'Democrats abandoned the working class': Noam Chomsky explains why 'vicious class war' on American workers prevails

'Democrats abandoned the working class': Noam Chomsky explains why 'vicious class war' on American workers prevails
Noam Chomsky in November 2020, Wikimedia Commons

During an interview for the democratic socialist publication Jacobin, Noam Chomsky addressed some of the many challenges the working class is facing in the United States and other countries in 2021.

The interview was conducted earlier this year by journalists Ana Kasparian (best known for hosting "The Young Turks" with Cenk Uygur) and Nando Vila for Jacobin's Weekends YouTube show and was published as a Q&A article on June 10. Chomsky covered a lot of ground during the interview, warning that fighting for the working class is a never-ending battle.

"Pressure on the Democrats to move to the left — like the kind of thing that (Rep. Alexandria) Ocasio-Cortez's Squad and others are doing — can have an effect, but it's got to have a lot of popular action behind it," Chomsky told Kasparian and Vila. "If the troops go home, the party's going to move to the right. There's one force that's relentless: the business classes are Marxists, and they're fighting a vicious class war all the time. They never stop. If the rest of the population leaves the struggle, you know what's going to happen. In fact, we've seen 40 years of it."

The left-wing author slammed Democrats as well as Republicans during the interview, stressing that Democrats moved away from New Deal economic policies during the centrist presidencies of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and Bill Clinton during the 1990s.

"By the late 1970s — the late Carter years — the Democrats basically told the working class, 'We don't have any interest in you,'" Chomsky said. "The last gasp of pro-labor activity in the Democratic Party was the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act in 1978. Carter didn't veto it, but he watered it down so it was toothless. From that point on, the Democrats essentially abandoned the working class, aside from a few gestures here and there."

Chomsky added, "When Clinton came, NAFTA was rammed through in secret over the objections of the labor movement. They weren't even informed until the last minute of what the framework was: investor rights agreements…. It turned out that under Clinton's NAFTA, corporations were able to break organizing efforts at a very high level — about 50% of them were broken simply by threats to move the enterprise to Mexico."

A blistering critic of former President Donald Trump, Chomsky argued that although Trump's policies catered to the ultra-rich, his White working class voters reasoned that at least he pretended to like them.

Chomsky told Kasparian and Vila, "Where can you go? You can go to the guys who claim that they're going to bring back traditional America and get you jobs. They're not going to do it, of course, but they at least claim to. You take a look at Trump voters; they have been carefully studied. A lot of them say, 'Yeah, we know he's a jerk. He's not going to do anything, but at least he says that he likes us'…. A lot of working people think, 'Well, at least Trump says something nice to us.'"

Nonetheless, Chomsky believes that Bernie Sanders has had a very positive influence on the Democratic Party. Although Sanders didn't receive the Democratic presidential nomination in either 2016 or 2020, Sanders noted that his movement lives on in progressive Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez and other members of The Squad.

"The Sanders campaign was a remarkable success," Chomsky told Kasparian and Vila. "Within a couple of years, Sanders and others working alongside him have managed to shift the range of issues that are at the center of attention very far toward the progressive side. That's quite significant. They did so with no funding, no corporate support, no media support — the media became mildly friendly to Sanders after he lost the nomination, not before. Before, it was kind of like what happened to (the Labour Party's Jeremy) Corbyn in the UK: powerful forces were determined to stop anything to the left of the most mild social democracy."

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