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SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE: FACING REACTION

$4

Sprlnl·98.

THE NEW RIGHT-.I.W� D ANTIFEMINISM


COLD WAR II- sMTCE CUTS-REAGANOMICS.
�. . ..._._.---_ ...
.

Editors: Frank Brodhead, M argery Davies, John Demeter, Marla Erlien, Phyllis Ewen , Linda
Gordon, Jim Green, Allen Hunter, Neil McCafferty, Jim O'Brien , Billy Pope, Judy Smith, Ann
Withorn.

Staff: John Demeter.

Associate Editors: Peter Biskind, Carl Boggs, Paul Buhle, Jorge C. Corralego, Ellen DuBois,
Barbara Ehrenreich, John Ehrenreich, Dan Georgakas, Martin Glaberman, Michael Hirsch, Mike
Kazin, Ken Lawrence, Staughton Lynd, Betty Mandel, Mark Naison, Brian Peterson, Sheila
Rowbotham, Annemarie Troger, Martha Vicinus, Stan Weir, David Widgery.

Cover by Nick Thorkelson

RADICAL AMERICA (USPS 873-880) is published bi-monthly by the Alternative Education Project, Inc. at 38 Union
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$22 for two years, $8 per year for the unemployed. Add $3.00 per year to all prices for foreign SUbscriptions. Double rates .
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RADICAL AMERICA is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI,
48106, and indexed in Alternative Press Center Index, P.O. Box 7229, Baltimore, MD, 21218.
• Vol. 15, N o.1 & 2 Spring 1981

INTRODUCTION 3

THE NEW TERRAIN OF AMERICAN POLITICS 7


Jim O' Brien

RETREAT FROM THE SOCIAL WAGE: 23

HUMAN SERVICES IN THE 1980'S


Ann Withor n

ECONOMIC CRISIS AND 33


CONSERVATIVE ECONOMIC POLICIES:
US CA PITALISM IN THE 1980'S
Jim Campen

BILL BOARDS OF THE FUTURE 55


Stuart Ewen

THE CONTINUING BURDEN OF RACE: A REVIEW 65


Manning Marable


THE LONG STRUGGLE 7S
FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
Linda Gordon

A BORTION: WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? 89

Ellen Willis
THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS: 93
FEMINIST AND ANTIFEMINIST
Barbara Ehrenreich

DEMOCRACY, SOCIALISM AND SEXUAL POLITICS 105


The Editors of Cay Left

IN THE WINGS: NEW RIGHT


ORGANIZATION AND IDEOLOGY 113
Allen Hunter

THE NEW COLD WAR 141


Noam Chomsky

BEYOND THE "VIETNAM SYNDROME": 153


RENEWED US INTERVENTIONISM
IN THE THIRD WORLD
Michael Klare

" .

INTRODUCTION

With this special double issue, Radical America enters its fifteenth year of publication . As
the articles in this edition recognize, we are facing a social and political terrain far different
from that which existed in 1 967 . This journal was a byproduct of a broad progressive up­
surge in American politics formed by the civil rights and antiwar movements, an expanding
economy, and a resulting period of state liberalism. The very foundations of life in capitalist
society were being challenged - from imperialism abroad to racism at home. As the
women's and gay liberation movements developed, that critique extended further to
questions of culture, family, and daily life.
RA sought originally to develop the theoretical work of the New Left and other
oppositional elements by "affirming the existence of a radical America" - a tradition of
social protest and vision that stretched far back in this country's history. As in the early
histories of labor and the suffragists or the campaigns of socialists and populists in the years
before World War I, it was a tradition that spoke to the unique conditions Americans
experienced in their lives and to the unique and powerful role the country was assuming in
the world .
As the New Left went into crisis and collapse, we reevaluated our tasks. We have fumbled
• toward an understanding of the ways that class, race, and sex interact in American society,
and the ways that the quality of individual lives reflects the contradictions of society as a
whole. Despite the puncturing of the more naive hopes the magazine shared as part of the
New Left , we have tried never to lose our orientation toward an activist movement -
toward people struggling to change the conditions of their lives. With the Right now on the
offensive, we intend to continue the presentation of such politics, history, and culture,
informed by a socialist and feminist worldview , with even more urgency. The struggle

3
continues; vision and program must not be issues deemphasizes, more than we actually
split apart. think , the importance of race in this society .)
Our attempt to provide information and ways
The production of this special issue sprang of thinking to help in developing a left strategy
from our intense collective reaction - at first is not, however, without a definite political'
numbness, then urgency - to the dramatic orientation.
political shi ft in this country embodied in the The first part of that orientation is a realistic
November 1 980 elections. As we stated in our appraisal of the origins and scope of the rise of
last introduction, the elections accentuated a the Right. As we worked, we attempted to steer
shift that had been developing for some time. clear of an energy-sapping pessimism. We
What chilled us was the scope of the electoral sought to point out contradictions within the
gains of the conservatives and the frightening conservative program and conflicts among the
prospects national and international, diverse forces that compose it. We sought also
personal and collective - that their program to avoid the naive faith that this period of deep
portends for the coming period . The crisis for capitalism would of its own power
projections are made all the more disheartening produce the seeds of radical upheaval. I f there
by the lack of a cohesive, unified mass opposi­ is one overriding lesson that emerges from these
tion . articles, it is that we have space to operate -
We set out then to try to get an that we are not victims of an inexorable
understanding of what had happened : not so historical process or a "juggernaut" , as some
much an analysis of the election itself as a grasp commentators would have us believe. Thus,
of what has been happening in American while we can still suspect both the morality and
society over the past several years. Recognizing majority of the Moral Maj ority, we need to
that agreement is lacking on the Left - even i n assess critically and realistically the options for
election post-mortems a s well a s in the rest of us.
organizational agendas - we have sought an As two of our editors stated in an appraisal
analytical rather than programmatic approach of the New Right three years ago (Linda
in our selection of articles . Some of the articles Gordon and Allen Hunter, " Sex, Family and
were written or solicited by us, others are the New Right, " Vol. 11:6-12:1, Winter
reprints which we found helpful. As has been 1 977-8), those options must start with a clear
the case for the Left too often in recent history, assessment of the components of the Right's
RA has at times neglected to consider the "big program . Historically racist, anti communist,
picture," the overall context in which the popu­ and xenophobic in its practice, the
lar struggles we write about take place. rejunvenated Right has been propelled in the
Intervention is then relegated to defensive or last few years by a rabid antifeminism and a .'
adj ustive responses. patriarchal, male-dominated expression in
In the coming issues of Radical A merica we culture and state policy that directly challenges
want to round out the presentations begun in class-conscious politics. Further fueled by a
this edition . We do not pretend that this " born-again" Christian fundamentalism, this
selection is anywhere near complete in reaction seeks to push a cross-class wedge
addressing the issues before us now . separating the undeserving from the deserving,
(Specifically, w e note that our " balance" of and social service from''imperial duty. " As the

4
first round of federal budget cuts dramatically depictions of the struggle in El Salvador stress
showed, some people are welcome within this even more the limited access to facts and
new realignment and others, many others, are information we will experience in the near
not. future. Support, then , for resources, informa­
• In this light, any backing down by the Left tion, and the continued presentation of an
on issues of sexual politics, in the struggle for alternative vision is critical .
abortion rights, for example, is to ignore the The media and cultural industries have been
deep-seated expression in foreign policy and able to absorb and redefine challenges to capi­
military posturing (as well as in domestic talism in the past, and even turn them into com­
legislation) of patriarchal and male modities . This has been hastened by the move­
domination . It is at the roots of class, racial, ment's failure to integrate issues of class, sex,
and social control. and race. Rigid and self-limited counter­
As' we go to press, in these early days of 1 98 1 , institutions resulted . It affected our ability to
we are experiencing a period of deep cultural confront earlier the growing tide of reaction, as
isolation and alienation as socialists and femi­ well as to expand our work.
nists . So effective has been the cultural Now that the rise of the Right is fact, we need
blanketing that there is isolation not j ust to prioritize our work without liberal compro­
between us and the presently ascendant mise . As their timidity in congressional hear­
Reagans, Haigs , and Moral Majority types , but ings on the Reagan cabinet attests , the liberals
between us and every swatch of yellow ribbon are seemingly willing to do the conservatives'
we pass at work or in the street. The corporate work for them . We don't need to do the
media's absorption in the events surrounding liberals' work. As an enlightened Barry
the return of the hostages and the long siege of Goldwater might put it, extremism in the
Cold War hysteria, coupled with the defense of democratic socialism is no vice.
quadrennial electoral exercise, has reached such
hegemonic proportions that we might actually A final note: the process of putting together
fear contracting " hostage syndrome" this issue has been very warming for us - both
ourselves . Thank God for Doonesbury. in the willingness of friends to help and in the
This brings us to the role of Radical A merica encouragement and advice we have gotten . Our
and the too-few other journals, papers, and urgency in producing this edition has also
magazines on the side of a politics of humanity helped to focus our goals for the coming year.
and social change. As if the hysterical In that respect, we encourage feedback from
manipulation of the events in Iran (and the our readers and friends and also welcome
rewriting of the American role in that country) contributions to subsequent issues that will help
• was not enough of an indicator, more recent us expand and develop what is presented here.

5
Herbert Bayer
·THE NEW TERRA I N
OF AMER I CAN POL I T I CS

Jim O'Brien

The November 1 980 elections were like a bolt of lightning, throwing into sharp relief a
political landscape that has changed in ways we but dimly comprehended. The election
returns made clear the emergence of a political Right (complete with " moderate" and
" New" branches) that is serious about carrying through a drastic power shift in American
society.
It is easy (and it may be too comforting) to refute the notion that the Right has become a
majority movement. The arguments can readily be summoned: Only 26 percent of eligible
voters actually voted for Reagan; Carter's obvious economic failures were the key issue; all
the liberal Democratic senators who lost their seats ran ahead of Carter; drastic tax-cutting
initiatives lost in six of the seven states where they were on the ballot; opinion surveys show
the public has gotten steadily more liberal over the past decade on issues like abortion and
affirmative action ; and so on. The elections don't mean that the American public has gone
• berserk. Rather, they mean that a majority of the public is in danger of becoming politically
neutralized. while an organized political Right uses the power of the state to facilitate the
changes it wants to see in society.
What is at issue is the way in which American society will adjust to the ending of a peculiar
period in our history. That was the post-World War II era of economic boom, growing out
of the war and depending in part on a preeminent power in world affairs that the US no
longer enjoys. Events of the 1 970s have made it clear that this era is gone . The past decade

7
has been an unhappy one for virtually all seg­ is the fact that blacks in the South, as of a
ments of American society . The postwar afflu­ recent year, made up nearly a fifth of the eligi­
ence that was once taken for granted - espe­ ble voters but only 2 . 3 percent of all elected
cially in the 1 960s, when so many new social state and local office holders. I Surely the fact
programs were based on letting excluded that the Equal Rights Amendment got nowhere 1 4
groups share in the economic boom - gave in the state legislatures after it was discerned to
way to a decade of "stagflation" and political be more than a symbolic gesture is a reflection
stalemate. I nstead of sharing the wealth, we of the relative power that men and women hold
ended up sharing the misery. It was an unstable in society. Other examples could be given. In
situation, and it could last only so long as no late- 1 970s America, the most pronounced shift
group had the power to change it for the sake of in power that took place was in the area of
minimizing its own losses. management-worker relations, and it was in
The ideological trappings of the right-wing favor of management. The shift produced an
program ("supply-side economics," "the fam­ impatient self-confidence on the one side and a
ily , " "unleashing the private sector, " "pro­ gnawing demoralization on the other . Both
ductivity, " and sometimes "God " ) are interest­ responses were evident at the polls (and away
ing, but they should not be allowed to mask the from the polls, in the massive numbers o f adult
real logic of the program that is being set forth . citizens who didn't vote) on election day. It is
The program, basically, is to respond to a this shift in power that makes understandable
shrinking economic pie by grabbing a larger what would otherwise be a mystery: the election
share of it for the people who are already, by of an avowedly right-wing president and a Con-
any reasonable standards, well off. The pro­ gress strikingly more conservative than in the
gram includes the flat-out exploitation of labor, recent past.
a growing stratification by race and sex, and the The best overall indexes of the power shift
dangerous unleashing of militant nationalism i n are unionization and unemployment. Union
foreign policy. membership as a percentage of the nonagricul­
Needless to say, to identify the right-wing tural workforce stood at 26.6 in 1 978 compared
program and sketch out its implications is not to 30 percent in 1 970; j ust as signi ficantly,
the same thing as saying "Let it be, Lord, let it unions in 1 979 won only 45 percent of their
be. " Profound historical processes have been at representational elections, the lowest figure in
work in American society. They provided the decades. High unemployment has been both a
basis for a conservative victory at the polls, and cause and an effect of workers' lessened power.
they pose the danger of worse to come. But in With peaks of 8.9 percent in May 1 975 and 7.8
the longer run they also furnish opportunities percent in May and July 1 980, compared with a
for significant progress as well. The purpose of rate that never got above 4.0 percent in the late ••
this article is not to predict the outcome, but to 1 960s, unemployment has been a sword hang-
show how high the stakes are. ing over every worker's head. With or without
unions , the ability of workers to find j obs else-
BACKGROUND: THE EROSION OF where gives them leverage in setting the terms
WORKING-CLASS POWER under which they will work. That leverage has
Election results tend to reflect the state of been severely weakened in the last half-decade.
power relations in society. An obvious example The full picture of workers' declining power

8
cannot be conveyed simply by overall statistics . fear of bankruptcy, the steel owners seem to
We can best appreciate the dynamics that have have a calmly detached perspective of preparing
been at work if we scrutinize the industries to desert a sinking ship. They are letting old
where workers have long enjoyed the highest plants become obsolete, drawing profits while
• degree of collective strength . When we look they can , then laying o ff the workforce en
closely at the traditional bastions of American masse and using the profits to buy into other
trade unionism , we see that something dramatic industries. The big companies all have large and
has been happening - however much it is growing nonsteel investments. For workers, the
obscured by the business-as-usual pronounce­ implication is that they need the steel industry
ments of the AFL-CIO and continued right­ but the owners do not. As an Armco official
wing fulminations against "big labor . " put it, "There is no divine law that says we were
What follows is a rundown o f the high-em­ put on this earth only to make steel . " J
ployment industries that have traditionally - Rubber. Astonishingly, this industry is now
at least since the 1 930s - been the most about 50 percent nonunion. 4 The big firms have
strongly unionized. The survey includes both shifted production to nonunion areas of the
old-line craft unions and the largest of the South and West and have used the threat of
mass-based industrial unions that exploded plant closures to demand concessions from
onto the scene during the Great Depression. workers at the older plants. The recent crisis in
(One thing they have in common is that they are auto has put rubber workers under the gun even
overwhelmingly male .) The survey will not more, since their industry is so dependent on
show that management has been waxing fat at the sale of tires .
the workers' expense - profits have in fact Meat packing . As in steel, the owners of the
lagged in most of these industries - but will old-line industry giants (Swift, Armour,
show that management has been able to use the Cudahy, and Wilson) are putting their money
economic crisis to gain greater control over the into other fields and shutting down plants. In
pace and conditions of work. this case the competition is domestic rather
Automobiles. Overcapacity in the world auto than foreign: it comes from two rapidly grow­
industry and poor planning by the American ing firms, Iowa Beef and Missouri Beef, whose
companies have cost the " Big Three" a large equipment is newer and labor policies harsher .
share of the domestic market. For workers, the They have been willing to accept long strikes in
crisis has brought not simply mass layoffs like order to keep control of the work process, and
those of 1 974- 1 975 but the prospect of a per­ the wages and benefits they pay are estimated as
manent " downsizing" of the workforce. G M being about two-thirds of those paid by the
and Ford are putting vast sums into robots that older companies.'
• will replace workers ,' while the Chrysler wage Construction. In construction there are a host
freeze threatens to set a pattern for the larger of small, medium-size, and large companies
companies as well . rather than a few dominant firms . The pressure
Steel. This is another industry where innovative to keep construction costs down has come
foreign competitors have caught up with the largely from the outside: from big businesses
slumbering American firms in their home mar­ organized in the Construction Users Business
ket . There is a different twist in steel, however. Roundtable, founded in 1 969 . The nonunion
While the Chrysler Corporation is writhing in "merit shop" has spread to the point where

9
union members are a lower proportion of the This is not the first time in US history that
construction workforce than they were in the changes in the economy have sapped the exist­
1 930s. Its meaning is inferior benefits (espe­ ing forms of trade unionism of their vitality;
cially pensions), training that is less broad (a the grinding-down of craft unionism in the
newcomer may be trained just to hang doors, 1 920s , as craftsmen gave way to unskilled ".
for exam ple, rather than learning to be a full­ workers in great factories, comes to mind. And
scale carpenter), and much less control over job of course, these changes in production provided
safety and other working conditions. It may be the opportunity for the great industrial-union
hard for outsiders to sympathize with the upsurge of the 1 930s . At present, we find that
unions, because of their history of discrimina­ the chief expansion of working-class employ­
tion , but the trends in construction have meant ment has been among female workers, chiefly
a serious erosion of workers' power in that in stereotyped "women's jobs" in the clerical,
industry. sales, and service sectors. A t present, they are a
Trucking. For decades this was an industry with part of the work force that has not organized in
fragmented ownership and a strong union. As its own interests to a significant degree. Thus,
in construction, pressure has come largely from the fact that the demand for their labor has
the outside. More and more big companies have increased substantially in recent years has not
developed their own truck fleets , and the flabby given them an immediate leverage in determin­
Teamsters leadership has made concession after ing their conditions of work . Whatever may lie
concession to keep its hand in the remaining a few years down the road, at the present time
tills. The National Master Freight Agreement, they do not constitute any sort of counter­
the crowning success of Jimmy Hoffa's union balance to the declining power of workers in the
presidency, covered a half-million workers in old blue-collar citadels of American unionism .
1 970 but now covers only half that number, At the same time that the bargaining power
despite a sharp increase in trucking employ­ of workers has eroded in recent years, there has
ment over the same period.6 Deregulation of been an impasse in the arena of national poli ­
the industry, enacted by Congress in 1 980, is tics . The unions have tried and failed t o get
adding fuel to the fire by giving low-wage com­ reforms in the labor laws; at the same time,
panies an edge in competing for intercity con­ employers have failed to win repeal of the
tracts. Davis-Bacon Act (which helps put a reasonably
Coal mining. Here is an industry that has flour­ high floor under construction-industry wages)
ished . But the shift of production from the or to breach the minimum wage by exempting
traditionally strong unions areas to the West teenagers . The Occupational Safety and Health
has weakened the collective power of the Administration (OSHA) , founded in 1 970, was
It·
workers considerably. About half of all coal is strengthened under President Carter, though it
now mined by nonunion labor, and even the has never gotten the number of inspectors it
extraordinary rank-and-file solidarity of the needs; trade-union pressure has foiled conserv­
1 977-78 strike was unable to prevent the dis­ ative attempts to cripple or destroy it. Even
mantling of the miners' j ealously guarded sys­ though Presidents Ford and Carter deliberately
tem of free health care in the old coal fields. created recessions with high unemployment in
Strip mining (which employs few workers) is a the name of fighting inflation , the process was
standing threat to the power of the miners. not allowed to go as far as it might have. Thus

10
the other hand, conservatives have depicted the
1 970s in equally stark and pessimistic terms
from their point of view . Neither perception is
totally wrong . There has in fact been a political
• impasse in a number of significant areas, nota­
bly those of sexual and racial equality, the
environment, and the militar y . In each of these
areas, moreover, we can expect an effort by the
Right to use its newly augmented political
power to break the deadlock. Before looking at
the threat from the Right, though, we need to
fix the nature o f the 1 970s impasse clearly in
our minds.
The women 's movement has made enormous
strides in recent years toward formal legal equa­
lity with men . Despite the E RA ' s legislative
defeat, federal courts have in effect been enact­
there has been a disparity between the shifting ing it on their own , through interpretations of
balance of power at the workplace and the equi­ the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments. The
librium in management-labor issues in national legality of abortion was established nationwide
politics. By the time of the November 1 980 elec­ in 1 973, and divorce laws have been steadily lib­
tions, the disparity was so great as to hold out eralized . None of these accomplishments
the possibility of a political breakthrough by should be minimized. Yet they have not pre­
the Right . vented an actual worsening of the living condi­
Each defeat for one sector o f the workforce tions of most women . The crucial element here
in the late 1 970s made prerogatives still held is the persistence of the stereotyped low-wage
by other sectors seem "unreasonable . " Each "women 's jobs into which the vast majority of
defeat gave the losers less confidence in their female wage-earners are channeled. Given this
own strength and in their unions, and gave the reality, the economic crunch of the past few
winners a sense that their own wavering profits years has had severe effects on diverse groups
could be bolstered through further attacks on of women.
the power of their workers. Both the optimism In two-income working-class families, the
and the pessimism spilled over into the electoral wife's entry into the wage-labor market has
arena. The right-wing appeal in the November often brought a drastic increase in her work­
elections was (to employers) let's kick them load. A recent study showed that women in

while they're down and (to workers) things these families averaged forty hours of paid
couldn' t get much worse, could they? work and twenty-nine hours of family care
(compared with forty-four and nine for the hus­
FURTHER ASPECTS OF bands) each week.7 For women with children
THE POLITICAL IMPASSE but with no husband present, the common
Among veterans of the insurgent movements condition was poverty. " I n 1 967 , " a federal
of the 1 960s, there has been a tendency to view commission recently found, "a woman heading
the past decade as one of severe reaction. On a family was 3 . 8 times more likely to be poor

11
than a man heading one . By 1 977, after more "last hired, first fired," had unemployment
than a decade of antidiscrimination efforts she rates that soared above 14 percent in mid- 1 980
was about 5 . 7 times more likely to be poor . ' " (going above one-third for black teenagers
For married women who have remained out of at the same time). Beyond that, the decline of
the wage-labor force, especially those with chil­ high-paying blue collar j obs in industries likefll�.
dren , the prospects of striking out on their own auto and steel at the point when blacks were
often seem quite bleak . As Barbara Eh renreich gaining equal access to them has hurt badly.
shows, these women are likely to take liberal­ Similarly , underfuQding of urban public
ized divorce laws as a threat rather than as a schools has often made desegregation a hollow
recourse, since their husbands will suffer much victory. As with women, the most visible bene­
less by leaving them than they would suffer by ficiaries of minority gains in the past decade
leaving their husbands . have been people toward the upper end of the
The most visible benefits of women ' s legal income scale, not those lower down. The ratio
victories have gone to professional and mana­ of black to white family incomes has fallen
gerial families which can enjoy two high sala­ from 61 percent in 1 969 to 57f1!o in 1 980.9 The
ries. The right-wing attack on the women's immediate impact of all this has been a political
movement has been aided by the fact that most demoralization, almost a neutralization of
women 's lives are in many ways getting worse blacks as a force in national politics. The most
at the same time that their legal rights are cursory reading of black history shows that this
enhanced . In effect, the suffering is blamed on condition will not last, but it has certainly been
the drive for equality, rather than the drive for a factor in the political life of the past few
equality being seen as a necessary part of any years .
serious response to the suffering . To hear Ronald Reagan tell it, the natural
In the area of minority rights , the momentum environment has been one area of politics
for change was generated in the 1 960s , not the where one side has had everything its own way
seventies. Yet the momentum was significant : it over the past decade. To be sure, environ­
produced an impasse in the seventies rather mentalists have won a string of partial legisla­
than a retreat. While no maj or new civil rights tive victories - the Clean Air, Clean Streams ,
laws have been passed, federal courts and exe­ Endangered Species , Strip Mining, and Alas­
cutive departments have used the old ones to kan Land acts , auto emission standards, and a
push forward on affirmative action and school host of Environmental Protection Agency
desegregation . E fforts to block these through rules. Antinuclear activists have had a hand in
congressional action have failed up to now . the nearly complete halt in orders for new
Still , the way that these gains have been won is nuclear plants since the mid- 1 970s . Unfor­
a symptom of weakness. The civil rights laws of tunately, the victories have been enough to limit
the 1 960s came about through mass political certain k inds of development but not sweeping
pressure; in the seventies that pressure has enough to provide clear payoffs to the public. It
existed only as a threat , and it is the forces of has been possible for the Right to claim that
racism that have been on the political offensive. environmentalism means " no growth" or that
The economic hard times have also circum­ conservation means personal discomfort . The
scribed the gains made by blacks. It is partly a victories have served to galvanize the opposi­
matter of high unemployment: blacks, as the tion, but have not served to expand the con-

12
stituency of the environmentalists.
There is one arena in which environmental
protection has unmistakably been a class issue:
the workplace . The bone of contention has
• been the Occupational Safety and Health Act
and its enforcement . And the chief issue has
been health, particularly chemical hazards ,
rather than safety . Accidents, after all , can be
easily verified and result in higher insurance
rates. But it is extremely hard to win workers'
compensation for diseases like cancer, since
they usually do not show up until years after
they are engendered; thus, there is little incen­
tive to make changes unless the employer is
forced to. OSHA's successes, not surprisingly,
have been in the area of accident-prevention
rather than long-term health. Employers have
not succeeded in getting rid of OSHA - the rI
urgency of its supporters even forced Reagan to ,)
change his position in mid-campaign and
promise to keep it - but they have kept it from
acting aggressively . In effect, OSHA has been a
passive instrument , available to those workers
and unions strong and sel f-confident enough to 4-

use it, but not capable of doing much on its


own.
Military policy is another area of political
stalemate, and another area in which the Right
hopes to make a breakthrough. Since the wind­
ing-down of US intervention in Indochina in
the early 1 970s, there has been a strong popular
revulsion against direct American military
r'


operations . The "Vietnam syndrome, " it is
called . Even amid all the furor and frustration
• over the American hostages in Iran, there was
little popular support for military action.
--
The military buildup that has taken place in
the past hal f-decade has been out of the public
eye, in the form of nuclear weaponry. Where
the US had four thousand long-range nuclear
warheads in 1 970, it now has over nine thou­
sand.]O Moreover , there have been subtle shifts
Laz/o Moho/y-Nagy (derail)

13
in US nuclear policy, away from the old con­ greater economic and social inequality, with a
cept of "mutual assured destruction" in which sizeable minority of the population becoming
each side was deterred from a nuclear attack better off than in the woeful seventies and the
because its own cities would surely be destroyed great majority becoming worse off. It is hard to
in retaliation. American policy under Carter put any other interpretation on proposals to cut 4!1) i
has moved closer to the possibility of a first taxes in a way that will benefit mainly upper­
stri ke, i . e . a sneak attack on Soviet missiles to income people, or on proposals to make more
cut off the possibility of retaliation . In public it and more social services conditional on the abil-
is always couched in terms of preventing a ity to pay for them in the marketplace. The
Soviet first strike (though American missiles are "moderate" Right does not join its " New"
more accurate), but the actions taken to guard counterpart in wanting to make a direct attack
against this reported risk are the same ones the on the rights of minorities or of women . But
US would take if it wanted to make its own first their commonly shared program calls for an
strike. It is a precarious situation, one in which acceleration of changes in the economy that
a leading presidential candidate (George Bush) would drastically worsen the relative positions
was able to talk openly about "winning " a of these groups. Moreover, as will be seen, the
nuclear war in which tens of millions of Ameri­ social conservatism of the New Right has the
cans would die. He is now vice-president and potential to help grease the skids for the eco­
widely respected as a "moderate . " nomic changes.
The politica,l impasse o f recent years has not A clear analysis of the right-wing threat
been satisfactory to anybody. We have becomes especially important when we realize
been unhappy together. All the while, however, that the Republicans will probably not make a
the terrain on which our political battles are frontal assault on the unions . No clear provoca­
fought has been changing. The nature of the tion such as a national right-to-work bill, or use
changes has been such that it was the Right , of the antitrust laws against unions, is likely.
rather than the forces of reform, that was able Time and again, right-to-work referenda in
to generate the self-confidence, the finances, industrialized states (most recently, Missouri in
and the public credibility to make electoral 1 978) have shown that working-class people
gains in 1 980. The Right is now prepared to will mobilize against any such attack . In con-
make a serious assault on the terms of the stale­ trast , Reagan ' s success in neutralizing the
mate. The nature of that assault will be dis­ "labor vote" in 1 980, despite strenuous cam­
cussed next, and then the built-in contradic­ paigning by the AFL-CIO, shows the advan-
tions that will impede it. tages of an indirect approach to weakening
working-class power. Thus , we are likely to see
THE THREAT FROM THE RIGHT a rightward shift in the interpretation of federal ••
The first point to be made about the Right in labor laws rather than a wholesale change in the
American politics today is that, for all the dif­ laws themselves.
ferences that will crop up, there is an underly­ It is when we look at the position of women
ing unity between the "moderate" conserva­ in the society that we can most readily see a
tives (who hold most top positions in the reciprocal relationship between the overall
Reagan administration) and the New Right. attack on working-class power and the social
They have a common program that calls for conservatism of the New Right. The ammuni-

14
The 1980 Presidential Elections women in the workforce . What they can do, to
the extent they are taken seriously, is under­
mine the power of the women who are in the
workforce. The implication will be that their
work is nonessential . Actually, nothing could
be further from the truth, either from the point
of view of management or that of the working
class. From management's perspective, the
stereotyped "women 's jobs" in the clerical,
sales, and service areas are marked by swelling
investments and an expanding demand for
labor. From the point of view of working-class
living standards, with the decline of workers'
power in the traditionally high-paying blue-col­
lar occupations of American men, women's
wages will likely account for a rising percentage
of family incomes. Any effort to deprecate the
importance of women' s wage labor as a central
part of their lives - and thus to undermine
their efforts to improve pay and conditions on
the job - is a direct attack on the living
standards of working-class families.
And of course, with divorce more common
and with more people having children outside
tion here is the New Right 's insistence that of marriage, a growing number of families will
women have a "special role" in the family that be " headed " by women. Here the implication
defines them socially and takes priority over of New Right theories is that these families
anything else they do. This is the sort of propa­ deserve to be poor; their poverty can be seen as
ganda that was ri fe after World War I I , when punishment for living outside the traditional
the wartime image of Rosie the Riveter was so nuclear family. In this way of looking at the
hastily j ettisoned . For most women factory world , widows deserve pensions, but divorcees
workers , the widely trumpeted "return to the and unmarried mothers deserve nothing
home" never materialized; they stayed in the because any economic problems they may have
paid work force but were forced back into low- are their own fault .
• wage "women '5 jobs . " The ideological barrage Of course, the New Right' s rhetoric about
was a means of simultaneously channeling them women's "special role , " when combined with
into those jobs and demeaning the importance the planned whittling-down of social services, is
of those jobs . After all , the jobs were incidental a call for an even more intense speedup of
to the real "role in life" of the women who held women's work than has occurred in the seven­
them . ties . If the public schools decline, if decent child
Similarly, all the New Right preachings of care is priced entirely out of reach , if neighbor­
today will not stem the rising percentage of hood medical dinics and branch libraries dis-

15
appear, than the job of bringing up children
becomes harder at the same time that the real
income of working-class families threatens to
decline. The New Right rhetoric also helps pre­
pare the way for the social-service cuts because,
after all , social services "belong in the family. "
For employers , an attractive way t o reconcile
women' s work in the home with the expansion
of wage-labor for women is the creation of
part-time jobs . This can be done either through
staggered hours or through temporary-help
agencies. There is nothing wrong with part-time
work as such, either for women or for men. The
catch is that the flexibility of such work
offered instead of the job security, pension
plans, vacations, and other benefits of good
full-time jobs. The worker becomes a form of
variable capital: hired when needed, laid off
when not needed, paid only for the time
actually worked .
When it comes to issues like abortion , sex
education, and homosexuality, the New Right
turns from rhetoric to active enforcement of its
vision . The attacks on abortion and sex educa­ Tom TuthillILNS.
tion, taken together, surely add up to an insist­
ence that women should be shut off from alter­
natives to a child-rearing role. While attacks on blacks, for example - but less subtle in the
homosexuality fasten mainly on stereotypes of kind s of vile racism that are starting to get a
gay males, at bottom they are aimed at least as hearing on the fringes of the political arena.
much at lesbians - who, as women, have much The whole picture needs to be analyzed care­
less earning power than men (gay or straight) fully.
and in that respect are more vulnerable to social Politically, there are likely to be three thrusts
pressures. More generally, homophobia is in in the area of race relations . One, t he standby
part an attempt to insist that the traditional of the 1 970s, is a continued attack on " forced
nuclear family be considered the only accepta­ busing" as a symbol . (Busing itself is accepta- •
..
ble way for women to live. ble to the great majority of white parents whose
Issues of race are also interwoven with the children have been bused for desegregation. ")
conservative program of greater inequality and A second thrust will be an effort to halt "spe­
a lower standard of living for most of the popu­ cial privileges" for nonwhites in the form of
lation. The relationship is more subtle as far as affirmative action programs. In principle, an
the public debate is concerned - the New Right overwhelming majority of whites (including
would not dare to speak of a "special role" for most Reagan voters) support affirmative

16
action,12 but it is a passive support . The third another by creating marginal privileges for
thrust , and the most insidious, is one that will whites.
be couched in terms of helping the poorest of Nationwide, racism - whether subtle or
the nonwhites. Most commonly put in terms of open - plays a strong role in the decline of
• a subminimum wage for teenagers, it involves a publicly supported social services. Even though
redefinition of what is an acceptible job in this most poor people are white, the most common
society. This in turn could have two effects: an image of the social-service beneficiary is that of
undermining of overall working-class wages a black welfare family. The case of public edu­
and working conditions and an intensifying of cation, in particular, shows the way in which
racist ideology. Race hatred in the 1 970s has racial considerations can play a part in the un­
tended to take the form of claiming that non­ raveling of programs that in theory could bene­
whites are being given special treatment: but if fit the entire working class. Urban public
an especially low-wage sector of the workforce schools are being threated with a variety of con­
is created , and if the people channeled into it verging pressures : demography (fewer voters
are mainly nonwhite, racist attitudes are more with school-age children), the "tax revolt," and
likely to be inflamed than appeased. Histori­ the competition of religious and other private
cally, racist ideology has been strongest in this schools. If a private-school tax credit is passed,
country when the structural power of blacks making it easier to take children out of the pub­
has been weakest. lic schools, there is a danger that urban public
Needless to say, terrorism against nonwhites schools will become more than ever a residue
is not part of the Republican program or that for the poor, especially nonwhites - a poten­
of the New Right. But there is the potential for tially self-feeding process as the nonpoor
a harmony of interests that should concern us. become less and less willing to vote money to
Terrorism - whether in the form of open Ku support them . We would then have a situation
Klux Klan and Nazi organizing, of street-tough in which most nonwhites would get inferior
violence against blacks in "white" neighbor­ educations while working-class whites would
hoods, or of harassment of upwardly mobile have a choice between sharing the inferior
blacks in colleges or white-collar offices - schools or paying for an education in the mar­
weakens the ability of blacks and other non­ ketplace. Down the road is the grisly prospect
whites to fight against the worsening conditions that big-city public schools could become anal­
that the conservative program o ffers them . And ogous to county homes, a last resort only for
to the extent that this program is carried out, it the poor . At every step of the way, white indif­
gives them less power in society and saps their ference to a high-quality education for blacks
ability to force an end to the terrorism. would be largely responsible for a process by
• I n some ways , the position of Hispanics in which education for working-class whites
the Southwest is a special case, contrasting with would decline in quality and/or rise steeply in
that of Afro-Americans and Puerto Ricans in cost.
the declining industrial areas of the Northeast
and Midwest . The shift of capital to the South­ JUGGERNAUT OR EDSEL?
'
west has meant generally low rates of It is important to see the dangers in the con­
unemployment there. Even so, racism plays its servative program, and not to be taken by sur­
traditional role of dividing workers against one prise if conditions worsen. But we should also

17
not exaggerate how far things have gone , as the Right's program will benefit certain groups in
Communist Party did when it went under­ the short run but is badly fitted to produce an
ground in the early 1 950s thinking that fascism overall prosperity . I f working-class people are
was imminent. A careful analysis of the poli­ unable to afford the goods that are being pro·
tical terrain has to include not only the condi­ duced (as in the 1 920s), then the basis for th. iI
tions that favor a conservat ive breakthrough, continued affluence of those higher up is
but also the problems that the Right will neces­ eroded. A small luxury-goods market might
sarily face. flourish , 1l10ng with military contractors, but
First of all, to make a point that is obvious to they would hardly be enough to support tens of
all readers of daily newspapers, there are plenty millions o f people in the style to which they
of conflicts within the Right . There are a great hope the Republicans will accustom them .
many powerful people who consider the Kemp­ A second problem has to do with the natural
Roth tax-cutting plan , for example, to be environment. In the months after the election,
insane; lots of businessmen with vested interests this seemed to be the one area in which the in·
in various social programs (food stamps for coming Reagan administration was going to
one , Medicaid for another); powerful voices on eschew "moderation," with the appointment
both sides of such basic economic issues as free of the New Right ideologue James Watt as
trade versus protectionism . Even if popular secretary of the interior and South Carolina
opposition to the right-wing program were to mossback James Edwards as secretary of
be much weaker than is likely, we would not be energy. It seemed that an open season was
faced with a smoothly functioning, internally about to be declared on the once-protected
harmonious political machine. areas of the West and Southwest that were now
Moving on to a more profound dilemma of marked for "development . " Whether that will
the Right, we can see that there are ways in be the administration's policy - and whether
which even the bare-bones common program of even by trying Reagan can top Jimmy Carter's
the "moderate" and New Rights has built-in MX-missile scheme for sheer environmental
limitations to the way it can satisfy its natural destruction - remains to be seen. If the admin·
constituency. The constituency is the large min­ istration takes that tack, however, it will soon
ority of people at the upper end of the income find that large chunks of its own constituency
scale (mainly in management, small business, have a real stake in averting environmental pol·
and the professions) who stand to get imme­ lution . Workplace chemicals may be a class
diate benefits from the sharpened inequality issue, but pollution in the air and water crosses
offered by the Right . These people constitute a class lines and threatens the quality of life for
much higher proportion of the politically active everyone. It does little good to earn more
electorate than of the population as a whole, money if your children are going to die of..
.
and if their needs are satisfied then the political cancer in their twenties because they were
apathy around them will give them a powerful exposed as infants. It does little good to own a
voice in maintaining a conservative status quo . fine house near a potential Love Canal .
I n at least three ways, however, the common Finally, the truculent foreign policy put for­
program of the Right does not o ffer a satisfac­ ward by the Right poses dangers that also tran·
tory response to their needs. scend class lines. For all the subtle Cold War
Economically, the chief problem is that the policies of the Carter administration - not so

18
subtle during the past year - there was some­
thing healthy about the way it talked about
accepting a new pluralism in world affairs,
accepting the reality that the U S can't simply
• get its way . In the rhetoric of the Right there i s
a refusal to come t o grips with this irreversible
state of affairs. Everything is compressed into
the framework of the American-Soviet Cold
War, and the danger of nuclear war is put in
perspective by saying that national interests are
" more important" than peace. With the myr­
iad chances for an accidental triggering of a
nuclear war, a confrontationist foreign policy
poses the gravest dangers for the American (as
well as Soviet and European) people. The bur­
den of conventional wars falls most heavily on
the working class - Vietnam is a classic exam­
ple of this - but nuclear bombs have no respect
for the traditional privileges of wealth. Govern­
mental officials may survive in their under­
ground bunkers, but a high proportion of their
erstwhile political supporters will not survive.
Economic difficulties may tempt conservatives
Diane Turner
in power to turn to j ingoism and neo-McCar­
thyism to retain their power , but people who
are inclined to support them should be well
aware that in that direction lies destruction competition and of automation are undermin­
on an unprecedented scale. ing the economic and political power of the
Ultimately, of course, the best hopes for a traditionally strong blue-collar unions . This
brighter, more egalitarian and safer future do does not mean there is no longer a large work­
not lie with the misgivings o f the well-to-do, but ing class with distinct interests of its own; all it
in the resurgence of a strong working-class means is that traditional relationships within
movement. At the present time this may seem that class are in a state of flux . In particular,
like a mumbled incantation, on an intellectual nonwhites are a higher proportion than ever
• level with " making American great again" or before and the role of female wage-earners is
"balancing the budget. " It will help, however, more crucial than at any time in our history. As
if we see the present crisis of American trade a new movement takes shape, it will have to be
unionism as part of a historical process. The as different from present-day trade unionism as
economy is changing, j ust as it changed earlier the mass-based industrial unionism of the 1 930s
in the century when native-born skilled crafts­ was different from the old skilled-craft struc­
men were displaced by immigrant mass-produc­ ture of the American Federation of Labor. Al­
tion workers. Today the forces of international though the immediate political battles will be

19
defensive ones , a larger view of the context has 1 0. These are Defense Department figures given me by
to be kept in mind. In the long run the best that Randall Forsberg of the Institute for Defense and Disarm­

can be hoped for is not simply a return to the ament Studies, Boston.
1 1 . Louis Harris survey quoted by Robert Jordan in the
centrism of recent mainstream Democratic and Boston Globe, December I , 1 980. Fifty-six percent said it ,
Republican administrations . The society is was " fully satisfactory," another 23 percent "somewha t
' .
'

changing, and the same changes that provide satisfactory, "


the Right with an incentive for severe reaction 1 2 . Ibid.

also provide the opportunity for giant steps for­


ward.
JIM O ' B RIEN is a free-lance editor in Boston
and works on Radical America.
NOTES

This article has benefited from extensive conversations


and correspondence that I have had with friends since the
elections. Aside from other members of the Radical Amer­
ica editorial group, who have given the article a lot of their
time and thought, I am especially grateful to Paul Buhle, prov i d i ng i n - d ep t h a n a lyses of
Jeremy Brecher, and Richard Kronish for their insights. I current fi lms
found the Socialist Review article cited below to be an
cons i s te n t l y thoug h t f u l re v i e ws of H o l l y ­
especially fine source on working-class living conditions in
the 1 970s. If we had not run out of space in this issue, we woo d , E u ro pea n , T h i rd Wo r l d , a n d i nd e ­
would have reprinted a speech by Karen Nussbaum , p e nd e n t po l i t i ca l fi l m
director of t h e clerical-worker organizing group Working
Women; personally I found it very helpful in showing the deve loping a radical film
way that new directions in corporate investment have made c r i t i c ism
female workers more central in the economy.
g ro u ndbrea k i ng work in fem i n i s t fi l m
I . Manning Marable, From the Grassroots: Social and Poli­
a na l ys i s
tical Essays To wards Afro-A merican Liberation (South
End Press, 1 980), p. 1 38 .
2 . Harley Shaiken, " Detroit Downsizes U . S . Auto Job s , " exammmg c i nema i n i ts social
The Nation, Oct. I I , 1 980. a nd pol it ical context
3. Quoted in "What 's Happening in Steel? , " Dollars &
spe c i a l se c t i ons o n new d e v e l opm e n t s :
Sense, No. 60 (Oct. 1 980), pp. 1 5- 1 7 , p. 1 7 .
r e c e n t C u b a n c i nema , l e s b i a n s a nd fi l m ,
4 . Kim Moody, "Labor and the Challenge o f the Eighties , "
Changes, 2 (June 1 980), 1 2 - 1 9 . p. 1 2. This article i s a fine rad i ca l fi l mm a k i ng i n the 3 0 ' s , gays
overview. and fi l m , new fi l m theory , Bra z i l i a n fi l m
5. New York Times, Dec. 2 1 , 1 980, F7.
6. Moody, " Labor and the Challenge , " p . 1 6 .
7 . Monthly Labor Review, A u g . 1 979. p . 3 4 , cited in Elliott
Currie, Robert Dunn, and David Fogarty, "The New
JUMP CU T
Immiseration: Stagflation, Inequality. and the Working PO Box 865
Clas s , " Socialist Review, No. 54 (Nov.-Dec. 1 980), pp. Berkeley CA 94701
7-3 1 , p. 1 5 .
8 . National Advisory Council o n Economic Opportunity
report, Oct. 1 980, cited in the BasIon Globe. Dec. 1 4 , 1 980. 6 I ssue s u b $6; Canada a nd abrood $8
9. I am grateful to Lew Ferliger of Doflars & Sense
magazine for these figures.

20
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fI i

WORLD S HIGH EST S TANDA R D O F l I V i N C


.RETREAT FROM
T H E SOC I AL WAGE
H u m a n Serv i ces i n t h e 1 980s

Ann Withorn

Human services are under attack . Fiscal conservatives consider them "luxuries we can no
longer afford . " Candidate Reagan loved to read examples from his notecards about
outrageously wasteful social programs: paper-pushing bureaucrats throwing money at social
problems and undermining the work ethic. The New Right is appalled by the destruction of
family life brought about by meddling "social interventionists. " And , underlying the public
statements , is the unstated but implied argument that the recipients are black anyway, out
for a free ride at the expense of white working people.
During the past five years such assaults have brought an end to the twenty-year expansion
of social-welfare programs . (See Chart I) At the local level, schools, welfare, and other
services have been under seige since the urban fiscal crisis hit maj or cities at mid-decade . We
all know about Proposition Thirteen . With the rightward turn in Washington, we face the
specter of even more severe cutbacks in basic social programs, as the crisis in world
'. capitalism forces a realignment of economic priorities.
Yet no strong, ringing defense of educational and social welfare programs has emerged
from the Left, from labor unions or from any sector of a broad liberal coalition. Instead,
teachers have fought for their schools , child-care workers for their funding , and social
workers for the survival of their particular programs. Some of this fragmented reaction
results from the nature of the cuts - hiring freezes here, canceled cost-of-living increases there
- which have not yet been experienced as a concerted , interconnected attack. But, more

23
importantly, the lack of unified response liberal wel fare state has been even more
f:
, retlects a widely held and deep ambivalence damning than that of the Right.
i about the benefits of the liberal state . However , the left analysis has also under­
stood that most human service programs have
THE NATURE OF OUR AMBIVALENCE been the result of struggles by the working clast .
There are many sources of the deep skep­ and minorities . 2 Although provided meagerly
ticism about the proper role of the state. The and punitively , public welfare, education, and
old populist hostility to big government runs health programs have served to help people
deep and provides a receptive audience for survive under capitalism . Indeed, they became
conservative rhetoric. Liberals have defended part of the working class 's " social wage" - if
state intervention, as long as they were in employers didn 't pay wages that covered the
charge, but have usually argued publicly that it costs of education, old age, and illness, they
would only be temporary. Welfare programs would be absorbed as a social cost by the state.
would only be provided until we could "cure" In this way, a left analysis has supported
poverty, juvenile delinquency, or other popular efforts to demand more public
marginal problems. Even as the liberal state services. When the discrepancy between analy·
was being built it was still presented to the sis and practice was noted, it was blamed on
public as necessary only to correct social one of the famous "contradictions of capital·
problems due to the special needs of particular ism" and , until recently, little attempt was
populations - urban poor until they became made to explore the tensions further. J
middle-class, blacks until they could rise out of Human-service workers on the left have
the ghetto, immigrants until they could learn sometimes offered another reason for provid·
the language, fatherless children until they ing public services . In the 1 9305 radical social
could become good workers. workers began to argue that services were
Radicals have seen through this fantasy and needed to do more than clean up the victims of
exposed the liberal state as a permanently capitalism or to spread the costs of providing a
necessary tool of an increasingly complex social wage. 4 Social workers like Bertha
capitalist system. 1 Left analysis has shown how Reynolds began to understand that there are
the capitalist state provides human services as a many human conditions which require special
signi ficant form of social control. Welfare supports in any society - old age, mental
benefits, for example, are set at levels that keep illness and retardation, alcoholism . She, and
wages down. Poor people on various forms of others since, have argued that a major goal of
relief are kept at subsistence level so that they socialism is to provide a society where people
will be miserable and either look for work or can be cared for with dignity. This leads to the
serve as the negative examples needed to keep understanding that some human services, .
people working at poorly rewarded, demeaning despite their social-control funtions, are not
jobs. Education serves to socialize children to only desirable but are a measure of the quality
be good workers, not to think and act critically. of any society. l
The demographics of poverty, along with These di ffering perspectives can leave us
control of the delivery system by white profes­ immobilized in the face of conservative attacks
sionals, serves to enforce racist stereotypes on on the liberal state. We agree with many of the
many levels . In short, the Left's critique of the criticisms of public programs but we also see

24
them as essential. In the face of broad-brush many, or more, teachers may be needed to deal
attacks on human services, we have to defend effectively with the changing student
the right of people to satisfy their basic human population, that can easily be dismissed as self­
needs, as well as t he integrity of workers trying serving .
• to respond to those needs , without making a In a different direction, but with similar
liberal defense of the whole social-welfare and results, shifts in the elderly p opulation also can
educational system in this country. To do this be seen as supporting program cuts. The
we need a more specific analysis of what ' s proportion of the population which is old is
wrong w ith social programs and where they increasing and people are living longer. 7 These
need to be defended . facts propelled an increase in services and
SOURCES OF V ULNERABILITY expenditures for the elderly during the 1 970s
Many major social programs and their recip­ but now they seem to demand cuts . " Realistic"
ients are especially vulnerable at this time for assessments - with realism rapidly becoming a
three reasons . First, nationwide population catchword for surrender - appear often in the
changes seem to support arguments for reduced popular and scholarly press .
services. Second, the ways in which programs While these arguments are manipulated to
have been designed and administered during the serve the most negative ends, it is not surprising
past twenty years have rendered them open to that the facts of population change lend some
criticism, even by people who accept their credibility to arguments for service cuts or
goals. Third, the shi fting population receiving changes in the types of programs delivered .
services makes it possible for many people to
feel that they themselves receive no benefits - Liberal Practice
that the major social programs are nothing The ways in which many social programs
more than a drain on their pocketbooks. have been designed and administered helps to
create a popular sense - shared often by the
Demographic Changes Left - that education, health, and welfare pro­
Two major shifts in population supply a grams are hopeless bureaucratic boondogles
common-sense support to cuts in public which cannot be defended.
spending. First , the dramatic decline in school­ The roots of this commonplace observation
age children allows many to see school cuts as lie in the ideological confusion of the liberal
feasible - especially since the decline is greatest welfare state. Liberal professionals have devel­
among the white middle class. These people oped public programs in attempts to respond to
find themselves paying more for public schools the worst manifestations o f capitalism -
with shrinking enrollments, a decreasing unemployment, lack of economic and social
'. proportion of their own children , and more supports for the non-wage-earning; dependent
nonwhites .6 With the strength of racism added individual ; racial discrimination. But the
to the logic that declining enrollments should professional ideology could not admit that
mean declining costs, it is not surprising that these problems were fundamental and sys­
the public schools are under attack , both tematic features of t his society (much less that
directly and through demands for subsidies of some of them may afflict all societies) , so
private education. When teachers argue that program goals were never allowed to address
['
inflation acts to cut costs already and that as basic causes.

I 25
Similarly, since the liberal ideology assumed
that all public policy was the result of pluralist
"compromise" among competing groups, the
agitation for social benefits by workers and
minorities was never viewed as the wrenching o f
a social wage from capitalism . Rather, it was
accepted as a natural process of competing
demands for resources. Therefore, liberals were
able to overload programs with disparate goals
in an attempt to create a healthy "balance" of
interests. (The Model Cities program is the
most extreme example of this . Militant
demands for community control were incorpo­
rated , but only as part of a package that
included special power for local politicians and
professional planners . )
There are many concrete ways in which lib­
eral professionals defeated their own programs
by refusing to acknowledge the real problems
they were addressing and by trying to balance
off a range of interests in each social program .
As a result, the public, including workers and
clients, has been consistently misled in regard to
Chef La More. Unemployed.
the purposes, possibilities, and problems of the
programs. already noted it sets worthy programs up to
The most important way liberal practice con­ fail, with impossible standards like ending
tributed to the vulnerability of public programs poverty or youth unemployment. It led to vic­
was by overpromising. Educators instituted tim blaming: " We could have succeeded if poor
new math, open classrooms , or other innova­ people were not so pathological " or, in the '70s
tions with fanfare and promises for "an end to version, " i f workers weren 't so stupid . " Most
traditional educational dilemmas . " Commu­ importantly, however, overpromising created
nity Mental Health programs were expected to an atmosphere where clients, workers , the gen­
cure mental illness in the community. The quin­ eral public, and even left critics of social pro­
tessential liberal document was the 1 962 HEW grams began to think that there were cures for
Advisory Committee report which called for most problems which afflict people. •
Social Security amendments to fund social In the short run , of course, the "promise
services, arguing , "Having the power, we have them anything" approach allowed liberals to
the duty" - thereby expressing an arrogance talk about and "respond" to social problems
embraced fully by many liberal professionals without admitting to their more fundamental
and accepted as a necessary political strategy by causes. In the long run, the approach left many
others . people - including the consumers of services
Overpromising has many drawbacks. As - skeptical of any efforts to alleviate health,

26
educational , and social problems. indeed, the "bureaucratic nightmares" decried
At the same time as liberal pro fessionals by the Right were created and legitimate
introduced new programs with great fanfare, accountability was lost .
they also led the attack on their own programs. Or, there was the trail of never-completed
• Educators exposed failing performance and reforms. Community schools, community men­
asked for money for new programs . Welfare tal health centers, job training programs all
officials presented lists to legislators of how were started, never completed, and then left
bad their programs were - high error rates, half-finished to allow administrators to escape
increasing child abuse, worker turnover - and the responsibility of either admitting their fail­
then requested more funds so that next year ure or coping with the costs of full implementa­
things would get better. It is not surprising that tion . Deinstitutionalization of state hospitals
the public finally came to believe that programs offers the best example here. Many states now
were terrible, and began to resent " throwing have institutions filled to one-quarter or less
money away" on them . capacity, with a hodge-podge of more or less
Of course, upper-level professionals and successful "community" programs serving
managers seldom blamed themselves for these their old populations . But when community
failings. Traditionally they have blamed clients, programs are criticized, administrators stress
patients, or students for their lack of motiva­ how their priorities are first to empty the state
tion, or families for their failure to support hospitals and then improve the community pro­
social intervention. During the 1 970s this grams. Yet attacks on the quality of the remain­
shifted so that most often we found workers ing state hospital system bring the response that
blamed for system failures - because of their the hospitals are being emptied so money can­
stupidity, lack of training , lack of motivation, not be spent improving them . Once more, it's
lack of management skills. Directors of large no wonder that the New Right finds support for
social agencies or school departments (increas­ its claim that only the family can provide qual­
ingly products of business schools rather than ity care .
up-from-the-ranks bureaucrats) presented Developments in the human-service work­
themselves as the only ones who cared about force during the 1 970s have also served to dis­
clients, as the ones who wanted to provide bet­ credit social programs. Budget cuts , burn-out,
ter services by cutting "deadwood" from the and professional pressure have reduced the
staff. numbers of truly "community-based" workers.
Another way in which the welfare state ran Therefore, the public (as well as clients) has
amok, and liberal professionals avoided facing fewer opportunities to discover the existence of
the seriousness of capitalism 's problems, was dedicated, hard-working, risk-taking service
• the proliferation of categorical programs. Each workers. It is easier now to argue that every­
group which organized and pressured, or for body works in plushy offices pushing papers
whom professional advocates emerged, might around all day . (Teachers, of course, have
finally get a new (inadequate) program but old always been criticized for their summer vaca­
ones were never phased out or revamped. tions .)
Population by population the expenditures Paradoxically, the influx into human-service
grew - the elderly here, special education work of people from a wider class base -
there, minority youth next year - until , which has occurred over the past twenty years

27
- has served to undermine the credibility of ing services to the poor and elderly - day-care
service workers with the upper classes, the services, homemaker services, halfway houses,
media, and legislators . Most service providers and so forth. The workers in these programs
are viewed as just unionized workers now - are not eligible to j oin public sector unions ,
not dedicated "grey ladies " - who fight only even i f their agency is 1 00 percent funded by• •
for fat , feather-bedded jobs . Furthermore, the public money . They have little defense i f cut­
complex funding and fiscal-accountability backs occur. The " flexibility of program plan­
requirements which have been instituted over ning " with which liberals justified the use of
the past fifteen years have made the human private programs, becomes another cruel joke
service encounter more routinized . There are played on workers and clients.
more bureaucratic forms and regulations and All of these practices have created a system
somehow human service workers , not the which is easy to criticize and hard to defend.
administrators who invent them , get blamed. Any attempt to protect jobs or clients within
Finally, the massive increase in the purchase this system must begin by arguing that it is the
of private services with public money has structure of these programs and the way
increased the number of service workers who workers have been forced to perform that has
are vulnerable to cuts. In many states more created the difficulties, not any inherent lack of
than 80 percent of the federal social service need or widespread worker incompetence.
money goes to pay private agencies for deliver-

'e r c e n t Chart I
� f GNP PUBLIC SOCIAL-WELFARE
EXPENDITURES AS A PERCENTAGE
OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT

5 Total Social Welfare -----��

) -

.. . . .
- :<.�-:
. .. .. , . .. . , '
« .> . ./ .. " '
.:- , .

. :::;:;:��::::::/:�:::::: . . .

. « ', <. <':',' .,:::;�:::-�':-:':-:::::::- .


. .:' <;::::-: :;:;: ::::;. " , : ;-: <: :,:::::;:;: :':':: ::.::::�<::., :':::'>;/:�:::.'.';::::.::.
J ������·�· �·x'�
" �
·�·�
"�· �·�
· ··�·u·�:: �
"� · :�
·.'·. ·:·.�
·. �
:.� : :::�
. �����������:� \� >�>�
' ::� :::�
::::�
::: �
: :�������
950 1 955 1 960 1 965 1 9 70 1 975
From Social Security Bullet i n . Vol. 43. N o . 5 (May I
p. 5 .
..

:a:,
Decline of a Universalist Strategy
Ie'
A brief look at the major public programs
lIT.
(See Chart I I ) shows that most people receiving
% benefits are old people, children, handicapped
h,
• people, or women. Most, except for recipients
:u:
of Social Security and Unemployment benefits
ar or students in public education , are receiving
money, medical aid , or social services because
II, they are poor. On the face of it , these facts
would seem to suggest a widespread support for
:rr the beneficiaries of public support. After all ,
except for women, they are mainly the groups
who have historically been viewed as deserving
charity from " moral " people.
However, three mechanisms have been used
by conservatives to argue that these seemingly
needy people are not so deserving after all :
First, the needy groups are "exposed" as dis­
proportionately nonwhite (even if they are old,
disabled, or hungry). Racism can then be used
to discredit their "worthiness" and thereby Brockmann.
justify their increased suffering. Or . . .
The result of such strategies is a popular dis­
Women who have "left the family" are
tancing from the plight of the recipients of
blamed for the conditions of the needy - if
social prgrams. This distancing has also been
women stayed home with their husbands then
supported by the 1 970s approach of targeting
they could take care of grandparents, disabled
services to the most needy groups - the dis­
relatives and the children wouldn't need wel­
abled , the urban poor, minority youth . Public
fare . Therefore, by forcing families to retake
services are explicitly not defended as universal
their responsibilities for the needy we
- as benefiting everyone. Instead, they have
strengthen the family and keep women home
been defended as benefiting only selected
(or make them again guilty, not proud, of
groups. At the same time this may have seemed
working outside the home). By cutting welfare
like the only way to get programs through. And
benefits we lessen women's options to leave
many of the populations served were truly the
their husbands. Finally . . .
• " most needy ." However, in times of economic
I n some areas (not Social Security, though) it crunch we can see the impact of an abandon­
has been possible to argue that actual benefits ment of a universalist strategy. Most health and
to recipients do not have to be cut . Instead , social programs seem to be for "others . " In a
workers' salaries and benefits - i . e . , adminis­ time of inflation, recession , and a declining
trative costs - can be cut , under the argument standard of living, people may understandably
that they are just " poverty pimps" who live off feel willing to abandon or cut back public com­
the poor. mitments, under the guise of " hard choices . "

29
CHART II
SOCIAL WELFARE EXPENDITURES AND MAJOR TYPES OF RECIPIENTS
- UNDER FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL PUBLIC PROGRAMS
(In Millions)
.1
1950 1960 1970 1978 Major Types
PROGRAM Expenditures Expenditures Expenditures Expenditures of Recipients·
TOTALS $23.508.4 $52,293.4 $145,855.7 $394,462.4
SOCIAL INSURANCE $4,946.6 $ 1 9,306.7 $54,69 1 .2 $175, 101 . 1 primarily - elderly and
Social Security, Medicare, disabled
Unemployment, Public 2 1 070 3 7 1170 38010 441170 (some adults and survivors)
Service Retirement,
Workmen's Comp, etc.

PUBLIC AID $2,496.2 $4, 1 0 1 . 1 $ 1 6,487.8 $59,620.2 primarily - children,


AFOC, WIN, SSI , elderly and disabled
Medicaid, Title XX, Food I I 010 8010 1 1 1170 1 5 010 (also parents of children and
Stamps, some CET A, etc. and other adult poor)

HEALTH & MEDICAL $2,063 . 5 $4,463 . 8 $9,906.8 $23 ,003 . 7 widespread across popula·
Hospital & Medical tion, some focus on the poor
'e (Civilian & Defense), 9 1170 8010 7 0/0 61170
Maternal & Child Health,
, f
Public Health, Medical
Research, etc.

VETERANS $6,865.7 5 ,479.2 9,078.0 $ 1 9,742.4 veterans - largest expenses


p Pensions, Health & for elderly and disabled

i
Medical, Education, Life 29010 1 1 010 6070 5 1170
Insurance, etc.

EDUCATION primarily children and


5 $6,674. 1 $ 1 7,626.2 $70, 5 3 3 . 9 $ 1 0 1 , 1 87 . 9
Elementary & Secondary , young people
Higher Ed. , Vocational & 28010 34010 35 1170 281170 other adults
Adult Ed . , etc.

HOUSING
) $14.6 $ 1 76 . 8 $2,554.0 $5,244.6 primarily poor families
public (60010) and
other supports 1 1m 1170 I Im ll70 2 010 1 1170 )

OTHER primarily children and


$447 . 7 $ 1 , 1 39.4 $6,72 1 . 5 $ 10,582.5
Vocational Rehabilitation, disabled
Child Nutrition, Child 20/0 21170 5 1l7o 3%
Welfare, OEO & Action,
Juvenile J ustice, etc.

*Estimates made by author, not in original source


I

From Social Security Bulletin, Vol . 43, No. 5 , (May I


p. 1 1 .
Youth , minorities, female-headed families, and f'ootnotes

old people become an underclass which


"cannot expect generous benefits" in hard I . There is an expanding l iterature on welfare and the
capitalist state. See James O'Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of
times for everyone.
. the Srate (New York, 1 973) and Jeffrey Galper, The Politics
of Social Services (Prentice·Hall, 1 975).
MUSTERING A DEFENSE 2. The classic argument here is made by Frances F . Piven
It will not be easy to develop strategies for and Richard A. Cloward in Regulating the Poor: The
defending what is worth saving in human­ Functions of Public Welfare (Pantheon Books, 1 97 1 ).
3. Recent British writers, especially, have begun to
service programs. Our major approach may be
challenge this. See Ian Gough, The Political Economy of
to focus on the legitimate claims of people in the Welfare State (London: Macmillan, 1 979), Paul
need and to try to rebuild a collective ' ' moral" Corrigan and Peter Leonard, Social Work Practice Under
consensus that they should be cared for. We Capitalism (London: Humanities, 1 978), and Colin
can, then, intervene in the fight over existing Pritchard and Richard Taylor, Social Work: Reform or
Revolution? (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1 978).
programs by calling for more direct, less
4. See Jacob Fisher, The Response of Social Work to the
bureaucratically hamstrung, public services . Depression (G . K . Hall, 1 980).
Ironically, the more services the Right 5. Bertha Reynolds, An Uncharted Journey: Fifty Years of
Growth in Social Work and Social Work and Social Living
attempts to cut, the more likely our chances to
(both Citadel Press, 1 953).
build a broad coalition around these issues.
Cuts in Social Security, the public schools, and
uneinployment benefits will affect greater num­
bers than less central cuts. But even there it may
be shown how attacks on the elderly (who
receive more than 50 percent of social welfare
benefits) will put increased burdens on middle­
and working-class families who already have
been forced to support two wage earners j ust to ANN WITHORN is an editor of Radical
meet core family needs. Similarly, the decline America and is involved in research and activity
of public education may put a real burden on around issues affecting human service workers
families whose inflation-ridden i ncomes cannot and c1ients. This article is modified from a talk
support private education . given at a conference on "Human Services in a
Good Society: Visions from the Left, " held in
In short, the strongest defense against cuts New York in December 1980, and to be held in
may be a concerted, collective effort to demon­ Boston in April 1981 . The full version will be
strate to people that there is a meaningful social published in Catalyst : A Socialist Journal of
wage to be fought for, and even expanded. By the Social Services sometime in 1981.
doing thi s , we can even hope to establish an
increased public sense that a good society
requires good services and that our problems
now stem from the failure of the liberal state to
provide them .

31

'I
; f

)
)

I
f Geurge Grusz and John Heartji'e/d. Dada-merika.
ECONOM I C CRI S I S
J\N D CONS E RVAT I VE
ECONOM I C POL I C I ES
U S Ca p i ta l i s m i n t h e 1 980s
Jim Campen

When Ronald Reagan asked the viewers of his televised debate with Jimmy Carter to
consider whether they were better off than they had been four years earlier , he skillfully
underlined the single issue most important in bringing about 1 980' s Republican victories : the
sorry state of the US economy . For how many of us could truthfully answer that things had
improved since the last Presidential election? With double-digit inflation, record-high inter­
est rates, costly and periodically scarce energy, the official (under-) estimate of
unemployment showing almost 8 million people out of work , maj or industries like auto
and steel in decline, and major companies like Chrysler on the brink of bankruptcy, no one
really had to be convinced that the US economy is in serious trouble. And in our two-party
system, hard times generally result in electoral defeat for the party in office.
When President Reagan and the first Republican-controlled Senate since the early Eisen­
hower years assumed power at the beginning of 1 98 1 , however, they also had to assume
responsibility for wrestling with the economy' s extraordinary problems . What are their
options? Is there any reason to expect (hope? fear?) that their management will be as effec­
tive as their critieisms? Is their any reason to believe that their basic approach to economic
policy will differ significantly from that of the Carter administration? When it comes time
for the 1 984 elections, is it possible that we will be in the midst of a new period of growth,
prosperity , and relatively stable prices? Or will it be the RepUblicans' turn to be embarrassed
by voter comparisons with the good old days of 1 980? In short, what lies ahead for the
economy?

33
Answering t hese questions requires looking ously dominant l i beral p o l i tical coalition and
at the current US economic s i tuation i n its h i s ­ bring a period o f poli tical statemate .
torical a n d i nternational set ting. The historical
development o f US capitalism , especially i n the Who Got What Du ring the 1970s?
pos t - World War II period, i s the most useful The process of capital ist development is .
starti ng point for understanding the d i lemmas always an uneven one. During the 1 970s there
now faced by the makers o f US economic was great variation in eco nomic fortun es
pol i c y . Analysis o f the changing balance o f among d i fferent industries (e. g . , oil vs . auto),
p o l i ti cal forces associated with the deepening among workers in d i fferent occupations (e.g"
economic problems o f the last decade suggests compu ter programmers vs. English teachers),
that t he new admini st rati o n ' s approach to and among regions of the country (e.g . , Texas
the economy w i l l d i ffer from that o f its prede­ v s . Ohio) . It is im portant to remem ber that
cessor more than is usually the case. It i s not averages and totals may o ften conceal more

l i kel y , h owever, t ha t i t s new conserv at i ve eco­ t h an they reveal . Nevertheless, it is o ften useful
nomic policies will provide even a temporary to have the rough general picture of overall
solution for US cap italis m ' s eco nomic prob­ trends t h a t only s um mary statistics can provide.
lem s . This section o ffers s uch an overview by briefly
Indeed , t h e following analysis i ndicates that reviewing changes in the economic fortunes of
the wrongheadedness and i n ternal contradic­ work ing peopl e and o f busi nesses . To avoid
t i o ns o f Reagan ' s economic policies may well relying too much on data from any single year,
't contribute t o a furt h er worsening o f the current comparisons are made between what happened
,f economic crisi s . How the crisis will u n fold and during t h e period from 1 97 5 to 1 980 and what
may eventually be resolved remain open ques­ happened during the corresponding period o ne
tions, the answers t o which will depend heav i l y decade earlier.
on t h e p o l i t i c a l struggles o f the coming years; For working people, the economic problems
this article concludes w i t h some s peculations of the 1 970s are ind icated by two k ey stat istics:
about the nature and sign i ficance of those real wages fell and the unemployment rate
struggles . rose . ' Measured in con s t ant 1 967 dollars to
adj u s t for the i mpact of i n flation, the average
5 THE POLITICAL pretax weekly wage in the private n o n farm sec­
ECONOMICS OF THE 1970s tor of the economy rose 1 6 . 9 percent from
The fol lowing sections will review the politi­ 1 95 5 -60 to 1 965 -70. By contras t , real wages
cal economic developments o f t h e 1 970s . I begin measured in the same way declined from an
J with a rough quanti tative sum mary of how average o f $ 1 02 . 56 in the 1 965-70 period to an
major economic groups were affected by the average of $ 1 0 1 . 46 between 1 975 and 1 980 , a t
economy ' s di smal performance. Then I d i scuss drop of 1 . 1 percent . In fact , after two years of
the role o f economic crises in capitalist develo p­ steep decline at the end of t h i s final period , real
ment and how the deepening crisis o f the 1 970s wages in 1 980 were down 1 2 . 8 percent from the
grew out of the long post-World War I I period all-time peak t h ey reached i n 1 97 3 , and were
o f profitable capital accum ulation. I conclude lower than in any year si nce 1 962 . 2 M eanwhile,
with a discussion of how the coming o f eco­ the average rate o f unemployment rose from
nomic s t agnation has hel ped break u p the previ- 4 . 0 percent from the 1 965-70 period to 7 . 0 per-
I
l
34
cent for 1 975-80. l The impact of a high jobless of the stock have claims on present and future
rate reaches far beyond the more than 1 million profits of the corporations. Once again, com­
people who are out of work for each percentage paring averages for the 1 965-70 and 1 975-80
• point in the unemployment rate; the threat of periods reveals a record of poor performance .
unemployment hangs over those who do man­ The average level of the Dow Jones Industrial
age to keep their jobs , reducing both their sense Average of thirty leading stocks was essentially
of economic security and their power to bargain unchanged, rising only from 866.7 in the first
effectively over working conditions and levels period to 87 1 . 3 during the corresponding per­
of pay. iod ten years later. Thus there was very little
Meanwhile, the decade has been an at least change in the total market value of the largest
equally grim one for corporations and the capi­ US corporations, even though the price level
talists who o wn and control them. No one was more than 80 percent higher during the
should make the mistake of believing that second period . In other words , the real value of
working people have been doing so poorly corporate stocks, as measured by the Dow
because businesses have been doing well. Jones Industrial Average , fell by more than 40
The best single measure of how the capitalist percent over the course of the decade . 6
economy is doing, from the point of view of the This quick look at what has been happening
capitalists , is what is happening to profits. to corporate profits and stock prices provides
Between 1 975 and 1 980, real corporate profits no more than a rough-and-ready first approxi­
measured in constant 1 972 dollars averaged mation to answering the complex question of
$ 1 04.3 billion per year; during the correspond­ how well capitalism has been doing from the
ing period one decade earlier, the average perspective of capitalists, but the general con­
annual level of real profits was $ 1 00.9 billion. clusion seems inescapable that it has not been a
That is, the total amount o f profits in the US good period for businesses.
economy, after adjusting for inflation, rose by Our separate looks at how the 1 970s affected
only 3 .4 percent during the ten-year period . the economic fortunes of working people and
Because the economy's total output of goods of capitalists suggests that while both groups
and services as measured by gross national pro­ were hit hard, compared to how they did in the
duct (GNP) , increased by 35 percent between 1 960s, capitalists were hit relatively harder. 7
the two periods, and the number of non-farm And this tentative conclusion is strengthened,
wage and salary employees rose by 26 percent, * rather than weakened, when we broaden the
both the share of profits in GNP and profits per scope of our analysis to take into account the
worker declined considerably over the course o f impact of government spending, taxation, and
the decade . 4 regulation.
l . Perhaps the most closely watched and fre­ Conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, the
quently cited indicator of capitalism' s eco­ 1 970s was not a decade of explosive growth of
nomic health is the average price of stocks on government budgets in relation to the private
Wall Street . These stocks represent ownership economy. Total taxes by all levels of govern­
shares in the biggest US corporations; owners ment - federal, state, and local - increased
from an average of 29. 3 percent of gross
*ThisJesulted from the baby-boom generation's reaching
working age and from the increased labor-force participa­
national product (GNP) in 1 965-70 to an aver­
tion of women.(5) age of 3 1 .4 percent of GNP in the 1 97 5-80 per-

35
iod . (Because governments spent more than ists, and thus made the crisis of the capitalist
they raised in taxes - they made up the result­ economic system more severe than it otherwise
ing deficits by borrowing - public spending as would have been . As we shall see, one of the
a share of GNP rose a bit more, from 29.8 to primary features of the next few years will be
3 2 . 7 percent . ') the attempts of capitalists to reverse this devel· •
There was only one major change in the rela­ opment.
tive importance of the various categories of
government spending. Military spending on Capitalism and Crises
goods and services fell from 8 .0 percent of Although populist rhetoric sometimes sug·
GNP in 1 965-70 to 4 . 6 percent of G NP in 1 97 5 - gests that working-class people are hurtinE
80 (a decline from 45 . 5 to 26 . 2 percent of all because the position of capitalists has been im·
federal spending) . At the same time, federal proving, the evidence reviewed above seems to
government cash payments to individuals show that while work ing class people are hurt·
(social security and other benefits for retire­ ing - especially relative to the expectations
ment and disabilit y, unemployment compensa­ developed during the prosperity of the 1 960s -
tion, food stamps, AFDC, and so forth - tech­ the economic position of capitalists has been
nically referred to as "transfer payments to per­ deteriorating even more. And this is as we
sons ") rose from 5 . 1 to 8 . 6 percent of GNP (an should expect , i f we understand the 1 970s as a
increase from 28 . 7 to 48. 1 percent of all federal period of deepening crisis for US and world
spending).9 This massive change has clearly capitalism. Because profit making and capital
'I been in the interests of working people. 1 0 accumulation are capitalism's raison d'etre, the
Finally, there has been a major increase in central characteristic of a capitalist economic
the amount o f government regulation. By the crisis is a serious and sustained decline in prof­
end of the 1 9705 the federal government was its . To describe this as a crisis is to say some·
i � intensively involved in the regulation of three thing much stronger than simply that the
\"
I major areas where it had been doing much less decade was characterized by economic hard
ten years earlier: environmental protection, times, however. For Marxists, a crisis is a per­
occupational health and safety, and equal iod when the economic di fficulties arising from
employment opportunity. While these activities a slowing down of capital accumulation lead to
5 may have been much less extensive and effec­ social and political problems so serious and per­
tive than many people would have liked, they vasive that they th reaten the continued func­
did serve to improve the economic conditions tioning of the capitalist system itsel f.
of working-class people relative to those of Throughout its history, the development of
) capitalists. The significance of this impact is capitalism has been marked by periodic crises,
suggested by the vehemence of the current the resolutions of which have involved major )
business campaign to deregulate in these areas. changes in basic social and political arrange­
In short , the 1 970s were hard times for work­ ments. The US experienced one such crisis -
ing-class people, but they were not as hard as known in the immediately following decades as
they might otherwise have been because of the " Great Depression" - during the final
gains made in the areas of government social years of the nineteenth cent ury. More recently,
spending and social regulation. These gains , the Great Cra�h of 1 929 was followed by more
I
however, made things even worse for capital- than fifteen years of depression and world war.
l

36
Marxists offer two important insights into over the labor process, and to weaken working­
the recurrence of periodic crises in capitalist class power in the political arena. But a period
economies. First , the primary sources of eco­ of sustained economic growth will lead to
nomic crises are to be found in the preceding increased employment, thereby diminishing the
• periods of rapid economic growth; crises are pool o f unemployed workers - depleting the
inherent within the capital-accumulation pro­ reserve army - and removing the circum­
cess itself, rather than springing from unfor­ stances which provided a relatively cheap and
tunate " mistakes" in economic policy or from docile workforce. In this and other ways, even a
"shocks" to the economic system from outside. sustained period of economic growth cannot
Second, periodic crises are functional for the persist forever; the success of the capital
capitalist system. They play an essential, restor­ accumulation process inexorably leads to its
ative role in helping catalyze new sets of eco­ slowing. \ 4
nomic, social , and political relationships that But just as periods of prosperity contain the
facilitate the renewed accumulation of capital. seeds of crisis, so too do the forces at work
In John Gurley's words, "Economic crises in during a crisis tend to undermine its continu­
capitalist societies come and go . In fact, their ation , making possible the establishment of the
coming and going is the maj or way capitalism foundations for another round of profitable
keeps itself going . " 1 ) Thus, while crises present capital accumulation. Again, the logic of this
difficulties so serious that they cannot be solved process may be suggested by the example of the
simply by adopting better economic policy (as reserve army of the unemployed: a slowdown
orthodox economists would have us believe), of growth and continuation of crisis will , by in­
they do not necessarily involve di fficulties so creasing unemployment, restore the size of the
severe that the " final breakdown" of the capi­ reserve army, thereby weakening workers
talist system is at hand (as some leftists with an not only in their bargaining with employers
apocalytic bent sometimes contend). over pay and working conditions, but also in
Capitalist economic growth, or the process of the political realm.
capital accumulation, takes place as a result of The way that crises play their restorative role
investments made by individual capitalist enter­ in actual historical circumstances is never quick
prises. Profits are central to this process . Past or smooth. The last time around, it required
profits furnish the funds necessary for current nearly two decades of depression, fascism,
investments, which are undertaken only when world war, and cold-war political repression
there is an expectation that they will generate finally to bring about the restructuring neces­
further profits . Thus, economic growth will be sary for another round of sustained capitalist
rapid when, and only when, there are abundant expansion . Indeed, if the economy's problems
• opportunities for profitable investment. were capable of a relatively quick and painless
However, the process of successful capitalist solution we would not have a crisis, which by
accumulation is a contradictory one which definition requires maj or institutional restruc­
undermines the very circumstances that make it turing for its resolution. Because restructuring
possible. For example, profitability is enhanced involves substantial losses for those corpora­
by the existence of a large pool of unemployed tions and individual capitalists who have vested
workers - the "reserve army " - which serves interests in the prevailing arrangements - and
to keep wages down, to strengthen discipline because dominant ideologies support existing

37
i nstitutional structures rather than permit wide­ growth and profitability o f major corporations,
spread understanding of their weaknesses - and to provide j obs and social services. These
the resistance to restructuring is always very changed institutional arrangments came about
great . Liberal economics guru Lester Thurow only after virulent and sustained resistance
recently observed that " No society has ever from much of the capitalist class. (Indeed, _
solved the problem of slow economic rot with­ labor was acceptable as a j unior partner in
out either being wrenched into new ways by a prosperity only after a period of vicious poli­
depression or having them imposed after losing tical repression that purged the labor movement
a war . " 1 5 of most of its left-wing leaders and activists . )
Operating i n the environment provided by
The Deepening Crisis of the 1970s this favorable set o f historical circumstances
The current crisis emerged out of the long and institutional arrangements, the United
period of economic growth and relative pros­ States enj oyed un precendented economic
perity that began when wartime spending lifted growth during the 1 950s and 1 960s. In the
the economy from a decade of depression in the 1 970s, however, this long wave of economic
early 1 940s. The long postwar expansion was expa nsion and relative p r osperity was
made possible by an unusual set of historical succeeded by a decade of stagnation and
circumstances. These circumstances included deepening crisis. The very success of the process
the debt deflation and business shakeout of the of capital accumulation had undermined its
Great Depression; the physical destruction , own momentum. Arrangements and practices
technological advances , and pent-up purchas­ that had provided solutions to earlier problems
ing power resulting from World War l l ; and the eventually themselves became obstacles to con­
cheap supplies of energy and ample opportuni­ tinued profitable investment . The ending of the
ties for profitable international trade and long period of prosperity had many dimen­
investment ensured by America's unquestioned sions; we shall take note of serveral of these,
international dominance after the war. under four headings .
The rapid economic growth made possible by International. Both corporate investment
these circumstances was facilitated by two abroad and US international economic policy
maj or institutional changes from the pre- 1 930s in the postwar period led to the strengthening
organization of US capitalism . There was an of the economies of Western Europe and Japan
implicit agreement between big business and big as customers for US products, hosts for US
labor that organized workers would be able to foreign investment , and allies against the Soviet
share in the material fruits of growth i n return Union. Eventually, however, the increasingly
for their acceptance of the fundamental aspects strong economies of these countries became
of the political and economic system . And the more of a problem than a solution, as West
big government which emerged from World Germany and Japan in particular began to edge
War II not only stayed big (in 1 929 federal out the US in international markets.
spending was only 2 . 8 percent of GNP ; after Meanwhile, the impact o f US imperialism in
World War II it never dropped below 1 3 . 9 per­ the Third World gave rise to national liberation
cent . ' ") It also adopted an economic policy movements that imposed increasing "costs of
based on government spending to maintain empire , " culminating in the massive political
demand for business output, to promote the unrest and economic disruption generated by

38
••

;::


:<
�...- �

the Vietnam War . Finally, plenti ful supplies of porting countries in the face of declining U S
cheap imported oil, while initially very con­ international power in t h e 1 970s . 1 7
ducive to profitable domestic investments by Labor participation in prosperity. While the
US capitalists, created a pattern of economic steady increases in real wages of the 1 950s and
development so reliant on cheap petroleum that 1 9605 were generally effective in forestalling
the economy became highly vulnerable to the any fundamental structural changes, they also
dramatic price increases imposed by the oil-ex- created expectations that became very disrup-

39
tive when the growth of output per worker interrelated consequences that played a role in f
began to slow down. More important, high undermining the expansion . On the one hand, a r
levels of employment - the unemployment rate massive buildup of individual, business, and
fell below 4 percent for four consecutive years government debt increased the vulnerability of I
at the end of the 1 960s - made workers much the financial structure, making further lendinge.
more expensive to hire and di fficult to control and borrowing (an essential source of invest­
as the reserve army became much smaller and ment funds) increasingly problematic and risky_ (
less visible. In addition, the struggles of organ­ On the other hand , the perceived government (
ized labor and its allies for improved and commitment to avoid prolonged periods of
enlarged government social programs cut into high unemployment has played a very impor­
profits both directly (because these programs tant role in bringing about the accelerating
were financed in part by taxes on capitalists) inflation of the 1 970s. When workers and
and indirectly (as the bargaining position of employers are convinced that the government
working people was further strengthened by will ensure that businesses have customers for
their reduced dependence on labor income for their products so that production and employ­
their survival) . l ' ment can remain at high levels, recessions lose
Suburbanizalion and automobilization. As their power to bring about downward pressures
people began to live, work, shop and , espe­ on the prices and wages that businesses and
cially, move between the millions of new build­ workers demand and receive. 20
ings constructed outside of central cities during In these and other ways, the very arrange­
the postwar period, massive opportunities for ments, circumstances, institutions, and prac­
profitable investments were created, particu­ tices that promoted the long period of expan­
larly in the construction , auto, and oil indus­ sion iri the postwar period had , by the 1 970s,
tries. In addition to the dependence on played themselves out. The result was slower
imported oil noted above, the success of this economic growth and - since rapid growth was
pattern of economic development created pow­ a central ingredient in making life in a capitalist
erful vested interests, particularly in the auto economy socially and politically acceptable to
and oil industries, whose own prosperity working people - a general spreading of eco­
depends on continuing these patterns long after nomic ami social problems.
they have ceased to make economic sense for Antonio Gramsci wrote in his Prison Note­
the economy as a whole, and whose economic books that a " crisis consists precisely in the fact
success has given them enough political power that the old is dying and the new cannot be
to veto national pursuit of other patterns of in­ born ; in this interregnum a great variety of
vestment and development. 1 9 morbid symptoms appears . " 2 1 We have
Keynesian economic policy_ B y using bud­ described how the old economic expansion has ,
getary and monetary policies to maintain rela­ expired. There is no need to dwell here on the
tively high levels of total demand for business whole variety of morbid symptoms of contem­
output and to keep economic downturns from porary US society; but it is important to try to
getting too severe, the government made the understand why the new cannot be born. This
period of expansion stronger and steadier than requires an examination of the development of
it otherwise would have been. But the continu­ political forces and coalitions during the 1 970s
ation of this policy eventually had two serious, which have combined with the deteriorating

40
economic situation to prevent any effective economic organization or direction.
resolution of the crisis. But the growth that the coalition helped to
make possible also served, as sustained capital­
From Keynesian Coalition ist expansion always does , to strengthen the
. to Political Stalemate relative power of working people. And working
A central element of the resolution of the people 's gains lowered the share of profits in
crisis of the 1 930s and 1 940s was the formation total income, thereby playing an important role
of the loose but effective working agreement in reducing opportunities for profitable invest­
between big labor and big capital. This partner­ ment . By the early 1 9705, the period of rapid
ship formed the nucleus of a broader coalition economic growth had come to an end.
of groups including city dwellers, farmers, With the end of the economic boom, the Key­
minorities, the poor , public employees, and nesian coalition was no longer viable . Without
beneficiaries of government expenditure pro­ growth, the only way for capitalists to receive
grams, as well as organized labor, big business, ever-increasing profits was for working people
and leaders of both political parties. Because of to get less. Conversely, the only way for work­

I
the macroeconomic policy associated with this ing people to continue to enjoy rising real
grouping of p olitical forces, it has been termed incomes was for capitalists to get less. Thus the
the " Keynesian coalition" ;22 because its poli­ basis for the Keynesian coalition was gone, and
cies were most forcefully advanced by the struggles to obtain larger shares of the pie came ri
Democratic Party, which dominated both increasingly to overshadow efforts to increase
houses of Congress between the early years of the size of the pie available for distribution .
Eisenhower's presidency and the end of The disintegraiton of the Keynesian coalition
Carter's, it is often called "liberal . " We shall resulted in political stalemate through the end
use both of t hese terms, even though each of of the 1 970s, rather than in the formation of
them is too narrow to suggest the encompasing any other political coalition capable of effec­
nature of the coalition of political forces that tively formulating and imposing a coherent set
subscribed to its basic tenet . of economic policies.
The essential foundation of the coalition was Working people and other noncapitalist
that relatively rapid economic growth could groups had reached a position of considerable
allow working people to receive steadily grow­ political power during the course of the long
ing real incomes - in the form both of the pri­ postwar expansion and they held on to it tena­
vate wage received directly from employers and ciously. Throughout the 1 970s the political
of the " social wage" consisting of government power of organized labor and its allies

j
social services and transfers - at the same time remained sufficient to block all major legisla­
• that steady growth of capitalist profits made tive initiatives aimed at restoring the basis for
possible the continued accumulation of capital. another round of profitable capital accumula­
As long as prosperity made it possible to pro­ tion by rolling back labor's earlier gains . Capi­

I
vide more for working people's needs, and to talists' relative political power clearly grew over
ameliorate the problems created by capitalist the last half of the decade, but they were
expansion, without taking anything away from divided among themselves about what needed
corporations, the coalition served to prevent to be done. And in any case capitalists are not
major political conflicts over basic issues of strong enough to rule without political allies,

41
including substantial numbers of working-class
people, partly because of the need to win con­
gressional and presidential elections.
Capitalist political power was more than
ample to block the continuing efforts to achieve
genuine tax and wel fare reform and national
health insurance. But divided among them­
selves and without the allies to form an effec­
tive domestic political coalition, corporate capi­
talists were unable to pursue their common
interests effectively. They could not mount an
effective new imperialist offensive to ease
domestic economic pressures by increasing the
profitability of their overseas investments and
reducing the costs of petroleum and other
improved raw materials. Nor were they able
ruthlessly to carry out a policy of "rationaliza­
tion" that could involve abandoning old indus­
tries and the cities that house them (the heavy
industry of the frostbelt) in order to mobilize sufficient economic growth and in the presence
it�
and concentrate resources in expanding indus­ of a rapidly mounting bill for imported oil,
d�
tries and regions (the high-technology and when every group sought more - and no group
se
energy industries of the sunbelt). Most notice­ was strong enough to impose its will on the
th
ably, they were unable to formulate and have others - the inevitable result was an upward
TI
enacted any coherent national energy policy. spiral of prices, wages, and government spend·
bi
There were initiatives in each of these direc­ ing . Inflation was the system 's best available
m
tions, to be sure, but the balance of forces was response to the excessive demands on the econ­
o
such that almost nothing significant was omy's capacity to deliver the goods . It provided
T
accomplished in the realm of national policy the lubrication needed to keep things going as
tll
during the latter half of the 1 970s . Judging by well as they did. Government policy makers
in
the output of congressional legislation, it was a chose to furnish the expanded money supply h:
period when no one gained very much, but that kept the inflation going in order to avoid
c(
when no major group lost anything very sub­ even less attractive alternatives such as a mas­
K
stantial either. sive economic downturn .
c(
The relatively equal distribution of political The position of the Carter administration in I aJ
power that produced the political paralysis and the late 1 970s was untenable. Its limited liberal- a
stalemate of the final years of the 1 970s had ism and its ties to traditional Democratic con­ e(
other consequences as well. The most impor­ stituencies kept it from operating unreservedly tl
tant of these was an acceleration of inflation as in the interests of corporate capital. But its tl
a result of the intense distributional conflict responsibility for managing the economy in a q
between workers, capitalists, and beneficiaries period of worsening crisis forced it to adopt el
of government programs.23 In the absence of increasingly nonliberal economic policies. Its Ii

42
pursuit of a tight-fisted approach to spending
for social programs, and its timid, prolonged,
typically inept, but ultimately " successful" Reagan 's Short-Term Options
effort to push the economy into recession as the A number of agreed-upon measures are cer­
.only available anti-inflationary alternative tain to be included in any set of economic pro­
undermined its working-class support . Liberal posals that the Republicans will make:
policies are only viable in a period of expan­ -an upward redistribution of income,
sion; they are bound to fail once expansion toward corporations and rich individuals. Con­
transforms itself into stagnation. For those few servatives argue that the economy needs more
liberals with a dialectical understanding of the saving and investment, and that therefore more
historical developments that have done them in, money must be channeled to those who can
it must be cold comfort to know that it was the afford to do it, rather than left in the hands of
very success of the liberal coalition during the working people who have little option but to
1 960s that was largely responsible for liberal­ consume almost all of their income. All tax,
ism ' s current political eclipse. spending, and regulatory measures will be de­
signed with this redistribution in mind.
THE POLITICAL -a smaller public sector, resulting from
ECONOMICS OF THE 1980s major cuts in both taxation and government
The political stalemate of the 1 970s reached spending. Although Republicans are strongly at
its height (nadir?) in the final years of the odds about j ust where, when , how , and how
decade as Jimmy Carter and the 96th Congress much to cut taxes and expenditures, they seem
seemed unable to accomplish anything at all in agreed on the desirability of doing a lot of it.
the face of ever-mounting economic problems. And they agree that an attack on the working
The growing national frustration at this com­ conditions and pay levels of government
bination of worsening conditions and govern­ workers is needed to increase the productivity
mental inaction was the principle reason for the and lower the cost of the public sector.
Democrats ' resounding defeat in November. -a major reduction and reorientation of
There can be little doubt that Ronald Reagan, go vernment regulation, transforming govern­
the newly Republican Senate, and the increas­ ment regulatory activity that has favored con­
ingly conservative House of Representatives sumers, workers, minorities , the environment,
have an electoral "mandate" to "solve" the and sexual equality into a gentle overseeing by
country 's economic woes . But has the shattered people who have a strong probusiness orienta­
Keynesian coalition now given way to a new tion.
coalition able to agree on an economic program -support for the Federal Reserve in its con­
and strong enough to get its way politically over servative policy of slowing the growth of the
a sustained period of time? And does any such money supply.
economic program have the capacity to resolve -dramatically increased military spending as
the economic crisis? The remaining sections of one component of a foreign policy aimed at
this article argue that the answers to both of the strengthening the overseas profit-making abil­
questions are negative, and discuss some of the ity of US corporations as they buy raw mate­
economic and political implications of the rials, produce goods, and sell products around
likely failure of conservative economics . the world .

43
These elements are all supported by the aston­ Arthur Laffer, Norman Ture, Paul Craig
ishingly successful revival of old-fashioned con­ Roberts, and Jude Wanniski . In their most
servative ideology and its two basic claims: optimistic formulations , the supply-siders claim
first , that a market system operates , "as though that their formula wil l reduce taxes without any
guided by an invisible hand, " to make self-inte­ loss in government revenue (because th�
rested profit-seeking behavior promote the gen­ increased incentives will bring forth such a tor­
eral social and economic welfare; and second, rent of increased economic activity) and will
that virtually all governmental actions that reduce inflation without increasing unemploy­
interfere with the operation of the market sys­ ment (because a huge increase in the supply of
tem , no matter how well-intentioned, are goods to the marketplace will force their prices
bound to make things worse rather than better, down at the same time they will require more
to hurt rather than help those that they are workers to produce them).
designed to aid. 24 The two factions were able to maintain a cer­
In spite of this broad programmatic and tain unity during the election campaign, but the
ideological agreement , however, the Republi­ dilemma highlighted by their disagreement is a
cans have one crucially important area of con­ real one that cannot be resolved by compro­
tinuing disagreement: whether their attack on mise . As this is written in late J anuary, there is
stagflation i s best pursued by slowing the econ­ no indication that the struggle has been
omy down or by speeding it up. On the one resolved within Reagan's circle of top aides.
hand, the traditional conservatives among the Supply-sider David Stockman heads the Office
economic advisors, induding such notables as of Management and Budget, but more tradi­
Milton Friedman , Arthur Burns , Herbert Stein, tional Donald Regan left his position as head of
Alan Greenspan, and Martin Feldstei n , believe Merrill Lynch, Wall Street's largest brokerage
that a sustained period of recession is needed in and financial services firm, to become Secretary
order to strengthen capitalists relative to of the Treasury. The third member of the eco­
workers and to bring the rate of inflation down. nomic policy-making "troika, " Chairman
They cite a historical record which shows that Murray Weidenbaum of the Council of Eco­
since the Korean War recessions, and only nomic Advisors, is primarily known as a lead­
recessions, have been able to produce these ing advocate of reduced government regulation
effects - in spite of all the other less painful of business and is not clearly in either camp .
methods that have been tried, and even though The term of Federal Reserve Board Chairman
the amount of inflation relief provided by a Paul Volcker , a traditional conservative who
given-size recession has decreased . " was forced on Jimmy Carter in 1 979 by the
On the other hand , a recently emerged group " financial community , " continues through the
of supply-side economists - sometimes early Reagan years. •
referred to as "New Right" or "neo-populist" The Republicans ' inability to put together a
economists - argue that dramatic tax cuts on coherent and credible economic policy reflects the
personal income and business profits could absence of any new phalanx of political forces
boost saving, investment, and economic capable of replacing the Keynesian coalition .
growth, while simultaneously reducing both The degree of unity required to win elections is
inflation and unemployment. The leading much less than that required to implement an
barkers for this medicine have been Jack Kemp, effective economic program. The problem here

44
has both political and economic dimensions . vigorously pushing legislation on the "social
The conservatives need a program that can issues" while appealing at the same time to jin­
resolve both the political stalemate and the eco- goistic and militaristic impulses might not suc­
i4f.omic crisis. Neither the traditional conserva­ ceed - the " Moral Majority" and its New
tive program of recession nor the supply-side Right allies are, after all, a distinct minority -
program of massive tax cuts is capable of ful­ or might succeed at the expense of using up the
filling both of these requirements. political capital and energy needed for pursuit
The obvious starting point for a new political of the economic program itself. (The editorial
coalition is the common interests of big capital, position of both Business Week and the Wall
little capital, and upper-income professionals in Street Journal is that the Republicans must not
redistributing income upward and keeping anti­ be diverted from concentrating their political
business government economic involvement to resources on their economic program; the social
a minimum - that is, the replacement of the issues, they argue, "are important to certain
big capital-big labor alliance of the postwar per­ groups but are not involved in the fundamental
iod with an alliance more along classical capital­ problems of inflation and economic growth . " 26
versus-labor lines. Such a grouping represents too The supply-siders recognize the importance
small a share of the total population, however. of not alienating working-class support by put­
The general goal of retaining legitimacy for the ting the economy through the recessionary
state and for the capitalist system as a whole, wringer. They maintain that they will be able to
and the more limited purpose of winning hold onto and increase this support because the
elections, both dictate that any longterm tax cuts they favor would get the economy mov­
governing coalition include a sizable portion o f ing again, bring down inflation while putting
the working class. millions of people into j obs, and bring down
In the election, the Republicans won the sup­ taxes without butchering any social-spending
port of many working-class people with two programs . If they were right about the eco­
appeals: they promised more jobs and lower nomic consequences of t heir proposed
inflation to those frustrated with the economic program, the political problem would be
failures of the Carter years, and they appealed solved . But what they are proposing won't
to that large and well-organized minority, cut­ work . Traditional conservative economists are
ting across class lines, that has been politicized in the front row of the chorus denouncing the
around militant nationalism and the " social supply-side panacea as highly inflationary
issues" - gun control, abortion, busing, gay snake oil. 27
rights, bans on school prayer, and the ERA. To
keep working-class people in a governing coali- Crisis Retained : The Limits
• tion, however, requires adopting policies from and Dangers of the Short-Term Options
which they will benefit. But the traditional con­ Those on both sides of the recession/tax cut
servative program of weakening labor's power strategy dilemma are quick to point out the
and inflation's momentum by throwing mil­ problems with the other approach . And their
lions out o f work appears guaranteed to alien­ critiques, unlike their positive policy proposals,
ate the working-class supporters who the are generally on target . Whichever horn of the
Republicans appealed to in November on pock­ dilemma the Republicans grasp, there will be
etbook issues . An attempt to rally support by severe limits on how much the new administra-

45
tion can accomplish, and serious dangers if it tend to be higher when wages are higher) . This
pushes too hard. And while muddling along contradictory role of wages is well illustrated by
without adopting either alternative would the following, perhaps apocryphal , story:
reduce some of the immediate dangers, it offers When Henry Ford showed Walter Reuther i
no greater prospect for resolving the economic new auto assembly line and inquired , "Tell me,
crisis . Walter, how are you going to get these
The distributional gains of working people machines to go out on strike? , " Reuther
relative to capitalists during the past two retorted, " You tell me, Henry, how are you go­
decades have made redistribution back toward ing to get these machines to buy your automo­
capital a high priority for any new Republican biles?" Capitalists need customers, and in this
economic program . The proposals for direct re­ sense taking income away from the bulk of the
distribution, selective deregulation, expenditure working class seems a recipe for making things
cutting and, probably, recession will be worse rather than better.
strongly resisted and may not come about eas­ The traditional conservative strategy of
ily, but the altered balance of political and eco­ recession has an even more dramatic danger:
nomic power makes such redistribution during financial collapse. The postwar expansion con­
the next few years appear all but inevitable. tinued as long as it did only through an enor­
That is the good news from the capitalist point mous buildup of debt; individuals and com­
of view . The bad news is that this redistribution panies have borrowed so heavily to undertake
will not be able to resolve the deepening eco­ consumption, home purchases, and invest­
nomic crisis; simply reducing labor's income ments. that they are dependent on continuing
and power will not be enough to create the cir­ rising future incomes (or ever-increasing future
cumstances needed for another sustained per­ borrowing) to pay off their debts . A serious and
iod of profitable capital accumulation . prolonged recession would, as workers lost jobs
Furthermore, too vigorous a pursuit of an and companies lost customers, drive substantial
antilabor redistributive program harbors seri­ numbers of companies and individuals into
ous dangers for the capitalist economy itself. bankruptcy. This, in turn , would imperil other
Even if we assume away, for the sake of individuals, companies, and even banks, none
argument , the social and political turmoil that of whom can pay their own bills unless they col­
such a program could bring about, and even i f lect the money owed them . Once the process got
w e ignore the serious problems of managing an started, a rapid chain reaction of bankruptcies
economy and society where most people have could spread through the whole economy with
experienced serious economic losses as a result disastrous results . The prospect of such a finan­
of conscious government policy, there are rea­ cial collapse led the Federal Reserve to relax its
sons why the program might turn out to be a restrictive monetary policies when "credit.
disaster for the capitalists. One danger arises crunches" developed in 1 966, 1 970, and 1 980. 2 8
from the fact that workers ' incomes are not This i s well-recognized b y the advocates of
only a cost of production for capitalists (so that supply-side economics. In fact, the popularity
profits tend to be higher when wages are lower) of this relatively new doctrine perhaps springs
but they are also the major source of purchas­ from a desire to clutch at straws when con­
ing power for the consumers to whom the capi­ fronted with the political and economic prob­
talists must sell their products (so that profits lems that attend the conservatives' traditional

46
transformation that could allow another profit­
able round of capital accumulation . The insti­
tutional changes that they do propose are essen­
tially negative, reversals of the expanded roles
in the economy that the government has come
to play during the twentieth century. These
proposals are based on the ideological premise
that the market does well when left alone and
that all attempts to regulate it will make things
worse rather than better. While conservatives
are correct in charging that the government is
now a source of problems for the economy,
their ahistorical perpective blinds them to the
fact that this government involvement came
L inda Szabo White.
about because earlier crises could not have been
economic strategy. For the prescription o f mas­ resolved without it .
sive tax cuts as a solution to the nation's current At the beginning of the twentieth century
economic woes is a fantasy, unable to with­ government regulation was invoked to prevent
stand serious economic analysis. Adopting such the destructive excesses of intercapitalist com­
an economic program would no doubt produce petititon and to control some of business's most
some of the alleged results, but these effects extreme anticonsumer and antiworker activi­
would be small in size and slow in coming . In ties . In the aftermath of the Great Depression
the meantime, the added purchasing power and and World War I I , government budgets pro­
expanded government deficit created by the tax vided a much larger share of total spending in
cuts would add greatly to total demand, exert­ the economy and the federal government com-
ing strong upward pressure on prices and set­ mitted itself consciously to regulate the level o f
ting off an explosive upsurge in the inflation total demand in order to manage t h e business
rate. cycle and keep employment, production, and
Inflation is already seen as public enemy profits at high levels. As always, the contradic­
number one . It is unpopular not only with tory nature of the capitalist system ensured that
working people but also with businesses , whose these measures would provide only temporary
ability to plan for the future and to compete solutions . Thus it was that big government and
internationally is undermined by high and un­ its commitment to avoiding massive unemploy­
predictable rates of inflation. Thus, an upsurge ment and widespread bankruptcies came to
,. of inflation would lead to great political tur­ play a role in undermining continued expansion
moil with unpredictable consequences; many by adding to inflationary pressures and
economists believe that it would force the strengthening the position of working people
Republican administration to adopt wage and relative to capitalists.
·
price controls . But the fact that the government's economic
Redistribution by itself is not enough , and impacts have i nterfered with profitable
neither the traditional conservatives nor the accumulation in the 1 970s does not mean that
supply-siders o ffer a program of institutional simply scaling back the operation of the gov-

47
ernment will make things better. Those who nated, government-assisted and government­
prescribe in effect going back to the arrange­ owned producers in the other advanced capital­
ments of the 1 920s, when the private sector ist countries. In such a period, the reemergence
operated without the interference of big gov­ of successful and sustained capital accumula­
ernment's high taxation, social regulation, or tion in this country depends on a qualitative
macroeconomic manipulation , would do well expansion of the government's economic role.
to remember that what the economy of the The government must move beyond regulating
1 920s produced, after all, was the economy of capitalist competition, protecting consumers
the 1 930s . and workers, managing the level of aggregate
demand, and attempting to cope after the fact
Beyond the Current Crisis: with the social and environmental consequences
The Necessary Transformation of capitalist development . What is needed is
Although looking backward to the 1 920s, or substantial government planning and coordina­
even to the nineteenth century, for images of tion of the process of capital accumulation it­
how the economy ought to work or for ready­ self, including fairly detailed involvement in
made solutions to the current economic crisis is determining the structure and direction of
misguided and bound to fail, a look at the his­ investment and output.
tory of US capitalism may furnish improved Such a development is mandated by the
understanding, both of the changes needed now requirements of the capital accumulation pro­
and of the process by which these changes cess itself at its current stage of development.
might come about. Just as the resolutions of Even if it were not, its adoption would follow
each of the last two major economic crises of from another necessary extension of the gov­
US capitalism involved significant increases in ernment's economic role: the adoption of a
the government 's role in the economy, any comprehensive set of controls on prices, wages,
resolution of the current crisis will necessarily interest, rent, dividends, and other forms of
involve a further growth in governmental income - an " incomes policy. " Sustained
involvement. The real issue here is not whether capital accumulation is incompatible with
government will play an expanded role but, uncontrolled inflation, and no other approach
instead, what form that role will take and in offers a realistic prospect of bringing inflation
whose interests the more fully planned and under control without greatly excessive eco­
regulated economy will operate. (We will return nomic , political , and social cost s .
to these questions below .) Conservatives argue t h a t a n y effective
The current stage of capitalist development is incomes policy would interfere with the func­
characterized by increasing centralization and tioning of the market system . They say it is
concentration of capital ; by increasing inter­ changes in the relative prices of different com­
dependence among economic units; by a grow­ modities that provide the signals, incentives,
ing dependence on massive investments in edu­ and incomes that lead to the i ncreased produc­
cation, energy, and transportation; by perva­ tion of, and reduced demand for, commodities
sive and increasingly serious threats to the nat­ that are in excess demand. And they are right
ural and social environment from profit-ori­ about this; a system of price controls by itself is
ented private decision making; and by intensi­ bound to lead to serious imbalances of supply
fying competititon from government-coordi- and demand for particular products, i ncluding

48
severe shortages .
Thus, wage and price controls by themselves
are untenable for long in a capitalist society.
Either shortages or imbalances will compel
• their being revoked (as with the Nixon wage
and price controls of the early 1 970s), or else
they must be supplemented with a set of con­
trols over investment and production so that
decisions about these matters are not made
solely in response to (the controlled) prices. I f
and when t h e need for a permanent incomes
policy becomes compelling to policy makers,
then simultaneous adoption of a permanent
system of planning and physical controls,
including government involvement in the
"All in favor of lummoning the pou:er; of darkn�ss rQj' 'Aye.' ''
allocation of credit - that is, in determining
who will have access to the borrowed funds
necessary to undertake large investment pro­ all are anathema.
jects - will also be required . 29 Although the precise shape of Republican
There are capitalists who recognize these economic policy remains uncertain, this con­
realities and urge a conscious program of sensus among conservative politicians and
greater government coordination, planning, economists seems to ensure that the next few
and control of the economy's future direction. years will take the economy away from, rather
An outstanding example of this approach is than toward , the type of fundamental restruc­
Business Week, whose special issue on "The turing necessary to resolve the current eco­
Reindustrialization of America" calls for "a nomic crisis. The likely result is that inflation,
new social contract between business, labor, unemployment, slow growth, and other eco­
g overnment and minorities . . . a complete nomic problems will intensify rather than
rethinking of economic policy-making, and diminish.
sweeping changes in basic institutions. ' ' 3 0 Ele­ In tms way, the current economic and politi­
ments of the Carter administration were cal situation is strikingly similar to that of the
sympathetic to this approach. 1 930s. Although there is now general agreement
But all of the elements of the conservative that the appropriate policy response to the
alliance that emerged victorious from the Nov- Depression would have involved stimulation of
• ember elections seem unified in their belief that the private economy by means of massive def­
the private economy needs less, not more , gov­ icit spending by the federal government, the
ernmental involvemen t . Reagan and his consensus of respected authorities at the time
advisors seem determined to work toward get­ was j ust the opposite: taxes must be increased
ting the government "off the backs and out of and spending reduced in order to bring the fed­
the pocketbooks" of the American people, and eral budget into balance. Franklin Roosevelt
especially American businesses. Investment won the presidency campaigning on j ust such a
planning, credit allocation, incomes policies - program. Even after some US economists

49
Similarly, our earlier analysis suggests that a
substantial worsening of the present grim eco­
nomic circumstances may be required to estab­
lish the political and economic environment
that will allow the necessary structural trans- ·
formation of the economy. The 1 970s may yet
come to look like the good old days .

Getting There: Struggles


and Transition in the 1980s
So far , the advanced capitalist countries have
always managed eventually to make structural
transformations sufficient to recover from their
earlier periodic crises and to embark upon new
periods of capital accumulation. This suggests
- although it certainly does not prove - that
US capitalism will eventually move through and
beyond the current crisis. What seems most
uncertain now is not whether such a trans­
formation will take place, but rather what the
nature of the restructuring will be and in what
way and how fast it will come about .
The next few years may or may not see the
stagflation of the current economic crisis give
way to a more severe period of economic col­
EXler lapse, comparable in severity to, although nec­
echoed John Maynard Keynes's mid-1 930s call essarily di fferent in form from , that of the
for deficit spending to stimulate the private 1 930s . Business Week's hope that the current
economy, resistance to such measures remained economic crisis could be surmounted through
widespread and effective. It is only the mas­ "a new social contract between business, labor,
sive increase in government spending created by government, and minorities" seems increas­
US involvement in World War I I that finally ingly unli kely to be realized in the short run. As
ended the Great Depresssion's hold on the the capitalist interests who have come to power
economy. In short, the view of government's in Washington push for redistribution and
proper role that was dominant during the early recession, there is little basis for labor's par- \

years of the crisis led policy-makers to do j ust ticipation in any such accord. The grim prog­
the wrong thing , thereby making things worse nosis recently offered by Felix Rohatyn , the
rather than better. Only after a prolonged eco­ Wall Street investment banker who has over­
nomic stagnation, with intense political and seen New York City'S financial crisis as head of
social turmoil, was the government's economic the Municipal Assistance Corporation, may be
role changed and expanded in the way it needed more realistic. He foresees that the failure of
to be. l l liberal policies in the recent past will be at least

50
matched by the failure of conservative policies pie, providing a relatively large amount of
in the early 1 980s and that the inevitable result freedom to the former and imposing a relatively
will be a genuine "emergency . " Only when the high degree of control on the latter. Socialists,
• US i s confronted with the existence of such an who also recognize that there will be a funda­
emergency does Rohatyn believe that the mental divergence of interest between capital­
necessary program of restructuring and ists and workers as long as capitalism conti­
increased government economic involvement nues, would prefer a restructuring that provides
will have a serious chance of being the maximum feasible amount of popular,
implemented . 3 2 democratic control over governmental and
Whether o r not crisis becomes "emergency , " corporate decision making and that results in as
the early 1 980s promise not only to bring con­ equal as possible sharing of the fruits of
tinued hard times for working people, but also production.
to provide a transition toward a new set of poli­ The political and economic struggles of t he
tical and economic arrangements. coming years, therefore, should be understood
Although our earlier analysis indicates t hat not only in terms of their short-run implica­
government will come to play a much bigger tions, but also in terms of their impact on the
role in the economy, the form and nature of its eventual restructuring of U S capitalism. Efforts
increased involvement are by no means pre­ at redistribution, deregulation, budget cutting,
determined. A broad range of alternative poli­ and recession may offer no real prospect of
tical and economic arrangements is possible. resolving the economic crisis . But by weakening
They are all compatible with renewed pros­ the accumulated power of working people and
perity, but they have dramatically different by redefining the economic role of the govern­
implications for the nature and direction of the ment, they may serve to improve capitalist
accumulation process, for the quality of work­ prospects for prevailing in future battles over
ing, political, and social life, and for the distri­ restructuring. A move toward an expanded gov­
bution of the burdens and benefits among ernment role in the economy is no part of, and
social and economic groups. indeed is incompatible with , their short-term
Three quite different visions of the nature of program . But their vigorous and successful pur­
increased government involvement in a restruc­ suit of this program could improve conservative
tured capitalism describe this range. Liberals, prospects for eventually achieving the sort of
who fail to recognize the existence of funda­ authoritarian, business-oriented US capitalism
mentally opposed class interests in modern cap­ that they would most like to see emerge from
italism, would like all major economic groups the period of transition.
to agree to a "social contract" that protects On the other hand , however, their short-term
• profits but that provides for all major groups to program (whatever it turns out to be) is very
share equitably, both in the sacrifices necessary likely to worsen the overall state of the econ­
to restore profitable economic growth and in omy at the same time that it redistributes away
the subsequent benefits of that growth. Con­ from working people. This may serve to dis­
servatives, with a better understanding of the credit conservatives, thereby weakening their
basic capital-labor conflict , would use the state position in future struggles over restructuring
systematically to intervene on the side of busi­ - and creating openings for more egalitarian
ness and against the interests of working peo- and participatory proposals and suggestions.

51
The growing political and economic strength of looking for work a s a percentage of t h e total civilian
noninstitutionalized population sixteen years of age or
working people that was one of the major fac­
older) rose from 60.4 to 63.8 percent . (This was entirely the
tors in bringing about the current crisis is still , result of increased labor force participation by women, up
in spite of recent setbacks, very substantial. A from 43.3 to 5 1 .6 percent ; the participation rate for men
conservative, or even a probusiness, outcome is fel l . ) A larger part of the explanation is the changing age
far from assured. Working people and their structure of the population - the noninstitutionalized
sixteen-and-over component rose from 68.4 to 74.6 percent
allies should not undervalue their own strength ,
of the total.
forget their past victories , o r underestimate the 6. ERP, p. 335. The price index used here is the implicit
potential significance of the whole range of price deflator for gross national product, whose average
struggles to be undertaken in the currently level rose by 80.9 percent between the two periods (ERP, p.
bleak political environment. 236). Standard & Poor's composite index of 500 stocks, a
less well-known but more broadly representative measure
of stock-market performance than the Dow Jones Indus­
Footnotes trial Average, did somewhat better, rising 1 0 . 8 percent
between the two periods (ERP, p. 335); this implies
a somewhat smaller, but still very substantial, fall in the
1. Focusing on what's happened to real wages and real value of corporate stocks than that given in the text.
unemployment necessarily provides a superficial view o f the 7. One group did succeed in getting much more out of the
impact of the economic hard times of the 1 970s on people 's US economy during the 1 970s: the petroleum exporting
lives. For one good discussion that provides much more countries. The decade saw a huge increase in the total
detail on the personal and social impacts of these economic amount that the US paid each year for imported oil. In
developments on different categories of working people, 1 970, US expenditures on imports of petroleum and
see Elliott Currie, Robert Dunn, and David Fogarty, "The petroleum products were $2.9 billion, or 0.3 percent of
New Immiseration: Stagflation, Inequality, and the GNP; by 1 980, the total had risen to about $80 billion, or
Working Class, " Socialist Review No. 54, (Nov.-Dec. 3 .0 percent of GNP. (ERP, p. 346; the total 1 980 is based
1980), pp. 7-3 1 . on reported data for the first three quarters of the year . )
2 . Calculated from the data in the 1 9 8 1 Economic Report of This tenfold increase i n the portion of GNP devoted t o oil
the Presiden t (U.S Government Printing Office, Jan. 198 1 ) , imports means that that much less is available to workers,
p. 275. This freq uently used source will b e hereafter cited a s capitalists, or anyone else in the U S .
ERP. 8 . ERP, p p . 3 1 8- 1 9 , 2 3 3 . Federal spending rose from 1 7 . 5
3. ERP, p. 265 . t o 1 7 .9 percent of G N P between the two periods . Because
4 . ERP, pp. 325 , 236, 234, 273 . Measuring and interpreting federal "grants-in-aid" to state and local governments
profits is a notoriously tricky and controversial endeavor; become part of state and local governments spending, they
there are many alternative ways of measuring the level and are not counted in this article as part of federal spending,
rate of profit. The data here are for "corporate profits with even though they do show up in the federal budget; these
inventory valuation and capital consumption allowances"; grants-in-aid rose from 2.0 to 3.3 percent of GNP between
they are adjusted for inflation using the implicit price the two periods. Other state and local spending rose from
deflator for nonresidential fixed investment. For more 9.8 to 10.2 percent of GNP.
extensive discussions of the measurement of profits and of 9. 1965- 1970 data from US Department of Commerce, The
recent trends in the US economy, see Thomas E. Weiss­ National Income and Product Accounts of the United '.
kopf, "Marxian Crisis Theory and the Rate of Profit in the States, 1 929-74, S{a{istical Tables (US Government
Postwar U.S. Economy, " Cambridge Journal of Printing Office, no date), pp. 96-97; 1 975-78 data from
Economics , Dec. 1 979, pp. 341 -378. Survey of Curren t Business, July 1979, p. 39; 1979-80 data
5. ERP, pp. 265, 259, 263-64. Between 1 970 and 1 980, the from Survey of Current Business, Nov . 1980, p. 9 (the 1 980
proportion of the total population that was in either the total is based on data reported for first three quarters of the
civilian labor force or the armed forces expanded from 4 1 .9 year).
to 47.9 percent. One part of the explanation for thiS is that 10. While the federal government has increased the extent
the labor-force participation rate (those working or actively to which it has "delivered the goods" in terms of social-

52
welfare expenditures, it has done so in a highly impersonal 14. While most Marxists would agree with this general
and bureaucratic way. As Stuart Hall ("Moving Right ," formulation, there is considerable disagreement about just
Soci(llist Review, Jan.-Feb. 1 98 1 , pp. 1 1 3-37) and Sheldon which aspects of the capitalist development process are
Wolin (" Reagan Country, " New York Review of Books, most important in turning periods of prosperity into
. Dec. 1 8 , 1 980, pp. 9- 1 2) have emphasized, there has been a periods of stagnation. Does additional investment, for
growing disjunction between the performance of the example. become unprofitable because too much capital
welfare state in providing material social welfare and the gets accumulated per worker, because capitalists run out of
lack of popular democratic participation in, to say nothing customers to buy their products, or because workers
of control over, governmental policies and operations. As a become too powerful? See the literature cited two footnotes
result, it is entirely understandable that government became earlier. especially Weisskopf, " Marxian Crisis Theory, "
increasingly unpopular at the same time that it was carrying for discussion o f alternative positions.
through a massive increase in expenditures on social welfare 1 5 . W(lll Street Journ(ll, Jan. 1 9, 1 98 1 , p . I .
programs. 1 6. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Income (lnd
Determining whether changes in the structure of taxation Product Accounts, pp. 2, 96-97, 324. 340.
over the last decade have improved the relative position of 1 7 . See Arthur MacEwan, " Changes in World Capitalism
either capital or labor is much more difficult. My own and the Current Crisis of the U . S . Economy," Radic(ll
initial review of the available evidence provides no basis for A meric(l, Jan.-Feb. 1 97 5 , pp. 1 -23 (updated and reprinted
thinking that there has been a significant change. in Edwards, Reich, and Weisskopf, The C(lpitalist System
I I . While the struggle in favor of enhanced environmental and in URPE, U.S. Capitalism in Crisis). See also Trade
protection has been carried on by a coalition of forces from W(lrs: A Doll(lrs & Sense P(lmphlet (Somerville, Mass . :
all classes, those who oppose it seem uniformly upset by its Dollars & Sense, 1 979).
negative impact on the profits and freedom of action of 18. See Bowles and Gintis, "The Crisis of Liberal
business. Democratic Capitalism" and Weisskopf, " Marxian Crisis
1 2. This brief discussion can provide only the barest outline Theory. "
of a Marxist account of the reasons for capitalist crises in 1 9 . See Magdoff and Sweezy, The End of Prosperity, pp.
general and of the development and nature of the current 72-74.
crisis in particular . For the interested reader, the following 20. See Magdoff and Sweezy, The End of Prosperity, pp.
books and articles provide good points of entry into the 1 25-36, and Heilbroner, "Inflationary Capitalism . "
substantial and rapidly growing body of Marxist writing on 2 1 . Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio
capitalist economic crises: Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gramsci, edited by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell­
Gintis, "The Crisis of Liberal Democratic Capitalism: The Smith (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 197 1 ) .
Case of the United States," New Left Review, forth­ 22. See David A . Gold, "The Rise and Decline o f the
coming, 1 98 1 ; Manuel Castells , The Economic Crisis (lnd Keynesian Coalition, " K(lpit(l/istate No . 6 (Fall 1 977), pp .
American Society (Princeton University Press, 1980); 1 29- 1 6 1 .
Richard C. Edwards, Michael Reich and Thomas E. Weiss­ 23. See Sam Rosenberg and Thomas E . Weisskopf, " A
kopf, The C(lpit(llist System, Prentice-Hall, second edition, Conflict Theory Approach to Inflation in t h e Postwar U . S .
( 1 978), Chapter 1 2 ; David M . Gordon, " Stages of Accumu­ Economy, " American Economic Review, forthcoming,
lation and Long Economic Cycles" in T . K . Hopkins and May 1 98 1 .
Immanuel Wallerstein (eds . ) , Processes in the World 24. The most popular recent statement o f this position, Free
System (Sage, 1 980); Robert L . Heilbroner, Beyond Boom to Choose, by conservative economics guru Milton
and Crash (Norton, 1978) and " Inflationary Capitalism, " Friedman and his wife Rose (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich,
• New Yorker, Oct. 8 , 1 979; Bob Rowthorn, " Late Capital­ 1 979) followed its ten-week run as a public television series
ism," New Left Review No. 98 (July-Aug. 1 976), pp. 59-83; with a still-continuing year-long stay on the New York
the Union for Radical Political Economics, U.S C(lpit(llism Times Best Seller List.
in Crisis (URPE, 1978); and Thomas E . Weisskopf, 25. See Geoffrey H. Moore, " Diagnosing the Problem of
"Marxian Crisis Theory" and "The Current Economic Inflation and Unemployment in the Western World," in
Crisis in Historical Perspective , " Socialist Review, forth­ After the Phillips Curve: Persistence of High InfJ(ltion and
coming, 1 98 1 . High Unemployment (Conference Series No. 1 9, Federal
1 3 . John G . Gurley, "Unemployment and Inflation," Reserve Bank of Boston, 1 978), pp. 1 1 -28 .
Monthly Review, Dec. 1 977, p. 23. 26. Business Week, Feb. 2, 1 98 1 .

53
27. For a critique of supply·side economics from a tra­
ditional conservative point of view, see Martin Feld­
stein, " Inflation and Supply-Side Economics," Wall Street
Journal, May 20, 1 980; an e�tended critical analysis by a
leading liberal is provided by James Tobin, "Stabilization
Policy Ten Years After," Brookings Papers on Economic
A ctivity, 1 : 1 980, esp . pp. 3 1 -42; for a radical discussion,
see " Supply-Side Economics , " Dol/ars & Sense No . 59,
(Sept . 1 980), pp. 3-5.
28. For more on the causes and consequences of U . S .
capitalism's financial instability, see three o f the essays in
Magdoff and Sweezy, The End oj Prosperity: " Keynesian
Chickens Come Home to Roost , " "Banks: Skating on Thin
I ce , " and "Keynesianism: Illusions and Delusion s , " pp.
2 1 -53, 1 25- 1 36.
29. For other analyses which argue t h a t the resolution of
the current crisis must involve a substantially expanded
government role in the economy, see Magdoff and Sweezy,
The End oj Prosperity, pp. 63-75; James R. Crotty and
Leonard A. Rapping, "Class Struggle, Macropolicy and
the Business Cycle," in Edwards, Reich and Weisskopf,
The Capitalist System, pp. 461 -69; Heilbroner, Beyond
Boom and Crash, pp. 79-86; and David Plotke, "The
United States in Transition : Toward A New Order , "
Socialist Review N o . 54 (Nov.-Dec. 1 980), esp. p p . 103- 1 09 .
30. Business Week, "The Reindustrialization o f America, " (a
special issue), June 30. 1 980.
3 1 . An analysis along these lines is presented in more detail DON'T BE SURPRISED
in Heilbroner, " Inflationary Capitalism . "
Radical A merica has held the line for over three
3 2 . Felix Rohatyn, "The Coming Emergency and What
years . Unfortunately, due to recent increases in
Can Be Done About I t , " New York Review oj Books, Dec.
postal rates and the continuing rise of printing costs,
4, 1 980, pp. 20-26.
we've had to reluctantly raise our subscription rates
and the price of single issues. Beginnng with Vol. 1 5 ,
JIM CAMPEN teaches economics at the NO. 3 (May-June 1981), the following rates will go

University of Massachusetts - Boston and is a into effect:

member of the collective that publishes the


Single issues - $ 2.50
monthly socialist economics magazine Dollars
One year subs - 12.00
and Sense. He gratefully acknowledges that this
article has benefitedfrom the helpful comments Two year subs - 22.00

of several members of the D & S and Radical Foreign mail (additional charge) 3.00 (Per year)
America editorial collectives. One year sub (unemployed) 8.00
Institutional rates will be double the new rates.

Subs to prisoners will remain free.

Current subscribers wishing to extend their subscrip­


tion at the old rates may do so until April 24, 198 1 .
This applies t o individual subscribers only.

54
TH E YEAR IN . . .

· : :· � . , l8 · � [). • •
.;. . . S. . ,.
·
: · > < : · ; ·- j> . ·
>' ··· · · . · · · ·· · ··· \ · ·· ··· ·.

;B L O. A
. .

·· · · · · .. ·
· · i .

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.
.
. . .. . " .

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,�):�\:\:�\�

t \.J Il .

·.iW®fU, , , , ,
c';'<,: ::� :- ' ; <,,' " : ' ' ' -

..

December 3 1 , 1 980
REAGAN COUNTRY

IS WATCH I NG
,
• •

�H 180ARDS of t he F UTURE

October 10, 1980


..

- -­

October 24, 1 980


G ive me your tire d , your poor ;

'¥ou r hudd led m asse s . yearn in g t o be free .

q sp re a d my- loi ns G&., s i t upon the fl oor.

9' r a i s e you r GJiope s :

93 u t g i v e you CJ) u ng · a re e ,

''>

BI LL R f th

November 7, 1980
O{]@W c c c
'Do t h ou ghts that we haye atibut
What m ight be (but isn't)

..

These times demand BI LLBOA R DS of the fUTURE.


November 14. 1980
One Splash !
And You ' l l be demanding
The EQUAL
, DI STR I BU TION of
WEALTH.

CHUTlPAK0The fragrance that pops the big questions . . . .


BillBO ARDS of the FUtOn

November 27, 1 980


PET IT ION
WE THE PEOPLE, c all for the i..ediate adoption of John
Lenn on ' s s on,.
"lm&gine , " as the national anthelll ot th e United Statu of AIle
rica. We .
bel ieve that it represent s the true American ideals of tr• •dolll
; justice .
the oppos ition to tyranny at home and aboad; anti-m i l i tari.ml and
. a
b e l i e t in the s acredne s s of human happin• • • a. a right for
all .

imagine there ' . no heaven


it ' . e a s y if you try
no hell belov ua
above us only sky
imagine all the p e ople
l iving for t oday • • •

f mag ine there ' . no countries


i t isn ' t hard to do
nothing to kill or d i e for
and no r.lig ion too
imag ine al l the people
l i ving l i fe in p.ac • • • •

imagine n o po s s e s s i ons
i vonder if you c an
no need for grud or hunger a broth.rhood a ! man
imagine a l l the peopl e
s haring al l the vorld • • •

you may s ay i ' m a dreame r


but i ' m not the only one
i hope .someday you ' l l join us
and the vorld viiI be as on.

1 _________
_________

2 __________________________________

3 ___________
____________________
___

phot o.cop i b& pass it on ! BY HAND or FO


OT or MAI L !
Forward t o : B I L L BO
A R DS of t h e FU T U R E .
p o box 371 . truro MAS S . 026 6 6

December 14, 1980


HOSTAGES

(> ..

E�ON
• ..

December 25, 1 980


Inhoguration
SPECIAL .

J anuary 2 1 , 1 98 1

These nine photo-copy wall posters, 8 Y2 x 1 1 i n the original, are part o f a


series which has continued to appear each week since the late fall 1 980.
Stuart Ewen sees them as an attempt to generate and to inexpensively
distribute our own images counter to those in the mass media. The Radical
A merica editors encourage others to join in the attempt . . . reproduce these
or create new images. For further information write: Billboards of the
Future, P .O . Box 1 4 1 2, Ansonia Station , New York, NY 1 0023 .

STUART EWEN, the author of Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of
Consumer Culture, teaches at Hunter College in New York City.
rican
BoslOn Herald Ame
Stan ley Forman ,
.T H E CON T I N U I N G
B U R D E N OF RAC E
A Rev i ew

Manning Marable

I t is possible to conceive of any social fact as a natural phenomenon without


implying that it is an inseparable function of social organization. Probably
intolerance is as old as human society, but race prejudice has developed only
recently in Western society . . . The problem of racial exploitation, then, will most
probably be settled as part of the world proletarian struggle for democracy; every
advance of the masses will be an actual or potential advance for colored people.

Oliver Cromwell Cox


Caste, Class and Race
New York, 1970

Once every other year or so a controversial study on race relations, Afro-American history,
• or black culture appears. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the early stages of
the Civil Rights Movement, Kenneth Stampp 's The Peculiar Institution was published. The
book reviewed the history of black people in slavery and concluded that black men "are
simply white men with black skins, " nothing more or less . In the 1 960s historian Stanley M .

This essay i s a chapter in Manning Marable's new book, From the Grassroots: Social and Political Essays
To ward AfrO-American Liberation , South End Press, 1 980. It is available as a paperback for $5 .50 from South
End Press, Box 68, Astor Station, Boston, Mass. 02123.

65
Elkins 's Slavery attracted critical acclaim for its assault, Wilson simply chose to hold his
" Sambo thesi s , " the idea that through a series ground.
of cultural "shocks" Afro-Americans had The Declining Significance of Race has been
completely lost their identity and ability to reviewed countless times, and has been the reci­
'
actively resist oppression. Several years ago two pient of considerable sympathetic support from)
economic historians, Robert Fogel and Stanley left and liberal intellectuals who disagreed with
Engerman, won academic honors for Time on the b ook's thesis and conclusion. In one impor­
the Cross, a historical study which argued that tant review, noted sociologist Pierre L. van den
blacks actually weren't too badly off in bond­ Berghe called Wilson's study an " important"
age, and that their white masters cared deeply work which was "the butt of political
about their family stability and general welfare. invective" and "ideological abuse. " In his
In each of these instances, black historians and opinion, the book was "highly unpopular
researchers ultimately responded to these works [because) it clashes head on with the interest of
by white scholars in a critical fashion, forcing the black middle class which has a vested inter­
them to rethink many of their peculiar opinions est in the perpetuation of a racial definition of
and mistaken assumptions about black life, the situation . Wilson's position . . . is character­
thought, and culture. ized by black 'radicals' as conservative, when ,
Since the publication of E. Franklin Frazier 's in fact, its implications are far more radical
Black Bourgeoisie, however, no significant than the self-serving line defended by the black
work of sociology has received such a contro­ profiteers of apartheid and 'affirmative
versial reception as that of University of Chi­ action . ' ' ' Van den Berghe concludes that the
cago professor William ] . Wilson. Raising author much "be commended for his i ntellec­
simultaneously a chorus of praises and scorn, tual courage and integrity. " Black intellectuals
his book, The Declining Significance of Race, of similar persuasion have accused their
became one o f the decade's noteworthy politi­ colleagues of "Mau-Mau" tactics and phony
cal issues. Black sociologists, historians, and "blacker-than-thou" posturing against the
economists disputed its methodology, contested book . Wilson must be given a democratic right
its theories, and rejected its conclusions. Panels to express his opinions and the findings of his
at black academic workshops and conferences research , they insist . The cause celebre must be
discussed the book's implications for govern­ granted the very freedoms which other black
mental policy making related to blacks. On the intellectuals, in an earlier period of US history,
other side of the color line, The Declining Sig­ had been grievously denied.
nificance of Race usually received generous and Any critique of this book must involve two
even enthusiastic accolades as a survey of black issues, not wholly unrelated. The first is a con­
America. Like Elkins, Fogel, and Engerman, sideration of the book itself, and its merits as a '
Wilson achieved the questionable distinction of piece of research and sociology. Second, we
having alienated an entire generation of black must also examine the significance of the politi­
intellectuals. Not one of his opponents could cal debate surrounding the book. This critique
accuse him openly of racism, however; Wilson takes the position that the idea of " race's de­
was black , politically liberal, and had a reputa­ clining significance" has great ideological
tion as a fair and even creative scholar. Rather appeal to numerous vested interests within the
than retreating before the black academic existing white elites in government, business,

66
and academic institutions. The question of con­ segregation that was reinforced by an ideology
tinued white racism versus the lack of adequate of biological racism . " (p. 6 1 ) According to Wil­
capitalist economic mobility for blacks is in son, the emergence of industrial capitalism gave
reality the heart of the entire controversy . birth to a white proletariat, which was able to
..
transform its "labor power into increasing poli­
A CRITIQUE OF tical power . " Modern white racism resulted
DECLINING SIGNIFICANCE partially from the inability of black workers to
Wilson begins his work by considering the make the successful transition to capitalist
general development and character of the black affluence during the epoch of Jim Crow. Wil­
experience within US economic and social insti­ son writes that ' 'there is, in fact, little empirical
tutions. Briefly, he argues that there have been support for the Marxist's contention that t he
three basic phases of black social development. capitalist class attempted to i solate the black
The first and historically the longest period was labor force by imposing a system of racial strat­
that of the antebellum South, the world of the ification both in and outside of industries. "
masters and slaves. Drawing heavily upon the (p. 83)
recent historical studies of Marxist Eugene D .
Genovese, Wilson accepts the theory that "by
the end of the eighteenth century, the southern COLOBED PEOPLE
slaveholders had clearly established their
01' .02 ,.., on a w,
hegemony" over both races' economic, cul­
tural, and social relations. " (p. 1 0) Despite feeble Y. are "" ftIJdIU1 CllJTlOlD lII1
attempts at resistance, blacks developed a ..,..., II at. eI.te...., ID lite
"close symbiotic relationship" with white
racists which did not "threaten the norms of "alCael JId P,Hee .n
racial inequality. " (p . 35) "The slaves' reliance
on their masters for protection established a
.r .ttl,
... .... ... ...... ..._ ow ..... 1IA'We8 •
pattern of group dependency that was to persist .ALB••_II, ..., .... I.,.".... .. ... a);

KmNAPPERS
several decades after slavery ended . " (p. 36)
Wilson accepts that passive model for black
antebellum existence, whereby the slave is iso­ AIIII

lated from having the decisive role in creating


his own cultural norms, values, and politics . Slave Catche",
The second phase of black social develop­
ment includes the antebellum period in the
.... ...,. .... ......., ... ..... �..
IUDlf.APPIl'8, �ATCIIIlfQ, AlfIJa
aLATD. TMreI'ore, It.." .l .'!�'" TMJr I.lIlEaTr,
.. North, and the entire Jim Crow years from ... ... �... ., .. ,.....,.... ....-l� . .....
..... .. ey.; ..... 1IIe .....r, .. .. ..117 BOflIfll.
1 865 until 1 945 throughout the country. Wilson ... .... ..... fiI ... -- � ." .r ....
resorts to an economic determinist position to
explain the creation of a split labor market and Keep a Sharp Look Out Cor
the continuation of white racism within all ILIDN APPERS, and have
social relations. The "white working-class, "
TOP EYE opeD.
rather than the owners o f capital, was responsi­ .111& ... ...
Mo d ern T imel
ble for the "elaborate system of Jim Crow

67
The third phase of black development nation of government intervention and an
occurred after World War I I , in the Civil Rights expansion of incentives for private enterprise to
and Black Power movements. The major char­ provide j obs for the poor. Wilson essentially
acteristics of this period are a collapse of white says that the black middle class has solved
racism in economic relations, the concentration most , if not all, of its socioeconomic problems i)
of electoral political power in metropolitan through upward mobility within capitalism; the
areas by black middle-class politicians, and the same struggle must be waged for black lower
creation of a growing class division between income groups along similar lines of economic
upper and lower income groups within the development. Race "declines in significance"
black population as a whole. In Wilson 's opin­ and economic questions take the central place
ion, corporations have been primarily responsi­ in our analysis of the black community .
ble for the " elimination of race in labor-man­ The most glaring weakness of the book is its
agement strife . " Black youth are being conceptual failure in approaching Afro-Ameri­
recruited in steadily increasing numbers into can history. Through each phase of black social
corporate positions. The "movement of blacks development, Wilson accepts the view of
from the rural South to industrial centers" was blacks-as-objects of oppression rather than as
the beginning of greater economic opportunity active participants in their own history. Like
and achievement for the budding black middle other sociologists of the Chicago school, nota­
class. The only group that has not been able to bly Robert Park, Wilson cannot conceive of an
progress economically has been the "black autonomous black culture with its own sense of
lower class . " (pp . 99-1(0) He concludes that aesthetics, religion, political ideas, and eco­
"given the structural changes in the American nomic inclinations . His description of the ante­
economy and the recent political changes that bellum period is essentially a top-down
prohibit racial discrimination, the life chances approach which negates the reciprocity of
of individual blacks seem indeed to be based far values and interests between masters and slaves.
more on their present economic class position During the Reconstruction and strict-segrega­
than on their status as (blacks) . " (p. 1 1 1 ) tion era, the white working class was not uni­
The immediate projection for black social formly racist; there were frequent instances of
development that Wilson proposes is one which black-white alliances within politics and labor.
minimizes race at the expense of economic cate­ Wilson's book is devoid of any appreciation for
gories . The expansion of the capitalist the permanent social movement of black people
economic system has benefited first, the white against all aspects of white oppression, and the
working class during the period 1 865- 1 945, line of continuity between Frederick Douglass
and subsequently the black middle classes. The and Martin Delany, W . E . B . DuBois and Mar­
task for the future, Wilson implies, is to find a cus Garvey, Martin Luther King and Malcolm
"capitalist solution" to the problems of the X. Any sociological study that claims to exam­
black lower economic groups. This would ine the evolution of blackness without also
involve going " beyond the limits of ethnic and exploring black social-protest thought and
racial discrimination by directly confronting activism cannot really speak accurately to our
the pervasive and destructive features of class history.
subordination . " (p . 1 54) The means for achiev­ Wilson's chief contribution to the discussion
ing lower-class development would be a combi- about black-white relations is his extensive use

68
.. of economic data. Throughout the book, Wil­ similar goods, services, or skills to offer for
son attacks the "class interpretation" of "clas­ income . . . and who therefore receive similar
sical Marxism, " yet places all of his major dis­ financial remuneration in the market place. " In
cussion about the evolution of the black com­ other words, Wilson 's theoretical basis for class
munity as a function of the immediate class is a function of income level.
changes within the capitalist economy. But There are many problems with this kind of
what is "class" according to Wilson? After approach to describing black social develop­
some hesitation, he explains that class " means ment. It ignores the role of consciousness and
any group of people who have more or less cultural phenomena within income groups

69
which can, in turn, produce a " radical chic" businessmen control a steadily shrinking eco­
within elements of the capitalist class and an nomic market for their products. In ideological
antiunion "Archie Bunker" within sectors of terms, black workers and executives alike iden­
the white working class . When income levels tify their interests along racial lines , and usually
are not adjusted to the rate of inflation, which act accordingly, since the historical develop­
Wilson does not do , a false perception of rapid ment of race relations has been predicated upon
economic growth appears within the data on both the group 's lower position within the eco­
blacks in the U S since 1 945 . Although the per­ nomic structure and the permanent ideological
centage of black women 's incomes compared t o and cultural barrier of race between themselves
white women's has risen from 4 9 percent in and whites as a group.
1 953 to 98 percent in 1 974, this is not an indica­ If Wilson had approached the problem of
tion of a "relaxation of racial tensions" in the racism as a partial byproduct of capitalist
private sector; what has occurred instead is a development within cultural and political rela­
structural change of many black women from tions, then he would be forced to admit that
working as household domestics and in agricul­ there can be no "decline in the significance of
ture to clerical and industrial working class race" until the basic ownership of the economic
positions of employment. This produces a system is made more democratic . Socialism is
statistical rise in income, but in terms of the no guarantee that racial relations would
entire political economy, black women still become egalitarian, but it would provide the
remain at the very bottom . The statistical rise in basic economic security and democratic reallo­
all black incomes after the Great Depression cation of public services which are essential for
does not occur because " the center of racial a decent, humane way of life . Under these
conflict has shifted from the industrial sector, " materh il conditions, race might simply become
but because blacks moved from rural, self­ an element of human diversity and aesthetic
sufficient but "cash-poor" economic status value, rather than a continuing burden of eco­
into industries and lower- to middle-level jobs nomic bondage.
in the public sector. The result is that blacks as
a group are still behind whites; no amount of THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS
statistical doubletalk will obscure this funda­ Unlike other controversial scholarly works,
mental fact. The Declining Significance of Race does not
For Marxists, class does not directly connote merit the passionate defenses and assaults it has
income, but rather the position of a group rela­ generated within social-science circles. Con­
tive to the means of production; the class status sidered solely on its fundamnetals, its scholar­
is defined by whether a group sells its labor ship, and its originality, it is neither clearly left
power for a wage in order to live, or owns the nor right, anti-black separatist or pro-integra­
productive process. Class is also influenced by tionist. It is quite simply mediocre. The debate
other important factors, such as race. Using about Wilson has less to do with the book itself
these criteria instead of Wilson's, one con­ than it does with the tenor of the times, the
cludes that the oppression of blacks has intensi­ current state of Black America, and the role of
fied in recent history. The great black middle social analysis and research within any histori­
class which Wilson repeatedly refers to is at best cal period.
a small "elite. " Compared to whites, black In Part I I I of this book I have described the

70
reaction of whites of all income groups, cul­
tural backgrounds, and political loyalties
against black society has become increasingly
worse. In politics, the reaction is characterized
by the law suits of Alan Bakke and Brian
Weber against the principle of affirmative
action; the passage of Proposition Thirteen in
California and subsequent taxpayer "revolts"
which, in turn, lead to a reduction of black
employment within the public sector; the
rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and racial violence
in the South.
Many of these problems were to be expected.
After every social movement of historic impor­
tance there has been a subsequent period of cul­
tural retrenchment and economic conservatism
by the ruling elites. What is unusual about the
most recent reaction is that it has generated an
intellectual movement against the perceived
"privileges" of minority groups which were
achieved in the 1 960s. The principal thrust of
this movement has been the efforts of politi­
cally conservative social scientists and human­
ists to undermine affirmative action based on
the criteria of race. For example, the Commit­
tee on Academic Non-Discrimination and
Integrity was formed to oppose the ideal of
"group rights" over the "meritocratic" ideal
of "individual freedom . " Historians Daniel
Boorstin and Oscar Handlin, sociologist
Nathan Glazer, economist Milton Friedman,
and political ideologue Sidney Hook joined
over five hundred other intellectuals in the com­
mittee. The group argues bluntly, in the words
of Glazer, that "affirmative action" is an
attempt to "undermine the very foundations of
period of the 1970s as "the Reaction . " Any our society. " In its media campaign against
sociologist, including Wilson , implicitly under­ special treatment for blacks, the committee has
stands the meaning of the phrase from the van­ described all racial quotas as "unjust , discrimi­
tage point of Black people. Since the demise of natory and evil . " According to George Roche,
Black Power and the social activism which racial quotas merely advance "the minority
characterized the Civil Rights Movement, the member [who] doesn't have what it takes. Even

71
the minority member who earns his competence racial prejudice among whites has sharply
will surely be undermined as a result . " _
dropped. His empirical data argues for the
Theoretically , intellectuals have published achievement of " social maturity" at the
books which do not specifically attack the use expense of special treatment or compensatory
'
of affirmative action for blacks as a group, but provisions for minority groups. Professor H .
nevertheless postulate the thesis that race per se Edward Ransford carries this notion of black
is no longer as viable a category for sociological progress in the 1 970s in his work, Race and
research and policy making as it once was . Class in A merican Society: Black, Chicano and
These studies presuppose that the ideological A nglo. Blacks suffer not from social distance
and economic origins of racism have been or inequality, but from a lack of competitive
sharply reduced and that other social categories status vis-a-vis the white middle class. Ransford
have replaced race as the critical determinant in insists that racial barriers and stratification no
US social reality. longer describe the black experience, given the
One school of thought argues that caste, relative rise of educational and economic
rather than race, is the feature which distin­ opportunity for blacks. Any reaction by whites
guishes black-white relations. Professor John against blacks today is not " raci sm , " he sug­
U. Ogbu, a Nigerian social anthropologist, gests, but the social stress resulting from threats
takes this approach in his study Minority Edu­ to their educational, economic, cultural, and
cation and Caste: The A merican System in political posture . In short, racism is again not
Cross-Cultural Perspective. Ogbu examines the the basic problem, for either blacks or whites .
reasons given for lower academic performance When The Declining Significance of Race
of black students, and rejects the reasons appeared, therefore, it presented nothing new
usually given by black educators: that white - that is, its social analysis which minimized
institutions structurally deny the validity of the the role of racism within the composition of
black cultural experience, and that ghetto black economic and cultural life was not origi­
schools are usually deficient in physical and nal . Others in the field of sociology had said as
financial resources compared to white schools. much in other ways, and will assuredly continue
"Caste, rather than race , " Ogbu claims, sets a to do so . What was surprising to black aca­
common tradition for an inferior education. demicians was , first, its lack of scholarly
The victim of white institutional racism thus subtlety, the clear and unequivocal break from
becomes the creator of his own oppression. race that is proposed. Let us consider what
" Black students neither make sufficient efforts would have occurred had Wilson selected the
in their studies , " he concludes, " nor match title, "The Increasing Significance of Clas s . "
their aspirations with accomplishments . " The manuscript would have been published ,
Other recent schools o f sociological thought but few people outside of the field of sociology •
approach the question of black oppression would have noticed. The fierce criticism from
somewhat di fferently. Professor Robin M . Wil­ black researchers , social scientists, and activists
liams, Jr . , writes that most ethnic and racial would have been virtually nonexistent. Wilson
confrontations in U . S . society are ultimately set the entire tone for the debate by choosing
resolved without violence. A concomitant " race" as the central focus for discussion . In
proposition of his book, Mutual Accomoda­ doing so, he sold many more copies of the
lion: Ethnic Conflict and Cooperation, is that boo k , he won the fierce loyalty of conservative

72
and liberal educators and their black allies, and the black group's own best interest ; and 3) that
he earned the wrath of black intellectuals and economic development along liberal, welfare­
social activists . capitalist lines could alleviate any residual di­
More important were the social implications lemmas with which blacks were afflicted . Race
.. had "declined in significance" for public policy
of Wilson 's study for public policies affecting
blacks. White intellectuals were looking for a making . In the future, federal bureaucrats at
theoretical framework to j ustify their assault the Department of Health, Education and Wel­
against affirmative action , and The Declining fare could concentrate their corrective efforts
Sigmficance of Race provided them with new toward "poorly trained and educationally lim­
academic ammunition. Wilson clearly states (p. ited blacks of the inner city, " rather than
1 1 0) that " affirmative action programs are not toward blacks as a group. In effect , this
designed to deal with the problem of the dis­ approach minimizes the continuing burden of
proportionate concentration of blacks in the racism as the major feature in all black people 's
low-wage labor market . " Racism as a problem lives , regardless of their economic status, cul­
" in the economic order [has] declined , " while tural achievement, and educational mobility.
"there has been a gradual shift of racial conflict Wilson 's thesis serves to perpetuate racism by
from the economic to the sociopolitical order. " transferring the historic guilt of whites as a
(p . I l l ) Wilson observes that " the more edu­ group toward another criterion, namely the
cated blacks continue to experience a faster rate lack of adequate economic mobility for some
of job advancement than their white counter­ blacks.
parts . " Thus, "at this point there is every rea­ W . E . B . DuBois once observed that "all liter­
son to believe that talented and educated blacks ature is , " in the last analysis, "propaganda . "
. . . will continue to enjoy the advantages and Sociological studies do not exist i n an empirical
privileges of their class status . " (p . 1 53) Wilson void, but either concur with or deny the existing
evidently believes that any additional expansion socioeconomic reality. All academic work,
of special programs, such as those created by directly or indirectly, perpetuates existing social
the Association of American Medical Colleges dogma or raises questions about i t . Theoretical
to increase black enrollment at white institu­ work draws its basis from existing cultural and
tions, merely obscure and perpetuate the social norms, but attempts to project solutions
greater problem of class oppression for lower to existing human problems. By any measure,
income groups. " In the final analysis , " he con­ The Declining Significance ofRace prepares the
cludes, "the challenge of economic dislocation way for a white reaction against black folks as a
in modern industrial society calls for public group and blackness in general . It is " propa­
policy programs to attack inequality on a broad ganda , " in DuBois 's sense, of the white ruling
.. class front , " going beyond the " limits" of elites in economics, culture, and politics. On
" racial discrimination . " these grounds alone it deserves our critical
I n i t s popular context, Wilson was under­ examination and a decent hearing. Beyond
stood as saying: 1) that racial prejudice and dis­ that, it has earned nothing else.
crimination were no longer maj or problems MANNING MARABLE teaches political
within the capitalist economic system; 2) that economy at Cornell University and is a leading
affirmative action programs for blacks were no activist in the newly formed National Black
longer necessary, and were in fact destructive to Independent Political Party.

73
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;rHE LON G
STRU GG LE FOR
RE PROD U CT I VE RI GHTS

Linda Gordon

Considering h o w central abortion is to the attempt t o build a new right-wing majority in the
US, the Left has been remarkably weak in its defense of that right. Many leftists as well as lib­
erals have been, if not exactly neutral, then confused and/or divided over abortion.
There is, unfortunately, less confusion on the Right. Abortion is now the leading symbol
and political rallying point of the "pro-family" forces. For that reason alone it would be
useful for the Left to gain a better understanding of the issue and to be able to respond more
cohesively. Abortion is important, however, not only because the new wave of conservatism
has made it so . It is important in itself as a vital precondition for continued struggle for
women ' s equality and for a Left constituted on the basis of that equality.
The right of women to reproductive self-control is not, as it sometimes appears, under­
standable as a single issue. Viewed as an abstract, ahistorical ethical question abortion is in
itself complicated . No reasonable person ought to deny the validity of ethical concerns
.. about fetal life, women's life and health, and the difficulties of making decisions about re­
production since women bear the brunt of the responsibility but men also play a biological
role. The issue can only be clarified on the basis of a historical analysis which shows that the
abortion issue is at the center of a cluster of issues that are absolutely central to the
construction of a viable socialist vision : issues of free sexuality, the " family" and other
forms of human dependency, and gender.
Even feminists have demonstrated difficulty in responding clearly to the attack on abor­
tion, largely because of the tendency to treat abortion as a single-issue reform. It is the lack

75
of a historical dimension that leaves us most to have many children. In contrast conditions
vulnerable to rhetoric about the destruction of in peasant societies made large families an
fetuses and the arrogance about human life, asset. The high infant mortality rate neces­
that draws us into participation in a debate sitated many pregnancies ; thus birth contr(ll
whose very terms and forms are wrong and was suppressed. Its use continued in an under­
loaded against us . The struggle for reproductive ground manner, however, and was probably
rights has a modern history of over I SO years, exceptional , not routine . As a result of suppres­
and even the feminist part of that struggle has sion , the quality of birth-control technology
gone through significant transformations. We declined, and women came to rely more on
will be on stronger ground if we defend our dangerous abortion-causing drugs than on the
proabortion position concretely, in terms of effective home-made spermicides which had
people's needs, particularly women ' s , in our been plentiful in the pre-Christian era.
specific society today, rather than in abstract
universals.
Thus I offer here a historical perspective a4 V A UGIIT'S PRACTICAL CHARACTER READER.

which should illuminate the contemporary


abortion controversy. I want to use the histor­
ical narrative to answer several related ques­
tions : ( I ) why reproductive rights arose as a
political issue when it did; (2) why reproductive
rights have continued to be so controversial ; (3)
why the attitude of the Left toward women's
reproductive rights has been so ambivalent;
(4) what the relationship of abortion to other
forms of reproductive control has been; and
(5) why there have been changes, and are still
conflicts, in feminist thinking about reproduc­
tive rights.

THE FIRST REPRODUCTIVE


RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS
Many forms of what we today call birth con­
trol were widely used in ancient societies: abor­
tions, douches, withdrawal, condoms, and
devices to cover the cervix. The social regula­
tion of the use of these techniques varied in dif­
!\ C E N U I "," E �!nl' l ! E R .
ferent times and places according to the context We affirm in the most absolute manner that words
of economic and political relations. For exam­ can be used that mother love is located exactly where
this backhead projects most. To be a true, natural
ple, birth control was generally practiced and mother is to have this faculty highly developed. Youn&
was uncontroversial in preagricultural societies men, fix this picture in your minds.

where limited food sources and the need for


mobility made it economically disadvantageous

76
It i s important to note here that when a been falling steadily since 1 8 10 . Since the late
modern birth control movement arose in the eighteenth century there had been evidence of
nineteenth century US, it was not because of rebellion among women, and by the 1 820s thou­
any new technological developments in contra- sands of women had become active in many
�eption . From the earliest prehistoric evidence social reform movements - temperance, health
until the 1 870s there were no significant techno­ education , antiprostitution, religious revival­
logical advances in birth control whatever. ism, and abolitionism . While none of t hese
What did change dramatically in the early movements was explicitly feminist until the end
nineteenth century US were two social factors : of the 1 830s, t hey were all drawing women into
the birth rate and the situation of women . public, highly visible activity in defiance of the
These factors created a large-scale political convention that they ought to remain passive
demand for birth control. and domestic.
In the early nineteenth century urbanization Women's expression of support for repro­
and industrialization began to create living ductive control was motivated from the start by
conditions in which large families were no a combined concern for family size and for
longer economical . The birth rate in the US has women's self-control. At the beginning of the
century, in a society with a strong element of
prudery, it was hard to find evidence of the use
VAPr.1IT' :..; t l lL\(' "!" l \ ' ,\ !. ( ' ! [ ,\ R A C T !', H H L .\ I ) L I� . 2)
of contraception, and at first puzzled observ­
ers thought that there was a physiological cause
for the decline in fertility! But by the 1 840s the
demand for birth control had outstripped the
availability of contraceptive techniques, and
new evidence appeared : a rise in abortions. 2
Furthermore, the average abortion client was
AN no longer a single girl " in trouble , " but was
more likely to be a married woman who already
U N R E­
had children.
L I A B LE The first explicit birth-control demand by the
MOTHER women ' s rights movement also appeared in the
1 840s: a call for Voluntary Motherhood. The
phrase had neither antimotherhood nor anti­
family implications; Voluntary Motherhood
advocates argued that willing mothers would be
better mothers. In their line of argument
motherhood had broader connotations than it
has for us today . A century ago both feminists
and non feminists assumed (at least I have
This i s a striking illustration. I t will pay a l l to remem­
found no exception) that women were naturally
ber this head formation and especially all m�n who wOllld those who should not only give birth to chil­
select wives who will lllll ke �ood lIlot h e rs.
dren, but should also do the primary childraising
and even perform the nurturing functions for

77
the whole society: maintaining friendship net­ ously to equate the "human race" with the
works, cultural institutions, and rituals, creating WASPs . Fears of the loss of political (and
beautiful environments, and caring for hus­ social and economic) dominance to an expand­
bands , relatives, and other women . Their femi­ ing population of " inferiors" stimulated a plan
nism manipulated the cult of domesticity, for reestablishing social stability through dif­
translating it into what was called " social ferential breeding: the superior should have
housekeeping , " spreading the virtues of an more children, the inferior fewer . (In the twen­
idealized home throughout the society. 3 Thus, tieth century blacks and the welfare poor have
in the nineteenth century the overall demand replaced immigrants and sharecroppers as the
for women's rights was frequently couched in primary targets of eugenical policies .
terms of greater respect for motherhood and
the family . THE FEMINIST REJECTION
Voluntary Motherhood was a campaign OF CONTRACEPTION
focused exclusively on women. It was distinct Thus by the end of the century there were
from two other, separate, streams in the history three separate reproduction-control movements
of contraception . One was neo-Malthusianism , - Voluntary Motherhood, population control ,
or population control, a p lan to ameliorate and eugenics. All three were to some extent
social problems by greatly reducing the size of responses to the fact that birth control was
populations. This ideology said nothing about being widely used . And all three to some extent
women's rights; a satisfactory solution to over­ required better reproductive-control tech­
crowding in a country might be to sterilize half niques. Yet on another, crucial, issue there was
the women and let the other half have all the a sharp difference among them: the eugenists
children they wanted. Neo-Malthusianism came and population controllers supported the legal­
late to the US because underpopulation , not ization of contraception, but the Voluntary
overpopulation, was the dominant fear here Motherhood advocates opposed it. For birth
until World War I I . control they proposed abstinence - either
The other stream, eugenics, was an effort to periodic, based on a rhythm method, or long­
apply population control differentially and thus term, allowing for intercourse only when a
reduce the size of certain unwanted human conception was desired. Their position was the
"types . " At first, eugenical thought was pri­ more noteworthy since they were the ones most
marily directed at the elimination of idiocy, blamed for the rise in birth-control use. Anti­
criminality, and drunkenness, on the assump­ feminists in the mid-nineteenth century, j ust
tion that such undesirable qualities are heredi­ as today, charged feminism with destroying
tary. After the Civil War, however, with social motherhood and the family and encouraging
stratification deepening, eugenics took on quite sexual licentiousness. They were , and are,' . '
a different orientation . The upper-class WASP partly right: despite their denials, the feminists ,
elite of the industrial North became acutely by raising women' s self-respect and aspirations,
aware of its own small-family pattern, in con­ did lend implicit support to birth-control use.
trast to the continuing large-family preferences The antifeminist backlash was able to use its
of immigrants and the rural poor. As early as rhetoric to win several important victories.
the 1 860s the fear of so-called "race suicide" First, a physicians' campaign to outlaw
emerged. In that phrase, race was used ambigu- abortion got most states to pass laws against it

78
A Career, a Life of Pleasure or Motherhood?

(abortion in the first few months of pregnancy in this country until this century . What, then,
had previously been legal); second, in the mid­ were the causes of the decline in the birth rate,
nineteenth century the Catholic Church also the rise of pro-birth-control movements, and
banned abortion for the first time, having the backlash against birth control?
previously accepted it in the early months; In the late nineteenth century a debate raged
third , in 1 87 3 , the Comstock law made i t a about this very causal question, with one side
federal crime to send obscene material through blaming feminism, arguing that women, stirred
the mail, and listed birth contol as an obscene up by licentious propaganda, were rejecting
subject. Most opponents of birth control at this their duties to society and seeking selfish
time did not distinguish contraception from gratification, and the other side blaming the
abortion, and called it murder and immorality, industrial economy, asserting that children
Nevertheless, the repression did not work. Then were no longer either respectful to or econom­
.. as now , birth control use continued to rise and ically profitable for their parents . In fact , these
the birth rate to fall . two explanations are both correct, and were
I t bears repeating that this struggle took fundamentally the same. Feminism itself was a
place with no new technological inventions at response to that industrial economy which had
all. The only nineteenth-century contribution to robbed women of their traditional productive
birth control technology, the vulcanization o f labor and turned them - at least those of the
rubber, which permitted t he manufacture o f prosperous classes, who were most likely to
better condoms and diaphragms, had n o impact become feminists - into unpaid, disrespected

79
housekeepers. Feminism was also an ideo­ women, and some possible reforms within the
logical response to the liberal individualism that spectrum of women's needs contradicted each
was once the revolutionary credo of the bour­ other, creating a double bind for the feminists.
geoisie and later became the justifying ideology A second reason lies in a great intellectual anq.
of capitalism. The convergence between femin­ cultural ambivalence within feminism: it
ism and a new kind of economic organization represented both the highest development of
can further be seen in the fact that decisions liberal individualism and a critique of it . Let me
about birth control and family size were discuss these briefly.
generally not controversial within families. The Voluntary Motherhood advocates were
Husbands and wives shared new class aspira­ part of a general women's rights movement:
tions which included new views of the place of they were also working for suffrage, property
women as well as of family size. In the late rights, and better job opportunities , and
nineteenth century it was clear that the birth­ some of the more daring worked for divorce
rate drop started first among the new profes­ rights. Their notions of what women needed , of
sional, managerial, and upwardly mobile strata justice and human dignity, were inevitably
who cared most about educating their children influenced by their concrete h i s t o rical
well - often an expensive process. From here experience of what women's lives were like. For
the small family tendency moved both upward example, in the 1 870s few women, and almost
into the capitalist class and downward into the no married women , working-class or middle­
working class, just as feminist ideas moved class, worked outside their homes for wages.
both up and down from their middle-class ori­ (In 1 890, the first year for which we have
gins. The biggest differential in family size was reliable figures , only 5 070 of married women
not class , defined in a static way, but urbaniza­ and 1 8 % of all women worked for wages; the
tion . By and large, migrants - both immi­ figures were considerably less in 1 870.) Nor did
grants and southern blacks - slowly relin­ the feminists anticipate a massive change in the
guished their large-family preferences , settled societal norm that women spend all their time
for fewer children, and adopted positive atti­ in their homes as housewives and mothers. The
tudes toward birth control. argument to reduce family size so as to enable
women to leave their homes would not have
made sense to them . On the contrary, they had
good reason to argue that women needed to win
THE CONTRADICTIONS OF rights and respect within their current wageless ,
NINETEENTH-CENTURY FEMINISM domestic situation . I n addition , women did
Why then did nineteenth-century feminists very little socializing with men. They spent
cling so hard to such a backward position as most of their working and leisure time in the )· '
their condemnation of contraception? (And exclusive company of other women . We might
they were very tenacious: as late as the 1 920s call this era extremely "homosocial. " Women
older feminists were lined up against Margaret normally had their most intense emotional
Sanger and other birth-control pioneers.) One bonds with other women. Our twentieth­
reason is that they wanted Voluntary Mother­ century distinction between emotional and
hood not as a single-issue reform, but as part of sexual attraction may not have been
a broad movement for the empowerment of a p p r o p r i a t e t o the n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y

80
understanding of women's relationships; there means of nonprocreative sex, thus initiating a
appeared to be neither an urgent dread of challenge to phallic sexual norms that was
lesbianism nor a pressure toward intensity continued a century later. In other words, some
about heterosexual relationships. These aspects of them had figured out that it wasn't sex they
..
of women 's lives certainly affected their disliked so much as the kind of sexual activity
reproductive and sexual attitudes. they had experienced.
Like all feminist s , nineteenth-century The Voluntary Motherhood advocates faced
feminists had a commitment to raise the status a second set of contradictions in their ambiv­
of all women (and these middle-class feminists alent attitude toward individualism . The
even tried, however imperfectly, to grasp the essence of their feminism was their anger at the
greater problem of poor women) and to see suppression of the capabilities and aspirations
women as whole people with many needs. This of women as i ndividuals. They envisaged a
meant that they had to face a number of contra­ public sphere of adults equal in rights, though
dictions. First, they realized that while women unequal in native abilities, with each individual
needed freedom from excessive childbearing guaranteed maximum opportunity for self­
they also needed the status and self-respect that development. But at the same time they were
motherhood brought. Motherhood then was firmly committed to the family. They did not
usually the only challenging , dignified, and challenge gender, or even "sex roles . " They did
rewarding work that women could get (and still not challenge heterosexual marriage based on a
is, for the majority of women). Second, they firm sexual division of labor (man the chief
understood that in addition to freedom from breadwinner, woman the mother in the
pregnancy, women also needed freedom from expanded sense described above), even though
male sexual tyranny, especially in a society this family form condemned women to
which had almost completely suppressed remaining primarily out of the public sphere.
accurate information about female sexuality Many of them could see the problems with this
and replaced it with information and attitudes arrangement, but all of them felt sure that the
so false as virtually to guarantee that women family was an absolutely essential institution
would not enjoy sex. Abstinence as a form of for the maintenance of civilization. At times
birth control may well have been the solution some of their rhetoric suggests that they
that made most sense in their particular histor­ glimpsed the possibility of the further individ­
ical circumstance. Abstinence helped women ualization and atomization of people that the
strengthen their ability to say no to their wage-labor system could bring, and feared it.
husbands' sexual demands, for example, while Indeed, many feminists of this era criticized
contraception and abortion would have liberal individualism itself. Some suggested that
.. weakened it. Nineteenth-century feminists have the very concept of the individual in modern
often been considered prudish, and indeed they society had been formulated in a male-suprem­
were reluctant, for example, to name the sexual acist way. Some also criticized the liberal view
parts of the body; but they were not reluctant to of inevitable tension between individual and
speak of marital rape, which traditionalists society, and the liberal-constitutional manner
found even more shocking. A few feminists of adjudicating such conflict. Their fear of that
even began discussing the possibility of forms individualism reverberates in many socialists
of sexual contact other than intercourse as a and feminists today: a world in which self-

81
improvement, competition, and isolation the increased employment of women; since they
dominate human energies is not appealing. were attempting to build a working-class move­
Indeed, what civilization meant to nineteenth­ ment, they saw the weakness of a movement in
century feminists was the tempering of the which women were politically immobilized by
individual struggle for survival by instilling sexism and the exclusive responsibility for �
greater social values and aspirations within large families ; since they rejected religion , and
individuals. This process, they believed, was viewed the traditional morality as a form of
supported by women's nurturing role in the social control beneficial to the capitalist class,
division of labor. And yet their very movement they saw some liberating possibilities in a freer
was increasing the number of women who sexual life .
joined that atomized world of the labor market All along, feminists had been responding t o
and as a result were forced to neglect socially family changes and trying to direct and even
nurturing work. Nor could the feminists initiate family change. The trajectory of change
produce a real model for an alternative indiv­ that formed the primary experience of most
idualism - no radicals have yet been able to do nineteenth-century feminists was a decline of
so. In this context their historic compromise patriarchy' that produced greater i ndependence
must be seen sympathetically: they argued ence for grown children without enhancing very
that more respect for women should be used to much the autonomy of women (with one
reinforce motherhood, to give it more freedom , exception - educated single women). In that
respect, and self-respect . Hence, their reluc­ context it was reasonable for women to cling to
tance to accept a form of birth control that their work as mothers as the basis for their
might allow a rejection of motherhood entirely. social status and desired political power. By the

THE SOCIALIST-FEMINIST SUPPORT


FOR BIRTH CONTROL
Feminists changed their mind about contra­
ception in the early twentieth century. Again,
no new techniques affected them; rather, after
they changed their mind they took the initiative
in finding the technology they needed . Two
leaders, Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger,
separately travelled to Europe where rubber
diaphragms were being prescribed in labor­
party and trade-union-funded health clinics,
and personally imported these devices into the
US. In the US, as in Europe, these new pro­
birth-control feminists were mainly in and
around the Socialist Party. It is logical , I think,
that socialist-feminists were the first to take a
procontraception position. Since they were Volunteers selling copies of the Birth Control Review,
concerned with the working class, they under­ Margaret Sanger's pioneering publication which first

stood the consequences and the hardships of appeared in 191 7.

82
early twentieth century the further development
of industrial capitalism had begun to allow a
vision of greater independence for women . Not
only prosperous women but also working-class RACISM AND BIRTH CONTROL
.. In contrast, black radicals in the US in the
women in the World War J era were exper­
iencing the effects of public education, mass 1 9 1 0s tended to support birth control far more
employment of women , and the complete unanimously. They saw it as a tool for the self­
transformation of virtually the entire male determination of black Americans. In the 1 920s
population into a wage-labor force, with and afterward, however, birth control was
extensive commodity production replacing increasingly absorbed into programs aimed not
most household production. at self-determination but at social control by
These changes had both negative and positive the elites. Eugenics became a dominant motif in
consequences for women . Negatively, the sepa­ the effort to legalize contraception and steril­
ration of home from production, in a capitalist ization, and even birth controllers from the
culture, demeaned the social status of mother­ socialist-feminist tradition, such as Margaret
hood. Positively, the devaluing of domestic Sanger , made accommodations with the
work allowed a vision of a public role for eugenists. These policies cost the birth control­
women, in work and in politics, that for the lers most of their black support (and many of
first time in t he history of feminism made their white radical supporters fell away as well).
women want equality. (Early feminists did not Sanger and other spokespeople used racist
dream of full equality between the sexes. ) And rhetoric, urging reduction of the birth rates of
equality for w omen requires reproductive self­ the "u ndesirable s " ; private birth-control
control. clinics in the 1 9 10s and 1 920s experimented
When socialist feminists first adopted pro­ with evaluating the eugenic worth of their
birth-control positions in the early twentieth clients and advising them on the desirability of
century, nonfeminist socialists had divided their reproductive intentions. The first publicly
reactions. The majority of the US Socialist funded birth-control clinics appeared in the
Party, for example, believed that at best birth South in the 1 930s, sold to southern state public
control was a dangerous distraction from the health services on the grounds that t hey would
class struggle. Some responded even more lower the black birth rate. Throughout the
negatively, out of a traditional anti-neo­ country during the Depression, birth control
Malthusian appraisal that the major purpose of was touted as a means of lowering welfare
reproductive control was to reduce the numbers costs. Eugenists also supported sterilization as a
and hence the strength of the working class . means of population control. It was probably
.. Some socialists, however, supported the birth in the 1 930s that the first widespread use of
control movement, if weakly, because they involuntary and coercive sterilization occurred ,
believed it could reduce women' s domestic although the evidence did not reach the white­
burdens and free them for greater political dominated press until the 1 970s . (A 1 979 study
activity in support of their class interests. showed that 700/0 of hospitals in the United
States were failing to comply with sterilization
guidelines laid down by the Department of
Health, Education and Welfare. '

83
Thus the cry of genocide that began to be scholars perpetuate this ideological confusion
raised against reproductive-control campaigns and fail to make this essential analytic distinc­
in the 1 930s , and continues, is not wrong; it is tion . The tendency to fetishize reproductive­
only too simple. It arises from at least three control technology, as if the diaphragm or the
'
sources . First, the tensions between white pill were the news rather than the social
feminism and black liberation movements that relations that promote their use, further legit­
arose in the struggle over the Fourteenth imates this analytic mush .
Amendment underlie this problem, and have
virtually blotted out the contribution of black ABORTION BECOMES THE ISSUE
feminists not only now but historically as well. The distinctions among different kinds of
So convoluted are these tensions that today reproduction control started to reappear in the
antiabortionists have manipulated the fear of 1 960s with the emergence of abortion as the key
genocide in a racist way - suggesting, for reproductive-control issue.
example, that black and working-class women I n the early twentieth century, most feminists
do not need or want reproductive self-deter­ did not support abortion. There were several
mination, that they are satisfied with their reasons for this: their own conviction that sex
status, that aspirations for independence and still belonged primarily in marriage, where
prestige exist only among privileged white contraceptive use was more likely to be system­
women . 6 atic and where an unplanned child was not
Second, beyond this general distrust lay usually the total disaster it might be for an
actual racism in the white-dominated women 's unmarried woman; and the fact that most poor
movement , which was clearly mani fest i n the women still had no access to decent medical
birth-control movement as much by socialists as care. The contemporary drive for abortion
by liberal feminists . Its pattern resembled that rights was a response to several factors which
in the white-dominated, male-dominated labor developed gradually in the period 1 920- 1 960.
movement. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's appeal First, there was a great increase in teenage
for giving the vote to educated women in sexual activity without contraceptive use - in
preference to ignorant men is of a piece with other words , it was not technology that
trade-union denunciation of blacks as scabs increased sexual activity but the behavior that
even as they excluded them from their unions . increased the demand. Second, there was a
Third, and most pertinent here, however, is great increase both in the number of woman­
the dominance of the relatively conservative headed families and in families absolutely
population-control and eugenics programs over dependent on two incomes, thus making it no
the feminist birth-control program. Planned longer possible for mothers to stay home with
Parenthood 's small-family ideology and its an unplanned baby; this increased the demand ') .
international emphasis on sterilization rather for abortion among married women for whom
than safe and controllable contraception have contraception had failed . The third and
far overshadowed its feminist program for perhaps most surprising factor behind the
women's self-determination. Most Americans movement for abortion rights was the relative
do not distinguish between birth control as a underdevelopment of contraception . Far from
program of individual rights and population being an area of great progress, the field of
control as social policy. Moreover, many contraception still lags well behind our need for

84
it. Women must still do almost all the contra­
cepting, and are forced to choose between
unwieldy, dangerous , or irreversible methods.
The changes in the dominant feminist
positions about birth control should now be
clearer. For feminists, reproductive control is a
part of an overall calculus of how to improve
women's situation . The birth-control campaign
of the late 1 960s and 1 970s was not a single­
issue reform campaign like that of the popula­
tion controllers and eugenists who had
dominated from the 1 920s through the 1 950s
Feminists always have to balance the gains and
losses from struggles for contraception and
abortion against the other problems women
face such as unequal employment opportunity,
unequal wealth , unequal education, and
unequal domestic responsibilities. Thus, a
position appropriate to one historical era was
not appropriate in another when the balance of
women' s needs and possibilities had changed.
Contemporary feminist positions about birth
control are still ambivalent, however. Within the
reproductive-rights rubric, groups have
primarily emphasized single issues : abortion,
sterilization abuse, and gynecological self-help.
Few groups that support abortion have tried to
address the general problems of sex and
motherhood. The questions of the proper place
of sex and motherhood in women's lives are
being asked now mainly by the New Right,
because of the "crisis" in the family. This
alleged crisis is not new; indeed, such a crisis
was the very foundation of feminism two
hundred years ago, the crack in the social
structure that made feminist critique and action
possible. It is hardly a criticism of contem­
porary feminism that it has not been able to
produce a definitive program for liberated sex
and parenthood. These failings are based on
real structural problems ; these problems are
part of what propels the women' s movement ,

85
j ust as they propel the right-wing antifeminist inist Left to try to escape the stigma of "anti­
movement. And the continuation of these family" which the New Right stamps on all
structural problems and the contradictions they feminist demands . 7
create for women guarantee the continuation of Indeed, one o f the achievements o f the
some sort of feminism . antiabortionists has been to make abortion a
The danger is, however, that feminism on the symbol. That is, they make it stand for more
defensive will try to adapt to a beleaguered than a single addition to the legal repertoire of
situation by participating in its own weakening. birth-control possibilities . Abortion opponents
The temptation to devote all one's energies to claim that abortion is part of a moral logic or
defense and to single-issue coalitions (clearly a mentality, sometimes called the contraceptive 'J". '
good deal of this is necessary) is one such weak­ mentality. The logic leads inexorably from
ening. The twin temptations, to exaggerate how birth control to abortion to euthanasia: that is,
isolated we are, and to underestimate how it leads away from any protection of the human
removed our feminist communities are from the right to life. The more conservative the critics
" moral majority, " are both weakening . of abortion, the more they are likely to also
Perhaps the greatest danger to us all comes identify another logic, about sex and family,
from the temptation on the part of the nonfem- and to argue that abortion leads to certain

86
libertine choices in these areas as well, choices challenge to gender itself, and has proposed an
that reject stability and traditional religious and attitude of open-mindedness to the question of
secular law . the nature of femininity or masculinity. The
In many respects these antiabortionists are rejection of gender is an ultimate commitment
" right. Liberal supporters of abortion who try to to the right of individuals to develop freely. But
isolate it from implications about sex, the unfortunately, especially because of the weak­
family , and a humanist view of the possibilities ness of the socialist component of contem­
of planning reproduction are not at all con­ porary feminism, the most publicly visible
vincing. They may themselves believe that the heroines of this individualism also suggest its
issue is separable from larger political and problems. For example, consider the wide­
moral judgments . (The population-control spread image of the "liberated woman , "
establishment , for example, uses the phrase complete in herself with briefcase, career, sex
"contraceptive mentality" and would like to partners, and silk blouse, but absolutely
instill it in people throughout the world while without nurturing responsibilities. Somehow -
denying its connections to particular class, and I can 't say how - socialist and other
gender, family, and sexual perspectives . ) They radical feminists need to try to project a
are unable to fool most people into such contrasting image of what a "liberated
compartmen'.alization , however. woman" might be like. (The fact that this
Our best defense of the right to abortion is to concept of a liberated woman is false and
welcome and accept these charges that we have ahistorical in itself, that women cannot be
a different moral and sexual logic . The right to liberated individually and without revolu­
abortion, and our defense of it, is a product of tionary change, is beside the point, because the
a long chain of historical progress, particularly contemporary media will continue to manufac­
in sexual equality, sexual freedom, and individ­ ture such images . )
ualism. These three changes have been This different image must somehow combine
produced largely by the capitalist system itself, individual autonomy with deep, lasting, and
and it is that system which continues to propel interdependent commitments to others. Only
that change - drawing women into the paid with such commitments js individualism viable
labor force, legitimating sexual exhibitionism and/or desirable. This view should not be inter­
and casualness, eroding the cement for many of preted as a call for a return to the ideology of
the bonds that u nite people. The role of femin­ sex, love, and family with revisions to the
ism in this process has been less influential . The concept of family that would permit nonlegal
primary influence of feminism has been in marriage and homosexuality. We should by
modifying these changes so as to improve now have learned enough about the inexplic­
.. women's position (in the labor force, in sexual able varieties of people's sexual interests. the
relationships, etc .), and in criticizing the difficulties of living with others, and the large
selfish, individualistic extremes of these area of unpredictability in what makes for good
developments. childraising , to know that we simply cannot
But in the contemporary movement feminism prescribe very well how people should live .
still retains some of the ambivalence about I f we could communicate all this, our
individualism that it had a century ago. The abortion position would become clearer, even
most recent wave of feminism has brought a to our opponents. After all, it is likely that what

87
many abortion opponents are afraid of is a kind in several general survey, o f the women's right.s movement,
including Aileen Kraditor's Ideas of the Woman Suffrage
of uncontrolled individualization that we
Movement .
too would abhor. I am not suggesting that we 4. Today many feminist.s use t h e term "patriarchy" a s a
try to propagandize right-to-Ii fers with our general synonym for male supremacy; in that sense it would "
'
utopian vision . Most of them are real conserv­ be questionable to assert that patriarchy had declined. I use " '
atives , i nvolved in a deeply antidemocratic, the term "patriarchy , " however, in a specific historical
sense: referring to a system o f family production in which
anti-civil-libertarian, violent , and sexist philos­
the male head o f the fam ily (hence patriarchy, meaning rule
ophy. But there is the basis in this country for o f the father) control; t he wealth and labor power o f all
formulating a progressive response to our family members, I n a patriarchal system, for example,
current crisis. The Left's inability to articulate u n married and childless men lacked the power o f fathers
and unify around a progressive response, at since they often lacked labor-power; by comparison i t
would b e hard to argue t h a t today unmarried or childless
least to the sex-and-family part of the current
men were weaker than fathers. The development of
crisis , has left many nonconservatives swayed
industrial production (incidentally, i n its " social ist" as well
by the humanitarian rhetoric of the anti­ as capitalist varieties) tended to weaken patriarchy by
abortion movement. providing opportunities for economic and social independ­
The current rhetorical hegemony of the ence for children and women, Thus, notice that patriarchy
i s a system o f generational as well as gender relations.
antiabortionists is such that we cannot always
5. R . Bogue and D . W . Sigelman, Sterilization Reporl
choose our own slogans. When asked about Number 3: Conlinuing Violalions of Federal Sierilization
abortion, we can hardly count on the space to Guidelines By Teaching Hospitals in 1979, Public Citizen
describe our entire philosophy and feminist Health Research G ro u p , Washington D.C., 1 979, as
vision. But if we are able in other work to summarized i n Family Planning Perspeclives, II (Nov.-Dec.

project our confidence that a free but not 1 979), 366-67 .


6, For example, Elizabeth Moore, in In These Times, Feb.
atomized society is possible, even the short
28, 1 979,
slogans we use about abortion - like women 's 7. The entire discussion o f the New Right's abortion politics
right to her life, or voluntary motherhood, or here i s indebted t o the work o f Allen Hunter, i n this issue,
even "choice" i f we are stuck with it - will and in Linda Gordon and Allen Hunter, "Sex, Family and
the New Right : Anti-feminism as a Political Force , "
have broader connotations .
Radical A merica, Nov. 1 977 - Feb. 1 978, reprinted a s a
pamphlet (Somerville, Mass . : New England Free Press, 60
Union Square, 02 1 43 , 1 978).

Footnotes

1 . 1 have told this story more fully in my book, Woman 's


Body, Woman 's Righr: A Social Hisrory of Birrh Conrrol
in America (Viking and Penguin, 1 977). I n the interpre­
tation o ffered in this paper, I am indebted to ideas garnered L I N DA GORDON is a longtime socialist and ' .
in my discussions with many feminist scholars, and partic­ feminist activist and a women 's historian. A
ularly the work o f Ellen Dubois and Allen Hunter. different version of this article will appear in
2. See Gordon, Woman 's Body, Woman 's Righi, chapter 3 .
Barrie Thorne, ed., Rethinking the Family, to
For corroboration i n a more recent historical study, see
James Mohr's Aborrion in A merica (Oxford U niversity
be published by Longman in 1981.
Press, 1 978), chapters 2 and 3.
3. This view o f feminism was offered b y the nineteenth­
century su ffragists themselves; it can be found argued well

88
...

A BORT I ON
W h i c h S i d e A re Yo u O n ?

E llen Will i s

This year ' s big postelection cliche i s that the Democrats were crushed because they had
"no ideas . " This is true; it 's also beside the point . Liberals never have ideas; their function is
to modify the ideas of radicals and present themselves as a palatable alternative to those
wild-eyed ideologues out there . Ironically, the liberal establishmept has done its best to help
discredit and isolate the radical Left - yet without the specter of revolution as an argument
for reform, liberals are helpless to fend off attack from the right. Since they scorn ideology,
they can 't cope with the Right ' s ideological offensive. On the contrary, because their instinct
is to compromise, they tend to move to the right themselves . Their only weapons against the
Right's passionate commitment to its social vision are good will and moderation. It ' s no
contest. Faced with a militant, determined conservatism , organized liberalism has taken less
than a decade to collapse virtually without a fight .
Only a radical opposition with a credible alternative vision can hope to challenge the
. Right, mobilize the liberal Left, and compete for the hearts and minds of the sluggish
..
middle. Unfortunately, there is at present no substantial radical opposition and no
immediate prospect of one . For the most part the socialists , pacifists, antinukers, and
"progressives" of various stripes who regard themselves as left of the Democratic Party are
nearly as shallow, confused, and poorly equipped to deal with the Right as the liberals.

This article first appeared in the December 31 - January 6 issue of the Village Voice, New York.

89
Despite disagreements and differing that means confronting the cultural issues head
emphases within its ranks, the Right has a on . People who don't believe they have the
coherent agenda. Its answer to our social right to manage their own intimate lives are not
problems is to strengthen established authority going to fight for economic self-determination,
- to unleash big business, keep the under­ nor will they listen to a Left that ignores the-; •

classes in their place, support the patriarchal issues of family relations so central to their
family and organized religion. It has managed lives. Yet except for radical and socialist
to persuade large numbers of people that the feminists, the Left has failed to take a strong,
remedy for their anxieties about a deteriorating clear stand on sexual politics, and this failure
economy, the rebellion (and growth) of minor­ has seriously impaired its ability to organize on
ities, and changes in sexual roles and mores is the economic, racial, and environmental fronts .
repression . While economic reaction is an Most leftists equate progressivism with
integral part o f the conservative program, its commitment to economic equality, and resist
cutting edge has been the "pro-family" recognizing the need for a social analysis that
crusade, especially the antiabortion movement. integrates economic and cultural radicalism .
The attack on feminism and sexual freedom has Among those who share this fundamental bias,
not only rallied people - and money - in sup­ the spectrum of opinion on feminism and sex
port of the Right's overall program; it has ranges from mildly liberal to frankly conserv­
also contributed to people's fatalistic accept­ ative. On one end are leftists who admit the
ance of the argument that the economic crisis is existence of economic discrimination against
their fault, that they've demanded too much women , and maybe even make noises about the
and been too self-indulgent . Hyde Amendment (because it targets the poor),
Profamily propaganda plays on deeply but are otherwise more or less oblivious to
ingrained feelings of guilt and powerlessness to sexual issues . To their right are DSOC-type
which few of us are immune. It reinforces the socialists who think cultural issues are contro­
messages we received in early childhood - that versial, therefore best ignored ; after all, you
our sexual desires are bad, that freedom is don ' t want to alienate conservative religious
immoral, that we're incompetent to run our ethnics or the (male) working class. Even more
own lives, that we need both protection and disturbing is the growing contingent of leftists
punishment from Big Daddy. To men it o ffers that is in effect a fifth column for the right.
a trade-off - submit to the power of the state, More and more we hear "radical s " argue that
church, and corporation, but be the boss at indeed we must strengthen the family, that
home. Because these messages go straight for feminists and homosexuals are narcissistic, that
the unconscious they poison the social atmo­ the demand for sexual freedom is a symptom o f
sphere; even people who know better become bourgeois individualism , that t h e Left should '" ,
defensive, ambivalent, and afraid to fight be for discipline and sacrifice. With such
back. enemies, the Moral Majority hardly needs
The only way the Left can win is to counter allies .
the Right's authoritarian message with a Given t he Left 's refusal to make sexual
democratic one. While the Right appeals to radicalism part of its self-definition, i t ' s not
people 's terror of insecurity, we can appeal to surprising that a small group of leftists -
the equally profound longing for freedom . But mainly Catholic pacifists and "radical " Christ-

90
ians is campaigning against abortion. But Left-wing antiabortionists have had consid­
unlike other conservatives, the anti abortionists erable success in persuading other leftists that
want to have it both ways - far from being it's possible to be "prolife" and progressive at
anti feminist , they clai m , theirs is the truly the same time. That Cesar Chavez, Dick
4 feminist position. Gregory, and Dan Berrigan are right-to-lifers
On the face of i t this seems a particularly has in no way hurt their reputations on the
outrageous attempt to square the circle . But it Left ; on the contrary, their names have helped
reflects the impact of the cultural backlash on legitimize opposition to abortion and given
the women 's movement itself. These days many leftists an excuse to waffle on the issue . What
women who call themselves feminists are really too many well-meaning "progressives" refuse
promoting female chauvinism: instead of to understand is that abortion is not j ust
questioning traditional definitions of mascu­ another issue on which people of good will can
linity and femininity, they glorify the feminine, agree to disagree . To oppose legal abortion is to
and their view of women's nature is o ften hard define women as childbearers rather than
to distinguish from the most unregenerate autonomous human beings, and to endorse a
Victorian's. As a result feminists must now sexually repressive morality enforced by the
contend with "sisters" making blatantly state. Often at a particular historical moment
conservative arguments in the name o f an issue emerges that illuminates the nature of
women's rights. the larger struggle. It is the sort of issue that
" Feminist " antiabortionists argue not only precludes neutrality, that despite its ambiguities
that abortion exploits women because it allows and complexities (and there always are some)
men to "escape the consequences" of their poses that most basic of political questions -
sexuality , but that arti ficial contraception is which side are you on? In the late sixties that
sexist because i t imposes male technology on issue was Vietnam; today, I believe, it's abor­
the female body . This view implies that women tion rights . And the Left has yet to show which
are properly defined by their childbearing side it's on.
function, that women should not try to separate
sex from procreation, that sex is something men
selfishly impose on women, that it's better to
bear unwanted children than to give up preg­ ELLEN WILLIS is a journalist who has written
nancy as a means of guilt-tripping men into for the New Yorker and Rolling Stone and is
doing right by us. Again, with feminist opposi­ now a columnist for the Village Voice.
tion like this, Phyllis Schlafly can rest easy.

91
. .".�

.)
'
·T H E WOM E N'S
MOV E M E N TS
Fe m i n i st a n d A ntife m i n i st

Barbara E h ren reich

Late last summer something happened that alarmed me almost as much as the election
results were to, three months later in November. The local Health Systems Agency held
public hearings on continued funding for a youth center, which provided, among other serv­
ices, contraceptive counselling and abortion referrals. I had gotten wind of an antichoice
mobilization to stop the funding through a Catholic acquaintance, and had spent the three
evenings before the hearing calling up all the feminists in my address book, plus the local
women's centers, NOW chapters, and prochoice groups. I was prepared for a fight; I was
not prepared to be outnumbered twenty or so to one by hundreds of chanting, jeering right­
to-lifers. It was the kind of situation where - after you realize you've lost - you begin to
concentrate on how you're going to get through the parking lot safely.
This experience left me with two obvious enough questions: Where were "we"? And who
were "they"? And I should add here that "they" were not the programmed, polyester-uni-
.. formed troops that some feminists like to think of as the other side. Except for an age distri­
bution skewed slightly older than that of the feminists I could pick out in the crowd, they
looked pretty much like us, and might have been neighbors in this generally middle-class
suburban county in Long Island. But they had managed to get themselves out to the hear­
ings , and we hadn 't. Perhaps an outsider would not find this so surprising: Long Island is,
after all , well-known as the home of Right-to-Life presidential candidate Ellen McCormack
and the birthplace of the antichoice movement . But it has also been the home of a strong
grassroots feminist movement which grew up quite independently of the more intellectual

93
and politically charged feminist community of tively few members of the emerging local
New York City. So there was no reason to women's movement had been involved in the
anticipate, at that confrontation in the summer antiwar or civil rights movements. Here, femi­
of 1 980, that the only visible movement on the nist energy sprang from the kind of conditions
scene would be the antifeminist one . Betty Friedan had documented in the early •
Conventional - and sociological - wisdom 1 960s
- the futility and, above all , the isolation
has an explanation for this kind of turnabout: of suburban women's lives . CR groups pro­
Every movement inevitably runs out of steam, vided instant community, personal affirmation,
becomes co-opted, and/or generates a counter­ and an intensity of experience unknown in non­
vailing backlash, so that sooner or later every­ feminist women 's groups like the PTA's,
thing comes back to normal and the world volunteer fire department's ladies' auxiliaries,
looks the way it was when Talcott Parsons first and library-based discussion series. Within a
discovered it. It is true that by many obvious remarkably short period of time, thousands of
measures the feminist movement has peaked ; women became self-professed feminists, and a
and it is also true that a largely female and ideo­ smaller number became activists - generating
logically antifeminist movement has been more CR groups, developing projects, women 's
growing. But the expanation does not lie in centers , and issue-oriented campaigns . Some of
pop-sociological equilibrium theories. I think the activists of that time were students (often
there are some underlying reasons why one "returning" students in their late twenties or
movement has declined and the other has older); most were probably counted in the 1 970
grown, and I do not think that things will ever census as " housewives, " often with pre­
again go back to "normal . " schoolers at home. Kathy Tapogna, for exam­
Naturally I know more about what i s hap­ ple, had a toddler and a new baby at home
pening with us than with them , though I do not when she helped found the Women 's Center of
have any Olympian perspectives on "the Islip and Suffolk County's first feminist news­
women 's movement" to offer. I know what I paper, Women 's Time.
have seen close up: People come together, drift Today, the newspaper no longer exists and
away, regroup , lose track, and so forth , in ways the women 's center confines itself to offering
that reflect the changing pressures of their lives occasional " how-to" courses rather than
- children, jobs, illness , relationships with fomenting feminist revolution. Here - unlike,
friends and lovers. Perhaps it is fair to say that say, Berkeley, Chicago, or Minneapolis - no
at some level , history is a generalization of bio­ deep political fissures contributed to the wind-
graphy. If so, what has happened to the ing down of feminist energy. The antifeminist
women's movement in the last decade is very variety of Marxist-Leninism that was so
much the story of a particular generation of destructive in the coastal and midwest cities was�. 4
women - women who tend to be past their never more than a rumor in the suburbs and
twenties now, and (as is often pointed out) are most smaller cities . When lines were drawn, as
mostly white and possessed of some claims or they occasionally were, between socialist-femi­
aspirations to "the middle class . " nists, lesbian-feminists. liberal feminists, and
I n 1 972 there were literally scores o f con­ so forth, they tended to be blurry and shifting.
sciousness-raising groups here on Long Island. The only truly rancorous episodes I can recall
Unlike in the cities or university towns, rela- were widely (and I think accurately) attributed

94
to personality clashes. So when I talked to cut her off from the movement which had
Kathy Tapogna recently about the state of the encouraged her professional ambitions in the
movement, we did not get into a lengthy politi­ first place. " 1 try to put a radical and feminist
cal retrospective. " Do you want to know what perspective in my courses, but that's all I can do
"
happened to everyone? " she said . "They're at this point , " she says.
working. " Virginia (again , not her real name) is in the
Kathy herself, for example, now works part­ treading-water category. When I first met her
time in addition to caring for a third baby; her she was the mainstay of the women' s center at a
former coeditor at Women 's Time now runs a local college and, at twenty-nine, absorbing
successful typesetting business; someone else feminism faster than the tiny women's studies
has gone to law school; another is trying to program could dish it out. In short order, she
finish her degree in nursing; and so on. Which left an oppressive marriage, came out as a les­
helps explain the response I got so often during bian, set up housekeeping with a group of other
my August 1 980 prochoice phone blitz : " I 'd women and their children, and lived through a
love to but I 'm just too busy . " bitter custody battle and a bout of mononucleo­
A similar story could b e told of the women' s sis - all while serving as a pivotal figure in the
movement i n other parts of the country: Yester­ feminist community. When I last saw her,
day's activists again and again have been drawn though , she told me she'd been trying to sup­
into their own jobs , careers, or the overload port herself and two children by "temping"
combination of full-time jobs plus child raising and was too overwhelmed by survival problems
responsibilities. The outcome, of course, has to be involved in anything on a regular basis.
been very different for different women, and I Ditto for a friend who was a founder of the
would distinguish between two main categories now-defunct Chicago Women's Liberation
of former feminist cadres: those who are, Union and is now raising a young child on her
loosely speaking, "making it, " i . e . , either have own, a former socialist-feminist organizer in
professional careers or good prospects of Milwaukee who is struggling to support her
having them; and those who are, for all practi­ teenaged children, a former West Coast activist
cal purposes, treading water . Those in the first who is trying to reconstruct her life after years
category are somewhat more likely to be mar­ of intermittent employment led to bank­
ried or the equivalent; those in the second cate­ ruptcy . . .
gory are, on the whole, more likely to be single Cases like these are often misdiagnosed as
mothers and/or lesbians. For example, a "burn-out," the implication being that move­
woman whom I will call Marcia falls into the ments consume people in a blaze of fanatical
first category. An ardent activist in the early activity and then plop them back into normal
• seventies, she was able to complete her disserta­ life (another variant of the equilibrium theory. )
tion while her husband, a securely employed In fact, tOost o f the former activists I know are
professional, supported her and their two chil­ nostalgic about their "movement" days, even
dren. Economic independence within her mar­ though many went through painful gay vs.
riage was an important motivation, and her CR straight or "left " vs. feminist clashes.
group encouraged her. But after finding a job, The simple fact is that they have usually
the pressures of an academic career - first to ended up being wage-earners as well as parents
be reappointed, then to get tenure - effectively and homemakers; and like most women, they

95
do n o tearn enough money t o buy themselves a living in male-headed households declined 5 5
great deal of free time. Only seven percent of percent between 1 95 9 and 1 97 6 , the numbers of
employed women make more than $ 1 5 , 000 a the poor in female-headed households shot up
year (compared 10 40 percent of men), I and by 36 percent in the same period . ( " Poor " here
"
even $ 1 5 ,000 will not pay for a housekeeper, means with family incomes less than one-haU
sleep-away summer camps , and other of the federally defined poverty level . ) The
prerogatives of the more leisured class . The result is that, after more than a decade of femi­
result is I hat the amount of volunteer energy nist organizing and agitating, we have only one
available to the women ' s liberation movement macroeconomic trend thai we can point to with
has been steadily declining over the last decade. any certainty: what has been called the " femi­
There may be more feminists than there have nization of poverty . "
ever been before, but there is less and less femi­ Contrary to the " worsism" theory school of
nist energy . social change ("if things get bad enough, peo-
ple will be bound to do something "), the over-
But we are already beginning to get into con­ all deterioration of women's economic pros­
ditions w hich affect all women: not j ust a few pects has not done anything to advance the
thousand feminist cadre, but those who now feminist cause. For one thing, it has meant that
count themselves as antifeminists as well. First, some of the most committed act ivists - espe­
the grim constants of women ' s economic situa­ cially those who spent thei r twenties or thirties
tion. Women are still concentrated, as a sex , in building the movement rather than their own
low-wage occupations which, partly because careers - are now in the "treading water"
they have been unattractive to unions , are category . For anot her , it means that for many
highly vulnerable to inflation. Women still women the risk attached to becoming a feminist
earn , on the average, only 5 9 070 of what men do is as great or greater than it was five or ten years
on an hour-by-hour basis . And all the economic ago . An economically dependent woman - a
indicators are inexorably worse for Black and full-time housewife or secondary contributor to
Hispanic women, elderly women of all races, the family income - might well think twice
and women who are " heads of households," or before challenging authority relationships in
lacking male financial s upport. Even the more the home, whether to demand some help with
privileged do not escape the economic stigma of the housework or a few nights off to go to
their sex: the average college-educated woman, meetings. If the husband gets annoyed enough
working full time, earns less than the average he can leave, and contrary to the myth of male
male high-school dropout. nurturance advanced by films like Kramer vs.
I n fact, the only change in women's eco­ Kramer, men who have left do not tend to be
nomic situation that has occurred since the overly sentimental about their former families . �J 4
resurgence of feminism in the late sixties is for Over half of them default on child s upport pay­
the worse. Since more women are heads of ments within one year after divorce. Wilma
households (the number of divorced women Scott Heide's famous observation that the aver-
heading households tripled between 1 960 and age woman is "only one man away from wel­
1 97 5 ) , more women are poor, and, conversely, fare" can be as intimidating as it is infuriating .
more of the poor are women. It is strik ing , for Moving on from economics to the realm of
example, that while the number of poor people images and expectations, something else hap-

96
pened during the seventies which , I believe, has energetic sorority of a clerical workers' organiz­
had a profound impact on the movement and ing project, or the friendly ambiance of a
on women in general . On the face of it, it was a women 's coffee shop. But the face-to-face self­
welcome change: The media image of the ideal presentation of feminism did not stand a
" woman shifted from the fully domesticated chance compared to the media's representation
suburban housewife , who had reigned from the of feminism, and what the media presented was
post-war period into the mid-sixties , to the up­ not a movement at all , but a self-improvement
wardly mobile career woman . 2 New Magazines, program for the upwardly mobile woman.
like Working Woman, Savvy, and Working This reformulated feminism fit in respectably
Mother, brought her trim, skirted-suit figure enough with the "me generation" outlook of
into supermarkets and stationery stores. Old the mid- 1 970s middle class. If women in the late
magazines like Woman 's Day began to sixties and early seventies had experienced femi­
acknowledge the working woman as something nism as a revelation , wrenching them out of
other than a social problem; Ladies Home
Journal actively sought to dissociate itself from
the now-discredited housewife image. A 1 977
" LHJ" ad pitched to advertisers described the
typical reader thus:
SHE'S I N T H E MONEY AND ON T H E GO.
AND H E R I N I T IALS ARE L H 1 .
One moment, she's off to t h e mountains for some
s k i iing. The next moment, she's off to the islands
for some tennis. And in between, she's a growing
family [sic] , an exciting career and a creative way
of l i fe that's hers and hers alone. )

Meanwhile, television brought us (in addition


to sit-corns featuring working women, divor­
cees, and other former deviants) an irrefutable
image of female success in the new anchor­
woman: authoritative, affect-free, fully at
home in the public world of the " news . "
I n part, t his transformation o f feminine
imagery was a response to feminism - or,
more broadly, to the proto-feminist aspirations
,.
of the thousands of women who had j oined t he
workforce in the sixties and seventies. What is
tragic is that the new imagery gradually came to
represent feminism, not only to an apolitical
public but to many feminists too . Of course,
grassroots feminist activism presented a very
different face (or faces) : whether as the caring
environment of a women 's health center, or the

97
customary relationships and into collective sage that " you have no one to blame but your­
action, women in the mid-seventies could expe­ self. "
rience it as a "lifestyle" or a "perspective . " The co-opted, individualistic version of femi­
Recall, for a moment , the revolutionary elan o f nism helped ensure that the women 's movement
the early radical-feminist movement, as would remain within the class and generation of' .
expressed in the Redstockings Manifesto : women who initiated it. Young college women,
We . . . reject the idea t h at women consent to or
especially at the more elite schools, tend to
are to blame for thei r own oppression . . . We do assume that there are no institutional barriers
not need to change ourselves, but to change to their success: they will have brilliant careers
men . . . and babies too. (Returning students are far
We call on all sisters to unite with us in strug­ more militant; they know better . ) Outside o f
gle . . . The time for individual s k irmishes has the middle class, lifestyle-feminism can be
passed . This time we are going all the way . actively repellent . If feminism is for women
Contrast this to the individualistic, inward­ who are slender, " intelligent , " and upwardly
looking version of feminism defined by Erica mobile, and you are over-forty , perhaps over­
J ong in 1 97 5 : weight, and locked into a dead-end job and/or
marriage, then you are more likely to see femi­
A fem inist is a woman who assumes self­ nism as a put-down than as a sisterly call to
dependence as a basic condition of her life. She arms. A housewife in the blue-collar town of
may live with and love other people . . . but she Lindenhurst , L . I . , told me (and I still wince at
knows t h at her own fulfillment is her the memory) that feminism was not for her, not
responsibility, that i f she wastes her l i fe , she will because she opposed it , but because she did not
have no one to blame but herself. It seems to me
have any education and was not really young
that sooner o r later, all intelligent women become
anymore.
fem inist s . 4
Now, when you put together the cultural
The new "lifestyle-feminism" quickly took its reformulation of feminism-as-lifestyle with the
toll at the grassroots level . I rene Weinberger, real economic situation women face as a class
an untiring activist and president of Hunting­ of people, then you begin to have big trouble.
ton (Long Island) NOW, reports that for a per­ As many other observers have noted, the con­
iod in the late seventies: stituency for antifeminist causes lies in the eco­
There was general apat hy. For a lot o f women , it nomically dependent women of the lower to
was like you might take ceramics one year and upper middle class. Theirs is a backlash, not so
join NOW another year. Sure, t hey became much against feminism as against anything that
women's libbers . " But the impact was that they might threaten the tenuous security which mar­
would think "maybe I should get a job or get riage alone seems to provide. The expectation . 41
divorced or whatever. " . . . They had no sense o f that women should work is a threat (it makes it
unified struggle.
easier for any man to leave with a clear con­
Many more middle-class women simply by­ science) . ERA is a th reat (it means that a hus­
passed political organizations like NOW and band's peers at work may eventually be other
went straight for assertiveness training courses, women, as well as threatening the ultimate
"success seminars," and the like, which ham­ sanctuary of alimony). Nor are these threats
mered away at the distinctly unfeminist mes- entirely imaginary. The courts, in their efforts

98
to be nondiscriminatory, have tended to - offers no comfort : If you can't make it in a
weaken the financial situation of divorced man 's world, tough luck; if you can 't take the
women , e.g., by no longer assuming that child heat, better stay in the kitchen.
support is a man's burden , without at the same The question that prompted all this was:
"time recognizing a divorced woman's continu­ Why, at a particular local confrontation , were
ing labor as a homemaker and childraiser . there so many of them and so few of us? 1 have
Abortion rights , as Deirdre English argues in talked about the decline of volunteer energy in
the Februaary IMarch 1 98 1 issue of Mother the feminist movement. I h ave talked about
Jones, can be seen as further undercutting male some of the reasons why we failed to replenish
responsibility towards women and children , by our forces (and energy) when , "objectively
seeming to make pregnancy entirely " a speaking , " we should have. Now think for a
woman's choice . " moment about the "other side" : As economi­
Long-range financial self-interest· is not the cally dependent housewives, they are the ones
only explanation for the emergence of an anti­ with energy to spare. * Perhaps the most ominous
fem inist womeR 's m ovement , of course . No strategy to come out of the 1 980 Right to Life
one could discount the organizing role of the convention was a plan to call every single regis­
Catholic church , rebounding from the liberal tered voter in America, in order to compile a
"excesses" of Vatican I I ; or of the fundamen­ complete antichoice mailing list for fundraising
talist Protestant churches, which are moving in and electoral campaigns. Who will be working
to build a community infrastructure in the day after day to make this veritable blizzard of
swelling Sunbelt suburbs, or of overtly right­ phone calls? The rank and file, of course, the
wing groups like Schlafly's STOP -ERA. But housewife volunteers.
these organizing efforts would not succeed i f It is almost as if t he economic stresses of the
there were not a n underlying anxiety t o build seventies split women into two camps: those
on . In the absence of collective economic gains who went out to fight for some measure of eco­
for women, and in the aftermath of a "sexual nomic security (either out of necessity or
revolutio n , " which - as feminists would be the choice, though the distinction is not always a
first to acknowledge - did far more to free meaningful one), and those who stayed at home
men than women , the economically dependent to hold on to what they had . Both groups are
housewife has real grounds for alarm . 5 fighting for survival , but it is not likely that
O f course, genuine , radical fem inism both groups can maintain the conditions for
addresses these very fears . I t addresses the need their survival . I f the women who are struggling
for t he deghettoization of women 's work, for to hold their ground within the workforce pre­
equal pay for equivalent work, for incomes and vail - all the worse for those who are clinging
.. pensions for full-time homemakers, for sup­
portive social services - and all the other * 1 am not suggesting that housework and childraising do
not take a great deal of time. But i t ' s common wisdom,
measures that could free women from an un­
within the PTA for example, that i f you're looking for a
easy dependence on individual males . But genu­ volunteer, you don 't bother calling the "working
ine, radical feminism is culturally invisible, mothers . " Loca l l y , one i n t eresting side effect of the influx
of women into the work force has been a decline i n the num­
almost an underground phenomenon. And
ber o f Cub Scout and Brownie troops: there are fewer and
what is visible - the lifestyle feminism of the fewer women with the time to be den mothers or Brownie
rising young managerial or professional woman leaders.

99
to their men . Every independent working or race and forced to surrender their c h i ldren t o
woman, no matter where she is in the occupa­ foster homes .
tional hierarchy, by her very existence helps Second , at the level of theory and analysi� , I
undercut the patriarchal prerogatives of women think we need to do more hard thin king abo ut
as the permanent wards and dependents of indi­ the dramatic changes which have occurred ir.
vidual males. And, if the antifeminist forces the short time since the emergence of the
prevail - e . g . , by stopping ERA and further women 's liberation movement in the sixtie� .
reducing reproductive rights - working women Perhaps j ustifiably, feminist writing has tended
will be forced back into an ever more marginal to focus on what has not changed - violence
economic position. Right now , it is the anti­ against women , sexual objecti fication, gender
feminist forces who have the energy, the organ­ bias in language, persistent stereotypes of
ization, and the adrenalin to win. women as homemakers and nurturers , and so
forth - rather than what has changed . We
This is t he point where, I think, a prudent have a body of " high theory" addressed to
writer would haul out Antonio Gramsci's seemingly timeless structures of male domina­
increasingly popular injunction to "pessimism tion, but we have only the scantiest understand­
of the i ntellect, optimism of the will , " exhort ing of the totality of changes which have
the faithful to keep on trying, and sign off. But occurred within our own lifetimes . Without this
at the risk of being too vague, too obvious, or kind of understanding - in fact , with a body o f
- worse still - wrong, I would like to end with recorded wisdom which could for t h e most
a few modest suggestions: part, as easily have been written in 1 965 as in
First, I think it's important to resist the temp­ 1 98 1 - we are singularly ill-prepared for the
tation to retreat, ideologically, in the face of the antifeminist onslaught .
antifeminist o ffensive. I am thin king of the Finally, I think we need to take seriously the
recent literature critical of feminism for going neglected feminist project of building sup­
too far in "attacking the family" (Jean Bethke portive networks and communities . These are
Elshtain's article in the November 1 7 , 1 979, rough times , and if we are not going to be sub­
issue of The Nation, for example) and exhort­ merged one by one, we will have to find ways to
ing radicals to respect "traditional values" (J oe hold each other up. At the individual level, this
Holland's pamphlet, " Flag, Faith and Family" means breaking with our own internalized ver­
is an example, as are some of Harry Boyte's sions of "lifestyle feminism , " and becoming
recent articles). Anyone who feels inclined in more accountable and available to each other
this direction should be reminded t hat today and our collective undertakings. Those who are
only 14 percent of American households "making it , " for example, owe something to
enclose the kind of traditional family apotheo­ their sisters who have been left treading water .
sized by the antifeminist New Right (employed - in the interests of a renewed activism within
husband , dependent housewife and children . ) both groups. But beyond individual efforts, we
There are many kinds o f families, and we need a renewed vision o f sisterhood as a con­
should be concerned with defending t hose nection which is respectful and not exclusive of
which are truly under attack, such as gay cou­ the other ties which define our lives. Black and
ples, lesbian mothers and their children , and Hispanic women have a common cause with the
parents who are "disqualified " by their poverty men of their races, as do poor and working-

1 00
class women with the men in their lives . It will have gotten . I would even say love. Be sure to
take a new and nonseparatist notion of sister­ put that in."
hood for the women 's liberation movement o f
the eighties t o grow powerful beyond the gen- NOTES
.eration and class of women who initiated the
I . New York Times, Oct . 1 4 , 1 979, p. 8 .
movement more than a decade ago. 2 . See Elizabeth Cagan's article "The Selling o f the
I have said very little in this article about the Women's Movement " in Social Po/icy, May-June 1 978.
3 . New York Times, J a n . 17, 1 977 .
women who have remained activists throughout
4. Ibid. , Jan. 8, 1975.
the decade. That is another story, and I suspect 5 . Deirdre English and I discussed this at greater length in
it would dwell at much greater length on the the last chapter of our book For Her Own Good, Anchor
issue of sisterhood and community. I had asked Boo k s , 1 978.
one such activist, Irene Weinberger, what
sustained her through so many years of work,
BARBARA EHRENREICH is a journalist and
and initially she said it was anger. The next day
coauthor oj For Her Own Good: 1 50 Years of
she called with an urgent amendment. "That
Experts' Advice to Women (A nchor paper­
was too negative , " she said. "Of course I ' m
back, 1979).
angry, but what keeps m e going i s the support I

101
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Harvard University Press


Cambridge. Massachusetts 02138
. D E MOC RACY,
SOC I A L I SM,
A N D S E X U A L PO L I T I CS

The Editors of Cay Left

We feel that there is a relevance to the label gay socialist that goes beyond the fact of being
both gay people and socialists. In this editorial we wish to argue against those who believe
that any socialist project must inevitably be male-dominated and against those socialists who
deny the relevance of exploring the social construction of the personal .

The idea of socialism does not involve a uniform programme nor a preordained hierarchy
of tasks. Advanced capitalist society produces various types of power relations which in turn
give rise to varying levels of struggle. For us, socialism demands changes to be in both the
personal and in the structural relations of power. To ignore the former is actually to inhibit
the latter.

PROBLEMS OF SOCIALISM
� There is a fundamental lack of coherence within the socialist project as currently posed.
This incoherence is manifest at all levels: theoretical, strategic, organizational. Unlike
previous periods there is no longer a simple choice between two total views and strategies
which compete for dominance on the Left, as there was for example in the interwar years
between the Communist Party and the ideology of Labourism . Today, we are faced with
multiple and incompatible visions of what society is, what its alternatives are and how we
move from the present to a more democratic future.

This article is a collective statement by the editors of Gay Left, a publication from Britain. The magazine has existed for five
years. During that time the Gay Left editors have been able to p roj ect a socialist politics radically transformed by the ideas and
activities of the gay and feminist movements.
105
There is an absence of single legitimated and individual and society. The women ' s movement
generally accepted socialist strategy. Neither and the gay movement have politicized and
the Labour Left, the Eurocommunist tenden­ radicalized sections of the population
cies within the CP nor the far left groupings untouched by traditional socialist organiza­
offer an adequate and comprehensive account tions. The fact of the relative success of these'.
of the dynamics of this phase of capitalism movements in expressing perceived needs,
which can be accepted by others. Within each coupled with the atrophy of traditional socialist
of these groupings there are di fferent and o ften organizations, poses some major questions.
antagonistic theories, each advance with much Should these struggles be unified? If so, how?
energy and fervor but all failing to reach more What can we draw from these struggles for the
than a tiny section of the population. The trad­ revitalizing of the broader socialist movement?
itional left alternatives have failed to provide These questions are pressing in that , for all the
new socialist visions to fill the crucial space advances of socialist theory, the popular images
opened by the political collapse of social of socialism are bankrupt and discredited .
democracy. Social democracy in Britain has been socialism
and its systematic failure through twelve years
This political disarray is matched by a dis­ of Labour government has destroyed the
integration of the unitary theory of Marxism . general credibility of a socialist alternative.
Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers as diverse as Nationalized industries have not meant
Fernando Claudin, Nicos Poulantzas, Rudolph workers' involvement in control and organiza­
Bahro, Edward Thompson, and Michel tion nor a responsiveness to community needs.
Foucault have contributed to the creation of Many aspects of the Welfare State have been
conflicting schools within Marxism, by reform­ experienced as huge bureaucratic institutions -
ulating such concepts as the State, power, both by clients and those working in them .
political organization, class, the nature of From council housing to comprehensive educa­
already existing socialism, and history. The tion, the reforms of social democracy are exper­
result is an apparent dissonance within left ienced as undemocratic and unresponsive.
theory. Adding to the confusion is the produc­ The failure of social democratic policies, with
tion within autonomous movements of theories this unappetizing emphasis on bureaucratic
which claim to account for specific oppressions efficiency and statism, provided the base for
but which are at the same time generalized and the new Thatcherite bloc to seize the initiative.
contend with Marxism for total explanatory Its selective call for individualism, its dema­
status . A clear example is the use of the concept gogic attack on the welfare state and trade
of patriarchy to explain not only the oppression unionism offered a reactionary response to real
of women but also the genesis of all class societies. problems. Not surprisingly it has been all too •
societies. easy to draw analogies between social demo­
In an otherwise static or regressing political cratic paternalism and the bureaucratic forma­
situation , t he autonomous movements have tions of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
often been very successful in mobilizing people The success of antisocialist propaganda is built
both around particular issues such as race, on a real popular distrust of authoritarian com­
housing , and the environment, and the wider munism and its apparent parallels within wel­
questions of the relationship between the fare statism.

106
The socialist alternative has to be built in uality has been a feature of society for a very
opposition both to the authoritarian populism long time, yet it is only in the last ten years that
of a precarious capitalism and to the paternal­ the struggle for definition of our sexuality
istic state of social democracy. This has to be and sexual practices has been the attempt to
..
done in a climate of increasing social anxiety redefine sexuality, and hence to take control
which leads to the closing of ideological space over our own bodies, our own pleasures, and
- that space in which new perspectives can be the direction of our own lives. The struggle for
developed . It is harder now to rethink political definition, within the established categories yet
conceptions, harder to find points of access to transcending them, is a model for at least some
the political process. There is an entrenchment aspects of the new socialist project.
of old ideas and an atrophy of innovative It has involved collective action, and a trans­
practice at all levels , as concerns about employ­ formation of self through a variety of political
ment, housing, and education come to pre­ practices. In reaching out for control of the
occupy most people in their daily lives. The institutions that produce and reproduce those
stage management of this anxiety by the Right , definitions and categories , these practices
its focusing on "scroungers," "reds , " challenge the existing order in a basic way .
"deviants," i s one o f the most frightening The grounds for the changes in sexual atti­
achievements of Thatcherism , and the one the tudes have been developments within capitalism
Left seems least able to counter. The existing itself, yet these changes have not been auto­
forms of socialism fail to speak clearly to matic and there is no immediate identity
people 's needs and in that failure abandon the between our struggle and the interests o f
political and social terrain to domination by capital. True, capitalists , straight a n d gay, have
reactionary images, models, and philosophies. intervened in the space gay people have created
The continued repetition of slogans calling, for but it would be fatalistic to assume the co-op­
example, for a general strike is limited and tion of the gay struggle . Rather there is a
idealist insofar as it fails to connect to how shifting and unstable relation between our
people really see their lives . It is true that the interests as gays and the space, facilities , and
Thatcherite offensive will create new points of constant redefinitions created for us by capital.
resistance , new areas of struggle, as it cuts back Capitalism is a complex unity that does not
the material basis of people's lives; but the work with a single agency or effect. One of the
coordination of these struggles and their failures o f the theories of the Left has been the
conceptualizing into a new model of socialist inability to conceptualize politics in other than
politics requires strategies and tactics that have dualistic terms. Right/ Left, Capitalist / Social­
yet to be agreed on and developed. Whether, ist, Good / Bad , Reformist/ Revolutionary:
.. and how , people struggle is as much a question static dichotomies that barely describe let alone
of how they see themselves as of their being prescribe the ways struggle actually goes on.
propelled into action simply by their material Capitalism , in its multiplicity of contradictions ,
circumstances. is not something that can be abolished over­
night, nor is it something that produces its own
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GAY POLITICS antithesis, fully formed, pure and innocent,
This is where the significance of gay politics awaiting its historical destiny. There are innu­
lies. The oppressive regulation of homosex- merable struggles and points of opposition that

1 07
as lines of power within the gay world; the hier­
archies contradictorily constructed around age.
All these have surfaced as gay liberation has
developed, and these problems - of intimate
power relations - continue to be the concern •
of personal politics .
Perhaps our signal contribution to the redef­
inition of socialism is the insight that the trans­
formation of our most intimate desires, and of
the conditions of their satisfaction, has to be
part and parcel of the new society for which we
are working . Those intimate needs, wishes,
fantasies are the substance of struggle - why
we fight in the first place. Gay politics speaks
with a sensitivity to our felt needs and the felt
restriction of those needs. It is with a similar
sensitivity that we conceive of a socialist politics
gaining mass legitimacy. That legitimacy will be
built through time and within capitalism. It is
not a luxury, nor something that can wait until
after the seizure of power by a self-elected
vanguard .

Denis Brihat, Pear, 1 9 72


RETHINKING SOCIALISM
Socialism is offered as an alternative to the
interact to produce shifting configurations of capitalist organization of social and economic
power and advantage, gains and losses . life. In the classic Marxist version it is the
Sexual politics opened up new areas of necessary, and in some variants almost preor­
struggle, conceptualized anew the forces acting dained, antithesis of capitalism . But what it is
on members of society, especially in the rubric more than that is left vague. Marxism has been
" the personal is political. " What we mean by traditionally hostile to utopian system building.
this is not that every action we perform is So when the self-described Marxist regimes
political, but rather that our " private" lives, have captured state power with popular
our selves and our desires, are targets for inter­ backing (Russia, China, Yugoslavia), been
vention by social forces - definitions, models, elected to it (Chile) , or simply been imposed on • •
rules, woven in ideology and lived by us. In countries (Czechoslovakia et al) , they have
opening up that area as one of struggle, gay faced the problem of what to do with it. Differ-
politics has also revealed the necessary antago­ ent and often appalling results have followed,
nisms that operate within apparently homo­ and socialists outside those countries have often
geneous categories: the divisions between been unsure of their reactions. Is "defense of
lesbians and gay men and the dissonance of the revolution" more important than defense
those interests ; the operation of race and class of democracy? Is state planning to transform

1 08
an undeveloped economy more relevant than socialists is to ensure that this struggle for
workers' control? Is the control of sexual rela­ control is democratic in all its phases, that the
tions in the interests of building socialism more goal of the socialist project is the democrat­
vital than the " right to choose"? Such ization of all social processes in order to gain
.. questions are to the fore over Afghanistan . popular control of the shaping of individual
Many socialists think it more important to and collective existence.
defend the "building of socialism" there even if The possibilities of democratic control are
it is being enforced by Soviet troops. Others inhibited in society as it exists now, despite its
feel that the defense of the right of a nation to calling itself democratic . Bourgeois democracy
self-determination is more important . In other rests on a representative parliamentary form
words, there is no simple series of ultimate which actively discourages people from taking
goals which can be used as guides through the decisions and initiatives themselves . Real
maze of current political dilemmas. Hence the economic power and decisions remain outside
attraction of a socialist politics which concen­ of even these limited democratic forms . The
trates on an easily delineated (if elusively diffi­ anarchic , crisis-ridden market forces of capital­
cult) task: the attainment of power. ism and the power of multinational corpor­
We would affirm the necessity of developing ations are not accountable to us as producers,
a socialist vision as against the aridity of what consumers, or "citizens. " Real democratic
passes for Marxist analysis, and against the control of the workings of the economy is
concentration on party building in which the therefore a prime task for socialists. At the
immediate task obscures the ultimate goal . But same time we cannot ignore the level of the
this does not remove from all of us who state. The state, is not simply a clique of the
describe ourselves as socialists, the task of ruling class: it is more a space of power than a
understanding the actual workings of capital­ single source of domination. I t is always a
ism. For we would agree that a socialist politics potential site for intervention and contestation.
cannot be a simple opposition to all things But this does not mean that the repressive state
capitalist, but has to be a product of the apparatus, military, police, judiciary. can be
struggles actually produced within capitalism . wished away . Processes of democratization can
That is, capitalism is not a single entity to which be reversed or halted by these agencies and the
can be counterposed another , socialism. It is a various forms of class domination, as the
highly complex set of relations: economic, example of Chile all too clearly shows. Ultimate
social , geographical, ethical, and gender. control of the state by democratic forces is
While the workings of economic and social vital . The exact form that the process of gaining
relations define the parameters of possible democratic control will entail, and the political
actions, there is no unitary determination of forces that can achieve it (party or parties for
..
beliefs, behavior, ideology, or sexual forms . example), lies at the heart of contemporary
Multiple struggles develop at all levels of this socialist debate. All we can say is that socialists
complex structure, at all points of power. They who ignore the moment of state power are in
have one thing in common in that they are danger of losing their socialism - and perhaps
attempts to resist and challenge the workings of their very lives .
the relations of power and to gain control over The struggle for democratization requires
them . We would argue that the main task of more than the establishment of a " socialist

1 09
P ierre Boucher, 1937 Pierre Boucher, 1937

state" : it requires the building of effective The sexual political movements have pin­
popular control in all aspects of social exist­ pointed these areas as crucial for democratic
ence. This means that challenges must be made struggle, and they have offered a series of
at all points of oppression, which cannot be insights into the ways this can be done in collec-
reduced to a pale reflection of bigger oppres­ tive activity, often in small pluralistic struggles.
sions, and must not be subordinated to a " more Beginning with the immediate experience of
important" struggle. They are the struggles oppression, they are responsive to felt needs
with which people can identify, the oppressions rather than guided by abstract slogans . There
they feel in all areas of their lives. If socialists are, however, problems . Pluralism can often
fail to recognize the validity of the micro­ lead to a total lack of coherence. Success in one
struggles at the point of oppression, the discon­ area can have totally demobilizing effects in
tents that give rise to them will be taken up, others. One of the effects of the early gay
colonized, and utilized by the Right . This is movement was a major expansion in the sub­
what is happening under Thatcherism and other culture, which achieved some of the aims of
forms of right populism in various parts of the GLF though on a different basis, and very II 4
world. many gays fail to see the need for further
struggles .
CONTROL OF O U R BODIES But , we believe that the many struggles
Feminist and gay politics are an essential part around sexuality have been very important in
of people gaining control over their lives , the pointing to two issues central to any socialist
part of the process whose aim is control over project . Firstly they have underlined the vital
decisions concerning our bodies and identities. importance of understanding the ways in which

1 10
the different forms of power shape and inform issues which are central to socialist advance,
individual meanings and identities . Secondly particularly the unification of disparate
they illuminate the determined ways in which struggles and the necessary incompatibilities
individuals can resist and begin to transform within them . It is never going to be easy to hold
"oppressive definitions. There is a third point: together such complex unities as "sexual
in our very marginalization we have attempted politics" and "socialist politics . " We believe
to work out different ways of living relation­ that criticisms that stress our inability to o ffer a
ships and sexuality which question many basic simply strategy are misplaced. All we can offer
attitudes that cement existing patterns. is an investigation of the problems as we see
Feminist and gay politics provide a subversive them . These problems - whether of our sexual
challenge to conventional ideologies and aspir­ lives or of the political allegiances of our sexual
ations, and socialism cannot grow without such radicalism - will not disappear. They still have
challenges. to be explored. And if gay socialists don 't do
We have only touched briefly upon wider this, who will?

RACE & A JOURNAL


FOR BLACK AND

CLASS THIRD WORLD


L I B E R A TION

WINTER 1981
Pakistan: class and state formation
IFTIKHAR AHMAD
Social aspects of the Eritrean
't
revolution FRAN OIS HOUTART

Turkey: the crisis of the neo­


colonial system
BERCH BERBEROGLU
Notes and Documents
Race, class and caste in
South Africa: an open
letter to No Sizwe
A. SlVANANDAN
Bolivia the struggle
continues: an interview
with Domitila Barrios de
Chungare
JANE MciNTOSH
Book Reviews

'4

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Relations') . 111
New Right leaders depicted on the cover of Richard Viguerie 's magazine Conservative Digest are, left to right, Phyllis Shlafly,
Jerry Falwell, Ho ward Phillips, Viguerie, Sen. Jesse Helms, John T. Dolan, Morton Blackwell, and Paul Weyrich.

I N TH E WI N GS
N ew R ight I d eo l ogy a n d O rga n izat i o n

Allen H u nter

There will be a great difference between Ronald Reagan's performance in office and what
he presented in his campaign rhetoric and inaugural address. Indeed, the disparity between
Reagan and Reaganism has already been criticized by the New Right and is the space in
which it hopes to flourish. There is a political constituency that is ready to support
thoroughly conservative policies, and ready to feel betrayed by Reagan . The New Right
hopes to organize these people and new adherents to win power for itself. "We're Ready to
Lead, " a New Right slogan puts it.
Expressing a political and cultural backlash against the social movements and liberal
social policies of the 1 960s, the New Right ideology is an even more conservative vision than
Reaganism. It is a defense of the male-headed family against its alternatives; of America
against its external and internal enemies; of capitalist free enterprise against its socialist and
welfare-state alternatives . It is a defense of hard work and virtue against moral lassitude and
sexual freedom, of whites against blacks , of men against women, of parents against
"
children. It is a politics that seeks to regain control of America for the white middle strata of
America, "the people" who felt they were bypassed and put down by the changes of the

My overall approach to the New Right has benefited from conversations with Linda Gordon and Ralph
Miliband. About this article in particular, Diane Balser, John Ehrenreich, Robert Horowitz, and the editors of
Radical America made important suggestions. A special thanks for Margery Davies for her editing. To the extent
that this article is coherent, logical ,and readable I am indebted to Jim O ' Brien for his virtuoso editing and his
commitment of large amounts of time and energy - comradeship of the best sort.

1 13
1 960s. The New Right wants to mobilize the from the netherworld of narcissism nor - its
sectors of the population that hold these western-oriented sagebrush rebellion notwith­
sentiments. Its leaders already have several core standing - provide us with the moral
groups, a network that includes numerous equivalent of the frontier.
organizations dealing with economic and social But the difference between promise and ­
issues, and close ties to a strong religious Right performance is not only the distance forced
through the Moral Majority and parallel upon him by a stubborn reality. It is also the
groups. Its organizational success, coupled with difference between what he implies he intends
its articulation of an American right-wing and what he actually intends . There are enough
populist ideology, highlights the importance o f vagaries in his rhetoric that it appeals to quite
the New Right today. different elements in the coalition that elected
him . Different futures are envisaged by major
REAGAN, REAGANISM, capitalists who "only" seek a restructuring of
AND THE NEW RIGHT class relations and the re-creation of U S
Can I tell you . . . one of our dirty little secrets on dominance in the world , and those further to
the Right? And that is that we know that there are the right who also want to see a thorough
at least two Ronald Reagans. There are some of us restructuring of the state and society as a
who wonder how much of a Reaganite Ronald
whole. The difference is between a capitalist
Reagan is. We see the one we like and, o f course,
offensive within the current order and a
that's the one we're going to scream and point at
thoroughly right-wing populism that views the
and recite his promises and say that's the one we'd
like to see follow through in office. But that is a
restructuring of society as the secular
problem. - John Lofton, New Right journalist,
manifestation of the struggle for redemption.
as quoted on " Bill Moyers' Journal , " aired Reagan is in the former camp even though the
December 12, 1980. platform he stood on incorporates aspects of
the latter's vision. I ncorporating items from a
Partly the difference between Reaganism and vision is not the same as embracing the organic
Reagan is between a vision pronounced by an whole of that vision.
outsider and the vicissitudes of daily rule Let there be no mistake: Reagan's admini ­
imposed on an insider. The Reagan admini­ stration will be costly to the natural world a s he
stration will not "get government o ff the backs weakens environmental laws and promotes
of the people, " even if it does get out of the nuclear power; to the Third World as he
way of business. The Reagan administration intervenes openly or clandestinely; to Europe
w i l l n o t d e c r e a s e i n f l at i o n , i n c r e a s e and Japan as they are pressured to increase
employmen t , sti mulate production, and their " fair share" of defending the West; to
maintain living standards for working-class blacks, other minorities, and women in the US • •
people. The Reagan administration - even as affirmative-action programs are cut back; to
with a SAL T-free diet - will not reestablish U S labor as unions are weakened even further; to
primacy i n the world through military might, liberals and others concerned with such basic
will not break the power of OPEC , will not roll liberties as free speech. After all, the US is in a
back the Soviets, will not save Western period of crisis . The costs of working out the
civilizat ion from decline and moral turpitude. crisis, in the view of Reagan and all his
The Reagan administration will neither save us advisors, have to be shifted away from capital.

1 14
The election of Reagan, with support from so Either it can be argued that the lack of old-time
many sectors of the population, reflects a widely values has hampered measures to increase
shared sense that dramatic changes in economic worker productivity - hence we need to
policies are needed. While working-class people strengthen the family to improve the economy
- do not seek to bear the burden of those policies - or it can be argued that virtues like hard
- do not long for increased dangers on the job , work , godliness, meekness, and self-sacrifice
decreased compensation for their labor, are better than consumerized hedonism, and
decreased public services, and a decline in the that by strengthening the family we will more
general quality of life - they do know that than compensate for decreased living
Carter's policies have not worked. Within the standards.
parameters of the two-party system , which robs Reaganism, not Reagan, speaks to that
us all of imagination as well as choice, Reagan solace. Reagan himself may be the best orator
was the option. of Reaganism, but the New Right better under­
It is evident that the basis for his electoral stands what it entails. The New Right seeks not
victory - Carter's economic failures and the only a new electoral coalition , but a new sense
Tehran hostages - only gives Reagan a short­ of the "people . " It believes , as does Norman
term opportunity to consolidate political Podhoretz, that the " groups who voted for
support. Whether or not his economic policies Reagan are diverse rather than monolithic, and
"work , " they will alienate large numbers of they are by no means unified in their support
working-class people who voted for him . If the for particular programs. What they are unified
policies do not wor k , then the economy will get in is a yearning to make the country productive
worse and that will provide an opening for and powerful once again - to make it great
m o r e m i d d l e - o f- t h e - r o a d , t e c h n o c r a t i c agai n . " I The last sentence is hype, of course;
candidates; if they d o work , the economy will yet forging that unity is what the New Right is
improve at the expense of most workers and all about.
that will provide an opening for more liberal
candidates. Other things being equal, then, we T H E EMERGENCE O F THE
could expect a drift toward less conservative NEW RIGHT SENSIBILITY
candidates around economic questions. But
The principal force which b roke up the
other things are not equal. To complement the
Democratic (New Deal) coalition is the Negro
economic policies and to forestall that electoral socioeconomic revolution and the l i beral
move to the left - or to complement more Democratic ideological inability to cope with it . . .
technocratic forms of oppressing the working The Democratic Party fell victim to the ideo­
class - we can expect the Right , with or without logical impetus of a liberalism which had carried it
.. Reagan, to highlight patriotism and social beyond the programs taxing the few for the
conservatism as a way of keeping and building benefit of the many (the New Deal) to programs
support for conservative candidates and taxing the many of behalf of the few (the Great

programs. Society). - Kevin Phillips in The Emerging


Republican Majority. '
The social issues can provide an explanation
for the failure of economic policies or they can The New Right developed as a political and
provide solace if the policies do work at the cultural sensibility in the late 1 960s before it
expense of working-class living standards. took on an organizational coherence in 1974.

1 15
minded patriots fed up with welfare handouts,
"peace creeps," hippies , black militants, and
street violence. The emphasis placed by both
Wallace and Nixon on law and order and on
respect for the flag signalled the invocation o ft
"the people" against the "interests" allied in
the Democratic Party. One of the rhetorical
flourishes of Wallace particularly, but also of
Nixon, was to pose as an outsider, an opponent
of the slic k , intellectual Eastern Establishment .
Big government, liberals , and cultural radicals
- not big business - got labeled the elite.
The resentments later crystallized as the
New Right first gained coherence in electoral
politics. Yet it was the emergence of independ­
ent single-issue groups in those same years that
really made the New Right possible. W ithout
these groups, the backlash sentiment would
have been latent , only catalyzed by political
The term " New Right" refers both to that candidates at regular electoral intervals. With­
sensibility and to the organizational network out the single-issue groups, the New Right
that draws on it while giving it strategic focus would not have been able to promote itself as
and ideological coherence. In this section I will the center o f a dynamic movement .
briefly discuss the sensibility and the social These movements included local antibusing
forms it has taken before turning to the organ­ groups that developed from the mid-1 960s on;
izational features of the New Right. local and nationally coordi nated efforts to
While today it is antifeminist and conserv­ oppose sex education which began in
ative sexual issues that most define the New 1 968/ 1 969; the antiabortion movement which
Right 's outlook, racism was central to its got its start in the late 1 960s and leapt forward
emergence and remains crucial for its overall in 1 973 with the Supreme Court decision legal­
appeal . The above quote from Kevin Phillips , izing abortion; the anti-ERA movement begun
active in Nixon's 1 968 presidential campaign, in 1 972; and the antigay campaigns that date
suggests the links between racial backlash, a from the mid - 1 970s.
growing tax revolt, resentment of big govern­ While some of the particular movements had
ment, and electoral flight from the Democratic their origins in already existing far-right • •
Party. The backlash against the sixties radical­ organizations , the concerns they addressed and
ism and the Great Society was mobilized by the enemies they identified constituted a shi ft in
George Wallace and Richard Nixon in the presi­ the major concerns of the Right . } The social
dential campaigns of 1 968 and 1 972. The 1 968 issues - race, sex, and family - all intertwined
campaign was pervaded by the notion of a to direct more of the Right toward social
majority (or a real majority, or a middle-class conservatism to complement its continuing
majority) of hard-working, sober, tradition- economic conservatism and anticommunism.

1 16
An underlying anxiety about loss of control in for real power than the old Right, and more
daily life, the increased power and independ­ stress on social issues. As New Right activist
ence of women, the prominence of black and (and Reagan aide) Lyn Nofziger says, "The old
youth culture, sexual liberation, changes in right were talkers and pamphleteers. They
• family life - all these, as opposed to the hunt would as soon go down in flames as win. But
for Communist spies and dupes, characterized the New Right has moved toward a more prag­
the new movements. matic goal of accomplishing things . " 5
These new groups gave a resonance, contin­ The New Right as a tightly controlled nexus
uity, and dynamism to the rhetoric of Wallace, of multi-issue conservative organizations dates
Nixon, and Agnew. Nixon let the South know from 1 974. Leaders of these groups meet
he would slow down civil rights enforcement; in regularly to plan strategy, allocate resources,
Pontiac, Michigan, antibusing crowds chanted and evaluate ongoing activities. Then there is a
"Power to the people, fuck the niggers ! " large number of other organizations that tie
Agnew railed against effete intellectual snobs; into the core groups, either as spin-offs from
opponents of sex education sought to ban them or as independent groups that have been
their books in schools . Nixon invoked the brought into the New Right's sphere o f
family; opponents of the ERA and abortion influence . The most important of these are the
mobilized social movements to keep women in conservative single-issue social movements.
their place . The social movements derived legit­ Since 1 977 the New Right leadership has been
imacy from the president 's rhetoric and , at the drawing together many of these as a "pro­
same time, fed disappointment with the limited family coalition. " Finally, dating from 1 979,
actions he actually took. and potentially the most significant develop­
It is that terrain that the New Right exploited ment , has been the New Right's alliance with
to develop organizationally; it will exploit the fundamentalist Christian preachers of the
similar space between Reaganism and Reagan airwaves .
as it vies for power. The Gang of Four
The New Right . . . is so tight-knit . . . that any
diagram of its organization looks like an octopus
trying to shake hands with itself, so completely
THE ORGANIZAnONS OF interlocked are the directorates of its various
THE NEW RIGHT components. Basically, however, the movement
Our success is built on four elements - single can almost be understood b y a glance at its
issue groups, multi·issue conservative groups, unofficial politboro, which consists of four men
coalition politics and direct mail. - Richard and a couple of computers. - L.J. Davis,
Viguerie in The New Right' " Conservatism in America , " Harper 's'

The backlash began before the organized The four individuals Davis refers to are
New Right. Yet the New Right organizational Richard Viguerie, Paul Weyrich, Howard
network that the backlash helped to produce Phillips, and John "Terry" Dolan, each of
has broadened its appeals and has given it a whom controls a core organization. They all
strategic focus. The leaders of the New Right, developed politically in old-right groups or in
in.explaining the label New, underline two main conservative Republican Party politics. Around
qualities: greater pragmatism and more hunger 1 974 they established the core organizations of

1 17
that "octopus " and have been building an Conservative Caucus with the help o f
effective conservative complex ever since. Viguerie's mailing lists . It i s organized to put
These four men are young, successful, up­ pressure on members of Congress. With over
wardly mobile, hungry for power, and ostenta­ 300,000 members, it operates in about 250 o f
tiously religious. the 435 congressional districts i n the nation'"
The computers are Viguerie's. In the Phillips's method is to pick a district coordin­
mid-1 960s, after a stint with the Young ator who then seeks to organize a steering
Americans for Freedom , Viguerie began the committee composed of thirty or so leading
direct-mail company (RAVCO , for Richard A . activists from already existing organizations in
Viguerie Company) that has been crucial to the district. These organizations may be single­
fundraising and propagandizing for the New issue conservative groups focusing on abortion,
Right. In the course of working for various busing, taxes, or gun control , or they may be
accounts, Viguerie built his own fortune by from groups like the Chamber of Commerce, a
charging a high percentage of the money raised newspaper, or the local Democratic or
and by using the mailing lists to build his data Republican party . They try to expand their
banks for further fundraising . In addition , he influence many times over by bringing along
publishes Conservative Digest, the monthly substantial parts of the organizations from
New Right magazine, and the biweekly news­ which they were recruited. The Caucus has been
letter New Right Report. He is also active active in opposing SALT I I , the Panama Canal
in numerous other New Right organizations . Treaty, " and has assisted in defeating instant
Paul Weyrich formed the Committee for the voter registratio n , opposing com pulsory
Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC) in 1 974. It unionism, fighting gun control, and organizing
is one of the most successful of the recent efforts against the Carter and Kennedy
political action committees; it not only provides proposals to socialize American medicine. " 7
funds to aspiring New Right candidates but also Phillips was also active in organizing the Moral
does cadre training. It specializes in developing Majority and the Religious Roundtable.
organizations at the precinct level . Weyrich is Terry Dolan heads the fourth of the central
much more than the leader of the CSFC; of the groups, the National Conservative P olitical
four he is the best strategist and coordinator of Action Committee (NCP AC), organized in
the New Right's development . In 1 973, with 1 97 5 . It is the largest of the conservative PACs ,
money from brewer Joseph Coors , he formed spending millions of dollars not only in direct
the Heritage Foundation, the New Right's contributions but also in other expenditures
think tank . It publishes Policy Review, the that are not counted in the official costs
closest approximation to a scholarly journal of recorded by the candidates whom NCPAC
the New Right . He perceived the importance of aids . Like the other central figures of the New .
the " pro-family" social issues and the political Righ t , Dolan is active in other organizations.
potential of fundamentalist Protestantism. He chairs the Conservatives Against Liberal
Howard Phillips, another graduate of Young Legislation (CALL) and the Washington Legal
Americans for Freedom, was brought into the Foundation , one of a number of New Right
Nixon administration to dismantle the Office of " public-interest" law firms that are viewed as a
Economic Opportunity. In 1 975, after disillu­ response to the Ralph Nader groups and are
sionment with Nixon, he organized the thoroughly probusiness.8 In addition Dolan is

1 18
the leader responsible for developing ties with Library Court meetings are another forum
the Mormons. for New Right strategizing . With so many New
Right causes being related to a defense of the
"Networking" traditional nuclear family, in 1 977 the New
• Important for the New Right success is its leaders'
Right quite insight fully began to pull together a
willingness to work as a team. The New Right net­ "pro-family coalitio n . " Weyrich has said that
work has regular meetings of citizen action what the war in Vietnam was to the sixties and
groups, political action committees and political environmentalism was to the seventies, family
strategists, and , while all participants of course issues will be to the eighties. He has been
maintain autonomy of action, the exchange of working to make that a reality. The organiza­
viewpoints is smooth and usually results in tional focus "is a fairly close-knit coalition of
harmonious activities. - Conservative Digest, over 20 nationwide groups whose leaders meet
"The New Righ t : A Special Report ' "
every other Thursday morning to discuss
These four plus a number o f others i n related tactics . This group of pro-family representa­
New Right organizations are the core leadership tives is named 'Library Court , ' after the street
of the New Right. In regular biweekly meetings where its original meeting place was located . ' ' ' 0
(called the " Kingston meetings" for the room Given that the group is thoroughly New Right,
where they first met) between ten and thirty there is more than a bit of duplicity in the
leaders strategize, exchange information, allo­ Conservative Digest's claim that the partici­
cate funds, and evaluate past and ongoing pants "are quick to emphasize that their first
work. These meetings clearly increase the over­ commitment is to traditional pro-family , pro­
all effectiveness of the different organizations. God values and they are political conservatives

Sett Led I�
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1 19
second, if at all . " Yet claims like this do suggest gives Helms "a financial and political base
the centrality that traditional family and moral unsurpassed by any other Senator in American
issues have for the New Right. history . Consequently, the national Republican
In addition to the core organizations, the Party has next to no ability to influence
Kingston and Library Court meetings, and the Helms. " 12 In fact, the North Carolina-based .
ties to single-issue groups and religious organ­ staff of the Congressional Club is larger than
izations yet to be discussed, there are several those of the Republican and Democratic parties
other organizational features of the New Right in the state combined. In addition to funding
that merit attention because they reveal an election campaigns , however, Helms has also
infrastructure that radiates out in many direc­ used the Congressional Club to set up several
tions yet is centrally controlled. There are foundations or think tanks. Through the most
publishing houses of or near the New Right; active of these, the Institute for American
there are religious publishing houses that Relations , Helms sent two aides to Great
regularly bring out New Right political tracts Britain and Africa seeking to negotiate a
that complement (or contradict) the spirit of conservative solution to the war in Zimbabwe. 1 J
their evangelical tracts . New Right activists are Like liberal members of Congress the
forever writing introductions and prefaces to conservatives, with New Right guidance, have
each other 's books in a way that is as ingroupy their study groups and research affiliates
as the New York intellectual establishment 's known as the Republican Study Committee and
back-cover blurbs. Among the most prodigious the Senate Steering Committee. These give
of these boosters is Senator Jesse Helms, whose conservative legislators forums to " network, "
other activities are also indicative of the caucus, and get research and political advice .
organizational impulses of the New Right. Viguerie credits Paul Weyrich with a central
Elected to the Senate from North Carolina in role in organizing these bodies around 1 97 3 .
1 972 in a campaign fueled by racism, especially They tie together a growing number o f
antibusing rhetoric, Helms has been the fore­ senators and representatives who consider
most New Right spokesperson in Congress on a themselves close to or part of the New Right.
range of issues. Not only has he led the fight More important than assisting conservatives
against busing, but he has been among the most once they are in office, however, is getting them
persistent and punitive opponents of abortion there in the first place. Helms has not been
rights, a militant militarist, and a leading critic alone in this . The discussion of the four core
of SALT I I , the Panama Canal Treaty, and groups above suggests the great importance the
majority rule in Zimbabwe. In 1 973 he set up New Right places upon winning elections. They
the Congressional Club to help pay off the debt have been quite successful. With the past few
from his 1 972 campaign . Since then he has elections an increasing number of represent a- •
raised funds so successfully that he not only tives and senators consider themselves part of
financed his own reelection campaign in 1 978 or close to the New Right. Gordon Humphrey,
- when he was called "the $6 million candi­ who won the New Hampshire senate race in
date" - but has helped elect others as well. 1 978 is considered "the first U . S Senator to
Most notable is his protege John East, who won come up through the ranks of the New
North Carolina 's other Senate seat in 1 980. As Right. " . . Humpnrey first came to the New
Vlguerie gloats , the money his club has raised Right leaders' attention through his work in the

1 20
Conservative Caucus. A number of the senators the New Right would not have been able to
elected in November 1 980 will join the organize the center as it has done. The single­
incumbent conservative senators, and will thus issue groups are the soil out of which t he New
provide a vocal group to protest Reagan 's Right grows. The very sophisticated political
" lapses from within Congress as the New Right apparatus and technological hardware in
orchestrates protests from "below . " " Washington and its Virginia suburbs has to
In 1 974 another important vehicle for " interface" with real people in local commun­
creating cooperation among legislators was ities . The voter registration drives, the leaf­
organized. The American Legislative Exchange leting of churches, the pressure on school
Council (ALEC) was at first independent of the boards to stop sex education, and the pressure
New Right, but through the offices of Weyrich on city councils to cut funding for abortions
- who had access to foundation funds - the and birth control counseling - all of these
New Right was able to gain control. Today it activities are necessary if the RA VCO hardware
has a membership of over six hundred elected is to count politically.
state officials with committed New Rightists as In considering the single-issue organizations,
the core elected leaders and with New Right there are several important distinctions:
cadre as the permanent staff. Clearly the single­ whether an organization primarily operates
issue groups discussed below are active at the with a paid professional staff or also has an
state level, but the ALEC is one of the main active base of volunteers in local communities;
ways that the New Right leadership directly whether it began independently of the New
makes contact with state governments from the Right core or as a New Right creation; whether
inside, through lobbying and campaign dona­ it is currently tied into the New Right core
tions. This form of politicking complements the nexus.
more issue-oriented politics to which I now Broadly put, there are top-down organiza­
turn. tions that are basically for lobbying, legal
defense, and propaganda, and there are mass­
based social-issue movements. The first group
The Single-Issue Groups
tends to represent interests of different
Attention to so-called social issues - abortion,
segments of the capitalist class, and the second
busing, gun rights, pornography , crime - has
also become central to the growth of the New
tends to represent the interests and concerns of
Right. But to imagine that the New Right has a
cross-class social groups with traditionalist
fixation on these issues misses the mark. The New social and cultural concerns. On the whole the
Right is looking for issues that people care about, first are older groups that come out of the old
and social issues, at least for the present , fit the Right but have developed ties with the New
bill. As Weyrich puts it, "We talk about issues Right or collaborate with it. The second group
that people care about like gun control , abortion, is composed of the newer organizations that
taxes and crime. Yes, they're emotional issues, began or really took off in the seventies. They
but that's better than talking about capital are the distinctive element of the New Right ;
formation . " Conservative Digest, "The New
-
they are the groups that most tap popular
Right: A Special Report , " June 1979
activity and that reach the new segments of the
Without the single-issue groups which were populations not attracted to the older right­
already tapping popular sentiment and activity, wing organizations .

121
I t is wrong, however, to think that the New The New Right's top-down, narrowly
Right only uses the social issues in order to gain probusiness groups do gain legitimacy from the
support for its economic program. While this social-issue groups . It also works the other way :
might be true for certain individuals and for traditional moralism gains legitimacy from
certain organizations within the complex, the being aligned with American freedom and
New Right as a whole does work to combine individualism as symbolized by the free market.
them , to work out a politics that speaks to both On balance, th ough , the New Right is more
broad areas of concern. An AFL-CIO staff open about its fight against abortion and sex
person was wrong, then , when he said that the education than about its right-to-work activity ...
New Right is " distracting working people with and its hostility to public-sector unions.
very emotional issues that come and go, while The National Right to Work Committee, while
obscuring such very real concerns as job it has a membership of hundreds of thousands,
security, health care and educational opportun­ does not mobilize its constituency for local
ities . " 1 7 Issues such as family life, sexualit y, actions, meetings in churches, bake sales, and
women 's status in society, race, and the quality the like. It elicits financial support and at times
of public services do not j ust come and go signatures for letter-writing campaigns to

1 22
influence public officials. But it mostly The National Rifle Association (NRA)
operates through its regular paid staff and affords a di fferent example. The oldest, largest,
through contacts with businesses and other and most powerful of the progun organiza­
conservative groups. tions , the N RA has resisted assimilation into
Contrasted to this mode of operation is Stop­ the New Right even though it has used RA VCO
ERA, which Phyllis Schafley controls tightly for fundraising . In the mid-1 970s internal
but which is based on the volunteer labor of disputes arose between a conservative, individ­
many thousands of women organized in ualist progun faction and a faction that "put
chapters in numerous states. Stop-ERA grew more stress on gun safety, environmentalism ,
out of, fed, and crystallized popular discontent and the like . " 'o Even though the conservatives
with the ERA. The antiabortion movement won, the New Right exploited the situation to
consists of many organizations large and small. set up two competing organizations . Led by
The largest , the National Right to Life New Right activists, both of these new groups
Committee, was initiated by the Catholic are rival centers of opposition to gun control,
Church and is tightly organized at the top , but it drawing some of the gun-owning individualists
has hundreds of chapters in all the states; it who might not care about the " pro-family"
depends on the volunteer labor of thousands of causes of the New Right. The Citizens Commit­
housewives and others who go door to door, tee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and its
picket abortion clinics, and lobby state legisla­ legal arm , the Second Amendment Foundation ,
tors . To mobilize this labor, the networks in Bellevue, Washington, are directed by Alan
established through the churches - largely Gottlieb. Similarly, a former John Birch
Catholic, but others as well - are tremen­ Society organizer, and California state repre­
dously important. sentative, H . L . " Bill" Richardson, organized
The most dynamic single-issue groups existed two groups - Gun Owners of America and
prior to, and are independent of, the New Right Gun Owners of California - in 1 975 with
core. Still, the New Right has attempted to gain fundraising organized by Viguerie.
control over various groups and has initiated The New Right has attempted the same thing
groups in several areas. in relation to the largest of the antiabortion
The National Right to Work Committee organizations; it has set up its own rival groups .
(NRTWC) is a case of a group with a long prior Claiming ten million members, the National
existence that has developed close ties to the Right to Life Committee is the oldest, largest ,
New Right. Founded in 1 95 5 , it remained a and most established of the antiabortion organ­
relatively small lobbying and pressure group for izations. It is not part of the New Right's "pro­
years. Through his association with the New family coalition" even though it takes the
Right, longtime NRTWC president Reed family and traditional sexual mores very
..
Larson used direct mail to increase his support seriously . But seeking to keep the abortion issue
list from twenty-five thousand in 1 97 1 to 1 . 5 (relatively) separate from other social issues, it
million in 1 980. ] 8 Further, " his top aides are has resisted integration into the New Right. As
increasingly from the young New Right mold . a result the New Right has set up competing
Membership Director Henry ' H uck' Walther is organizations led by individuals close to the
35 and identified by Viguerie as part of the New New Right complex. The couple Paul and J udie
Right Leadership Network . " ] 9 Brown, respectively, are head of the Life

123
Amendment Political Action Committee played key roles in erecting three significant
(LAPAC) and the American Life Lobby religious organizations. Jerry Falwell, Pat
(ALL). and are active members of the New Right Robertson, James Robison, and other radio­
leadership network . TV ministers had earlier taken political posi­
Clearly the New Right cannot denounce the tions and organized rallies, but it was with the .)
NRTLC. as it is the largest and most important creation in 1 979 of the Christian Voice, Moral
antiabortion group . But the New Right's Majority. and Religious Roundtable that the
response to the J une 1 980 NRTLC convention fundamentalist spokesmen really threw their lot
in Anaheim. California reveals the manner in in with the New Right .
which it distances itself from and competes with New Right strategists had ample reason to
the N RTLC . Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a fea­ seek these ties. Forever on the lookout for new
tured speaker at the convention. An early and single-issue groups to bring into their network.
active supporter of legal abortion . he worked they realized that fundamentalists not only
for its legalization politically and himself per­ agreed with the New Right on certain issues but
formed numerous abortions. He has now shared an overall conservative outlook . Wey-
changed his mind. as he discusses in his recent rich "encouraged the [New Right] movement to
A borting America . Clearly it was something of expand by taking up the cause of a number of
a coup for the NRTLC to feature him as a segregated southern Christian schools j ust as
speaker. Yet the M ay 1 980 LAP AC newsletter the I nternal Revenue Service began belatedly to
criticized the decision: " LAPAC questions the move against them . By doing so , he hoped to
wisdom of any one group or individual romanc­ open up a line to the unexplored territory of the
ing a doctor who does not yet understand the nation's religious fundamentalists, and his
meaning of fertilization; who does not repre­ efforts were immediately successful. " 2 2 The
sent our view that women should be totally New Right also sought ties with the media min­
informed; who does not even support the isters because of its understandable suspicion
H UMAN LIFE AMENDMENT. Is this move­ that the mainstream media could not be
ment romancing the devil? . . LAPAC thinks counted on to present its views. Howard Phil-
the answer is yes . . . BEWARE ! " lips has said, "We must recognize the need to
develop our own systems for communication so
that we are not dependent upon the errors or
The Religious Connection
good natures of our adversaries to communi-
There are an estimated 85 million Americans -50 cate our views . " 2 3 The millions of dollars that
million born-again Protestant s , 30 million morally flow into the coffers of the fundamentalist
conservative Catholics, 3 million Mormons and 2 preachers every week must have been another
million Orthodox and Conservative Jews - with incentive, for they could be counted on to pay .1'
whom to build a pro-family, Bible-believing coali­
their own way and then some. Finally, the
tion . - Viguerie in The New R ighI
opportunity to develop networks to mobilize an
Separation of church and state . . . does not mean
activist base independent of the existing single­
separation of God and government . - Ibid. "
issue groups must have been attractive.
The New Right has recently turned with great Christian Voice was organized first . Based in
fervor to organizing conservative religious Los Angeles, it is chaired by the Reverend
groups. Weyrich , Phillips, and others have Robert Grant and has a board that includes

1 24
such New Right senators as Orrin Hatch , James the Senate Judiciary Committee's newly organ­
McClure, and Roger Jepsen . However, those ized Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism,
responsible for organizing it were right-wing he may well cast a broad net in his search for
activists from Weyrich's CSFC and the Ameri- subversives. Through conservative ministers in
.. can Conservative Union, an older right-wing many states, the Moral Majority is building
organization now close to the New Right . It infrastructures to carry on local organizing
already has an annual budget of $3 million and as well as electoral activity.
about 200,000 members including tens of thou­ Religious Roundtable is the third of the new
sands of ministers. It circulates Christian-mo­ groups formed in 1 979. It was organized and is
rality scorecards on the voting records of legis­ headed by Ed McAteer, a long time Christian
lators. In addition it has worked actively activist recently associated with Phillips 's Con­
against gay rights and has done fundraising and servative Caucus. It organizes four two-day
direct-mail advertising for Reagan. meetings a year in which thousands of ministers
The largest of the new groups, the one that is gather to hear luminaries of the political and
most synonymous with the religious Right religious Right. The one held in the summer of
today, is the Moral Majority. It has the advan­ 1 980 in Dallas was attended by over seven thou­
tage of having formal leadership in the hands of sand pastors, and the speakers included Jesse
Jerry Falwell, whose "Old Time Gospel Hour" Helms, Phyllis Schlafly, and Ronald Reagan .
broadcasts out of Lynchburg, Virginia, are As usual Weyrich was a key organizer of the
heard by as many as 50 million people each conference.
week . Falwell already had developed a formi­ for building these organizations Weyrich
dable operation, fueled by about one million credits Billings and McAteer, noting that they
dollars a week in contribution. Thus the con­ " really had the network between them to reach
tacts by Weyrich , Howard Phillips, and Bob most of the people that needed to be reached to
Billings (a New Rightist long active in conserva­ form these different organizations. It was they
tive Christian politics and in organizing the who brought Howard Phillips and myself to­
Christian school movement), led quickly to a gether with the Jerry Falwells . . . " 2 4 The close
very successful takeoff. The first members of links Billings , McAteer, Phillips, and Weyrich
the Moral Majority were those who responded have forged distinguishes the current period
to mailings to the "Old Time Gospel Hour" from the early 1 960s, when the rise of the
list . In less than two years the Moral Majority religious anticommunists like Billy James
has implanted itself in many states and commu­ Hargis was organizationally separate from the
nities, has helped to register hundreds of thou­ rise of the like-minded John Birch Society. The
sands of new voters, and successfully organized ties have been developed at the top; yet so far,
numerous petition drives and letter-writing the new groups seem to be mobilizing activists
campaigns. The Moral Majority controlled in many areas of the country . They are struc­
twelve of the nineteen members of the Alaska tured in a way that recognizes the need for
delegation to t he 1 980 Republican convention. grass-roots mobilization. In addition to signing
Jeremiah Denton, the new senator from Ala­ up single individuals as members, these groups
bama who thinks adultery merits capital pun­ are organizing tens of thousands of ministers of
ishment, considers himself a senatorial voice local churches. The ministers are brought to
for Falwell and the Moral Majority. As head of seminars and conferences like those of the

1 25
Religious Roundtable. They are seen as the The antiabortion movement was predomi­
intermediaries through whom laypeople can be nantly Catholic in its early days. It still gets su p­
mobilized. The connections, in (Urn, are a way port from the Family Life Division of the
for the New Right to build its own base of local National Conference of Catholic Bishops , even
volunteers. Potentially, if not already, the as conservative Protestants have become more r
Moral Majority and similar religious organiza­ active. Many Catholics working in the anti­
tions can operate as parallel structures to the abortion movement hold back from linking
existing single-issue groups which currently their cause to the thorough conservatism of the
mobilize activists at the base. New Right , yet there are also many conserva­
Paul Weyrich speaks of the pOllticization of tive Catholics who do embrace the New Right
conservative religious leaders and organizations program. For instance, along with the 37 ,000
as "reverse ecumenism . " Among the leaders of Protestant ministers in Christian Voice, there
the New Right are Catholics and Jews as well as are also 1 3 ,000 Catholic priests and nuns.
Protestants, yet they have worked to organize Just as important, I think, is the shifting rela­
fundamentalist groups. On the one hand, this tionship between class and ethnicity. Catholics,
suggests opportunism. On the other hand, it who were once identified with the lower por­
does reveal certain changes in the meaning of tions of the working class, are now arrayed
religious affiliation. Partly it can be seen to throughout the class structure. Thus anti-Cath­
herald the rise of a nondenominational relig­ olicism as a religious, nativist expression of
iosity as a forceful means of expressing Amer­ labor-market competition and of upper-class
icanism. Surely religious modes of thought Angl o- Saxon cultural condescension has
that tend toward dualisms of good and evil fit decreased (not ended) because its material base
with the Right's inclination toward manichean has eroded. It is instructive that compared to
and conspiratorial views of history; beyond the 1 920s , when the KKK's growth outside the
that, the "reverse ecumenism " reveals larger South was due at least as much to anti-Catho­
changes in the society. licism as to racism, its attraction today is
The theological criticisms that conservative mostly racist. Its appeals to blue-collar ethnics
and evangelical Protestants harbor, not only in northern cities have been similar to the
toward Catholicism but also toward such home­ appeals to white southerners . More generally,
grown heresies as Mormonism, are currently the silent maj ority cuts across religious as well
being submerged because of an interest in poli­ as regional lines; it excludes blacks , not Catho­
tical collaboration . Mormon senator Orrin lics. Just as the discovery of ethnicity in the
Hatch of Utah is on the board of Christian seventies was partly a way of responding to the
Voice, and two Mormon groups, Pro-Family "blue-collar blues" without mentioning class,
United and United Families of America, are so the rhetoric of Christianity is a way of saying ..
close to the New Right. The Mormon church white without mentioning race.
itself has actively opposed the ERA, homosex­ Similarly, with the class shifts among Jews in
uality, and abortion, and its doctrines put the United States, with the conservative opposi­
strong emphasis both on the traditional family tion of Jewish leaders to affirmative action and
and on the value of wealth-producing labor. 2 ' with the very strong pro-Israel position among
Catholic Phyllis Schlafly and Mormon activists most conservatives today, antisemitism is
were early allies in opposition to the ERA. actively discouraged. The inclusion of (at least

1 26
a few) Jews in the New Right, the inclusion of given ability to make money, almost a super­
certain Orthodox Jews in antiabortion activity, natural ability to make money. They control
and the racial and class appeals to Jews - who the media, they control this city [New York] . " 27
remain electorally critical in certain states - The evidence thus suggests that the current
• are all important strategically and ideologically. "love for the Jewish people" springs more
from the pro-Israel posture of military hawks
than from any ecumenicity, reverse or other­
wise. With the increased number of antisemitic
incidents in the past couple of years, and with
the possibility that US interests will turn away
from staunch support of Israel, the religious
Right 's invocation of the great Judeo-Christian
heritage could easily become an unhyphenated
celebration of "our" Christian heritage.

NEW RIGHT IDEOLOGY


M r . Viguerie uses t he term the "New Right" to
speak o f those moral citizens who now must come
together and let their voice be heard, those . . . he
has described as the backbone of our country -
Yet antisemitism frequently creeps into the those citizens who are pro-family, pro-moral, pro­
rhetoric of leaders of the religious Right. One life, and pro-American, who have integrity and
senses that Falwell , who has made slips himself, believe in hard work , those who pledge allegiance

must be working hard, not only to convince the to the flag and proudly sing our national anthem .
He has described that group of citizens who love
national media that he and his brethren are not
their country and are willing to sacrifice for her.
antisemitic, but also to suppress a very real
America was built on faith i n God, on integrity,
antisemitism in the ranks. Recently asked how
and o n hard work . - Jerry Falwell, introduction
to combat antisemitism, Falwell replied, to Viguerie. The New RighI. We 're Ready to
" Every preacher has an obligation from God to Lead.
work and preach toward putting an end to hate
and hate groups . " He added, "There is not one The New Right ideology is a diffuse petit­
anti-Semite in a Bible-believing church in bourgeois ideology. It is diffuse because it
America . " 26 Yet last summer the head of the works to draw together people from many
huge Southern Baptist Convention, a funda- strata into a social bloc . It is petit-bourgeois
.. mentalist supporter of the New Right, told a because the center of it is in the middle strata
Religious Roundtable audience that God did and because its appeals - while not directed
not hear the prayers of Jews. More recently, the j ust to the classic petit bourgeoisie - play the
head of the Moral Majority of New York state, broad middle strata off against the extremes.
the Rev . Dan C. Fore, "embraced" the Jews by Thus small-business interests are appealed to
stating, "I love the Jewish people deeply, God against the intrusions of government and the
has given them talents he has not given others. privileges of big business. The permanently
They are his chosen people. Jews have a God- employed members of the white working class

1 27
are appealed to against the lower-paid, irregu­ Some of these cross-class appeals are clearly
larly employed, and colored segments. Further, related to capitalist class relations, but have
it is petit-bourgeois because the ideology is such deep cultural roots that they are experi­
explicitly procapitalist and incorporates the enced as independent of economics . Among the
production-oriented managerial strata while most important of these is the ideology of indi-'- \
excluding the so-called New Class. In this way, vidualism . Myths of mobility, self-made men,
the ideology not only defines a legitimate mid­ liberty, and freedom are linked to " free enter­
dle against the extremes, but also defines the prise" and to an attack on the state. Conserva­
righteous portions of the middle strata. Crucial tives are eager to claim a traditional, even
to this process of exclusion is the antistatist religious basis for individualism and to separate
element of the ideology . Members of the its history from that of liberalism, which they
unrighteous " New Class " are excluded from view as politically and religiously heretical.
the social bloc because they use their control of Jim Bakker, TV evangelist who heads the
the state to assist the excluded groups to the PTL Club (" Praise the Lord , " or " People
deteriment of those to be included. That Love") presents a "health and wealth
Because the traditional moral and social theology" that j ustifies materialist striving and
order was once assumed to be permanent, its explains economic failure. " I f you turn to
elements were not originally an explicit part of Christ, your life will work . " India 's problems,
a petit-bourgeois ideology. But as capitalist he says, are due to that country 's rejection of
development has eroded or transformed the old Christian principles . And accommodating to
ways, they have had to be consciously and the j argon o f the consumer society he says,
explicitly defended . Thus today the whole range " I ' m convinced that Christianity is a lifestyle
of social groups that threaten the middle strata - a way of life - not a religious experience. ' ' 2 8
have to be marginalized and excluded from the T h e religious and traditional American view
bloc . In this way blacks , foreigners, feminists , of individ ualism are joined; they defend capi­
sexual libertines, homosexuals, and many talism and occlude class relations (and imperi­
others are excluded from the social bloc and are alism) . Yet, with their defense of the market ,
viewed with a mixture of indignation and envy. possessive individualism, and class inequalities,
The religious rhetoric of the ideology reinforces the New Right is at some pains to argue that lib­
the view that these are agents of the devil , not erals, not they , are really the crass materialists.
legitimate players on the stage of history. Jesse Helms maintains that liberals " see their
Thus the petit-bourgeois ideology forms a fellowmen in primarily economic terms . " 2 9 In
definition of who "the people" are. The ideol­ contrast the conservative " acknowledges the
ogy suppresses class distinctions and highlights economic and material side of man's nature,
social distinctions as relevant criteria for but always gives primacy to the spiritual and .'
excluding or including groups among "the peo­ moral dimension. " 3 0
pie. " It is a right-wing populist vision. Let me Liberals deny those dimensions, t h e New
now turn to a discussion o f some of the more Right argues, largely by promoting the growth
important cross-class appeals and suggest how of an already bloated secular state. The state
they work both to define a desired social bloc interposes itself between economic individuals
and to defend a vision of competitive capitalism . and their fate in the supposedly natural market,
that "mesh of individual volitions" as conserv-

1 28
ative journalist M . Stanton Evans calls it . 3 l mom, dad, and the kids, and is favorably
The imagery o f the state that Helms employs contrasted to other, " non-conventional "
is striking: families such as single mothers with kids. When
combined with hostility to the state, taxes, and
For forty years an unending barrage o f " deals"
• - the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier,
welfare, family imagery thus blends in with
and the Great Society not to mention court deci­ other sources of racism. It also conveys a sense
sions tending in the same direction - have regi­ of sex roles and sexual repression that
mented our people and our economy and federal­ demands, quite explicitly, that women know
ized almost every human enterprise. This their places and stay there.
onslaught has installed a gigantic scheme for
A great many issues are thus combined in the
redistributing the wealth and rewards the indolent
defense of the family. In this way family
and penalizes the hardworki ng . "
imagery acts as a "condensation symbol , " and
Thus the social bloc is invoked once again, as - like the "pro-family coalition" - is used to
the rhetoric joins the hard-working members of draw together a wide range of distinct issues
the employed class together with the creative and to give them a positive image . 3 3 Enemies
capitalists. The productive are aligned in are lumped together too. Feminists, youth
opposition to the unproductive, that is, to the culture and drugs, black music, homosexuals,
subordinate strata and to the parasitic state abortion, pornography, liberal educators,
functionaries who live off revenue derived from liberal divorce laws, contraception, and a
taxing the productive. melange of other phenomena, are all assimi­
There are many valid criticisms of the way lated to a common feature: they are destructive
that the state works. Its size, inefficiency, of the family, and along with it the society.
intrusion into people's lives, and the arrogance The New Right's family is viewed as the
and self-serving manner of its administrators primary unit of society, as an entity that exists
are clearly crucial issues . The recent Left, of essentially outside of history. It is natural and
course, has not ignored these features of God-given. In addition the separation between
contemporary life; and opposition to the state a domestic sphere and a public sphere - in
is no more a hallmark of conservatism than is reality an ideological construct of the bourgeois
defense of liberty and freedom . It is the content epoch - is presented as a natural dichotomy.
of the criticisms and the content of the alterna­ The economic is the main arena into which men
tives that are at issue, not the fact that indiv­ enter and it too is viewed as natural.
iduals are defended against the state. The family is an institution with trans­
historical continuity - as much as it has
New Right opposition to the state is allied not changed. But the separate economy, an
.. only with class perspectives and a defense of economy freed from moral and institutional
(male) individualism but with the defense of the constraints, is about as "unnatural" as any
family. The family as enshrined by the New major social institution going. Yet it and the
Right combines images of male individualism, family, the economic and domestic spheres, are
female supportiveness, and children 's reverence presented as natural in distinction to the
for their parents. It combines a defense of men artificial constraints imposed upon them by the
in the market and women in the home. It is an secular state. The state is not natural; it stands
image of the so-called traditional family of over and above society; society in its two

1 29
spheres is natural . What is natural is good and strators to displace religious morality from its
godly. central role in society.
Yet there are obvious inconsistencies here. But the ideology of the New Right defends
For the free market is viewed as more natural both capitalism and traditional social values.
than nature itself. Environmental laws, in fact , The ideology doesn't allow changes in on�)
are opposed a s artificially hampering the sphere to be explained by changes in the other.
" natural" workings of the market . The If one is to stay the same and the other
dynamism of the "pro-growth" impulses and constantly change they cannot be mutually
the stability of the "pro-family" impulses are interactive. Thus the myriad ways that they do
thus resolved into an expressive unity . While modify each other are either suppressed or
this unity is no doubt sincerely believed by ignored. This suppression serves to mask the
many in the New Right , it can also be used to tensions between capitalist economic relations
argue for crass economic policies that would and those traditional cultural forms still
not in the slightest maintain the stability or existing.
quality o f family life. For instance, the New Thus the opposition between the capitalist
Right is currently attacking " regulations economy and revered aspects of family life is
outlawing home work in the knitted outerwear displaced onto a dichotomy between society
industry. " The principal criticism is that and the state. The state, it is said, stifles growth
"These regulations are anti-family and in the economy by too much regulation , while
particularly hard on women with young promoting change in the domestic sphere by
children. " J 4 pushing cultural modernism, sexual liberation,
This kind of sophistry does not obscure the and unearned equality.
fact that the "pro-growth" and "pro-family" The defense of family and opposition to the
impulses are in tension with one another. state operates ideologically to define the social
Nothing so subverted the family, social life, bloc of the middle against extremes on various
traditional morality, and religious certitude as issues. I will look at two ways the family is
the spread of market relations and the rise of thematized: (a) in a general racist outlook, and
commodity production. The rise of capitalism, (b) in opposition to abortion.
that is, has been the most disruptive, revolu­ Pat Robertson, a fundamentalist TV
tionary, and unnatural force in history. It preacher, says that " The home . . . is the basic
constantly revolutionizes relations between unit of the church, the basic unit of the fabric
family and society, between different elements of our society. You have to have some unit , and
in society, between members of families . I t the home/ family has been it so far. Now when
constantly redefines which things are public and this goes you begin to have the corollary
which are private. Designer j eans and ready­ problems . . , You have the flotsam and jetsam .)
mix pancake batter, toasters and televisions, o f the ghetto where young people don 't know
drive-in movies and toxic shock, agribusiness who their parents are. " 3 1 In juxtaposing the
and assembly lines - all these h ave done as family to the sexual promiscuity o f the (black)
much as New Class liberal planning to change ghetto, he has used nonracial criteria for
the family. Capitalism with its thoroughly writing blacks out of the moral middle strata
instrumentalized way of treating people has and into a place beyond . Thus the underlying
done more than secular-minded state admini- racism is given a veneer of legitimacy because

1 30
blacks do not, in this view, measure up to today these form the core of the fundamentalist
proper, moral standards. Christian school movement . In his recent
This connection of racism with a defense of a Pen thouse interview, Jerry Falwell says of these
way of life is not new, of course. In the 1 950s schools: "We've grown from 1 ,400 schools in
Southern "massive resistance" to school 1 96 1 to 1 6,000. We're adding a new school
desegregation "associated the threat to white every seven hours. " 3 7 In an article on Jesse
supremacy with the decline of economic Helms, journalist Mark Pinsky writes,
individualism, respect for private property, One longtime observer o f North Carolina schools ,
limited government , the influence of religion, noting that many of the so-called Christian
family solidarity, traditional sexual norms, and schools were thrown together in the wake of
patriotism . " 3 6 The similarity of these concerns court-ordered desegregation and are known
.. to those of today's New Right "pro-family" throughout t he South as "seg academies , "
position is striking . remarked , " When they said busing , " they usually
In response to school desegregation in the meant " niggers . " Nowadays when t hey say
" Christian , " they usually mean "white." 38
South , commencing in the 1 950s and contin­
uing on through current opposition to busing, The movement now extends far beyond the
many parents have organized segregated South and has roots in a general social conserv­
academies . In the South the first were atism that deplores many aspects of current
organized by the White Citizen 's Councils, and public education in addition to busing. The

131
Christian school movement is one of the arose in response to the legalization of
clearest ways in which the social and economic abortion. It is this legitimation, more than the
concerns of the New Right are united, for the act of abortion itself, that threatens traditional
cultural preservation they seek in their social and sexual values. Ultimately the main
Christian schools will be more affordable if opposition to abortion is not a defense of the "
they can get the tax credits they seek. Thus the fetus but fear of women's independence and
opposition to the state, and its "educationists , " fear of female sexuality. Opposition to
again combines with racism and a "pro­ abortion is part of a larger opposition to
family" stance .39 changes in family relations, sexual mores, and
Strivings for racial j ustice and the distorted the status of women. The New Right opposes
ways in which they are partially enforced by the not only abortion but also contraception and
government are thus attacked from both sex other than within marriage. Viguerie
strands of conservatism. Black demands for recently wrote that " Pre-marital sex and
racial j ustice - the Right argues - threaten adultery, in my view are much more serious
family, community, parental control; t hey also threats to to our society than homosexuality. " ' l
threaten individual rights, liberty, freedom to Viguerie and others fear teenage sex not only
compete and be rewarded for one's own because it can result in pregnancy and abortion,
efforts. While some of the Right ' s criticisms of not only because it is "dirty, " but also because
the ways that the state has addressed busing and it represents a threat to the kind of family and
affirmative action are well taken, they are society they hold dear. 4 2
ultimately repressive because they are raised in Like the family, the fetus is a condensed
order to maintain racial domination, not as symbol. The fetus simultaneously stands for the
part of a criticism of the ways state action desire to regain traditional society, and for
perpetuates it or alleviates in costly ways. hostility to feminism and freer sexuality which
The "pro-life" inclusion of the unborn in its threaten that world. Symbolized as a minute
populist social bloc calls upon some of the same pair of feet (the size of the feet of a several­
arguments used to exclude blacks . Concerns of week-old fetus) and worn on a chain as a neck­
antiabortion leaders interviewed in the lace, the fetus is a symbol of life, of the
mid- 1 970s are strikingly similar to the views of patriarchal chain of being and the wonder of
opponents of desegregation. One careful life. Symbolized as a bloody mass of tissue in a
student found that plastic garbage bag, the fetus is a symbol of the
two themes predominate in the concerns costs of female sexuality let loose. Further, the
expressed by . . . anti-abortion leaders: concern desire to protect the fetus - i tself thematized as
about eroding religious/moral/familial tradition­ a miraculous meeting of nature and God - is
alism and opposition to centralized government . connected with the view that the world is . '
The anti-abortion movement can be best changing in ominous and threatening ways,
described as conservative in tone - a movement ways that even deny life itself the opportunity
to preserve or regain traditional moral, religious, to come into being. The legally sanctioned
and laissez-faire political values.'·
medical penetration of the woman' s body to
The t:ontemporary antiabortion movement abort the fetus , thus murderously parallels
arose in response neither to the existence of similar penetrations of the body politics by
abortions nor to an increase i n their number. It pernicious social trends . The desire to protect

1 32
the fetus is the desire to stand fast against these an image that combines familial stability and
threats to absolute morality. economic dynamism. Further it naturalizes the
Sources of New Right Ideology market relations of the settlers and makes the
Indians a colorful but devilishly cunning part o f
Well, it is easy for people today who are
• violating God's law and man's law to ridicule those nature. Familial pastoralism and frenetic
who oppose them by simply saying, "That production are bound together in this
fellow ' s repressive; he is suggesting a return to conservative vision of American expansion.
where America was fifty years ago, morally . " Against this image of the traditions that
That is exactly what I a m proposing, morally. Not made America great are images of a rising
technologically. I certainly am very much a secular state, of meddling professionals, of
progressive person . . . . But there's a vast women, blacks, and others who seek govern­
d i fference between technology and theology. - ment handouts , of moral relativists, and o f
Jerry Falwell, interview in Penlhouse"
moral decadents. The ways t h e Right views the
The New Right's ideology quite purposefully forces impinging on America and "her"
taps into a wide range of discontents. It "people" changes. In the 1 950s many features
provides overlapping symbols and explanations of American life were defended against images
of how things became so terrible and how they of conspiratorial Communism. While Phyllis
can be set right. The ideology itself has several Schlafly and others on the Right still do attack
sources. It incorporates conservative strands of the Trilateral Commission, the Rockefeller
the dominant American culture and its various cabal, the UN, and one-worlders as essentially
regional, religious, ethnic, and class in league with the Communists, they give as
subcultures, and all of these as they are much or more attention today to those they
mediated through mass culture. It is also a term "secular humanists . " The utility of the
version of what has been called " fusionism" in term is that it reveals the common features of
conservative intellectual thought, a combin­ the various trends and groups they oppose, and
ation of traditionalist and laissez-faire also points to a common enemy.
conservatism . Finally, it is a very strategic, One feature of the New Right's use of
instrumental, media-oriented use of ideas and tradition is that many of the symbols and
symbols. The New Right combines these into a images are abstract - they lack detail. The
salient, if philosophically confused, ideology. abstractness of the symbols and images the New
The family and the free market are both Right uses is "functional" because it allows
elements in the cultural heritage of the U S . The people in different classes, subcultures, regions,
male individual has long been heroized and the and religions to fill in the details from their own
rootedness and moral constancy of the good relevant sets of experiences. The family imagery
.. woman, the wife, long celebrated. The family is is mostly of a nuclear family without many
celebrated as the embodiment of self-sacrificing elderly people around, without extended kin
women and self-made men living together with networks evident. Yet its vagueness allows
proper, complementary roles for each, self­ social conservatives among isolated suburb­
reliant and hostile to interventions by the state. anites, working-class city dwellers, rural
Children know their places and grow up to be whites, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants
like their folks. The American people claiming all to see their idealized families in the ideology
the plains from unproductive Indians is surely and imagery of the New Right.

1 33
Fusionism current that are most compatible with the
What was so strange about simultaneously other, lopping off the most unassimilable
opposing centralized governmen t , supporting a features, naming common enemies, and fore­
nonsocialist economy, and adhering to traditional saking methodological rigor . In the current
morality? What was so inconsistent about being at political context, defense of the family (as theft )
once a Christian, an anti-Communist, and a embodiment of both the economic and the
believer in private property and individual domestic sphere) and opposition to the state (as
responsibility? George H. Nash, The the enemy of both) are ways that the two
Conservative Intellectual Movement in America"
spheres are rhetorically and symbolically
The combination of elements o f di fferent j oined.
ages of the past has not developed so easily I ronically, the political advantages of fusion
among conservative intellectuals as in the are achieved at the expense of the analytic
popular cultural forms of conservative thought. insights that exist in both strands. The
There have been two main strands of systematic traditionalist current, at its best, provides
conservative theory. For some , conservatism insight into the full range of dehumanizing
has meant the embrace of tradition, of revealed tendencies of capitalist industrialization. But
Biblical truth , of community and localism, of this critical perspective is lost when money as a
landed property and patriarchal authority and universal medium of exchange, production for
social hierarchy generally; that is, of essentially profit, and instrumental hierarchies within
precapitalist society. For others conservatism capitalist enterprises are all excluded as causes
has meant the embrace of classical liberalism, of the destruction of traditional society. The
competitive capitalism, the market economy, libertarian current, at its best, is a call for
and individual liberty as opposed to state inter­ freedom, a critique of the many forms of
vention and economic planning. Traditionalist domination in both traditional society and the
conservatism promotes an organic view of modern bureaucratic state. In addition , many
society with the whole superior to the idividual; libertarians have recognized that imperial
laissez-faire conservatism promotes an extensions of the nation-state subvert domestic
atomistic view of society with the individual freedom at the same time that they oppress
and individual rights superior to social other peoples. All of these are lost in a fused
constraints. In the words of George H. N ash, a ideology that opposes only the secular state, not
conservative historian of conservative thought, the state per se.
"While libertarians asserted the right of the Another way of describing the fusion is to
individual to be free, the right to be oneself, say that the New Right's selective antistatism
traditionalists were concerned with what an puts it in opposition to the liberal welfare state
individual ought to be . " 4 l but not the military nation-state. The nation-
.'
The problem, then, is how to create a fusion state expresses the unity o f "the people"
between these radically di fferent philosophical whereas the welfare state redistributes wealth
approaches. That is, how can the dynamism of and thus acknowledges the class nature of
unfettered economic man and the timeless society. Fusionist ideology enables those who
stability of traditional (wo )man be joined are mostly interested in economic conservatism
ideologically? Fusion involves several - who seek to roll back working-class power
processes : heightening those features of each through attacks on social services , on public-

1 34
sector unions, and on the minimum wage - to
do so by claiming to speak for "the people . "
The fusionist rhetoric works t o mask class
interests in these areas j ust as it masks male
.. interests when the traditional family is invoked .
But it would be wrong to think that there are
two distinct groups of people - one seeking to
advance its economic interests and another
defending a way of life - that are brought
together through rhetorical devices . No doubt
this is true for some adherents; no doubt many
of the particular social issues such as abortion
or pornography are not burning issues for
many capitalists. Yet this dichotomy is too
easy. It tends to divide the social base of the
New Right into those who are interested in
economic, material interests and those who are
motivated by ideals and beliefs. Actually,
family life and other social patterns are as
material as any set of economic indicators.
The loss of control that the people in the New
Right feel is real. Changes in state and society
have deprived the elements of the middle strata
of certain forms of control they had previously
had over their social, economic, and cultural
milieu . (This loss of control is not sudden or
recent , of course, but the acuteness of a sense CONCLUSION : "THERE'S A MAN GOI N '
of loss and the ability to mount social move­ ROUND TAKIN' NAMES"
ments rise and fall . Further, right-wing In the backlash against the movements of the
movements are backlash movements and the sixties and the liberal social policy develop­
New Right is in many ways responding to the ments of the Great Society, the so-called silent
New Left and its associated movements . ) The majority has sought to reassert its position in
changes in the organization of capitalism, the nation. It has been forced to deal politically
the increased role of the state in regulating with a whole series of topics - the family, sex
,. economic and social and cultural relations, the roles, culture, race, distributive justice, and the
1 960s movements of minorities, women, US role in the world - that it does not think
students and cultural radicals, the threats are really proper for political action. If the New
world-wide from allies as well as foes to US Right is successful it would attempt to depolit­
hegemony - all these have been experienced as icize them by relegating them once again to
threats to the solid middle of America. tradition, custom, and economic market forces,
to the implicit natural rules of the game. Yet the

1 35
very attempt to depoliticize these issues has to as tradition, but the second is with force.
proceed through the route of a counter-political Jeremiah Denton has written:
movement. The New Right then , has been
Democracy and freedom are rarities; hard to
forced to politically address, and arrive at attain , harder to preserve. The pages of history are
policy for, a whole series of issues that it feels .'
littered with freedom's stillborn, of people who
are best left to the authority of custom and the rose against their oppressors, only to have sweet
" neutrality" o f the market. victory stolen from their grasp by another
M oreover, the New Right has offered a set of oppressor. 46
images and cultural references that are meant to Senator Denton is right, but he might have
have a cross-class and cross-gender appeal, added that the second oppressor often
made possible by their abstractness. The actual presented itself at first as a champion of " the
implementation of New Right goals will most people. " So it is with the New Right.
certainly not meet the needs of the whole
constituency. Cutbacks in public services, a
decline in real wages, collapse of public
education, and the imposition of rigid moral ALLEN H UNTER is an editor of Radical
codes will have very different meanings for America.
people of different classes. The upper portions
of the New Right's social bloc will clearly Footnotes

benefit from depressed wages; the lower


I . Norman Podhoretz, "The New American Majority, "
portions will not. Wives who can hire house­ Commentary, January 1 98 1 , p . 25.
keepers can carry out their responsibilities for 2. Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority
the home with greater ease than those wives ( 1 969; Anchor paperback, 1 970), p. 37.
who are the housekeepers. The continuity of 3 . The most active old-right groups in the early campaigns
against sex education were the John Birch society, through
the double standard will mean that restricted
its front Movement to Restore Decency (MOTOREDE),
access to birth control for teenagers will weigh and Billy James Hargis's Christian Crusade. Attacks on sex
more heavily on girls than boys . The religious education continued through the decade and are currently
Right 's successes in achieving a Christian being waged by many groups including Jerry Falwell 's
Moral Majority, which is working to ban Our Bodies, Our
America will surely threaten its ecumenicity,
Selves from public schools. The best book about the sex
and antisemitism and other forms of religious education controversy remains Mary Breasted, Oh! Sex
intolerance will threaten many now attracted to Education! ( 1 970; New American Library paperback,
the New Right. 1 97 1 ).
These fissures and tensions in the New Right 4. Richard A . Viguerie, The New RighI: We 're Ready 10
Lead (The Viguerie Company, 1 980), p. 103. In addition to
have already begun to surface, and if the New
Viguerie's own book promoting the New Right, there are
Right were to achieve state power they would be several other useful sources about the New Right. Alan . '
crucial contradictions with which it would have Crawford, Thunder on the RighI; The 'New Right ' and the
to deal. If successful the New Right could not Politics of Resentment (Pantheon Books) is by a former
actually depoliticize all those areas of life it New Right journalist who now considers himself a "true"
conservative. In addition to detailing many of the same
would like to. It would be necessary to use the
features of the New Right that Viguerie draws attention to,
repressive powers of the state against offenders, Crawford also provides examples of infighting on the
against protesters. With apologies to Marx, Right, shows how the New Right activists moved in on
while history may repeat itself, the first time is existing organizations, and the like. In addition he provides

1 36
a cntical account of the direct mail fundraising methods so 16. "The New Right : A Special Report , " Conservative
central to the New Right. His conceptual framework is Digest, June 1 979, p. 10.
weak, and he doesn't have an explanation of why the New 1 7. As quoted in William J. Lanuuette, "The New Right ­
Right arose when it did. Thomas J . McIntyre wrote The 'Revolutionaries ' Out After the 'Lunch-Pail ' Vote, "
Fear Brokers with John C. Obert (Pilgrim, 1 979). A three- National Journal, January 2 1 , 1 978, p. 89 .
.. term senator from New Hampshire, Mcintyre provides an 1 8 . Viguerie, The New Right, p. 1 4.
angry account of his defeat" by New Right candidate 19. Hunter, The "New Right, " pp. 53-54.
Gordon Humphrey in 1 978. William A. Hunter (edited by 20. Crawford, Thunder on the Right, p. 32.
Thomas W . Bonnett), The "New Right ": A Growing Force 2 1 . Viguerie, The New Right, p . 1 59.
in State Politics (Washington D . C . : a joint publication of 22. Davis, "Conservation in America," p . 24.
the Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies and 23. " Howard Phillips on the New Right, " an interview i n
the Center to Protect Workers ' Rights, 1 980) usefully Conservative Digest, March 1 980, p . 1 3 .
shows how several New Right groups operate at the state 24. Quoted in Dudley Clendinen, . . 'Christian New Right ' s '
level and has ten short case studies. It is marred by a narrow �LL�h to Power, " New York Times, August 1 8, 1 980.
focus on the economic issues the New Right addresses and 25. A useful discussion on the role of women and the family
only mentions state-level activity on the social issues in in current political-theological thinking and political
passing. There have been several magazine articles about activity within the Mormon church can be found in Marilyn
the New Right, and some of the more useful are listed in the Warenski, Patriarchs and Politics: The Plight of the
notes below. Mormon Woman (McGraw-Hill, 1 978).
5 . Quoted in Viguerie, The New R ight, p. 79. 26. Quoted in Kenneth A . Briggs, "Evangelical Leaders
6. L. 1. Davis, "Conservatism in America, " Harper 's, Hail Election and Ask for Continuation of Effort s , " New
October 1980, p. 2 1 . York Times, January 28, 1 98 1 .
7 . Howard Phillips, as quoted in Conservative Digest, 2 7 . Quoted in Joyce Purnick, "Moral Majority Establishes
March 1 980, p. 6. Beachhead in New York, " New York Times, February 5,
8 . James G . Watt, the new secretary of the interior, was 1 98 1 .
president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation. See 28. Philip Yancey, "The Ironies and Impact o f PTL , "
Alexander Cockburn and James Ridgeway, "James Watt, Christianity Today, September 2 1 , 1 979, p . 3 1 .
Apostle of Pillage , " Village Voice, January 28-February 3 , 29. Jesse Helms, When Free Men Shall Stand (Zondervan
1 98 1 . See Crawford , pp. 25-27, for more information on Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976), p. 27 .
these "public interest law firms . " 30. Ibid. , p. 28.
9 . "The New Right: A Special Report," Conservative 3 1 . M . Stanton Evans, Clear and Present Dangers: A
Digest, J une 1 979, p. 9. Conservative View of A merica 's Government. (Harcourt
1 0 . " Library Court: The Washington Hub," Conservative Brace Jovanovich , 1 975), p. I I .
Digest, May-June 1 980, p. 26. 3 2 . Helms, When Free Men Shall Stand, p . I I .
I I . ibid., p. 26. 3 3 . The term "condensation symbol" i s from Murray
1 2 . Viguerie, The New Right, p . 1 08 . Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (University o f
1 3 . For further information about Jesse Helms, see M a r k 1 . Illinois Press, Urbana, 1 964). H e writes, "Condensation
Pinsky, " H elmsman o f the Right , " The Progressive, April symbols evoke the emotions associated with the situation.
1 980, pp. 47-49; Bob MCMahon, " Helms: Shining Light of They condense into one symbolic event, sign, or act patriotic
the New Right," Guardian, September 3, 1 980, p . 9; and pride, anxieties, remembrances of past glories or humil­
Peter Ross Range, "Thunder from the Righ t , " New York iations, promises of future greatness: some one of these or all
Times Magazine, February 8, 1 98 1 , pp. 22-25 + . of them . " (p. 6).
1 4 . Viguerie, The New Right, p. 9 1 . 34. Debbie Bookchin, " H ome-pieceworker laws assailed , "
1 5 . This article does not sufficiently emphasize the growing Boston Globe, January 1 4 , 1 98 1 .
power of New Right elected officials; that would merit yet 3 5 . "Politics, Power and the Christian Citizen: A n Inter­
another article. For an indication of their growing view with Pat Robertson, " Sojourners, September 1 979, p.
importance see Peter Ross Range, "Thunder from the 20.
Right," noted above. For the New Right's view of their 36. Numan V. Bartley, The Rise of Massive Resistance:
importance see Viguerie's The New RighI, and articles in Race and Politics in the South During the 1950's (Louisiana
back numbers of Conservative Digest. State University Press, 1 969), p. 24 1 .

1 37
3 7 . " Penthouse Interview: Reverend Jerry Falwell," Pent· 4 1 . Viguerie, The New Right, p. 208 .
house, March 1 98 1 , p . 60. 42. For an important discussion of these and other points
38. Mark I. Pinsky, " Helmsman of the Right," p. 47. see Rosalind Pollack Petchesky's forthcoming essay,
39. Senator Paul Laxalt's Family Protection Act, an "Anti-Abortion, Anti-Feminism, and the Rise of the 'New
,
omnibus bill before Congress, actually drafted by Library Right. . .
Court members of the New Right, specifically addresses 43 . Jerry Falwell, "Penthouse Interview," p . 1 50.
many of the concerns of the Christian school movement as 44 . George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual
well as other "pro-fam ily" groups. It was designed to Mo vement in America: Since 1945 (/976; Harper paper­
appeal to a broad range of constituencies of the " p ro­ back, 1979), p. 180.
family" bent, and bears watching carefully. 45. Ibid. , p . 82.
40. Patrick J. Leahy, " The Anti-Abortion Movement: 46. Jeremiah A . Denton, J r . , When Hell Was in Session,
Testing a Theory of the Rise and Fall of Social (Commission Press, Clover, S . c . , 1 976), p. 1 1 6.
Movements, " Ph. D. dissertation, Syracuse University,
1 975.

Paul Mattick, 1904-1981


Early in February in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Paul Mattick died at the age of 77. Since his
youth as a worker in Germany and his ties to the revolutionary Sparticist League after World
War I, he was dedicated to the emancipation of labor from wage slavery - and from the
various vanguards, be they social-democratic or Leninist. A member of the semisyndicalist
KAPD (Communist Workers Party of Germany) in the early 1 9205, he left Germany for the US
in 1 926 and remained here. In Chicago, where he lived and worked for many years as a skilled
metal worker, he was active in the German-language workers movement and the Chicago group
of the IWW, and became, in collaboration with Anton Pannekoek and Karl Korsch, a key
publicist and editor of left - or council - communist ideas in the late 1 930s and 1 940s . His
1 947 essay, "Anti-Bolshevik Communism in Germany , " perhaps the most fascinating state­
ment of his political outlook , is reprinted in Telos #26 (winter 1 975-76) .
The left wing of the German student movement rediscovered Paul Mattick and council
communism in the mid- 1 960s. During the past decade both his older and his more recent
writings (Marx and Keynes, Critique of Marcuse, Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory) have
found lively audiences in Europe. To those in the Cambridge-Boston area with the good fortune

to have met Paul Mattick , he was a special sort of teacher: straightforward , without frills, clear­
headed, witty, bitingly critical of all but the militant libertarian Left and saturated with the
experience of a half-century of practical and intellectual work . He always left you more
thoughtful than before. We could now do worse than let ourselves be nurtured by the visions
for which he so tirelessly worked.
Paul Breines

1 38
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A ndy Ewen

T H E N E W CO L D WA R

Noam Chomsky

Perhaps the best way to approach the topic of the New Cold War is to take a running start
and look at the old Cold War to see what we can learn about the post-World War II system,
and about the new phase of it which is now beginning. I think it is reasonable to suspect that
there will be some fundamental differences and similarities between the two phases.
As far as the differences are concerned , the most fundamental and the one that I think will
be most significant in shaping the course of events is that the New Cold War is likely to be a
pretty lonely affair for the US political leadership. In that respect it will be very different
from the earlier phase of the Cold War.
During the Second World War most of the industrial world was either severely damaged
or totally destoyed. In contrast, the United States flourished during the war and industrial
production soared. This led to a situation of extreme dominance of the United States over
very large parts of the industrial world. As a Trilateral Commission report correctly states,
'.
the U S was "the hegemonic power in a system of world order, " and remained so for a
quarter-century.
In response to the situation that was developing, some high-level planning took place in
the United States during the war. Most of the top-level State Department planners were
involved and, of course, the Council for Foreign Relations, which is essentially the corporate
input in the planning process . The planners understood that the United States was going to
emerge from the war as the world's dominant power and they proceeded to determine how

141
This i s a slightly revised version o f a speech to a conference held b y the Mobilization for Survival i n May 1 980.
the world should be organized in such a way as attack, but let's put that aside. ) In order to keep
to meet their interests. They devised the concept Britain on the front line it was necessary to
known as the Grand Area. supply them with sufficient aid. In fact, the
The Grand Area was to include at a mini­ Lend-Lease Bill had a stipulation that British
mum the Western hemisphere, the former reserves should not go below $600,000 ,000, tit'
British Empire, and the Far East. The maxi­ level required to keep Britain fighting at the
mum would be the limit - the universe - and front line of the war against Germany. At the
somewhere between the two was to be the same time it was also stipulated that British
Grand Area. The Grand Area was to be organ­ reserves should not rise above a certain level,
ized in such a way as to serve the needs of the namely a billion dollars. The thinking behind
American economy, and that , of course, means that appears to have been that if Britain were in
the needs of those who own and manage the too strong a position it would be able to resist
American economy - what is called "the American penetration of British traditional
national interest" by political scientists. This markets and it would be able to maintain its
was the plan to be adopted and implemented in position in the Middle East, and that wasn't the
the postwar period. way the postwar world was supposed to be
Within a few years after World War I I the organized .
world was broken into two major blocs: the In Saudi Arabia, it was recognized that King
Soviet bloc, which at that time uneasily Ibn Saud wanted to get on the take himself. I t
included China, and the U S-dominated Grand was decided that h e must b e bought off to
Area bloc . In the course of construction of this follow Western interests properly . The first
system there were many conflicts internal to the idea was that the British would pay him . How­
major blocs themselves. ever, this was decided to be too dangerous
For example, within the Grand Area there because the British might exploit the oppor­
were conflicts during and after the Second tunity "to diddle the U . S . oil companies out of
World War between the United States and its the concession , " as Navy Undersecretary
major allies. There was a kind of mini-war William Bullitt put it elegantly . For that reason,
going on during the Second World War the United States should pay him off. This was
between the United States and Great Britain. a little tricky since the only device for doing this
The United States intended that the Grand Area was the Lend-Lease Bill and according to law,
be constructed in such a way that it would be lend-lease was to be given only to democratic
responsive to the needs of the American allies who were fighting in the war against
economy. That meant pushing the British out of Hitler . It was a little difficult to interpret this in
their traditional markets in Latin America and such a way as to apply to Ibn Saud. Putting the
removing them gently from such places as question of democracy aside (the U SSR wa.
Saudi Arabia, where the oil was and is. receiving lend-lease aid), Saudi Arabia was in
There were many devices used . One of them no way involved in the military conflict. But
was manipulation of Lend-Lease Aid . Of Roosevelt succeeded . In 1 943 , he announced
course, Britain was on the front line, while the that he hereby designated the Saudi Arabians as
United States did not want to be the front-line fighters for freedom and democratic allies. In
power itself - too bloody. (Actually, it was the this way, $ 1 00,000 , 000 in Lend-Lease aid was
Soviet Union that bore the brunt of the Nazi granted to Saudi Arabia. So it went in the post-

1 42
war period, too. France was evicted from the There were other elements of conflict and
Arabian peninsula in the late 1 940s by some tension, but on the whole, it was a unified
legal chicanery , and before long, control over Western front under US leadership . That was
Middle East oil - along with North American true of Europe and it was also true of Japan.
. oil, of course - was fairly firmly in the hands Japan is now a major competitor of the U nited
of US-based corporations, closely linked to the States but you must remember that this is a
state . relatively recent phenomenon . It is not true for
I am straying from what seems to be the Cold the whole postwar period . In fact, as late as the
War because it is important to understand the early sixties you will find that the Kennedy
internal structure of a system that is coming administration was concerned about the
apart. The fact that it is coming apart is very viability of Japan's economy. It was thought
important for the future. In the early postwar that we might have to help them . In fact, it was
period the United States acted so as to block the not until the mid- 1 960s that the trade balance
rise of national capitalism in Europe. It between the United States and Japan shifted in
succeeded in forcing the French and the British favor of Japan, a reflection in part of the
out of the Middle East to a substantial extent, Vietnam War. While the war was very costly to
with the United States taking over most of the the United States by the late 1 960s, the Japa­
concessions. The theory behind it all was nese economy gained quite considerable bene­
presented in terms of energy, which was then fits from their role as an off-shore procurement
and is now the focus of considerable conflict area backing up the war in Vietnam . One of the
within the blocs themselves. secrets of the Japanese miracle was to be in j ust
The theory was expressed succinctly in a the right place when the U nited States was
State Department memorandum on petroleum fighting in Korea and Vietnam .
policy in 1 944 which stated that the United Up until the late sixties, in fact - until the
States (American oil companies) should retain cost of the Vietnam War began to really bleed
its absolute control in the Western hemisphere, the American economy significantly - the
while in the rest of the world there should be an Grand Area alliance was a fairly obedient and
open door to penetration by American enter­ unified bloc in spite of some internal dissen­
prise. This is an intriguing interpretation of the sion. Now that situation is significantly differ­
open-door doctrine: We hold on to what we ent. First of all, Europe is moving toward a
have and the rest should be open to competition degree of independence in a slow but I think
(in which we expect to do quite well , given the inexorable fashion. Every year there are further
distribution of wealth and power) . This is steps: the currency bloc, a parliament, the
roughly the way things evolved for the early Euro-Arab d ialogue, and other regular
• period of the Cold War . developments. It will presumably be a Euro­
There was a good deal of unity, or perhaps pean bloc largely under German dominance
better, obedience. There was not much dissen­ with a subsidiary role played by France .
sion within the alliance. There was some, how­ Another manifestation of Western European
ever . For example, in 1 956 the British and the independence is that they are refusing to go
French tried with Israeli aid to reinstate them­ along with the steps the United States has been
selves as effective actors in the Middle East, urging toward a revival of a sharp Cold War
though they were quickly pushed out. confrontation . They have been refusing to

1 43
break trade links with Eastern Europe or to some memories concerning Germany. That
undertake a massive armaments program . may have been one of the factors, not a major
However, these refusals are tempered. Some­ factor, but one of the factors that led the
times they agree and sometimes the agreements Russians into military intervention in Afghan­
are very dangerous. istan . Whether or not Europe will actually
For example, in the fall of 1 979, Europe agree to have these missiles installed is not so •
agreed, under American pressure, to arrange obvious. I t is highly possible that the agreement
for the installation of Pershing II land-based could collapse in the next few years.
missiles and cruise missiles which could hit the Even though European countries agreed to
Soviet Union. This will include missiles placed go along with the United States on the sanctions
in Germany , which doesn't make the Russians with respect to Iran , they were very explicit in
very happy. Apparently the flight time to saying that it was because they hoped that this
Moscow is 5 -6 minutes, and the Russians have would delay American military action and put

1 44
off confrontation and perhaps the nuclear regions of the Middle East. If not, I suspect
holocaust that might result if American action there might be a major war because I don't
were to proceed. Then they were rewarded for think the United States would give that up.
that move with the hostage rescue attempt, to Thirdly, a yen bloc which would perhaps
• which Europe did not react with great enthu­ increasingly resemble the " New Order" which
siasm, to put it mildly. led to war in the Far East . In addition to these
Though Europe is still acceding to American three blocs, there would be a Russian bloc,
pressure to maintain or increase the level of perhaps including some of the countries around
confrontation, they are doing so very reluc­ the periphery of the Soviet empire.
tantly, dragging their heels, unwilling to under­ There was a recent study of the OECD - the
take the economic sanctions against the Soviet international organization of industrial capital
Union that the United States has been urging . powers - which discussed a set of possible
There is also little doubt that Europe will scenarios for the future. Something like this
simply move into the vacuum created by the U S was the one which they thought most likely to
refusal t o supply high technology to the Soviet develop. This is the kind of situation which has
Union, again exacerbati ng the conflicts that are led to war repeatedly in the past . This time it
increasingly developing between Europe and could lead us to the kind of war which civiliza­
the U nited States. tion could not survive.
Much the same is true with regard to Japan . '" '" '"

The United States is trying to press Japan into The other factor that differentiates the new
large military expenditures j ust as it is trying to phase of the Cold War from its predecessor is
do with Europe. The Japanese too are dragging something really new in the history of industrial
their feet . They are reluctant to enter the system civilization. Throughout much of history there
of confrontation toward which the United States has been a fear of scarcity of resources. The
is trying to impel them and again you find that fear has always been overcome either through
� ometimes the Japanese acquiesce and some­ the discovery of new resources or through
times not. Meanwhile Europe and Japan are improvements in technology. There may be a
increasingly moving into areas of primary US surprise again , but it does seem that the
concern, such as Saudi Arabia. pressure on increasingly scarce resources has
These tendencies seem to point in the direc­ become qualitatively different from what it was
tion of a breakup of the world into several more in the past . Energy is the obvious case but it is
or less independent blocs, in particular a by no means t he only one. Almost everywhere
breakup of the Grand Area alliance into three you look you will find that there is an actual or
monetary and political blocs. One would , in impending scarcity of resources, which means
• effect, be the European Economic Community, that conflicts among the economic units which
which with its European currency union and are competing for them will become more harsh
other institutions is slowly moving toward a and exacerbated. This makes for an ominous
German-dominated i ndependent Europe. situation. It has not gone without notice. There
Another would be a US-dominated North have been a number of recent statements by
American bloc - a dollar bloc, incorporating diplomats throughout the world saying that the
much of the Western hemisphere and other current situation is reminiscent of the situation
places, including most of the oil-producing prior to World Wars I and I I , when it was clear

1 45
that events were drifting toward war. It wasn't framework of order.
entirely clear what kind of a war, or exactly However, Kissinger continued, there is now
what the alignments would be, but it was clear the possibility that Europe might move toward
that the situation was getting out of control and a closed trading bloc which would include the
heading dangerously toward war. Middle East and North Africa and exclude the �
Although the Soviet Union is a military United States. In fact, if such a system did
competitor of the United States, it is by no develop - trading blocs of the sort that
means an economic competitor. It is still a very Kissinger was warning against - the United
backward economic unit. About all that they States could become a second-class power with
produce effectively is armaments, and even that regional responsibilities within an overall
not too well , quite often. The GNP of the framework of order for someone else to
Soviet Union is roughly half that of the United manage . This is not a picture of the world that
States. American planners are very eager to contem­
Europe, a highly advanced industrial unit, is plate. These possibilities are all very significant
a di fferent story . I t is slightly larger than the differences which , I think, are likely to make
United States and operates at a very high level the New Cold War system very different from
of technology, comparable to that of the the old one, even though there are some
United States. I f the United States turns its respects in which it is likely to be very similar.
production more toward the production of I t is worth comparing what the old Cold War
waste (military production) and Europe does system really was with the official version
not, then disparities will develop. This is one of served up by propagandists in both the United
the reasons why the United States is trying to States and the Soviet Union. The official
impel Europe and Japan to more military (that version describes the Cold War as a confron­
is, waste) production. However, it does not tation between two superpowers, one trying to
seem that either Europe or Japan is going to do defend itself while the other is trying to expand
this. its power, in a kind of zero-sum game: what
Some of these economic concerns were one gains, the other loses .
reflected in parts of the speech Henry Kissinger That is the way the system is described by
gave in 1 973 when he announced the "Year of ideologists o f the two superpowers and it is not
Europe. " He stated that there were conflicts in totally false. Effective propaganda cannot be
the Atlantic alliance, problems between the entirely false. But, on the other hand , the real
United States and Western Europe . He went on truth of the system is quite different .
to describe the conflicts. Among them was I t i s important t o ask oneself why the Cold
Europe's unwillingness to give the United War system has persisted for so long . The
States the support it needed. system has, in fact, been highly functional - •
Kissinger then described the way the world functional for the ruling groups in the two
ought to be organized. He described the ideal major power blocs controlled by the Soviet
arrangement as an alliance among the idustrial U nion and the United States . It has been func­
capitalist nations and their clients with the tional in a way very different from the zero-sum
United States managing the overall framework game described in the propaganda.
of order . In turn, other powers would have The real way in which it has operated has
regional responsibilities within this overall been a system for mobilizing support within

1 46
Why We
Oppose Votes
• For Men
1.
Because man's place is in the army.

2.
Because n o really wanly man want'
to settle any question otherwise than by
fighting about it,

3.
Bec'Iuse il men should adopt peaceabl.
methods women will no longer 10011 up
to them.

4.
BeCduse men will lose their charm il
they step out 01 their natural sphere and
interest th emselves in other matters than
feats 01 arms, uniforms and dr ums.

5.
Because men are too emotional to vote.
Their conduct at baseball game' lind polit­
ical con ventions shows this. while their
innate tendency to appeal to lorce ttmders
them particularly unlit for the tull 01 '
government.
-Alice Duer Miller. 1915
Alice D�r Miller, the Ami'rican novelilt and poet.
lived 'rom 1874 to 1HZ

each of the superpower blocs for repressive, United States and Western Europe are. The
and often vicious and destructive actions most effective means of winning the approval
against those who sought a degree of independ­ of the Russian people was to present the
ence within the blocs themselves. The real way invasion as a defensive act against an aggressive
the system has functioned is illustrated by what maj or power. Remember that even a total­
you see now in Afghanistan, where the Russian itarian state must rally its population behind
leadership effectively exploits the Cold War brutal and costly actions. For the moment,
conflict to provide a domestic justification, a Soviet propaganda has succeeded, in this case.
• way of rallying their population to support the It is precisely the same way, almost in the
invasion. The explanation that is presented to same words, that the American political leader­
the Russian people is that they are entering ship, American journalists and the American
Afghanistan to defend a legitimate government intellectual establishment presented the Viet­
against attacks sponsored by the imperialist nam War to the American people. We were not
powers, who have designs on the USSR itself. invading South Vietnam, but responding to a
Afghanistan is not a very plausible enemy for request of a legitimate government for defense
the Soviet Union nor for its population, but the against an aggressor that was simply the puppet

1 47
of the great superpower enemy. The document­ application of very ugly measures which are
ary record shows that American planners morally difficult for people to accept. These
understood very clearly from the late 1 940s that measures may also be very costly in terms of life
they were fighting the nationalist movements of and material resources.
Indochina. They tried very hard to find links to That is the kind of system the Cold War was, '!
international communism for propaganda and to a large extent, that is what the New Cold
purposes, but were never successful , not that it War is going to be too. An increasing amount
mattered . of the war strategy and technology is designed
The doctrine that was formulated by the by the superpowers not for war against each
Eisenhower administration to j ustify military other, but for war against the weak , the
intervention in Guatemala in 1 954 was virtually defenseless people in underdeveloped countries
reproduced by the Russians to defend their who cannot strike bac k . This involves among
invasion of Hungary in 1 956. Throughout the other things helicopters , napalm, rapid deploy­
entire Cold War period, the system was used, is ment forces, and tactical nuclear weapons .
still being used, and will be used in the future as These are not designed for wars against power­
a means of mobilizing domestic support for ful nations. With them you would fight a war
actions taken against those who are trying to of total destruction to prevent them from
achieve a degree of independence within the destroying you . That would , of course, be
power bloc . impossible, but that is the only way a war like
The symmetry which I am describing, how­ this could be fought - for a few days, that is.
ever, is only a functional one. The United These wars against the weak , as I mentioned
States has been doing this to a considerably before, will continue to be conducted within the
greater extent than the Soviet Union, again a rubric o f the Cold War system, that is, within
reflection of the greater American power. In the traditional pretense that we are somehow
terms o f degree of violence, number o f defending freedom from the onslaught o f
countries subverted, the number of bombs Russian imperialists . If you really tried to give
dropped, and the number of troops overseas, it an accurate description of the Russian world
has by no means been an even balance. power you would find something quite
There is no level of absurdity beyond which di fferent. In a relative sense, Russian power
the propaganda system cannot go. A good probably peaked in the late 1 950s and has since
example is when the United States backed the been slowly declining, as U .S . power has .
invasion of Guatemala in 1 954, even sending Though there are a few areas in which Russian
bombers to Nicaragua with nuclear weapons. power has advanced, there have been major
This was presented to the American people not defeats. Their greatest defeat, undoubtedly,
as an attack against Guatemala, but as a was the departure of China from the system of •
defense against Russia. This is the way it is still Soviet influence, which produced a great shift
described . in the world power balance. The Russians have
In short, the Cold War system has to a great also suffered setbacks in Indonesia, Egypt,
extent served as the ideological framework for Somalia, Sudan , and Iraq, along with gains
the state to mobilize its population for inter­ elsewhere.
vention and subversion . This ideological frame­ It is very revealing to see how the American
work is necessary because the reality involves the propaganda system responds to these changes .

1 48
---- - - -- _.. - - - ._ - _ .- . - -. _ - -- - . - --

For example, when the Russians had dominant ruble equivalent to our military system . It turns
influence in Somalia, this was described as one out that the ruble equivalent is infinite - that
of the major threats to world peace because is, there is no way for them to duplicate our
Somalia dominated the Indian Ocean. Then system. They could spend every ruble they have
" when the Russians were booted out of Somalia and they simply could not construct our
and the United States moved in, suddenly it military sytem because the technology is too
turned out that Somalia is not important at all . advanced for them to duplicate. _

It is Ethiopia that counts . So now we find that Holtzman also points out that there is a
it is Ethiopia that controls the Indian Ocean . It striking contradiction between the picture
didn 't have such major importance when it was presented to the public and the information
a US satellite. given to Congress on military power. On one
I f you look at the estimates of Russian hand , when the military establishment
military power you find similar chicanery with addresses the public , it claims that the Russians
regard to how it is estimated . There are count­ are outspending us on defense, but on the other
less articles and statements which allege that the hand , when the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify to
Russians are enormously outstripping us in Congress they always say that we are much
military expenditures . Occasionally a truthful stronger militarily than the Russians. Obvi·
analysis becomes available. There is a very ously, both of these statements cannot be true.
good one by Frank Holtzman, an economist at Furthermore, NATO outspends the Warsaw
Tufts whose specialty is the Russian economy. pact by any measure, and much of the Soviet
He gives an account of how the CIA estimates military effort is directed against China. Soviet
Russian expenditures. military power is no doubt a major menace to
The CIA constructs what is called a dollar the w.orld , but there is much deception in the
equivalent of the Soviet military effort . The picture presented to the public.
question becomes: what would it cost us to do There are all parts of the strategy that is
what they do? Now , the military system of the being used domestically to persuade the public
Russians is labor-intensive, while ours, of to support the renewal of the Cold War system
course, is capital-intensive. For us labor is - a system which is going to be used as it has
expensive; for them it is cheap. For us capital is been used in the past, for war against the weak .
relatively cheap. For them it is expensive . This This is why we often find that the people who
means that for us to duplicate what they do are supposed to be defended by this system are
would be very expensive; in fact, for us it is the most upset about it. It turns out that they
relatively cheap to have a high-technology do not want to be defended because they know
military force with a relatively small number of that it is pretense to j ustify American military
• bodies. For them it is the other way around. intervention in their region. For example, the
Therefore, when we translate the costs for us to Kuwaiti press, which is quite conservative and
duplicate their system, it is very expensive. It anticommunist, makes a strong case concern­
would also be enormously expensive for us to ing the dangers of American interven­
duplicate the Soviet agricultural system, but we tionism in their region, and even Saudi Arabia
do not therefore conclude that we are far has warned against it, as has Mexico with
behind them in this area. regard to Central America.
N ow let us turn it around and construct a In fact, it is very lucky for the world that the

1 49
Mass. College of Arl, 1950s

American hostage rescue attempt failed . If it ruling elite controls extraordinarily rich
had succeeded, in spite of the very sharp systems, but where much of the general popula­
conflicts between the Arab states and Iran, the tion lives in poverty. This is a very dangerous
Arabs probably would have supported Iran and unstable situation and may explode at any
against any measures taken by the United time.
States. We might have seen a great political Another respect in which the New Cold War
explosion in the oil-producing regions, one that is likely to be like the old one is in its focus on
might have brought industrial civilization to its the Middle E ast. When the Truman Doctrine •
knees . and the Marshall Plan were announced, the
The next time around , i f the United States focus of attention was really not on Europe,
resorts to mili tary action , that may happen . It is There was a fear that the war in Greece and the
a very unstable region. In Saudi Arabia, for instability of Turkey would spill over into the
example, there have been a series of coup Middle East, the locus of the major resources
attempts in the past years. There is a great deal of energy . This was the earliest version of the
of unrest in these countries where a very small Domino Theory. Presently, concern over

1 50
Southwest Asia is also oriented toward the So, as I have said, it is right to pay attention
Middle East, which remains the major source to nuclear holocaust, which is a great potential
of relatively cheap energy for the world . Any danger, but it is even more right to pay atten­
threat to US domination of the oil-producing tion to the daily violence which is being
• areas could lead to an explosive international committed as a consequence of policies we
conflict . This is one of the most persistent and follow all the time . These are the things that
most dangerous continuities between the old should be at the forefront of our attention
Cold War and the new Cold War. when we consider the significance of the New
Although it is important and right to stress Cold War .
the dangers of nuclear war within the context of
US interventionism, I do not want to end this
talk without saying something about the world References
that has been created within the Cold War
system. One ought to think about the perman­ Jan Black , United States Penetration of Brazil, University
ent costs of these systems of repression that are of Pennsylvania Press, 1 977
Fred Block, Origins oj International Economic Disorder,
developing. This is sometimes harder to grasp
University of California Press, 1 977
than the danger of a terminal nuclear war.
Noam Chomsky, For Reasons of State, Pantheon Books,
There are countless examples. 1 973
A recent one that I ran across was a report Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, Political Economy
buried in the Living Section of the Christian oj Human Rights, South End Press, 1 979
Thomas Franck and Edward Weisband, Word Politics,
Science Mon itor. I t says that almost
Oxford University Press, 1 97 1
200,000 , 000 children throughout the world are Frank Holtzman, "Are the Soviets Really Outspending the
slaving away, often in dismal poverty, most of US on Defense , " International Security, Spring 1 980
them in the " free world . " This article was Henry Kissinger, A merican Foreign Policy, Norton, 1 974
based on a study of child labor by the London­ . Gabriel Kolko, Politics oj War, Random House, 1 968
Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, Limits oj Power, Harper and
based antislavery society. Children have been
Row, 1 972
maimed in India in order to become more effec­ Penny Lernoux, Cry oj the People, Doubleday, 1 980
tive beggars, sold to work under appalling Laurence Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust,
conditions in Thailand, and turned into chattel Monthly Review Press, 1 977
slaves at the age of three in Latin America. Holly Sklar, ed . , Trilateralism, South End Press, 1 980
"Soviet Geopolitical Momentum: Myth or Menace, "
Latin America is singled out as the area in
Defense Monitor, January 1 980, Center for Defense
which child labor will be harder to eradicate Information, Washington, D . C .
than in any other part of the world. In countries Robert Tucker, "The Purposes o f American Power, "
with large Indian populations, such as Bolivia, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1 980-8 1

fill girls as young as three years old are adopted by


white families; they are made sexually available
to the sons in the family and not allowed to NOAM CHOMSKY is the author of numerous
marry, and the children they conceive become books on linguistics and on con temporary
virtual chattels themselves. This is only a part politics. His recent Political Economy of
of the general pattern of atrocity which results Human Rights (with Edward Herman, South
from this system of intervention within the End Press, 1979) gives an extensive o verview of
pretense of international conflict. US policy to ward Third World countries.

151
·B E YO N D T H E
V I E T NAM SY N D ROM E
Re n ewed U S I nte rve n ti o n i s m
i n t h e Th i rd W o r l d

Michael Klare

Sometime this spring, the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) will conduct the first full-scale
test of America's reconstituted apparatus for military intervention in the Third World.
Several thousand soldiers of the crack 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB) will be
flown from Twenty-Nine Palms, California, to Somalia or Oman, where they will pick up
their heavy equipment from supply ships "pre-positioned" in the Indian Ocean area, and
then participate in several weeks of desert combat maneuvers. Accompanying the marines
will be several squadrons of A-6, F-4, and AV-8 fighter planes , plus hundreds of specialists
in military logistics, communications, and intelligence.
This force is considered the "spearhead" of the RDF, and would be the first sent into
combat should Washington decide to invade the Middle East. And while the Iranian hostage
crisis no longer provides the pretext for such action , it is not impossible that this force will be
used in some other military venture in the Middle East - especially if the current Iraq-Iran
:.. war spreads to other countries of the Persian Gulf.
If US forces go into combat in the Persian Gulf area, they will find an elaborate
intervention apparatus already in place:
• In July, the Pentagon deployed in the Indian Ocean seven cargo ships filled with arms,

ammunition, fuel, and supplies to serve as a " floating arsenal" for any RDF forces sent to
the region .
• The United States has the largest war fleet ever assembled in the Indian Ocean, with two

1 53

Dorien Grunbaum
aircraft carriers equipped with tactical nuclear the RDF is exclusively aimed at the Middle
weapons, plus 1 ,800 Marines aboard amphib­ East, since the US faces grave threats through­
ious assault ships. out the Third World . " In a world of disputes
• Furthermore, the AWACS radar patrol and violence , " he said on January 29, 1 980,
planes now in Saudi Arabia are designed to "we cannot afford to go abroad unarmed . " •
serve as an airborne command post, capable of What explains this dramatic expansion of US �

housing an entire battle staff with all the intervention capabilities? The official explan­
communications facilities needed to direct the ation, of course, is that US officials are
entire RDF force in the region. responding to popular pressures for a tougher
• Finally, to assure effective support of any military posture in response to the taking of U S
large RDF force sent to the region , the United hostages in Iran and the Soviet invasion of
States has established basing agreements with Afghanistan. This explanation, however, is
the governments of Oman, Kenya, Somalia, faulty in two respects. First, the decision to
and Egypt. US technicians are already deployed reconstitute US intervention capabilities was
at these bases, and the Pentagon is expected to made long before the Iranian and Afghanistan
spend several billion dollars over the next few crises; the RDF, for instance, was first auth­
years to convert these facilities into full-scale orized in August 1 977, two years before the
support bases for the RDF. hostage takeover. Second, the decision was
All of these activities suggest a major effort made secretly. and at highest elite levels , at a
to enhance US intervention capabilities in the time when the public still adhered to the so-called
Middle East. While no one can predict when " Vietnam Syndrome" (as reflected by the
and how this apparatus will be used, I believe secret White House decision to ready US forces
the US buildup has attained a momentum for intervention in Yemen in February 1 979, ten
which will not diminish until some crisis or months prior to the Afghanistan invasion) . I f
provocation triggers its actual use, leading the official explanation i s faulty, what then is
possibly to another Vietnam in the Middle East the real reason?
area. To answer, I think we have to go back to the
But while the Middle East is the most likely end of the Vietnam war and look at the struggle
locale of a new Vietnam, it is not the only place that emerged in the foreign policy establish­
which is receiving attention of US war planners. ment over the course of US policy in the post­
At MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, home of the Vietnam world . Although all policymakers
RDF, strategists are working feverishly to agreed that the United States must maintain its
complete computerized plans for US inter­ leadership of the capitalist world , there were
vention in many Third World areas, including profound differences in defining the threats to
Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and that leadership and in forging the strategies for .1
Southeast Asia. The RDF itself, now with overcoming those threats.
200,000 active-duty troops and 1 00,000 On one side in this contest are the people I
reservists, is designed to fight in any Third call the Traders, the leaders of the big multi­
World locales where US economic interests are national corporations and the international
threatened by popular upheavals . Indeed, out­ banks. This group believes that the greatest
going secretary of defense Harold Brown has threat to US supremacy is disunity among the
often warned that it is a mistake to assume that advanced capitalist powers in facing the

1 54
growing economic nationalism of the Third were given top positions in the Ford and Carter
World, and that the appropriate strategy for Administrations. Under their leadership, the
dealing with this threat is to form a united front United States has pursued a noninterventionist
of the " trilateral " powers of Western Europe, military policy for most of the 1 970s, staying
• Japan, and the United States and to coopt out of conflicts in Iran , Cambodia, Angola,
Third World elites through token reform of the Ethiopia, and Nicaragua.
world economic order. In case of conflict, the But in the past two years the Trader position
Traders seek to avoid direct intervention by U S has crumbled and the Trader leadership has
forces but prefer t o rely o n " surrogate gen­ been driven out of Washington by the Prus­
darmes" like President Sadat of Egypt to police sians, who now control US foreign policy and
critical areas . will continue to do so for the foreseeable
Opposing the Traders is the group I call the future.
Prussians, composed of the military leadership, The Prussian takeover is due, I believe, to
the intelligence agencies, arms manufacturers, several key factors :
• First, the Traders, because of their own
and the Cold War intellectuals who were
disgraced by Vietnam and hope to make a anticommunism, were never willing to contest
comeback through cultivation of a new Cold the inflated estimates of Soviet military power
War environment. This group believes that the which were the Prussians' key weapon in the
greatest threat to US supremacy is the growing struggle to win political support . Although
political upheaval in the Third World coupled both sides know the Soviet Union is number
with growing Soviet support for radical Third two and slipping , the Traders refused to
World regimes , and that the appropriate U S ch!lllenge assertions that they are number one,
strategy is to resume its role a s world policeman and thus allowed the alarmist Prussian view to
and to build up its nuclear arsenal in order to dominate the press , the public, and Congress .
• Second, the Trader position rested, to a
discourage Soviet involvement in future Third
World conflicts. very great extent , on the use of surrogate
At first, the Traders won the upper hand in gendarmes, especially Iran, to protect US
this contest, and top Trader leaders - e.g. interests in critical Third World areas . With the
Cyrus Vance, Paul Warnke, Andrew Young - collapse of the Shah's regime in January 1 979,
therefore, the whole strategy of using surro­
gates collapsed with him, thus undermining the
credibility of the Trader position.
• Finally, and most important, there is a

growing recognition that the world capitalist


system is unable to provide Third World
.. countries with the First World standard of
living they've been promised, and that there­
fore Third World masses will increasingly turn
to radical solutions to their continued poverty
and backwardness - thus threatening
America's privileged economic position. And
because Third World elites, in the wake of the

155
Shah's and Somoza's demise, no longer appear • The Fiscal Year 1982 military budget, the

able to control popular movements with their biggest in US peacetime or wartime history ,
own repressive capabilities - no matter how which places great emphasis on the RDF and
elaborately aided by US arms and advisers - so-called mobility forces designed to carry U S
American leaders now believe it is necessary for troops to likely sites of conflict in the Thir,*
the United States to dispense with surrogates World.
and to reaffirm the traditional US role as global • Reconstitution of US counterinsurgency

policeman. This new stance was best described programs, as evidenced by stepped-up US
by Gen . Maxwell D. Taylor, architect of U S military aid to internal-security forces in El
intervention in Vietnam , i n Foreign Affairs Salvador, Honduras, Thailand, the Philip­
magazine: "As the leading affluent ' have' pines , and Indonesia. Soon to come : an
power, we may expect to have to fight to administration effort to repeal all human-rights
protect our national valuables against envious restrictions of the 1 970s and to restore US aid
,
'have-nots . " programs for Third World police and intelli­
As I suggested earlier, this stance was origin­ gence agencies. Also to come: stepped-up
ally adopted by US elites in February 1 979, covert operations by the CIA, along with the
following the fall of the Shah , and now use of Green Berets in counter-guerrilla
dominates US foreign and military policy. operations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Thus, although from 1 975 to 1 979 the Warsaw • A massive expansion of A merica 's nuclear

Pact threat to NATO was cited as the principal arsenal, which I believe is designed to intimi­
rationale for increased US military spending, date Moscow from involvement in any U S­
now the threat of what ex-secretary Brown calls initiated conflict in the Third World .
" international turbulence" is the driving force • Ultimately, of course, the most dramatic

behind the US military buildup. and momentous outcome of this buildup will be
Evidence of this new emphasis abounds: an actual US intervention in some Third World
• First , the creation of RDF, a force designed country. This could come as soon as next month
specifically for military intervention in the if the Persian Gulf war spreads, or US forces
Third World . Originally set at 100,000 troops, intervene in the Salvadorean guerrilla war, but at
the RDF has now increased to 300,000 soldiers this point it appears certain to me that U S
backed by several aircraft carriers plus several leaders are committed t o an exercise o f military
squadrons of B-52 bombers in the so-called power sooner or later to demonstrate America's
Strategic Projection Force. intent to defeat future challenges to the existing
• Recent US military exercises, such as world economic system. This commitment is
Operation Gallant Eagle (a combined Army­ demonstrated, I believe, by the speed with
Marine exercise in the Mojave Desert), and which the RDF is being constituted, as well by •
MABEX-8 1 (a full-scale test of the 7th MAB's an explicit description of the RDF as a first­
rapid mobilization capabilities), designed to strike, preemptive assault unit. As noted by
test the RDF's capacity for intervention in former presidential adviser Zbigniew Brzez­
Third World areas. inski, the RDF "will give us the capability to
• Registration for the draft , along with plans respond quickly, effectively, and even pre­
to move toward actual reinstatement o f emptively in the parts of the world where our
conscription. vital interests might be engaged and where there

1 56
1 57
are no permanently stationed American What will all this mean for us? I think the
forces. " This view was recently reaffirmed by consequences are pretty obvious:
Lt . Gen. Paul X. Kelley, commander of the • A new Cold War, to overcome the final

RDF, in testimony before the House Budget vestiges of the Vietnam Syndrome and to
Committee. mobilize public support for the expansion o.
But, while US leaders are avariciously America's interventionary capabilities.
looking for some Third World conflict in which • Staggering increases in military spending,
to intervene, their hopes for a rapid victory may reaching $200 to $225 billion in Fiscal Year
be shattered by developments beyond their 1 982, along with massive cuts in social and
control. For the world is a very different place education programs .
than it was in the 1 950s, when the sight of a few • Reinstatement of the draft, perhaps as
hundred Marines was thought sufficient to force soon as 1 982. And, linked to that,
any guerrilla organization into surrender or • Decreased tolerance for dissent on foreign

annihilation. As a result of the international policy issues, as demonstrated by right-wing


arms trade - in which the United States is the attacks on New Left institutions such as the
number one supplier - many Third World Institute for Policy Studies and talk of resur­
armies are as well equipped as those in NATO, recting the House Un-American Activities
and their officers are as well-trained as Committee (HUAC).
graduates of West Point and other US military • Finally, increased risk of us involvement

academies. (Between 1 950 and 1 979 the United in another Vietnam which would be far more
States trained over a half-million foreign costly and destructive than the last one, and
military officers and combat personnel. ) Thus, which could easily lead to thermonuclear
as one Pentagon official noted, " When you annihilation.
begin looking at the mid-1 980s , we aren't
talking about barbarians armed with spears. What are the chances all this will come
Because Third World armies have so much about? Clearly, much of it is already underway
advanced military equipment, we can't stabilize - a new Cold War, higher military spending,
an area just by showing the flag . " registration for the draft, and so forth. But
This reality i s what explains the sharp there are some mitigating forces which could
increase in RDF strength from 100,000 to prevent a complete catastrophe. These include:
• Opposition of US allies in Europe, which
300,000 men. And because even this force may
not be sufficient to truimph in some future fear the destabilizing effects on a US inter­
Third World conflict, Pentagon leaders are vention in the Middle East, and the economic
talking openly of the use of tactical nuclear costs and risks of a new arms race with the
weapons to protect outnumbered US exped­ Russians. •
• Possible countermoves by the Traders,
itionary forces. And because Russian troops and
advisers are located in many potential Third who, while largely defeated, can still mobilize
World conflict zones, it is possible that a US substantial elite pressure on Washington .
intervention could produce a confrontation • Possible resistance within the US military
with Moscow and, once nuclear weapons are itself, when soldiers (especially blacks and
used, escalate into a full-scale thermonuclear Hispanics) who j oined up to learn a trade and
conflict. escape unemployment are ordered to risk their

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