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White Working Class Nationalism and the Storming of the Capitol

NLF Highlights for January

Many questions remain concerning the multitude of conditions which led to the coup attempt at the capitol building last Wednesday. One of those conditions is surely the growth of right-wing sentiment among large swaths of the white working class, “the poorly educated” for whom Trump announced his affection days after the 2016 elections. Over the years, New Labor Forum has wrestled with the roots of white working-class conservatism, and its radical cousin, white nationalism. On January 6th we saw this force on terrifying display, with almost no one holding it back. Waving confederate flags and donning clothes emblazoned with the insignia of neo-Nazi organizations, QAnon, and anti-government militia groups, these almost exclusively white insurrectionists overturned police barriers, stormed up the capitol steps, smashed windows, and overtook congressional offices. And although these marauders numbered only in the hundreds, they were backed by a shocking 19 percent of respondents in a recent Ipsos poll and 21 percent in a YouGov poll.

As we seek to understand the causes of contemporary right-wing nationalism and its variants in the United states, the better to build a multi-racial democracy, we would do well to learn from our European counterparts who have confronted its spread throughout the continent. In 2016, we published a piece entitled Europe on the Precipice: The Crisis of the Neoliberal Order and the Ascent of Right-Wing Populism by economist Walter Baier of Vienna, then Political Coordinator of the network transform! Europe. Baier points to four characteristics common to right-wing radical formations that hold true for the forces that have gathered steam under the Trump administration: 1. a populist political style; 2. an authoritarian conception of society; 3. ethnic nationalism (xenophobia and racism); and 3. social chauvinism. He warns that “without a struggle against unemployment, and for the defense, expansion, and reconstruction of the welfare state, for adequate professional training and legally regulated work conditions, for the right to housing, and for the public services, right-wing radicalism cannot be defeated. However, doing so also requires a sustainable economic policy, control over the financial markets, a policy of industrial reconstruction, and a conversion to ecological sustainability conversion.” Along these lines, the extent to which progressives in the U.S. will be able to organize sufficiently to push the incoming Biden administration to adopt a more redistributive set of policies remains to be seen.

Tomorrow Trump returns to the border in Alamo, Texas to reanimate the anti-immigrant theme that, from the start, earned him the loyalty of many voters. In our latest episode of the podcast Reinventing Solidarity, the award-winning poet Javier Zamora discusses the role poetry can play in upending the sort of immigrant scapegoating that, at least in part, gave rise to the destruction we saw last Wednesday.

Table of Contents

    1. Europe on the Precipice: The Crisis of the Neoliberal Order and the Ascent of Right-Wing Populism/ Walter Baier, New Labor Forum
    2. Reinventing Solidarity Ep. 8 – A Poetic Account of Border Crossing
    3. Seismic Shifts: Organized Labor & Covid’s Impact on the Economy /CUNY SLU Virtual Event, January 28th at 12pm ET

Europe on the Precipice: The Crisis of the Neoliberal Order and the Ascent of Right-Wing Populism

by Walter Baier, New Labor Forum

The current crisis of burgeoning right-wing populism in Europe is a multi-dimensional one comprising the decline of the political center made up of social democrats, Christian democrats, and liberals who have governed since the war. At the same time, the left and right poles of the spectrum are growing, though asymmetrically. While, in the elections held in the EU and Switzerland in 2015, 11 percent fell to the parties to the left of the social democrats and Greens, the vote share of radical right parties reached 22 percent . . .

Read the full article here


Reinventing Solidarity – Episode 8

The Poetry of Border Crossing: A Conversation with Javier Zamora

This episode brings poetry to the crucial task of reinventing solidarity. New Labor Forum Editor Paula Finn hosts a conversation with award winning poet Javier Zamora, who at nine years old left his home in El Salvador and made his way, as an unaccompanied minor, through Guatemala and Mexico and across the Sonoran Desert to reunite with his parents in California. In this interview, Zamora reflects on this experience and on the role of poetry in movements for social justice, and reads poems from his book Unaccompanied.

Listen to the podcast here


Seismic Shifts: Organized Labor & Covid’s Impact on the Economy

Thursday, January 28, 2021 * 12pm -1pm (ET) * via Zoom

Join us to explore the major economic shifts related to the COVID crisis, how organized labor is responding to these developments, and what economic policies the Biden administration and Congress should pursue to address the short and long term challenges working people are facing. This event is part of a series of virtual programs designed to spur discussion about what the impact of the COVID-19 crisis reveals about contemporary capitalism and democracy. This series also considers the prospects for structural change in light of the 2020 election results and a new shift in political power.

RVSP here

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