“Income Revolution”

May I be permitted a comment on the exchange between Gabriel Kolko and Henry Pachter concerning the “Income Revolution” in America? [DISSENT, Summer 1957].

In general, I sympathize with Kolko’s views on this matter, but it seems to me that on one important point he has been somewhat less than fair to—or has failed to understand—Pachter’s argument. Pachter has asserted that some of the poverty cited by Kolko is due to “special circumstances,” i.e., the discrimination suffered by racial and other minorities, rather than to the workings of the capitalist system. Kolko replied by noting sarcastically that “Mr. Pachter is heartened.. ” by this fact, though he then proceeded to offer a more serious rebuttal.

I think Kolko has failed to see the importance of Pachter’s point. For if a considerable part of the remaining American poverty is due to “special [political] circumstances” such as discrimination against against Negroes, then it is at least conceivable that by means of a political struggle against such discrimination the poverty that it produces could also be eliminated—and all within the framework of the capitalist system. Whether this is true or not, is another matter; but it raises an important topic which Kolko in his generally excellent presentation has simply failed to cope with.