Friday, June 29, 2012

OPINION: Declaring Independence from Liberalism: What Wisconsin Means for Labor

By  M Sullivan

Public sector unions across the nation reeled after losing the vote to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In the weeks since, various blogs and articles have been published in an on-going effort to assess what went wrong. The discussion has generated a great deal of intense self-reflection for the labor movement as a whole, but what appears to be missing from the mainstream analysis is the one fact that appears all too clear for most rank and file trade unionists: the game is rigged in favor of the billionaires and the multinationals.
It is crystal clear that the democratic process cannot be expected to function with any level of legitimacy as long as big business remains capable of using its money to purchase disproportionate influence over elected officials. What kind of society are we allowing the corporations to create when their interests take primacy over the voting public and workforce? To answer this question, former President Franklin Roosevelt offered important insight:
“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership by government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Recommendations to the Congress to Curb Monopolies and the Concentration of Economic Power,” April 29, 1938, in *The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt*, ed. Samual L. Roseman, vol 7, (New York: MacMillan, 1941) pp. 305-315.)
Are we over-stating the case when we liken the corporate take-over of American government to a type of fascism? Based on the definition of fascism provided above, a sober-minded analysis of the facts and forces behind today’s anti-union onslaught hardly leaves any room for dispute. However, there are undoubtedly differences between the fascism we recognize all too well in history books and the fascism of today. Perhaps one of the most important differences between the fascism of the 1920s-40s and its contemporary incarnation is that many of the victims of this draconian and exploitative system have come to develop a sort of sympathy for the oppressor – a sort of generalized, class-based Stockholm syndrome.
For example, in Oklahoma – once home to some of the most radical labor politics in U.S. history – the working poor and displaced middle-class that has suffered so much under the policies of the Neoconservative establishment continues to support the policies dictated by multinational lobbyists. Oklahoma, which once had the largest per capita dues paying membership of the Socialist Party, has been transformed into a sort of corporate plantation where big business has almost exclusive control of state and local government. How did all this come to be?
The answer is simple: according to a Marxist analysis, the owners of the multinationals are also effectively the same entities that control the information industry and media. As Marx famously wrote in his study, *The German Ideology*:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.
From textbooks to televisions shows, private companies controlled by the most wealthy corporate interests in the world are rewriting history and reshaping the consciousness of the American electorate so that the American form of fascism does not require the same wide-spread “blood and iron” repression that typified the German and Italian regimes of Europe. What’s more, the new fascism is – to borrow a phrase – a type of “liberal fascism,” which is not necessarily racially biased. In fact, the Neoliberal fascists recognize the importance of liberal political ideology and use the myths and promise of equality and prosperity for all as a means of fostering a sort of self-repression of working-class Americans of every race and gender. Therefore, when we hear defenders of Clintonite Neoliberalism acclaim the Democratic Party as more “progressive” than the Neocons – they are correct only in the sense that the Neoliberals, with their emphasis on globalization and willingness to subject all the world’s people to the exploitative practices of capitalism without prejudice, are the most advanced capitalist party. This fact begs the question: if the Democratic Party is the most advanced capitalist party, then could we not interpret the working-class resistance to the liberal agenda as a sort of displaced, unconscious criticism of capitalism itself?
For today’s class-conscious working-class militants, we must divest ourselves fully from the nonsensical “lesser of evils” blackmailing that has so thoroughly neutered the labor movement in the U.S. We must call the two-party system out for precisely what it *really* is: a capitalist dictatorship with two tendencies, liberal and conservative. We must then push forward to begin the difficult task of developing a political party that articulates the needs of the working-class, which is the overwhelming majority of the population, and works to achieve its political objectives. The time has come to break definitively from the liberal capitalist party and denounce the cynical opportunists that black-mail trade unionists into making concession after concession until finally the whole of the United States finds itself controlled by a government as draconian as Scott Walker.

 The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Oklahoma Workers' Monthly, the Communist Party of Oklahoma or the CPUSA.

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