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Empire's War on Labor

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Message Charles Sullivan
Most of the workers in this country are at will employees who have no protection from the tyranny of their employers, and no recourse to the law when they are unjustly fired, as so many are. Yet they are too timid and too frightened to rebel. The situation demands bold action. The streets should be filled with angry and indignant protestors committing acts of civil disobedience, economic disruption and sabotage against an unjust system of wage slavery. But the masses remain well behaved, resigned to their fate of servitude; content with the few morsels that fall from the tables of the rich. There should be social unrest, angry mobs in the streets that refuse to go away and a revival of revolutionary unionism.

What do I mean by revolutionary unionism? I mean unions that fight like hell for the rights of workers and take no prisoners. Unions that recognize most employers as the enemy of workers they are. I mean unions that strike fear into the hearts of the employers; unions that seek to overthrow capitalism and to remake society in the image of the worker rather than the ruling elite. I am talking about radical, militant in your face organizing on a global scale that unites working class people against Plutocratic rule.

How can we forget a history of class struggle that we have never known? The four men who were foremost in the fight for the eight hour work day, which included Albert Parsons and August Spies, were hung in the streets of Chicago in November of 1887. The eight hour work day did not become law in the U.S. until 1938 when it was enacted as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Our government is killing millions of innocent civilians, people like us in every part of the planet, while laying waste to the world for the private gain of a few. The people should be up in arms. But there is hardly a whimper of protest. We can hardly pry the average citizen away from American Idol and Survivor; much less get them into the streets to demand an end to wage slavery and to fight for social justice. What does this say about the conscience of the American people? Where is the courage? Where is the righteous indignation that is demanded by the times? Where is the solidarity that once characterized working class people? Why do we choose to live on our knees rather than stand on our feet and fight for what we know is right?

We are a disgrace to the legacy forged by the workers who came before us and sacrificed so much to Joe Hill, Frank Little, Sid Hatfield, Albert Parsons, Mary Harris, Lucy Parsons, Big Bill Haywood, Daniel DeLeon and Eugene Debs.

Why do we tolerate the intolerable evil that manifests itself in the neocon cabal that is running the world and appears to be intent upon destroying all of us? Are our minds so numbed, our souls so empty that we cannot even lift a finger to resist? Are we so selfish as a people that we can think only of our own comfort while ignoring the suffering imposed upon others in our name? How can any just person allow their government to invade sovereign nations, to slaughter its people and to subject them to lives of terror and unimaginable indignities? How can we allow this to continue and call it liberation and democracy? The perversion of language is sickening. What in the hell is wrong with us? Do we enjoy licking the boots of men like George Bush and Adolph Hitler? Spit in their eye and blacken the other, I say!

We would behave differently if it was our country that was being bombed to rubble by a foreign power. But since it is not, we callously ignore the evil that is done in our name. We go on with our lives as if the lives of Muslims, whose names we do not know, whose faces we never see, do not matter. According to Gary Null, the U.S. is responsible for the death of 1.2 million Iraqis alone. And Iraq is only one of the one hundred and thirty-five nations occupied by the U.S. forces. How can we fail to fathom the incalculable pain and misery we are sowing around the world? Will we ever learn that might does not make right? Only justice makes right.

Millions of workers in France are filling the streets and committing acts of civil disobedience because they can be fired by their employers without reason. They have joined the ranks of at will employees. Have we regressed into a nation of obedient sheep, incapable of making trouble? American workers should be in the streets demonstrating solidarity with our French brethren. We should be in the streets with our Latino brothers and sisters razing hell. We should be there with Cindy Sheehan. Why does ninety-nine percent of the population consent to be ruled by the other one percent? Why are we so damned polite and servile? Were our backbones removed at birth? Were we born without conscience, without a sense of right and wrong? Do we exist only to consume goods; to serve as canon fodder in imperialism's wars?

Too many working people are ignorant of their own history and thus lack historical perspective and understanding. The struggles of working class people against the ruling elite, while often difficult to read because of the sense of rage it engenders, is also a history of hope. It shows us the way through organized struggle, direct action and civil disobedience. Little wonder, then, that the official keepers of history want to keep it secret. It might give people the idea that something can be done about oppression and injustice. It might even inspire them to take action and that is a very dangerous proposition to those in power. Peace, justice, and worker emancipation are born of struggle. They will not magically appear as a gift from our oppressors. Freedom is not given, it is won.

The genius of capitalism, if something so insidious may be called that, is that it provides just enough material comfort and hope for enough people to keep them from rebelling. If there is more than a small shift in the people's level of comfort and hope, things could quickly change. Open rebellion revolution might even be possible. Capitalism must keep the carrot, the promise of a better life; a more just and equitable way of living, just beyond the grasp of the working class people. Betterment must appear not only possible, but probable, in order to keep the masses striving and thus under control. If the ruling class is to maintain the elite status proffered by capitalism, the working class must never realize that they are playing the game with a marked deck. The system allows only a few winners. Workers were never meant to have pie in the sky that is only for the privileged elite.

Under the oppressive weight of capitalism, workers will never receive their fair share of the wealth they create for their employers. Eugene Debs once calculated that the average worker receives no more than seventeen percent of the wealth she/he creates. Capitalism is all about maximizing corporate profitability by exploiting the workers and the earth. It is capitalism that is waging war on working class people in every nation on earth. And now the parasites running the country are drawing up plans to bomb yet another sovereign nation that poses no threat to us, perhaps with nuclear munitions. How many more sons and daughters will have to die before we awaken from our stupor? Are we even capable of awakening? Where is the moral outrage that should be finding expression in the streets?

Why are we so afraid to acknowledge that U.S. aggression is interrelated with capitalism, class privilege, war profiteering and worker abuse in every part of the world? Are we just going to sit quietly in our living rooms before the television's tiny light while the world burns? It appears so.

Yesterday morning as I sat having breakfast with my wife, I looked out the window and noticed some birds hovering in the air. It quickly became apparent that there was some contention between them. At first a single crow was bravely diving at a Red-tailed Hawk that was apparently hunting in the vicinity of her nest. The crow was quickly joined by her mate; then another crow and yet another joined in the chase. In just a few minutes there were many crows involved, although their nests were not threatened, and the hawk was noisily driven off. We could learn something from those crows.
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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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