Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, February 6, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

Are American Workers Stupid?
I was more or less accused by a resident critic of implying so in my recent article, Fixing Social Security, when I spoke of many who find Bush’s "ownership society" scam appealing. I have to admit that this gullibility is not the only disturbing trend I see.

Polls indicate there are substantial numbers who still believe America was in imminent mortal danger from Saddam Hussein’s vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Many are firmly convinced the entire universe was created over a six-day period about five thousand years ago. Millions of television viewers, hardly able to contain their anticipation, tune in each week to hear a billionaire capitalist tell a humiliated apprentice "you’re fired." And a recent poll of students found widespread opposition to First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free press.

To be sure, all this is quite troubling. But I’m not quite ready to write off the masses of the American working class as "stupid." My search engine dictionary defines stupid as "Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless." While all of us can and do act foolish or careless from time to time I doubt my fellow workers are more "marked by a lack of intelligence" than our counterparts abroad who often better understand their role in the workings of society.

Our ability to learn and reason is not hampered by sub-par IQs; our knowledge and thought process has been stunted and deformed by powerful institutions designed to do just that by the tiny minority that rules America.

Whether you listen to FOX News or NPR, whether you read The New York Times or USA Today; the best you will get out of the mass media is reporting on both sides of intramural disputes among the powers that be–almost never anything from a working class perspective.

Our public schools are dedicated to encouraging individual ambitions of advancing into that Ownership Society–almost never will students be taught that there is even such an entity as the working class, much less the value of working class solidarity.

The main stream religious institutions generally promote peaceful and humble "conflict resolution" in the here and now--deferring our dreams to eternity after our departure from this imperfect world.

Even the mass organizations that our class built through determined struggle and much sacrifice to defend our interests have largely lost touch with this original mission. Most union officials at least tacitly acknowledge the exalted status of our employers, often imitating their methods and aspiring to imitate their life styles. Labor’s leaders appeal to our masters to be reasonable and champion the "Win-Win" bargaining approach that has led to one defeat after another.

But, just as I stop short of dismissing workers as stupid, I also refuse to characterize the opposing class as "smart." Yes, they were clever enough to employ bright people to shape this mind warp that befuddles so many. But none of this would have worked had our rulers not also had at their disposal enormous material reserves to create a multi-tiered society where some live reasonably well and the others think the good life is in reach. That is the indispensable foundation for the ideological prison where so many of us are incarcerated.

The competitive pressures of Globalization–along with ever-present greed intrinsic to Free Enterprise–inevitably undermines this historic foundation. As investors demand more managers seek to extract more out of us. The bosses have never figured out any way to prosper except at our expense. That’s because in the long run, under their system, there is no other way.

The revered "Middle Class" is shrinking, the poor are becoming poorer. Altered life styles and pessimism about the future will lead many to question the fairy tales and malicious lies once accepted as gospel. And once the "stupid" workers start thinking for themselves they will also figure out intelligent ways of acting. The day when "smart" bosses start reflecting on their own intelligence quotient won’t be far behind.

The disturbing facts mentioned at the beginning of this article remind us we are still only at the beginning of an emergence from the Dark Ages we have long suffered through. We have far to go. But there are enough preview examples of a coming Renaissance to give us confidence in our future.

The often bitter strikes, job actions, and organizing drives being waged today are great class rooms as well as class struggle. Much will be learned even when such battles fail to win their immediate objectives.

While some workers are falling for Bush’s Social Security privatization swindle most are suspicious and many are ready to fight to defend their benefits. This is another excellent opportunity for education going beyond this one issue.

US Labor Against the War continues to expand education not only about the conflict in Iraq but implicitly exposing the general imperial drive of Big Business and the government as well.

The Labor Party, a hopeful future alternative to the twin parties of the bosses, is beginning to stir again after the long detour of the 2004 election.

These developments are palpable enough that even the top union leadership has been nudged to open a far-ranging discussion about where the labor movement needs to go.

No, we may be crazy but we ain’t stupid.

Tyson Fight Continues
We’ve written in the past about the struggle of Teamsters Local 556 against Bill Clinton’s buddies at Tyson over the future of 1500 workers in Wallula, Washington. Human Rights Watch also commented on this fight in their recent blockbuster report on the meat industry, accurately stating the company was "openly and aggressively" interfering with worker efforts to maintain union representation. The Tyson workers are asking supporters to sign a solidarity petition available by clicking here.

Benefit Showing of Vera Drake
Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid-Missouri presents the Oscar nominated film
Vera Drake Thursday, February 10th at The Tivoli Theater, Westport Manor Square

Tickets: $10 PPKM Reception at 6:30 Movie begins at 7:45

Reserve your ticket by emailing april.adicks@ppkm.org or call 913.312.5100 ext: 251

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all

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