I’ve actually been trying to find this quote for a long time and it’s finally come across my transom. Al Franken in Lies: and the lying liars who tell them : a fair and balanced look at the Right.
“Any time that a liberal points out that the wealthy are disproportionately benefiting from Bush’s tax policies, Republicans shout, “class warfare!”
In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.
That is class warfare.
Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.”
Of course there are things which we see today – the busting of unions, the slow destruction of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – which are undoubtedly class warfare. They’re just being waged by elites on the poor, working, and middle classes. Using public treasuries to bail out Wall Street executives, while turning around and demanding austerity to pay for it is class warfare. The lost services will cost people their lives, even if it isn’t as dramatic as what Franken quotes above.
And if that doesn’t work – if the phrase class warfare is so loaded that it needs to be preserved, as Franken has tried to do, then we can at least say that what wealthy elites are doing and continue to try to do is the forced transfer of wealth from the lower classes to the upper class. Class warfare is a good shorthand for that, but if you have to hold the line, try it in longer form.