Class warfare?


Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 9:49 p.m.
Class warfare is a common epithet these days.
Republicans, led by President Bush, have used it repeatedly against critics of Bush's tax proposals, saying they were egging on the poor against the rich. Some Democrats have responded by accusing Republicans of the same thing by favoring the rich over the poor and middle class.
But "class warfare" isn't a term to be used loosely. It's a basic Marxist concept that advocates literal warfare between the upper and lower classes. Karl Marx said it was unavoidable - "a struggle carried to its highest expression in a total revolution."
So, are Bush and other Republicans saying that critics of Bush's tax plan are communists? Surely not - no more than the tax-plan critics are accusing supporters of being monarchists or fascists.
What, then, is "class warfare," as used by today's verbal combatants? Nobody is talking about actual warfare. It's used in a figurative sense.
But it still means adherence to a basic Marxist philosophy. "Class warfare" is a pejorative that belongs in a class with "pinko," "fellow traveler," "dupe" and all the other anti-communist jargon of the Red Scare era.
The debate over Bush's tax bill doesn't involve the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in mortal combat. It's about economic stimulus and fundamental fairness in American tax policy. Each side claims the high ground; they're competing for the public's support.
Let's keep the debate at that level. "Class warfare" red baiting should be sent to the same "ashheap of history" - in Ronald Reagan's memorable phrase - to which the Soviet Union was consigned 11 years ago.

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