph, No one is a lost cause. All must be included to overcome our suppression, per you’re second post, with education they can still learn…