Stayin’ Alive 4/10/2011


-Do we agree that the eclipse of the labor movement lacks a narrative?

The Dewey example sheds light on this (busing as original catalyst to political shift). Goes from the shopfloor to labor aristocracy (mistaken to be middle class). Jameson talks of the ‘vanishing mediator’. There are no longer Dewey Burtons but there were during a brief period. After the eighties all that remained was the anti tax populism. From working class affirmation to middle class, nativist universalism. Dewey is an important example but does not represent everything. Dewey is exemplary of the working class identity as an icon. NYT used him to put forth a perspective for liberal readers.

-Book ‘whats the matter with kansas’ traces why white working class is conservative. Book says Republicans rallied ppl around cultural values, but the Dewey example shows working class subjectivity and the importance of race (Dewey against welfare freeloaders, busing). Something structural happening, Dewey felt encroached upon by black gains. ‘My Blue Heaven’ talks of white neighborhood adjacent to Watts. Home ownership became basis of identity and there was then a tax revolt. New standard of living was threatened by civil rights movement of those excluded from post-war benefits.

-Those excluded from unionized labor (2/3) are attacked by unions (Teamsters in particular). Why was white working class so susceptible to ‘cultural values’ being used to incite their conservatism? Home ownership had much to do with this. Dewey didnt care if black people moved into his neighborhood, but he did disdain state intervention in regards to re-distribution. He has ideology of a property owner. Wages increased nearly 50% after WWII, white workers were therefore very defensive.

-Property ownership dovetails with spacial segregation. Dewey’s industry gets pummeled by Japanese competition. There are particulars to the auto industry. There is a populism in the right wing that is anti elitist. Affirmation of waged labor that faces both unwaged labor and big business as the enemy. Race is inevitably a component of this. Populism is a key component to fascism. In germany, section of proletariat is caught in between the higher end of the proletariat and workers lower than them (with communist agitation occurring). This section was under threat by lower sector that could pull them down. Comparative fascism will show that there is a designated force or demographic that is culpable of pulling down rest of working class. Sometimes there is a fetish in this designation, sometimes it reflects actual class relationships vis a vis race. Either way, such conflicts benefit bourgeoisie.

-Rise of labor aristocracy always had racial component in US (families of color denied loans for home ownership). People of color (before New Deal) were denied union access and Federal Housing Act made it hard for ppl of color to be beneficiaries of programs for home ownership. White proletariat was not entirely ‘benevolent’ before defensive and racist attitudes of late seventies.