POLITICS IN THE U.S.: “CONSERVATISM”

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BY GROVER FURR

Dateline: The Montclarion, October 31, 1996, p. 11

I’d like to shed a little light on how politics works in the US.

It’s important not to take either “conservatives” or “liberals” at face value. By those terms, I mean not working people who identify with either of these categories, but the elitists who control the political process. In this letter I’m going to concentrate on the “conservatives.”

Conservatism is an employers’ ideology. Every “conservative” organization is funded by large corporations or corporate foundations: Olin, Scaife, Coors, Mellon, Bradley, are among the biggest. No “left-wing” organization is so funded. “Conservatives” do ideological propaganda for corporate interests, and get paid very well to do it. If you mentally substitute the words “propagandist for employers’ interests” for “conservative,” you’ll understand American political discourse much better.

What’s wrong with this? The interests of employers and of employees are exactly opposite to each other. Anything that raises the standard of living of employees also raises the cost of labor, and this reduces the profits of employers. This powerful reality is the key to understanding politics. No wonder it’s seldom taught in school!

The conservative political agenda can be stated simply: lower the cost of labor. This means: lower the standard of living of almost everyone who works for a living, except top- level managers, cops, and coupon-clippers — the rich. Every policy the “conservatives” support serves this goal: either (1) to directly lower the cost of labor and standard of living of working people; or, (2) to support authoritarian values that justify exploitation and inequality, and that attempt to pit one section of the working population against another — in other words, ideologies that justify lowering the cost of labor. That is, the conservatives’ concentration on “values” is purely to promote “values” that themselves facilitate the subordination of working people to their bosses. Here are a few examples:

  • “Get `Big Government’ off your back!” What this means is: get government regulation off of corporation’s backs! Let employers weaken or eliminate safety and health on the job. Let corporations rape the environment — for example, use Government land for far less than its actual value (nobody opposes a true “market” more than those who are always praising “markets”). Stop state-sponsored health insurance. Weaken Social Security. Cut student aid as much as possible, and make students get it from banks, which charge high interest, rather than from the government, which charges far less. All these cut employer costs, at the expense of workers.
  • “Vouchers” and “educational choice”. What this means is: shift the cost of education drastically to individuals, so corporations could pay lower wages, once again lowering the cost of labor. Destroy the public education system so that working parents will have to send their children to private or for-profit schools not only for college, but for grade and high school too, and only the poorest will go to the miserable public schools. This is already the case in many cheap-labor police states (like Peru, which I visited in 1995), and in much of the American South. “Conservatives” would like to make it so everywhere!
  • Divide-and-Conquer Tactics. American workers have a long history of fighting employers, through unions and strikes, to get higher benefits. And employers know that in other industrialized countries, like Western Europe and Canada, militancy among the working class has gained benefits far greater than we in the US have ever dreamt of! So corporations fund “conservatives” to try to divide the working population up, and get one part to blame another instead of those who are really responsible: corporations and capitalism. Here are some of their strategies for doing so:
    • Oppose affirmative action. This gets cheaper labor from blacks, Hispanics and other “minorities”, who have been used as cheap labor by employers since the days of slavery. Many “conservatives” came from the South, where the elite were able to keep labor costs and living standards low for most whites as well by telling working-class whites that anything blacks got would be taken from them. They are doing the same thing today! Better for them that white and black workers blame each other for their lower living standard than that both white and black blame those really responsible — the “conservative” corporations.
    • Keep the minimum wage low. “Conservatives” claim they worry that a higher minimum wage will “cause unemployment.” In fact, business loves unemployment! That’s why the stock market goes down, and the Fed starts talking about an “overheated” economy, when the unemployment rate drops! What’s good for employees — in this case, having a job — is bad for employers. No, the corporate apologists want to keep cheap labor. The minimum wage acts as a floor under everybody’s rate of pay; raising it eventually bumps up all wage rates. They can’t say this, of course — any more than they can say what they really want about any other issue. So they lie and make the amazing claim: “Low wages are good for you!” But it’s easy to see through this nonsense. As the old joke goes, if poverty were good, the rich would have taken it all already! 

In a future letter I’ll go over why “conservatives” oppose abortion rights; feminism, immigration, “political correctness”, and always talk about “freedom” while promoting poverty and oppression for the rest of us.

Part two (second letter)

In a previous letter I discussed how “Conservatism” is a pro-employer ideology that aims to lower the standard of living of all employees and promote ideologies which justify exploitation and the subordination of working people to their bosses.

It’s important to understand what this means. Books and articles written by “conservative” propagandists, funded by corporate think-tanks and foundations, are “Public Relations”, pure and simple. No matter how many footnotes they may contain, they are not real research. Since they set out, not to consider all evidence and question their own biases, but to write pro-employer propaganda, they can in principle never discover the truth.

“Conservative” pseudo-scholars — like Terry Eastland, who spoke here recently — are like the chemists with Ph.Ds who work for tobacco companies. Their academic degrees are window-dressing, to dupe the unwary reader — to make it easier for them to lie for their corporate masters. Therefore, no one should even read them — do you read the “research” put out by tobacco companies “proving” that smoking doesn’t contribute to cancer? — except for the purpose of exposing them. It’s vital to be clear about this.

In my last letter I exposed the “conservatives'” attacks on Big Government, Education, Affirmative Action, and the Minimum Wage. Here I consider a few more issues beloved by “conservative” mouthpieces for business interests.

  • Attack feminism. The feminist movement threatens to push up the cost of labor, because women have historically been a source of underpaid labor. “Conservatives” also offer women as another scapegoat for the anger men feel at economic insecurity, for which corporations are really responsible.
    Sexism is the oldest form of exploitation; every fascist, repressive, exploitative society in which workers are ground down pushes sexism against women. Our “conservative” Ayatollahs, like their brothers, the religious fundamentalists whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or Hindu, push sexism as a part of pushing class exploitation of all workers. They attack homosexuals for the same reason — scapegoating, and defense of “traditional” — meaning, exploitative — values.
  • Oppose abortion rights. This supports authoritarian, anti-worker groups like the various Church hierarchies. Opposing abortion justifies not giving women important health-care benefits (stripped of religious mumbo-jumbo, abortion is a women’s health care issue); and makes exploitative “Conservatives” and their corporate paymasters appear, to the naive, to be concerned about “human rights.”
  • Attack immigrants. Immigrants have always been prized as cheap labor. None of the “Conservatives” really want to stop immigration — that would raise the price of labor. What they do want is for immigrants to have as few rights (e.g. to unionize) as possible; as few benefits (which raise the cost of labor) as possible; and to be used as a scapegoat, like other “minorities”, for the lower standard of living US citizens are suffering. While “Conservatives” try to get whites, blacks and latinos to blame each other for their lower living standard, they would like us all to unite as citizens and blame immigrants! Then their corporate bosses would come out smelling like a rose!
  • “Political correctness.” This term shows the totalitarian nature of our “freedom-loving Conservatives.” They term “p.c.” not only ideas — like Marxism — that promote employee interests, but also any ideas that contradict, however weakly, exploitative corporate interests, such as those above.
  • Anti-Communism. Virtually all conservatives began as anti-Communists. Why do corporations hate communist ideology? Communism stands for getting rid of exploiters and employers altogether, and putting an end to the profit system which dooms most of us to the “tender mercies” of the corporate bosses!
  • “Freedom” is a word never far from “conservatives'” lips. Want to see what the “Conservatives'” devotion to freedom is really worth? Ask how many left-wing magazines, speakers, and organizations these same corporate foundations fund. What “freedom” means to “conservatives” is only this: “freedom to exploit workers.”

Closer to home, take a look at The Montclarion. Do its “conservative” editors strive for a “balance” between columnists who defend workers’ and students’ rights, and those of the “Conservatives,” who promote corporate interests? Forget it! For “Conservatives”, freedom — including freedom of the press — is for themselves, and their bosses, the corporate elite, period. The rest of us only have the “freedom” to believe what they say; do what we’re told; and shut up!

Grover Furr

English Department, Montclair State University

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http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/conservatives1.html | last modified 22 Mar 05

One comment on “POLITICS IN THE U.S.: “CONSERVATISM”
  1. Well said. It’s amazing that so many Americans don;t have a clue what the label “conservative” means and support it uncritically as if it were something to be proud of. Conservatism at best is glossed over selfishness in social affairs; in its naked form, it is institutionalized crime.

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