I have a vision, as Martin Luther King once said. A vision of racial and economic equality, equal opportunity and civil rights for people of all colors. The question is how do I, we, go about realizing this vision?
Dr. King conceived of passive resistance, non-violent protests, to bring vast numbers of people, black and white into the street, to the schools and lunch counters, the bus stops and the Washington Mall to show their strength and insistence on their principles. I envision a similar formula.
But let me make clear what I am protesting. First and foremost, it is globalization, which is destroying labor, its unions, and consequently the working and middle classes of the United States. In this process, it has dismantled the manufacturing infrastructure and reduced us at best to a service economy. Millions of jobs, blue and white collar, we know have been “outsourced,” given away to the lowest bidders along with the hard-won benefits of US workers, including healthcare, pensions and decent working conditions.
Globalization has profited only the multi-national corporations and the rich elite who run or invest in them. The multi-national corporation sits on the backs of working people around the world, people who have been pitted against each other, and now work for less because they undersold their services to enrich those corporations. These corporations financially divided and conquered world economies.
Yet the labor movement of this country, as Mike Davis pointed out recently on Bill Moyers Journal, was the leading progressive movement until Reagan began actively union busting. Labor was also followed by the antiwar movements, in which labor often took part, and preceded by the civil rights movement in the 50s, which also joined in antiwar demonstrations.
We can look back through the 19th century to labor as a force that organized Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds for the common good, advancing wages, working conditions, and providing an agenda politicians could follow, if they wanted labor and minority votes — and if they didn’t want more people in the street.
Labor made the Industrial Revolution a reality and also the unions, as well as decent wages, healthcare and pension plans. Since labor has been disenfranchised, since the multi-national corporation goes at will to the lowest bidder, whether in Timbuktu, the Philippines, China, or Vietnam, the working citizens of the United States have gone to hell in a handbasket. The decline of our industrial infrastructure has made us dependent on imports as well, creating a huge imbalance in trade, and turning the financial sector (now fully deregulated) into creating financial products of mass destruction.
AIG Financial Products (located in London) was no accident, but the culmination of a multi-national corporation with a hedge fund pasted onto it, joining in the collateralization of toxic paper, including its infamous credit default swaps and hell’s whole handbasket of poisonous financial products. In retreating to lower wages for lower level employees, these poisons were used so that management could get bigger and bigger salaries and bonuses. We destroyed our manufacturing infrastructure, once the most powerful in the world, for this socio-economic drek.
As a result, we have destroyed the balance of power between labor and management, and left labor to the most predatory to rule, i.e., Wal-Mart, AIG, Citigroup, etc.
Yet, many of the same corporations, like General Motors, have managed to stay afloat in China on the back of slave labor, offering no healthcare or pensions, but just the coolie wage. So, where is the protest in the US, the unions, the irate workers, the civil rights allies, the army of protestors who shouted for the New Deal and Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., and around these United States? Well, they are on unemployment lines, disoriented and hoping for a chance to survive or serve the outrageous Wal-Mart’s of this “everyday low price” employment.
To some degree, Americans in their consumerist march for the biggest and best “bargains” brought it on themselves, buying these foreign produced labels like pigs in a trough, greedily, without considering their poisonous effects on their own economy. But, they were encouraged at every turn to abandon their own by the marketing complex. Is this protectionism? Not really. Patriotism of a sort is more like it. China is cash-rich and questioning our dollar’s value in this terrible downturn while our president is borrowing trillions to keep the economy afloat. To his credit, he has plans to rebuild physical infrastructure and schools. I hope they work.
Hopefully, we won’t be importing Asian slaves like multibillionaire and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, known affectionately as “Prince Mo” to the Rhode Island-size Emirate of Dubai, as author Mike Davis calls it, “the new global icon of imagineered urbanism” in his article Sinister Paradise. For with this oil-glut-financing, along with voiceless labor comes a sinister sex-trade, kidnapping, slavery and sadistic violence, “the Bangkok of the Middle East . . . populated with thousands of Russian, Armenian, Indian, and Iranian prostitutes controlled by various transnational gangs and mafias . . . also a world center for money laundering . . .”
Once you get started on this reversal of civilization, taking more and more of the wages from working and middle classes to feed the gluttonous few, instead of spreading the wealth and the democracy that comes with it, you end up at the bottom of the human barrel, which includes “Dubai’s most scandalized vice: child slavery,” which includes kidnapping young children, pressing them into slavery, starvation, beatings and rapes. In Dubai’s case, it’s to make these innocents camel jockeys for Prince Mo and Company’s arcane entertainment. Want to visit and take a look at the future? Mike Davis did. Read all about it.
But then, Mike is a confessed socialist who teaches at the University of California at Riverside, a good working class college, where his students are finding it harder and harder to stay in school, given the money and job shortage for their families and themselves. Mike doesn’t think of us as a socialist nation because we’re bailing out banks, even inviting private equity to invest in “stress testing” those banks to either make them into stronger, more solvent entities or ready to face euthanasia.
If indeed the government permanently managed the banks that would smack of socialism. Also, if the means of production were acquired and run by the government permanently that would be a classical definition of socialism. But this isn’t the case here, not by a long shot. In fact, the banks at some point may need to be run by the country for some period if the Geithner plan doesn’t work. And there should be no need to break the world’s land speed record for coming up with a solution simply by spending money. How you spend it, what you spend it on, is what makes the difference. Hear that Tim, Larry, Obama?
What I’m pointing to is the need for a progressive movement of labor to fight multi-national greed and spread, like the civil rights movement fought racism. This movement is built on the people speaking out, protesting in the streets, at selling outlets, at the seat of government, so that the Congress hears the agenda: take back the United States of America — from the multi-national corporations, from stock market deregulation, from bank deregulation, from the further issuance of financial products that belong in a Vegas casino, from the constant offshoring of the means of production at the price of its decay.
Remember, the American people stepped from the last days of 1930s “depression in a depression” to 1941 and Pearl Harbor to mobilize the most powerful industrial machine on earth, which protected us against the incursions of Hitler and fascism. When we put our collective shoulders to the wheel, when labor has rights, has dignity, is not the slavish servant of Citigroup-type greedos who recently built themselves a ten million set of new offices on bailout money, then we’re a-okay, more than okay, a great and powerful nation.
Fortunately, today we live in the information revolution of the Internet. More people have more sophisticated political and economic information than ever in human history. What we need is the informed and binding force of labor’s activism, combined with students and civil rights movements, working together to make a better life for themselves, their children, their grandkids, and the future of this country.
This, as I’ve said, relies on turning away from this fiendish notion of globalization. Who the hell wants a one-world government, especially if it’s Prince Mo? Do you? The government I want is the one my fellow Americans elect with me to take care of and heal Americans first, and not to put them on a hegemonic march to rule the world. That is perverse, stunted, reactionary right-wing fascism at its worst. Parenthetically, I’m not going to walk away from that vote because its process is often abused.
Obama’s purpose should be to rebuild a labor-strong, manufacturing economy in the United States, not leaving our workers like the serfs of some overfed sheik, or some fattened CEO thief, or some crazed military dictator ala Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, or Bush and Cheney — the latter now being accused of having headed an executive assassination ring to exterminate at his bidding foreign leaders not to his liking. This is not the USA I was born into in 1938, not the USA I grew up in, in the 40s, 50s or 60s. It all turned downward from Nixon on, right into this toilet economy we now find ourselves flushed into, most probably by the financiers.
So, let American industry flourish again, let labor lead again, let the students follow, let the ex-veterans follow, let the civil rights movements join in, all the people who’ve had the burden of fighting all our wars. Let those who bear and have borne those burdens tell those puffs in Congress (and especially those “Blue Dog” “provided for” Conservative Democrats) not to try to scuttle Obama’s stimulus package.
If Bush could try to scuttle this country by selling out labor, the aged and minorities, and give trillions in tax cuts to the rich, trillions to two hopeless wars, then we can spend and borrow responsibly to rebuild this country. That’s how to take back the United States of America, by healing your sick society first of all.
And we can do it by using the US’s imagination for industry to create a green economy, to improve on the present one, as well, by exporting our genius, our inventions to the world, and with a generosity of spirit that once was unparalleled. And, lest I forget, we can take Israel off our shoulders and the $30-billion, 10-year plan to continue their Middle East genocide. We’ve been there once or twice in our own history and it didn’t work out well. There’s no need to try it a third time and end up betrayed, as we often have been, by our perennially spying “ally.”
This is a thumbnail sketch of my vision to take the USA back. It takes people with the most at stake, workers, students, veterans, minorities and activists of all ages, and not Washington lobbyists fed by multi-national corporations. We can do it. We will do it. Or suffer the consequences of economic enslavement, one that will make the Great Depression of yesterday pale by comparison.