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What does it mean to be a "worker"?  The broadest answer I know is that you participate in the creation of things that could not exist without the efforts of you and others like you.  Today in the United States we participate in a surrogate "Labor Day"  My labor day celebration is on May 1st along with most of the workers in the rest of the world.  I keep writing diaries like this at the age of 75 because I am concerned about our knowledge of history.  If they succeed in rewriting history as they seem to be doing, then their myths will replace what actually happened.  As I live in the United States each day  tells me the past I know so intimately will soon disappear only to be replaced by illusions.  Much of that past goes beyond my lifetime but has been preserved long enough for me to know about it.  This also is disturbing in a way since so few others know about it.  Is it really gone?  Is it really erased?  That depends on what you mean.  On a day like today in the USA it seems to have been totally erased.  Does this sound confusing?  Read on below and I'll tell you why I think workers in the USA have been had.

I come from the "working class".  I am a scholar and an academic who "rose" above his roots.  What a joke?  My father was a worker as was his and as was my mother's father.  In their day in many places like Chicago where I grew up being a worker was different than it seems to be now.

I can only relate what I know from growing up among them.  One thing that has never quite been easy to reconcile with their image of themselves was the constant urging to "better myself".  It worked.  I am now a scholar and an established scientist.  "Better"?  I wonder?  

They had a quality I admire.  They did not just "work" to earn a living.  When they were off the job enjoying leisure, at least part of that time was used to enjoy other forms of work.  Repairing cars, radios, TVs, gardening, etc.  People around me do things like that now but not like they did.  You ride power mowers now and there are power driven tools for everything.  

If your TV breaks, or your radio, or your car, or most any of the electronic gadgets out there, few people set out to fix them themselves nor are most of them fixable.  I remember the trays of radio tubes my Dad had for fixing radios and TVs which he did in his spare time because he enjoyed it.  There was a kind of creativity in that lifestyle that has all but disappeared.

It is always tempting to find someone who is responsible for what has happened.  I am as guilty of this at times as anyone else.  That is why I am writing this diary.  I firmly believe that there is an ongoing, systemic process that evolves our conditions.  I often blame "Capitalism" and that has some justification.  It is even bigger than that though.

Before I was born the working people of the world were struggling.  Just one example was the
Industrial Workers of the World  (IWW).  

Many IWW members opposed United States participation in World War I. The organization passed a resolution against the war at its convention in November 1916. This echoed the view, expressed at the IWW's founding convention, that war represents struggles among capitalists in which the rich become richer, and the working poor all too often die at the hands of other workers.

An IWW newspaper, the Industrial Worker, wrote just before the U.S. declaration of war: "Capitalists of America, we will fight against you, not for you! There is not a power in the world that can make the working class fight if they refuse." Yet when a declaration of war was passed by the U.S. Congress in April 1917, the IWW's general secretary-treasurer Bill Haywood became determined that the organization should adopt a low profile in order to avoid perceived threats to its existence. The printing of anti-war stickers was discontinued, stockpiles of existing anti-war documents were put into storage, and anti-war propagandizing ceased as official union policy. After much debate on the General Executive Board, with Haywood advocating a low profile and GEB member Frank Little championing continued agitation, Ralph Chaplin brokered a compromise agreement. A statement was issued that denounced the war, but IWW members were advised to channel their opposition through the legal mechanisms of conscription. They were advised to register for the draft, marking their claims for exemption "IWW, opposed to war."

  So much for international solidarity among workers.  nationalism and National alliances took over and worker looked down the sights of his rifle to pull the trigger to kill another worker!

War and Nationalism have shown to be far more strong than worker solidarity as has the xenophobic rant against immigrants.  The drama plays out and a convincing case can be made that we celebrate "Labor" today because of the same desire to divide American workers from their counterparts around the world.

When Marx published his works he sent into motion one of the most powerful struggles among human myths since the births of Christianity and Islam.  He never would have predicted that for centuries hence the industrial world would organize itself politically to counter the revolutionary forces they believed he unleashed.  It is interesting that the test of ideas is in their ability to mobilize people to act.  People around the world organized themselves under one or another "Marxist" banner and the people who held control of the means of production quivered and organized themselves to ward off this threat.

Meanwhile, evolution continued.  Something else was organizing this struggle and going to manipulate its outcome.  It has so many variations.  Black vs white.  This nationality vs that one.  Meanwhile the system grinds on and gets bigger and more powerful.  "System" you ask?  What system?  The system that human intelligence has created and ironically  to which it has become a servant.

We have reached a point now where the very things we struggled to achieve for workers around the world can not possibly be the answer.  If we go on consuming and letting technology be the brain of the system that controls us we are basically doomed.

So the workers have been had.  They have struggled to get more of their share of what they made.  The system responded by giving them more but only with the provision that they struggle for even more.  They gain some and the system grows.  The use of resources continues and the filling of our living space with our waste matter continues.  And the system grinds on.  And the system grinds on. And the system..... Happy Labor Day everyone!

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 06:08:02 PM PDT

  •  Always great thoughtful diaries don. (8+ / 0-)

    "You have to understand Neo, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged, and many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it." Morpheus - The Matrix

    by pot on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 06:59:00 PM PDT

  •  After we in this country have ours, we cannot (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, fritzi56, Larsstephens

    say that it's time for workers to stop producing and consuming. I mean, if the life of Buckminister Fuller stood for anything, it's that. Plan intelligently, execute, share, and then begin the cycle again at ever increasing rates of repetition. If muscles and brains can come together (probably under a Union umberella, but whatever), we still have a real great shot at defeating the alliance of old wealth and new fortunes. (And if we fail, the only consolation that we'll have is that they ultimately will have defeated both us and themselves.)

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 07:00:16 PM PDT

    •  Yes of course but who's going to do that? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      I mean the "plan intelligently, execute, share..." part. Not only have we lost our ability to fix things (actually you can still fix things, one of my sons fixes things all the time) but we are losing our comprehension of things work. This, interestingly, causes a loss of confidence, i.e., the world is full of mysterious marvels that we can't understand and we feel that things are beyond our control--including politics. We are, collectively, in this country very weak.

      I think the first stepis to understand this and start to live a more grounded life less entranced by toys (I'm guilty of this) and ready to do the work at establishing or re-establishing some sense of justice, compassion and reason--for starters.

  •  Yes yes yes . . . (5+ / 0-)

    At 67 I count myself a mere slip of a lad by comparison, but yes, our parents, and theirs, made things, fixed things, did things . . . and real things, not "virtual experiences" on some glowing screen.  I still do too . . . but my neighbors kids don't, and don't care to.  Want it? Go buy it.  And if it breaks throw it out and buy another one.

    They're not all like that, of course . . . there's the "Maker Movement" and the SteamPunkers, and goddess forgive them their other excesses even the Burners (hope they all had a great weekend) . . . and a few "back to the earthers" who are not just survivalist crazy.

    But "history" ? ? ?  What's that ? ? ? The Romans had hot baths ? ? ? you're kidding me . . .

    Some Elf said it best:

    "The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost, for none now live who remember it."

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 07:48:33 PM PDT

  •  Workers led by whom? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    I think saying workers were led down the garden path absolves the working class of too much responsibility. Unions for the most part made a conscious decision to abandon socialism and demonize communism. Auto workers, for example, were some of the biggest supporters of McCarthy. Where was a worker in 1955 who would disagree with Hitler that Bolshevism was the greatest danger the world faced?

    Socialist intellectuals began to separate from unions in the 50s and finally in the 60s the split was made permanent by the Vietnam war protests. The hardhats went for Nixon and then left the Democratic party for good along with Reagan. There was even a racist reaction against the Civil Rights Act. Remember those Republican commercials about the worker who was cheated because of affirmative action?

    What happened? Capitalist propaganda had a lot to do with it. Also nationalism (particularly during the Vietnam War), as you mention. Marx complained somewhere about how the working class had betrayed its birthright for a mess of pottage. The working class in the U.S. got its suburbs, giant cars, boats, vacations, college education for the kids, and everything else that came with high paying jobs.

    But the same thing happened to the intellectual class. The radicals from the 60s went to business and law schools and became Wall St. investment bankers. The more cynical became politicians.

    If workers and intellectuals were led down the garden path they were certainly well fed along the way.

    Even in Wisconsin workers are retiring into their SUV heaven. Will they come back to the work place and help their brothers and sisters organize? Maybe. Will they embrace socialism? I personally doubt it.  

    •  Did you read the diary? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tanya, fritzi56, Larsstephens

      Your recapitulation of it tries to sound like what you say is different.

      An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

      by don mikulecky on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 08:28:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Indeed, we led ourselves down the garden path (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      We, in America, have to face the fact that we wanted pretty much what we've gotten. This is how people want to live even if it makes them miserable because, at this point, it is all they know and no viable alternative has been presented to them. Yes, there's information, but that's not the same as being shown and educated about something--it can only happen in stages.

      The only way to do that is to live the change we want to see and that means effectively "dropping out" of the mainstream and building something new.

  •  excellent as always don. i'm in my 50's but my (4+ / 0-)

    father did a lot of the things you talk about. we had a grape vine in my yard until i was about 10. he was always fixing, building, and sometimes just tinkering.

    To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men~~ Abraham Lincoln

    by Tanya on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 08:41:33 PM PDT

  •  Nonsense, thousands of years, people work for goal (0+ / 0-)

    The american economy evolves and changes as do the societies. The HOW is the question for each of us, the WHO is US and the when is "it all depends". the real goals of the AMERICAN society is that we the people maintain our DEMOCRACY, and continue the drive toward achieving: Equality, liberty and persuit of happiness for all. Societies have been around for thousands of years and it has always been the decisions made by the people in their time whether that society and way of life survives. The US of AMERICA is a young democracy. THE TBAGGERS wanted to destroy democracy in favor of oligarchy and that core goal seems to surface every 50 years or so by groups of different names and stripes. The question going forward is WHAT KIND of society is worth our efforts and what rewards do we as a people expect from that society. The economy serves the needs of the people. THE GOP wants the people to serve the needs of the CORPORATIONS to survive. I say, that the USA is built on flesh and blood persons who will find a way forward.

    An EGG is not a person, A corporation is not a person!

    by CarmanK on Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 06:48:27 AM PDT

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