“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”
-Karl Marx, German Ideology
In his brilliant book, Black Shirts and Reds, Michael Parenti dedicates a section to observing and defining what he calls the “ABC Theorists” among the “left”. Here, “ABC” means “Anything-But-Class”. These theorists of which he speaks – centrist liberals posing as “progressive” scholars, the shallow and vague “social justice warriors” – are those who erect a facade of what they cautiously term “progressivism” around their somewhat hidden opposition to class consciousness and fairly blatant bourgeois bias.
“Many who pretend to be on the Left are so rabidly anti-Marxist as to seize upon any conceivable notion except class power to explain what is happening in the world. They are the Anything-But-Class (ABC) theorists who, while not allied with conservatives on most political issues, do their part in stunting class consciousness.” -Michael Parenti
These are class enemies posing as “leaders of the Left”. They will speak forever regarding the injustices of racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry, etc., but never will they get to the root of these issues. It is right to oppose oppression on all fronts; racism, sexism, homophobia are all oppressive and should be combated. But simply saying you are against these things does not make you a fighter for liberation or progress. Attempting to find a true answer to these horrendous problems is what is needed, not the simple verbal support of some overpaid pundit. And by ignoring the issue of class, by sweeping class struggle under the rug, so to speak, even outright ridiculing those calling for a wider class consciousness, these watered-down self-proclaimed “progressive” liberals(liberal is another word for capitalist, by the way) don’t do any help for the causes which they claim to support, and in fact hinder them by avoiding the class roots of all reactionism.
To ignore the class struggle, to shrug it off as a non-issue, is to stagnate the movement for progress. For every form of modern oppression and exploitation stems from the system of class antagonisms. Racism is a product of the bourgeois class and its domination. It was created as a means to garner support for chattel slavery, in the name of profit and bourgeois class interests. The abolition of slavery, enforced by the people themselves, not some “golden-hearted” bourgeois “progressives”, did not mean the abolition of racism, which will always exist as long as the capitalist class has power and needs to disrupt any form of working class solidarity and unity. Racism is a tool of class warfare used by the exploiting class. Sexism is the oldest form of exploitation and also has an important place in the bourgeois arsenal of class war. Homophobia is a propaganda tool for the same reasons. Scapegoating, the delusion of cultural division, taking the aim of the people away from their oppressors and making them point their weapons at each other.
If we are to ignore the class nature of these injustices, we ignore the roots of the problem and do nothing for the abolition of these oppressive ideologies and practices. Therefore, these liberal and ABC commentators are not in true opposition to these ideas and policies, but are doing almost all they can to prevent the people from attacking the roots of these inhumane practices and institutions.
“The ‘left’ ABC theorists say we are giving too much attention to class. Who exactly is doing that? Surveying the mainstream academic publications, radical journals, and socialist scholars conferences, one is hard put to find much class analysis of any kind. Far from giving too much attention to class power, most U.S. writers and commentators have yet to discover the subject. While pummeling a rather minuscule Marxist Left, the ABC theorists would have us think they are doing courageous battle against hordes of Marxists who dominate intellectual discourse in this country—yet another hallucination they hold in common with conservatives.” -Michael Parenti
But the problem is not solely in the liberal camp, even so-called “communists” and “revolutionary socialists” fall into this anti-Marxist, non-class rhetoric. As the wave of Marxism-Leninism rises more and more every day, as more and more comrades are coming out against the plague of revisionism and becoming more militant and hardline both in theory and practice, the revisionist, bourgeois-in-denial elements within the socialist movement are being ever more reactionary and hardline in their own anti-proletariat stance. They are attempting to replace the theory of national self-determination with national chauvinism. To replace genuine anti-imperialism with shallow and simplistic anti-Americanism. To replace class struggle and class analysis with identity politics and liberalistic reformism.
In this, they share several similarities with conservatives and the class-ignorant liberals, they simply turn these trends on their heads. They do not see culture as a class phenomenon, but base culture on “race”, just as conservatives and bourgeois media does. To them, “white culture” is the problem, not bourgeois culture. This is a profoundly segregationist attitude, and, just as the bourgeoisie wants, it divides the working class along racial/ethnic lines. They put proletarian revolution – the only true cure for racial and any other kind of discrimination – on the back-burner. They do not analyze material conditions, class antagonisms, or the nature of racism, but run with emotionalism and shock-value instead, and in most cases openly support racism in their own way(i.e. in the notion that one race or another is inherently “bad” and that all of society’s contradictions and culture stem from “race”).
These are, indeed, very complex situations. On the one hand, racism in today’s society is geared towards white supremacism, and that means people with white skin are taught that they are somehow “superior”. But again, this ideology does not come automatically to those born with white skin, but is a learned concept taught by bourgeois society and culture, not “white culture”. It is a tool to divide the proletariat, to make it more difficult to build class unity. But in reality, class, not “race”, determines a society’s functionality. A white agricultural worker living in the countryside slums of Alabama does not share the same culture or class interests as a white member of the bourgeoisie. The worker may indeed be effected by the racism created by the bourgeoisie, but the worker is not the creator of racism, nor is racism truly in his/her interests as a member of the working class, even if that worker is duped into agreeing with bourgeois racist hegemony.
None of this is to say that racism, sexism, etc. are not true material forms of oppression. Indeed, they are very real and very reactionary. But they cannot be defeated one at a time while the bourgeoisie still holds political, economic and cultural power, as they are consequences of bourgeois cultural hegemony and sociopolitical dictatorship.
We cannot fight racism by upholding segregationist theories. We cannot defeat sexism while ignoring the system of exploitation. We cannot end homophobia without destroying bourgeois-conservative traditionalism and the system that gives it power. These issues, indeed, must be confronted on all sides, but we must also remember that they cannot be fully eradicated until this system of exploitation of one class by another is overthrown and smashed. Working class solidarity, and the realization of its own interests as a class, is the only way to defeat these social oppressions.
“Class gets its significance from the process of surplus extraction. The relationship between worker and owner is essentially an exploitative one, involving the constant transfer of wealth from those who labor (but do not own) to those who own (but do not labor). This is how some people get richer and richer without working, or with doing only a fraction of the work that enriches them, while others toil hard for an entire lifetime only to end up with little or nothing.
Both orthodox social scientists and ‘left’ ABC theorists treat the diverse social factions within the non-capitalist class as classes unto themselves; so they speak of a ‘blue-collar class,’ a ‘professional class,’ and the like. In doing so, they claim to be moving beyond a ‘reductionist,’ Marxist dualistic model of classes. But what is more reductionist than to ignore the underlying dynamics of economic power and the conflict between capital and labor? What is more misleading than to treat occupational groups as autonomous classes, giving attention to every social group in capitalist society except the capitalist class itself, to every social conflict except class conflict?
Both conventional and ‘left’ ABC theorists have difficulty understanding that the creation of a managerial or technocratic social formation constitutes no basic change in the property relations of capitalism, no creation of new classes. Professionals and managers are not an autonomous class as such. Rather they are mental workers who live much better than most other employees but who still serve the accumulation process on behalf of corporate owners.”
“We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.”
“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology).”
All Parenti quotes from: http://www.skeptic.ca/C_Word_Class.htm