"The liberal bourgeoisie grant reforms with one hand, and with the other always take them back, reduce them to nought, use them to enslave the workers, to divide them into separate groups and perpetuate wage-slavery. For that reason reformism, even when quite sincere, in practice becomes a weapon by means of which the bourgeoisie corrupt and weaken the workers. The experience of all countries shows that the workers who put their trust in the reformists are always fooled." - Lenin, "Marxism and Reformism" (1913)
On December 6th, 1865, the ruling class of the United States fully ratified the 13th Amendment to its national Constitution, officially ending chattel slavery within the US. Make note that I say officially, as after all the fighting to make the amendment happen, the wording of the amendment left a gaping hole for slavery to continue by simply moving it into the prison system. Laws passed afterwards made sure to intentionally target African American communities. This has since lead to what is now a booming Prison Industrial Complex, which exists to this day, even as the amendment is held up as proof of American equality and progress.
On June 16th, 1933, the ruling class of the United States allowed the passing of the Glass-Steagall Act. This legislation was designed to build a legal barrier between commercial banking and investment banking. By the 1960s, however, that very same ruling class was allowing Savings and Loan Associations and Securities Firms to take advantage of various loopholes in the legislation. By 1999, with the law essentially no longer effective, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed legislation repealing the Glass-Steagall Act.
The white working class, in the United States, began organizing for reforms in the 19th century. Though their work did usually, and unfortunately, come at the expense of minorities, the ruling class did make concessions. Some of the reforms that were earned were the forty hour workweek, the eight work day, a guaranteed minimum wage, work safety standards, and the like; however, much like the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, such reforms came with a price. The ruling class responded by union busting, which allowed them to lower wages again, forcing workers to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and negating the eight hour workday. Minimum wage laws were further circumvented by the implementation of labor for tips, under the table pay, and even outright wage theft. In other places, where high wages and high taxes ate into profitability, jobs were gradually outsourced.
Truly, the ruling class giveth, and the ruling class taketh away.
However, in the meantime, predominantly white American workers enjoyed, and quite a few still enjoy, benefits and wages much higher than the rest of the world. Further, these benefits are directly dependent upon the exploitation of those countries where the wages and living conditions of the general population are far below what is considered livable according to modern standards. These well off workers, a "labor aristocracy," and the small business owners they are associated with are together referred to as the "middle class."
This artificial "Middle Class," which is actually cobbled together from members of two economically distinct classes, is held onto as the sacred core of the "American Dream," and the ruling class works overtime to sell this concept to the people. This works out very well for the ruling class, as the very existence of a broader "middle" class softens class struggle for them as they seek to limit access to this artificial "middle" class that they have created. The regular proletariat often finds themselves desiring the benefits of the labor aristocracy rather than seeking the liberation they need. The labor aristocracy gains people to look down upon as well as people to look up to. They gain benefits and higher wages that give them a comfortable lifestyle; and as such, they have no interest in revolution or liberation in anything other than name.
Now, because they are basically comfortable beneficiaries of an unjust system, labor aristocrats have developed a characteristic disorder that can be referred to as the trap of Reformism. Further, as soon as that system and their position in it are in trouble, they begin demanding reforms that will make them comfy again. This faith in reform is blind, of course. The ruling class only grants them reforms in order to pacify the populace and artificially prop up its system again. Further, it makes sure that those reforms are easily repealed or circumventable through various loopholes or other evasive maneuvers. The question is, of course, why should they be expected to do anything less? Why should they not be expected to look out for their own well being and the well being of their fellow rulers?
So, when a reformist politician like Bernie Sanders or Dr. Jill Stein speaks of expanding the American Middle Class, we know what they are really saying. They are saying: "Vote for me, and I will gain concessions that will make you feel better, that will give you back the comfort you feel is threatened, and that will return you to the New Deal you were promised. I will make America great again!" Noam Chomsky's compares the work that either would be able to get done now to the work that was done by Eisenhower in the 1950s.
So, how will this happen? The same way it has always happened. It will come with temporary concessions bought with brutal imperialism that the labor aristocracy gives barely a thought to. There is, of course, always the underlying nationalism in there, not speaking of the global working class or even a global "middle class." It is only the American middle class that matters. Everyone else can apparently go pluck a hair. Such is the ideology of American reformism. Just give us people to look down on and people to worship, or at least look up to, and everything else will be just fine.
So, in an era when it looks like everything that this country has built up for over a century is about to crumble, what is the best these reformists can offer? "Oh, I am not a Liberal, I am a Progressive, and I promise that I can actually get some real changes made." All things considered, this comes off as about as genuine as the Christian who declares themselves to be spiritual but not religious! We know the concessions they want from the ruling class. They want women and people of color to be included in the exploitative class, where they too can have the opportunity to rob the working poor of what is left of their dignity. They want the LGBTQA community to be given an equal share in the ability to order drone strikes on innocent civilians at the behest of the United States' corporate master's in the Military Industrial Complex. To be given such equality next to the divinity of the white man would be such an eternal blessing.....
Ah yes, let us worship Beyonce and Obama as the height of Black Liberation. This is, of course, forgetting that Beyonce's product line is made by exploited nonwhite workers, and that Barack Obama spent more on the military than did George Bush, Jr. as he bombed more people than any other U.S. President in history to date. Or, perhaps, we should worship Gal Gadot and Hillary Clinton? Not so fast. Gal Gadot denies the Palestinian Genocide committed by her native Israel, even though the numbers are clearly unmistakable and easily researchable. So she it out. So, what of Hillary? As, Secretary of State, she sat side by side with President Obama bombing foreign nations that would not cooperate with the United States' foreign economic agenda, and most always, it was against brown people. So much for America's "Progressive" icons, eh?