Monday, August 17, 2020

What Will the Real American Resistance Look Like — Chaotic Rebellion or Organized General Strikes?

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Click to enlarge. Suitable for framing.

by Thomas Neuburger

I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.
—Jay Gould, 1886

It's normally a bad idea to denigrate the other side's supporters in a fight, especially in a political fight like the one we're currently engaged in, and especially when the game being played is the oligarch's version of Eric Berne's "Let's You and Him Fight" — the one where the rich get the poor to kill each other, while they steal both of them blind.

So don't consider this piece to be about the other side's supporters, whichever side the "other side" is to you, so much as it is an indictment of us all, and a call for all of us to change our ways.

The Real Surrender Monkeys

The indictment comes from Juan Cole, writing at Informed Comment. Two notes before we begin. First, I'm going to quote at some length, so forgive me; his point is stronger that way.

Second, despite its headline, the point is not about resistance to Trump alone, but far more general than that. Is America's broken state the fault of Republicans, or do the corrupted leaders of both parties have a hand in what we suffer?

Here's Cole:
How did Americans become such Wimps? Silence as Trump kills tens of Thousands, Destroys Social Security and Post Office, Plots Election Fraud

Nicole Winfield and Lisa Marie Pane at the Associated Press write at the unbelief with which Europeans are staring at the United States, as we head for 300,000 dead from the coronavirus and our economy shrank 33% on an annualized basis last quarter, and we just appear to be all right with that.

Not only are we perfectly willing to toss grandma in an early grave on Trump’s say-so, but we are supine as he openly engineers the destruction of social security and medicare, and of the post office, on behalf of himself and the billionaire class he represents. That is after we sat by while he completely gutted all environmental regulations that got in the way of corporations making money off poisoning us. I don’t think the neutering of the EPA has even been reported on daytime cable news, though the prime time magazine shows on MSNBC have at least brought it up.

Americans imagine themselves rugged individualists. A cartoonist did a satire on us showing brawny guys, shirts off, with the logo “Rugged individualism works best when we obey.”

In fact, Americans are masochistic sheeple who let the rich and powerful walk all over them and thank them for the privilege. ...

The rich figured out in the 1980s that Americans are all form over substance, and if you put up for president a Hollywood actor like Ronald Reagan who used to play cowboys, they would swoon over him. In 1984 when Reagan ran against Walter Mondale, I saw a middle aged white Detroit auto worker interviewed who said he woudn’t vote for Mondale because he was a “panty-waist.” Reagan took away their right to strike and took away government services by running up the deficit and cutting taxes on the rich simultaneously, then claiming the government couldn’t provide the services the people had paid for because it is broke.

Reagan raised the retirement age from 65 to 67. Why? Most young people don’t realize that their health will decline in their late 60s and they often won’t actually get any golden years.

What did Americans do in response? They just bent over and took it.

Actually, it is the French who are much more like Americans imagine themselves to be. President Emmanuel Macron last December tried to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. I can’t understand why. France has persistently high unemployment as it is.

In response, all hell broke loose. Some 30 unions went on strike, and they supported each other. Trains were interrupted. Trucking was interrupted. Life was interrupted. A million people came out into the streets. But one poll had 61% of the French approving of the strikes. They went on for months, and were very inconvenient. ...

Macron backed down on raising the retirement age.
In the 2000s, Americans ridiculed the French as "surrender monkeys" for not joining the "Coalition of the Willing (to Commit War Crimes in Iraq)."

That was particularly rich coming from a nation that, in 2000, had just witnessed its presidency stolen by a blatantly partisan Supreme Court — and lifted not a single finger to stop it. The French (and Germans, and Italians) would have been in the streets had that happened to them, burning cars and reputations until the wrong was redressed.

The 2000 election was a constitutional coup — two of them if you count the one attempted by George Bush's brother Jeb in Florida, whose own coup attempt was made moot by the U.S. Supreme Court's. Yet for almost every American, it happened on television only, a game show to be watched between dessert and the late-night comics.

Cole writes about how the French are not only willing to "throw a first class fit when the servants of the rich in government come after their lifestyles," but also how all of the unions and most of the working class had each other's backs during these actions.

For contrast, in the U.S. the United Food and Commercial Workers union recently filed a lone-wolf lawsuit against the Dept. of Agriculture for allowing poultry manufacturers to speed up production lines, and no other union joined with them. In France, according to Cole, "it wouldn’t have been one union filing a lawsuit. ... It would have been a massive set of mutually reinforcing strikes."

A massive set of mutually reinforcing strikes. Surrender monkeys indeed.

Civil War or Civil Chaos?

Now for the call to change our ways: At the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, Americans face a crossroads. For everyone who isn't either independently wealthy (like most of the donors who make up the real Republican base), or comfortably tucked into the professional managerial class (whose interests the Democratic Party seems most to serve), daily life is a both horror show now and collapsing fast to something even worse.

If there were ever a time to rise up, it's today. And rise up Americans will, I'm sure of it. With Covid deaths high (1,000 a day as I write this), incomes insecure for all but work-at-home professionals, and evictions just one or two missed paychecks away, even for the pre-Covid comfortable — with all this at the door, why would they not?

The question isn't will they rise up, but how will they revolt?

Will Americans rebel in an organized, focused way — like colonial Americans, for example, rose against British taxes, with planned resistance and coordinated action?

Or will the next rebellion devolve to the kind of battle that Jay Gould contemplated more than a century ago, a civil war where half of the suffering class attacks the other half, a chaotic free-for-all that allows the muscular security state to bootstomp in and "restore order" — all while our modern Jay Goulds (Jamie Dimon, Jeff Bezos, our hedge fund kings and queens, our CEOs of Google, Disney and Comcast), sail blindly off to their private-jet cocktail sunset, feeding on caviar and broken hearts?

Will Americans rise up effectively, with targets in mind — Medicare for All, Student Debt Forgiveness, Free Public Colleges and Universities, an actual End to Police Violence and Murder — and fight the misery descended upon them all?

Or will they rise up chaotically, their legitimate protests hijacked by Boogaloo Boys and FBI provocateurs, a faux-revolt where fascists battle anti-fascists, the former aided by violent, racist police, until the nation, getting nowhere, yearns for the security of a rapid but "managed" decline over the insecurity of a state-funded free fall to despair?

The time to decide all this is now, before the real first spark, the one that starts the American Arab Spring, is lit. If a General Strike seems frightening, consider the alternative, a five-way civil war with armed cops permanently stationed in the streets and skirmishes everywhere.

The French learned their lesson in 1789 and the century that followed their world-historical revolt, though it took them six generations to get things right.

"America, rise, or you will surely fall" is a lesson this generation has yet to learn. The task is not only to rise from five decades of sleep, but in rising, to act in a way that dispels the nightmare, and doesn't deepen it.
   

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10 Comments:

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be chaotic rebellion.

There is no realistic way for an organized general strike to be created when the NSA hears every spoken word and reads every written one. Trump has already tested using goon squads, and you know that the corporatist Democrats were watching closely, looking to improve the methods obamanation used to break up Occupy.

Even if these issues weren't authentic, the American people are not capable of changing their priorities until after it's too late to force any change. They are too connected to their toys and games to grow up and act like adults - and I'm not only talking about the young. Boomers still cling to outdated notions of superiority and entitlement, expressing materialistic values they can no longer maintain.

It really doesn't matter what the people do now. It doesn't matter which senile predator wins the the election, nor whether it's an honest election or a stolen one. The corporatocracy demands stability no matter how many people die in the process. Their Will Be Done.

Die For Profits!

 
At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

I HATE to be a pessimist. The young have not risen up yet. What about climate change? That would be something to rise up for but it hasn't happened. YET. After all, that will affect THEM the most, and their children, and our grandchildren. But maybe, just maybe, surely with the Black Lives Matter brouhahas going on, they will, and the middle and older aged of us will follow. Democracy is at stake. This is NO laughing matter. There is HOPE.

Hurry for the French, by the way!

 
At 11:58 AM, Blogger Cugel said...

I see a lot of hip pessimism, and "can't do" attitude. THis is flat B.S. Slavery was embedded in the Constitution; it was impossible to vote it out. The Civil War fixed that.

The South was the beneficiary of the corrupt bargain of 1877 that allowed the South to create Jim Crow and enforce "separate but equal" for a century -- in exchange for allowing Rutherford B.Hayes the Republican to take office.

Until the Civil Rights movement made it impossible to continue. We are at a similar movement. Most of the problems we face in America today are simply the result of the fact that the reactionaries are losing.

They can no longer hope to win fair elections, so they cheat in various ways. All we have to do therefore is make all that cheating impossible -- Civil Rights and Voting Rights reforms. Period. Enforced by the Justice Department. And if the neo-fascist Trumpite hacks on the S.Ct. get in the way, we put through a court packing plan.

We stop playing by their stupid rules. We have the numbers, we have the agenda, all we need is to commit a large and sustained movement to get it. If we eliminate vote suppression tactics, we have Trum's own words: "The Republican party would never win another election."

He's right. It's not much change that we need before the system starts moving. If they can't win AND they can't cheat their way to victory they will have to change.

This happened to the GOP after 1936. The went in a moderate direction for 1940 and nominated Wendel Willkie who ended up being Roosevelt's personal ambassador to Russia.

After we crush them, there will be incentive for Republicans to move to the center, which will allow Democrats to move further to the left. The Overton Window will have finally shifted in our direction. This was the case in America between 1936 and 1968.

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever Cugel smokes, I want some. I could use some pleasant dreams to offset the earthly ugliness in which we are inundated.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Cugel said...

It used to be that way in America. During the Eisenhower Administration the top marginal tax rate was 90%.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1952

Tax rates stayed way over 50% until the Reagan "tax reform" act of 1986. So, it's not as if we haven't done this kind of thing before. We just have a lot of billionaire whiners who scream every time their taxes go up slightly. We just have to learn to ignore them. Tax them and stop them from trying to privatize the Post Office and eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Tic Tok said...

Difficult to imagine a scenario in which enough people unite for a sustain resistance against not just this president, but against future Administrations after Trump. Anyone paying attention must realize the degradation of this country started long before Trump was president. What Trump has done is exposed just how dysfunctional this country really is and how corrupted and inept the leaders are in both Parties. A existential Constitutional crisis maybe what this country needs to galvanize the people to demand a reformation. A chaotic and uncertain election might just be, unfortunately, that needed crisis.

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Cugel will listen to Tic Tok and not the DNC.

 
At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's illegal in this country to have a general strike. You can only strike your own employer for cause.

 
At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cugel seems to be a '50s union member mentality in a facile, servile, dumber than shit America of the 21st century. What may have been potential 70 years ago is not possible today. americans are too stupid, gullible and lazy.

The only possible way for anything like a general strike is if biden and the corrupt neoliberal fascists win 2 entire branches (ala 2008) and the left immediately strikes against the fascism. Only then might the Nazis join them. They'd all be striking as protest of democrap policies.

No other scenario will result in the left-right coalition. It will end up a left-right civil war.

so... all you lefty potted plants... are you going to elect YOUR party and then go on strike to protest YOUR party?

THAT was a rhetorical question.

 
At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The question isn't will they rise up, but how will they revolt?"

No, sadly, Thomas. The question *IS* 'will they rise up?'. And the answer, as always, will be no.

As the above notes, it would have to be the left rising up against the party they elected. Logically, if they hated their party that much, they would find a different party.

are plants logical?

 

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