Forgive me for not posting more; I am concluding my graduate work in the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Labor Studies, where I shall attain my Master’s degree, on May 11. Education remains the greatest form of self-empowerment, for an individual and a class, particularly the working class. Please look them up at https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/.
We have just commemorated the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, as he was in Memphis to support the strike by sanitation workers who tried to attain a decent wage from the city. This was made in conjunction with the Poor People’s March, the movement to challenge economic oppression, just as King challenged racial oppression. To King, and to anyone paying attention, the two struggles are synonymous; oppression based on race and class are equally reprehensible, and the pitting of low-income whites against African-Americans has been a longstanding tactic to prevent the two sides from working together for their mutual benefit. King advocated the unity of working and low-income people against the systems of oppression keeping all of them down, and the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Civil Rights movement in general, were to him all of one piece.
Along with this, King challenged the justice of the Viet Nam war, as only a person loving his country could; paying for the war meant taking money from the programs of the Great Society, to continue a war that Lyndon Johnson knew could not be won, to support a gang of “generals” in Saigon posing as a government and robbing and terrorizing their own people. King knew that was not what America was supposed to be about, and he sought to raise the nation to a higher vision.
This opposition to the Viet Nam war, and his organizing the Poor People’s movement, cost him the approval of the media of the time and from the Johnson administration, and from the Liberal-moderate politicians who supported King previously. The Gallup poll of August 1966 rated King:
Total favorable, 33%
Total unfavorable, 63%
At this time, King started to challenge racial bias in housing in the northern states; King was struck in the head by a rock by counter-protestors during the march in Marquette Park in Chicago. It was only after his murder that he started becoming the sanitized saint we see on the news media.
Now we see the movement of athletes, like Colin Kaepernick, “taking the knee” during the National Anthem to protest police violence against racial minorities, and taking the heat for doing so, being accused of “dishonoring the flag,” when in fact the knee-taking calls out America’s failure to the “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
It’s like that with social movements; they challenge existing social and economic structures, which have been accepted as normal and natural by just about everyone-except those in the movements-and people’s thinking would have to adjust to the ideas the movement present; butt after the passage of time, the new ideas evolve into the new orthodoxy. (But still, the old social-racial-economic ideas have their believers, and they pull back and wait for when their old ideas and be put into place-often repackaged as something “new” and “revolutionary,” like the “new and improved” label on a box of detergent.)
No matter what an important social movement does, no matter how well-behaved its activists and participants behave to seeking their rights, the conservative forces-yes, I’ll use that word-act like they’re doing something terrible, or unpatriotic, or oppressing or slandering the adherents of the old order. (It’s a zero-sum thing with conservatives; they act like a formerly oppressed group standing up for their rights means rights being takin from the once-dominant group.) Liberal-moderate politicians try to make the government a neutral arbiter between the two sides, to work out a compromise beneficial to both; but the once dominant group complains of having their rights taken from them-as if they have the lord-of-the-manor right to oppress whoever they choose, and they don’t believe in giving up any of their power or in dealing with the former out-group.
We see this in the writings of Ayn Rand, coming out just after the New Deal was settling into the minds of Americans, and workers were allowed-under the National Labor Relations Act-the right to organize unions (Awful nice of the rulers to do that). In Rand’s world, capitalists, once the dominant force in politics, are now starving, oppressed geniuses tyrannized by government officials and unions of workers, and by the larger voting public which, as presented in Atlas Shrugged, have no business in the affairs of the business tycoons; in Rand’s view, the public should let the capitalists do their capitalist thing of getting as much profit as they can out of whatever they do for their own greed and avarice, and through the magic of the Free Market, EVERY body benefits, because of that we will ALL prosper from the capitalists’ greed and selfishness. Rand wrote about this like it was something radical and revolutionary, something never done before, but in reality it’s the old plutocratic order reclaiming its throne.
(Interesting-the conservative “hard-boiled realists” who supposedly know so much of how the real world works, as opposed the dreamy-eyed liberals-socialists-communists and their utopian ideas-the same conservatives look to a poorly made work of “fiction”, populated by written-down cartoon characters, as their guidebook to economic reality, how to grow the economy.)
I have also been celebrating May Day, the international holiday honoring workers, which was given a bad reputation by its association with the Communist regimes in Beijing and Moscow; but the real history of May Day, coming out of the struggles for the eight-hour day in the United States, is getting more attention. Let us keep that work up of educating ourselves and our fellow workers.