Class Warfare, the Final Chapter – Part 3

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(by: Michael Pirsch, t r u t h o u t, Tuesday 15 March 2011, News Analysis, cont., emphasis added.)

          That the wealthy elite hate democracy is beyond question. The WikiLeaks of State Department cables exposed that hatred over and over again. All governments are expected to do the bidding of the US empire, especially when those demands are contrary to the actions and thoughts of that government’s own citizens. Specific examples of the hatred of democracy include: the 2000 vote in Florida; the kidnapping , during a US-backed coup in Venezuela, of President Chavez in 2002; the 1992 and 2004 kidnapping of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Aristide won the 2002 election with over 92 percent of the vote); the allowing of the criminalization of Aristide’s political party, Famni Lavalas; the support for the ouster of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya and for the resultant coup government; the support for Israel’s policies of overturning the most democratic election in Arab history in Palestine by jailing victorious Hamas legislators and exacting severe collective punishments against the Palestinians in Gaza by blockade, and, later, by a massacre.

          Another example of elite disgust with democracy was offered during September 2008, when Congress was ordered to bail out the wealthy elite’s bankers. Prior to the first vote, I called over 120 Congresspeople at their Washington offices. After the House rejected the bailout, I called about 20 Senators. The calls to the House revealed that each member’s office was receiving a torrent of phone calls. These calls were not part of an organized effort, but came out of genuine and passionate opposition. I was informed by the staff of various members that over 90 percent of the callers opposed the bailout. After a few phone calls to Senate members, it became apparent that the senators would not listen to the people and would follow the orders of the wealthy and bail out the banks.

          Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California’s 27th District (comprising Sherman Oaks and Northridge) spoke on the House floor during the second attempt to pass the bailout. He revealed that more than one House member was told that martial law would be declared if the House failed to pass the bailout.[9] The obscene wealth of the elite was threatened by democratic activity of the nation’s citizens. The bailout and how it was executed remains one of many examples that our wealthy elite hates democracy.

          We really have very little space in our lives to practice democracy as it is meant to be practiced. The union movement has engaged in sporadic dances with democracy, but those were finished with the creation of mega-size “local” unions. Nearly all of the successes by the rest of us in this class warfare have been due in no small part to the extent that democracy still exists in the unions. Now, there are still a few locals that practice real democracy internally, and they are the most successful unions today. Our greatest achievement in the class struggle took place during the staggering increase in union membership that took place between 1933 and 1947. Our long slide to the bottom began with the anti-solidarity Taft-Hartley legislation that severely limited freedom of association and expression for all citizens except the wealthy elite. It continued with the Red Scare, which drove some of the most dedicated, compassionate organizers in the US out of jobs and careers – a brilliant tactic by their adversaries because it also effectively disappeared from our knowledge the notion of organizing for positive social change. The legacy of the Red Scare continues today as dissidents are conflated with terrorists. Fear and more fear keeps us under control.

          Union members did not reject democracy. Rather, following the New Deal and World War II, an all-out attack was waged against union activists, with the assistance of Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)-affiliated leaders. This turnabout involved a self-cleaning of the CIO on behalf of the wealthy elite. Unions were kicked out of the CIO for being deemed too radical, and some of the radical unions changed their philosophy to get along. Union democracy has been the main victim, since union members are more radical than their leaders and allowing democratic decisions to be made would disrupt the leaders’ cozy relationship with the wealthy elite.

         So, today, we are left with no place to learn about and practice democracy except in our neighborhoods (the physical, not the virtual, ones). The rest of us cannot begin to compete with the wealthy elite for access to the media; we cannot compete with the wealthy elite in the ability to control the propaganda apparatus and the wealthy elite cannot compete with us in our neighborhoods.

          A vital instrument in the propaganda apparatus’ control of our thinking and thought processes is the television. More than 80 percent of the funds spent in the 2010 election were spent in the realm of television. Imagine what would happen if we didn’t watch it. Billions of dollars would be wasted because the voters did their own research and, through discussions with their neighbors, decided on the candidate with the best program, not the best television ads. An achievable dream, as long as there is unfettered access to a neutral Internet?

          Typically, in difficult times, it is neighbors who come to offer assistance. When floodwaters threaten your home and the military has come, not to help, but to provide “security.” Our Internet and other long-distance friends will not be able to help in the wonderful way of neighbors who cooperate to help each other. We can organize in our neighborhoods to deal with our common struggles, and, from that, democracy will grow and grow, until it engulfs the whole nation.

        Becoming informed, educating each other, agitating on issues and organizing can create a sustainable economy through ideas such as Gardens Not Lawns, Food Not Bombs, community radio, free health clinics (many doctors would be happy to volunteer), free legal clinics, transportation cooperatives – the list is as boundless as our collective imagination. Beginning in our neighborhoods, it is possible to form an organic, progressive political movement to sweep the land.

          The question remains: will we allow the story to be “Class Warfare: The Final Chapter,” or will we create the alternative by beginning the class struggle? The base of the wealthy elite has always been led by the House of Morgan (J. Pierpont Morgan) which lives as a corporate person in the forms of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Chase, preeminent leaders in the world’s financial markets. Yes, the very markets that are “nervous” and “jittery” (real human traits) about countries that owe them money. Plagued by nerves and jitters, the markets are busy raiding old-age pensions, family assistance programs and the like all over Europe – the same prescription followed for years in the so-called third world and in the US right now.

          “Power concedes nothing without a demand – it never has and it never will….” These are still powerful words spoken by one of our greatest Americans, Frederick Douglass. The sad truth is that we have not made any demands since the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-Vietnam War struggle during the 1950-1970’s. We are at the fork in the road: to the right is class warfare – the final chapter – and to the left, the class struggle begins.

          A grassroots-based movement, as opposed to the billionaire-controlled, top-down Tea Party, will be able to effect progressive rather than regressive programs. It is ironic that the wealthy elite recognize the value of neighborhood organizing while the left ignores this base. The Koch brothers-sponsored Tea Party was using tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky, one of our greatest radical neighborhood organizers. They used the tactics; what they did not do was hand out Alinsky’s book, “Reveille For Radicals.” If they had, the Tea Party could have transformed itself into a truly progressive force.

          Finally, it is our right and our duty to replace the corrupted government with one that works for the public welfare, ensuring that the wealthy elite never again endanger all life on this planet or destroy our collective humanity. We are “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights … among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We must recognize our government has become destructive of those ends and reform it. The Declaration of Independence goes on to say, “mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuse and usurpations … reduce them under absolute despotism… ” we must then accomplish wholesale change. Have you suffered enough, or do you want more?

[1] Sandy Leon Vest: “Consumers Are Sleeping With the Enemy – and Paying For It,” Common Dreams, February 26, 2010. 

[2] Mark Weisbrot: “Interviewing Chavez,” North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA); February 12, 2003.

[3] Media in the Americas; (date unknown); NACLA Report on the Americas, page 14; (Ibid).

[4] G. William Domhoff: “Who Rules America? Wealth, Income, and Power,” September 2005; (updated November 2010).

[5] Julie Hollar: “Wealth Gap Yawns and So Do Media: Little Interest in Study of Massive Race/Gender Disparities,” EXTRA!, a publication of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR); February 6, 2010.

[6] Jules Dufour: “The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases: The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel,” January 7, 2007; Global For Research on Globalization. 




Additional Reading 

Randy Stoecker: Defending Community: The struggle for alternative redevelopment in Cedar-Riverside; Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1994.

P.A. Payutto: Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way For the Marketplace; Buddhadhamma Foundation, Bangkok,Thailand.

E.F. Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered; Blond&Buggs Ltd., London, 1973.

Saul Alinsky: “Reveille For Radicals” and “Rules For Radicals,” Vintage Books, division of Random House, Inc. New York, New York.

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