I am often baffled by leftist/marxist strategy:they confess to the complete failure of their own strategy but then turn around and reaffirm the whole set of cliches that have fallen out of date, assuming they ever had a valid moment.
The problem, among others, is to cite the fiction of the working class as the revolutionary core of an historical dynamic. That entity is a fiction of marxist sloganeering. The idea is inspiring but a close look shows it is vacuous. An anyone who has shuddered at the grossness of the coopted Democratic Party can be forgiven for wishing revolutionary salvation from the working class. But the idea is illusory, surely. The working class, which has almost disappeared into china, is close to a fiction in the american context, unless we use the term properly to refer to the all those bound up in the capitalist dynamic as passive persons, victims of the implicit exploitation and domination. And that working class such as it is shows mostly the same coopted mentality as the defunct Dem party. The ‘working class’ is simply not revolutionary at this point. I have observed the working class at close range in dozens of economic contexts of the american economy and have never met a working class revolutionary.
A broader concept is needed: that of the mixture of classes that are dominated by capitalist dynamics. Taken in this way leftists would think more accurately about what they are doing and realize they have a truly huge base beyond the now artificial concept of a working class of the kind that existed in an earlier phase of capitalism. A huge majority exists there that can be shown their subject/object domination in an economic system that barters their real freedom in a system of mind control and propaganda.
This larger ‘class’ is a mixture of classes as a set of individuals who have come to realize their position and are open to either reformist or revolutionary action. The challenge of marxist canon followers to reformism is often well taken but the fantasy of some working class revolutionary party is the fatal flaw of all such movements. Most of the revolutionary left is middle class. So start there, not thinking into terms of class so much as in terms of individuals. Invoking the working class is a often a marxist vice that allows delay, doing nothing ‘until’ and constitutes a form of ideological paralysis in reverse.
Radicalizing the working class is then an important possibility, but that is not the same as saying the working class and class struggle is the driver of history, etc, etc… A socialist society needs to be one that unifies all classes in a new universal class and the idea of the worker control of such a society makes no sense and unwittingly informs the far larger majority they are nobodies with no place in future socialist societies. Marxist muddle leaves that vast majority even where receptive to socialist thinking with a paranoid sense they are simply going to be liquidated as not the ‘working class’.
This is all further complicated by the fact that the US has never had a truly mass working-class political party, let alone a mass socialist party. What we do have, however, is a tradition of both left and right populism. In recent years, this has been expressed through the twisted wreckage of the two main capitalist parties. All of this makes American politics particularly bewildering for those without a Marxist compass to guide them.