The Strike Robert Koehler 1886 Berlin Historical Museum
May Day! May Day!
By Richard Girard
"Labor cannot on any terms surrender the right to strike." Louis D. Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice 1918-39; 1913 (The Great Quotations, compiled by George Seldes, copyright 1960, 1967)
I can say, with little chance of honest contradiction, that the relationship between owner and worker is little changed in the last one hundred years. It is still that of exploiter and exploited.
There has been a movement afoot for the last four decades to return what I call the ownership class, representing large-scale, accumulated capital, to the ascendant position that they enjoyed a century earlier. At the same time, that economic class has moved to return the workers--by which I mean not only traditional labor, but also lower level management and small businesses--to the desperate, subservient position that they were condemned to in that same, dark, time period.
Coming out of the twenty catastrophic years of the Great Depression and the Second World War (1929-49), the Western Democracies (Western Europe, Canada, Japan, and the United States) enjoyed a period of prosperity unequalled in human history. It was a time of stronger unions, a rising middle class, and unequalled scientific progress and technical creativity. The governments of the Western Democracies were more responsive to the needs and desires of their people than at any time in history, leading to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., as well as the widespread and very effective anti-war, anti-nuclear, and environmental movements that swept through those self-same democracies. It was this period where the previously described ownership class found their power and influence at its nadir.
The Vietnam War was looked upon by the ownership class and its military-industrial complex as a long term cornucopia: a war that would pump billions of dollars into defense contractors' pockets, make military officer's reputations, and that politicians could use to claim they were fighting the evils of Communism without upsetting the Soviet Bear or the Chinese Dragon.