Liberals who complain that white workers who support Trump are “stupid,” and those Marxists who chalk it up to “false consciousness,” are two sides of the same coin.
First, there is no pre-given “true consciousness” for anyone to be tricked out of attaining. Consciousness develops via concrete historical processes and there is no “true” outcome determined in advance. Nor do people have a priori interests that they can be made to work against. Interests are, like anything else, produced in a struggle that is always on-going.
Second, although there may be a partial truth in saying that poor people turn to reactionary ideology when they are desperate and there are not strong alternatives from the left, this remains a (small) part of the picture. Ideology indeed has a grip on all of us because it is a critical part in how we understand ourselves and our relation to the world. Bourgeois ideology can make us act in ways which reinforce the rule of the capitalists while we feel that what we are doing is meaningful or even rebellious. However, ideology alone cannot account for everything. Bourgeois ideology would be disrupted by day to day realities (as it is to some degree all the time among the most excluded parts of the populace) if it were not backed up by certain structural factors. Ideology is most effective when it works in conjuction with economic and political concessions which reinforce the dominant “world-view.”
The support for white supremacy among white workers is the product of an historical processes of granting property and political power (however meager) to whites while at the same time excluding other nationalities and national minorities from the same. In return for social passivity (or at least for channeling resistance in ways that ultimately reproduce the status quo), and for acting as “shock troops” against the resistance of colonized people, white workers have been granted certain privileges, a process which has created a community of interests between most white workers and the bourgeoisie. Support for white nationalism is not a matter of white workers being tricked into “acting against their own interests.” It is a matter of white workers acting upon interests which have been created in the course of u.s. political struggle.
It may be that to some extent, white workers are having the rug swept out from under them, but historically privileged populations tend to cling harder to reaction when their position is perceived to be at risk. Again this is not a “false consciousness” but a product of historical processes which can be traced.
Framing reaction among poorer whites as if it’s a matter of those whites being “duped” into acting against some innate interests they supposedly have is in its own way incredibly condescending and arrogant. People who support Trump are not “stupid,” nor have they been “tricked,” and they know what their interests are: those interests are just not compatible with communism. And this is not to say that it’s impossible for these interests to be displaced. But, in the u.s. and canada at least, the development of revolutionary interests and consciousness requires an acceptance of total decolonization, which for settlers means accepting the relinquishing of land and political and cultural dominance. Some white people may be prepared for this but we’ve got to be realistic and acknowledge that if we’re waiting around for widespread support for decolonization among white people we’re gonna be waiting a long time.
I think this all needs to be said but to some extent i think discussing this shit so much puts too much emphasis on white people. Just strategically speaking, especially when looking at the global scale, revolution does not even depend on widespread support from white people, so i wonder about the productiveness of the left scrambling to rationalize support for white supremacy among poorer whites in the first place.