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How Progressive Ideas Protect Inequality

By World Socialist Party US July 13, 2015 No Comments 4 Min Read

Excerpted by Karla Rab from an article by John Spritzler

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” [NYT, Nov. 26, 2006]

There is indeed a class war whose outcome will determine whether our society will remain one based on inequality with real control over society in the hands of a privileged few, or become one based on equality and genuine democracy; and right now billionaires like Buffet are winning. But the billionaires are few in number and we, the people they are defeating, vastly outnumber them.

The question, then, is, “Why are we losing the class war?” The answer is that we are not trying to win it. Instead, we are fighting for what are generally known as progressive goals, but progressive goals don’t actually make society more equal and democratic. Why not? Let’s look at some of the most popular progressive goals to see what the problem is with them. They all have an appeal that makes us want to fight for them, but winning them has consequences very different from the appeal.

“Our National Interest”

“National Self-Determination” (aka “National Liberation”)

“Equal Opportunity”

“Level Playing Field”

“Affirmative Action”

“Marriage Equality”

“A Greener, Self-Sustaining, Low Carbon Footprint World

What Do These Progressive Ideas Have in Common?

Not coincidentally, one can find influential institutions–that receive financial backing from the billionaire class–promoting all of these progressive ideas. The Ford Foundation in 1996 “contributed $1.4 million to activities aimed at defending affirmative action against political attack.”,,, A well-funded “progressive” establishment keeps these ideas in the forefront, like the proverbial carrot dangled on a stick in front of a horse to make the horse go where the master wants it to go, a place that has nothing to do with the horse getting the carrot to eat–what it actually wants.

Movements Often Win What They Aim For, For Better or Worse

When it comes to goals like social equality, that are opposed by the 1%, mass movements never win them unless they explicitly aim for them. That is why the ruling elite work so hard to make sure that what we explicitly aim for is never the actual abolition of class inequality and upper class rule over society. They fear the day that masses of people stop fighting for plutocracy-approved goals like “self-determination,” “equal opportunity” and “affirmative action,” and instead focus on overthrowing the power of our plutocracy and making society more equal and democratic for real.

Is Leadership Good or Bad?

Billions of people want social equality and yet far too often we are organized around goals that have nothing to do with this aim. Our leaders, either for self-serving reasons or ineptitude, define our goals with ideas that protect inequality. Why do we let them get away with this?

The reason is that far too often we ourselves do not see clearly what is wrong with the ideas espoused by our leaders. We seldom subject the goals of our leaders to collective critical examination with everybody encouraged to speak their mind freely, and without feeling that our goals have already been determined by the leaders and the only thing left to discuss is how to win them.

We need to turn things around. We need to determine our own goals and develop confidence in our own values and the ability to articulate and fight in solidarity for goals that reflect those values. Just because the newspapers and politicians say so-and-so is our leader, and just because so-and-so claims to be our leader, does not mean it’s true. “Only sheep need leaders — to shear them!” We ordinary people, the 99%, must find our own way to the goals we already share, goals of real, not fake, democracy and a truly egalitarian society. Once we do that, we can fight the class war to win. And the victory will be a world that is really egalitarian — in other words, it will have no 1% of super-rich and 99% of the rest of us, but will be a classless, moneyless society with no rich and no poor. That’s what “winning the class war” means.

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