Category Archives: Labor

Organized Labor and the Crisis of Democracy

We live in a time when it’s become a boring cliché to say that democracy is under attack. Whether it’s an ultra-reactionary Supreme Court, a nationwide Republican assault on voting rights, a MAGA movement that hopes to put an amoral power addict back in the presidency in 2024, a gathering backlash against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, or the very structure of an oligarchical, billionaire-dominated political economy, circumstances in the U.S.—and abroad—are hardly encouraging for people who value democracy and human rights. It seems that things get bleaker every year, so much so that it can be difficult to have any hope at all.

There is, however, at least one glimmer of hope for democracy, and it comes from a source that might initially, to many people, seem rather unrelated: a renascent labor movement.

Given that the primary role of unions is to advocate for the interests of their members on the job, one might wonder how they could play an essential part in protecting and revitalizing the very different institution of political democracy. How can organizations with such a particular mission, a seemingly narrow economic one, serve as a buttress for the universal interest of democracy itself? Actually, according to polls, two thirds of Americans approve of labor unions, suggesting they understand what a constructive force unions are. If people knew the real history of organized labor, however, the number would probably be close to 90 percent.

So let’s take a look at history to gain some insight into why labor organizations are so fundamental to democracy, and why it’s so predictable that their decline in the last forty years has led to a political crisis and the rise of neofascism.

The origins of democracy

The very establishment of democracy in the first place—universal suffrage and equal voting “weight” across classes—was in large measure the achievement of unions, labor-based political parties (whether called Socialist, Social Democrat, Labor, or some other name), and mass working-class protest. To quote one scholar, throughout the long struggle across the West to broaden the franchise, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, the labor movement “was the only consistent democratic force in the arena,” playing a “vital role” at nearly all stages in most countries. In Britain, for example, decades of labor organizing and mass demonstrations, from the Chartists of the 1830s to the working-class Reform League of the 1860s and further union agitation up to the 1880s, were a crucial precondition for the enfranchisement of all men. By the early twentieth century, the new Labor Party also supported the women’s suffrage movement.

To take another example, that of Belgium, a comprehensive study observes that “working-class pressure and particularly the use of the political strike were constant features of the process of Belgian democratization from the 1880s on.” As elsewhere, it took decades of struggle to overcome the hostility of the propertied classes—many urban capitalists, agrarian landowners, and the Catholic establishment—but, in alliance with Liberals, the Belgian Labor Party was finally able to establish full male democracy in 1919.

Waves of democratization occurred in the aftermath of the two world wars, and in all or nearly all cases, labor and its representatives were catalysts. Germany’s Weimar Republic, which instituted universal suffrage, was a creation of the labor-based Social Democrats. In Sweden, years of strikes, worker demonstrations, and Social Democratic pressure in Parliament culminated in the passage of universal suffrage by 1920. The achievement of full parliamentary democracy after World War II in Italy, France, Austria, Canada, eventually Japan, and other countries was, of course, a result of the world-overturning mobilization of the working class and the Left against fascism, which was defeated primarily by Communists.

What about the United States? “Full” democracy in this supposedly freest of countries didn’t exist until the late 1960s, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. We’re accustomed to thinking of these legislative accomplishments as the fruit of a religiously grounded movement organized around Black churches in the South, but in fact, “the long civil rights movement” of the 1930s–1960s critically depended on labor organizations such as the Communist Party (in the 1930s) and industrial unions. Historians have called it “civil rights unionism.” Communists organized Black and white workers to challenge racial discrimination in employment and politics, not least in the savagely white supremacist South, and unions in the CIO, and later (after 1955) the AFL-CIO, continued this sort of work even in the repressive political climate of the Cold War. The AFL-CIO and most of its affiliated unions funded the Civil Rights Movement, actively supported its legal initiatives, and, in the case of the UAW, sent staff members into the Deep South to assist with voter registration drives. Indeed, some of the movement’s major leaders, from A. Philip Randolph to E. D. Nixon (who organized the Montgomery bus boycott and chose Martin Luther King Jr. to lead it), came from a union background.

Conversely, it wasn’t only political democracy that was at stake; the movement aimed to emulate labor movements elsewhere and establish social democracy. The 1963 March on Washington, for example, included in its demands decent housing, adequate education, a massive federal works program, a living wage for everyone, and a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act. King, himself, later became a socialist and helped organize a vast Poor People’s Campaign, though he was assassinated before it came to fruition.

Even recent struggles against authoritarian governments have been largely driven by labor organizations and worker protests. From Spain in the late Franco years, Chile under Pinochet, and Argentina under neo-Nazi generals, to the Arab Spring of 2011, workers and unions have not only, through collective action, destabilized despotic regimes but have often led the resistance that overthrew them. This isn’t surprising, since the working class is typically the group that suffers most from a lack of democracy.

In short, it is hardly an exaggeration when yet another scholarly study concludes that “the organized working class appeared as a key actor in the development of full democracy almost everywhere.”

Organized labor means solidarity

Evidently, then, unions and other labor organizations aren’t as “narrowly economic” as it might seem. They do exist to raise wages and expand benefits for their members, and to enhance job security and increase workers’ control over their work, but their functions extend further for two reasons. First, the economic well-being of workers isn’t determined only on the job or through collective bargaining; it is a profoundly political issue, intrinsically connected with government policies and the very structures of the political economy. So there are powerful incentives to get involved in politics, whether that takes the form of mass protests, creating political parties, lobbying, or whatever.

Second, unions are, in the end, little else but their members. They are themselves, or should be, democracies. What the membership desires, therefore, is (ideally) what the union pursues. The guiding principle of business is to make profit, at all costs; the guiding principle of organized labor is simply to empower people, who can themselves determine what their goals are. So if they decide that their goal is to democratize society—as they very well might and often have—then that’s what they’ll try to do.

For both reasons, most of the time and over a long period, the large-scale thrust of labor organizations is to increase democracy: political and social democracy, and ultimately, perhaps, economic democracy, in which workers oust the boss and run the workplace themselves. The sheer size of the membership and (frequently) the immense resources of organized labor mean that the efforts can have momentous effects.

In the absence of strong unions, on the other hand, “the general prey of the rich on the poor,” as Thomas Jefferson described it, can take truly savage forms and go to lycanthropic extremes. Income and wealth inequality can skyrocket; billionaires can pay trivial tax rates of 3% or 4%, far lower than the rates that most wage-earners pay; agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that exist to protect workers’ rights can be gutted and hamstrung; vast networks of far-right dark money, political organizations, and media infrastructure can spring up unopposed by comparable networks on the left; reactionaries find it easier to be elected and to appoint fellow reactionaries to the judiciary, which subsequently eviscerates voting rights, opens the floodgates to corporate political spending, makes it more difficult for workers to organize, and overturns Roe v. Wade. In general, the decline of unions means relatively untrammeled rule by big business, which itself means oligarchy.

Millions of working people who might have found a home in organized labor, as they did in the mid-twentieth century, become socially unmoored and fall prey to far-right media, lunatic ideologies, racist demagogues, and conservative Christianity. The human need for belonging, for interpreting one’s misfortunes and finding meaning in something larger than oneself, can be fulfilled in either rational or irrational ways. It’s rational for wage-earners to join economic and political organizations that fight for democracy in all its forms; but when such organizations have an anemic social presence, people who have been bombarded by well-funded right-wing propaganda may irrationally join movements that, in effect, seek to strip them of their rights and eliminate democracy itself.

In these circumstances, the priorities of liberals, from abortion rights to anti-racism to environmental legislation, will meet failure after failure because their mass base begins to shrink, to be less readily mobilized, and to feel ever more alienated from the political system. The “professional-managerial class” isn’t enough of a mass base in itself, notwithstanding the apparent belief of two generations of Democratic leaders that it is. We’re seeing the dismal collapse of this illusion play out right now, along with the collapse of the attendant ideology, an identity politics evacuated of class content (which means, more exactly, that it is, in fact, a class politics, “the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism,” to quote Adolph Reed). After all, a major reason twentieth-century liberalism ever had any success in the first place, from the 1930s to (in an increasingly attenuated form) the 1990s, was that it had organized labor on its side, and the financial, cultural, and human resources of organized labor. It turns out that when you not only take your popular constituency for granted but collude in its decimation, sooner or later your political fortunes—the fortunes of the Democratic Party and liberalism—decline.

Any liberal who actually cares about saving democracy should be cheering the resurgent labor movement and scrambling to support it in every way possible. In the long run, the only alternative to an authoritarian and neofascist politics is a labor politics. At some point you have to decide which side you’re on.

Even the so-called “cultural” issues dear to liberals have for generations seen active support from labor. In addition to anti-racism and the Civil Rights Movement, labor has often marched beside feminists in the fight for women’s rights, whether pay equality, the Equal Rights Amendment (by the early 1970s, that is), or reproductive rights. Few writers have expressed themselves on these subjects as eloquently as the socialist leader Eugene Debs in 1918:

Freedom, complete freedom, is the goal of woman’s struggle in the modern world… She, the mother of man, shall be the sovereign ruler of the world. She shall have sole custody of her own body; she shall have perfect sex freedom as well as economic, intellectual and moral freedom, and she alone who suffers the agony of birth shall have control of the creative functions with which she is endowed.

The natural tendency of organized labor is toward solidarity with all oppressed groups. No other social force is equally equipped to defend everyone and everything under attack today: women, minorities, immigrants, the welfare state, the rule of law, and democracy. No other social force is comparably universal or has a comparable interest in resisting the predations of the oligarchy. No other force offers as much hope for humanity as the cause of labor. For labor is, precisely, the cause of humanity.

It is the duty of all believers in freedom and democracy to take up the banner of labor.

The post Organized Labor and the Crisis of Democracy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Farmers on the Frontline

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most humans were engaged in agriculture. Our relationship with nature was immediate. Within just a few generations, however, for many people across the world, their link with the land has been severed. 

Food now arrives pre-packaged (often precooked), preserved with chemicals and contains harmful pesticides, micro-plastics, hormones and/or various other contaminants. We are also being served a narrower menu of high-calorie food with lower nutrient content. 

It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with how modern food is produced.  

Although, there are various stages between farm and fork, not least modern food processing practices, which is a story in itself, a key part of the problem lies with agriculture. 

Today, many farmers are trapped on chemical and biotech treadmills. They have been encouraged and coerced into using a range of costly off-farm inputs, from synthetic fertilisers and corporate-manufactured seeds to a wide array of weedicides and pesticides. 

With the industrialisation of agriculture, many poor, smallholder farmers have been deskilled and placed into vulnerable positions. Traditional knowledge has been undermined, overwhelmed or has survived only in fragments.  

Writing in the Journal of South Asian Studies in 2017, Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahein state that farmers have for millennia taken measures to manage drought, grow cereals with long stalks that can be used as fodder, engage in cropping practices that promote biodiversity, ethno-engineer soil and water conservation and make use of collective sharing systems. 

Farmers knew their micro-environment, so they could plant crops that mature at different times, thereby facilitating more rapid crop rotation without exhausting the soil. 

Experimentation and innovation were key. Two terms modern agritech/agribusiness corporations lay claim to, but something farmers have been doing for generations.  

Many farmers also used ‘insect equilibrium’ and their knowledge of which insects kill crop-predator pests. Food and policy analyst Devinder Sharma says he has met women in India who can identify 110 non-vegetarian and 60 vegetarian insects.  

Complex, highly beneficial traditional knowledge systems and on-farm ecological practices are being eroded as farmers lose control over their productive means and become dependent on proprietary products, including commodified corporate knowledge.  

Farmers in places like the Netherlands are now being blamed for harming the environment due to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. Although Dutch farmers are taking flak, what we are also seeing is an attack on large feed and meat producers. There are not many small farms left in the Netherlands and most animal farms are concentrated feeding operations.  

The Netherlands’ farming sector is highly livestock intensive and there seems to be a policy to reduce the size of the meat industry in that country. Farmers have been told to get out of farming or shift to growing crops.  

Instead of the authorities facilitating a gradual shift towards organic, agroecological agriculture and attract a new generation to the sector, farmers are in danger of being displaced.  

But Dutch farmers are not the only ones in the firing line. Farmers in other European nations are also protesting because various policies make it increasingly difficult for them to make a living.  

There seems to be a concerted effort to make farming financially non-viable for many farmers and  remove them from their land. The farmer protests in Europe follow in the wake of massive resistance by Indian farmers against corporate-backed legislation that would have seen an accelerated drive to push many already financially distressed farmers out of farming.   

Farmer Bill 

The biggest owner of private farmland in the US – Bill Gates – has a vision for farming: a chemical-dependent, corporate-dependent, one-world agriculture (Ag One initiative) to facilitate the global supply chains of conglomerates. This initiative is side-lining indigenous knowledge and practices in favour of corporate knowledge and a further colonisation of global agriculture 

Gates’s corporatisation of smallholder agriculture is packaged in philanthropic terms –  ‘helping’ farmers in places like Africa and India. It has not worked out well so far if we turn to the Gates-backed Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), established in 2006. 

The first major evaluation of AGRA’s efforts to expand high-input agriculture in Africa found that – after 15 years – it had failed. With concerns being voiced over the use of hazardous pesticides, less than impressive yields, the privatisation of seeds, corporate dependency and farmer indebtedness, among other things, we can expect more of the same under the Ag One initiative. 

But the ultimate high-tech vision for farming is farmerless farms largely overseen by driverless vehicles and AI-driven sensors and drones linked to cloud-based infrastructure. The likes of Microsoft will harvest field data on seeds, soil quality, historical crop yields, water management, weather patterns, land ownership, agronomic practices and the like.  

Tech giants will control multi-billion-dollar data management markets that facilitate the needs of institutional land investors, agribusiness and monopolistic e-commerce platforms. Under the guise of ‘data-driven agriculture’, private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends. 

With lab-based synthetic meat being promoted and attracting huge interest from investors, Gates and the agritech sector also envisage a largely ‘climate-friendly’ animal-free agriculture, which they claim will result in freeing up vast tracts of farmland (we can only speculate for what).  

It remains to be seen just how energy-efficient, environment-friendly and health-friendly synthetic meat labs are once scaled up to industrial levels.  

At the same time, industrial agriculture will use new technologies – minus farmers – and will still rely on and boost the use of fossil-fuel-dependent agrochemicals (with all the associated health and environmental problems) and remain focused on long-line supply chains, unnecessarily shipping food around the world.  

A high-energy system reliant on the oil and gas that has fuelled the colonisation of the food system (‘globalisation’) by agribusiness conglomerates. Moreover, the new human-less on-farm technologies will be energy-intensive to run and will rely on environment-destroying extraction for finite resources like lithium, cobalt and other rare-earth elements to produce.  

Low-energy agroecological approaches based on the principles and practices of localisation, local markets, authentic regenerative agriculture and proper soil management (which ensures effective and ecologically sound nitrogen and carbon storage) are key to ensuring genuine long-term sustainability in food production.  

Many who belong to the agribusiness lobby have been drawing attention to Sri Lanka in an attempt to show organic farming can only lead to disaster. A transition to organics has to be gradual, not least because regenerating soil cannot occur overnight. Regardless, the article ‘Sri Lanka Faces Food Crisis – No, It’s Not Due to Organic Farming’ that recently appeared on The Quint website reveals why that country really headed into crisis. 

Great refusal 

The neoliberal programme that took root in the 1980s has now reached a debt-bloated, inflationary impasse. In response, capitalism has embarked on a ‘great reset’ with transformative technology very much to the fore in the guise of a ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, promising a brave new tomorrow for all.  

However, there are deep-seated concerns about how this technology could be used to monitor and control entire populations, especially as we are witnessing a brutal economic restructuring and increasing clampdowns on personal liberties. If neoliberalism promoted individualism, the ‘new normal’ demands strict compliance – individual freedom is said to pose a threat to ‘national security’, ‘public health’ or ‘safety’.  

There is also concern about economic collapse, war and the exposure of a food system to energy price shocks, supply chain breakdowns and commodity market speculation.  

In Mali in 2015, Nyeleni – the international movement for food sovereignty – released The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology.    

The Declaration Stated: 

“Essential natural resources have been commodified, and rising production costs are driving us off the land. Farmers’ seeds are being stolen and sold back to us at exorbitant prices, bred as varieties that depend on costly, contaminating agrochemicals.” 

It added: 

“Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.” 

The Declaration made it clear that the prevailing capitalist food system had to be challenged and overcome. 

In analysing the potential for challenging the capitalist order, Herbert Marcuse stated the following in his famous 1964 book ‘One-Dimensional Man’: 

“A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress.” 

Today, we might say – an uncomfortable, unsmooth, unreasonable, undemocratic unfreedom prevails, a token of an emerging techno-dystopia.  

Marcuse felt post-war mass culture had made people repressed and uncritical. They were a reflection of a one-dimensional system based on the consumption of commodities and the effects of modern culture and technology that served to dampen dissent. 

The controlling nature of technology pervades all aspects of life today. But whether it involves farmers protests in Europe and India, the advancement of a political agroecology, truckers taking to the streets in Canada or ordinary people protesting against a rapidly advancing authoritarianism in Western societies, many people across the world know something is seriously amiss. 

To borrow from Marcuse, we are seeing a ‘great refusal’ – people saying ‘no’ to multiple forms of repression and domination – tentacles of an economic system in crisis. 

The post Farmers on the Frontline first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Farmers on the Frontline

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most humans were engaged in agriculture. Our relationship with nature was immediate. Within just a few generations, however, for many people across the world, their link with the land has been severed. 

Food now arrives pre-packaged (often precooked), preserved with chemicals and contains harmful pesticides, micro-plastics, hormones and/or various other contaminants. We are also being served a narrower menu of high-calorie food with lower nutrient content. 

It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with how modern food is produced.  

Although, there are various stages between farm and fork, not least modern food processing practices, which is a story in itself, a key part of the problem lies with agriculture. 

Today, many farmers are trapped on chemical and biotech treadmills. They have been encouraged and coerced into using a range of costly off-farm inputs, from synthetic fertilisers and corporate-manufactured seeds to a wide array of weedicides and pesticides. 

With the industrialisation of agriculture, many poor, smallholder farmers have been deskilled and placed into vulnerable positions. Traditional knowledge has been undermined, overwhelmed or has survived only in fragments.  

Writing in the Journal of South Asian Studies in 2017, Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahein state that farmers have for millennia taken measures to manage drought, grow cereals with long stalks that can be used as fodder, engage in cropping practices that promote biodiversity, ethno-engineer soil and water conservation and make use of collective sharing systems. 

Farmers knew their micro-environment, so they could plant crops that mature at different times, thereby facilitating more rapid crop rotation without exhausting the soil. 

Experimentation and innovation were key. Two terms modern agritech/agribusiness corporations lay claim to, but something farmers have been doing for generations.  

Many farmers also used ‘insect equilibrium’ and their knowledge of which insects kill crop-predator pests. Food and policy analyst Devinder Sharma says he has met women in India who can identify 110 non-vegetarian and 60 vegetarian insects.  

Complex, highly beneficial traditional knowledge systems and on-farm ecological practices are being eroded as farmers lose control over their productive means and become dependent on proprietary products, including commodified corporate knowledge.  

Farmers in places like the Netherlands are now being blamed for harming the environment due to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. Although Dutch farmers are taking flak, what we are also seeing is an attack on large feed and meat producers. There are not many small farms left in the Netherlands and most animal farms are concentrated feeding operations.  

The Netherlands’ farming sector is highly livestock intensive and there seems to be a policy to reduce the size of the meat industry in that country. Farmers have been told to get out of farming or shift to growing crops.  

Instead of the authorities facilitating a gradual shift towards organic, agroecological agriculture and attract a new generation to the sector, farmers are in danger of being displaced.  

But Dutch farmers are not the only ones in the firing line. Farmers in other European nations are also protesting because various policies make it increasingly difficult for them to make a living.  

There seems to be a concerted effort to make farming financially non-viable for many farmers and  remove them from their land. The farmer protests in Europe follow in the wake of massive resistance by Indian farmers against corporate-backed legislation that would have seen an accelerated drive to push many already financially distressed farmers out of farming.   

Farmer Bill 

The biggest owner of private farmland in the US – Bill Gates – has a vision for farming: a chemical-dependent, corporate-dependent, one-world agriculture (Ag One initiative) to facilitate the global supply chains of conglomerates. This initiative is side-lining indigenous knowledge and practices in favour of corporate knowledge and a further colonisation of global agriculture 

Gates’s corporatisation of smallholder agriculture is packaged in philanthropic terms –  ‘helping’ farmers in places like Africa and India. It has not worked out well so far if we turn to the Gates-backed Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), established in 2006. 

The first major evaluation of AGRA’s efforts to expand high-input agriculture in Africa found that – after 15 years – it had failed. With concerns being voiced over the use of hazardous pesticides, less than impressive yields, the privatisation of seeds, corporate dependency and farmer indebtedness, among other things, we can expect more of the same under the Ag One initiative. 

But the ultimate high-tech vision for farming is farmerless farms largely overseen by driverless vehicles and AI-driven sensors and drones linked to cloud-based infrastructure. The likes of Microsoft will harvest field data on seeds, soil quality, historical crop yields, water management, weather patterns, land ownership, agronomic practices and the like.  

Tech giants will control multi-billion-dollar data management markets that facilitate the needs of institutional land investors, agribusiness and monopolistic e-commerce platforms. Under the guise of ‘data-driven agriculture’, private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends. 

With lab-based synthetic meat being promoted and attracting huge interest from investors, Gates and the agritech sector also envisage a largely ‘climate-friendly’ animal-free agriculture, which they claim will result in freeing up vast tracts of farmland (we can only speculate for what).  

It remains to be seen just how energy-efficient, environment-friendly and health-friendly synthetic meat labs are once scaled up to industrial levels.  

At the same time, industrial agriculture will use new technologies – minus farmers – and will still rely on and boost the use of fossil-fuel-dependent agrochemicals (with all the associated health and environmental problems) and remain focused on long-line supply chains, unnecessarily shipping food around the world.  

A high-energy system reliant on the oil and gas that has fuelled the colonisation of the food system (‘globalisation’) by agribusiness conglomerates. Moreover, the new human-less on-farm technologies will be energy-intensive to run and will rely on environment-destroying extraction for finite resources like lithium, cobalt and other rare-earth elements to produce.  

Low-energy agroecological approaches based on the principles and practices of localisation, local markets, authentic regenerative agriculture and proper soil management (which ensures effective and ecologically sound nitrogen and carbon storage) are key to ensuring genuine long-term sustainability in food production.  

Many who belong to the agribusiness lobby have been drawing attention to Sri Lanka in an attempt to show organic farming can only lead to disaster. A transition to organics has to be gradual, not least because regenerating soil cannot occur overnight. Regardless, the article ‘Sri Lanka Faces Food Crisis – No, It’s Not Due to Organic Farming’ that recently appeared on The Quint website reveals why that country really headed into crisis. 

Great refusal 

The neoliberal programme that took root in the 1980s has now reached a debt-bloated, inflationary impasse. In response, capitalism has embarked on a ‘great reset’ with transformative technology very much to the fore in the guise of a ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, promising a brave new tomorrow for all.  

However, there are deep-seated concerns about how this technology could be used to monitor and control entire populations, especially as we are witnessing a brutal economic restructuring and increasing clampdowns on personal liberties. If neoliberalism promoted individualism, the ‘new normal’ demands strict compliance – individual freedom is said to pose a threat to ‘national security’, ‘public health’ or ‘safety’.  

There is also concern about economic collapse, war and the exposure of a food system to energy price shocks, supply chain breakdowns and commodity market speculation.  

In Mali in 2015, Nyeleni – the international movement for food sovereignty – released The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology.    

The Declaration Stated: 

“Essential natural resources have been commodified, and rising production costs are driving us off the land. Farmers’ seeds are being stolen and sold back to us at exorbitant prices, bred as varieties that depend on costly, contaminating agrochemicals.” 

It added: 

“Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.” 

The Declaration made it clear that the prevailing capitalist food system had to be challenged and overcome. 

In analysing the potential for challenging the capitalist order, Herbert Marcuse stated the following in his famous 1964 book ‘One-Dimensional Man’: 

“A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress.” 

Today, we might say – an uncomfortable, unsmooth, unreasonable, undemocratic unfreedom prevails, a token of an emerging techno-dystopia.  

Marcuse felt post-war mass culture had made people repressed and uncritical. They were a reflection of a one-dimensional system based on the consumption of commodities and the effects of modern culture and technology that served to dampen dissent. 

The controlling nature of technology pervades all aspects of life today. But whether it involves farmers protests in Europe and India, the advancement of a political agroecology, truckers taking to the streets in Canada or ordinary people protesting against a rapidly advancing authoritarianism in Western societies, many people across the world know something is seriously amiss. 

To borrow from Marcuse, we are seeing a ‘great refusal’ – people saying ‘no’ to multiple forms of repression and domination – tentacles of an economic system in crisis. 

The post Farmers on the Frontline first appeared on Dissident Voice.

It Is Dark, but I Sing Because the Morning Will Come

Photograph by Wellington Lenon / MST-PR

In the chilly Brazilian winter of 2019, Renata Porto Bugni (deputy director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research), André Cardoso (coordinator of our office in Brazil), and I went to the Lula Livre (‘Free Lula’) camp in Curitiba, set up just across the road from the penitentiary where former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sat in a 15-square metre cell. Lula had been in prison for 500 days. Hundreds of people gathered each day at the Lula Livre camp to wish him good morning, good day, and good night – a greeting that sought both to keep his spirits up and to offer a spirited protest of his incarceration. Eighty days later, Lula walked out of prison, free from charges that most observers rightly condemned as absurd. He is now the front-runner in the country’s presidential elections that will take place on 2 October 2022.

One of the features of the vigil outside the federal prison was the ubiquity of militants of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). Their flags were everywhere, their cadre forming the spinal cord of the movement to free Lula that blossomed out from Curitiba to every corner of the country. Formed in 1984 during the military dictatorship (1964–85), the MST grew out of agricultural workers’ and peasants’ occupations of latifúndios, gigantic estates held by wealthy individuals and corporations. Over the past four decades, these farmers have taken control of millions of hectares of land across Brazil, forming the largest social movement in Latin America.

Photograph by Mídia Ninja

Approximately 500,000 households live in these MST-led occupations, meaning that the MST has organised about two million people into its ranks. Around 100,000 families live on encampments (acampamentos), which are occupations of fallow land to which they have not been given formal access; 400,000 families live on settlements (assentamentos), whose land they now hold by right through liberal provisions in Chapter III of the country’s 1988 Constitution, Article 184, which states that the government can ‘expropriate, on account of social interest, for purposes of agrarian reform, rural property that does not perform a social function’. However, it is important to note that, on a punctual basis, the Brazilian state nonetheless attempts to evict families from these legal encampments.

The settlements’ residents organise themselves through various democratic structures, create schools for their children and community kitchens for the indigent, and develop techniques for agroecological farming towards fulfilling their own needs and for sale in the marketplace. The MST is now rooted in the social landscape of Brazil; it is impossible to think of the country without the movement’s red flag fluttering across these encampments from the Amazon in the north to Arroio Chuí, Brazil’s southernmost point.

Photograph by Mídia Ninja

Beneath the considerable activity of the MST lies a theory, and that theory – rooted in concepts such as agrarian reform – is detailed in a variety of venues. Our institute’s deputy director, Renata Porto Bugni, interviewed one of the members of the MST’s national coordination, Neuri Rossetto, on his understanding of the movement’s theory and the relevance of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci’s writing. Published jointly with GramsciLab and Centro per la Riforma dello Stato, this interview is now available in our dossier no. 54 (July 2022), Gramsci Amidst Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). Neuri, as he prefers to be called, shares his understanding of Gramsci and reflects on the three main challenges faced by the MST:

  1. to precisely identify the adversaries who impede efforts to address the dilemmas of humanity (such as agrarian reform);
  2. to establish an ongoing dialogue with the working class to build a political project for each country; and
  3. to strengthen the political and organisational capacity of the main forces who advance our struggles.

Hegemony, as Gramsci pointed out, emerges from the practice of assembling a new political project out of the ‘common sense’ of the people and elaborating those ideas into a coherent philosophy. The central concept for the MST to elaborate this theory is agrarian reform. According to Neuri, this reform project fights ‘for an agricultural model centred on the production of healthy food for the Brazilian population alongside the struggle to democratise land ownership’. The MST organises peasants to improve not only their control over land, but also over agricultural production, including by avoiding toxic chemicals which destroy both the workers’ land and health. This project is now linked to an interest amongst consumers for food whose components do not harm them and whose production does not destroy the planet. The possibility of uniting the majority of the country’s 212 million people in pursuit of agrarian reform galvanises the MST.

Photograph by Igor de Nadai

Is the MST a social movement or a political party? This has been a question that has bedevilled the movement since its origin nearly forty years ago. In fact, from a Gramscian perspective, the distinction between these two – social movements and political parties – is not so significant. Neuri’s commentary on these themes in the interview is quite instructive:

We are aware of the responsibilities and the need to improve our political forces, both in their organisational and ideological senses, in order to have a greater influence in the class struggle. However, we do not claim to assume the role of a political party in its strict sense, as we believe that this political instrument is beyond our scope. This does not mean to say that we have a supra-partisan or non-partisan stance. We believe that the articulation of working-class movements, trade unions, and political parties is fundamental in the construction of another sociability which is alternative and contrary to the bourgeois order. … [W]e do not underestimate the importance and strength of political action and popular mobilisations as an educating element for the subaltern classes. The popular masses learn and educate themselves in popular mobilisations. There, in the mass movement, lies the political strength of the organisation; this is where the political-ideological level of the masses is raised.

In sum, the MST is part of a process to build the organisational and ideological strength of the peasantry, and it works alongside trade union movements and other organisations to create a political project for social emancipation. To that end, the MST has participated in building the Popular Project for Brazil (Projeto Brasil Popular), which, as Neuri says, ‘aims to consolidate a historic bloc that promotes anti-capitalist, emancipatory struggles and immediate economic gains that meet the needs and interests of the working class’. Advancing the confidence and power of the working class and peasantry is, therefore, central to the MST’s activity. Part of this work has been to fight back against Lula’s persecution.


Nara Leão (Brazil) sings Faz escuro mas eu canto (1966)

In 1962–63, while Brazil was governed by a centre-left formation led by President João Goulart, the mood in the country was drawn to change and possibility. During this period, the Amazonian poet Thiago de Mello (1926–2022) wrote ‘Madrugada camponesa’ (‘Peasant Dawn’), which reflected on the peasantry’s hard work to plant not only food but also hope. When the poem was published in 1965 in a book called Faz escuro mas eu canto (‘It Is Dark but I Sing’), the political situation in Brazil had changed after a US-led coup overthrew Goulart and brought the military to power in 1964. The poem’s line ‘It is dark, but I sing because the morning will come’ took on a new charge. The next year, Nara Leão sang these words and made them an anthem of the time. We leave our newsletter this week with de Mello’s poem, a tribute to the peasantry and to the fight against the dictatorship of power, privilege, and property.

The land is still dark
in the peasant dawn,
but it is necessary to plant.
Night was deeper,
now morning is coming.

There is no place for a song
made of fear and mimicry
to fool solitude.
Now it is time for the truth,
sung simply and always.
Now it is time for joy,
which is built day by day
with bread and song.

Soon it will be (I feel it in the air)
the time of ripe wheat.
It will be time to harvest.
Miracles are rising up like
blue rain on the cornfields,
beanstalks bursting into flower,
fresh sap flowing
from my distant rubber trees.

Dawn of hope,
the time of love is almost here.
I harvest a fiery sun that burns on the ground
and plough the light from within the sugarcane,
my soul on its pennant.

Peasant dawn.
The land is dark (but not quite as much),
it is time to work.
It is dark but I sing
because the morning will come
(It is dark, but I sing).

The post It Is Dark, but I Sing Because the Morning Will Come first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Rise Of Oligarchical Politics

Millions of people in the UK are beset by insecurities and worries about the rising cost of living. Fuel and energy prices are escalating, variously blamed on Brexit, Covid, and the war in Ukraine. A recent survey reported that 67% of Britons are worried about paying food and fuel bills, and 56% believe their household finances have worsened in the past 12 months.

The NHS is experiencing huge pressures. Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor and the author of Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic, said in March that the NHS:

‘is not coping much better now than it was at Covid’s peaks. We are drowning – in Covid patients, cancer patients, the patients on the waiting list backlogs, and the patients whose conditions have become infinitely more complex and harmful because they’ve been waiting so long. There are so few staff – and those left are so burned out and traumatised – that patients are inevitably being neglected.’

Too many people in this country are relying on food banks. Between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, the Trussell Trust network, the UK’s largest foodback organisation, distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis. This is an increase of 81% compared to the same period five years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of disabled and chronically ill people are having to wait an average of five months for disability benefits. Employees are working long hours on short-term and zero-hour contracts. There are persistent delays and poor services on public transport. And people have to wait inordinately long times to obtain driving licenses and passports.

All of this is taking place against the reality of industrial action and rising public dissatisfaction with what passes for ‘news’ or ‘politics’ in the Westminster bubble, or any of the other bubbles inhabited by Western elites.

Public trust in the ‘mainstream’ media has dropped dramatically in recent years. According to a recent analysis by Press Gazette, BBC News experienced the biggest drop in public confidence, along with the Times and the Telegraph. BBC News, regularly touted by its managers and senior journalists as the ‘gold standard’ in reliability and accuracy, has seen trust in its journalism drop from 75% four years ago to 55% now.

For what it’s worth, that still leaves it the most trusted newsbrand in the UK, along with ITV news, also at 55%. Channel 4 News was just behind on 54%. Sky News saw trust in its output decline from 62% to 45%. The Guardian could only manage 48% (remarkably high, given its record), down from 61%.

Press Gazette summed up the findings:

‘Major newsbrands have a crisis of trust’.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook observed:

‘Is the reason all establishment media are seeing huge drops in audience trust the fault of Russian disinformation? Or is it because they act as brazen mouthpieces for the establishment? Be sure all these outlets will tell you it’s down to Russia.’

Commenting on the low trust figures, Cook added:

‘half of audiences think our main news shows actually peddle fake news.’

Rossalyn Warren, Reuters audience editor, recently shared a headline finding from the Oxford-based Reuters Institute that:

‘46% of people (mostly women and young people) actively avoid the news because it has a negative impact on their mood. That’s up from 24% in 2017.’

The prevailing public mood was pithily summed up by writer Umair Haque as a ‘feeling of downward mobility’. This, he said, is how many people feel today:

‘They don’t feel good. Confident. Assured. Optimistic. They feel…worthless. Defeated. Helpless and hopeless. Traumatized and weary.’

Haque continued:

‘I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it financially — how am I going to make ends meet? I can’t take it economically — no matter how hard you work, little seems to change. I can’t take it culturally — nothing, no one out there seems to help me, aid me, be there for me. I can’t take it socially — this whole society feels like it’s against me.’

There is, warned Haque, a ‘tsunami of demoralisation’ sweeping our societies:

‘And as people grow demoralized, they grow de-moralized. Their moral centers and cores stop working. Only the strong survive, and the weak perish? I had better become ruthless, cunning, cruel. I must learn how to be a knife. Not a lever, not an open hand. A closed fist. In the bitter battle for self-preservation, the great virtues — empathy, grace, truth, knowledge — all themselves become needless luxuries and unaffordable indulgences.’

To some extent, in this harsh depiction, Haque was playing devil’s advocate. But his point was clear. Many of us are struggling and perhaps tempted to protect and preserve what we have, in our own limited spheres; and woe betide anyone who gets in our way.

However, rather than feel despair or harden our hearts, an alternative approach is to admit that many of us sometimes feel demoralised, even overwhelmed, and to share that feeling with others. As Haque said:

‘You’re not alone, my friend.’

That may be a small step on a new journey that we all need to take. Because we have to accept that real change is not going to come from our ‘leaders’, but from ourselves.

Consider the rail strikes that have been taking place in the UK. The most overtly right-wing press – the likes of the ‘soaraway Sun’ – wailed about ‘a return to the 1970s’ driven by ‘Marxist thugs’. Such defamation is to be expected in the vitriolic pages of the billionaire-owned press.

But how different is this from the more subtle vilification by an ostensibly neutral BBC journalist? On the eve of recent industrial action, Nick Robinson, former BBC political editor and now a Radio 4 Today presenter, tweeted:

‘Who’s the man behind the strikes which are threatening a week of rail chaos? Is he a champion of workers who deserve a pay rise or a politically motivated dinosaur? You decide after listening to my half hour conversation with Mick Lynch @RMTunion

This might appear a relatively minor example. But it is symptomatic of the insidious, endemic anti-working class, anti-trade union stance embedded in BBC News ‘impartiality’. Robinson would never say of a senior Tory leader:

‘Is he a public servant or an oligarchy-serving, greed-driven predator?’

Scale up Robinson’s attitudes, shared across leading BBC News presenters and editors, and you get what the BBC represents; indeed, what the BBC is: a state-affiliated broadcaster relentlessly pitching elite perspectives on domestic and international affairs. Challenges are routinely met with disdain, blanking or arrogance.

‘Once You See How The Super Rich Run Everything Solely For Their Own Benefit You Cannot Unsee It’

In his calm, articulate determination to get his points across in recent media interviews, many of them conducted risibly by highly-paid celebrity journalists, RMT union leader Mick Lynch has been a ray of hope for many people.

Speaking live on BBC News from a picket line in London last month, Lynch said:

The whole country is suffering. And we have got a membership and a trade union that is prepared to fight for what we’ve got. What the rest of the country suffers from is the lack of power.’

Lynch expanded:

‘The lack of the ability to organise and the lack of the wherewithal to take on these employers that are continually driving down wages, and making the working class in this country poorer, year on year on year, while the rich get richer and dividends are accelerated and the stock market is reasonably healthy. We’ve got full employment and falling wages, and that is a situation that has never happened before and it cannot be tolerated by working people or by the trade union movement.’

In a Sky News interview, the union leader highlighted the deceptive rhetoric of many businesses:

‘What we’re seeing here is a smokescreen caused by Covid, and many employers are taking this opportunity. They’re using what is a temporary phenomenon – Covid – and the temporary phenomenon of people being told not to go to work as a smokescreen to get rid of decent conditions, decent pay rates and decent agreements.’

Making the kind of rational, reasonable points that rarely get an airing on state-corporate ‘news’ outlets, Lynch added:

‘Everybody wants our cities, towns and villages to recover. The way we do that, and one of the most important aspects of that, is by having a decent public transport system that can be relied on, is safe and accessible. Cutting staff, cutting services and cutting funding is the opposite to that, and nobody in our community should tolerate that from this government of billionaires who tell everyone else they’ve got to tighten their belts while they’re raking it in.’

Lynch’s assured media performances, particularly when confronted with ludicrous questions, won him praise from many corners. A Guardian piece observed that the union boss had been ‘deft, scornful and effective.’

Political economist Matt Bishop noted:

‘What’s remarkable about the Mick Lynch coverage is just how rarely we hear straightforward, working-class lefty union people in mainstream debate. Our media is dominated by a privately educated professional pundit class, their MP and banker chums, and it’s all the poorer for it.’

Exactly. Although, of course, it is not ‘mainstream’ debate. It is a tightly-controlled ‘debate’ that exists within the severely skewed bias of a state-corporate media, owned and managed by elite interests.

Even Mark Solomons, a former industrial correspondent at the Sun noted in an article in the right-wing Spectator, that:

‘Lynch is currently dominating TV screens and social media, making mincemeat out of politicians and broadcast interviewers alike.’

Solomons added:

‘He has stuck to his guns, confounded his opponents, and used simple, plain-talking language. He comes across as a working-class man who has made it to the top of his profession without selling out his principles, someone who makes it quite clear why the union is doing what it is doing irrespective of whether or not we agree with him.’

There was understanding and support from members of the public. An anonymous 53-year-old manager of an NHS mental health team living in south London blamed the government for the rail strikes:

‘I wish the government would meaningfully and consistently fund public infrastructure and the key workers who keep our city and society running. I’m tired of services being cut to the bone, everything being done on the cheap and workers being told to simply work harder to fill the gaps.’

Giles Barret, a 38-year-old owner of a recording studio, said:

‘Collective action is the reason we have a weekend, among many other hard-won rights, and we must never stop fighting for them – capital certainly won’t.’

And David Ling, a 69-year-old pensioner, also pointed to the bigger picture behind the rail strikes:

‘There’s so many problems in this country that are caused by austerity, privatisation and cutbacks that in the end it’s gonna be a reaction. It’s not just the railway workers – it’s teachers and nurses and everything. In the end, something’s got to give. You can’t carry on cutting back and people scrimping and saving. It doesn’t work.’

Barnaby Raine of Novara Media commented approvingly of Mick Lynch’s media performances:

‘Our whole media debate is a surreal circus until someone bursts it open.’

An opinion poll showed that public opinion had shifted dramatically in support of rail strikes following Lynch’s media appearances. Previously, support for the strike was at 38%, while opposition to the strike was 43%. Afterwards, support for the strike had risen 7% to 45%, while opposition to the strike had dropped 6% to 37%.

On Twitter, political writer John Traynor provided a potent summary of why Lynch had been so effective at getting his points of view across to the public.

First:

‘Lynch knows that what he is saying is both factually correct and consistent. This contrasts with conservative voices who know what they are spouting is [a] pack of lies and drivel, and comically inconsistent.’

Second:

‘Lynch understands fully what he is talking about. His knowledge allows him to counter any derisory interruption. This contrasts with conservative voices who know only a few mendacious soundbites with no in depth knowledge, and this causes them to fall.’

Third:

‘Lynch speaks sincerely; he believes in all the points he makes. This contrasts with conservative voices who believe in nothing and are just playing a part for money.’

Matthew Todd, author of the best-selling LGBT mental health book, Straight Jacket, said via Twitter that:

‘Ive worked in the media alongside politicians for 25 years. Once you see how the super rich run everything solely for their own benefit you cannot unsee it. If people understood what lies in store for us they wouldn’t be on strike, there would be a revolution #RailStrikes

Despite this brief opening in permissible debate around the economy, if Lynch continues to be this effective, then the state-corporate media will revert to type and attempt to crush him, just as they did with Jeremy Corbyn.

The Guardian Is ‘A Tool Of The British Establishment’

Indeed, in a recent compelling interview with Matt Kennard of Declassified UK, Corbyn opened up about the experience he had gone through as Labour Party leader during which he had been the target of arguably the biggest ever propaganda blitz against a British political leader. He was particularly scathing of the Guardian which, long ago, may have been regarded by some as a reliable left-leaning newspaper:

‘I have absolutely no illusions in the Guardian, none whatsoever. My mum brought me up to read the Guardian. She said, “It’s a good paper you can trust”. You can’t. After their treatment of me, I do not trust the Guardian.”’

He continued:

‘There are good people who work in the Guardian, there are some brilliant writers in the Guardian, but as a paper, it’s a tool of the British establishment. It’s a mainstream establishment paper. So, as long as everybody on the left gets it clear: when you buy the Guardian, you’re buying an establishment paper.’

Indeed, the Guardian and BBC News were central to the establishment’s cynical exploitation of antisemitism allegations to kill Corbyn’s chances of becoming Prime Minister:

‘an analysis of the Guardian’s treatment of the time that I was leader of the party needs to be made because they and the BBC had more unsourced reporting of anti-semitic criticisms surrounding me than any other paper, including the Mail, The Telegraph and the Sun.’

As for the British media as a whole:

‘We have a supine media in this country. The British self-confidence of saying we’ve got the best media in the world, the best broadcasting in the world, the best democracy in the world. It’s nonsense, utter, complete nonsense. We have a media that’s supine, that self-censors, that accepts D-Notices, doesn’t challenge them, and the vast majority of the mainstream media haven’t lifted so much as a little finger in support or defence of Julian Assange.’

Today, Labour has a new ‘leader’ who is trying as hard as possible to stifle left policies and voices within the party, dragging it relentlessly towards the right; or what Sir Keir Starmer calls the ‘centre ground’. In an Observer opinion piece, ‘Labour has now claimed the centre ground – and has shown it can win’, this Blairite establishment stooge boasted:

‘Since the horror of the last general election, we have rolled up our sleeves and focused on listening to the public and changing our party. We’ve rooted out the poison of antisemitism, shown unshakeable support for Nato, forged a new relationship with business, shed unworkable or unaffordable policies and created an election machine capable of taking on the Conservatives. Being able to win again has taken more than two years of hard graft from all those who ache to see the transformation a Labour government would bring the country we love.’

As political writer Steve Topple noted, Starmer’s comments were largely ‘vacuous dross and detached from reality’. In particular:

‘Labour has “shed unworkable or unaffordable policies” but with no clear reference to what these are. Clearly, it’s those promises he made during the Labour leadership election. Remember those? The talk of nationalisation of industries and services? We can now categorically see that Starmer’s pledges were nothing short of manipulation of party members. This is despite the fact that with things like rail renationalisation, the public consistently supports it.’

A ’Bent’ System Of Government

Peter Oborne, former political editor at the Spectator and former Daily Telegraph chief political commentator, recently warned of the rising oligarchical nature of politics in the UK, whether Conservative or Labour:

‘You would hope that in a well-managed democracy the purpose of political power was to challenge the super-rich, make sure they didn’t get what they wanted. Under [Boris] Johnson, political power has been a vehicle for the super-rich to make sure that they do get what they want.’

Oborne offered this damning verdict on our supposed ‘free press’:

‘The second element of Johnson is that the media class and the political class have merged in Downing Street; they are the same thing. And so all the stuff which we as journalists get taught at journalism school – it’s the task of the press to hold government to account, and there is a sort of separation of powers – is no longer the case. There has been a merger.’

Oborne called Johnson ‘the billionaire’s bitch’. Why? First, because Johnson was, before he announced his resignation as Tory leader on 7 July, dependent on billionaire donors to the Tory party who saw him – until recently, at least – as the best option to represent their interests:

‘You can see what they want is access to power, it’s contracts – we saw this with Covid when Tory donors were rewarded endlessly.’

Second, because Johnson has curried favour with billionaire newspaper proprietors, such as the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph, and Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Times and the Sun.

In an article titled, ‘Boris Johnson is finished. But will the rotten system that created him fall too?’, Oborne pointed out:

‘The Murdoch Press, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph group control approximately three quarters of the newspaper reading market. These three groups have been central to Johnson’s success.

‘Every title in all these groups supported Johnson’s bid for the Tory leadership, his 2019 general election campaign, and through last month’s vote of confidence. Throughout all of this they played down the corruption, fabrication, scandal, cronyism, law-breaking and incompetence of the Johnson government.’

Oborne found some hope in democratic pressures at last having some effect:

‘Very late in the day the reputational damage of sticking with Johnson has struck home. The newspapers, finally scared of their readers, are running for cover. On Wednesday, Rupert Murdoch’s Times belatedly pulled the plug – “The prime minister has lost the confidence of his party and the country. He should quit now”.’

Faced with the prospect of crumbling support from even the right-wing press, together with multiple resignations across government, Johnson finally bowed to the inevitable and resigned as Tory leader, while remaining as Prime Minister until a new leader can be elected in the autumn.

What will happen next? Oborne warns that nothing much will change:

‘The global super-rich are looking for a British prime minister who will look after their interests without the reputational damage. Ex-chancellor Sunak, now the bookies’ favourite, looks like their choice.

‘A near-billionaire himself, he at least has no incentive to take bribes. But he’s been at the heart of the bent Johnson system of government for almost three years, repeating the prime minister’s lies and tolerating his incompetence, bigotry and incessant sleaze.’

Whether Sunak or someone else takes over, warned Osborne:

‘The next Tory leader will almost certainly pursue the same policies as Johnson.

‘On Brexit. On civil liberties. On the Human Rights Act. The same English nationalism and cheap, ugly, vicious populism.’

He added:

‘Remember that all the leading candidates in the leadership contest served in Johnson’s cabinet. They supported his policies, and in many cases repeated his lies.

As for Keir Starmer, Knight Commander of the Order of Bath, Oborne is scathing, pointing out that the politician ‘dishonestly’ represented himself as coming from the left when bidding to become Corbyn’s successor. Since Starmer was elected Labour leader, he has been ‘trying to buy into the Blair model’ of relying on donors, appeasing newspaper proprietors, ‘ruthlessly’ excluding the trade unions, and indeed attacking the left, notably Stop the War and any Labour MPs critical of Nato:

‘He made a choice to define himself not against Boris Johnson, the billionaire’s person. He decided to define himself as not being Jeremy Corbyn. That was the classic Blairite pivot. Blair chose to win by sucking up to Rupert Murdoch, and sucking up to the billionaires, and Starmer appears to be doing just the same thing.’

Oborne predicts that, if Starmer ever becomes Prime Minister, all he would be is ‘maybe a more scrupulous version of Boris Johnson’; in other words, ‘a slightly softer version of oligarchical politics.’

If the public is to get what it supports and deserves – not least a basic standard of living, and a rational and urgent response to the climate crisis – we all need to take action now.

The post The Rise Of Oligarchical Politics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Ides of Bureaucrats and Blue State Idiots!

So., why is the Ides of March bad luck? If you want to avoid death or worse, 1,000 cuts, beware the ides of March. The date was certainly unlucky for Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in front of the Roman senate on March 15. William Shakespeare dramatized the event in his play about Caesar with the famous quote, ‘beware the ides of March.” For us, the 80 Percent, we have 24/7, 365 days a year of those Ides of March!

As a communist, I have deep understanding of the hate toward communists throughout history, and why countries in Africa and elsewhere are, were, and will lean toward socialism: kicking out the prostitutes, pimps and purveyors of chaos and terror. Bankers and Bombs. Viruses and Lockdowns. Neoliberal or Neocon. The purveyors of pain are at the top.

And, well, in the middle. So, I quit a job November 3 when my supervisor hung up on me. I was stationed 80 miles from where she was headquartered, where the HR was headquartered and where the Executive Director was headquartered.

This woman was a complete disaster as a human and professional (sic). She had already had issues with the fellow I replaced, who stormed out, quit. Her forked tongue and broken personality, well, she was the nonprofit’s two year wonder, her son worked for the nonprofit, and she had control of the small satellite office in my county.

My job was to take over case management for adults with developmental disabilities. That system is county run, with state DHS funding. It is a broken system, understaffed, and staffed with broken humans. So, one month on this job I was subjected to this supervisor’s personal life, her homophobia even though her Air Force son was marrying a man. She called herself a beaner, as she has some Latina in her bloodline. She asked me if I drove like an old man. On and on, and so, when I heard her voice, heard her warn me she was hanging up on me, and the fact that she would not listen to my concerns about a client who complained about shorted checks for a janitorial job we were not managing for him, I knew it was time to go.

Oregon’s judges:

So, this is my thinking — it was a just cause quit, to use the parlance of the dirty Unemployment Insurance/Employment Department lingo.

A job at $20 an hour, benefits like health insurance and PTO, and, I was expecting to be there for two years, three? But, for my physical health and mental health, bye-bye toxic and unprofessional people and organization. I was thinking this would be a legit quit making me eligible for some pittance of unemployment, as in $180 a week. Covid benefits had ended last November. Quitting or termination from a job after only one month looks bad to the future employers. Age 65, now, and alas, living in a rural county, and here we are, I am dead in the water as a worker, a man, a contributor to “society.”

Then, the application for Unemployment Insurance. Hoops to jump through (easy), and then applying for jobs as part of the deal. Then, the hell of Idiots Rule, the Bureaucrats. The adjudicator was unprofessional, taking my statements in his home (Zoom Doom), I heard him drawing on cig after cig, and he had to tell me he was gay, a real liberal (he thought I was a liberal — fucking comedy hour: Read, Communist!). Real bizarre. Real Portland Bizarro

The bastards got my story, and this dude had to get my statements over a span of three phone calls. He went off topic beyond stupidity, but he found against me: not eligible for UI, unemployment insurance. Then, I had to file an appeal.

That was more hell, and three hours with a judge (sic) and the HR director came on the line. Five days later, the judge, again, found against me.

Then, an appeal of the appeal through the Employment Appeals Board. That entailed sending in any additional information, to both the Board and the former employer.

Forty days later, again, two out of three judges (the 3rd one was not present to hear my appeal) found against me. They predicate that I had opportunities to deal with the issues I was dealing with through, yep, the HR, which was, again, part of the clique. The Executive Director was already on his way out, heading for another nonprofit ED position in the same place, Coos Bay.

Now, there is an appeal of the appeal through the state Appellate Court, but that entails a $391 filing fee. Yep, money to keep these blue state bureaucrats paid.

Irony after irony is that I have been employed to help homeless or developmental disabled to navigate systems of rents, medical needs, employment, and getting through the paperwork hell. I have helped some with their unemployment claims, and to get the Veterans Administration to find they have service – connected disabilities so they might get a few hundred bucks a month from Uncle Sam.

These are the systems of oppression and penury. This is the system that will never be discussed with gusto in mainstream and left-stream media. This is the system of holding people down and keeping worthless humans in jobs that are the opposite of humane and human.

Now now, this is not a spilled milk screed, hyperbolic and completely insignificant just because the world is falling apart, Ukrainians are being blowing apart by ZioLensky, and wildfires are rampant, toxicity out the roof, housing homicidal, billionaires drunk on power. This is foundational, readers of DV. Yep, amazing writers here talking about Boris Johnson, lots about Roe v Wade, lots on “the global economies” and tons on Ukraine and the EU and UK and global “situations.” Climate change, climate fatigue, climate chaos in a climate of fear and Stockholm Syndrome.

It starts locally, at the city and county level, at the state level. We (citizens) are here for a broken system of planned dysfunction, planned obsolescence, planned homicide to sputter ahead, to keep the bad people in jobs and the rest of us at their whim(s).

Oregon’s lovely housing opportunities:

Oregon’s growing business opportunities:

Here, one is title by yours truly: “One Degree of Separation: There Will be Parasitic Capitalism’s Blood

But specifically here is one about this shit-hole nonprofit and my right to quit and the rationale for it: “Quitting is a Mental Health Decision”

So, more shouts into the wilderness, flailing against the windmills of the Byzantine world of state policies, and rationalizations spewed toward the middle managers, the professional office class, the cogs in the systems of pain and begging and absurdity.

Oregon’s seasonal recreation and employment — smoke jumpers:

My letter to the two hearing board people: Nothing fancy, nothing a lawyer would write. But life sucks, no, when you don’t have the shekels to pay for criminal lawyers?

Oregon:

To an uncaring two-person appeals board – Hettle and Steger-Bentz:

I wholeheartedly see this decision as both incompetence and lack of empathy. Citing that I as the employee had recourse to not quit a highly toxic work environment shows the lack of creed you have. You are not in the know about non-profits, about the developmental disabilities case management realm. You have no idea how toxic those small nonprofits can get. The new case manager, as I was, had no connection to the actual main office and all of those inner workings of their clique. I had no recourse to thrive or do well at this job after I was hung up on by the supervisor. I had already for a month dealt with her unprofessional commentary and her racist remarks. That was the culture there, and citing some sort of recourse I might have had with the HR head is inane.

This is not a state or county agency with a more developed culture of workplace stability and professionalism.

You have no street creed or ground truthing when it comes to workplace cultures.

This outfit, Bay Area Enterprises, is shoddy, highly unprofessional, and alas, the rationale given in your wrong-headed decision is faulty: I did not have just cause to quit. Absurd. I needed to get out of a toxic and uncompromising situation. You are fools to think there was another option. You are overpaid State bureaucrats with little sense of the real workplaces workers in Oregon have to submit to. Do you realize that this small company, new to me, is all about insider cliques? That my immediate supervisor and the HR head work in the same office, 80 miles from where I was assigned? That the executive director left the company a week after my complaints, so he was already on the outs. That the executive director and the immediate supervisor I was worked in the same office and were in constant discussion back and forth about employee x and employee y? That there are prejudicial allegiances made under those circumstances?

I was hung up on by my supervisor. She was in the office where the HR director and the ED work. My immediate motion for self-preservation was to resign. Indeed, your bureaucratic mentality is what I teach my students in colleges (and some in K12 as a substitute) to not only watch out for, but to rail against, and challenge. In this case, I went through the Oregon state hoops designed to assist companies to get out of paying some of the unemployment insurance. The system is rigged in favor of the employer.

You are at fault for this decision, for not taking into account a deeper sense of the workplace, that workplace I was in. In no away was I going to put myself through mental and emotional hell by putting up with the situation I have already laid out. You can sit back and lord over workers, making the same tired decision that occurred first by the Unemployment adjudicator, then by the appeals hearing judge. Here we are, now, a faceless board of three with one absent making the same wrong decision.

Now, for me to take this to the next level of appeal would require more state rip-off fees — $391 to file. This is why the average person has no faith in the State of Oregon’s so-called agencies for the people. You are dead wrong in denying me unemployment,  and your titles, whatever they might be in this sense, are not worth the paper I am printing this letter on.

Shame on you, and, well, this is another teachable and journalistic moment for me but it doesn’t compensate for the time and effort I put in filing unemployment weekly, and looking for work in this  county where I live. I will rail against this system, your decision and the process that was so protracted. You will not feel shame because I suspect you are wired to not have empathy when it comes to these cases that indeed are just cause for quitting. Nuance is not something you three probably have as human characteristics.

And so I have to pay for that lack of humanity.

Disrespectfully, Paul Haeder

 

The post The Ides of Bureaucrats and Blue State Idiots! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Many Concussions from Capitalists Can Americans Take?

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

— Hunter S. Thompson, “September,” Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, p. 413.

Imagine, just how programmed are we, and this is it for an excuse?

The Doctor Who Inspired The Movie Concussion - Truth Doesn't Have A Side

So, the electricity will be shaky here, there, and everywhere. The excuse is, of course, supply chain. Ports are cloggged. Container ship chaos. They will not admit to the real reason for economic and spiritual collapse:  CAPITALISM and PRICE gouging. It’s Putin’s fault.

Mass shootings, Roe v. Wade down the drain, empty shelves at hardware and food stores. It’s all Putin’s fault, including the price thieving for these electrical transformers, right? The $6 a gallon for gas in USA and $10 a gallon in Denmark, Putin’s fault. Mindless media midgets, and here we are: Western culture trapped in their own lies, inside their own self-fulfilling nightmares. Or continuous requiems for our dreams!

Requiem for a Dream: Trailer, Kritik, Kino-Programm u.v.m. | KINO&CO

The lies and the shallow inquiries and the lack of curiosity, right up there with everyone is a used car salesman.

Journalism has always been dead in the mainstream:

The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse.

— Hunter S. Thompson, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s,  November 6, 2003.

But back to other lies, and other lackeys lacking an inquiring mind. Local news from the local rag I publish my columns in, has stories about the local happenings. No pushback, just inverted triangle reporting. Referencing the local Public Utilities District here in Lincoln County:

Like utilities nationwide, Central Lincoln is being greatly challenged by supply chain delays, material shortages and massive cost increases for materials delivered. Demand for electrical supplies is robust, while transportation bottlenecks and raw material constraints are causing us significant concern over our ability to meet construction timelines. As we address these issues, Central Lincoln will strive to maintain supply levels to meet customer needs, while still maintaining emergency inventories.

We’ve all seen supply chain issues impact many aspects of life today. In some cases, lead times for Central Lincoln have increased six fold in the last two years when we’ve placed orders for materials. For example, new residential transformers typically took four months for delivery prior to the pandemic, and now they take between one year to 20 months to arrive. Costs for materials are also soaring — transformers that were $2,500 two years ago are now $15,000 each, and the cost is continuing to increase. This is not an exaggeration. (source)

Read that again: $2,500 for necessary transformers two years ago now SIX times more, at $15,000?

This is what defines USA, Biden, Trump, McConnell, Pelosi, Carson or Maddow, the entire shit show that is the American stupidity show. And how unprepared are we? This is the colonized mind, and this is the state of the American culture, as well as UK’s and Canada’s and EU’s. If all of this were true, and if we were guided (sic) by sane and humane folks, there’d be massive movements and masterful national plans to nationalize industries and rejigger the entire mess of capitalism for a world, a nation, that works for the people.

Now, shifting over to Scott Ritter, military lover, but still, smart.  He’s not on mainstream TV, in mainstream news. Again, the plastic hair and the Botox lips and the grappling girdles on these airhead TV presenters match their plastic brains. Here (below), he talks about how stupid Americans are (about world issues), and that includes what Yanquis do not know or want to know about the Nazi Ukrainians and this special military operation that Russia FINALLY had to unleash on that disgusting Ukraine and that perverted Zelensky and his crew.

But before Scott’s interview, how about  a little black robe insanity. Here we are now, with that un-Supreme Court, doing their shit show decision to get into the uterus of the female persuasion. Eichmanns, one and all.

See the source image

Imagine that? Supreme (not) Court now determining the legality of obesity, the calories, the sorts of foods, the environmental effects on the male perusasion. Will the male be held criminally libel for what they ingest and what they do to their bodies, their sperm, the RNA?

Let’s be consistent here, perverts?

There is substantial evidence that paternal obesity is associated not only with an increased incidence of infertility, but also with an increased risk of metabolic disturbance in adult offspring. Apparently, several mechanisms may contribute to the sperm quality alterations associated with paternal obesity, such as physiological/hormonal alterations, oxidative stress, and epigenetic alterations. Along these lines, modifications of hormonal profiles namely reduced androgen levels and elevated estrogen levels, were found associated with lower sperm concentration and seminal volume. Additionally, oxidative stress in testis may induce an increase of the percentage of sperm with DNA fragmentation. The latter, relate to other peculiarities such as alteration of the embryonic development, increased risk of miscarriage, and development of chronic morbidity in the offspring, including childhood cancers. (source)

Preparing for American Roe v. Wade protests in DC. Imagine that, Plywood USA. DC Police Gauntlets. AmeriKKKa.

Washington, On Edge About the Election, Boards Itself Up - The New York Times

This all connects, really, these issues of local electrical power outages, and war. War against Russia, and, well, local costs soaring: War against the people. Supply chain excuses. Oh, where oh where are those Republican pukes and Democratic pukes serving us, the people? Electrical outages? Check that one failure of leadership for massive deaths and injuries in simple households?

Ritter talks about Nato using nuclear weapons, talks about the stupidity of Americans, and actors and the cultural cancelling.

Here you go, Gonzalo Lira: Israel Provokes Russia

Because I’ve lost access to all my accounts and channels to the SBU (Ukraine’s secret police), I don’t have any way to promote my content—so please be so kind as to share this video with anyone whom you think might learn something. GL

He talks about how Jews, not just Zionists and those in Occupied Palestine, seem to collectively hate Russians. It’s racism, of course, to hate an entire people: Russians? And, will this YouTube be taken down? For the opinion of Lira saying that Jews seem to hate Russians, or, for, another reason?

So, on the Scheer Post, we get all sorts of mixed bag aggregated articles on Russia and Ukraine. Many are like this: “China Will Decide the Outcome of Russia v. the West: Is Putin the Face of the Future or the Final Gasp of the Past?”

John Feffer wrote it, and he is bought and sold — co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a fellow at the Open Society Foundation and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. The original article came from Tom Dispatch. Feffer is self-described Jewish gay.

Look up George Soros and his Open Society Foundation. Look up DSA’s stance on pouring weapons and death into Ukraine. DSA is all for billions of weapons to Ukraine, and billions for ZioLensky to “operate” the Ukraine government, err, Mafia. This is how these pencil necks see their world:

In its attempt to swallow Ukraine whole, Russia has so far managed to bite off only the eastern Donbas region and a portion of its southern coast. The rest of the country remains independent, with its capital Kyiv intact.

No one knows how this meal will end. Ukraine is eager to force Russia to disgorge what it’s already devoured, while the still-peckish invader clearly has no interest in leaving the table.

Here some comments at Scheer Post, pushing back on this guy, and I won’t republish mine:

Robert Sinuhe:

This is what happens when you are seriously ignorant of facts. He seems to know what Mr. Putin is thinking which should prompt Mr. Putin to ask this fellow what he’s thinking. Complete nonsense!

Roger Hoffmann:

What a disappointing read from Scheerpost. As others have already noted the repeated falsehoods (Russiagate) and baseless claims (Russia wants to swallow Ukraine) and others, I won’t waste the time addressing them either.

I will only say that it is apparent that this writer, in stating a narrative that overlaps much with that of Washington and its mouthpieces, seems oblivious to (or else, dishonestly chooses to ignore) much of the actual history of this conflict- the context in which it emerged, the pleas and warnings not only by Russia but of many seasoned U.S. officers from military, Intel and Diplomatic corps alike, and that of Russia-expert western scholars; and the actions of the U.S. since 2014 at least.

My advice to the writer: please don’t write about things that you know so little about, especially if you want to persuade those who’ve taken the time to become informed.

Terrence Bennett:

Tom Dispatch is a now sadly Pro Nazi source for regressives.
I urge Robert Scheer to monitor and reject many former progressives who now appear on organs like the late great Tom Dispatch

So, taking it in the rear? The back alley abortions. The behind the box store automobile trunk deals for prescriptions and diapers. The people have a choice in what money goes here and there? No massive strike, rolling strikes, rebellion? Our lives are gutted more and more each day!

Rents? Is that on the Republicans’ and Democrats’ agenda?

Gerardo Vidal, who has lived in the same apartment in Queens, New York, with his family for 9 years, recently received a $900-a-month rent increase this year.

“It means having to uproot my entire family, given the fact we’re still having a difficult time earning money due to the pandemic and loss of jobs,” said Vidal. “It’s unfair that we are being basically forced out of places we lived in for nine years and that landlords can get away with this.” (source)

We’ll finish with Richard Wolff, on Capitalism and US Empire now that USA-Klanada-EU-UK are dumping their weapons on the world, and then a Brit who has been in Donbass reporting on the ground:

“The Economic, Political and Social Crisis of the United States.” One hour!

Here you go, the Nazi Zio-Zelensky using USA-French-German-Nato weapons to, well, bomb neighborhoods, bomb apartment blocks, bomb universities, bomb bomb bomb, and there are NO military targets in these volleys.

Graham Phillips: “20+ Minutes in Donetsk Under Shelling Just Now – Uncensored, Love Donbass, do what you can to help Donbass.”

Reality therapy. So, those transformers cost so much, uh? How many transformers in Donbass have been imploded by the USA-UK-France-Germany? Keep reading:

“National Security State Censoring of Anti-Imperialist Voices… the Latest Phase of its Long-Term Strategy to Divide and Control the Left” on Dissident Voice, by Stansfield Smith 

These secret US government and CIA operations have been detailed in The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played AmericaFinks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers, The Cultural Cold War, and AFL-CIO’s Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage?

In 1977 Carl Bernstein revealed CIA interconnections with the big business media. More than 400 journalists collaborated with the CIA, with the consent of their media bosses. Working in a propaganda alliance with the CIA included: CBS, ABC, NBC, TimeNewsweekNew York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, Miami HeraldSaturday Evening Post and New York Herald Tribune. The New York Times still sends stories to US government for pre-publication approval, while CNN and others now employ national security state figures as “analysts.”

Reuters, BBC, and Bellingcat operate similarly, participating in covert British government funded disinformation programs to “weaken” Russia. This involves collaboration with the Counter Disinformation & Media Development section of the British Foreign Office.

The CIA pays journalists in Germany, France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to plant fake news. Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the largest German newspapers, showed how the CIA controls German media in Presstitutes: Embedded in the Pay of the CIA. Ulfkotte said the CIA had him plant fake stories in his paper, such as Libyan President Gaddafi building poison gas factories in 2011.

The CIA was closely involved with the long defunct National Students Association and with the trade union leadership. The AFL-CIO’s American Institute of Free Labor Development, received funding from USAID, the State Department, and NED to undermine militant union movements overseas and help foment murderous coups, as against President Allende of Chile (1973) and Brazil (1964), as well as defended the rule of their masters at home. This continues with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, which receives $30 million a year from NED.

The CIA created publishing houses, such as Praeger Press, and used other companies such as John Wiley Publishing Company, Scribner’s, Ballantine Books, and Putnam to publish its books. It set up several political and literary journals such as Partisan Review. This CIA publishing amounted to over one thousand books, mostly geared to a liberal-left audience, seeking to bolster a third camp left, and undermine solidarity with the once powerful world communist movement.

Ahh, those transformers:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-197.png

No national movement to, well, nationalize the construction and deployment and installation of these valuable electrical units? Summer, heat, fridges, AC, fans, oxygen machines, well, you get how valuable electricity is and how dangerous disruption of it kill.

No Marshall Plan for that? For clinics in all neighborhoods? Social workers and counselors for millions of students? Aging in place adults, no help for them? All those with Complex PTSD?

Again, one little Oregon County, and, shit-show number 9,999,999, coming to a city-town-county-place near-by.

Footnote: So, I went to pick up some vital medications at the Walgreens in Newport. Lo and behold, that electrical outage a few days ago fried the Walgreens’ computer — here, in Newport, and then, in Lincoln City. So, there were  people lined up, freaked out since some of their meds are, well, life saving. That’s it for America, and it will only get worse as I wait in a line of 20 at the small USPS office in Waldport, where signs say, “Don’t leave junk mail here since we do not have a janitor . . .  We are short staffed so we have to cut Saturday pick up window services . . . Please be patient as we are understaffed.”

USPS, and Trump and Biden. Whew! Ben Franklin is turning in his grave. The light is out on his kite. Remember, USPS is a public service, and it is one foot in the grave:

What this report finds: The United States Postal Service is a beloved American institution that provides an essential public service to communities and good middle class jobs for workers. It is a model of efficiency and responsive to changing customer needs. But the conflicting demands made upon it by Congress and regulators put it in a precarious financial position even before the pandemic. Anti-government ideologues and special interests have long sought to privatize, shrink, or hobble the Postal Service. The Trump administration revived these efforts, spurred by the president’s opposition to mail voting and his animus toward Amazon, a major customer.

What needs to be done: The Biden administration and Congress must act to undo the damage and allow the Postal Service to adapt to meet unmet needs, including the revival of postal banking. (source)

Is Louis DeJoy's 10-Year Plan the Death Knell for the U.S. Postal Service?

The post How Many Concussions from Capitalists Can Americans Take? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Fake Freedom and the Paycheck Nomad

Rural workers of the early 20th century caught their sleep in boxcars and meals in the open air. Lured by labor agents’ promises of steady work, they drifted broke and hungry from camp to camp, huddling beneath tents and hastily built shacks, strangers to plumbing and doctors, but all too familiar with illness, accidents, and back-breaking extraction in the mines.Wages, low as they were, rarely even reached their hands. Company managers advanced credit for food, shelter and tools at vastly inflated prices, then submitted workers a bill after they had toiled for months in life-threatening conditions.  The longer they worked, the more indebted they became.

Only with tortuous discipline did some workers manage the miracle of putting aside a few dollars. Such victories were short-lived, however, as the urgent need to forget one’s misery quickly saw the savings squandered on cheap booze.

In the larger towns employment offices operated in cahoots with the saloon owners, who delivered hung-over workers to labor contractors, starting the cycle of anguish anew.

Urban workers fared no better. Their homes were dark, unventilated slum tenements called “slaughterhouses,” where a small mob of workers cooked, washed, and slept in a single room. Outside, the air reeked of chemicals and industrial gases, and open sewers flowed through muddy streets strewn with tin cans, bottles, rocks, and garbage.

Overworked and underfed, they suffered epidemics of asthma, tuberculosis, measles, bronchitis, cholera, rickets, and pneumonia. Widespread lead poisoning left them with blue gums and no teeth.

Every job bred a characteristic affliction – rheumatism, muscle paralysis, hernia, ulcers.

In the steelworks, mills, mines, railroads, and building trades, men were ruined by their early forties. Missing limbs were as common as sunburn at the beach.

The perpetual “speed up” of production lines turned workers into human wrecks, regularly overcome by the “shakes.” Meals had to be taken in spasmodic gulps.

Drained of vitality by their early forties, then replaced by teenagers, lucky workers were hired back at reduced pay as sweepers or night watchmen.  Unlucky ones fell dependent on their children, sank into destitution, or died shortly after being declared useless.

This was the great legacy of worker freedom in the self-proclaimed greatest democracy the world has ever seen, a generation before the Great Depression made their lot considerably worse.

In what came to be known as the progressive era, American “patriots” boasted of their New World liberty, allegedly so different from Old World tyranny and oppression.

In the USA, after all, workers were free to put their working lives to traffic and submit to any terms chronic desperation allowed them to get.  Hallelujah!

They were free to quit a job anytime they wanted, and briefly go anywhere and do anything until their money ran out. Then hunger overtook them, and they were free to rent themselves all over again.

They were also free to keep company with anyone they liked, so long as it didn’t include union organizers.

They were free to dream of owning property priced well beyond their wages, and to impotently rage at the cycle of recessions and depressions that routinely crushed their more modest ambitions.

They were free to speak their minds in democratic debate, though the brutality of the workday usually left them without time or energy to even follow the events of the day.

They were free to ingest the barrage of industry propaganda that masqueraded as news, leaving them ignorant of what they most needed to know.

They were free to parrot the views of those who profited off their ignorance, and vote for their candidates at the ballot box.

If they chose to band together in collective action and demand more pay, less work, and decent conditions, employers were free to have them beaten, shot, and starved back to work on the same rotten terms. On the remote chance that they were able to overcome all this, employers were free to induce a depression, so that soaring unemployment, savage wage-cuts and prolonged lockouts destroyed the financial basis of worker resistance altogether.

And, of course, the ultimate employer trump card was to start a war and draft workers into slaughtering each other, the only occasion on which full employment has ever been contemplated under the reign of capital.

More than a century after the progressive era workers now find themselves being forced back down the wealth pyramid after a brief flirtation with middle-class respectability (1945-1975).

Digital feudalism has replaced industrial feudalism, and proliferating “right to work” laws celebrate workers’ inherent right to scrounge.

Banks selling worthless paper are “too big to fail,” and unions are too few to matter.

Platforms replace markets, and Lords of Tech awash in hundreds of billions of dollars coin personal data into limitless profit, which their customers eagerly give them, toiling endless hours on the Internet for free.

Sources:1

  1. Rural workers: Page Smith, America Enters The World – A People’s History of the Progressive Era and World War I, (McGraw Hill, 1985, pps. 29-31); Urban workers:  Noel Kent, America In 1900, (M. E. Sharpe, 2000, pps. 78, 81-3, 87); and Worker “freedom”: Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow For The Defense, (Signet, 1941, pps. 150, 159).
The post Fake Freedom and the Paycheck Nomad first appeared on Dissident Voice.