“If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. All that harms labor is treason to America.”
I am a democratic socialist, not a liberal. And I for one am delighted that a combination of labor activists, immigration advocates and the Occupy movement are planning a massive day of action and protest tomorrow across the US, in solidarity with those who constitute the 99% around the globe. It’s high time that “we, the people” in the U.S. reclaimed the date of the people’s holiday: May Day. Moving Labor Day was always about disassociating the left in the US from the international community, and thus weakening both. The Occupy movement in all its forms is about giving that 99% a great deal of its voice back. Thus Michael Kazin, a Georgetown professor, tells MoJo:
the closest historical precedent to Occupy is the anti-monopoly movement of the late 19th century, when socialists, anarchists, and populist reformers united to bust the trusts. Much as Occupy has embraced social media and live-streaming, the anti-monopolists published hundreds of independent newspapers. But, Kazin adds, they also worked to elect sympathetic politicians. “I think history teaches that when people to the left of liberals are able to advance is when you have people who at least talk about reform in power,” he says.
I think that’s exactly right. The Democratic party has taken the center-right position of the true conservative party in U.S. politics following the Republican pursuit of Le Pen style fringedom, leaving a yawning representation gap on the Left which a party built around the 99% movement might yet fill. Although I’d caution that this is not a short-term project: it is liable to take a couple of decades to put together an infrastructure in the U.S. capable of transforming a movement into a party capable of taking power in national elections and then governing effectively. But still, the movement has shown it has power to change the political narrative by “refocusing the national discussion on rising income inequality, exploding student debt, and fraudulent banking practices”. It has the Gordon Gekko, “greed is good”, elite attempting a PR about-face and trying to paint themselves as the prey instead of the predators. The movement is using the language of class war and it is working. Chris Hedges:
Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict. It does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class, but we have to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill and lie to make money. They throw poor families out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars to make profits, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, loot the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship only money and power. And, as Marx knew, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force that consumes greater and greater numbers of human lives until it finally consumes itself. The nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect metaphor for the corporate state. It is the same nightmare seen in postindustrial pockets from the old mill towns in New England to the abandoned steel mills in Ohio. It is a nightmare that Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans, mourning their dead, live each day.
Capitalism was once viewed in America as a system that had to be fought. But capitalism is no longer challenged. And so, even as Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars and the Gulf of Mexico is turned into a toxic swamp, we do not know what to do or say. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. The liberal class has a misguided loyalty, illustrated by environmental groups that have refused to excoriate the Obama White House over the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Liberals bow before a Democratic Party that ignores them and does the bidding of corporations. The reflexive deference to the Democrats by the liberal class is the result of cowardice and fear. It is also the result of an infantile understanding of the mechanisms of power. The divide is not between Republican and Democrat. It is a divide between the corporate state and the citizen. It is a divide between capitalists and workers. And, for all the failings of the communists, they got it.
…The liberal class prefers comfort to confrontation. It will not challenge the decaying structures of the corporate state. It is intolerant within its ranks of those who do. It clings pathetically to the carcass of the Obama presidency. It has been exposed as a dead force in American politics. We must find our way back to the old radicals, to the discredited Marxists, socialists and anarchists, including Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day. Language is our first step toward salvation. We cannot fight what we cannot describe.
Remember, the rich have eaten all the pie – there’s none left for you poor schmucks who want to believe being Middle Class makes you speshul, not just another dying breed. If that’s not class war, I don’t know what is.
I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, ”œI’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want””those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money””is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-f”“king-American, is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that””sorry, kiddies””you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay””not to give, not to ”œcut a check and shut up,” in Gov. Christie’s words, but to pay””in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.
This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year, during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (”œLet them eat cake”) or Ebeneezer Scrooge (”œAre there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.
Think about it.