Walkom: Recession and the failure of the left – thestar.com. – Thomas Walkom
an excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:
On the labour front, two recent events make the point. In Canada, the union representing 30,000 Loblaws workers has agreed to let the company convert more of its outlets into superstores that pay lower wages.
In the U.S., the United Auto Workers has agreed to let General Motors halve wages for about 40 per cent of its workforce at a subcompact car plant in Michigan.
That unions make concessions during hard times is not news. The United Food and Commercial Workers made the Loblaws deal (which does keep wage protection for existing employees) in the face of withering price competition from non-union Wal-Mart.
Still, it’s worth noting the solution was to bring unionized workers down to Wal-Mart levels rather than organize Wal-Mart workers and bring their wages up.
Walkom’s plaintive article makes the point that the big recession of today, while similar in some respects to the Great Depression of the 30s, is also glaringly different in one way. He notes that the earlier depression spurred the left to successful action, whereas today it’s not spurring the Left at all.
Previously, The Left, in the form of labor unions and activists, led the people, the majority, out of a harmful acquiescence to brutal capitalist exploitation. Today, Labor leaders have virtually no power, which hurts us in two ways. One, They can’t lead us to safety as the negative consequences of decisions made by powerful capitalists roll toward us. Two, That in turn gives unions a black eye. They will look traitorous to those who uncritically consider their concessions and compromises. Which is the last thing we need when people generally, including (some, no doubt) union members and leaders, are becoming harsher and willing to tolerate the suffering of neighbors – until they are suffering.
Walkom notes that people consider unions today to be “bastions of privilege.” Well, Activists on the Right would call them that. It’s not that they believe it. Certain activists on the Right (cultural managers, as I explained in my previous post) are exercising horizontal thinking and behavior, intended to demonstrate to onlookers how they should think and behave. And if most onlookers are angry – there’s a lot of that going around – they may actually be willing to believe what those activists are saying even if they have qualms about the reality depicted. Angry, ‘unprincipled’, people will often take any opportunity to express their anger. This lawless, godless world isn’t only lawless and godless where elites and their servants reside.
The unfocussed (because of anger) people are playing the losing game of ‘riches for the strongest’ instead of clamoring for a new game in which no one loses. Consider Walkom’s statement: “But unionized workers themselves have also contributed to the perception of privilege by focusing on immediate bread and butter issues such as their own wages while ignoring the larger political context. Unions cannot thrive when they represent only a minority of workers.”
Indeed, My understanding of unionism is that it can ‘not’ be simply about any particular union’s advocacy for only those workers covered by the contract it negotiates with an employer. Unions will ultimately fail (as we see them doing) when they are not part of a larger social movement that seeks to address the plague of unequal social relations in which workers are essentially slaves with few rights. Unions must address the problem of the too free behavior of exploitative corporations and capitalists. Wages are too low and worker security non existent due to the assault on unions that corporatocracy governments have aided and abetted. And the environment and health and safety of workers and consumers is sacrificed, via deregulation, for profits. Unions need to address the need for a redistribution of wealth that will meliorate the inequality that both greedy capitalists and an impersonal marketplace give rise to. Unions must help push for universal social programs, or socialism for everyone rather than just big banks etc.. And while I’m at it, Big commercial banks – which, believe it or not, use offshore tax havens – simply need to disappear. They are robbing the people blind. (See “Magnitudes: dirty money, lost taxes and offshore,” by The Tax Justice Network in my blogroll. Scroll down to the ‘Canada’ section. And don’t let that tool, Jack Mintz, tell you this report is nonsense.)
I was struck when reading a recent International Socialist Review article by Justin Akers Chacón about Obama’s continuance of Bush’s, and the Right’s, attack on Latino immigrants not only by how incredibly evil and dark those people are who participate in this persecution of their fellow man, but how the elites and their political tools are so willing to cause anger and chaos in order to further keep the people, their enemy – because ‘elites’ choose to be and remain elites – off balance. As long as the people are angry, distracted and unfocussed, the exploitation can continue unopposed.
“The latest anti-immigrant campaign is timed much like the previous ones. Undocumented immigrants are being scapegoated in the lead-up to the 2010 elections with the hope that red-faced, fear-mongering campaigns will inflame the sensibilities of the population and create an internal threat to focus on and unite against. In this way, hammering immigrants can serve conservative Republicans as a wedge issue to supersede the constellation of real and tangible crises facing the populace, problems for which they have no solutions…
“Despite its being a major campaign promise, the Obama administration jettisoned plans for a legalization program in late April of 2010, concluding that lawmakers lacked the “appetite” to get behind it. “I don’t want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn’t solve the problem,” he was quoted as saying. Ironically, by not advancing legalization at the federal level, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have allowed the Republican Party to seize the initiative at the state and local level and run aggressive crusade-like campaigns against immigrants purely for the sake of politics.” – “The preventable rise of Arizona’s SB 1070,” by Justin Akers Chacón
Republicans (or Republicrats, which means Republicans + Democrats, which unity the record amply demonstrates) have no solutions only in the sense that they are absolutely uninterested in changing their methods of doing business and society-building, because that’s all it would take for those solutions to appear. All solutions flow from caring.
The machismo shines here in that there is no hint of concern for the possibility that out of control anger and chaos can lead to a system-wide breakdown in which not only innocents, or targets of the Right, are harmed, but also elites. Then again, Players like their glory. It’s not a rational approach to society-building for sure. By taking from others, so as to make them less, you make yourself more, and are seen to be more. If no one notices how superior you are, then you possess no glory. People notice you when you’ve robbed them and when you’ve got life that they are suddenly without. – CIBC bank managers here in Toronto place signs in their banks that tell customers to let them know if they are not absolutely pleased with the great service, or something sick like that. (The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is the bank I’m presently with.) Can you imagine? Then, when people, who have better things to do than stand in line just to tell some uninterested teller that they aren’t absolutely happy with the service, immediately leave the bank when their business is done the bank can advertize that their customers are absolutely happy with their great service!
Regarding the failure of capitalism, in the form of negative consequences of deregulation granted by corporatocracy governments to financial corporations (and, as Paul Krugman has argued, no regulation to begin with), Walkom writes: “Yet in practice, the left staggered. A centre-left government was driven from power in Britain. In next month’s U.S. elections, the right is expected to clean up.” It’s hard, I suppose, to ditch the language of horizontal thinking. Yes, There’s a big, mainstream Left. But move toward it’s center, which is always moving rightward, and it really contains an insignificant amount of Left. You have to go to the left of that Left to find the more earnest fightback and the clearest language of fightback against the corporatocracy. Tony Blair’s government, like Jean Chretien’s and Bill Clinton’s, was inhuman and ungodly, period. Civilization after those men – doesn’t exist. At least not as a coherent system.
Walkom points out that “Ironically, one reason for the left’s failure in this slump is that its traditional solution – to spend money — worked. The decision by G20 leaders to stimulate the world economy prevented a catastrophe.” Thankfully, Our macho elites are capable of some rational behavior. We have escaped nuclear winter, by luck. The accidents that have occurred in facilities where monitoring of foreign nuclear launch sites take place would make your hairs stand up. It’s by chance that they’ve corrected mistakes before they’ve become BIG mistakes (although I don’t believe humans can eradicate humankind and all life on earth unless God allows it, which he won’t). And we escaped this latest crisis of capitalism, the Great Recession, by chance. Because the macho crowd running the planet is really quite nuts. I mean, They are celebrating the loss of the arctic which their unregulated capitalism and their unrestrained greed have caused to melt for gosh sakes! Are these people sane?