Jacobin: When The Right Courted Labor

The terms “Left” and “Right” are highly misleading.

In reality, the “Left” and “Right” in the United States have always been composed of different factions and interests which are always drifting between the two parties like tectonic plates as coalitions are created and dissolve. It is a mistake to analyze the “Left” or the “Right” as stable, homogeneous entities.

What would you call George Wallace? Was George Wallace on the Right or the Left? George Wallace never became a Republican and his major legacy in Alabama was building community colleges. What was the Democratic Party in the early 20th century? Was it on the Right or the Left? Were Jim Crow segregationists who supported the New Deal like Theodore Bilbo or John Rankin on the Left or Right?

Bill Kristol is a Democrat now. Is Bill Kristol a man of the Left? The neocons were hawkish Democrats who became hawkish Republicans who have lately returned to being hawkish Democrats. American politics used to be much simpler in the New Deal era when the Democrats were the party of workers and farmers and the Republicans were understood as the party of business and professionals.

How about Jacksonians? The Democracy of the antebellum era was the party of farmers, workers, immigrants and white supremacy. The Whigs were the party of business, professionals and social reformers. In the populist and progressive era, the Democrats were again the party of farmers, workers and white supremacy and the Republicans were again the party of business, professionals and social justice reformers. Which of these sides was the Right and the Left? Which side was labor on?

Has the labor movement always been against white supremacy or immigration restriction? It was the labor movement that supported the Chinese Exclusion Act. If that was the case, then how was the New Deal coalition possible which was based in the South? Was labor on the side of the Republicans at the time? No, FDR “collaborated” with “white supremacy,” which is unthinkable to progressives today.

In 2021, the “Left” is composed of various factions, but it is sharply divided along class lines. It is an upstairs and downstairs coalition. The people who live upstairs and who call the shots in the Democratic Party are White upper middle class, college educated professionals who live either in the big cities or wealthy metropolitan suburbs. They are the professional bourgeoisie who are the governing wing of the Democratic Party. They are the Democrat Independent Liberal Elites (DILEs) or the “Solid Liberals.” This class of people who are social reformers who are very well off under neoliberalism are motivated by culture war politics and environmental issues. That’s who the “progressives” have always been since the days of Jane Addams and the middle class social workers who worked in Settlement Houses.

The downstairs Left are the multiracial working class who typically live in the big cities or working class suburbs. It is not just poor blacks and Hispanics. There are also a lot of White people who cannot afford to be conservative Republicans. These people vote mainly on the basis of health care and economic issues. They tend to be more moderate and conservative on social issues and less animated by political correctness which is the language of the college-educated, middle class professional bourgeoisie. These people might not understand why progressive activists believe the border should be abolished or statues should be toppled or why there are 20,000 new genders or why you can get in big trouble for “misgendering” someone. These people are mainly interested in improving their material standard of living which puts them at odds with conservative Republicans and often at loggerheads with Democratic elites.

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  1. This discussion is all over the planet and there are growing voices around that sooner or later dust settles and then will be only two groups left. Normal people versus lunatic zealots. Or humans and communists or as religious people say, battle between good and evil.

    The last one is popular in Russia. There is Ukraine war coming in fast and Russian soldiers see themselves as Christian Knights fighting against Devil.

    Europe also gearing up. Instead of defending whatever now there is a little more aggressive rhetoric about demanding European renaissance.


    • Re that link about the 3 leaders from Hungary Italy & Poland – Orbán, Salvini & Morawiecki – meeting to plan EU right wing ‘renaissance’, their statement was:

      “We say no to censorship, the European empire in Brussels, communism, illegal migration, and anti-Semitism.”

      4 chan comment:
      >no censorship
      >no anti-Semitism
      Pick one?

      The European right is almost entirely tied to the Netanyahu camp as was Trump, versus the Biden-Harris links which are much more strongly with the Soros group

      For Jews too it’s nationalists versus globalists … and it seems everyone in the West has to pick either Soros or Netanyahu as a partner

      • Basically yes. In the war we need maximum allies and minimum enemies so we shall not piss off any group without very good reason.

        Hitler picked up pointless fights with possible allies and we know how he ended up. On the other side, Putin ramped up widespread coalition from India and China to Central Asia and Middle East Muslims and he is winning. Orban in Hungary with Netanyahu love also gained much more that old school hardcore nationalists..

        And of course uncle Donald. When was the last time in the history, when there was serious opposition to ruling elite in the West ??????

  2. The labor unions were instrumental in the White Australia policy which barred non-White immigrants Down Under. And early labor unions in South Africa supported White rule of that country.

  3. I sure learn a from your historical analysis I got to thinking why your idea that there is no real meaning in Right and Left. Your completely right. It just shifts depending on who or what is happening in history.

  4. I absolutely hate it when stupid ignorant people use terms like Fascist, Nazi and Socialist. If you don’t understand what those concepts mean then don’t use them.

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