Are unions perfect? No. Like every human enterprise, they are only as good as the people who actively participate in the enterprise. In some past cases, the participation has been by criminals, e.g., the Teamsters. In most cases, the participation has been by people just trying to make a living, and a better future for their children. Sometimes, they have been at the forefront of social change, e.g., Caesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers.
Regardless, unions--good, bad, and indifferent--are absolutely necessary for the creation and maintenance of a large and vibrant middle class in a democratic society, as part of the system of checks and balances against a domineering capitalist elite and their monolithic corporate power. To quote Abraham Lincoln in his First Message to Congress (December 3, 1861), "Let them [the workingmen] beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon [them] till all of liberty shall be lost."
The American plutocrats have always hated our representative democracy and any limitations on their power, and not simply in the economic sphere. A group of them plotted to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. This group including members of the Du Pont Family and the J.P. Morgan banking concern. Their desire was to set up a fascist state similar to Mussolini's Italy, using an army of American Legion members led by retired Marine General Smedley Butler. Fortunately, General Butler was a man of honor (something they rarely had to deal with) and exposed the plutocratic conspiracy to members of Congress. (For more on this see the late Steve Kangas's Liberalism Resurgent, as well as Jonathon Vankin and John Whalen, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time (Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1997); Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1973.))
When their plot failed, the plutocrats dug in their heels against FDR's New Deal. America's difficulty in rising out of the Great Depression was due less to problems with the New Deal itself, than with the continued intransigence of American Business and their allies in the Supreme Court of the United States to allow any part of the New Deal to come to fruition. These plutocratic crypto-fascists claimed that they were protecting the nation from the spectre of socialism, Communism, Bolshevism: take your pick. Had the New Deal and its Keynesian economics been allowed to proceed as similar programs did in Sweden and Great Britain, we may well have been out of the Great Depression by 1935 or 1936. Had FDR not listened to the conservatives among his economic advisers about reducing the deficit in 1937, we would not have had a recession in 1938 that slowed our economic recovery.
The length of the Great Depression in the United States was due primarily to the crypto-fascists dragging their feet against the policies of the Roosevelt Administration. These plutocrats were constantly taking New Deal programs to court in an attempt to stop it. The length of today's Great Recession can be laid at the feet of the two administrations who seem to be in the pockets of the heirs to those selfsame plutocrats. The Obama Administration seems to be completely unwilling to take any aggressive action to help rebuild the nation's middle class, even if it is at the expense of those plutocrats. FDR's greatest mistake may have been not prosecuting those individuals who had attempted to overthrow his Presidency, just as President Obama's may be his failure to prosecute the Wall Street bankers and the Bush Administration.
So what is the difference between the Fascist and the Communist state? Only this: In the Fascist state the corporations control the government; in the Communist state the government controls the corporations. FDR was no Communist: he never wanted to control the corporations, simply place a system of checks and balances against their most destructive impulses directed at our nation, its institutions, and its people. The plutocrats on the other hand have always wanted to control the government, and to hell with the rest of us.
After Roosevelt's death, the Taft-Hartley Act was created for passage by the Re-publican dominated 80th Congress. Congressman Fred A. Hartley Jr., the co-author of this act, unabashedly asserts that he considers this only a first step to the elimination of any government regulation of labor-industry relations. That in fact, it "points the way to correcting other errors of the government in the 1930's," including the Social Security Act. (The New National Labor Policy, Fred A Hartley, Jr.; New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1948, p. xvi.)
As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes "There is nothing new under the Sun." The reactionaries (as President Truman called them) in our government, these Re-publicans, spiritual heirs to the thrice damned publican thieves that the Bible curses, who robbed the common people of Rome's empire blind; wish to rob the American Treasury just as blind, and through this theft, destroy America's middle class. They are trying to destroy our tattered social safety net, just as the largest group of Americans in seventy years need it. They are trying to finish the destruction of the unions in America, who have always been the workers' best counterpoise to the illegal and immoral excesses of the largest corporations.
For this reason, it is absolutely vital that all of those who voted for President Obama two years ago return to the polls in November, and vote back an even greater majority of Democrats to the House and Senate.
Am I disappointed in what has been achieved in the last two years? Damn straight. But if we permit the Re-publicans to establish a majority in either Chamber of Congress, they will do everything in their power to not only undo what little we have been able to accomplish in the last two years, but in the last seventy-five.
The one thing you have to admire about the reactionary Re-publicans is their perseverance. They have been trying to kill the unions in this country and get rid of Social Security and other New Deal and Great Society programs for years, and they are getting closer and closer to their goal, much to the detriment of our nation. They do so in the name of "liberty," but Abraham Lincoln--a real Republican, meaning a true child of the Republic--had the final word in an address delivered in Baltimore, April 18, 1864:
"With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men and with other men's labor. Here are two not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names--liberty and tyranny."
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