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Unions were the driving force in creating and preserving the American middle class during the times of greatest prosperity. The basic concept underlying a union is that workers can achieve more for each individual through collective action than through individual action. Individual members organize and select representatives who negotiate on behalf of the whole. Solidarity is the key source of strength. A clenched fist does more damage than five fingers separately.

Not coincidentally, corporations are built upon this same principle of solidarity. Corporations essentially provide centralized organizational structure for capital. When individual investors organize their capital into a corporation, they can achieve far greater return than could the members using their wealth separately. Moreover, corporations have the will to pursue profit purely and without conscience; incorporation frees the owners from their own individual morality. With capital organized into powerful corporations, the organization of labor into unions once provided the necessary counter punch.

But what would happen if the corporations found a way to copy the basic strategy of the unions? What would happen if corporations found a way to unionize, to transform from individual fists into one giant hammer that could crush anything that might dare oppose it?

As any student of American history will tell you, this has happened before. Many corporations have discovered that they could earn higher profits through collusion than they could through competition. Collusion provides a method to circumvent capitalism: you could increase the return on your investment not by making a better product more efficiently, but by agreeing with your competitor to fix prices. Trusts steal from the public by imposing prices higher than the market would otherwise demand. In the early twentieth century, after generations of struggle, the development of antitrust law helped curb these abuses and pave the way for a period of prosperity.

The political revolution we're witnessing now in America, which has been growing since the 1970s and 80s, is built on a new and even more dangerous form of corporate collusion. Just as robber barons figured out that they could form a trust to pursue their common interests, today's wealthiest corporations and individuals invented new ways to pursue their interests collectively. Essentially, the corporations and their wealthiest owners have found out that they could form a national union to represent their interests and entrench their power.

The representatives of this union are the lobbyists on K-Street and the members of the Republican Party. Its organizational structure is ever evolving and gaining strength: the American Legislative Exchange Council and Grover Norquist controlling Congress with Frank Luntz and Fox News spreading propaganda on the ground. In 2010, the Supreme Court unleashed the full power of the union thugs for the first time. The results have been catastrophic: the 2010 Republican takeover, the Wisconsin recall, and soon the loss of the presidency and Senate in 2012. After the fingers formed into a clenched fist, Anthony Kennedy provided them with brass knuckles and spikes.

Their new brand of collusion is every bit as damaging as price fixing, and it should be every bit as illegal. The Republican corporate unionization undermines capitalism at every step. There is no need to make higher profits by increasing your revenues. Simply pay your way to a regulatory code that will reduce your costs by putting your employees and customers at risk. Buy subsidies and loopholes that help you only stamp out your competitors. Write yourself a tax code that will increase the percentage of your investment returns. Own a few judges whose role is to limit your liability for damages you cause. The reality is that these so-called capitalists aren't skilled enough to rely on free market forces to increase their profits. But they do have enough wealth that they can buy the whole market and rewrite the rules in their own favor.

Republicans say that they hate unions because they are a threat to liberty. It is true that unions are a powerful force, and all powerful forces can be a threat to liberty. But they seize upon a kernel of truth while ignoring its necessary broader implications. In reality, unions and corporations (and political parties) are all simply organizational structures. Unions are literally labor corporations, just as corporations are unions for capital. A priori, there is no reason why one should be deemed a threat to liberty while the other is deemed necessary for liberty.

The reality is that the Republican party and its backers are the most powerful union in America. Republican lawmakers are the union representatives for only the wealthiest individuals and corporations. The strength of both corporations and of the Republican party is predicated upon the very philosophy behind unions. In the end, one must conclude that it is not liberty they love and unions they hate, but wealth that they love and laborers that they hate.

Over the past few weeks, I've rewatched Ridley Scott's classic, the original Alien a few times. Different stations have been airing the original in anticipation of the release of Prometheus (which I have not seen). My respect for the 1979 original has grown immensely (although I've always thought that Scott's Blade Runner was the more beautiful and meaningful film).

The subtext of Alien has been scrutinized and analyzed from every angle over the years. When you create a captivating image that reflects some fundamental truth about our reality, it can be applied to almost anything, regardless of the original author's intentions. Although Alien is a film that relies more upon sight and sound than on dialogue, the film contains at least one scene with a truly great exchange. (Spoilers below)

ASH: Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
PARKER: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?
ASH: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
RIPLEY: How do we kill it Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?
ASH: You can't.
PARKER: That's bullshit.
ASH: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
LAMBERT: You admire it.
ASH: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. ... I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.
Good luck finding a scene from any other film that illustrates so perfectly the current plight of the American people. Three beings collaborate here to pursue their interests at the expense of the lives of the wage earners (Ripley, Parker, and Lambert). The scene highlights the cooperation between these similar organisms whose structural perfection is matched only by their hostility: the alien, the robot, and the corporation. No conscience, no morality. All other priorities rescinded.

The tragic flaw of President Obama's first term has been his inability to understand what he is up against. Obama believed that his Republican opponents were human beings with conscience, who would do the right thing for the American people when given the chance. It is possible that he still believes it. But we know better. We are up against a pure being.

Ripley's question is the important one.
How do we kill it?

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Comment Preferences

  •  good analysis. i really like it. (10+ / 0-)

    too many of us keep writing the same things over and over again... as Einstein said, we can't solve our problems using the very thinking that created those problems.

    your twist and analogy divert from the ordinary memes and i find it refreshing.

    keep at it.

  •  btw (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Musial, Only Needs a Beat, NoMoreLies

    Saboteur (1942 Hitchcock)

    I can't find the scene on youtube with whom I imagine to be Prescott Bush like figure telling the main character why he's on the side of the Nazis ... chilling really and timeless, i'm afraid. i recommend this movie. it really was a surprise.

  •  Obama is not stupid (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, Only Needs a Beat

    and one would have to be incredibly stupid to not see what the Republicans, and too many members of the Dem party, are all about.

    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 04:26:00 AM PDT

  •  Anti-trust enforcement has disappeared. (6+ / 0-)

    Anyone hereabouts doubt that Microsoft has an effective monopoly on computer software? That Amazon has an effective monopoly in on-line book sales?

    Anyone else remember when every region of the country had multiple competing oil company gas station chains? You know, before they sliced up the country into 'spheres of influence' to insure they didn't seriously compete with each other?

    Back when Bill Clinton was in his final term, the Justice Department was wrapping up a big investigation of Microsoft's monopolistic practices, which were blatant per the evidence of the company's internal e-mails. A penalty of some kind was in the offing, though nowhere near sufficient remedy for the crime. IMHO the only remedy would have been breaking up the company and a huge financial fine.

    But the instant the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to George W. Bush, the fix was in. The action against Microsoft was dropped at the speed of light. The message to corporations across America was crystal clear: monopolies are A-okay with the new Administration. And corporate America responded. We now have brutal monopolies and oligopolies controlling most aspects of our economy.

    •  Anti-trust enforcement ended in the 80's (5+ / 0-)

      Before the labor unions gained power, there was the trust busters.
        Even Adam Smith warned against monopolies.

       I think we have to bring back the language of the progressive movement of the early 20th Century. We need to bust trusts.

      Callate o despertaras la izquirda! - protest sign in Spain

      by gjohnsit on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 05:57:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's all about the enforcement. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gjohnsit, rougegorge

        The Sherman Anti-Trust Act is still on the books. It's still the law of the land. But it's no longer even considered for enforcement, no matter how blatant the anti-competitive practices, provided the miscreants are large corporations.

        Of course, if you're a primary care doctor like me, the Feds will come down on you like the hammer of God if you dare discuss collective bargaining with other docs when dealing with the health insurance cartel. That's different, I guess.

  •  how do we kill it? (0+ / 0-)

    It was done before, as with the 1912 Montana statute under review in American Tradition Partnership. A constitutional amendment is not going to kill it. It's going to take era-ending legislation in Congress which strips the Court of review under the political question doctrine and the exceptions clause. How does that happen? A civil rights movement mobilized online to vote out candidates who will not pass the legislation without compromise. Single issue focus is historically the only way progress happens in our system.

  •  Corporations know (4+ / 0-)

    what we know.  United they stand, divided we fall.  And they divide us more every day.  Psychologists are well paid by corporations to destroy rational thinking in weak minds on a mass level.  How in the heck are they getting people to line up for a pair of $1,000 - $90,000 sneakers?  I know we have a long way to go, but this is absolutely frightening/sickening.

    By the way, hold on tightly to your wallets and purses.

  •  Unions are private corporations in which (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    membership is by purchase, rather than residence or birth. The latter are the main characteristics of public corporations.
    In all cases, corporations are artificial, man-made bodies and, therefor, essentially different from the natural persons mother nature makes.  It can be argued that being man-made is what makes corporations superior to ordinary human beings.  Also, their potential for immortality.  Ordinary humans die; artificial bodies, at least in theory, can go on for ever (the U.S. has lasted for several hundred years).
    The potential for immortality is what makes the corporation particularly dangerous, since there's no automatic check and expiration date.  It's to counter this, that the organizing document or charter is constructed so as to limit the activities of the corporation rather specifically.  The corporation may and must do particular tasks/functions and nothing else.  But, what's happened with our private commercial and industrial corporations is that the tasks and obligations have been reduced to just one -- to
    generate a monetary profit.  
    The temptation to reduce the responsibility of the corporation to a minimum is, to a certain extent, also evident in unions which become fixated on increasing wages, instead of improving working conditions and promoting skills training and innovation.  Which simply tells us that the temptation to evade responsibility exists everywhere.
    Anyway, if there's anything the recent effort to eviscerate the power of labor unions should teach us, it's that legislators are in charge.  If private corporations run amok, it's because that's what legislators prefer.  You'd think that the members of public corporations would have an interest in exercising dominion over their subordinates -- i.e. private corporations.  That they don't tells us that exercising control over the people who elect them by letting their employers run roughshod over them has become more useful to them.  In other words, legislators are relying on the employers of workers to be their "enforcers," to promote their own longevity in office by threatening the ever worsening of their economic situation, if they don't vote "right."

    "In the name of the nation, and of the dollar and of the rule of law, you and your children shall sacrifice for the good of all." Rmoney prayer

    by hannah on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 05:54:12 AM PDT

  •  Well They've Organized, Generally, Back in Early (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    70's or so.

    The entire American system, despite being created a century after some of the serious threats corporations posed, is utterly unaware and unprepared for them. That's why the one period of really spectacular success of America for its masses was the period when a massive and radical economic regulatory system was temporarily imposed on it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 05:59:11 AM PDT

  •  Sorta, not really (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk, pfiore8, rougegorge

    Corp associations are different from unions in a very, very important regard: the latter have a limited exception to anti-trust laws, and accordingly can bargain collectively.  The former cannot.  

  •  it is a moral problem: as long as a significant (0+ / 0-)

    number of people see the sociopathic corporation as the ideal they both strive for and protect, you cant kill it because, like it or not, it is us.

    and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

    by ban48 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:12:54 AM PDT

  •  And another quote from "Alien" (0+ / 0-)

    From Ash, a robot designed by the corporation when he describes the alien "I admire it for its purity."

    Good diary, a far better way to view the situation. I'm not sure about "judges in their pocket." In my opinion that seems to miss the mark but legislatures in their pocket is all too obvious.

    And it seems to me that price fixing is back big time.

    By the way I did see Prometheus and if you watched Alien a few times recently, you will love Prometheus.


  •  Lobbyists are their Union Thugs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evangeline135, Only Needs a Beat

    Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all - The Internationale by Billy Bragg

    by Paddy999 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:24:55 AM PDT

  •  Some good conclusions here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Only Needs a Beat

    I tipped the author for writing this one: "...they...have enough wealth that they can buy the whole market and rewrite the rules in their own favor."  

    But, the piece ignores an unhappy reality:  Many Democrats belong to that union, too. And others pay homage from a safe political distance.  Moreover, it's an obvious reality.  Denying it only destroys one's credibility with Independents, who are growing faster than either Republicans or Democrats.

    Had the author addressed that reality rather than ignored it, I would have recommended the diary and shared it with my social network.

    Speak the truth, but ride a fast horse.

    by Deep Harm on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:25:04 AM PDT

  •  perhaps it's time for us to try to break up (0+ / 0-)

    these oppressive corporate conspirators/, first of all, enforcing anti-trust, anti-monopoly laws while also seeking to strengthen them.

  •  There are a few problems with this point of view (0+ / 0-)

    however and I would like to try to point them out politely in a spirit of cooperation. First there is a major difference between people in a labor union and corporate executives. The union people tend to work for what is in the best interests of the union and the corporate executives tend to work for what is in their individual best interest. The assumption is that they are working for the best interests of the corporation IE stockholders, etc. But that is not true. They are only out for what benefits them and their families personally.

    The argument about what motivates executives dates back to the 1950s and used to be a topic of research in the best business schools. B-schools are no longer interested in this or how the incentives paid to executives influence the behavior of executives.

    Look at the banking collapse of the past 5 years and how compensation standards pushed bankers to take stupid risks with other people's money to earn big bonuses. This behavior nearly destroyed the companies but their executives felt only an allegiance to their personal bank accounts.

    Very few labor leaders are paid in 6 figures and I have never seen anyone make 7 figures. Yes they enjoy some of the trappings of power and prestige but face it they could do much better in business financially than working for a labor union.

    When was the last time the Dept of Justice went after a corporation for violating anti-trust law? The break-up of AT&T started under the Carter administration during the initial wave of deregulation. We got plenty more deregulation but no more antitrust action. Which suites the masters of the universe just fine. But make no mistake they are not protectin the interests of all the stakeholders in a corporation . They are just protecting themselves. Screw everybody else.

  •  Fat Cats Local 27 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I drew a cartoon which ran in Solidarity a couple years ago which kind of has a similar take:

    Fat Cats


    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 08:39:39 AM PDT

    •  Great Cartoon (0+ / 0-)

      most of congress, and that includes "democrats", are card carrying members of the Fat Cat Union. nearly half our senators are millionaires, with "democratic" senator Feinstein being the wealthiest (last time I checked).

      This is part of the problem.

      "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

      by Superpole on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:00:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  that's exactly what their "free market" BS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is all about.

    They want the freedom to work in concert to screw the little guys/consumers, etc, but want to deny their opposition the same right and ability.

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
    Abraham Lincoln

    And of course it helps them realize their goal, which is their enrichment "cheap labor" and the economic slavery that perpetuates it, as does the political power they wield that results.

    I think the term "fascism" is grossly underused in describing this condition, and particularly given their shameless and inaccurate use of things like "socialism/marxism" etc to decribe what they are up against.

  •  "There's only one way to bring the Giant down" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and it's not what we are doing now-- which is mostly TALK, criticism of lamestream media, and the usual ineffective partisanship.

    We need massive collective actions-- and it has to be long term. a few weeks or a summer ain't going to work.

    Look to how Rush Limpbaugh calling Ms. Fluke a "whore" was handled for your direction. MORE of that; and less talk.

    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 09:56:05 AM PDT

  •  Some one tell me how this is different. (0+ / 0-)

      GOP say the "political problem" with Unions are they they influence the union member's on how to vote.
        But just the other day, Romney "suggested" the business owner's use the same tactic - except it sounds like he advocates for a "veiled threat" as well.

  •  Corporations & unions really aren't the same thing (0+ / 0-)

    I think it's dangerous to equate them this way. I know what you're getting at, I think. But so many people already have no idea what the value of Unions are, and it won't help conflating them with mega corporations. They are both organized, if that's what you mean. But the corporations are top down. Unions have their own problems, but we'd better be thinking about how to strengthen them. You've probably seen this chart comparing the decline in union membership to the decline in income...

    by rougegorge on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:20:52 PM PDT

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