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Left Educational Tasks in a Capital-Occupied Nation


Eager to find and amplify signs of mass radical potential in a period when the capitalist rich are ever more clearly destroying democracy and the Earth – the chances for a decent future –we on the United States left are understandably prone to underestimate the ideological power of the ruling class. Recently, for example, a comrade sent me a link  and suggested that I look at, and join him in celebrating, a December 2011 Pew Research Center opinion survey showing that nearly two-thirds of the American people think there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor. The percentage of Americans who think this has apparently risen 19 points since 2009.

 

Pew attributes part of this public opinion to the success of the Occupy Movement in putting the problem of economic inequality into the political and media culture.[1] So does my correspondent, quite eagerly. I’m pretty sure they are right about that.

 

Identifying a Phenomenon v. Opposing It

 

But so what? Perceiving that strong class conflict exists is simply not the same as thinking that America’s harsh class inequality (see below) is a problem that should be overcome and undone through reform and/or revolution. As Pew noted in the online write-up of its aforementioned survey, rising perceptions of class conflict do not necessarily mean increasing grievances toward the rich or support for measures to reduce inequality. In fact, as Pew staffer Rich Morin added, “a recent Gallup survey found that a smaller share of the public believes that income inequality is a problem ‘that needs to be fixed’ than held this belief in 1998 (45% vs. 52%):”[2]

 

 

The fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor is….

…an acceptable part of our economic system

…a problem that needs to be fixed

 

April 23-May 31, 1998

45%

52%

November 28-December 1, 2011

52%

45%

Source:  http://www.gallup.com/poll/151568/americans-prioritize-growing-economy-reducing-wealth-gap.aspx

 

Worse (from a Left perspective), when asked by Gallup to rate the value of alternative federal policies at the end of November and beginning of December last year (when Occupy was still very much in the national and local U.S. news), “fewer than half (46%) of survey respondents [said] that ‘reduc[ing] the income and wealth gap between rich and poor’ is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important. In contrast, more than eight-in-ten (82%) [said] that policies that encourage economic growth should be high priorities.” Seven-in-ten (70%) said that that policies to “increase the equality of opportunity for people to get ahead if they want to” should be “extremely” or very important” policy priorities.