Republicans decry "woke capital"

Submitted by AWL on 1 June, 2021 - 3:02
Gay rights Apple sign

There is an interesting subplot to the US struggle over voting rights covered in Solidarity 590 and 593.

Many corporations have come out against restrictions on voting rights — and been attacked by Republican leaders for getting involved in politics!

In March the voting rights debate ramped up when the important swing state of Georgia passed new restrictions. Activists pressured Georgia-based corporations that made supportive noises during the Black Lives Matter protests to speak out — and a number did, including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and Home Depot.

Then in April hundreds of companies and executives including Amazon, BlackRock, Google, General Motors, Starbucks and Warren Buffet signed a statement against restrictions on the right to vote.

Republican leaders have denounced “woke capital”. Trump called for a boycott of companies opposing restrictions. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: “Parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

The hypocrisy and incoherence of this doesn’t really need elaborating here. However, the row does raise issues for the left and labour movement.

Whatever the tactical detail, socialists should surely argue against reliance on stances by corporations and business people to shift things in politics.

What the “woke” corporations have done to oppose the assault on voting rights is actually minimal.

But in any case, the influence of corporations in politics is a fundamentally anti-democratic force — as is their “influence” in society and the economy. For their own reasons, Amazon and others favour the right to vote freely in elections (at the moment). They oppose workers’ right to vote freely for unionisation, as Amazon’s campaign of intimidation in Bessemer showed.

As Jamelle Bouie put it in the New York Times: “To the extent that ‘woke capital’ even exists, it involves real questions of political economy. Simply put, there are few countervailing forces in American life to corporate speech, corporate money and corporate political action… the solution is to reanimate those countervailing forces, which is to say, to put life back into organized labor.”

Alexander Herman, London

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