Today, liberals purvey a similar attitude with respect to women and minorities. Women are thus told they must identify themselves, first and foremost, as women, while African-Americans are asked to consider themselves primarily as African-American. Being American — or human — comes in a distant second.
Marx advocated this tactic because he didn’t want workers to side with their bosses. Liberals likewise do not want women or blacks to support their reputed oppressors. In the case of women, these are men; whereas for blacks, it is whites in general.
In both instances, the goal is to prepare the way for a rebellion. For Marxists, this was intended to destroy capitalism; for liberals, it is to totally remake America along neo-socialist lines.
And so women and African-Americans are encouraged to think of themselves as oppressed workers. If they do, they will surely align with the proletarian cause and help defeat their common tormentors.
This makes false consciousness, that is, identifying with men or whites, a serious transgression. Men, particularly Republican men, they are repeatedly told, are waging a war on women, while whites, particularly conservative whites, are obviously trying to reinstate slavery.
These arguments would be risible — except that many young women and most blacks seem to buy them. They do not appear to understand that identifying with liberal causes today constitutes the true false consciousness.
Consider the situation of women. If men are the enemy, does marriage make sense? And if marriage does not make sense, does having children make sense? “Sleeping with the Enemy” made a wonderful movie title, but it is a terrible way to create a family.
Married women know this. They are therefore more likely to vote conservative. A majority of single women do not. They fail to realize that they are being encouraged to become old maids and/or unwed mothers. As a result, they are prepared to sell out their own interests for the sake of free birth control.
No! Women and men are not enemies! To the contrary, they ought to be allies. Yes, some men are abusive, but this is not the norm. If it were, we would all be doomed.
Consequently, young women must learn that this business of men earning more for the same work is a liberal canard. They instead need to discover that success and intimacy are not necessarily inconsistent. They must likewise realize that when men win, they also win. This is not false consciousness, but reality.
With respect to African-Americans, don’t they remember that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, that Republican votes helped pass the civil rights laws and that Richard Nixon started affirmative action? Since when have conservatives been pro-slavery — except in liberal propaganda?
Conservatives insist that blacks learn to help themselves, but how is this anti-black? Has helpless dependency somehow morphed into the contemporary version of freedom? Successful parents demand that their children perform so that they too can be successful. Shouldn’t we, as a society, make similar demands of blacks so that they can be successful?
So what has the liberal parody of false consciousness delivered in the way of benefits? Not much! The sad fact is that women are discovering a bad economy is bad for everyone — not just men. After all, women too are losing jobs, and women too are suffering under Obamacare.
As for African-Americans, they may cheer at rhetoric that castigates conservatives as their nemesis, but they are doing even less well on the job market. A black president is a wonderful symbol, yet symbolism alone does not put food on the table.
No, women and blacks are Americans and should be proud of it. They must also realize that because we are all in the same boat, hurting the whole hurts them too.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.