Posts Tagged ‘IWW’


(First off, apologies to our long-term subscribers who were used to regular posts. Ill health, especially long-time insomnia, made regular posts difficult. I finally thought I had a remedy for this after being diagnosed with severe sleep apnea six weeks ago. Unfortunately, I’m among the approximately 20% of sufferers for whom the usual remedy, a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine, does no good. In fact it made the problem worse. I’ll be returning the machine tomorrow, after a month of near torture trying to make it work.

The following comes after several zero-to-four-hour nights of sleep. Please forgive any lapses in logic. Please, and I mean please, check out any assertions from the following — I might make an occasional slight lapse, but overall I think I’m dead on. I’ve undoubtedly missed a lot of things — if you see anything , please point it out.

  • The first thing we need to face is that approximately 25% of the voting public in the US are evangelical theo-fascists, who simply want to impose their warped “morality” on the rest of us; and they enjoy hurting us — they’re sadists;
  • The second thing is that they’re utter hypocrites. They say they’re pro-family, but they support a thug who breaks families apart and causes irreparable harm to child victims, and death to children;
  • They are NOT patriots. While they wrap themselves in the colors, make a spectacle of their supposed patriotism (as at their role-playing ballgames) they betray every decent thing America is supposed to represent: a welcome to all fleeing persecution; freedom of speech; freedom of opportunity; individual freedom to partake or not partake in “patriotic” spectacles;
  • They’re so brainwashed (thanks Fox/State “News” and the Facebook echo chamber) that they don’t even recognize it;
  • To be blunt, for them a day of exercise consists of an afternoon of repeated knee bends and bending over to kiss (Trump’s ample) butt, followed by an evening of goose-stepping, all to the romantic light of very fine people bearing tiki torches;

Beyond that, there are a lot of ugly truths to confront:

  • Real wages peaked in 1972-1973. Productivity per hour has roughly doubled since then;
  • Corporations have exported jobs overseas for decades as long as they could save 25 or 50 cents an hour;
  • Those savings were made real by tax laws favoring overseas “investments”;
  • Rather than understand this and confront their real oppressors, many racist idiots have attacked even more powerless victims than themselves — victims that their corporate overlords set up as scapegoats;
  • Those scape-goating tools are thugs for the corporations — racists who attack scapegoats, and work to empower their own oppressors;
  • And some continue to proudly ruin the environment with smoke-belching trucks while they deny that blatant problems exist;

Then there’s the unspoken problem:

  • Overpopulation is a major cause of ecological problems. Yes, there are ways to make this problem less severe, but it’s a major problem nonetheless;
  • Why even have overpopulation?
  • There are three interconnected reasons:
  • 1. Patriarchal religions encourage overpopulation as a means of increasing revenue/power/adherents;
  • 2. Patriarchal religions encourage overpopulation as a means of female submission (what else can do they do with dozens of kids but take care of them and then seek solace at church?)
  • 3. Overpopulation makes all the above worse, so it produces more and more desperation, and more and more dependence on the “word of God” (and it’s interpreters) — and more and more adherents and “offerings.”

The conventional “good guys” are not the saviors.

  • Since the 1980s, at least, the Democrats have been the “good guy” in the good-guy/bad-guy mugging of the working class while the parasitocratic 1% picked their pockets;
  • Bill Clinton once said “we’re all Republicans” — referring to his corporatist-subservient agenda;
  • After the Republicans crashed the economy in 2008, Barack Obama rescued the banks, but not the millions upon millions of average Americans who lost their jobs and/or homes;
  • He didn’t do shit for ’em (myself included — lost more than half my income in the following year);
  • He did not prosecute a single one of the criminals responsible for the greatest financial crime in world history — not one;
  • He also had pledged “the most open administration in history” and then delivered the least open in history, with vicious persecution of whistle blowers;

Both Republican, Democratic, and social democratic parties have conspired to suppress real, democratic alternative structures that might have solved the above problems/crises:

  • In the 1900s/1910s/1920s the U.S. and state governments outlawed and then imprisoned on a mass scale members of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) who advocated the takeover and management of industry, and elimination of “moralistic” laws, by self-managed unions. Thousands of IWW members languished in prison for years as a result;
  • In 1918-1921, the Bolsheviks hypocritically advocated and then destroyed the self-managed “soviets” in Russia, followed by mass murder of anarchist and other self-management advocates;
  • In the 1930s, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Spanish Falange, destroyed, along with the active complicity of the authoritarian USSR, the most important real alternative to authoritarian organization of society: the CNT (Confederación Nacional Del Trabajo/Federación Anarquista Ibérica), that lasted over two years on a mass scale — including the self-managed operation of the most heavily industrialized region of Spain, Catalonia;
  • In the early 2010s, the authoritarian Obama regime coordinated the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street encampments that had sprung up nation wide; these were self-managed camps, where for the first time in their lives a hell of a lot of people experienced control over their own lives. And Obama and his minions were so frightened that that “contagion” would spread, that they crushed the encampments.

This just goes to show how frightened they are — and how much power that we potentially have.

We can self-organize the economy. We can self-organize the world. Don’t mourn, organize.

 

 


Dummy 3 flat 72-small
(From The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, scheduled for October 2015. This Cookbook will contain dozens of tasty vegan recipes, recipes for social change, and accurate information on anarchism. The following is from the “Recipes for Social Change: Approaches We Do Not Recommend” section of the book.)

 

Business Unions

Contrary to wishful thinking among progressives, the AFL-CIO unions are not a means to fundamental social and political change. Rather, they’re an obstacle to it. Their very nature ensures this, and their history amply demonstrates it. They’re hierarchical organizations with entrenched, often highly paid bureaucracies that are in the business of selling their members’ labor for top dollar (unless their hierarchies are only concerned with harvesting dues from their members, as sometimes happens).

The business unions have never challenged capitalism (or the state); rather they have always attempted to make themselves an integral part of it, ensuring “labor peace.” One needs only to look at the history of the American labor movement to confirm this. In the World War I and post-World War I period, when the largest genuinely revolutionary union in U.S. history, the Industrial Workers of the World, was being viciously persecuted and thousands of its members imprisoned (for opposing U.S. participation in the war, or for “criminal syndicalism”), the AFL unions sat on their hands. This complacent attitude was exemplified in a well known photo of AFL founder Samuel Gompers in formal attire dining at a banquet with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Over the coming decades, the business unions continued to sell out their members. One infamous example of this was AFL-CIO head George Meany’s support for the Vietnam War, which pointlessly killed over 50,000 working class Americans and several million Southeast Asians. A famous Meany statement from the period perfectly exemplifies the reactionary attitude of the business unions: “Why should we organize the unorganized?”

Today, AFL-CIO leaders mouth more progressive rhetoric, but the zebra hasn’t changed its stripes. The business unions are still hierarchically organized with well paid, out-of-touch executives, many are outright undemocratic, and they still are in the business of selling their members’ labor.

And they’re increasingly ineffective at even that. In 1940, 34% of the private sector workforce was organized; more than one in three workers belonged to unions. Things are different today: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 the percentage of unionized private-sector workers was down to 6.6%–one in 15.

Where the business unions are effective is in serving as bad examples. Most people think that the oft-times corrupt, hierarchical, undemocratic, accommodationist, uninspiring AFL-CIO unions are the only type possible, even the only type that ever existed. And so they look down on and are resistant to joining unions of any type. (And, yes, other types are possible. See the piece on Labor in the “Approaches We Recommend” section of the book.)

We’d be better off without the business unions. Don’t waste your time and energy on these dinosaurs.


You Call This Freedom? coverby Chaz Bufe

One hears, sees, or reads it every day. Often several times a day. It’s inescapable. And it’s an almost unquestioned article of faith: the United States is a free country. But is it really?

Civil Liberties—Freedom from Restraint

The more enlightened part of the American public (perhaps as much as 15% or 20% of the whole) regards freedom in purely negative terms, as freedom from restraint, intrusion, and compulsion—such things as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. In short, the freedom to do or say anything that one wishes as long as one does not directly harm or intrude on others.

Many who believe in freedom in this sense find it very troubling that the government routinely violates supposedly guaranteed individual freedoms whenever it feels threatened, or even at its whim. Examples of such violations abound in U.S. history, from the first days of the republic to the present day. To cite but a few: under John Adams, congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which gave the government license to arrest and jail those who criticized it. It wasn’t the courts that saved Americans from these totalitarian laws; rather, they expired, due to a built-in time limit, while Thomas Jefferson, who had opposed their passage, was president.

Another example is the Espionage Act of 1917. Under it, criticism of the government was again declared illegal, and the victims of this law numbered in the thousands, many of whom were imprisoned for lengthy terms for exercising the supposedly guaranteed right of free speech. Victims included innumerable members of the Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and the great Mexican anarchist and revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón.

Shortly after World War I, many states passed “criminal syndicalism” laws prohibiting unions and their members from advocating and organizing for worker management of the economy and dissolution of government. (The states permitted only AFL-type business unions, which accepted and supported capitalism.) Again, these laws and their application constituted a gross violation of the rights of free speech and free assembly; and thousands of IWW members were jailed under these laws throughout the land, often for lengthy terms.

Still another example, this time aimed at freedom of movement and freedom of association, was FDR’s executive order mandating the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. Of course, the courts found that this was perfectly legal.

During the Vietnam War, the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign did its best to silence dissent through the use of wiretapping, blackmail (of, for instance, Martin Luther King), use of agents provocateur, framing activists (such as Black Panther Geronimo Pratt and American Indian Movement [AIM] leader Leonard Peltier), and on more than one occasion murdering activists (including Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, murdered by Chicago police in an FBI-planned raid, and dozens of AIM members murdered on the Lakota reservation during early 1970s by goon squads operating with FBI help). Because these violations of individual rights were carried out secretly, none of the agents responsible for these violations were ever brought to justice.

At present, we’re seeing a renewal of COINTELPRO-type FBI activities directed against peace and political activists, notably the Occupy and Anonymous movements. In an eerie echo of WWI-era hysteria and its “espionage” act (virtually none of whose victims were engaging in espionage), this time the excuse is “terrorism,” even though the government must be well aware that peace and left-wing political activists pose absolutely no “terrorist” threat, and that the only “terrorist” acts which have resulted in bodily injury or death that have taken place in this country for the last four decades have all, with the sole exception of the “Unabomber” attacks, been carried out either by the extreme racist right (for example, the murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg by The Order, and the Oklahoma City federal building bombing), right-wing “right to life” religious fanatics (numerous bombings of abortion clinics and shootings of abortion providers), and, in the most spectacular acts, by right-wing Muslim religious extremists.

More routinely, day in and day out, the government violates the individual right to be free from intrusion, the right to be left alone as long as one is not harming or intruding on anyone else. These violations of individual rights are codified in the laws against victimless or consensual “crimes,” most prominently the laws against drug use and possession, prostitution, gambling, and, until recently, “sodomy.” The oft-times extreme penalties for violating these laws have ruined literally millions of lives, with many of those who violated such laws serving far longer terms than rapists and murderers.

As well, the government still jealously guards its “right” to press its citizens into involuntary military service via conscription. The fact that this is an obvious violation of the 13th Amendment’s prohibition of “involuntary servitude,” and that the courts have repeatedly ruled that this form of involuntary servitude is not, somehow, involuntary servitude, serves to point out the weakness of the supposed guardians of individual rights: written constitutional guarantees and the courts that interpret those guarantees.

Occasionally, as in the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down the sodomy laws, the courts will uphold individual rights. But the courts tend to do this only when public opinion has shifted powerfully against the laws in question, and the government feels no compelling need to maintain them in force. (The Supreme Court upheld the sodomy laws as recently as 1986; since then public opinion has shifted strongly against such laws.) In most other cases, the courts feel no compunction in declaring that black is white and that written constitutional guarantees do not mean what they plainly state. To cite a few additional examples showing how near-useless the courts are as guardians of our rights, one might consider the numerous decisions upholding the government’s “right” to intrude into the private lives of individuals via laws outlawing private drug use, consensual sex acts between adults (such as prostitution), and gambling.
The courts and paper promises are not in any real sense guarantees of individual rights; and federal, state, and local governments continue to routinely violate our most basic rights, especially the right to be left alone so long as one is not intruding on or harming someone else.

How did this sorry state of affairs come to be? How could gross violations of individual liberty be so common in a country whose citizens supposedly value freedom? The answer is simple: a large majority of Americans passively accept this state of affairs in sheep-like silence, and at least a sizable minority actively support the government’s violations of individual rights. The few who have the courage to stand up against these violations, and the authoritarian herd supporting them, are often crushed like bugs.

The government’s treatment of author Peter McWilliams, civil libertarian and author of Ain’t Nobody’s Business, is a tragic example. McWilliams, who was diagnosed in 1996 with AIDS and cancer, began using medical marijuana to combat the nausea caused by his AIDS drugs. Due to his high-profile status as a defender of individual liberties and medical marijuana use, he was targeted by the DEA, which invaded his home, trashed it (a very common practice), and arrested him on marijuana cultivation charges. At his 1998 trial, the judge refused to allow a “medical necessity” defense, and thus refused to hear both scientific evidence of marijuana’s efficacy in combatting nausea and any mention of California’s 1996 law permitting the use of medical marijuana. McWilliams was convicted, and after his family put up their houses to raise his bail ($250,000—higher than for most rapists and armed robbers), he was released on bail, but on the condition that he not use medical marijuana to combat his nausea. In 2000, while his case was still on appeal and he was still under the restriction prohibiting his nausea medication, he died as a result of choking on his own vomit.

The “Freedom” of Voting

Again, how could such a horrible thing come to pass? How did our fellow citizens become so degraded as to support such horrendous misuse of government power? How is it that so many Americans have so little understanding of and so little concern about their own freedoms and those of their fellows?

A good part of the answer lies in what they consider freedom to be. It seems that a great many, probably a good majority, of our fellow Americans do not consider freedom from restraint and freedom from intrusion as fundamental. No. What they see as fundamental to freedom—and many seem to regard this as freedom’s only component—is the right to vote. Numerous consequences flow from this.

The primary result of believing that freedom consists only of voting, of choosing one’s rulers, is the belief that anything the government does is okay as long as the government is elected and enacts its decisions into law.1 In individual behavior, this attitude manifests itself as passive acceptance of intrusive, authoritarian government violations of individual rights, or in many cases goose-stepping enthusiasm for those violations (in cases in which the goose-steppers dislike those targeted by the government). This hypnotic fixation on voting is so strong that most people don’t even notice glaring contradictions, such as “making the world safe for democracy” (during World War I) while suppressing free speech and free association, and the intermittent practice of forcing multitudes into involuntary servitude in the armed forces to keep our country “free.”

Institutional Support for Voting

The reasons for this hypnotic fixation on voting are not difficult to see. The first, though not necessarily the most important, is the miseducation system in the United States. Its backbone is a system of rigid routine cued by bells and buzzers, inculcation of competition (for grades1 and teachers’ favor) rather than cooperation, participation in mandatory rituals of subordination (e.g., the Pledge of Allegiance), endless indoctrination that the U.S. is a free country (with heavy emphasis on the right to vote), and mindless rote memorization.2 Add to this that critical thinking and skepticism are often discouraged—it’s no accident that year after year U.S. students score badly in science compared with students in other countries—and one can only conclude that the U.S. miseducation system is succeeding very well in its mission: production of automatons who do not think for themselves, who are barely even capable of thinking for themselves, who submissively accept humiliating government intrusions into their lives (e.g., urine tests), and who accept hierarchy, gross economic inequality, an artificially low standard of living, a huge, parasitic military sucking the economic life from the country, and their own subordinate places in a rigidifying class structure as normal, natural, and indeed inevitable—and, most amazing of all, who consider themselves “free” (because of the right to vote).

The second important factor in the fixation upon voting as “freedom” is the corporate media, which also presents hierarchy, gross economic inequality, a highly intrusive government, militarism, religious irrationality, and a class structure (though never identified as such) as normal, natural, and inevitable. Again, as in the miseducation system, one finds a focus on “great men” (especially, as in CNN’s coverage of the Iraq invasions, military men). Again, one finds in the corporate media drumbeat repetition of the claim that the U.S. is a “free” country. From this flows the (generally unstated) conclusion that present social, political, and economic conditions constitute freedom.3 Then, there’s the day-in-day-out obsessive coverage of elected officials and elections. This, combined with the constant repetition that the U.S. is a “free” country (and respectful coverage of the courts as freedom’s arbiters and guarantors), provides powerful reinforcement of the belief that elections in and of themselves constitute freedom and that freedom is something delivered by the state.

One might add that the corporate media almost invariably present all radical alternatives to the present socioeconomic system as threatening to “our freedom,” and the advocates of such alternatives as being dangerous and/or crazy.4 A good example of this is the corporate media’s treatment of anarchism. There is a near-total media blackout of anarchism’s most respected spokesman, the renowned linguist, Noam Chomsky. Instead, the corporate media focuses on fringe figures such as the murderous schizophrenic, Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”), and advocates of the ridiculous, such as primitivists, and presents them to the public (with generally not even barely concealed ridicule) as the face of anarchism.

Religion, more especially authoritarian, patriarchal religion, is the third primary component in the machine which churns out the indoctrinated automatons who equate voting with freedom. Patriarchal religions, such as Islam, fundamentalist Christianity, Catholicism, and Mormonism are extremely hierarchical and authoritarian in nature. In these religions, God, in almost military manner, gives orders and his lieutenants convey them down the chain of command to the laity. (That’s the theory; somehow, one suspects that the orders don’t originate with God.) In all of these religions, the role of the laity is to obey, period.

The Catholic Church is perhaps the clearest example of hierarchical structure and the dominant/submissive relationship between clergy and laity. Here, “God’s” orders are relayed first to the “infallible” pope, and then down the chain of command: cardinals, archbishops, bishops, monsignors, priests—and then to the laity.

It’s also important to note that all of these patriarchal religions are virulently anti-intellectual (notwithstanding the Catholic Church’s intellectual pretensions), and all systematically discourage rational inquiry and skepticism. All too often, this “discouragement” has taken physical form, such as the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno and other heretics, the Index of Prohibited Books, etc.
In all of these religions, great emphasis is placed on blind acceptance of the words of “holy” men and “holy” books. In all of them, blind faith—that is, not using one’s ability to think, not using one’s ability to reason—is presented as a virtue. Martin Luther stated the matter quite plainly in his Table Talk: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.”

Then add in the fact that all of these religions teach that it’s the duty of their respective flocks to impose their beliefs (their “morality”) on others, either directly through violence or through the threat of violence embodied in the law and the governments that enforce it, and it’s little wonder that the members of these religions have, overall, so little respect for freedom and so little understanding of it.

One can begin to appreciate how abysmally these religious folk misunderstand the nature of freedom by listening to their near-interminable whining about how their freedoms are being violated. When one gets to the bottom of these sniveling complaints, one almost always finds that their “freedom” is being “violated” by nonintrusive individuals who are committing private, consensual acts condemned by religious “morality.” A good contemporary example of this is the current bleating about gays (who make up perhaps 5% of the population) attempting to “force” the “homosexual agenda” upon poor, god-fearing Christians (who make up a mere 75% to 80% of the population). When one looks at this even briefly, it becomes immediately obvious that all that gays want are the same very limited legal rights (against employment and housing discrimination, etc.) as everyone else. For fundamentalist Christians, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, this granting of equal rights is a “violation” of their (the religious believers’) “freedom.” One might also mention the unceasing attempts of Christian true believers to use taxpayer dollars to have their creation myths taught as “science” in the public schools. (Of course, the creation myths of other religions are simply silly superstitions and not “science.”)

All of this quite clearly reveals the religious concept of “freedom.” For religious fanatics, “freedom” consists of the “right” to intrude into the private lives and private activities of others, to use public monies for religious indoctrination, and to force others, either through direct or institutional violence (the law), to live their lives in accord with the dictates of religious “morality.” In other words, “freedom” for religious true believers consists of their “right” to intrude and impose.5

Examples of religious “moral” intrusion into our private lives (via the state) abound. To cite two additional examples, the Catholic Church managed to keep birth control devices illegal until well into the twentieth century in many parts of the U.S. (until the 1960s in heavily Catholic Con-necticut), and many courageous advocates of reproductive choice were sent to prison as a result. Having lost that battle—though it’s now clamoring for the “right” of religious employers to deny contraception coverage in health plans for their employees—the Catholic Church is now attempting to impose its “moral” views on the rest of us through its attempts to outlaw abortion. If these attempts would succeed, those who view freedom as simply the right to vote for one’s rulers would see no contradiction between these intrusions and the assertion that the U.S. is a “free country.”

In fact, many religious folk have an even more restricted concept of freedom than that of its simply being their “right” to choose rulers to impose their “morality” on others.6 Many (such as the Christian “reconstructionists”) would actually prefer a theocracy or some other form of dictatorship. For these folk, “freedom” consists solely of obeying (and imposing on others) the dictates handed down by their “holy” men and “holy” books. In other words, for these religious believers, abandonment (voluntary or forced) of self-direction is “freedom.” To put the matter baldly, for them slavery is freedom. A huge painted (and oft-defaced) slogan on the side of a former local mosque nicely distills this Orwellian concept: “Freedom is submission to the will of God.”
In sum, it’s fair to say that to the extent that they take their religion seriously—that is, to the extent that they follow the dictates of their sects’ “holy” books and “holy” men—members of patriarchal religions cannot be good citizens, even in the common, very restrictive sense of that term.7 Through their belief in and support of authoritarian hierarchies, and through their unrelenting attempts to impose their “morality” on the rest of us, they are in fact deadly enemies of individual freedom.

What Voting Delivers

Getting back to the common belief that freedom consists of voting to choose masters who can, and often try to, control every aspect of life in accord (the voters hope) with the voters’ wishes, it’s obvious that the present system doesn’t deliver the promised goods—even for the authoritarian individuals who want to impose their twisted morals on the rest of us. In the first place, there’s no guarantee that elected officials will act in accord with voters’ wishes. In fact, once they’re in office, there are very few checks upon their actions, and they very often act in the arrogant manner befitting what they really are: the masters of those they “serve.”

In the second place, those with unpopular views are sometimes denied their elected positions. A good example is Victor Berger, a member of the Socialist Party who was elected to the U.S. house of representatives in a landslide in 1918, but was denied his seat in 1919 because he was a Socialist who had opposed World War I. A more recent example is Julian Bond, who was denied his seat in the Georgia state assembly in 1965 due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

In the third place, the U.S. electoral system is by far the most undemocratic of any in the western democracies. It’s set up, from the local to federal levels, as a winner-take-all system which by its very nature has cemented the two-party system in place and which has systematically prevented those holding minority views from having any share of power, no matter how minor. (In contrast, European democracies feature proportional representation, which guarantees legislative seats to all but the smallest political parties.) Further, the electoral college is a national embarrassment which has led on more than one occasion to the presidential candidate who garnered the most votes “losing” the election. And the U.S. senate is elected on the basis of geographic areas (the states) that vary wildly in size and population. This results in extreme inequities, such as Wyoming, with a population of half a million, having the same number of senators as California, with a population of 38 million.

In the fourth place, participation in electoral politics is far from an equal-opportunity affair. With the costs of even county supervisor races often running above $100,000 and the costs of U.S. house and senate races often costing well up into the millions, even tens of millions, electoral politics, above low-level local races, is a game only for the rich. At present, over half of the members of Congress are millionaires, and virtually all of the rest are far above the median in both wealth and income.8

Thus the vast majority of those who support the electoral process not only have no control over their rulers, but they’re effectively barred, because of their economic status, from becoming one of those rulers. Instead, they’re reduced to trudging to a voting booth every two years—and because of this “privilege,” they consider themselves “free.”

_______________

1. This is a powerful, near-continual inducement to seeing others as rivals and to seeing their bad fortune (poor grades) as one’s good fortune.

2. This last is perhaps most pronounced in history classes, which rarely consist of anything more than memorization of dates and the names of “great men,” in conjunction with a carefully sanitized version of U.S. and world history focusing on the deeds of the “great men.”

3. This conclusion was presented in bare-faced form, and heavily promoted, as the (now nearly forgotten) “end of history” conjecture in the 1990s; this conjecture stated that the late phase capitalism under which we live is as near to utopia as we’ll ever get. That this absurd thesis received considerable, respectful coverage is a good indication of the subservience of the media to the socio-political agenda of its corporate owners.

4. Formerly, the primary tactic (which is still occasionally employed) was to present the false dichotomy of “free enterprise” vs. Soviet-style “communism,” as if no other alternatives were possible.

5. A quick, dirty means of determining who in fact is being oppressed in most situations is to look at who wants to regulate the private conduct of others, and who wants to use the law to throw others in jail.

6. The deceased “father of Christian reconstructionism,” the unapologetic racist R.J. Rushdoony, wanted to install a theocracy that would pass laws mandating the death penalty for, among other things, homosexuality, adultery, heresy, blasphemy, and atheism. Rushdoony wanted the victims of these laws to be stoned to death.

7. A reasonable common usage definition of “good citizen” might run as follows: someone who follows the law, takes part in the electoral process, and respects its results. Religious zealots cannot be “good citizens” under this definition, because they place “God’s law” above all else, and they’ll violate “man-made law” if the two are in conflict. (The murder of abortion providers by “right to life” zealots is a good example of this.)

8. Some of the above-listed defects in the American electoral system have been recognized as serious problems since the 19th century. That nothing has been done about them speaks volumes in itself about the undemocratic nature of the American “democratic” process.


Anarchist Cookbook front cover(from The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, Introduction by Chris Hedges, scheduled for October 2015)

 

When Americans think of means to change, labor organizing tends to be well down on the list, if it’s there at all. There are good reasons for this.

There have been no mass membership revolutionary unions in the U.S. for nearly a century, and the only type most Americans are familiar with are the business unions of the AFL-CIO. As “business” implies, these unions are purely in the business of selling their members’ labor. in other words, they serve as bulwarks of capitalism, not challengers to it.

As you’d expect, they’re run along traditional hierarchical lines, often quite undemocratically, with highly paid executives who are out of touch with those they supposedly represent. Also, as you’d expect, many of those executives have been markedly reactionary, two notable examples being former Teamster’s president and Nixon buddy Frank Fitzsimmons, and former AFL-CIO president George Meany, a supporter of the Viet Nam War who was completely indifferent to organizing the unorganized.

Given all this, how did the AFL-CIO become the face of labor? It did so with major assistance from the U.S. government. In the period 1905 through the early 1920s, the AFL faced a radical rival, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). (The CIO emerged in the 1930s and merged with the AFL in 1955.) While the AFL was a federation of craft unions, interested only in its own members’ wages, and always presented itself as being a partner with business–there are photos of AFL founder Samuel Gompers at an elegant dinner with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–the IWW was practicing militant unionism, attempting to organize all workers, and had as its goal the elimination of capitalism and a democratically controlled worker takeover of the economy.

The government found this intolerable, and subjected the IWW to continual harrassment (often in the form of mass jailing of its members) in the years prior to World War I.

When Democrat Woodrow Wilson broke his campaign pledge and involved the U.S. in that war, the AFL supported U.S. involvement, and the IWW opposed it. As a result, repression of the IWW intensified, with many IWW members jailed for expressing opposition to the war, and many others jailed for refusing to be conscripted. In the red scare that followed the war, many states passed “criminal syndicalism” laws, which banned unionism of the IWW type. As a result of all this, thousands of IWW members were imprisoned, often for years, during World War I and its aftermath. And the government all but succeeded in totally destroying the IWW. (Today, the IWW survives with perhaps 5,000 members.)

The AFL (and its later partner, the CIO) stepped into this void and emerged as the only kind of union entity most Americans know, or can even conceive of.

The percentage of American workers represented by the AFL-CIO has plummeted from its high point of 34% of nongoverment workers in 1940 to under 7% today. And that percentage is still falling. (Today, the bulk of the AFL-CIO’s members are government workers, with its unions representing over 35% of them.)

Why has the percentage of nongoverment workers fallen so far? AFL-CIO backers would (correctly) point to the laws passed since World War II that hamstring the union movement (notably “right to work” laws and the Taft-Hartley and Sherman Acts–laws which among other things prohibit secondary boycotts and allow the government to order striking workers back to work.) AFL-CIO backers would also point to lack of enforcement of laws protecting workers who try to organize; because of that lack of enforcement, employers have fired organizers with impunity for decades.

But there’s another reason too: the very nature of the business unions (hierarchical, often undemocratic, often corrupt), and beyond that their utter lack of an inspiring vision. Many invite noninvolvement of members–just pay your dues and leave the rest to us. And having no goals beyond selling your members’ work lives for the highest amount you can get simply isn’t inspirational.

So, is labor organizing ineffective as a means to change? Not necessarily. In the 1930s in Spain, revolutionary unionism of the IWW type, as practiced by the anarchist Spanish Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), did lead to a genuine revolution and social transformation in approximately half of Spain, including Catalonia, its major industrial region. That social transformation lasted approximately two years, until it was crushed by the anarchists’  Communist “allies” and the combined military forces of Spanish, Italian, and German fascism. This, however, does not take away from the achievements of the Spanish anarchists. And it provides evidence that revolutionary labor organizing can lead to fundamental political, social, and economic change.

The hallmarks of such organizing are direct democratic  control by members, horizontal structure, decentralization, no paid officials, rotation of all offices, and immediate recallability of all (unpaid) officials. And, importantly, having a motivating vision. That of the CNT was elimination of capitalism, elimination of government, and direct democratic control of the economy by those who work.

In the United States there’s very little such organizing going on at present. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing.