Walter Benjamin said “Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.” Those words are horribly relevant when considering the ultra-right Breitbart website, which is seeking to mainstream an overtly xenophobic, white nationalist current among American workers. Consider this recent story:
The story puts forward a seemingly laughable argument, that single-payer Medicare for all would generate a massive influx of undocumented workers into the United States. Leaving aside that single-payer would result in savings for state and federal governments regardless of how many undocumented workers are within the 50 states, this logic is just plausible enough to pass muster with people who do not know any better.
But what’s even more troubling is when the article sings the praises of “the legendary unionist, Samuel Gompers, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, [who] believed with all his heart that people shouldn’t just come to this country and start collecting benefits.” Gompers’s xenophobia and racism earned his organization the nickname ‘the A-F of Hell’ from contemporaries like the anti-racist Wobblies.
The story even includes a link to a Gompers speech that is hosted on the website of Social Contract Press, one of the multitude of franchised vendors of white nationalism in the loathsome Tanton network, whose allies previously include the Sierra Club and the despicable Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The story creates a clear dichotomy between what it labels “globalized multiculturalist leftism” and “solidarity leftism.” It describes Bernie Sanders as “an old-time solidarity leftist, as opposed to a new-style multiculturalist.” Hold on, Caesar Chavez wasn’t both a multiculturalist and “solidarity leftist”?
But there is a partial truth to the argument that makes it easy to swallow, namely that globalization has hollowed out industrial cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit while pulverizing the unionized middle class. Progressives and radicals call this neoliberalism and Trump voters call it “globalism,” and imagine it to be a philosophy rather than an economic system.
That stupid and dangerous idea could spread a long way if not contested.
In closing, behold the flag of the German Labour Front (German: Deutsche Arbeitsfront, or DAF), which replaced independent unions and often offered its members excellent pay and benefits. “The employees were given relatively high set wages and security of employment, and dismissal was increasingly made difficult,” Wikipedia notes. “Social security and leisure programs were started, canteens, breaks, and regular working times were established, and German workers were generally satisfied by what the DAF gave them in repayment for their absolute loyalty.”
Coming soon to a union hall near you?