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Saturday, April 2, 2011

LABOR PAINS IN THE BIRTH OF A REVOLUTION





Corporate control of the US government must be opposed if the citizens of this or of any nation are to be free. Those of us who realize this will need to understand something of the history of the labor movement in the US. We must avoid the mistakes it has made since it began in reaction to the vicious abuses of the corporate Puppetmasters of the US government in that era.

Unions have always had the potential to lead the building of a united front against fascism and war. The problems that have prevented this are the same ones that fracture any political movement that does not reach out to every citizen who is being lied to and harmed by the economic elites in the United States and elsewhere.


These international corporate terrorists do not hesitate to resort to war and other forms of violence to achieve their aim of imposing a fascist New World Order.
  In their dystopian ideal world governments are mere tools in the hands of wealthy international bankers and industrialists. To them life is a game of monopoly whose goal is control the masses in a system of economic slavery that the union movement exists to oppose.
 

Eugene Debs began his political life as a progressive Democrat. Throughout his life supported nonviolent resistance to the forces of unregulated monopolistic capitalism. In the course of his work organizing unions, the violent reaction of the power elite in attempting to suppress the growing labor movement radicalized him. While never changing his mind that nonviolence was the only path to ultimate victory, he abandoned the false hope that a just social order could ever be established by negotiating with the fascists in government and industry whose only goals were increasing their own wealth and power by scratching each others' backs while the needs of the People are not addressed. Debs’ experiences could teach the modern labor organizer everything he or she needs to know.
 
He rose to prominence for his actions in the Pullman strike of 1894. George Pullman was the owner of the company that manufactured railroad sleeping cars bearing his name. His company owned the land, houses, stores and even churches in the Chicago suburb where his workers lived. After the Great Panic of 1893 he slashed wages while keeping the price of rent and goods the same and continuing to pay dividends to shareholders. When Pullman refused an offer of a mediated settlement of these grievances, Debs threw the weight of the newly formed American Railway Union behind a national strike against any railroad that refused to uncouple Pullman cars from its trains.   

The resulting reaction by the forces of 19th century fascism was as frightening as it was perhaps predictable. It also highlighted the dangers of deep division within the labor movement that should already have been apparent to organizers dedicated only to the cause of justice for workers and their families.  Instead, ideological and political differences then and now have kept unions from becoming the force that recent history has shown that they must be. Unions alone contain the potential power to protect the rights of all working Americans and ultimately, democracy in the United States and the world.

When Debs called for the support of the AFL under founder Samuel Gompers he was rebuffed. He was also left to fight without the support of other rail unions. Like the early AFL, they had yet to appreciate that their competing for support and their exclusion of unskilled and Black workers undermined the common cause for which they fought. Gompers had further eviscerated the movement in arguing forcefully against political action by organized labor in a speech before the 1890 AFL national convention. 

Even without the support of other unions, the call for a national strike was answered by 100,000 men. They courageously walked off their jobs in defiance of threats to their financial and personal security that had to be taken seriously in light of the Haymarket massacre just eight years before in neighboring Chicago. That protest had been sparked by the murder of two striking workers by goons of the Pinkerton agency who were guarding strikebreaking workers at the McCormick plant. It is important to understand the Haymarket affair to appreciate the significance of the Pullman strike.

Two days after the shootings at the Chicago plant on May 1, 1886 police were called to break up the peaceful protest held in response. A bomb was thrown that killed a policeman. Police responded with gunfire that killed or wounded an unknown number of protesters and probably inflicted most or all of the eight casualties in their own ranks, according to witnesses. It remains a mystery to this day whether it was a Pinkerton agent or an anarchist who threw the bomb that triggered the massacre. Newspapers of the day of course attributed the violence to anarchists, raising images of a Red menace and helping mute public criticism of the staged trials of eight organizers, seven of whom were sentenced to death.

The Pullman strike revealed the degree to which the rise of labor power alarmed the US government. Instead of sending in the Pinkertons, Democratic President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops and a motley assortment of goons and criminals deputized as US marshals to break up the strike. Violence broke out in the form of a rail car being burnt and fire hoses cut. Naturally, Debs and other organizers were arrested, tried and convicted.

He emerged from prison six months later unbowed and radicalized.
 His political outlook was forever changed when he was persecuted by a man for whom he had campaigned for in two elections. Seeing that Cleveland was willing to subvert the Constitution to silence him and use the Sherman Act to selectively attack unions, he joined the Socialist Party and became its candidate for President in 1904, 1908 and 1912. In the last election he earned the largest percentage of votes of any third party candidate in history, effectively making him an enemy of the state when he later opposed WWI. He was tried under the Alien and Sedition Acts and imprisoned in 1919. Debs became severely ill and died in 1926, some two years after being pardoned by Harding.

In addition to his example of undaunted courage, Debs’ importance lies in his unwavering conviction that if unions are to become a true counterbalance to corporate power they must become a vehicle for all working people, their families and small business owners who are the backbone of any sustainable and socially justifiable economy. The union movement cannot afford to keep collaborating with a corporate-controlled Democratic Party for the pitifully small rewards it receives.

True political power rises not from submitting to vague, mostly unrealized promises of reform from neoliberals. It comes from using the power of a People united to force such change. We can clean up Congress and make it work for us if we abandon artificial Left-Right, Democrat-Republican, racial and even class distinctions to a point. Average Americans from across the spectrum of political ideology from office know our government does not work for us. If we can form a movement united in the common cause of restoring representative democracy to the United States, we can alter our form of government and abolish fascism forever.

It is time that unions quit fighting defensively for issues of narrow self interest and focus on a concerted effort to attack the corporate Puppetmasters in their most vulnerable area. If unions reach out widely to convince the general public that there is a way to throw out members of Congress who put the interests of corporations over We the People, they can become a potent force in the national movement to abolish corporate personhood.

What naysayers of Move to Amend do not seem to appreciate is that the only thing preventing our seizing this moment in history to end corporate control of the US government is their own pessimism. It is up to us in the grassroots movement for democracy to convince such cynics as Ed Schultz and even Thom Hartmann that we not only can but must work now to build this movement. To delay is to risk authoritarian measures already in place to restrict our civil liberties being strengthened to the point where violent resistance may become the only alternative to fascism.

We need only get one or a small group of members of Congress to introduce an amendment to abolish corporate personhood to assure our inevitable victory. Once the issue is on the table, unions can lead a broad-based campaign to make support for the amendment a litmus test in every subsequent Congressional election. Those of us struggling to make citizens who are so frightened, demoralized, apathetic or unaware of this dagger aimed at the heart of democracy need the support of unions. Only a few are answering the call, mostly those affiliated with Jobs For Justice around the United States.

Whether unions as a body take on this challenge will be determined by rank and file members who understand that their leaders have largely failed them in constantly capitulating to corporate Democrats.
  Those Puppets of the international corporate terrorists who control our government have betrayed unions on nearly every critical issue in recent history. From their support of free trade agreements to the failure to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to the cynical bailout of medical insurance companies by cost shifting medical care expenses to the worker, the Democratic Party has failed to deliver on the Devil’s bargain that unions have made with it.   
 
All Americans can agree that the government should be one of, by and for the People. Every citizen of the United States should be able to agree that this cannot happen by a process of electing officials dependent on corporate money for their offices. The system of corporate welfare that has resulted has created a massive debt, widespread unemployment, monopolistic practices that hurt small businesses and the shredding of the social safety net that may be the only thing keeping the United States from utter social, economic, and moral self-destruction. Thus, the problem of corporate personhood affects not only working families but every American, to the benefit of the very few.

I challenge you to ask yourself:  “What would Debs do?”

10 comments:

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  5. Thanks for the compliment and I hope that you will share this and other blogs you like.

    I have written more about the role of unions in building a united front against fascism and war since you posted this comment. I have realized that they will play a central role in restoring representative democracy to America by promoting the abolition of corporate personhood.

    Among other relevant posts is We are All Egyptians Now, which explains the role unions played and continue to play in the Egyptian Revolution. Another is this essay from the online book of essays Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America that I re-post every Labor Day: http://takebackamericaforthepeople.blogspot.com/2009/11/chapter-twenty-nine-labor-day-and-work.html

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  6. Wingate, thanks for offering the valuable information. Unfortunately, this link did not take me to the blog.

    It is by sharing intel that we can overcome the power of secrecy that allow international corporate terrorists to operate in the US and elsewhere with impunity.

    Our only weapon in the war on fascism and war is the truth. We must work together to get it out so that event he confused average American will realize that the true enemy of liberty, democracy and peace are the Puppetmasters of Congress.

    These are the self-styled Masters of the Universe whose goal is nothing less than the enslavement of all of us in a fascist New World Order that can only be maintained by endless war whose goals, planning and execution are shrouded in secrecy: http://takebackamericaforthepeople.blogspot.com/2010/03/chapter-seventy-six.html

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  7. Please accept my apology for not acknowledging the other comments. I appreciate your support and sharing this blog with others.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this article and video. It sure is a long learning curve to find out all the evil perpetrated by corporate thugs, and there is plenty of reasons to elevate the word conspiracy from the basket of tainted words, that are so hard to embrace.

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What would have been the proper thing to do for McCormick when he introduced the steam hammer to speed up the iron processing time? That unleashed the protests. But what should the correct reaction from businesses be when automatization helps production? Should sustainability and gradual introduction be the measures that regulate such things? I believe that automatization is less the problem to job losses and a threat to Union, compared to the huge conspiracies that corporate thugs pursue with the goal to enslave the working class and bend it to their domination.

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  10. Thanks for your comments and question, Andrea. I agree that the word "conspiracy" has been demeaned by a corporate media that is in the center of the conspiracy of silence about the crimes of the US government and those who hold power over it.

    I also agree about automation. If we had an economic system wherein wealth was fairly distributed according to the worth of a worker's labor the question would be moot.

    Thom Hartmann points out that some Native American tribes were very happy and functional when the members worked as little as two hours per day. With automation and the increased efficiency it brings, in a sane society we would enjoy much more leisure time.

    The problem of course is that to the rich, life is a game of Monopoly and we are just the token game pieces: http://takebackamericaforthepeople.blogspot.com/2009/09/chapter-eighty-one-game-of-monopoly_01.html

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