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Reblogged:Right Should Reject Marxist 'Class War' Framing

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The title of a recent New York Post column by Glenn Reynolds makes the following claim:

America's elites are waging class war on workers and small biz.
I am sorry to have to report that this isn't a case of an editor misunderstanding the piece or simply giving it a bad title.

I have always disliked the use by conservatives of the term elites: It has always smacked of rabble-rousing to me, and it stoops to the same tactic the left has practiced for decades: smearing opponents by means of unusable anti-concepts, such as extremism -- rather than naming issues and appealing to reason with principled arguments.

Extreme and elite, in normal usage, refer to degree, with the difference being that elite actually means superior in some good or advantageous way.

But what does it mean in the way conservatives have started using it? Reynolds provides the following clues:
This word is MIA from the current political debate. (Image by Kristina V, via Unsplash, license.)
Universities, and especially the woke parts of universities, speak of race more than class. And as the Smith incident illustrates, they seldom extend the exquisite sensitivities displayed on matters of race to questions of class discrimination. They barely admit such questions exist.

And yet class war rages, even if people don't want to talk about it. It's not the Soviet-style class war, with "capitalists" on one side and "workers and peasants" on the other, but rather the educated "gentry class" ... making life tough for the working class. [bold added]
While that settles in, let's look at part of how the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand analyzed the term extremism:
Observe the technique involved... It consists of creating an artificial, unnecessary, and (rationally) unusable term, designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concepts -- a term which sounds like a concept, but stands for a "package-deal" of disparate, incongruous, contradictory elements taken out of any logical conceptual order or context, a "package-deal" whose (approximately) defining characteristic is always a non-essential. This last is the essence of the trick.

Let me remind you that the purpose of a definition is to distinguish the things subsumed under a single concept from all other things in existence; and, therefore, their defining characteristic must always be that essential characteristic which distinguishes them from everything else.

So long as men use language, that is the way they will use it. There is no other way to communicate. And if a man accepts a term with a definition by non-essentials, his mind will substitute for it the essential characteristic of the objects he is trying to designate... Thus the real meaning of the term will automatically replace the alleged meaning.
In the case of extremism, Rand considers what the term looks like it means and actually means, given the examples for it of the Communist Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birch Society:
If a man hears the term "extremism" and is offered the innocuous figure of the John Birch Society as an example, he will observe that its best-known characteristic is "conservatism," and he will conclude that "conservatism" is evil-as evil as the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan. ("Conservatism" is itself a loose, undefined, badly misleading term-but in today's popular usage it is taken to mean "pro-capitalism.")
So what are the "elites?"

Restricting myself to Reynold's piece, I think it is fair to include the following verbatim examples within his conception of "the elites:"
  1. America's upper classes;
  2. wealthy woke activists;
  3. wealth white activists;
  4. Universities, and especially the woke parts of universities;
  5. Joe Biden;
  6. Barack Obama; and
  7. Hillary Clinton.
The general sense would seem to be wealthy or educated people who promote egalitarianism, and there is indeed a segment of the population that can and should be recognized as such.

Egalitarians are in charge, on the rise, and in a position to do some serious damage to America. Someone needs to defeat them, which means someone needs to find a way to defeat them.

And yet all the right can do is essentially complain that they're in charge and appeal to those who aren't as a class rather than as individuals to whom egalitarianism has already proved dangerous and is an even greater long-term threat. (Indeed, they should go on the offensive and work to help even some of those who have been duped by the egalitarians see the error of their ways. )

When the left resorted to the term extremism back in the sixties, it was because it needed to hide the fact that it was anti-capitalist while it managed to discredit pro-capitalists. This was necessary, because -- as America's founding amply showed, when the issues in the struggle between liberty versus tyranny are laid out openly, the side favoring freedom clearly holds the moral high ground, and has a chance to win.

I am not a conservative or a mind reader, and I won't put words into anyone's mouth, but I am left wondering why conservatives are using this term. Is it because they don't understand how to make a case for freedom? Is it because they foolishly think that appealing to people who feel powerless as The Little Guy will save us from the left better than arming them with pro-liberty ideas? Or do they simply want power to "go big" on wealth transfers and the like, as Donald Trump might put it?

Is that it? Do conservatives now simply think they can "run things" in a planned economy better than the left?

My best guess is that the people speaking of "class warfare" either don't how to fight back (i.e., through better, pro-liberty ideas) or don't care, because they reject principles as such, and so can't conceive of making a rational, moral, ideological appeal for liberty. In such a case, it would not be unfair to wonder if elites mean intellectuals as such, or at least people who don't kowtow to "tradition" out of blind faith or conformity. I am afraid I am on the right track: Conservatives frequently rail against "ideology" as such or speak of the "secular-left," as if rejecting religion necessarily entails a rejection of America.

I am hardly "woke" and am pro-capitalist. I am also well-educated and atheist. I bet there are conservatives out there who will damn me as a member of the elite.

Whatever the reason, it is worth considering what Ayn Rand had to say about the whole idea of class warfare:
It makes no difference whether government controls allegedly favor the interests of labor or business, of the poor or the rich, of a special class or a special race: the results are the same. The notion that a dictatorship can benefit any one social group at the expense of others is a worn remnant of the Marxist mythology of class warfare, refuted by half a century of factual evidence. All men are victims and losers under a dictatorship; nobody wins -- except the ruling clique.
The fact that we are not yet under a dictatorship is a non-essential here: The fact is that neither conservatives nor the left are fighting for individual liberty. To the degree that the government runs everything, the above applies, anyway. And if a significant pro-liberty movement does not begin to rise soon, we will eventually slip into a dictatorship.

Whatever the reasons for claiming that there is a "class war" going on, anyone who says this is allowing the Marxist left to mischaracterize the so-called "culture wars" and worse, to help the left pretend it isn't waging a war against the individual.

And to do that, as Reynolds might put it, will "wind up harming" all Americans "whether accidentally or intentionally."

Since we are all individuals, I can't imagine why anyone would not see that as the broadest group of people to appeal to. Given that, I also wonder about any political movement that isn't taking care to understand what is in the interests of every individual and to begin appealing to us for our support for that thing, liberty, rather than setting itself up as just another aggrieved gang looking for help from the government, and imagining that it can get it by taking it over.

-- CAV

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