Monday, October 11, 2021

Bill Maher's Not so Wrong Here. It's the Working Class that is Missing

Richard Mellor

I thought this video was worth posting here but feel I have to say something. I should add that these are just my personal quick thoughts after watching it. There are others who participate in our weekly Zoom meetings and/or who support this blog in other ways and they are entitled to express their views here. I am not speaking for them.


I don’t watch Bill Maher’s show, though he can be very funny at times and I certainly have lots to disagree with him about, but I do not think he is far off in this video when it comes to electoral politics and his predictions of events leading up to the next election including the primaries.


Maher is one of the many late night comedians, basically all Democratic Party supporters, who use political satire to sway public opinion and basically trash the Republican Party. The absence of an independent political party of the working class here, coupled with the deafening silence of organized labor’s hierarchy on most matters of importance, has led to an exodus from electoral politics of millions of workers. In the 2016 election, close to 100 million opted out and the undemocratic Electoral College installed Trump after Hilary Clinton’s victory. 


The 2020 election result was different and resulted in  the highest voter turnout as a percentage of eligible voters since 1900. “Worker Joe” Biden beat Trump and received 81 million votes against Trump’s 74 million. In my view,  this reflected a strong desire to return society to some sense of normality after four years of Trumpism and many workers have told me that was why they voted; Trump was too divisive, racist, and an embarrassment to the country. It was not a wave of support for Biden who some have referred to as the Senator from DuPont due to his connections to the giant Chemical company.


But as far as electoral politics goes, Trump has a huge potential base for 2024 and I think that Maher is not far wrong in his analysis of events occurring at the moment and Trump’s strategy for the future.


I do not watch any of the late night pundits but Maher as far as I can see is the most critical of them, critical of the “left” which means the Democratic Party, one of the most powerful capitalist parties in the world. As a liberal he has savaged the liberals of late as the whining toadies they are and takes them up for their obsession with identity politics and failure to be in tune with the real mood in society. One’s sexual orientation and announcing it to the world has become the heroic revolutionary statement of the modern era.

Millionaire celebrities and movie stars lecture people, normally white celebrities lecturing white workers about how bad they are and how they must apologize for their privilege at a time when conditions for white workers have deteriorated to the point where millions of them have sunk in to poverty and life expectancy among this “privileged” group is declining. Needless to say, these exhortations from millionaires and billionaires do not get an echo and the right wing forces have a field day with it. The rise of Trump is in many ways a result of these factors.


In his presentation above, Maher is trying to scare the populous in to electoral politics on the Democratic Party side. The problem is that one of the reasons US workers have abandoned politics altogether is the disgust with both parties of capitalism. The Democratic Party is just as dirty and wages, working conditions, the lack of social services, housing, health care and other public services have deteriorated under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.


Here in California, we have basically a one party state as the Democrats have control of the legislature and the governorship. Yet we have a housing and homeless crisis with tent cities appearing everywhere. In one of the richest cities in the world, San Francisco, home to many Tech billionaires, the homeless and mentally ill, live in the streets in huge numbers. The right wing forces point to this and that the city smells of urine, which is the case as anyone who has walked from the Financial Center to The Civic Center knows. The homeless are blamed for a crisis not of their own making.


Both parties of capitalism are in a crisis, with the Republican Party becoming the party of Trump and the traditional old conservative base being driven out.  The Democrats offer a return to normalcy but there as never been a normalcy. For decades, the US working class has been savaged. Basic rights, housing, education, access to health care, are beyond the reach of millions of Americans and then the pandemic hit.


While I think Maher’s analysis of future events is not so far out there (the whole Trump period has taught most of us to be less conditional in our approach) it appears there is a spike in open confrontations between labor and capital developing as many people predicted. For two years those workers who provide basic needs, from transport to food production and working in fast food joints like Chipotle and others have been told how valuable they are, how important they are and that they are the “essential” workers. Workers know what “essential” means hand have taken note.


A care home not far from me, had a banner up for months with “Heroes” work here in bold letters. These workers are some of the most exploited and abused in society along with those in the meat industry and other factory type work. Front line workers in the hospitals who were called “traitors” by some Trump supporters for wearing masks have risked their lives on the job and worked exhaustively under extreme conditions.


There appears to be an increasing pushback within the ranks of organized labor as well, as more strikes are occurring and more importantly, the rejection of contracts forced on union members by their own leaders who, when capitalism enters crisis moves immediately to bail it out, always at the expense of their own members living standards and working conditions. This obstacle of our own leadership in organized labor will have to be breached and will be breached at some point.


So while I think Maher is not so far off describing the electoral process and the developing struggles between the two competing bourgeois parties in their equally degenerate democratic process, what he lacks is an understanding of the class conflict that will inevitably arise as the cost of the crisis that will be placed on the backs of working people no matter which party is in power. This should be expected of course, he has limits.


The situation in the US is very volatile, but the working class population is not as conservative as we are led to believe; we have just witnessed a huge multi-racial movement against police violence and racism here. Yes class consciousness has been driven back and an understanding of the heroic struggles and militancy of the working class from the rise of trade unionism and the struggles against racism and violence, to the Civil Rights movement that shook US capitalism to its foundations has been obscured, and is being obscured by the “woke” liberals and their obsession with identity politics. This is harmful but it will not last.


It is this potential power of the US working class and its inevitable entrance on to the stage that Maher does not and cannot see. I am not saying it will be easy. But we are in for a turbulent ride ahead.


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