I spoke recently at a conference where I was followed to the podium by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who, among other things, railed against the instigation by the left of “class warfare”, pointing out that doing so is little more than singling out an unpopular minority group, (i.e., the rich), for higher taxation. (Though the minority group that happens to have the largest share of the item that is the war’s objective). Tucker said we are seeing an ever shrinking number of people paying an ever greater portion of the taxes. (Though they also are the ever shrinking number of people acquiring an ever greater portion of the wealth).
There is little that matches the artfulness in waving off criticism of the widening income gap as “class warfare”. And there is little that matches the gullibility of those who follow along. There seems to be agreement all around that action to change the situation, for the poor to improve their lot at the expense of the rich, is an affront to civil society. I am not picking sides in this, but I believe such a “war” can be justified, and indeed ultimately is inevitable.
It is hard to discuss class warfare without referring back to the industrial revolution. Then class warfare centered on the length of the working day. A tightly defined working day only appeared with the advent of the industrial revolution. Before then laborers worked when they needed money, and then quit for a time once they fulfilled their needs. But regimentation and a dependable workforce became necessary once there was machinery to run and capital invested, and so with industrialization came an enforced workday. So it is not surprising that Marx stated the central battle of class warfare at the time in terms of the working day:
The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one. On the other hand…the laborer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day to one of definite normal duration. There is here, therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides. Hence is it that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., the working-class. – Marx, Das Kapital
Marx begins with an acknowledgement of the perception of rights on the part of both the capitalist and the laborer, but then argues that the question of the length of the working day cannot be solved by an appeal to rights, but only through class struggle, wherein “force” decides between “equal rights”. (Force can mean physical force, but can also mean the force of the political process).
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