By Worker Wire Services. Originally published on December 24, 2020. The article image is Miner at the Exit of the Shaft, 1880s, by Constantin Meunier.
When looking at the working class within the US, it does not take a clairvoyant for someone to recognize that large portions of it are incredibly reactionary, with many espousing misogyny, homophobia, racism, and other prejudiced views. Many hold these viewpoints despite the very fact that their lives have been made difficult, not because of allowing migrants into the country or other reactionary falsities, but because of the capitalist class, like their boss, outsourcing work to people who are willing to do it for less and stagnating wages. Yet the reactionary working class, which can be found from the rural hills of Virginia to the cities of places like Phoenix, is continually duped by capitalist media, believing the lies that are spoon fed to them that deflects blame for their problems on those who are easy targets. This divide-and-conquer tactic against the working class has been around for centuries, in which the capitalists pit the working class against itself to remain preoccupied, all while the capitalists pillage the earth and its people for profits. The reason why reactionary beliefs in the US working class persist is because of a severe lack of class consciousness, as the “American Dream” dictates that they can get out of their desperate situation if they continue to keep their nose to the grindstone, therefore positioning failures of the state and society, such as starving or going homeless, as personal failures rather than systemic failures. This carrot at the end of the stick keeps them in a position of servility under the capitalist, and will continue to do so until a great external force can switch this dichotomy. How, then, can we sway the working class to unite rather than quibble against itself?
The first, and perhaps the most important aspect, of developing working class consciousness that young communists must recognize is the fact that elitism will get us nowhere. Many organizers, especially young and inexperienced communists, may tend to feel a sense of smug superiority towards the reactionary worker, feeling that they are better because they are more ideologically righteous than the other. This can create an environment of hostility, as no one likes to be told that they are lesser than someone else, and they will be more unwilling to listen to us if organizers explicitly attack them. Therefore, you must be personable and likeable, remaining flexible yet uncompromising. This doesn’t mean that when someone spouts racist, homophobic or sexist rhetoric that the organizer working with them shouldn’t say anything, but they shouldn’t start with attacks. Rather, the organizer should explain why, for example, migrants are not the ones making life harder for the worker, as they are only fleeing their depleted job market because of the capitalist class, attempting to survive just as anyone else. It must be explained to workers that they do actually deserve better, and that assistance from the government or resistance from their boss is not a sign of cowardice or weakness.
To come off as understanding, we communists must talk with the workers about their issues, and direct them to the true disease that exhibits every symptom they discuss. We must explain that they are not alone, as the systemic failures of the US government and social safety net are too much for some to bear. But we also must explain that they will not find solutions to their problems through the very class that oppresses them in the first place, as neither the Democrats or Republicans have the American peoples’ best interest at heart. They will not find the light at the end of the tunnel through people like Donald Trump, the total personification of insidious capitalist decay. The working class must recognize, as us communist recognize, that no matter what, no one should go without, no matter who they are or how much they differ from one’s self.
Where, then, can we meet with and organize with the working class? Well, there are a number of opportunities that communists, both young and old, can find to help build class consciousness, with the first and most obvious one starting in the workplace with a young comrade’s fellow workers. Though the days of American industry are but a mere shadow of its former self, the working class remains as the workers from fast food establishments and cleaning jobs to schools and postal work / shipping. Talking about the problems that one’s coworkers are facing, and connecting it with the systemic problems of capitalism rather than the individualistic problems in prejudiced hate. But this doesn’t only have to be in the workplace, these types of conversation can range from discussions within friend groups, classrooms, to family gatherings. Everybody within the working class faces problems, as the problems inherent in capitalism only cease when the end of capitalism is brought about. Your family, friends, and coworkers will not become radical leftists or communists overnight; it will take time, careful consideration, personable discussion, and education. Difficult? Definitely, but impossible? Not at all.