Check your privilege, says multi-millionaire politician

29 February 2016
Ben Norton

When warmongering Wall Street-backed neoliberal multimillionaires start telling you to check your privilege, you know the word has lost all meaning.

“We need to recognize our privilege and practice humility, rather than assume that our experiences are everyone’s experiences”, Hillary Clinton tweeted on 16 February.

Coincidentally, just a day before Clinton implored working class Americans to check their privilege, a new, more exhaustive study of her wealth was released. It is quite telling.

“For Hillary Rodham Clinton, Politics Is a Money-Making ‘Family Business’”, was one of the titles of a Fortune Magazine article detailing her wealth — the other, “How Hillary and Bill Clinton Parlayed Decades of Public Service into Vast Wealth”.

Together, Bill and Hillary Clinton have $110 million in wealth.

Waxing poetic on “the model that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have pursued – with astonishing success”, the neoliberal publication notes: “For them, politics is the family business. There is no distinction between business careers and political careers. Holding and serving in public office provides a platform from which they can monetise experience, connections and prominence. And then they use the wealth gained through, say, speaking engagements and media tours, to lay the groundwork for the next campaign. Electoral office, business, wealth, and public service, all meld together seamlessly”.

Fortune calls this “a remarkably high-reward strategy”. That is one way of describing it. Another would be “corruption”.

How much wealth are we talking here? Millions. Lots and lots of millions. The Clintons made $28 million in 2014 alone. Bill took home $8.44 million from speaking, and an additional $6 million from consulting. Hillary earned $8.7 million from speaking and $4.6 million from book sales.

Together, Bill and Hillary have $110 million in wealth – or $0.11 billion.

“In 2013, Hillary gave 36 speeches for about $8.5 million, most at about $225,000 a pop, to customers such as Goldman, Sachs and Fidelity Investments”, Fortune reports. “The same year, Bill gave 34 talks for $10.22 million.”

And, for her poorly selling ghost written memoir of the Obama era, Hard Choices, Clinton got a $14 million advance.

Yet working-class Americans who struggle to make ends meet, have no healthcare (single-payer will “never, ever” happen, Clinton declared!), struggle on the verge of homelessness, are brutalised by police, and stumble under the weight of gargantuan debt must check their privilege, we are told.

Discussions of “privilege” dominate contemporary identity politics. Privilege-checking is a fundamentally reactionary neoliberal discourse, one that reinforces an individualist perspective that sees one’s lifestyle, personal experiences, and feelings as the principal locus of struggle and distracts from materialist structural analysis of systems of oppression. This is precisely what explains its popularity among the liberal faction of the ruling class.

There is nothing in privilege discourse that poses a challenge to capital – nothing at all. The easiest way to tell is to take a glance at how enthusiastically the Ford Foundation has embraced it.

Wall Street-backed multimillionaire Hillary Clinton understands, at a visceral level, how identity politics dovetails so nicely with her stridently right-wing neoliberal politics, and – by virtue of her inability to counter the genuinely left-wing politics of fellow presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – she has wielded it incessantly in order to bludgeon her socialist rival.

Her use of liberals’ favourite buzzword “intersectional” on the same day she tweeted the above invocation of privilege is just one example of such an apolitical tactic, among many.

Political scientist and race theorist Adolph Reed has long maintained that identity politics “is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism. It is the expression and active agency of a political order and moral economy in which capitalist market forces are treated as unassailable nature”.

The fact that a politician who served on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation, for six years – and while it was viciously cracking down on its workers’ attempt to unionise, no less — has the gall to tell Americans to check their privilege exemplifies, more than any of the other already bountiful and obscene examples, just how politically bankrupt “privilege” discourse is, and just how correct Adolph Reed and the Left is in its analysis of the fundamentally reactionary nature of identity politics.

Read More

Red Flag
Red Flag is published by Socialist Alternative, a revolutionary socialist group with branches across Australia.
Find out more about us, get involved, or subscribe.

Original Red Flag content is subject to a Creative Commons licence and may be republished under the terms listed here.