Karl Marx’s words are resilient – history is indeed “the history of class struggles.” Not solely, because history has also been marked by gender, race, and religious struggles; but class struggles have and do shape the world we live in today. Not to see the events occurring in the world through the lens of historical class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, is not to fully understand them. The Chinese – American trade war is certainly the end result of class struggles that began in America decades ago when, in an effort to increase profits, American manufacturers began producing products overseas. China’s rise to power was fueled by and paralleled the degradation and decline in the standard of living of American workers. Globalization was first the migration of capitalism from nation to nation in pursuit of its own betterment measured by an increase in profits due to the lowering of labor costs.
Thus, the migration of people from one part of the world to the other is but the other side of the dialectical coin; just as capitalist institutions, riding on a wave of exploitation have wandered the world in pursuit of power and profits, people for decades, having been swept up on the undertow of that same wave, have left their homelands not only to flee war and terror, but also, and primarily, to improve their economic conditions. It appears as both instinctual and rational that living things in general, and our species in particular, should wander the world in pursuit of better living conditions. However, as the world is becoming more difficult to live in, as a result of extreme climactic conditions, as a result of wars waged in the name of both religion and the drive for power and profits, as political oppression and social controls, enhanced by advanced technology have placed greater limits on human freedom, the migration of peoples has only increased and accelerated. Inevitably, these wanderers enter the lands of other workers, who come to view these migrants as “invaders” who will take their jobs and destroy their religious, social and political values; rape their women and pollute their “white” races. Through the distorted lens of individualism and particularity, it is the foreign “others”, and not Capitalism nor capitalists, who are the “enemies of the people.” Their presence as Others in a nation gives rise to Nationalism, which in its extreme form, becomes Nazism. Whereas the Jews were once the Others that lived in the midst of a people who regarded themselves as a singular unity, and were thus blamed for the economic decline of the people of that unity, today a multitude of immigrants from a multitude of nations are viewed as the “Jews” who are to be blamed for the decline of the native inhabitants. Thus, it is no longer a particular people, such as the Jews, who are the Other, but all those who are not white, not native born, who do not share the same language, values, religion, who are the perceived enemies who must be either cast out or killed. Thus, the election of Donald Trump as President, the rise of nationalism in the “white” nations of the world from England to Australia, the rise of radical white supremacists who take up weapons to slaughter migrants, the rise of the right wing all appear as the products of a single source – the appearance of the Other in their lives.
The people, which is to say the working class of advanced capitalist nations, churn in the frothy foam of a feeding frenzy of hatred against the poor and the working class of other nations. Unable to see who or rather what their real enemy is, they turn against one another, blinded by a lack of class consciousness which the ruling class so successfully obscures.
Some, perhaps many, Americans rejoiced in the arrest of 680 Latino workers in a massive workplace sting at seven Mississippi chicken processing plants. (see: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2019/08/10/mississippi-ice-immigration-raid-valencia-pkg-nr-vpx.cnn )Others more clearly understood the “class nature” of the raids: “I suspect $10-11 an hour sounds like a fortune to a 3rd worlder. I doubt anyone tells them what it costs to live here. The Koch plant must be kind of like a ghetto in that it would be very hard for any of these people to get “out”, i.e to go get a better job. They probably don’t speak English. Not much different than slave labor. I do feel sorry for the workers. At the same time, if health care or more assistance is needed, we taxpayers pick up the tab. Good deal for the Koch company.”
The day after the raids,at 10 a.m., a crowd of workers of waited to apply for the vacant job positions and a steady stream of people came and went throughout the day. Most were black and spoke with Southern accents. Many were attracted to these jobs for the relatively high wages they paid. Many had worked at the plants before; they knew how hard and tiring these jobs were. They understood how gruesome it would be to work in the terrible smell of death, to wallow in blood and filth doing things like pulling the skins off dead birds. But a job was a job, and in America $12.00 an hour is a good wage that they could now earn due to the fact that the “illegal” workers had been removed.
Trump could say that he was doing exactly what he had promised to do: bringing jobs home to America and Americans. He never say he was going to end the exploitation of workers though did he?
Mary Metzger is a 74 year old semi retired teacher. She did her undergraduate work at S.U.N.Y. Old Westbury and her graduate work In Dialectics under Bertell Ollman at New York University. She has taught numerous subjects, from Public Sector Labor Relations to Philosophy of Science, to many different levels of students from the very young to Ph.D. candidates, in many different institutions and countries from Afghanistan to Russia. She has been living in Russia for the past 12 years where she focuses on research in the Philosophy of Science and History of the Dialectic, and writes primarily for Countercurrents. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and the great grandmother of two.