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The Last Days of the Lilliputians

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In Gulliver's Travels the tiny Lilliputians attacked the much larger Gulliver while he was sleeping and tied him to the ground with thousands of threads. In a similar way the ruling elite have tied the working class in bondage. Small in number but great in power, the elite have designed myriad mechanisms of control to hold the much larger working class down and force it to work for them. These include institutions such as mainstream politics, media, schools, labor unions, police, courts, military, and patriarchal gender roles. They also include emotionally laden concepts such as rugged individualism, a false image of socialism, and the very way we conceive of social class.


This last, the encultured view of ourselves, robs us of our class identity. Very few of us consider ourselves working class. The term has been made to seem a musty relic of the nineteenth century, synonymous with lower class, a disreputable band of losers who are to be feared and perhaps pitied, but certainly not to be identified with. Instead we are offered a hierarchy of many classes: upper, upper middle, middle, lower middle, and last and certainly least, the lumpen lower. Within these we are fragmented further by conflicting differences: ethnic, religious, gender, life style. We're supposed to identify with our niche and our job and to strive to move up or at least not slip down in the hierarchy. But more and more of us are slipping down, losing the few securities we had. In our bewildered anger we find allies only within our isolated niche, so our struggles are ineffective.


Almost all of us are in fact working class. Everyone in the world who has to work for someone else for the essentials of living is working class. Only when we join together in solidarity will we succeed.


The elite have also fragmented us geographically. The most exploited are far away from the centers of power and thus invisible to us except for media images of illegal aliens storming our borders or insurgents attacking our soldiers. They live under the heel of authoritarian governments held in power by the rich nations and are forced to work under deplorable conditions. The wealth extracted from their labor has enabled the corporations to pay their employees in the home country better wages, thus minimizing discontent here and stimulating consumption of their products.


That economic arrangement is changing, however, as global competition intensifies. Selling in the world market has become more important than selling in the home country. Competing globally requires low prices, so corporations are slashing wages and benefits. The international working class is being leveled. Our task now is to unite and overthrow the elite that rules us all.


This elite is composed of many nationalities and has many internal conflicts. They even make war on each other when economics demands it. But they always recognize their overriding interests as a class, and they will do everything in their considerable power to defend those interests. We, the workers of the world, need to recognize and defend our own class interests with as much determination as our rulers.


They have designed a political system in the USA that ensures their power monopoly. The candidates of both major parties represent their interests. Through winner-take-all elections, ballot-access laws, and slanted media coverage, they effectively exclude alternatives.


To break free of their political control and build genuine democracy, we must delegitimize in particular the Democratic Party, which exists to channel potentially radical discontent into dead-end streets. The Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements, capturing people's hopes for fundamental changes, then burying them. It produces only superficial reforms that strengthen capitalism.


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William T. Hathaway is the author of eight books and was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. His environmental novel, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a (more...)
 

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