We poor and working class people of the United States live in a world that’s becoming ever more hollowed out. Our job prospects keep declining. The prices of consumer goods keep rising and wages keep falling, even as corporations use social media to make their advertisements more integrated into our lives than ever. The government has shown that it will continue to strip away the social services which we increasingly depend on. And our socioeconomic system is designed to undermine the educational and social structures that could help us increase our political power.
This week, President Trump demonstrated the sheer decrepitude of the country’s social safety net by declaring that Covid-19 stimulus renewal talks will be delayed until after the election. The relief package service program is already so pathetic that millions of people are missing their stimulus checks, a governmental failure that’s resulting in millions being at risk of losing power and water due to being unable to pay their bills. At the same time, jobless claims keep rising, a factor which will exacerbate the looming eviction crisis.
This eviction crisis will emerge because the country’s eviction moratorium measures, like the stimulus program, is being enacted haphazardly and without the wellbeing of the masses as a central priority. Under a capitalist state, the interests of the owning class are the central priority, and under neoliberalism the system is especially designed to not uphold the livelihoods of the lower classes. We’re seeing the engineering of a massive massive increase in inequality, which will come on top of the drastic drops in lower class living standards we’ve seen in the last year alone; hunger has tripled within the U.S. since 2019, with children most of all having recently come to lack adequate access to food.
As the suffering, the desperation, the tenseness of it all sweeps across our communities and our personal lives, our desire for drastic societal changes becomes severe. People are so upset about how living conditions have gotten that they now plan to vote against Trump by an overwhelming margin, despite his opponent being essentially no better. They’re desperate for change. But the only kind of “change” that the system offers is the neoliberal imperialist Joe Biden. So for those voters who have come to unify against Trump, the mostly agreed upon option is to ingest more capitalist poison by ushering in a return to the Obama paradigm.
And the system is set up to keep them from seeking out any institutions or knowledge which can help free them. The media is filled with war propaganda that gets people to fear China, Russia, Iran, and other manufactured enemies rather than focusing on the socioeconomic system that’s driving them to ruin. The U.S. electoral system, which is among the most corrupt in the world, is incapable of letting them vote their way into getting human rights like universal healthcare or guaranteed food. Endless war and austerity is what prevails in our political culture.
The way that neoliberalism makes our daily lives structured also causes people to remain separated from the educational and organizational tools for revolution. Long working hours, the perpetual challenges of keeping up a stable livelihood, and the even more anxiety-producing experience of trying to survive while unemployed all make people politically demobilized. The system constantly forces people to focus on their base survival instincts, magnifying their neuroses and making them numb to the propaganda which surrounds them.
What’s left is a culture that’s as incapable of addressing the needs of the collective as the state itself. What’s left is a cult of individualism that makes people see poverty as a personal failure, and that creates a hollow worship of commercial goods. Consumerism is nihilism, so it’s fitting that consumerism is the reigning facet of culture under neoliberalism. As Henry Giroux has said about how our socioeconomic system drains the will to act collectively, or to seek out alternatives to the present order:
Democracy basically is a word they use, but they empty it, and invert its meaning to justify the most anti-democratic practices and policies, meaning that it’s a term that has nothing to do with questions of justice, nothing to do with questions of rights, nothing to do with questions of legality. As a matter of fact, it becomes a term of deception and diversion — a kind of counterfeit term that’s used to justify a whole range of policies that actually are anti-democratic. It’s oxymoronic. The other side of this is that the financial elite and oligarchs despise democracy since they know that neoliberalism is the antithesis of real democracy because it feeds on inequality; it feeds on privilege, it feeds on massive divisiveness, and it revels in producing a theater of cruelty. All you have to do is look at the way it enshrines a kind of rabid individualism. It believes that privatization is the essence of all relationships. It works very hard to eliminate any investment in public values, in public trust. It believes that democracy is something that doesn’t work, and we hear and see this increasingly from the bankers, anti-public intellectuals and other cheerleaders for neoliberal policies.
Such has been the social environment that’s blunted the rise of class consciousness throughout our generation. But as Marx observed, capitalism has innate contradictions, ones that make the system’s very means for strengthening and expanding itself ultimately lead to a furthering of the potential for revolution. When tens of millions are suddenly being pushed into poverty by the disasters the system has created, they’ll become far more inclined to question the system. For the millions who’ve participated in this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, and especially for the thousands who’ve been willing to riot in reaction to the evils being perpetrated against their social class, there’s a desire to do a whole lot more than question the way that society is set up. Many are ready to put their bodies on the line for the cause of class and racial liberation.
Our job as Marxists is to harness this mass reaction to the cruelties of contemporary U.S. capitalism, and channel it towards building a movement that can overthrow the capitalist state. This year’s social unrest shows that there’s a growing number of people, mainly within colonized communities, who’ve been pushed to a breaking point by the ever-rising inequality and the casual state violence that’s gone along with it. Our first step is to reach the people, and help spread awareness of the need for a proletarian anti-colonial revolution.
If we do this, if we build social cohesion within the deeply fragmented society that capitalism has created, we’ll be able to organize a militant proletarian movement strong enough to defeat the state.