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A Class is Not a Conspiracy

A class is a large classification of people with similar economic interests, especially in the sense that their interests oppose those of other large classifications of people. Capitalists, as a class, for example, nearly always want low wages for their employees. Workers, if they aren't loons, want high wages.

But a quick look at recent newspapers shows that a "class" is not nearly identical to a "conspiracy." For example, we see the Democrats and Republicans fighting over ratifications of Bush appointees. Both are parties of the capitalist class, so why don't they agree? We see no less a leading capitalist figure than General Colin Powell publicly criticizing Bush's appointee to the United Nations. We see a handful of Republicans (and a lot of Democrats) calling for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step down.

Closer to home, the Speaker of the Texas House and the Lieutenant Governor, who leads the Texas Senate, have been so far unable to come to an easy agreement on school financing, on the state budget, or even on changes to Texas Workers' Comp structure. It actually gets kind of amusing, in a grim sort of way, to see a crazy right-wing idea like privatizing Children's Protective Services (CPS) shot down by somebody even crazier and even more right-wing who added an amendment to prevent gays from serving as foster parents. Although the Republicans hold solid majorities in all state offices, they are moving into the final weeks of their once-ever-two-years legislative session without passing anything important!

Even in Dallas, famous as a button-down capitalist city, major ruling class figures are disagreeing over the "strong-arm mayor" proposal on the May 7 ballot. The Citizens Alliance, shadowy big-business financiers of city elections, sided with the minority community in opposing the proposal. The main leaders against the proposal, African American and Latino Councilpersons, are glad to get their money! The Mayor, who is the proposals' main advocate, was recently joined by none other than her oldest and worst enemy, the Dallas Morning News! Since 1935, when the Citizens' Alliance began running the city, the Dallas Morning News has been their strongest supporter. Most of us in Dallas have never seen the newspaper take any side other than that of the secretive big-businessmen in the Citizens' Alliance. We're in shock!

If a class were a conspiracy, these capitalist leaders would be getting along, at least in public, and they would be effectively enforcing their programs against opposition classes. If our own class, the working class, were a conspiracy, we would be effectively smashing these undecided bumblers in the capitalist class. But a class is not a conspiracy.

A class is a large group of people with the same general economic interests. A political party is an organizing committee for the interests of a class. Both the Republicans and the Democrats do their best to represent the interests of the capitalist class. Both of them put together electoral coalitions of different groups of people. Just for contrast, one might think of the Republicans bringing the far-right religious nuts into their electoral coalition, while the Democrats make concessions to unions to build their own voter base.

The unions don't really belong in a capitalist party, and devout Christians don't belong in an alliance with unholy transnational corporations. Consequently, the electoral coalitions are full of cracks and contradictions. Serious activists need to recognize the situation and learn how to make progress by resolving the contradictions within our class so we can work together to widen and exploit the contradictions of the ruling class.

--Jim Lane

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