Gramsci Explains the Debt Ceiling Crisis Better Than Any Talking Head — and What Underlies It

Essentially that at certain points in history “realignments” among classes and the traditional political parties representing them occur, creating instability and creating the conditions for social upheaval, violence, and dramatic/traumatic reorganization. This is exactly what’s happening within the U.S. political system — for the last forty years, the lower- and working-classes have gradually shifted their political allegiance away from the Democratic Party, their traditional economic champion, toward the Republican Party. Likewise, the unholy alliance of the Democratic Party with Wall Street has peeled off a number of individuals who, in the 1920s, say, would never have considered voting with the workers.

The reasons for this are legion — chief among them, perhaps, the role the U.S. media plays in politics, but certainly also the structure of our Constitution, the increasing reliance on private funds in campaigns, the conservative Supreme Court of the last twenty years, the sclerotic nature of the Senate, etc. You get the point.

Now, Gramsci wrote this in 1923, so obviously it’s not a perfect analogy, but I do think what we’re headed toward (hopefully we can skip the violence part) is a realignment of the parties on class interests. Or, I should say, I think that’s the only to fix the political system — to return to a politics that pits labor against land, and yes, to re-fight the political struggles that the left won between Haymarket and the New Deal. We’ll see. Text below:

From The Prison Notebooks

“Observations on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis”

(tr. Quintin Hoare & Geoffrey Nowell Smith)

“At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression. When such crises occur, the immediate situation becomes delicrate and dangerous, because the field is open for violent solutions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic “men of destiny.”

Addendum: Meant to say, the entire essay (probably his best-known) is well worth your time.

~ by Benji on August 1, 2011.

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