"The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy. We'll start with specific issues -- taxes, jobs, consumer problems, pollution -- and from there move on to the larger issues: pollution in the Pentagon and the Congress and the board rooms of the megacorporations. Once you organize people, they'll keep advancing from issue to issue toward the ultimate objective: people power. We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on. -- Saul Alinsky
LI recommends this story as the most heartening news of the week. Labor has spent decades as the Democrat’s dog. In return, the Democrats have supported every nasty perk that has puffed upper management to the absurd financial status it now holds, from the awful Lieberman threatening the SEC, in the 90s, not to investigate accounting abuses to the bankruptcy bill that passed this year with crucial Dem support; the Democrats passed Nafta, otherwise known as the spread the impoverishment act; the Dems for a decade left Greenspan, that well known hater of labor, in his place as the most powerful single setter of the economic agenda in America ; and every four years, the Dems tapped union money the way frat boys gang bang a keg to run presidential candidates who ranged on the charisma scale from Mondale (as charismatic as socks) to Kerry (as charismatic as loafers).
We’ve been reading Murray Kempton’s Ruins and Monuments of the Thirties book. It was published in 1955, we believe. At that time, Unions were still gigantic in America, and the politics of the CIO was headline news. Kempton etched an acid picture of Lee Pressman, a communist who became one of the great labor councilors for John L. Lewis. Lewis was a man who breathed the worker cause – Kempton tells a story about how once, in a mine, Lewis had to kill a mule that had become unhinged. He did it with a blow to the head, then covered up the cause of the death, since the mule was company property and Lewis would have been fired for killing it. That it endangered miners was no concern of the company – a dead miner wasn’t a cost. Pressman was, undoubtedly, one of those people who gave their heart to their vision of Stalin’s Russia. The vision was as inaccurate as the vision of Iraq currently promoted by the hawks. But the Commies were excellent organizers, and save for the support for Stalin, mostly right about the issues. The problem, as every witness that came out of the thirties testifies, is that the Communists smashed everything eventually into a Machiavellian framework of politics, the point of which was to drive out other progressive forces. Still, one of the great casualties of the early fifties was a strong, domestic American Communist party. Such a thing would have nicely leavened the American political scene.
Now we live in an America run by villains, of course. The causes next to their compassionate heart are things like helping companies that have poisoned thousand of people with asbestos and who continue to do so with the use, for instance, of asbestos in brakes, literally get away with murder. LI’s notion is that this state of things has happened partly because the balance of forces between social movements and the parties long ago shifted to the parties. As long as the Unions are adjuncts of the Democratic party, Union positions will be abused by that party – for the leadership of it is basically indistinguishable from the leadership of the Republican party, give or take a belief in evolution or two. Whenever that leadership is forced to do something progressive, distress signals immediately leak out of D.C. in the form of articles decrying “special interests’ in the New Republic. According to the WP article:
“Stern began his insurgency two years ago. His vision was that the demands of a rapidly changing global economy require a consolidation by labor. By this reckoning, the loose affiliation of unions, many of them small, that characterize the AFL-CIO is no match for well-financed international corporations. Stern believes that unions must be forced to merge to create larger units that can dominate economic sectors, and that labor must shift more of its union dues into large-scale organizing campaigns and less distributing money to influence political races.
If his ideas prevail, Stern boasted, "the next decade can be a time of innovation, new strategies, new energy, new growth, and new ideas that will bring to life a new, 21st century American Dream."
Unions have a choice, we think: they can continue to be respectable, and disappear, or they can become disrespectable, they can support large scale actions that defy current laws – how about sit down strikes in selected Walmarts across the country? – and become strong again. Class warfare is another name for everyday life. I’d like to see some better generalship from my side of it.
PS -- on the war resistance front: see this interesting post on Counter-recruitment at the Huffington Blog. The poster even uses "Starve the Beast" to entitle the post -- which happens to be the title we gave our own counter-recruitment post two weeks ago. Since then, we've been busy publicizing counter-recruitment. Oh well, no time to worry about intellectual priority -- the cause is greater than our vanity.
“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears
Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads