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Corporate Coup D'tat

Author(s): Lou Turner


Source: The Black Scholar, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 2014), pp. 30-46
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Corporate Coup Dtat


lou turner

The relationship between socialism and


democracy in the epoch of imperialism
brings forth another application of Hegelian
dialecticsmanifoldness, many-sidedness,
totality. . . . Lenin demands a many-sided
investigation of a given social phenomenon
in its development. Unless you see it in
its development, he warns that dialectics
is transformed into sophistry.
Raya Dunayevskaya to CLR James,
July 25, 1949

[O]ut of the economic crisis of the last


great depression fascism-corporativism
did indeed emerge, develop and consolidate itself into its most advanced form
here in Amerika. In the process, socialist
consciousness suffered some very severe
setbacks. Unlike Angela [Davis], I do not
believe that this realization leads to a defeatist view of history. . . . To contend that
corporativism has emerged and advanced
is not to say that it has triumphed. We are
not defeated. Pure fascism, absolute totalitarianism, is not possible.
George Jackson, Blood in My Eye

[E]very class struggle is a political struggle.


Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto

Privatizing the State


Driven by the contradictory requirements
of capitalist crises, Americas ruling classes
have taken to instigating microcoups dtat
against themselves, against their own poli-

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THEBLACKSCHOLAR

cies and politics, against the raison dtre


of their own state. Republican policies and
positions championed by neoliberal Democrats are unceremoniously overthrown, all
the while throwing the entire bourgeois
economy into chaos and profaning the bourgeois state that achieved the historic first of
putting a black man at its head. One such
agent of chaos or ruling-class putschist is the
reactionary corporate advocacy group ALEC
(American Legislative Exchange Council).
A public-private cabal of conservative
politicians, far-right policy wonks with unsavory ties to fascist demagogues, upstanding corporate citizens like Coca-Cola, Pepsi,
Kraft, and Coors, and billionaire oligarchs,
like the oil-rich Koch brothers, ALEC was
founded in the 1980s by conservative palarounder with fascists Paul Weyrich. Since
the 2008 election of Barack Obama, ALEC
stepped up its campaign to roll back voting
rights laws at the state rather than federal
level1 by providing Republican legislators
with the funding and legislative templates for
anti-democratic bills to be passed in Republican-controlled state legislatures. Where

Lou Turner is academic adviser and curriculum coordinator for the Department
of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He is coauthor of frantz fanon, Soweto
and American Black Thought. He was a
colleague of the late Hegelian-Marxist
philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya and has
written extensively on fanonian, Marxian,
and Hegelian dialectics. He is currently
cowriting Introduction to Critical Black
Studies with Sundiata Cha-Jua.

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the Heritage foundation, also founded by


Paul Weyrich, in 1973, made itself a conduit
for neocons to exert their influence on the
executive, judicial, and legislative branches
of the federal government, since the 1990s,
ALEC has pursued this strategy at state and
local levels.
The success of the 2010 electoral backlash against Obama affirmed ALECs localism strategy, giving momentum to a host of
corporativist coups dtat, from Republican
union-busting opposition to collective bargaining in Wisconsin, to reactionary antiimmigration laws in Arizona and Alabama,
to the wholesale takeover of local governments in Michigan, to an onslaught of anti
voting rights legislation passed in more than
half the states in the Union leading up to the
2012 election.
Historically, the localism of states promulgation of anti-black laws was challenged
for a generation by postwar civil rights
movements that compelled the whole federalist system of centralized and state powers
to liberalize American political rights. In a
return to the nations Jim Crow/apartheid political past, ALECs strategy of micro-coups
dtat targets state legislatures. According
to former ALEC executive director Kathleen
Teague Rothschild, In Congress, youve got
only one legislative body and they will either
pass or kill your bill. In the states, if youre trying to get banking deregulation passed and
youve lost in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas,
its not a total failure. you may well win in
Arizona, California and New york that year.
youve got 50 shots.2 ALECs strategy is to
have corporations like Enron, Amoco, Chevron, Shell, Texaco, Coors Brewing, Koch Industries, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, Na-

Lou Turner

tional Energy group, Philip Morris, and R. J.


Reynolds3 underwrite public policy drafted
by ALEC staff and promoted as model legislation by ALEC political operatives (lobbyists and public officials) in state legislatures.
What is at issue, however, is not another expos of the vast right-wing conspiracy that
even Hillary Clinton warned of, but instead
unearthing the historical material conditions
that are necessary and sufficient to make this
vast, synchronized coup dtat against black
political rights possible.

The Postindustrial Security State


Despite the truism that the U.S. economy
is more integrated into the global economy
than at any time in its history, until the 2008
2009 great Recession, the expansive,
deep, and permanent economic inequality
of world capitalist society never stood so
naked for all to see. Capitalist restructuring
under way since 1975 has altered labor markets, deindustrialized manufacturing bases,
and marginalized urban areas where black,
Latino, Asian, and working-class whites
live, concentrating permanent joblessness
and underemployment into the U.S. social
structure. With no other stage of capitalist
accumulation have the local economic and
political forces that structure American poverty been so powerfully reinforced by global
economic pressures, a phenomenon, until
now, reserved for the developing world.
globalized capital is the competitive impulse arising from the production relations of
computer-integrated manufacturing and the
informating of credit and financial markets.
Where formerly the opposites of competition

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and monopoly coexisted, they are now completely integrated. The contradictory logics of
this stage of capitalist accumulation exposes
the desperate pursuit of ever-dwindling
global market share and profitable rates of
growth of surplus-value by every capitalist
left in the predatory game. Politically, this
exposes the disappearance of any difference
between bourgeois democracy and authoritarianism. When cutthroat competition and
unfettered speculation in other peoples
money reaches todays global proportions,4
a new era of fierce antagonisms breaks upon
the world. In other words, when the degenerate features of monopoly and state capitalism find their anachronistic, authoritarian
expression in narrow nationalism and religious fundamentalism, even bourgeois democracy ceases to be integral to bourgeois
politics. Capitalist restructuring becomes
inseparable from political retrogression, repression, and social surveillance. In fact, the
former depends upon the latter.
A new authoritarianism has grown unchecked behind the great show of bourgeois
democracy. Americas far-right electorate, a
racialized white cohort that enjoys exclusive
socioeconomic entitlement, is aroused by
the stimuli of fear and self-interest borne of
socioeconomic instability. Doubly shocked
by the 2008 great economic recession and
the shock and awe of its political concomitant, the election of the first black president,
they experienced as profound a perturbation
to their collective spirit as they felt on the
day of the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001. Confused and disoriented by the sudden awareness of the nations demographic
shift, this Right white America is now the
other America, its faith in the security it

derived from controlling the nations power


structure profoundly shaken.
Ever faithful to the free market gospel of
self-correcting equilibrium, neoliberal Democrats, for their part, made common cause
with the real apostates of capitalism, Wall
Street Republicans. The neoliberal lesson
that up-and-coming black pols like former
Newark mayor and now New Jersey senator
Cory Booker took from Obamas politics is
the political benefit of partnering private equity and corporate capital with public-sector
(state) securitization of private risk. The neoliberal politics that privilege the instrumentality of the states contradictory guarantees
of securitizing private capital while giving
lip service to protecting civil society from
the barbaric deformations that capitalism
is congenitally prone to as a result of transient difficulties5 is the oxygen that breathed
political life into the walking-dead coalition
of far-right social conservatives, Wall Street
Republicans, and the Republican political establishment in their campaign to stop
Obama. The Obama administrations political and policy agenda has since the 2010
midterm elections remained locked down
by a political opposition that draws its force
from the very neoliberal conditions it fosters.
It is no mystery that the perverse inequality produced by capitalism is a natural outgrowth of its drive to accumulate wealth on
the institutional basis of the states securitization of the inviolable rights of private capital. Driven by its acquisitive impulse, capital
secures the leverage of its agents only where
its security in doing so is guaranteed by the
state.
The threat to the last vestiges of the democratic franchise held by the propertyless

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debtor classes6 that comes from the inequality produced by capitalism is so egregious
that the state must mitigate the dehumanizing effects of the destruction to public and
private life wrought by it. Even at the risk of
provoking social revolt and instability, the
business classes, in their calamitous pursuit
of unfettered capital accumulation, recklessly abrogate the social contract between
the classes that assured them the social stability required for their dominance. Through
the instrumentality of its regulatory apparatus, the state must appear to perform its
disciplinary function of reining in the unfettered, destabilizing, self-enriching practices
of the capitalist classes fostered by its (the
states) previous self-deregulation. Owing to
its regulatory policies lack of any serious
punitive sanctions, the state resorts to moral
suasion to convince members of the business classes to voluntarily self-regulate, all
the while directing the real thrust of its moral
appeal to austerity and self-discipline at the
American people.
It is no accident that the most intractable
contradictions between democracy and the
authoritarianism of the security state get
played out in poor, working-class, African
American communities, contradictions that
exist because the economic conditions that
nourish them persist. What historically persists in the South, even after the civil rights
movement, and pervades northern inner cities in the form of police brutality and a violent urban poverty, is only possible in a fascist state or in a democratic one in which the
economic basis is so powerful that it overrides all democratic conventions. Black political economic oppression is woven into the
very fabric of Americas capitalist structures.

Lou Turner

Permanent technological revolutions


and changes in the division of labor have
transformed labor markets and produced
two-tier unemploymentthe official rate
and the unofficial, Depression-era rate of
those who have long since dropped out
of the labor market. Economic growth has
done little to change this. On the contrary,
economic growth and poverty have gotten
so uncoupled as to be in separate worlds.
Restructuring capitalism has meant restructuring poverty. During the halcyon days of
Clinton-era economic growth and government surpluses, the macroeconomics of
increased productivity and national growth
failed to redistribute incomes to the working
classes responsible for the economic expansion. Poverty was not substantially reduced
nor income inequality narrowed. The bermaterialism of the Bush-era ownership society momentarily hid the fact of exploding
social inequality.

Power Analysis
The daily struggles of black folk against
economic marginalization deepen with the
imperative to struggle against political marginalization. The amelioration of one is tied
to the amelioration of the other. However,
in the momentum of the present moment,
the latter (struggle for democracy) becomes
a means for achieving the former (struggle
against capitalist inequality). Instead of juxtaposing the struggle against economic marginalization to the struggle against political
disfranchisement, a position that avoids the
imperative to transform a capitalist system
that is only capable of reproducing social

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inequality, we must recognize that the current onslaught against black voting rights is
a desperate attempt to save a capitalist order
whose survival depends on liquidating the
black mass vanguard of the political forces
that threaten its political strategy of regaining its equilibrium.
Since the 2010 midterm elections, more
than thirty states have ushered in a wellheeled reactionary Republican Party into
state houses across the country. The Rights
calculated assault on black voting rights has
engaged the deceptive method of fashioning
policy rhetoric from the Obama campaign
promise of change with its own empty
promise to create jobs and lower unemployment. Not surprisingly, the reactionary policies of Republican-controlled local power
bases in the states, which are replicated in
the most do-nothing Congress in U.S. history, do not so much contradict the rhetoric
of change that they appropriated from the
Democrats. On the contrary, the new Tea
Partydriven Republican Party, ginned up
by what george Jackson called the fascistcorporativism of a capitalist class undergoing the barbaric deformations of which
Simon Kuznets warned, still had to cloak its
class warfare against the working classes in
the politics of social conservatism. While social conservative opposition to gay marriage
and reproductive rights elicited the most media attention, and the most serious, because
unexpected, challenge came in the form of
an assault on working-class collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, the
conservatives longer-term and more covert
anti-democratic campaign proceeded quietly against black political rights.

Not only is this right-wing assault multifarious, it is coordinated, suggesting a


centralized authority, which former South
Carolina senator Jim DeMint is under the
delusional impression is led by the retooled
Heritage foundation, that he was tapped
to head. Despite the pervasive localism of
American political culture and the centralized political authority that the Republican
Party operates as, whether in a titular role
or as the political executive of the capitalist
class, the two determinations (localism and
centralism) coexist and reinforce each other.
What forced the antivoting rights campaign into the open, as well as the other social conservative campaigns, were the exigencies of time, that is, the compressed time
frame between the 2010 midterm elections,
the 2012 presidential election, and again
the 2014 congressional elections. Because
there is no way that Republican-controlled
state houses and legislatures were unaware
of the blowback their overreaching roll-back
of generations of settled public policy would
elicit, they raced against time to implement
as many policy reversals as possible before
the 2012 elections could realign the balance
of power. yet, rather than slow down, Republican defeats in 2012 only intensified the
frenzied pace with which they now pursue
their backlash agenda. for that very reason,
however, the sheer magnitude of the legislative tsunami that they unleashed effectively
exposed the contours of the greatest disfranchisement and lockdown of civil rights
since the imposition of the Black Codes in
the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow/Apartheid
South, which was federalized in the 1896
Plessy v. Ferguson separate-but-equal Su-

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preme Court decision. We may expect that


challenges to the current legislative lockdown will also end up before the Supreme
Court.
Such ideological overreaches are usually too thoughtless to take the time to find
suitable forms of rhetorical dissemblance to
mask their aims. The ideological dogmatism
of such authoritarian rhetoric is measured by
their
degree of authoritarian reception. . . . The
more dogmatic an utterance, the less leeway permitted between truth and falsehood or good and bad in its reception by
those who comprehend and evaluate it.7

It uses the language at hand even if it


comes from an oppositional movement. So
that voter suppression legislative rhetoric is
couched in the civil rights language of protecting voting rights (sic) and the progressive-era idiom of good governance. The
utilization of civil rights language to suppress civil rights, in this case voting rights,
engages in a form of dissemblance to deflect
criticism. The Rights use of rhetoric to turn
reality upside down, to deflect, distract, and
deceive succeeds because the civil rights
critique is delinked from a critique of capitalism, which the anti-democratic campaign
is meant to serve or restore. [T]he evolution of economic relations inevitably involving the evolution of ideologies, unbalance
the system. [R]acism no longer dares appear
without disguise. . . . Racism, to come back
to America, haunts and vitiates American
culture.8 Hence, the pivotal point is not
found in the Republicans anti-democratic

Lou Turner

conception of voting rights but in their stand


on the current state of the capitalist economy, which, of course, is linked to their antidemocratic conception of political rights.

The Information Industrial Complex:


Democracy Downsized
With the 2008 economic meltdown, the collapse of capitalism is no longer outside the
realm of probability, nor is its perverse capacity for maladaptation. The rapid growth
of the credit system, which was supposed
to guarantee the improbability of capitalisms collapse, itself nearly crashed the system. But for the diffusion of advanced ICT
(information-communication technology) in
the financial services industry, the survival
of middle-class assets secured by the vast
diffusion of ICT, as well as capitalist productions dependence on computer-controlled
production technology, the interest-bearing
capital economy would have collapsed. The
near liquidation of interest-bearing capital
(credit) in the financial services and housing markets not only threatened to liquidate
finance-capital sectors but capitalist production itself. The ICT infrastructure of capitalist accumulation was exposed as having
generated unprecedented and unconscionable sums of fictitious capital (credit) and
as totally incapable of arresting the capitalist meltdown it set in motion. Less than two
years into the Obama administration, the
political result of the near-collapse of capitalism was inescapable: class conflict between capital and labor did not ameliorate
but intensified.

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Attacks on even the miniscule transfer


payments to the working class and poor in
the form of earned income tax credits, food
stamps, lowering the minimum wage, cutting Medicaid, rescinding the payroll tax
holiday, sweeping cuts to social programs
through budget sequestration, etc. combined with tax cuts for the wealthy in the
form of reductions in inheritance and capital
gains taxes comprised the class-war policy
directions that the super-rich allocated tens
of millions of dollars to their anti-government neoconservative political operatives
to prosecute. The only thing that came close
to exposing the true contours of the structural inequality of capitalist America was the
2008 great Recession. The housing bust that
devastated black household wealth in home
equity also impacted the pension and retirement funds of the middle classes.
The political and policy responses to
these two outcomes of the great Recession
are diametrically opposed. government tax
policies, particularly tax cuts for the rich,
have concentrated wealth distribution over
the past three decades. Not accidentally, in
the same period, labor unions were eviscerated. Of the new wealth created in this period, an astounding 94 percent went to the
top quintile, while a paltry 6 percent went
to the bottom four quintiles (80 percent) of
the U.S. population.9 The connection between the distribution of wealth and power
is apparent when comparing the U.S. with
its western democratic counterparts where
relatively strong trade unions and social
democratic parties maintain more equitable
income distributions because the latter have
the power to maintain progressive social

contracts even in the midst of the greatest single economic crisis since the great
Depression.
Where formerly the upper classes were
content to hover above the political fray,
contributing to political operatives and parties through corporate lobbies, with the
Supreme Courts Citizens United ruling of
2010, removing restrictions on unlimited
direct campaign contributions, the nouveaux riches awakened the hubris of the
old business elite of the Republican Party to
the political phantasm that the election of
Obama had so raised the stakes that a corporate-backed, legislative coup dtat was
necessary. Millions of private and corporate
dollars went into fabricating an AstroTurf
Tea Party movement made up of a loud,
racist minority of disaffected extreme rightwing conservatives of the Republican Party
and directed by a cynical right-wing political elite headed by the likes of Karl Rove
and former Texas congressman Dick Army,
flanked by hangers-on like Sarah Palin trolling for media paydays.
Once the Republican establishment unleashed their attack dogs, the euphoria of
their 2010 midterm electoral victories emboldened them toward greater flights of fantasy, convincing them that they really are a
populist movement and not a fascist clique
beholden to the Republican Party and its
oligarchic bankrollers. Their euphoria only
lasted two years, from November 2010 to
November 2012, when the national election
returned Barack Obama to the presidency
and left the control of the Senate in the hands
of the Democrats. Having served the establishments now defeated purpose of making

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Obama a one-term president, the gerrymandered, Tea Partycontrolled House grew politically isolated from the Republican establishment. In response, the House laid siege
to the state with a sixteen-day government
shutdown, a threatened revocation of raising
the U.S. debt ceiling, sequestration-imposed
budget cuts, and obstruction of any and all
legislation to aid the out-of-work, the poor,
children, women, students, minorities, and
the disabled.
As new right-wing demagogues like freshman Texas senator Ted Cruz ginned up new
far-right phantasms, the Tea Party siege infuriated the old business elites of the Republican Party like the Chamber of Commerce.
Because the Republican establishment
could not undo what it had done, the party
began to splinter. That does not mean what
the centrist-liberal establishment believes,
namely that the Tea Party stranglehold on the
Congress makes it the most do-nothing Congress in U.S. history. It has been anything
but do-nothing. The small but significant
minority of corporate-funded Tea Party extremists elected in predominantly white gerrymandered southern and midwestern, rural
and suburban districts did exactly what their
corporate backers and nativist electorate
sent them to Washington to domake class,
race, and gender war. Where the old Republican establishment at least gave lip service
to across-the-board tax cuts for everyone,10
congressional Tea Party nihilists indiscriminately cut transfer payments to the working
classes hit hard by the great Recession in an
effort to starve the beast (i.e., eviscerate the
last vestiges of the welfare state). Tea Party
extremists went further. Through sequestra-

Lou Turner

tion they raised taxes on working people by


eliminating the payroll tax holiday, reduced
the earned income tax credit, and raised the
interest rates on student loans.
Sequestration rescinded the meager taxsaving measures for the working class, allowing the wealthy to enjoy their tax-cut
windfalls (75 percent of the income of the
top 0.01 percent comes from capital gains
and dividends) exclusive of any tax reductions for the working class. Where the
budget-cutting/debt-reduction mania of the
Republicans, which eviscerates an already
shredded social safety net in the midst of a
near-depression, proscribes exceptions to its
tax reduction dogma where such tax breaks
benefit the working class, Republicans hypocritically contend that such exceptions are
in the interest of the nations fiscal future,
i.e., the fiscal future of the wealthy.

The State and Racial Formation


This undisguised class warfare, as in the case
of all class warfare, uses the state, i.e., public policy, to achieve its political economic
ends. The Right uses the state to abolish the
state. freedom from taxes and an overbearing government is the general principle,
except where such freedoms adversely impinge on the financial interests and security
of the wealthy. The Tea Party reaction is the
latest racial formation of Americas political culture of provincial localism arraigned
against a federal government fantastically
perceived in the delusional, white conservative mind as the supposed instrument of
black America.

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The period from November 2010 to today falls into three periods. The 2010 ascendency of the Tea Party, which was supposed
to spell the downfall of an imagined black
federalist peril to white democracy, actually
witnessed the downfall of the established
Republican Party. By the 2012 election, the
place where political malfeasance brought
george W. Bush to power in 2000 became
the site of new resistance. Recalling one of
the most unique and powerful black social
phenomena of the Reaganite 1980s, namely
four consecutive years of black mass revolt
in Miami-Dade County, florida (Liberty City,
Overtown, and Coconut grove), black floridians stubbornly resisted Republican intimidation and restricted voting chicanery
and stood for hours on end to cast their vote
in the 2012 election.
finally, the Tea Party government shutdown and threatened default on the U.S.
debt saw a desperate Republican establishment, facing the highest disapproval opinion polls in the history of polling, begin to
discipline its recalcitrant Tea Party spawn.
The retrogressive strategy of Republican
right-wing extremism found itself in political
retreat. The so-called Tea Party political revolution (sic) succeeded only in paralyzing
its political sponsors and evoking the passionate resistance of its adversariesAfrican
Americans, Latinos, women, students, and
the LgBT community, along with liberals,
independents, and even centrists. And when
the specter of socialism that it sought to
frighten everyone with finally did show up,
it appeared not at the proverbial barricades
but in the voting lines, in the race to sign up
for Republican-inspired, insurance industry
based health-care reform, in the demand for

immigration reform, and in state gay marriage acts.

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Americas Black Social Center


of Gravity, or the Race to
the Black Bottom
Although it is in the political realm that class,
race, and gender struggles play out, it is in
the worsening lot of the working classes,
especially the black working class, that the
conditions were created that made possible
the political class warfare against the working class. In other words, the real business
of the Right is done in the social sphere, not
the political one. In U.S. capitalisms ongoing war on the working poor, the wastage
of black life accumulates alongside the unconscionable accumulation of wealth, since
capital no longer has any need for even disposable black labor. Herein lay the new political economy of crime and punishment, of
capitalisms booming prison-industrial complex disgorging itself on young black lives
and labor, of what has come to be called the
new Jim Crow. As in its heyday of primitive accumulation, when the enclosures
acts used the legal whip of vagrancy laws
and debt peonage to drive the peasantry
off the English countryside and either into
Englands factories as fodder for its Industrial Revolution or into indentured servitude
in the colonies, so capitalism today drives
the black inner-city poor under the whip of
welfare reform and wars on drugs and crime
into the poverty-wage service sector or into
the prison-industrial complex.
The so-called digital divide is inescapable
for black folk on the wrong side of it. As civil

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rights veteran and founder of the Algebra


Project Bob Moses observed: Unless this
generation masters the quantitative information it needs to compete for work created by
the new computer technology, we will grow
serfs in our cities.11 The economic decline of
the white working and middle classes to the
level of the black working class contributes,
as has the growth of the black middle class,
to the phantasm of postracialism. Migration
of capital away from its former urban core
concentrates and isolates the misery, alienation, and poverty of the black working class
and poor. The destructive impact of capitals
migration from city to suburbs, from northern and midwestern industrial centers to the
Sun Belt South, from U.S. labor markets to
low-wage labor markets abroad, is worldhistoric in its extent and ramifications. Not
satisfied with this postmodern slaughter
of the innocents,12 capital unleashed the
repressive power of the state with a new
round of class warfare not only against the
poor, but also against Americas working
and middle classes. What previously was reserved for the black working class and poor
is becoming a common circumstance of the
white working and middle classes.
Meanwhile, the ranks of the poor joined
the homeless or through Section 8 housing
vouchers have been relocated to isolated
suburbs where even low-wage service sector employment is out of reach, while black
youth continue to fill state prisons to overflowing. Urban-cleansed, American capitalism was ready for its big comeback. Although
the black working class is concentrated and
more isolated than ever in Chicago and Detroit, New york and Newark, St. Louis and
Cleveland, Dallas and Houston, Oakland

Lou Turner

and Los Angeles, Miami and Memphis, as


well as smaller cities and towns, the 2008
election showed that black folk could still
wield even so self-limiting a political power
as the democratic franchise to effect change.
It is evident, moreover, that in these very
same cities and areas of the country, America has been in the throes of a new wave
of immigration. The developing world, long
ravished by western imperialism, is coming
to America. Latin Americas displaced are
joining black Americas dispossessed. Displaying the greatest aversion to the black
working class because of its militancy and
the greatest attraction to the Latino working
class because of its legal vulnerability, the
ruling class intensified its authoritarian rule
in direct proportion to the growth and extent
of the social integration of Americas new
multiethnic workforce and urban centers.
Moreover, in the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, the bourgeoisie saw with what explosive force this new multiethnic coalescence
in U.S. cities could express itself.
Once it became evident that the subjective inner core of this changed capitalist
world was black, multiethnic, and the most
rebellious strata of the working class, one
need go no further than this countrys centers of higher learning and public policy, its
universities, publishing houses, think tanks,
and policy advocacy agencies to diagnose
just how far the ideological cancer of racism
had spread through the body politic. Two
years after the LA rebellion, neo-fascist eugenics masquerading as social science rationality metastasized in the American mind in
the form of Richard Herrnstein and Charles
Murrays Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class
Structure in American Life (1994). The Bell

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39

Curve prognosticated the coming totalitarian state in disguise, a custodial state, . . .


a high-tech and more lavish version of the
Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nations population, while the
rest of America tries to go about its business.
In its less benign forms, the solutions will become more and more totalitarian.13

Historically, black civil rights struggles for


social equality, North and South, were the
measure by which the sorry state of American democracy was judged before the world.
With the end of the Cold War, the last barrier
to dismantling civil rights protections and
social entitlements was removed. As soon as
the U.S. state no longer had to battle its old
adversary the Soviet Union for the mind of
humanity, it began revoking civil rights for
African Americans. The maintenance of the
postCold War right-wing backlash against
black rights began during the Reagan administration as a southern phenomenon. At
issue were the conditions that dialectically
turned the southern white backlash into a
national phenomenon.
Once the South learned to accept the
dictates of northern capital, becoming more
integrated into the national economy than at
any other time in U.S. history, the South was
forced to suspend its fierce anti-federalism
and accept large-scale state intervention.
This state-capitalist underbelly of southern
states rights is the regions abiding contradiction. To maintain its political identity,
the South dressed up its state-capitalist de-

pendency on federal intervention in the ideological guise of southern particularism. It


fiercely asserted its states rights prerogatives
the more capitalist restructuring swept away
the last vestiges of its economic independence. The contradiction between capitalist
restructuring and the ideological phantasm
of states rights accounts not only for the
Souths but also the nations neoconservative
retrogression on political and social rights
over the past three decades. It is what southern historian James Cobb called the southernization of the U.S. economy.14
This betokens the permanence of racism.
The backwardness of southern race relations
has always been reinforced by the expansion of northern capital accumulation to the
South and its imperialist extension abroad,
even as the reactionary tendency to check
the expansion of democratic rights is reinforced by the racism of southern social and
economic backwardness. That the politics
of southern racial ideology have historically
enjoyed a national prominence far in excess of its material basis is explained by the
sectional reinforcing of social retrogression.
What unites the American ruling classes
across their sectional divide is racism. This
not only explains the exploitative nature of
U.S. capitalism, it explains why American
democracy so easily transforms itself into
quasi-totalitarianism at the slightest sign of
social, especially black social, resistance.
This, however, is a particularization of
the general law of motion of capitalist society. The deep social inequality that we see
today has been developing since the socalled boom economy of the Clinton years
when median family income fell in the very
same recovery years, 19921993, when un-

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TBS Volume 44 Number 1 Spring 2014

The Permanence of Racism


and of Black Struggle

40

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employment fell, average income rose, and


gross domestic product expanded.15 The
social inequality formerly reserved for black
working-class families became a general feature of all working-class families. The reason
for the unprecedented decline in median
family income is that economic restructuring
and expansion was accompanied by a radical shift in . . . income distribution in favor of
the rich.16 In fact, the long-term trend in the
growth of family income over the past four
decades has slowed, stagnated, and declined
despite economic expansion and periods of
increasing employment. The slowdown, then
reversal of workers earnings is apparent in
the rank ideological sense that politicians
and demagogues play on workers economic
anxieties, often demonizing women, blacks,
and immigrants as the ones responsible for
the decline in working-class living standards.
In the final analysis, the ideological fusion of liberalism with conservatism found
its material basis in these contradictory economic developments. The restructuring of
income distribution, resulting in the widest
gap between the top percentile and the rest
of us, reversed the entire post-war progress
in lessening inequality.17 Had it not been
for the massive entrance of women into the
workforce, the decline in family incomes
would have been more precipitous. globalization remains the unrestricted activity18
of capitalism in search of cheaper sources of
labor the world over with the aim of reducing labor costs (and thus incomes) in the U.S.
Regardless of its exploitation of low-wage
labor markets abroad, U.S. capitalisms still
heavy reliance on the American workforce
has motivated its uninterrupted war on the
American working class.

Lou Turner

for its part, black resistance to capitalist class warfare has never been narrowly
individualistic but rather the opposition
of a political class. So, instead of taking
the micro-aggressions of the latest appearance of the white backlash or alternatively
the micro-resistance of everyday life as our
point of departure for a new radical black
politics, it is imperative that we not let go of
what the civil rights and Black Power movements achieved in revolutionizing the social
consciousness of black folk around organizing principles that led to social movement.
Anything won through such revolutionary
strivings, and often in blood, is not easily
negated. Whether radicalized black studies will become the theoretical anticipation
of a new revolution in black consciousness
remains to be seen, for as frantz fanon observed, the future is an edifice supported by
living men and women. Nonetheless, this
does not absolve us of the responsibility to
advance humanity to a different level. To do
so, fanon implored us, we must invent and
we must make new discoveries.19

Appendix
According to the ALEC Watch website (alec
exposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed), ALECs
major contributors read like a Whos Who of
U.S. corporate capitalism:
Alcoholic Beverages
Coors Brewing Company
Distilled Spirits Council of the United
States
Miller Brewing Company

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41

Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc.


Seagram North America
Automobiles
Avis Rent a Car
DaimlerChrysler Corporation
ford Motor Company
general Motors Corporation

Energy Producers/Other

American general financial group


American Express Company
Bank of America
Community financial Services Corporation
Credit Card Coalition
Credit Union National Association Inc.
fidelity Investments
Harris Trust & Savings Bank
Household International
LaSalle National Bank
J.P. Morgan & Company
Non-Bank funds Transmitters group

American Electric Power Association


American gas Association
Center for Energy and Economic
Development
Commonwealth Edison Company
Consolidated Edison Company of New york
Inc.
Edison Electric Institute
Enron Corporation
Independent Power Producers of New york
Koch Industries Inc.
Mid-American Energy Company
Natural gas Supply Association
Pg&E Corporation/Pg&E National Energy
group
U.S. generating Company

Criminal Justice

Health Care

American Bail Corporation


Corrections Corporation of America
National Association of Bail Insurance
Companies
Wackenhut Corrections

American Physical Therapy Association


Baxter Healthcare Corporation

Banks/Financial Services

Insurance

American Petroleum Institute


Amoco Corporation
ARCO
BP America Inc.

Alliance of American Insurers


Allstate Insurance Company
American Council of Life Insurance
American Insurance Association
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corporation
Coalition for Asbestos Justice (This
organization was formed in October

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TBS Volume 44 Number 1 Spring 2014

Energy Producers/Oil

42

Caltex Petroleum
Chevron Corporation
ExxonMobil Corporation
Mobil Oil Corporation
Phillips Petroleum Company

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2000 to explore new judicial


approaches to asbestos litigation. Its
members include ACE-USA, Chubb
& Son, CNA service mark companies,
firemans fund Insurance Company,
Hartford financial Services group Inc.,
Kemper Insurance Companies, Liberty
Mutual Insurance group, and St. Paul fire
and Marine Insurance Company. Counsel
to the coalition is victor E. Schwartz
of the law firm of Crowell & Moring in
Washington, D.C., a longtime ALEC ally.)
fortis Health
gEICO
golden Rule Insurance Company
guarantee Trust Life Insurance
MEgA Life and Health Insurance Company
National Association of Independent
Insurers
Nationwide Insurance/National financial
State farm Insurance Companies
Wausau Insurance Companies
Zurich Insurance
Law/Lobbying
Skelding, Labasky, Corry, Hauser, Metz &
Daws
Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman &
Dicker
Manufacturing
American Plastics Council
Archer Daniels Midland Corporation
AutoZone Inc. (aftermarket automotive
parts)
Cargill Inc.
Caterpillar Inc.

Lou Turner

Chlorine Chemistry Council


Deere & Company
fruit of the Loom
grocery Manufacturers of America
Inland Steel Industries Inc.
International game Technology
International Paper
Johnson & Johnson
Keystone Automotive Industries
Motorola Inc.
Procter & gamble
Sara Lee Corporation
Media
American Lawyer Media Inc.
R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company
Primedia Inc.
The Washington Times
Pharmaceuticals
Abbott Laboratories
Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Bayer Corporation
Eli Lilly & Company
glaxoSmithKline
glaxo Wellcome Inc.
Hoffman-LaRoche Inc.
Merck & Company Inc.
Pfizer Inc.
Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
Pharmacia Corporation
Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc.
Schering-Plough Corporation
Smith, Kline & french
WyETH, a division of American Home
Products Corporation

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43

Restaurants
McDonalds Corporation
Wendys International Inc.

The Boeing Company


United Airlines
United Parcel Service
Other

Technology
America Online
Americans for Technology Leadership
Intel Corporation
KeySpan
Microsoft Corporation
TechCentralStation.com
Telecommunications
AT&T
Ameritech
BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc.
gTE Corporation
MCI
National Cable and Telecommunications
Association
SBC Communications, Inc.
Sprint
UST Public Affairs Inc.
verizon Communications Inc.

Organizations/Foundations

Air Transport Association of America


American Trucking Association

Adolph Coors foundation


Ameritech foundation
Bell & Howell foundation
Carthage foundation
Charles g. Koch Charitable foundation
ELW foundation
grocery Manufacturers of America
Heartland Institute of Chicago
The Heritage foundation
Iowans for Tax Relief
Lynde and Harry Bradley foundation of
Milwaukee
National Pork Producers Association
National Rifle Association
Olin foundation

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TBS Volume 44 Number 1 Spring 2014

Tobacco
Cigar Association of America Inc.
Lorillard Tobacco Company
Philip Morris Management Corporation
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Smokeless Tobacco Council
Transportation

44

Amway Corporation
Cabot Sedgewick
Cendant Corporation
Corrections Corporation of America
Dresser Industries
federated Department Stores
International gold Corporation
Mary Kay Cosmetics
Microsoft Corporation
Newmont Mining Corporation
Quaker Oats
Sears, Roebuck & Company
Service Corporation International
Taxpayers Network Inc.
Turner Construction
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

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Roe foundation
Scaiffe foundation
Shell Oil Company foundation
Smith Richardson foundation
Steel Recycling Institute
Tax Education Support Organization
Texas Educational foundation
UPS foundation

Notes
1. Although this must be qualified in light of
Shelby v. Holder, where the Supreme Court, June
2013, overturned Section 5 of the 1965 voting
Rights Act, which originally froze state election
reforms of historically discriminatory states
until those reforms were reviewed, either by
the U.S. attorney general, or after a lawsuit was
brought before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Alabama case originated at
the local level from an ALEC surrogate. See the
U.S. Justice Department website: justice.gov/crt/
about/vot/sec_5/about.php.
2. See ALEC Watch, alecexposed.org/wiki/
ALEC_Exposed, Corporate Americas Trojan
Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the
American Legislative Exchange Council.
3. See the ALEC list of contributors in the Appendix, which reads like a corporate Whos Who
of U.S. capitalism.
4. This is reflected in the world derivatives
market, which stands at a staggering $1,200 trillion, or twenty times the global economy. See
the global Research website globalresearch.ca/
financial-implosion-global-derivatives-market-at1-200-trillion-dollars-20-times-the-world-economy.
5. Simon Kuznets, Postwar Economic Growth
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1964). This was the famous Nobel economists
prognosis of the susceptibility of the institutional
basis of modern capitalist growth in light of the

Lou Turner

emergence of fascism in advanced capitalist


societies.
6. This refers to those who own property only
as a function of being enslaved to mortgage debt,
and who as a result experienced massive losses
in property values during the 20082009 housing
market bust. See Ruby Mendenhall, The Political Economy of Black Housing: from the Housing Crisis of the great Migrations to the Subprime
Mortgage Crisis, The Black Scholar 40, no. 1
(Spring 2010):2037.
7. v. N. volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 120.
8. frantz fanon, Racism and Culture, in Toward the African Revolution, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New york: grove Press, 1969), 36.
9. g. William Domhoff, Wealth, Income,
and Power, Who Rules America.net. www2.
ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
(retrieved November 1, 2013).
10. This assumed a religious zeal with rightwing former Chamber of Commerce speechwriter
grover Norquists tax abolition homily. Some of
Mr. Norquists many former lives were as a publicist, with Oliver North, for Nicaraguan Contras,
Angolas counterrevolutionary UNITA, and the
genocidal antigovernment RENAMO mercenaries of Mozambique.
11. Quoted in Bell gale Chevigny, Mississippi Learning: Algebra as Political Curriculum,
in The Nation, March 4, 1996, 4.
12. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, volume I, trans. Ben fowkes (New
york: vintage, 1977), 922.
13. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray,
The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure
of American Life (New york: free Press, 1994),
526.
14. James Cobb, The Selling of the South: The
Southern Crusade for Industrial Development,
19361980 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982), 281.

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45

15. Lawrence Mishel and Jared Bernstein, The


State of Working America, 199495 (Armonk,
Ny: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), 25.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid., 26.

Subscribe to

18. Karl Marx, Capital, 786.


19. frantz fanon, The Wretched of the Earth,
trans. Constance farrington (New york: grove
Press, 1966), 255.

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