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View Diary: Are we on the verge of another 1848 or 1917? (283 comments)

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  •  Historically there is one mechanism that has been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DKBurton, OhioNatureMom

    proven effective at relieving income inequality--it is called the guillotine.

      •  That was effective (10+ / 0-)

        because they were trying to avoid the guillotine, figuratively speaking.

        The direct action preceding the reforms had some of them worried about full scale revolt.

        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

        by ZhenRen on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 09:55:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe on the margin (28+ / 0-)

          In 1932, you had farmers in Kansas talking about revolution.

          But if you look at the first few years of the Roosevelt Administration, I don't think that fear of revolution really cowed the rich.  They fought the New Deal like hell.  Managed to get the Supreme Court (as nasty group as our current gang of losers) to limit much of the Administration's agenda.  But fear didn't motivate these people.  It was the fact that Roosevelt put together enough of a coalition that it simply wasn't possible to tear down most of what the New Deal accomplished for about a half a century.

          We need to be very concentrated, very persistent, and fairly ruthless in dealing with folks like that Kochs and the Waltons.  You're not going to get very far by making them fear for their physical safety -- back in the 1930s, it was autoworkers and coal miners getting killed by the bosses, and not the opposite.  But you can make it difficult enough to for them to run business as usual that most of the business class, and much of the rich will decide that cutting a deal with the middle class is worth their while.  You won't defeat the Kochs so much as you'll isolate them.  Which is all that is really required.

          Violence is unnecessary.  Making the country ungovernable if things don't change is both possible, though, and would be effective.  And necessary.

          Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

          by mbayrob on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 12:40:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well... (15+ / 0-)

            It is threat of the vast working majority not cooperating, of not legitimizing the minority ruling class by refusing to defer to their instruments of power and their authority. People were massively striking and rebelling, and that always makes the 1% ruling class get nervous. They know that the working class is an overwhelming majority.

            It makes the elites look bad to resort to brutality to keep the wage slaves in their place, so the smarter ones prefer not to do it with violence if it can be avoided. However, that does not preclude violence on the part of the state. It is always the state which resorts to violence. The people merely need to refuse to obey. That the state would feel the need to violently crush labor movements reveals the degree to which these movements are a real threat.

            But the wealthy class come in two kinds: Liberal, and conservative. The more liberal of the capitalist ruling class smartly believe in political reforms in order to maintain capitalism, while the more conservative would simply resort to violence and repression.

            Roosevelt used both. He was no anti-capitalist by any means.

            And, by the way, he allowed US corporations to go around the non-intervention accord and send fuel and thousands of trucks to the Francoist fascists fighting against the democratically elected left-wing Spanish Republic. Some believe it was this supplying of needed items which enabled Franco to prevail.

            FDR was primarily trying maintain stability of the capitalist market, and only secondarily did he have an interest in helping the poor. To capitalists, the market comes first.

            Direct action and civil disobedience (not in itself violent by definition) do put enormous pressure on the ruling class. These actions de-legitimize the power structure, and the ruling class fears that if people can get away with disobedience, it will spread like fire, so their instinct is to crush it.

            "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

            by ZhenRen on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 02:44:36 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  After the Palmer raids and the red scare (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mkor7, ZhenRen

            A lot of the radicals had been purged from the country explicitly because of their political opinion. They were often exiled. Politicians in 1932 knew what the threat was in regards to revolution, they saw it all over the world. It was in the newspaper every day. Not to mention things like axe handle auctions, and the violent strikes the country has seen in the teens. And the wave of sit down strikes. The bonus marchers. These were some of the top issues of the times. I guarantee they knew.

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 10:21:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  without the threat of violent revolution (19+ / 0-)

        the liberals would never have gotten concessions. once the soviet union and the eastern bloc ceased to threaten capitalism, liberal governance has been impotent globally.

        as with peaceful revolution, it works best if there's a credible "or else" waiting visibly in the wings.

        •  When? (12+ / 0-)

          In most of Europe and in the US, the fight was gradual.  It certainly was not bloodless;  we forget how many people died for the right to organize.  But mostly, the fight was local, and fought in thousands of individual communities.

          Having the middle classes grab power from the landed aristocracy did lead to a fair number of wars, including the English Civil War, the revolutions of 1848, and arguably the French Revolution as well.  But once the middle classes established themselves, enough time has passed to create a class of people who are effectively a new aristocracy.  This was already visible a century ago (arguably longer -- Jefferson liked to talk about "the money power").  And in that fight, we still haven't seen anything like the sort of revolution that Marx wrote about.  Since what Lenin did was not the sort of revolution that Marx thought we'd see.

          That doesn't mean that Marx didn't have a lot of insight into the long term trends.  But that a sane upper class can conciliate the masses a lot better than Marx thought they could.

          Until now, anyway.  Over the last 40 years, the rich have won far too many battles for even their own good.  But I still expect that the political system will be able to contain the dispute without completely breaking down.

          Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

          by mbayrob on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 12:51:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  we often forget that the US itself exists (5+ / 0-)

          not because we politely asked the Brits to leave, but because we stuck a musket in their face and said "get out".

          I do not admire Chairman Mao for many things, but one thing he WAS right about---political power ultimately comes from the barrel of a gun.

          That may make liberals nervous and uneasy, but it nevertheless remains true.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 06:40:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, give me a break! (6+ / 0-)

          The only credible threat of violent revolution during the Depression was from the right, when a cabal of Wall Street types attempted to subvert a retired Marine general to lead a coup against Roosevelt.  Yes, things were horrible, but America was never close to revolution, and you know it.

          Ditto Great Britain, where the biggest threat to the government wasn't a revolution, but the attempt by King Edward VIII to marry a divorcee and keep his throne.  

          Good God, read a history book.  Better, read a book like Since Yesterday, which was written just before the United States entered World War II.  

          This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

          by Ellid on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 07:23:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Edward VII (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            wasn't actually a threat to the system of government in the UK, merely to the then ruling Party.

            Removing the King was a pretty straightforward process, albeit one employed reluctantly.

            He was simply told to choose between Wallis Simpson, and the Crown. He made his choice and was quickly retired to the Bahamas.

            Had the King been a more sympathetic character he might have been able to persuade the government to amend the Act of Succession, but I don't think many people liked him.

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            Who is twigg?

            by twigg on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 07:51:46 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry, but contemporary records (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Do not agree with this.  There was a genuine Constitutional crisis since this was the first time a British king had been forced to abdicate since Richard II.  It was not straightforward, amending the law to allow a morganatic marriage (or the head of the Anglican Church to marry a divorcee at all) was impossible, and a lot more people than the "ruling party" would not have accepted the King marrying Wallis Simpson.

              I repeat:  go read a history book.  The whole "royal romance" of Edward and Mrs. Simpson was much more than a bunch of mean ol' conservatives hating on the King for falling in love.

              This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

              by Ellid on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 07:54:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Smedley! (11+ / 0-)

            Gen Smedley Butler, author "War Is A Racket"  He was never featured in any history class I had. Should be required reading for those who think "it can't happen here."

            -7.50 -6.51 "How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Politicians tell lies to journalists and then they believe what they read." - Karl Kraus

            by Hirodog on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 08:06:05 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  He was a great man, and a true patriot (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Hirodog, RiveroftheWest

              I'm actually glad that the plutocrats tried to suborn him instead of, say, Douglas MacArthur.  MacArthur not only ignored orders not to fire on the Bonus Marchers, he was a right-wing loon who wouldn't have had the slightest problem with "saving the nation" by overthrowing Roosevelt.  Butler told them to go to hell even though he was a conservative who intensely disliked Roosevelt; as far as he was concerned, he'd taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, the President had been duly elected, and that was that.

              God bless General Butler!

              This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

              by Ellid on Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 07:57:36 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  The right should be scared (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, AoT

          I don't know what OWS2.0 will look like but I do know that the fast food and warehouse strikes are becoming more common and these protests are becoming more effective.  

          Many people are recording traffic stops and are engaging in legal resistance.  Asking questions like, "Am I being detained?"  I keep thinking that given the state of things, a traffic stop that goes very wrong while being cell phone recorded and goes viral online could have unpredictable effects.  I don't want to find out what they are.  

          I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

          by DavidMS on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 11:08:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  But is a fleeting moment in history? (25+ / 0-)

        I hope you saw, this past week, Bob Swern's diary on Tom Piketty's new book on capitalism and inequality. In his review of the book, New York Times writer Thomas Edsall provides an excellent summary of the historical trends that allowed the rise of the middle class, and what some economists call "the golden age of capitalism":

        According to Piketty, those halcyon six decades were the result of two world wars and the Great Depression. The owners of capital – those at the top of the pyramid of wealth and income – absorbed a series of devastating blows. These included the loss of credibility and authority as markets crashed; physical destruction of capital throughout Europe in both World War I and World War II; the raising of tax rates, especially on high incomes, to finance the wars; high rates of inflation that eroded the assets of creditors; the nationalization of major industries in both England and France; and the appropriation of industries and property in post-colonial countries.
        The one important trend Edsall missed was the effect of mass college education that was created by the G.I. Bill. Millions of people who before World War 2 never would have dreamed of going to college, suddenly had the means for a higher education. The resulting increase in innovation and wealth creation unleashed by that unique tidal wave of college graduates in the 1950s and 1960s is incalculable.

        The creation of the middle class was supported and promoted by a literal jungle of government programs, from the federal government surveys and Corps of Engineer water projects that made the arid west more hospitable to human habitation, to the USDA laboratories that perfected frozen foods. But the fundamental point you have to infer from Edsall's summary is that the historical trends that allowed the New Deal basically reversed the power relationship between capital and citizens. The most egregious depredations and exploitations of capital - speculation, usury, and economic rent seeking behavior - were banned altogether or strictly limited.

        The conservative movement of the past three quarters of a century has been pretty clearly directed at removing those bans and limitations on capital. The result, not surprisingly, has been to shift the balance of power away from citizens and back toward capital. Those on the left who are now engaged in a full throated denunciation of capitalism are, I believe, making a huge mistake in not distinguishing between the social democratic capitalism of the New Deal legacy, and the predatory financial capitalism that has emerged since Reagan.

        And we must be clear about the vital role of heavy taxes on the rich. Conservatives and Republicans and such as VCLib argue persuasively that placing more taxes on businesses and the wealthy undermines job creation. But the historical facts show otherwise. The highest rates of growth in the U.S. economy in the past century occurred under the tax regimes that took as much as half the income from rich people. The reasons why this would lead to higher economic growth is not hard to understand, but very, very few on the left bother to learn this, and use it in arguments showing that the conservatives are liars.

        First, the rich generally do not like actually investing in the creation of new industrial capacity and technological progress as much as they like investing in speculative schemes that make only paper profits.

        Second, too low a tax rate encourages rich people to take profits out of a company. When tax rates are higher, it make more sense to reinvest profits back into the company, and write them off as capital expenditures. That's why we have corporate balance sheets showing marvelous piles of cash, tens of trillions of dollars sitting in off shore tax havens, and never ending programs of stock buybacks, while at the some time we have a disastrous drought of capital spending.

        Third is the simple fact that more widely distributed income results in more widely distributed demand. This was the basic cause of the First Great Depression, as explained by Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Reserve chairman Mariner Eccles.

        Let's look at a company of 1,001 people that has $100 million in sales and $10 million in profit. There are 1,000 employees and one CEO. If every employee is paid $25,000 a year, that's $25 million. Let's say the CEO is paid $10 million. From this company of 1,001 people with a total payroll of $35 million, how many new cars can local auto dealers expect to sell?

        The answer is: not many. $25,000 a year is not much on which to live. Buying a new car is pretty much out of the budget of people with so low an income, except if they're still living at home with their parents and not supporting a family. Only the CEO making $10 million can really afford to buy a new car.

        But what does the local market for new cars look like if the CEO's income is cut in half, and the $5 million is used instead to increase the pay of the 1,000 employees? Each employee gets $30,000 a year instead of $25,000, or an extra $417 a month. $417 is more than enough for a new car payment. Suddenly the local market for new cars is tens, hundreds of times larger than it was before.

        If the CEO in our example is too greedy - or too stupid to follow this logic - to stop insisting that his workers' wages be held down do he can be paid $10 million instead of $5 million, then we the people (remember us - we're the ones trying to Establish a More Perfect Union) have a pretty clear means of bettering our local economy by taxing away half the CEO's bloated salary, and redistributing it in our economy through government programs of some sort or another.

        A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

        by NBBooks on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 09:06:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  NBBooks, I've gotta tell you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bobswern, CenPhx

          You are one of the best posters here. First rate analysis backed up by good sourcing all within a solid historical framework.

          Damn! Well done! I have learned a lot from you. Thanks!

        •  More from you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That was very good.  More please!

          One cannot raise the bottom of a society without benefiting everyone above. Michael Harrington

          by tporky on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 09:57:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  "Social democratic capitalism" (0+ / 0-)

          was imposed on capital, against its will, by working people, organized in precisely anti-capitalist struggle.  So the rhetoric of today's left matches exactly the rhetoric of those who imposed social democracy on capital 75-100 years ago.  However, there's also a fundamental difference.  At that time there was a social openness to collectivist solutions that has completely evaporated in modern American society, where the dogma of "rugged individualism" holds total sway.  The collective organizing of 100 years ago, of the Wobblies, the CIO, the Share Our Wealth clubs and the Farm Holiday Association may simply be an imposibility in our times.  Then what?  You really think pols are going top stand up against big money?  And can I laugh in your face if you do?  It wouldn't be...all together now..."pragmatic" to resist the demands of big money.

          So we have this huge problem, the runaway hegemony of capital, and not even a potential counter-hegemonic force.  Exactly what do we do, besides get on our knees before big money?  How do we confront it without seeking to discredit it?

          "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." ~Frederick Douglass

          by ActivistGuy on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 11:34:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  sent to Top Comments (0+ / 0-)


          “Vote for the party closest to you, but work for the movement you love.” ~ Thom Hartmann 6/12/13

          by ozsea1 on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 01:56:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  How do you do that? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Puddytat, ozsea1

            I keep meaning to but I can never figure out how exactly.

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 02:55:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's very easy (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, ozsea1

              Click on the date/time stamp of the comment you want to submit and copy the link.  Send that link to Top Comments either by Kos Mail or our G Mail Account ( along with your DK user name and a brief description of why you think it's a Top Comment.

              For ease of access, I recommend that you bookmark the Top Comments DK message page so you can quickly get there when you find an excellent comment.

              Submissions received by 9:30 PM Eastern are included in Top Comments which publishes every night at 10 PM Eastern.

              Hope that helps.

              There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

              by Puddytat on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 03:41:27 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

            Your submission will appear in tonights Top Comments.

            There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

            by Puddytat on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 03:42:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  This comment was sent to Top Comments (0+ / 0-)

          and will appear tonight.

          There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

          by Puddytat on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 03:42:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah. That's why they got rid of it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They like the Marxist narrative. They're just confused about who's the hero and who's the villain, and they disagree with Mr Marx on who ought to win.

        But they love the story. They keep telling it all the time. In their version, it ends with the brutal barbaric masses rising up against a stable fair society and being heroically put down by that society's pillars, ensuring that a true meritocracy continues.

        I tried to go online to find a similar bear head...but when I searched “Big Bear Head” it gave me a San Diego craigslist ad entitled “Big Bear needs some quick head now” and then I just decided to never go on the internet again.--Jenny Lawson

        by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sun Feb 02, 2014 at 10:36:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Known in the USA, (10+ / 0-)

      Where we don't like fancy French words, as the Freedom Blade.

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