This isn’t a new thought; others have said it. And better then I do here. Parties and movements of the left and modes of analysis like Marxism, if they are to retain their vitality, have to encourage critique of their premises and practices. And yet it is easier said than done. Fred Gaboury, an old friend of mine and life long communist, once accused me of being “a defender of the (Communist Party’s) faith.” And at the time he was right. I dug in rather than examine his criticism at the time on its merits. It was only later when the Soviet Union went belly up and a nasty factional fight ensued in the Communist Party that I began to take an inventory of my own and the party’s thinking and actions. I’m glad I did even though it took me in directions that I didn’t anticipate.
The passage of American Rescue Plan doesn’t once and for all time sound the death knell on Neoliberalism, but it is a damn good start. Neoliberalism, after all, entails a restructuring of the state and its functions to facilitate the accumulation of capital and remove any barriers to the reassertion of the power of finance capital on global scale.
It also relentlessly redistributes income to the top tiers of the capitalist class (finance especially) and transforms government agencies – “the administrative state” – and its elective bodies from instruments supposedly serving the commonweal into undisguised arms of the corporate class. It works as well to disorganize and disempower the working class in the Global North, while at the same time, drawing new states and vast numbers of informal and precarious laborers in the Global South into the network of global production and super exploitation. It aggravates racial inequality and further racializes the division of labor.
Not least, neoliberalism zealously attempts to roll back the provision of public goods such as health care, education, housing, unemployment assistance and welfare, a clean and safe environment, and more.
If the best evidence of the beginning of the end of neoliberal ideology and politics is the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, the necessary, if not sufficient, condition for this shape shifting change was the defeat of Trump and the Republican Party in last fall’s election. Had that not happened, had Biden not won the presidency and Democrats majorities in the Senate and House, any weakening of neoliberalism would still be on the wish list of disgruntled activists. Indeed, the political ground, on which millions collide and contest the present and future, would be decidedly different. Democracy under siege and an out of control pandemic, not the first big body blow to neoliberal politics and the glimmerings of a pandemic free world, would be the reality facing the country. Elections sure matter!
It’s interesting to note that critics on the left, whose dislike of Biden and the Democratic Party is near congenital, are in a bit of a quandary with the passage of the American Rescue Plan. The Biden administration, is, after all, the architect of it and Congressional Democrats, in display of unity, passed it in the face of a wall of Republican opposition. To extricate themselves from this quandary the critics either remind us what is absent in it or claim that it was the “movement” or the “class struggle” that compelled Biden and Democrats to act as they did. If left to their own devices, they say, Biden and Congressional Democrats would have chose a series of half measures, they would have gone small rather than Big. My reaction to this line of argumentation is that both life and politics are more complicated than such simple schemes.
Microaggressions against people of color in the workplace and elsewhere are consequential. They hurt those targeted and poison the social environment in which they occur. Nevertheless, in an article I read recently, the author ends up minimizing this dimension of the anti-racist struggle in the name of fighting structural racism. But this is, I believe, mistaken. We should see these two dimensions of the struggle against racism as organic, interactive, and connected – not as separate and distinct, with one being of less significance than the other.
To minimize in any way the struggle against microaggressions can only weaken the anti-racist struggle. Or to put it differently, an approach to fighting structural racism (sometimes legitimized in the language of class and universalism) that makes the individual invisible or a small insignificant cog in a larger struggle, does little to advance the cause of racial justice and freedom.