Jingoism — by Lew Rosenbaum

Jingoismo — Jingoism   by Lew Rosenbaum

[This article appears in the current issue of Contratiempo in Spanish.  Many thanks to Miguel Marzana for asking me to contribute to this important political discussion.  A link to the magazine can be found here; the Spanish translation of the article is on page 21).  

201111 CoverAfter the 2016 elections, it seems that we are in a totally new period of time; and yet there are many elements that are painfully familiar. We have just been through a wrenching election in which many questions were raised about the times we are in, and about the direction we need to go, from going back to making big changes going forward.

Some characterize the election as the “revolt of the middle class,” while others describe it as the victory of the economic nationalists over the globalists. An accurate description of the changes taking place must recognize that an economic revolution is taking place that has three forms. First, since the late 1970s, with the advent of the widespread use of the microchip, electronic technology has reduced worker participation in production of both manufactures and services. Second, since the end of the WWII, capital has expanded world wide, leaving no corner of the world untouched. Electronics has facilitated this globalization and now characterizes production against which all labor must compete. Third, the effective formation of monopolies by corporate mergers has also globalized with supranational corporate mergers and mergers of corporations with national states. This latter, the merger of the corporations with the state, represents the economic face of fascism, a 21st century form of fascism, that is based in the new economy.

This new economy is not simply a new stage of capitalism. It is the end stage of an economy that is reaching toward a social structure no longer dependent on buying and selling of wage labor. This economy expresses itself as the polarity between wealth and poverty, and the proliferation of that most heinous example of a social organism that cannot provide for its people, homelessness in the midst of massive numbers of empty homes.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Republicans and Democrats, need to be evaluated in the context of the economic transformation they must protect.  Trump took advantage of the fact that the electronic revolution has left behind the vast majority of the American people of all nationalities, genders, and ethnicities. Elections are not coups. They actually require people to vote, and thus they require people to be convinced (in this case: about the” other” the bad hombre).

Pointing a finger of accusation at the “electronic revolution” would have led Trump into the predicament of having to tell supporters that “middle class jobs” were never coming back. Instead, he activated his base by taking the divide and conquer path well known in our history. While automation is the major cause of job loss in our country and the world, he chose to aim his fire at undocumented workers (especially from Mexico) and trade alliances (especially NAFTA). His campaign centered on the jingoism of national security, borders and islamophobia. Although he lost the popular vote by some three million votes, his victory in rural areas and especially the Midwestern rust belt gave him the electoral college majority. In other words, he won in the area where he was able to use racism to stoke the fears of a working class left behind. He raised the specter of the “other” eating at the heart of American working class unity and history.

Every day brings new confirmation of how the current administration, regardless of campaign promises or ideological conviction, is bound to long term policies of the government that reflect the direction of the economic revolution. The election campaign did, however, accomplish one important phenomenon: the appeal to racism consolidated a mass base for fascism that allows the new administration to move more quickly. For example, Trump has promised to send the military into Chicago to end violence, while Mayor Emanuel and Police Chief Johnson have genuflected toward Washington, asking instead for more FBI, ATF, and police funding, while ICE swung into action. The previous administration had already swamped municipal police throughout the country with military grade weapons and vehicles. The election has accelerated this direction.

We are in for some difficult times. The fact that the government of both major parties has neglected the people and cannot fulfill its promises only means the discontent will deepen. In the battle between hunger and ideology, the fight for basic survival needs wins.  Still, there is no guarantee that the starving will not turn against their neighbors who are also starving. Those of us involved in struggles for social justice must take every opportunity to bring together the people who now find themselves suffering under an equality of poverty, across all historical divisions. This section of the people holds the promise of reorganizing society for the benefit of all.

 

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WHAT IS MAY DAY’S MEANING FOR TODAY? By Chris Mahin

[Published 20 years ago in the People’s Tribune, this article remains relevant as we celebrate the workers’ one universal holiday.]

WHAT IS MAY DAY’S MEANING FOR TODAY?
By Chris Mahin

Holidays are important. Whether joyous celebration or solemn remembrance, each one conveys some meaning or teaches some lesson.

When we celebrate a particular holiday — or decide not to — each of us says something haymarket-reenactment-april-30-2011
about who we are and what we believe.

For the downsized and the dispossessed, one holiday stands above all others. It is the only one observed by victims of capitalism the world over: International Labor Day, observed on May 1 — May Day.

May Day began in America. The story of how it began needs to told; it is a tale of how dramatic changes in the economy created a new class of people. It is the story of how men and women of different nationalities, born in different parts of the world, stepped forward to lead a new class of poor people and were willing to pay a terrible price for that decision. Above all else, May Day is about the absolute necessity of the unity of the poor — white and black, male and female, immigrant and native-born.

The story begins in Chicago. By the 1880s, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world. Something new had been introduced into the economy — steam power. The introduction of this new productive force led to a gigantic expansion of industry and created a new class — the modern industrial working class. In Chicago, this new class included people from all over the world, as immigrants flooded into the city.

In the factories of that era, the pay was low, the hours were long and the conditions terribly unsafe.

On May 1, 1886, workers throughout the United States engaged in a massive strike to demand the eight-hour day. Chicago was the strike’s center. On May 4, a rally was held at Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest a police attack on a group of strikers. As this peaceful rally was winding to a close, 176 cops moved in to forcibly disperse the crowd. Someone threw a bomb. It killed one police officer instantly and wounded many others. The police opened fire, killing many participants in the rally.

A wave of hysteria followed. Hundreds of workers were arrested. The police broke into meeting halls, newspaper offices and even private homes without warrants. Suspects were beaten and even tortured.

The extent of the hysteria can be measured by comments published in the respectable Albany Law Journal just 11 days after the Haymarket tragedy. The Journal called for “a check upon immigration, a power of deportation, a better equipment of the police, a prompter and severer dealing with disorder” and denounced Chicago’s union leaders as “a few long-haired, wild-eyed, bad-smelling, atheistic, reckless foreign wretches, who never did an honest hour’s work in their lives.” The Journal declared: “This state of things almost justifies the resort to the vigilance committee and lynch law. … It seems Eagle Columnsthat the penal law of Illinois would warrant treating all these godless fiends as murderers, and we hope they will be so treated and extirpated from the face of the earth.”

In June 1886, several leaders of the Chicago union movement were put on trial, charged with being accessories to murder at Haymarket Square and with a general conspiracy to murder.

Most of the defendants had not even been present when the Haymarket bomb was thrown, but that didn’t matter. They were revolutionary leaders and Chicago’s capitalists wanted their blood.

The trial opened on June 21, 1886, with only seven of the eight defendants in the courtroom. All seven had been born or raised outside the United States. Chicago’s newspapers had noted the foreign roots of most of the defendants and denounced them as “European assassins” and “foreign barbarians.” But just as jury selection began, the eighth defendant entered the courtroom. Albert Parsons was a native-born American. He had escaped the police roundup completely and had been living safely in Wisconsin, but bravely returned to stand trial with his innocent immigrant comrades.

Tried before a biased judge and jury, the defendants never had a chance. They were convicted; seven were sentenced to hang. (An eighth was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.)

At that point, many people thought the case was closed, but they had not reckoned with Lucy Gonzalez Parsons, the wife of Albert Parsons and a leader of the Chicago labor movement in her own right. While the case was being unsuccessfully appealed, Lucy Parsons took her two small children and travelled across the United States, speaking to anyone she could about the case. In almost a year, she spoke to about 200,000 people in 16 states. Her heartfelt eloquence helped spark a movement to stop the executions.

Despite worldwide protests, four of the Haymarket defendants were hanged by the state of Illinois in November 1887. On the morning of the execution of her husband, Lucy Parsons was arrested and locked with her children in a cell for attempting to see her husband one last time.

On July 14, 1889, at the International Labor Congress in Paris, a delegate from the American Federation of Labor proposed that the Congress adopt May 1 as International Labor Day and a day to remember the “Martyrs of Chicago.” This was accepted. Ever since, May 1 has been a day for the workers of the entire world to march in unison.

Holidays do teach lessons; May Day teaches many. The Haymarket Affair shows that America’s tiny handful of rulers will throw away all pretense of democracy once the stability of their rule is challenged by vast changes in the economy. It shows that they will make scapegoats out of the immigrant workers. It shows they will do anything to hold on to their rule.

But Haymarket also shows us the weapon that a new class created by vast changes in the economy can wield against its rulers: unity. Perhaps the lesson of May Day can be summed up best in the words of Haymarket defendant Oscar Neebe. The last words of his autobiography read simply: “I call on all workingmen or working women of all nationalities and all countries to unite and down with your oppressors.”

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Haymarket Martyrs Monument, Waldheim Cemetery

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This article originated in the PEOPLE’S TRIBUNE (Online Edition), Vol. 24 No. 5/ May, 1997; P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654.  For the current issue and archives to past issues see http://www.peoplestribune.org.