Thursday, March 03, 2011

Which Side Are you On?

Natalie Merchant's powerful version of "Which Side Are You On" tells it all. Unions make us strong. ALL OF US. Unions built this country. Unions built the middle class. Unions gave us the 40-hour work week, the weekend, a decent standard of living wage and benefits, safety in the workplace, and a seat at the table for workers.

For those of you who do not belong to a union, and that is most working Americans, count your blessings that unions exist. Because of the union, you enjoy a competitive salary and your job is protected, to the minimum extent that it is, by fair labor practices rules. Because of competition from union workers, your corporate employer cannot drive wages to the ground, in a race to the bottomless pit of workers who do not and cannot earn a living wage.

If not for the union, the hostile corporate takeover of our lives would have been complete. Employers who run a non-union shop are compelled by the looming presence of the union to provide their workers with competitive salaries. They have been "persuaded" by the union to provide health and retirement benefits. Corporations, but for the few exceptions of mom-and-pop businesses in Frank Capra or Disney films, do not have a social conscience; they do not provide good salaries and benefits and good working conditions out of the goodness of their heart.

They do it because the presence of the union in our midst, in our lives, in our family, compels them to offer competitive salaries and benefits, or lose their best and brightest workers to competitors that follow the union standard, and offer union wages. The invisible presence of the union dictates the extent to which corporations can get away with abuses in the workplace and oppressing workers. There was a time in the United States when "Made in the USA" carried with it a union stamp that said "union made". There was a time in this country that Americans gazed upon that union label and knew this was the best product in the world made by the greatest nation on earth and the world's best workers. That symbol, that union logo proudly stamped on an American-made product embodied the American Dream.

The Wisconsin 14, the Democratic state senators who "fled" to the great state of Illinois, land of Lincoln, so they would not be a party to the further destruction of the American Dream are true patriots. It is the corporations who fled to China and India and to those "right-to-work" countries with inhuman sweat shops branded by Tom Delay as "the future of capitalism," in search of profit-driven slave labor in the land of communists and dictators — it is those corporations that are the traitors and seditionists. For hasn't a right wing Supreme Court determined them to be "persons"?

And it is this radical right Republican Party of Huckabee and Palin and Gingrich, of Teabaggers and Koch brothers, the political appendage of the fascist corporate state, whose propaganda arm is Fox and the Limbaugh network of right wing radio, that has been exposed in Wisconsin for its corrupt crony capitalism and dictatorial "overreach." Yes, overreach has become the word du jour among the few remaining Republicans of conscience who had deluded themselves into removing "fascist" from their political dictionary and who suddenly awoke to the realization that they have been part of a filthy scheme, a "classic overreach." It was a rude awakening, and they don't like it.

If you don't like the word "fascism"... or rather, your corporate owners forbid its use? — Fine. Be that way. With your head in the sand or, in the case of the ignorant Teabaggers, up their asses. Rachel is really really good at conjuring up a thousand-and-one euphemisms for the "F" word. Still it's unfortunate that only Noam Chomsky and a few independent souls dare raise the specter of fascism in America. Fascism easily adapts to its culture. That is why it isn't easily detected. After all, one characteristic of fascism is ├╝ber-nationalist. How about some useful myths about the Boston Tea Party, the Founding Fathers, and our Constitution, anyone?

Most people think "fascism" they think Hitler or Mussolini. But that's the European brand. The American brand is uniquely American. It's the KKK, the militias, the John Birch Society, elements of the Tea Party. And it holds a controlling interest in the Republican Party. Every time you hear someone like Mike Huckabee conjure up a story out of whole cloth that our President was influenced by the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, where he grew up (?) — think fascism. It is the classic fascist divide and conquer technique to pit us against them: Black versus white, American-born versus foreign-born (the lie here is to extend xenophobia, fear of foreigners — hordes of invading illegal immigrants — to President Obama), Aryan versus Jew.

Many delusionals out there still believe we live in a "free enterprise system." As if it can be found in crony capitalism and the big corporate monopolies, in Big Oil receiving government welfare subsidies, in chemical industries and mountain top removal mining polluting our rivers and streams, the air we breathe, and despoiling our environment forever, in Big Ag getting government subsidies and the food industry cutting corners with the safety of our food supply, or in the military industrial complex, the Halliburtons and tens of thousands of government contractors driving our perpetual war machine while lining their pockets with the taxpayer's money at a horrific cost of blood and treasure.

As if.

And if we dare decry any of this, the too big to fail banks playing casino games with our retirement funds and ravaging the only equity left the middle class, that of our homes — then these corporate sharks will deploy armies of lobbyists and bundles of cash to buy off every single politician in state and federal government that they can, and defeat us at the polls with lies upon lies upon lies whose unlimited funds were enabled by a radicalized right wing interventionist Supreme Court. An intervention which began with the judicial coup d'etat of the 2000 presidential election: Two decisions, Bush v. Gore and Citizens United closing the circle and shifting the balance in favor of crony capitalism and the fascist power grab we see today. The corporate elites have coordinated with their political and propaganda arms the final assault on the union aimed at destroying the last vestige of the middle class — public employee unions — that stands in the way of making this hostile takeover of government complete. And then the enshrinement of fascism as the ruling political doctrine of America will become a reality.

Fascism is exactly what is happening here and until it is recognized as such this cancer cannot be exorcised from our body politic. (My recommendation: watch more Al Jazeera, BBC, Democracy Now, and read the Guardian if you want to find out what's really going on. And of course, keep reading the independent progressive blogs. Because the state of American corporate "news" media is piss poor, and getting worse. In fact, it's one more sign of creeping fascism.) Arm yourself with the facts. And with the grounding that only true history can give you, because there's a lot of revisionism out there, so you must be diligent and persistent to know the truth.

And then act to take back our country. Stand with the people of Wisconsin. We are at a tipping point. This is a turning point in our history. We are approaching critical mass in our struggle to beat back the hostile corporate takeover of our country. This is a war on the middle class and an assault on the American Dream and on the values that made this country great. This is a fight we cannot lose.  

It's that important.
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech, Aug. 30, 1960

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men.

CLARENCE DARROW, The Railroand Trainman, Nov. 1909

To a right-winger, unions are awful. Why do right-wingers hate unions? Because collective bargaining is the power that a worker has against the corporation. Right-wingers hate that.

JANEANE GAROFALO, Majority Report, Jun. 3, 2005

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