Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ahmadinejad U.N. Address Sparks Infantile Western Walk-Out

The U.S. and other Western delegations to the United Nations walked out in protest this week when Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that most people believe the U.S. government "orchestrated" the 911 attacks "to reverse the declining American economy," maintain U.S. influence in the Middle East, and "save the Zionist regime."

The idea that these comments are horribly offensive, a view held not just by the U.S. government, but by the representatives of the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Costa Rica, all of whom walked out upon hearing them, is curious - and unconvincing.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission at the U.N., came unglued, raving that, "Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable."

But why are Ahmadinejad's remarks "vile"? U.S. foreign policy itself is extremely vile, what with the mass killing of civilians, occupation of foreign lands, appropriation of resources that belong to others, ecological devastation, diplomatic coercion, and endless promotion of armaments and war, so it is not at all clear why the accusation that the U.S. government orchestrated 911 should be considered an intolerable affront to Washington's illusory dignity. Far greater crimes have been carried out by U.S. leaders going back over two centuries, a historical record that should long since have inured U.S. diplomats to charges of deliberate mass murder, whether real or imagined.

But imperialist murderers are a notoriously touchy lot, and cannot bear to have their childish illusions challenged, especially by the leader of an upstart Third World nation that goes its own way, undeterred by slander, threats, and sanctions. God forbid that anyone should deviate from echoing the self-congratulatory rhetoric of smugly self-satisfied "leaders" in the West.

It is presumably "anti-Semitic" to suggest that Washington acted to preserve Israel's apartheid state, as though the U.S. weren't always already doing this - before, during, and after the 911 attacks. This does not, of course, mean that the attacks were orchestrated by Washington, but it does suggest that U.S. defensiveness about acting on behalf of Israel is an avoidance reaction. What's the big deal about being accused of putting Israel first when U.S. leaders are constantly declaring eternal loyalty to the Jewish state based on a shared set of timeless values, and acting accordingly?

It must be that killing thousands of American citizens (allegedly) on behalf of Israel is the intolerable insult, but if this is so why weren't the diplomats who staged the walk-out equally offended by the thousands of Americans killed in Iraq on behalf of a neo-con vision of the world drafted in Israel during the first Netanyahu Administration? (See Israel's position paper, "A Clean Break: A Strategy For Securing The Realm.")

In fact, Ahmadinejad's speech was far better than one ever gets from the vast majority of U.S. leaders, who are addicted to bombast, piety, and rhetorical grandstanding, and offer no insight into world problems. Ahmadinejad at least forthrightly admits that capitalism has failed, that Middle East peace talks can't succeed because the rights of the Palestinian people are not taken into account, and nuclear disarmament is endlessly postponed because the nuclear nations, especially the United States, continually stockpile nuclear weapons, even as they call for Iran to forswear nuclear energy, which is not illegal.

In short, political "failure" in the contemporary world is caused by political success - the success of a waning U.S. Empire in dominating discussion employing an irrational set of terminology - disarmament as a synonym for evolving and stockpiling new weapons, peace as a synonym for war, and "freedom" meaning submission to unbridled corporate power and the national security state.


"Ahmadinejad U.N. Speech Sparks Walkouts," BBC News Online, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bolivian Vice-President Warns of U.S. Invasion Risk

The vice-president of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera, announced today that there is a latent risk the U.S. will invade his country on the pretext of an increase in drug trafficking, as occurred in Panama 20 years ago.

Due to President Evo Morales's visit to New York, the acting head of state affirmed in a press conference that the invasion is "a possibility," because, he said, the U.S. "doesn't accept" that Bolivia has decided to develop itself "without bosses or tutelage."

"Since our country is re-taking the path of dignity there are governments that don't like that, and they are going to look for a way to make us want to give in, and one of the ways is trying to stigmatize us with the label of drug-trafficking," said Linero.

The vice-president met with coca-leaf producers Monday to warn them that "there are foreign powers that use any pretext to silence the people," and he asked that they join the government in its struggle against drug trafficking and the eradication of illegal drug plantations.

Alluding to Panama, he said that, "already a brother country was invaded by American troops 20 years ago under the stigma of drug trafficking."

He added that the same occurred in Iraq, where American troops implanted themselves with the excuse that it had weapons of mass destruction, in order to "take possession of" its natural resources.

The relations between Bolivia and the U.S. have deteriorated since Morales assumed the presidency for the first time in 2006, and they suffered their worst moment in 2008 when their respective ambassadors were expelled.

Morales said yesterday in New York that "it will be difficult" to improve relations with the U.S. because President Barack Obama "discriminates" and excludes Bolivia from programs of cooperation.

Linera noted yesterday in La Paz that the "key" to good relations is that the American government "respect" the sovereignty of Bolivia and "understand" that this country "has chosen its own destiny."

Source: Univision news, translation by Michael K. Smith

-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" and "Portraits of Empire," with Common Courage Press. He can be reached at


Legalienate’s  broadcast division introduces  “Lox TV’ with a new season of envelope pushing, barrier stretching, ankle jerking, knee bending and gag inducing Reality Shows designed to bring millions to their feet cheering, stomping, weeping and shopping.

America Has Talk Show Talent !

Are you an alcoholic in recovery? A drug addict in rehab? Depressed over being kidnapped by extraterrestrials who neglected to conduct an anal probe? Reduced to a shrieking rage at the mildest provocation? Given to outbursts of egotistical and obnoxious  opinionating? Do Not Despair!

You could have a future as a LOX TV Political Pundit!

LOX TV will conduct workshops on how you can turn your personal defects and mental aberrations into a successful career as a television opinion shaper and national and even international trend setter. Classes  begin as soon as we get your check and it clears. Meanwhile, here are some of the exciting new shows that LOX  will present this season:

So You Think You Can Think?

Pits america’s most boring and long winded  intellectuals from academia and PBS against  bikers, texters, pundits and wrestling fans in debate before an audience  which has pre-failed every test of logic and reason. Panel of high school dropouts and brain surgeons  will  decide which debaters are thrown off the stage and into a pit of worms, snakes and  gas station toilet filth , or, for the losers, thrown on to the  Jersey Shore for the rest of the season

Let’s Burn Some Stuff, Y’all!

Each week books will be burned by  thought control agents  from churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, corporations and congress. They will select from a library containing the Old and New testaments , the Koran,  Indian Vedas, Stephen King and Thomas Crichton novels written since the beginning of the show, Catcher in the Rye, the Communist Manifesto, the Magna Carta , the collected works of Art Linkletter and Mother Theresa,   the Julia Childs Cookbook, How I Found Happiness by Marrying My Cat and Greatest Readers Digest Stories of American Mythology .

Go Take A Hike

Contestants will attempt to survive taking long walks in odd places, such as the USA-Mexican border, while carrying sacks of marijuana;  the 38th Parallel Korean divide , while armed with visible AK-47s;  the front lawn of a Minute Man’s home, in the dead of night while wearing a USA  GUBMINT TAX Collector uniform , and other daring and dangerous spots to stroll while entertaining a national tv audience too fat to get up off the couch.Those who succeed will be given a free pass to walk through Disneyland while dressed as Osama Bin Laden and carrying a suitcase labeled “terror bomber - approach with caution".

9/11 Truthiness Hour

Best fantasies of what Really,Truly, Really, Truly happened on 9/11, presented by science fiction writers, sports reporters, gossip web site owners, professors of twitter-ology and other daring and provocative analysts, interpreters and fabricators of reality, with exciting theories ranging from extra terrestrial flying saucer death rays felling the towers to the connections between the crucifixion of Christ, the framing of Mumia Abul Jamar, the assassination of Lincoln and the Chicago White Sox scandal to the twin tower prewiring and upholstering anomalies concept as being caused by  divine gas attack - cosmic farting - emanating from Secret Cabal of 19 over eating ethereal illuminati beings who control the universe from a cave in Appalachia.

The Sprawl-Mall-Buy-All Shopping Competition

Contestants have to buy more commodities on credit than anyone can possibly consume or pay for in the average lifetime by convincing their creditors that they will be meeting all their bills before god delivers little green apples , pigs produce low fat burgers , Newt Gingrich develops brains and Barrack Obama develops balls.

R U  Dumber Than A Rock?

A panel of intellectuals, philosophers, hair dressers, auto mechanics and professional athletes  will challenge  garden geodes, pebbles in a stream and rural parking lot gravel over mind boggling  questions ranging from the meaning of life to the meaning of American Idle - and winners , chosen by judges from Hollywood, Wall Street, Congress and Fox TV, will reach the final battle against the Rock of Gibraltar, Stonehenge and Pikes Peak. all considered by experts as being among the most intelligent rocks in the world.

Coming Soon!

Evangelical Lawyers Show: Who Would Jesus Sue?

Common Law Wives of the Mafia Meet Gay Wives of the Castro

Archeology Gossip Finds:

Mary Magdalen and John the Baptist An Item?

Scribes and Pharisees Were Republicans and Democrats?

Who’s To Say?

Why give a damn about anything? See these exciting shows, buy lots of products, eat junk foods, pick your nose - but not while eating - and hope for the best by tuning in to Channel Zero for the LOX TV Fall lineup of really great entertainment!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

911 - Sense and Sentimentality

If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses.

-----William Blum, Rogue State - A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

The annual commemorations of 911 highlight the blinding sentimentality that has long characterized the way Americans are encouraged to view the world. The idea that the 911 attacks came utterly out of the blue, masterminded by demonic cave-dwellers filled with hatred for "the very idea of America itself," as President Obama puts it, is too crude a fairy tale to even serve as an adequate bedtime story for toddlers. Yet, our increasingly clueless political leaders sincerely believe in such nonsense, and expect us to as well.

Facts are few and far between in this narrative. In the first place, the World Trade Center had already been attacked in 1993. That same year Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani, shot five people outside C.I.A. headquarters and told the F.B.I. that he had done it to protest U.S. policies towards Muslims in the Middle East, including the U.S.'s bombing of Iraq. Two days after Kansi's conviction in 1997, four Americans were shot and killed while driving in a car in Karachi, Pakistan. "I think the linkage is quite explicit," said an ex-counter-terrorism expert about the murders. The bombing of the two American embassies in Africa in 1998 took place on the eighth anniversary of the arrival of the first U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. And during the massive U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1991 there were dozens of terrorist attacks against U.S. institutions throughout the Middle East and even beyond. Finally, Washington's blind support for Israel's 53-year onslaught against the Palestinian people was widely loathed among Arabs and Muslims everywhere.

Furthermore, intelligence services around the world were well aware that something dreadful was coming out of the sky - and soon - in the months leading up to the attacks. Given these realities, the idea that the attacks were (1) a surprise, and (2) motivated by pure hatred for American freedom, is patently ridiculous.

There is nothing wrong in grieving for those whose lives were tragically and cruelly cut short by the attacks, nor in admiring the sense of collective purpose that took hold throughout the U.S. in the days immediately following 911. However, resistance is called for when these perfectly legitimate expressions of human feeling are perverted into a justification to slaughter innocents in Central Asia and the Middle East, as has been done relentlessly by the U.S. government for the past nine years. This resistance is nowhere to be seen on the American political landscape today, an absence that does not bode well for the future.

It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the 911 attacks to passively acquiesce in the crimes of state that make further such attacks nearly inevitable.

Furthermore, demonizing Islam, or "Muslim extremists," or even simply al Qaeda, will not help us understand our relationship to the Muslim world. And without understanding, there is no hope of effective change, let alone peace.

We ought to keep in mind that people willing to die in an attempt to kill us are formidable adversaries who cannot simply be dismissed as "a sorry band of men which perverts religion," to use President Obama's description of al-Qaeda. Sorry is in the eye of the beholder, and what looks to us like corruption and evil looks to many victims of U.S. policy like a long overdue come-uppance. We ignore this at our peril.

Patting ourselves on the back for our traditions of "free speech," which let tea party activists parade in public with signs expressing understandable contempt for phony Democratic Party "tolerance," will likewise lead us only to further sorrow. In reality, Democratic administrations regularly jettison free speech when it conflicts with war-making, with a vast cast of victims too numerous to mention here. In any event, as Americans our problem is not a failure to fight our enemies with uncompromising hostility, but rather, a failure to fight the wealthy minority that carries out vast killing operations in our name, earning us enemies we needn't ever have had. Until we face this squarely, our commemorations of 911 will be but preludes to further disaster.

Commentary about building an Islamic center near the site of the destroyed Twin Towers, and a deranged pastor's threats to burn a Koran, are painfully obvious attempts to distract us from the ruling minority's wholesale contempt for the American people, dramatically evidenced by the trillions of dollars in money and credit advanced to the fraudsters that crashed the economy in 2008. Two years later, with no recovery in sight, the American people are told they must pay back the money that has been stolen from them, even if it costs them their homes, their jobs, their savings, their pensions, and every last shred of human dignity. The massive cuts in social services required to indulge this madness are an under-appreciated form of terrorism we ought to pay a lot more attention to.


"On 9/11, commemorations accompanied by focus on Islam, Washington Post, September 11, 2010

"Obama: 9/11 Victims Endure In Our Nation's Heart,"

Blum, William, Rogue State - A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, (Common Courage, 2000)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Who Are We ?

Under assault by a consciousness control system that insists we are doing quite well even when evidence shows we’re on the critical list, we have reason to be confused.

We were advised that combat in Iraq had ended as media  swooned over 4,000 troops leaving,  without mentioning 50,000 remaining.  Or the 7000 new  mercenaries who would  continue murderous policy. Or the treasonous lies used to wreak devastation upon an innocent people murdered, made refugees and reduced to poverty as a result of our destruction of their developed  state , leaving a dysfunctional nation in its place.

We were informed that North Korea was “menacing” 30,000 U.S. military  personnel on its borders, playing what were called “war games”. If 30,000 North Korean troops were rehearsing mass murder off the coast of California , we would  not feel threatened but instead send them peace offerings of Kim Chi.  Meanwhile, our joined-at-the-U.S.-bankroll brethren in Israel continued suffering an existential crisis  because Iran may someday have  nuclear weapons which could  destroy the hundreds  already existing in the Israeli arsenal.

And we were entertained by a revival of what has come to be known as the “peace process”. These are pointless meetings  offering photo-ops and blather between  Israel and the United States with mis-representatives of the Palestinians, while the apartheid atrocity continues unabated. The  charade was renewed as Hamas conducted attacks on what  most of the world sees as invaders of its land. Their actions against settlers - the western term  for  armed colonialists, as they are seen by those in whose homes and on whose land they settle - was  criticized as bloody murder while complete silence was maintained, as always, about  bloody murders and dreadful conditions in Gaza.

Politicians who voted against funding health care for workers  sickened  by cleaning up the debris after 9/11 then decided that  hallowed ground should not have an Islamic cultural center built more than two blocks away from ground zero. These  parasites had no idea the project existed until it was brought to their attention by a Muslim hating blogger who, common to that breed , treats the world’s more than one billion Muslims as though they were the 19 terrorists of 9/11. These ghouls - they actually give a bad name to creatures who feed on the dead - unleashed an anti-Islamic wave of  moronic and hateful bigotry beyond anything provoked by real  problems of war,  immigration, unemployment and the overall economic crisis.

The  programmed remembrances of that tragic day of 9/11 always attempt to obliterate awareness  of the much greater slaughters it was used to provoke  and the present national threat posed by our perverse foreign and economic policies which serve wealthy minorities while driving the majority apart - and nearly out of its mind - with divisive cultural and identity  barriers. These prevent us from seeing the ominous burdens we  bear collectively and from which we have no  personal , cultural or  hyphenated protection . We are made to accept ourselves as dozens of artificially separated  minorities, but are forbidden from seeing ourselves more realistically as  two hyphenated groups:
1: Rich-Americans ;  and
2: the-other-ninety-nine-percent-who-work-for-a-living Americans.

Our mind managers and their servants  tell us how desperately we need those wealthy people to invest in the market so that we can survive with jobs they somehow create. Belief in this economic folklore is like believing the most intelligent person in America is that Florida fanatic  who threatened to burn the Koran . If you think that’s so , don’t read any further.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now earn -  an extremely relative term - more than the bottom 50 percent combined. Back in the 1970s, the richest 1 percent collected 8 percent of the national income. By the year 2006, that rose to nearly 23 percent and continues climbing. At this point 99% of us are sharing about 75% of the income. Sounds fair, if you’re satisfied with being a serf or peasant compared to your rulers . And while the top 100 CEOs once averaged earning 45 times more than their workers,   in 2009 the nearly incredible ratio was 1,071 to 1. But wait, that’s not all.

The  400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of more than $1.3 trillion, which averages out to more than 3 billion dollars each. How hard do those 400 work, if at all , compared to the average sanitation, bank, school, healthcare , transit or other worker among the millions in that 99% below them who are the substance of daily economic life? Does the expression “democracy” have any real meaning?

We are allowed and encouraged to mobilize against  suspected 9/11 conspiracies organized by “our” government , strongly urged and manipulated to form Tea Parties in opposition to the injustices of “our” government, but forbidden from seeing “our ” government as a creature of minority wealth operating against “our” interest and threatening the social and natural environment in the process while sustaining itself by setting us against one another. We are disorganized to hate others among the majority while justifiably being  enraged about material conditions which are directly controlled by minorities which might as well be invisible gods for the way we are socialized to treat or think about them.

If we, the people of these United States ,  are ever to be a united nation we have to penetrate the lead curtain of misinformation in which we are imprisoned and begin thinking as a population with a collective destiny which demands collective action. We have a serious social identity crisis and cannot save ourselves by making war against ourselves. But if we want a peaceful world and safe environment, we need to break out of  the mental prison in which we’ll remain as long as we are kept separate, and unequal , by the controllers of what goes into our minds under the false label of information.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor's Story

“No good thing has been or can be enjoyed by us without having first cost labour. And inasmuch as most good things are produced by labour, it follows that all such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened, in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have without labour enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong and should not continue. To secure to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a worthy object of any good government.”

-----Abraham Lincoln

“Under the leadership of their trade unions and political organizations, the American workers through struggle secured higher wages, shorter working days, better conditions, numerous democratic reforms and an improved status in the community commensurate with their importance to society.”

----Philip S. Foner, “History of the Labor Movement in the United States,” Vol. 1

by Michael K. Smith

On this Labor Day, with workers trampled upon and forgotten as usual, it might do us some good to remember that virtually everything that makes life pleasurable originally came from organized labor. In the beginning, of course, there was no unemployment insurance, which is currently sparing us the massive upheaval characteristic of depressions and recessions in the past. In the colonial era, for example, workers were often unable to keep their children from starving and themselves out of jail.

This is not, as our corporate media encourages us to suppose, because poverty is akin to a natural disaster whose devastation can only be stoically endured. Under capitalism disaster is characteristic of the business cycle, and very profitable, with employers typically extracting profit from labor by keeping wages as low as possible.

And this is not because employers claim a right to exploit workers, quite the contrary. They claim the right to benefit workers - by routinely reducing them to desperation.

In the colonial era employers argued that depressed wages were necessary “to save the American Workingman from himself.” As a U.S. employer explained in 1769, if not required to continually labor, workers only cause problems: “It is certain that high wages more frequently make labouring people miserable; they too commonly employ their spare time and cash, in debauching their morals and ruining their health.” In short, poverty forces workers into indentured servitude and keeps them out of trouble.

A decent standard of living was never on offer from corporate America. It took several centuries of bitter struggle for American workers to win decent wages and ample leisure, a victory that is now being reversed due to the almost complete disappearance of organized labor. The bankers who stole trillions of dollars in public money are not shedding a tear.

Another labor victory was the expansion of democracy. Although the current state of the two candidate-producing organizations that masquerade as independent political parties (Democrat and Republican) might tempt one to suppose otherwise, labor's expansion of the franchise to all adult male workers was a major step forward that made full public participation in political life at least theoretically possible.

In the 18th century, property qualifications for voting had disenfranchised the poor. Workers were denied the vote, taxed to support an established church, robbed of the chance to buy land by speculators and landed gentry holding vast estates, imprisoned for debt, and forced to wear “common” clothes to distinguish them from the rich. Back then, workers did not consider it a waste of time to vote, as many people do today. In fact, riots often broke out on election days when small shopkeepers, artisans, and laborers marched to the polls armed with sticks and stones to demand the ballot.

We would do well to surrender our cynicism and remember why employers were so afraid of workers getting the vote. The reason had been made plain at least as early as 1646, when Nathaniel Bacon led a revolt against Virginia's planter aristocracy. The report of the King’s investigators expressed shock at the workers’ talk of “sharing men’s estates among themselves.” When revolution came in the following century, James Madison and the Federalists made sure that constitutional oligarchy won out over the "leveling" tendencies of popular democracy. It was essential that “the mob, “the mixed rabble of Scotch, Irish, and foreign vagabonds,” “descendants of convicts,” “foul-mouthed and inflaming sons of discord and faction," as workers were then called by their "betters", be kept cowed and subordinated.

In those years, of course, children formed a major part of the working class. In 1820 half of textile factory workers were boys and girls nine and ten years old. The work day was from sunup to sundown, which meant 14-16 hours of labor in summer (with two hours or less off for meals), and 9 to 12 hours in winter. Since pay was by the day, employers assigned more work in the late spring, when days were longer.

Trade unions emerged from the workers’ recognition that it was just as important to prevent employers from forcing them into a position of dependence as it was to cooperate after they had been plunged into distress.

Workers also understood that no union worthy of the name could do without the closed shop. (The closed shop goes back to 1794 when Philadelphia shoemakers compelled employers to hire only union members.) Employers often busted contracts by bringing in non-union workers at less than agreed upon pay rates, a practice that quickly resulted in union members’ pay being reduced to the level of the non-union workers. Once forced to compete against non-union workers who were entitled to all of the benefits the union had won through solidarity, without having to continue practicing it, no union lasted.

Unions were defined as a conspiracy against the public and denied a social role from the beginning of the U.S, when a mercantile and financial aristocracy took over the fledgling republic. Thomas Jefferson returned from his mission to France in 1789, appalled to discover that wealthy merchants and speculators were dominating the country. Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists regarded democracy as “government of the worst,” and were openly working to establish a monarchy. Former president of the Continental Congress John Jay summed up the attitude of the Federalists, stating his conviction that, “Those who own the country ought to govern it.”

Workers had no institutions they could turn to for help. The supposedly non-partisan courts were their bitter enemies. Judges consistently supported employer efforts to force down wages and blacklist workers who resisted. Stephen Simpson, a labor leader, aptly summed up labor's plight in the Working Man’s Manual in 1831: “If mechanics combine to raise their wages, the laws punish them as conspirators against the good of society, and the dungeon awaits them as it does the robber. But the laws have made it a just and meritorious act, that capitalists shall combine to strip the man of labour of his earnings, and reduce him to a dry crust, and a gourd of water. Thus does power invert justice, and derange the order of nature.”

Daily forced to toil past exhaustion, workers naturally yearned to give the gift of education to their children. In the wake of the American Revolution popular associations called Democratic Societies sprang up to promote popular learning. By means of Correspondence Committees the Societies put popular education on the national agenda. The founding of the public school system was a direct result of the work of these societies, in which American workers played a prominent role. As the Democratic Society in Philadelphia said: “The establishment of public schools upon proper principles will insure the future of independence and republicanism.”

In the 1790s, the mechanics and laborers of the Democratic Societies demanded public education. But workers’ children continued to grow up ignorant. Few schools for workers’ children existed, and few children could attend them. Workers did not consider this outcome accidental, and demanded education not as “a grace and bounty or charity,” but as “a matter of right and duty.” According to one labor group, education was needed “to enable us to raise us from that state of ignorance and poverty, and consequently of vice and wretchedness and woe, to which we have been degraded by the subtle and deceitful machinations of the crafty and wicked.”

The struggle for popular education consumed many decades. In 1858 the Workingmen’s Union of Trenton, New Jersey demanded that all revenues derived from chartered corporations, “as they are the price of special privilege and belong to the people,” should be appropriated to the support of the common schools in the state, and “as education is a primary want of a free people, these schools should be extended until knowledge shall be as free as the air we breathe.” There's still a long way to go to fulfill this goal, but let the record show that this is labor's dream, not capital's.

As for the conditions that workers endured in the early years of the republic, an “Appeal of the Working People of Manayunk to the Public,” written four years after the depression of 1829, captures them rather well:

“We are obliged by our employers to labor at this season of the year, from 5 o’clock in the morning until sunset, being fourteen hours and a half, with an intermission of half an hour for breakfast, and an hour for dinner, leaving thirteen hours of hard labor, at an unhealthy employment, where we never feel a refreshing breeze to cool us, overheated and suffocated as we are, and where we never behold the sun but through a window, and an atmosphere thick with the dust and small particles of cotton, which we are constantly inhaling to the destruction of our health, our appetite, and strength. . . . . the little rest we receive during the night [is] not . . . sufficient to recruit our exhausted physical energies, we return to our labor in the morning, as weary as when we left it . . .our wages are barely sufficient to supply us with the necessaries of life. We cannot provide against sickness or difficulties of any kind . . . for our present wants consume the little we receive, and when we are confined to bed of sickness any length of time, we are plunged into the deepest distress, which often terminates in total ruin, poverty, and pauperism.”

Mill “hands” were often forced to buy goods at exorbitant prices in the company store, with workers remaining sunk in debt after each paycheck. Workers were paid every three or six months in most factories, and payment was made in tokens redeemable only at the company store.

A major triumph of labor was the movement to limit the length of the working day, which was considered treason when it was first proposed. The movement to limit work hours to ten per day spread like wildfire in the decade 1825-1835. The movement included leather dressers, printers, carpenters, bricklayers, masons, city workers, hod-carriers, coal heavers, painters, bakers and dry good clerks.

Workers in the 10-hour movement proclaimed leisure as a right. Said a group of journeymen of house carpenters in Nashville in 1847: “We are flesh and blood, we need hours of recreation. It is estimated by political economists that five hours labor per day by each individual would be sufficient for the support of the human race. Surely then we do our share when we labor ten. We have social feelings which must be gratified. We have minds and they must be improved. We are lovers of our country and must have time and opportunity to study its interests. Shall we live and die knowing nothing but the rudiments of our trade? Would the community of which we are members suffer loss because we are enlightened?”

Thanks to organized labor the working day has been drastically reduced for the great majority from the 14-15 hours a day it used to be. In 1883, most New England textile workers had an average working day of a bit over 10 hours. Bakers worked from 80 to 120 hours a week. Organized cigar makers, 55 to 60 hours a week; unorganized cigar makers, 66 to 90 hours a week (a 16-hour day was not unusual). Transportation workers in most urban areas worked between 90 and 100 hours a week.

In the face of all the aforementioned achievements, employers denounced the “moral gangrene of trade union principles,” and characterized organized labor as fundamentally “un-American.” Thankfully, workers continued pushing their "unpatriotic" agenda: a free labor press, libraries, reading rooms, discussion forums.

In spite of much propaganda to the contrary, workers did not attempt to deny anyone the right to accumulate property through hard work and frugality. What they opposed was the granting of special privileges to a few that enabled them to monopolize property and capital, to the detriment of the great majority.

This is an obviously relevant lesson for today.


-----Philip S. Foner, “History of the Labor Movement in the United States,” Vol. 1