I rejoice at the latest labor victory—after two years of being ignored by management at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and after a strike, museum employees, organized under Local 397 of AFSCME District Council 47, won a contract from the museum. (https://www.inquirer.com/news/philadelphia/philadelphia-art-museum-strike-settlement-union-20221014.html) This is one victory among several, along with successful organizing drives among workers at Starbucks, Amazon, and the Home Depot on Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/23/business/home-depot-union-vote) Please remember that despots, whether political, military, or corporate, don’t give up their power easily; when their former subordinates organize and stand up to them, they make small concessions, but they plan to resume their former power later on, and punish those whose crime is fighting for their rights.
The old Peanuts comic strip—I loved it as a kid, and still do—had a lot of fun with the commercialization of holidays, whether it be Halloween, Christmas or Beethoven’s birthday. We see this in how soon stores are so quick to prepare for holidays, so they can sell the stuff for that holiday; I’ve seen Halloween candy and costumes when it wasn’t even Labor Day, Christmas lights up way before Halloween, and Valentine’s Day cards on New Year’s Eve. This season of holidays, from Halloween through New Year’s, is said to be the biggest season for retail sales, and thus one of the driving engines of the economy. I feel, though, that the rush to get from one holiday to the next takes the fun out of them.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has been running a series, “A More Perfect Union,” about how this nation deals with race, or else fails to do so. This series has looked at how institutional racism, and the abhorrent institution of slavery, have affected several venerable Philadelphia institutions. (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/more-perfect-union-freedom-inequality-philadelphia-20210704.html) This is what is needed in our society—a full accounting of the racism still permeating our nation. This is the premise of Critical Race Theory, that this thorough-going racism prevails in every aspect of US society—academia, business, media, politics, etc. It’s an academic discipline in law schools, and NOT—do I HAVE to keep repeating myself?—NOT a means of brainwashing pre-K kids into hating being white. We must keep the discussion on race, racism, and combatting racism going, with or without any educational institution’s involvement. If an educational institution fails to do this, to bring about intelligent discussion about our past to the table, it has failed in its task; education should be a means of developing independent-thinking citizens, and not mindless inmates in the corporate asylum.
I can’t emphasize enough the need for voting in this election; all elections are important, both primaries and generals, from President to county row offices. But this election has dire consequences for this country, should Republicans retake the House, Senate, and state offices (God forbid!). It would mean the continued limiting of abortion rights for women, down to zero; the diminishment of rights for LGBTQ+ people, leaving them vulnerable to harassment and discrimination; the taking-away of rights for workers to organize; and further attacks on people of color, as we see in the whining about CRT. It’s grassroots organizing, in our worksites and our neighborhoods, which have, and continue to, make a difference in affecting change.
I have finished reading the book by Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. (https://www.harpercollins.com/products/reconstruction-updated-edition-eric-foner?variant=32116709523490) Foner writes about how the federal government dealt with, or failed to deal with, efforts to bring the former slaves, who sacrificed so much to attain their freedom, into full citizenship in this “land of the free.” During this era, the Republicans were pulled between organizing state governments that would implement programs benefitting lower-class people of all colors, such as schools, and industrial development ideas that they hoped would bring prosperity to the war-battered southern states, such as land grants and tax breaks for railroads.
Then, as now, there were the complaints of “extravagant government spending” when talking about schools and hospitals, and this came along with the depression of 1873, the rising of genuine class warfare (culminating in the Great Strike of 1877, which spread from railyards in the east and moved through other classes of workers and to other regions in the country, https://www.history.com/news/1877-railroad-strike-trains). These labor conflicts welded governments at all levels to the rising industrial capitalist class, and has led to the severest repression of workers’ organizing efforts, with the courts issuing injunctions against strikes, and physical force from the national guard, police forces, and vigilante mobs of “respectable, upper-class people.”
In this, the federal government lost whatever real interest they had in protecting and advancing the freedmen, and after the horse-trading over electoral college votes after the election of 1876, the federal troops were reassigned to repress uprisings of workers and natives, and the freedmen were left on their own to face the not-so-tender mercies to “Reclamation” state governments that wore away, as much as they could, the gains the former slaves made to advance themselves—and, along the way, low-income whites suffered also, with such problems as high rates of illiteracy and poverty.
Is this going to happen again? Are we going to go through the erosion of whatever advancements we’ve made in social progress, such as abortion rights, workers’ safety and health, and civil rights for people of color and LGBTQ+s? The “reclamation” of state governments by white supremacists, and the resulting Jim Crow laws, have slowed much social and economic development in this country; but we have a legacy of freedom fighting in our past, with such events as John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, the Great Strike of 1877, the Lawrence strike of 1912, the Montgomery Bus Boycott—the list of precedents is endless; and as we make our own stand in 2022, let’s add our work to the list; our ancestors, and our progeny, are counting on us.
Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! Slava Ukraini! America will be free! Bye!