Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Screwy logic

How powerful is the propaganda being dispensed on behalf of the Koch brothers and their ideological kin, who would happily reduce every member of the working classes to serfdom, that they may lay their soiled hands on what remains of our nation’s patrimony? That so many have fallen for their calumnies against unions may well be in part the fault of unions for permitting themselves to become reactionary, but this invites a question: How much choice have they had?

Divide et impera

Divide et impera: The Elect are selectively solicitous.
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That the U.S. media belong to an ever-shrinking pool of enormous conglomerates, all united in their quest to build a bridge to the 12th century, and create again a world in which those who work have no rights, produces predictable consequences. Among them is the seemingly accidental ubiquity of innocent-seeming cartoons like the one posted below, which appeared in my local newspaper yesterday — and is disturbingly characteristic of its offerings.

The work of a professional opinion-maker

The work of a professional opinion-maker: Lies like this poison the well of public discourse.
[ Image Source ]

The history of the labor movement in the United States has been bitter and often horrific. From the first sporadic attempts at local organization during the early so-called Industrial Revolution, working people daring to assert a right to negotiate with their employers as a body whose decisions carried real weight rather than as powerless individuals have been assailed with every weapon on which the mercantile elite can lay its hands.

Condemning workers’ attempts to organize as seditious, un-American, communistic and hazardous to the U.S.’ economy and national security, employers have hired scabs, goons and strikebreakers of all descriptions, from armed military and law enforcement personnel to club-wielding Pinkerton guards to new immigrants desperate for any job they can find. And even as they have had their enforcers breaking the skulls of laborers, they have enjoyed the unwavering support of the state and the press — precisely as we see in Wisconsin today.

Thus it is that the public has almost always viewed unions as the destructive entities railed against on editorial pages and from lecterns in every state capital. The tactic is an old one, learned aptly and well from the British Empire and its Roman predecessor: Divide et impera: “Divide and rule.” As long as the channels of communication remain firmly in the hands of the elite, it is easy for them to fashion illusions whereby to set one segment of the lower classes at the carotid of another, echoing in the realm of thought the theme that their strikebreakers made flesh at the picket line.

Then came the Great Depression, followed by World War II. Together these altered the prevailing balance and gave workers a long-deferred opportunity. Unions became strong, populous and therefore popular (polls showed that most Americans thought favorably of them) despite the counterpressure from the right wing of the elite. And for decades afterward, workers prospered as never before — or since.

Beginning in 1981, however, when Ronald Reagan set the tone for three decades of elite resurgence by destroying the air-traffic controllers’ union as virtually his first act in office, that wing — led by such luminaries as David and Charles Koch — has reconsolidated its power. By today, with the sheer money power that the elite can wield, it has not been hard for them to sway public opinion: Current figures show that, with only seven percent of private-sector jobs unionized, labor organization has become unpopular, with unions deftly demonized as corrupt, sloth-inducing drains on the economy. No wonder, then, that they have been thrown back on their heels, and now content themselves with trying to hold what they can of what they won in years past.

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