Does Tucker Carlson’s class politics raise any red flags?

BY:Scott Hiley| January 10, 2019
Does Tucker Carlson’s class politics raise any red flags?

Tucker Carlson at the 2018 Student Action Summit, hosted by Turning Point USA. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

What are we to make of Tucker Carlson’s recent denunciation of free market fundamentalism in a diatribe against Mitt Romney? Has he gone from rallying red state voters to waving the red flag?

Defending the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Carlson accurately points out how “for generations, Republicans have considered it their duty to make the world safe for banking, while simultaneously prosecuting ever more foreign wars.” He blasts conservatives and liberals for failing to understand that “culture and economics are inseparably intertwined.”  He questions the racist myth of a “culture of poverty” in inner cities, pointing out that conservative-dominated rural America “looks a lot like Detroit.”  He calls out our “mercenary” leaders and says, provocatively, “If you care about America, you ought to oppose the exploitation of Americans, whether it’s happening in the inner city or on Wall Street.”  He even sneaks in a call for shifting the tax burden off the working class by raising taxes on the rich, and especially on capital gains.

Tucker Carlson, ¿presente?

Far from it! His critique of capitalism is rooted in social conservatism, and most directly in male supremacy. He laments the loss of manufacturing jobs for the “decline of male wages” and male-dominated families.  Manufacturing work is predominately done by men; hospitals and schools employ more women.  Without factories, he claims, women hold higher paying jobs and don’t want to marry men who make less than them–leading to declining marriage rates, more out-of-wedlock births, and generalized societal collapse. His concern isn’t with democracy or equality, but with providing “normal people” with a “clean, orderly, stable society” (under Republican leadership).

Even when he’s questioning the idea of a culture of poverty, he still paints social welfare programs as a Democratic bribe to impoverished communities of color.  His problem with racism isn’t that it’s undemocratic or destructive to human dignity—it’s that it just doesn’t work like it used to.  Now that white, conservative-leaning, rural voters face unemployment, poverty and substance abuse, it’s impossible to explain away the ravages of capitalism with racist stereotypes.

Is Carlson’s attack on Romney part of a fissure within the right-wing coalition, a split between social conservatives like Carlson and free-market libertarians like the Koch brothers and the rest of the GOP donor base? Trump’s personality and policies have already alienated some conservative evangelicals, notably the Southern Baptist Convention, and there are suggestions that his support among working class white voters is eroding as well.

It’s possible, but we would be unwise to get our hopes up, or to let our guard down.  This might be part of a split in the right, but it is certainly an attempt to divide the working class and disorient working class men, in particular.

Carlson’s diagnosis, repeated throughout, is that a coalition of feminists and free-market libertarians have betrayed the American people, and that the primary victims of that betrayal are working class men (“Rich people are happy to fight malaria in the Congo.  But to raise men’s wages in Dayton and Detroit?”) and boys (“Our kids, especially our boys, are smoking weed constantly.”)   Despite its anti-capitalist and anti-establishment overtones, his analysis reproduces the same virulent misogyny that consolidates the power of the capitalist class—as it did in the 2016 elections, and again with Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court.

Our response must be unequivocal.   You can’t fight for the working class without fighting against male supremacy, which is at the origin of class society as a whole. You can’t fight for the working class without fighting against white supremacy, which capitalism brought into the world. You can’t pose as a partisan of the working class when you advocate, or even passively tolerate, the subjugation of half its members–or any of its members, for that matter.

So when Tucker Carlson says that adopting his analysis is the best hope of avoiding socialism, he’s right.  Subordinating the fight for racial and gender equality to a set of economic demands is not class struggle.  Setting economics against identity politics doesn’t just show a misunderstanding of capitalism as a social formation. It expresses a willingness to sell out one section of the working class to the profit of another, a lazy and cowardly rejection of our most basic slogan: “an injury to one, is an injury to all.”

As the political, economic, and environmental crises of capitalism deepen, class consciousness is rising.  But it has little space to develop freely; instead, it is hemmed in by the ideological maneuvers of competing factions within the capitalist class.  The liberal bourgeoisie attempts to stifle class consciousness, dismissing any critique of neoliberalism as a threat to democratic institutions.

But the neo-fascist right is much more insidious.  Rather than dismissing class analysis, they appropriate the economic demands of the working class and twist them into a divisive parody of class struggle.  In the early 1930s, the Nazis used this tactic to win a section of the German working class.  Today, it is the tool of reactionary demagogues like Steve Bannon, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump: parasites who feed on the anger of the working class while spreading the poisons of white supremacy, male supremacy, anti-Semitism, and national chauvinism.

We should understand Tucker Carlson’s analysis for what it is: not a critique of capitalism, not an embrace of or concession to class struggle.  It is a fascist attack on the working class, an attempt to destroy the only weapon we have in the fight for socialism: our unity.

Image: Creative Commons 3.0

    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

Comments (5)

H. W. Evans | January 13, 2019 at 4:05 PM

why are radical right wing nationalists nore supportive of America’s working class than the so called commies? Lmao have fun supporting the corporate leftist horseshit that’s fed to you on a daily basis then.

    Scott Hiley | January 13, 2019 at 9:22 PM

    And how have right-wing nationalists been supportive of the working class? They’ve always played the same game: turn one worker against another, to the profit of the capitalists. The history of the last hundred years is pretty striking, when you know what to look for. Every time workers have tried to get together and win a better life for themselves, the bosses and their pet politicians have played the same game. Tell skilled workers that the IWW’s “one big union” was a threat to their privileges. Tell native-born workers that immigrants were a threat to their culture, or their wages, or their jobs. Hire impoverished Black workers from the Jim Crow South to break a strike, then tell white workers that Black workers are responsible for driving down their wages. It was either Vanderbilt or Rockefeller who said, famously, “I could pay half the working class to kill the other half.” And that about sums up the ‘support’ of right-wing nationalists for the working class. We have to be smarter. The working class is made up of men and women of all races, national origins, gender expressions, etc.
    We have to fight for everything that can unite us, on the principle of an injury to one, is an injury to all. Like Ben Franklin said, “If we don’t hang together, we will all hang separately.”

M Anthony | January 11, 2019 at 1:46 PM

For the first time, a major pundit in the Mainstream Media (nonetheless, Fox News) attacks capitalism in a way that helped viewers understand class consciousness, and the Comminist Party picks apart the analysis and distorts it to satisfy an antagonistic polemic? How is this productive? If anything, we should be encouraging people from all corners of the earth to understand the ills of capitalism and the importance of class struggle. To hold Carlson to such high a standard as to expect him to convey patriarchy and other features of the system is ridiculous and antithetical to how the Left should be working. Our goals should be to educate, not denounce. The fact that such a figure has decided to entertain the possibility of socialism is a good thing. The realization of patriarchy, gender, and more is only inevitable.

    Scott Hiley | January 11, 2019 at 2:43 PM

    Carlson’s piece does nothing to inform or educate or build class consciousness. If your doctor misdiagnosed pneumonia as lung cancer, and treated you with chemotherapy and radiation rather than antibiotics, would you say, “Well, at least he noticed that there was something wrong with my lung”? No. You would sue them for malpractice because they poisoned you under the guise of helping you. That is what Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, Trump, Le Pen, and every other fascist who uses “the suffering of the working class” to advance their agenda, is doing. And where, in that whole article, does Carlson mention anything about the real cause of working class suffering: not just politicians, but the capitalist class and the system they built? Nowhere. Instead, he says at the end that his goal is preventing us from getting to socialism.

Jim | January 10, 2019 at 12:23 AM

Great article. Thanks. Interesting to note the capitalists pulling ads from Carlson for his racist remarks. Capitalists know which side of the bread their butter is on ( unlike many workers ), the rising non-white population. It’s obvious they pull their ads to appeal to liberal whites and the growing non-white customer base. Of course profit, not integrity, rules their decisions.

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