We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics

Click here to access article by Sam Mitrani and Chad Pearson from CounterPunch.

Although I agree with much of this article, I also have serious criticisms. The article provides rich material for political consciousness raising--and to be sure, Americans need their consciousness raised from the low level where it presently resides. This latter observation is not a criticism of ordinary Americans so much as it is evidence of the ruling class's deliberate attempt to dumb down Americans and fill their heads with false dreams and a fake history that censors most of the realities of the history of class war.

For the positive parts of the article I like much of the real history that the authors present: the necessity of worker organizing to form a strong opposition to the ruling capitalist class. I also like the authors' exposé of the insidious role of liberals and social democrats to manage this opposition on behalf of capitalist interests.

This last category is extremely important to raise the political consciousness of ordinary Americans who have been fooled and manipulated countless times by liberals and social democrats who really serve the interests of capital. This is precisely the people whom Eric London wrote about in his article entitled "Wealth distribution in the United States and the politics of the pseudo-left". (See this post and my commentary because I'm not going to repeat myself.) 

This phenomenon of co-optation is a major weapon that the ruling capitalist class has used so effectively throughout history to manage opposition by workers. That is precisely why worker organizations must develop bottom-up authority structures in their organizations to counter this weapon. But workers must have a certain level of political consciousness, an understanding of their interests, and real understanding of labor history to function effectively in a bottom-up authority system. This presents a chicken-egg type of dilemma to which I don't have a good answer. Most ordinary Americans have been thoroughly indoctrinated to follow authority figures and conditioned to distrust each other; and likewise to look to powerful leaders, people who pretend to be in-the-know, or saviors for their salvation.

Now for my negative criticisms. The authors brief outline of history was faulty in the immediate post WWII period by labeling it as a labor "golden age". They didn't mention the backlash against labor unions that occurred during that period: the Taft-Hartley Act and the purging of radical labor leaders from unions during the McCarthy period. (For a good worker history of this period, see this.) To be sure workers enjoyed increases in wages and other gains, but this was solely due to the fact that US industry was completely intact whereas most industry in other advanced economies were destroyed because of the war. (The authors vaguely alluded to this reality.)

But the most damning criticism I've saved for last. The article was laced throughout by the theme of a "balance of forces" or "balance of power". This really represented their political view of labor and goal of organized labor in relation to the ruling capitalist class. Their unstated thesis is that labor should only strive to gain a powerful position and have their own political party to counter capitalist power so that they can insure that workers' interests are served. In their own words:
That is why the working-class needs its own political organization, one that puts its interests first. We need a political party that is not limited to elections, but recognizes that the mobilization of the working-class is the only thing that can change the balance of forces in our favor. Such a party would demand, at minimum, that no company making a profit should be allowed to lay off employees, and that if there is not enough work, any remaining work must be divided with no loss in pay. It would demand that corporate subsidies and tax breaks be banned, and that the wealthy and the corporations be taxed to pay for schools and services. We realize this is far from an original proposal, but the working-class has not had a political party representing its interests since Eugene Debs’s day.
Yes, indeed, it is "far from an original proposal"! The only new idea they advanced is that the Democratic Party does not serve workers' interests. But that's new?! This article is so typical of articles posted in CounterPunch. They pretend to be left-wing, but in fact they are thoroughly pro-capitalist in a mild sort of way...much like liberals and social democrats.