Sorry I’ve been late in putting this out, I’ve been busy with class work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies-and yes, the role of organized Labor in the building of this country, is important. We need the power of organized workers, who are also members of the community, and members of religious congregations, in short, our neighbors, friends and ourselves.
There are forces in our politics and our society that would destroy any and all efforts to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the rights of workers to organize into unions for their mutual protection, voting rights and Civil Rights legislation, among other things. People over the decades have worked and died for those benefits we now enjoy, they did not come about from the beneficence of a government, whose tendency is to use its force to defend corporations and to repress workers and other malcontents.
Conveniently, this history is far enough in the past that no one remembers those struggles, so the reactionary forces can act like rebels against a “liberal” status quo; such is the basis of Ayn Rand’s raggedy-ass “novels” like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Conservatives act like there was no history before such programs, or the movements that campaigned for them.
Plus, corporate conservatives act as if they lost control of the government; formerly, the government’s function was to put down by force anything and everyone who stood up to the corporate masters that dominated it and used it for their purposes (as they still do). The advent of popular movements such as Civil Rights, feminism, LGBT rights, and definitely Labor, have brought forth political activists who entered the political system to alter-a little bit-the system for the benefit of these former outgroups, with Civil Rights legislation, occupational safety and health laws for the workplace, minimum-wage laws, laws combating housing discrimination, etc.
But in the conservative mind, if you are not the dominant group, you are in the subordinate group-this is the either/or thinking permeating conservatives, with no concept of “let’s make a deal” or “let’s meet half-way.” The conservative mentality is that when a traditional out-group asserts its rights, it’s not raising itself up, politically or socially, with the dominant group, but dragging the dominant group to their “inferior” level.
In the Civics-class politics I’ve been taught in school-along with much other nonsense-contending parties sit down with one another, and negotiate a deal that benefits almost everyone as far as possible, in the horse-trading tradition of politics in this country. However, with the militancy of the far-right emerging with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, conservatives inside the Republican Party have abandoned the idea of dealing and compromising, with the long-term goal of disempowering their opponents and returning the government to being an instrument of plutocratic repression.
Of course, the advent of Fascism proves that a plutocratic regime needs some foot soldiers from the lower classes to do its bidding. Much of the appeal of Fascism is the glorification of force and violence the regime uses to put down its enemies, and that along with the cult of the BIG STRONG Leader appeals to people who have enemies they would like to smash, such as racial, ethic, and sexual minority groups who DARE stand up for themselves. People like this, mostly male, believe it’s a sign of true masculinity, real manliness, to put down their “inferiors;” and a Fascist Leader Cult would draw men who are insecure about their masculinity.
Here, also, we find the true meaning of the dreaded term “bleeding-heart liberal,” or just plain “liberal’ (when it’s used as an insult), talking about those of the dominant race or group who feels compassion for the oppression of the subordinate groups and would ease their suffering; real strong brave virile men, again, make no concessions with their “inferiors,” they keep them “inferior” and remind them how “inferior” they are.
(To me, Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” of Objectivism and her writings, for all their whining against the evil state and their talk of ignorant government bureaucrats, and a form of Fascism, the glorification of the Great Genius-Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, John Galt in Atlas Shrugged– being limited by inferior people in government, and who enforce their will, even to the point of raping women; the glorification of violence and force, and the contempt for “inferiors.)
THIS is the political movement we are up against-financially powerful, contemptuous of any law but its own will, delusional about human history and nature.
Another issue we have to confront is apathy-the feeling of “IT is what it is, it’s unjust, let’s live with it.” There are indeed many unjust things in the world-unemployment, war, hunger, official oppression, domestic violence, poor schools, needless illness, to name a few. And again, we are told to accept is as “How it is” and “reality.”
And so the implicit message is “Don’t bother challenging or changing this situation.” We hear this, that any attempt to challenge these unjust systems are a joke or “Utopian,” and we are made to be ashamed of ourselves for being silly enough to believe in changing it. (IT DOES, incidentally, create a threat to SOME powerful interests who benefit from the terrible situation.)
But-do we need anyone’s permission, particularly the approval of those who would oppose us? Not at all. Ask the Labor movement, risking their lives to make the lives of workers, better, or even possible; ask the African-American Civil Rights movement, with a Black man as President of the United States; ask the Feminist movement, with the possibility of a woman as President of the United States; ask the LGBT movement, starting from a riot at a skuzzy bar in New York now attaining marriage equality; yes, ask them if they needed permission to fight for their rights.
Let us ponder this as we come to Labor day, the holiday of, by, and for workers and their families-bye!