I speak about the current Labor activity and militancy in this country.
I speak about celebrating Labor Day, and of the need to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and LGBTQ+phobia.
On Monday, September 3, I took part in the Philadelphia area’s Labor Day march and family celebration. The march began with a rally at the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, 1301 South Columbus Boulevard, with Labor leaders and elected officials speaking:
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General;
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny;
US Congressman Bob Brady, and John Greer, who has long been active in organizing the parade, along with Jim Moran;
Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Randi Weingarden, President of the American Federation of Teachers;
And, last but not least, the working men and women of Philadelphia, and their families.
Upcoming is Labor Day, the holiday commemorating the working men and women of America.
What is there to celebrate lately? Here we have a “populist” President, supposedly the champion and voice of (white) working-class Americans-always assumed to be white-who signed a tax bill favoring the wealthiest Americans, and fighting against the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”
trump’s attitude, and the attitude of plutocrats in this country, is one of condescension towards(white) working people, that they are too addicted to opioids and the drug of racism to see who their real enemy is-the same plutocratic class- and they feed working-class people with racially-coded fears of “law and order,” “crime in the streets,” “lazy welfare bums,” “affirmative action programs taking jobs away from deserving white workers,” etc.-trump updated this tactic to rail about “MS-13” and “rapists” coming over the border with Mexico- not mentioning that our tax policies have been long skewed in favor of corporations and the wealthy-people who pay lobbyists to alter the tax code in their favor, and to approve federal contracts with certain defense industries. (The news media, also large corporations, have played along with this; however, I think they’ve been pretty good lately at standing up to the trump tantrums.)
Along with this is the Supreme Court’s decision on the Janus case, which limits the ability of public-sector unions to do their work in representing their clients; I have no doubt the learned justices of the Court welcomed this decision, for they sympathized with the corporations-and the Koch brothers-trying forever to weaken and finally destroy unions in this country. The decision upset me terribly.
However, I have been buoyed by the Labor victories throughout the country, the successful teachers’ strikes in such conservative states as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona; and the voting down of the referendum in Missouri for “right-to-work” (for less)-in Missouri, another conservative Republican state.
We have to overcome the idea that the plutocratic class would automatically rain their blessings on us proletarians, that they know what is best for all of us with their nearly total control of the economy; as a Democratic Socialist, I believe that we the people should have a say in the economic destiny of the nation, since it deals with OUR jobs, OUR ability to pay our bills and purchase OUR groceries, etc. An editorial in the New York Times of May 9, 2018 tells about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is now the wealthiest man in human history, worth $131 BILLION! (I could live easily on one lousy billion.) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/opinion/jeff-bezos-spend-131-billion.html
Since Bezos can’t spend all that money, what does he plan to do with it? Not charitable donations, like the old Robber Barons like Carnegie and Rockefeller carried out with their fortunes (made with the sweat and muscle of workers they overworked and underpaid). Bezos’ bright idea is space travel, including regular trips to space-space tourism!
We have problems aplenty on THIS planet-global warming through the use of carbon-based fuels, illiteracy, unemployment, infrastructure (roads, bridges, electric power stations) collapsing, famine, genocide-and Bezos wants frequent-flyer points to Mars! Bezos can do whatever the hell he wants with his money, okay, I’m cool with that; but with the constant deregulation of business practices, the weakening of trade unions, the tax policies favoring people wealthy enough to buy and sell members of Congress, it has led to widening extremes of wealth and poverty-the likes of which eventually leads to violent social upheaval-let’s say it, revolution. We HAVE to educate ourselves on the issues, organize at our communities and our worksites, and get out and vote this November
Also upcoming are the High Holy Days, Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur, where we re-assess our lives, give up what no longer is good for us, and realize whatever good is in us and around us. Currently we are in the Hebrew month of Elul, when we sit back and reflect on our lives over the past year. Self-improvement is a long process, taken step by step; if you slip and fall on your way to advancing and improving, that’s okay, it’s all part of the learning process, just get back on your feet and keep walking. An excellent guide to the High Holy Days, and the other Jewish holidays, is Seasons of our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Arthur Waskow, one of the leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement and head of the Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org/).
On that note, I bid everyone L’shana tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous year to you all.
I will join other trade unionists in the 31st Annual Tri-State Labor Day Celebration, on Monday, September 3, 2018. we will assemble at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 1301 S. Columbus Blvd (at Washington Avenue) in Philadelphia, hold a kick-off rally, them parade, towards Penn’s Landing for food, refreshments, and fun for the kids. Please take pride in being a workers-you made this economy and country-and join in the fun, you deserve it.
I have celebrated my 60th birthday on August 1st, and I know my best days are ahead of me. I thank everybody for joining me on my life journey.
Charlottesville, Virginia, is, like the rest of the country, a flashpoint for the racial problems and hostilities plaguing our nation; one hundred and fifty years or so after the Civil war, fifty to sixty years after the start of the contemporary Civil rights movement, race is still the great dividing line of the nation. (Class is also a real issue, even though we still don’t talk about it.)
A gathering of neo-fascist groups, called “Unite The Right,” took place in Charlottesville, around the statue of Robert E. Lee, the great Confederate general-he was indeed a great military strategist, as well as the focus of great sentimental historical revision. The neo-fascists marched through Charlottesville, which is from what I hear a lovely university town-the headquarters of the University of Virginia- carrying tiki torches (like Klansmen have done) chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” like straight out of the Third Reich. Counter-demonstrators challenged them; there was violence, with the deaths of Heather Heyer, a fine progressive activist, and two Virginia State troopers whose helicopter crashed as the monitored the march-Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates; may their memory be a blessing.
The immediate cause for the march was to resist the taking down of various statues of Confederate “heroes,” such as Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. These statues were a form of propaganda, “art” used for a political purpose; they were set up during the time, after the Civil War, when the “Jim Crow” segregation laws were being enacted, and again during the rise of the Civil Rights movement. It was to remind African-Americans so was still in charge.
The rewriting of the Civil War’s history was also part of the propaganda; the war, historically proven to be based on the determination of the seceding states to maintain their slave systems, was now seen as merely a clash of differing ideas about what America was to be like, etc.
The Robert E. Lee myth, that of the kindly Christian gentleman-warrior, who sought to reconcile the nation after the war, was part of this. As a recent article in The Atlantic shows ( https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/) , Lee indeed oppose slavery, but only because it was bad for white people; He once wrote, “I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild &melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.”
How did our Commander in Chief handle this situation? First he said there was violence “on many sides,” then his staff urged him to make a real condemnation against racism and bigotry, then he went back to talking about the good people on the white nationalist side. He is either to gutless to stand up to his base (many of the racist marchers in Charlottesville wore his “Make America Great Again” caps), or he is too ignorant of the reality of racism contaminating our nation’s psyche-OR, more than likely, he’s a stone-cold racist himself. His wealth and power don’t bring him and more knowledge or wisdom, even though we are taught to revere the wealthy as geniuses.
What are we to make of trump supporters, people who stick with him right or wrong, sink or swim? He is not a friend of working people, but you hear so much about how working-class white people love him, and who love his bad-ass talk about building the wall and being allowed to beat up dissidents, like he urged them to do in his rallies. Many trump lovers are our friends or relatives whom we love, and we certainly can’t cut them off-trump isn’t worth it.
“Populist” is a word bandied about in the news media, like a kind of shorthand, to describe low-income racist politics. The origins of the word “populist” come from the movement in the US, the Populist Party, which was an alliance of farmers who were oppressed by railroads charging too-high rates for shipping their produce, and banks charging too-high interest on their mortgages. It was a movement of low-income people against the corporations dominating the nation’s politics and government, and it allied with labor unions and the women’s suffrage movement. One of its greatest activists, Thomas Watson of Georgia, spoke of the need for Black and White farmers to unite against the common enemy, but Watson and other Populist Party leaders succumbed to the white supremacist idea, for getting who the real enemy was.
It’s a fight, but we’ve had our fights before-organizing workers for their benefit, women organizing for their right to vote at the minimum, people of color working to have their American dream, LGBT people fighting for their right to love-we have a tradition to fall back on, and we have living elders who can tell their stories and inspire the young ’ins, who will add their chapters to the history of the struggle.
What will I be doing in the fight? On Monday, September 4 I’ll march with other Labor activists in the 30th annual Tri-State Labor day Parade and Family Celebration, where we honor the working people of America-that is, US-our institution the labor unions, and the accomplishment we have made for our class and our nation. We are more than worthy of a party.
On Wednesday the 6th I’ll take part in a meeting of Philly for Change, a group which came out of the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004. This group discusses campaigns around legislative district boundaries (and the problem of “gerrymandering”), environmental and gun laws, and LGBT rights, to name a few.