March 29, 2004
[Author's Note: I have recently sorted through party platforms from both major parties dating from the early 1950s to date. Pages of pious platitudes signifying much and delivering little show a few points of interest to the polymorphously perverse. To cut to the chase, I have picked two points as summary focus: Privatization and Coup d'État. To ratify the Bush Coup of 2000 is to ratify also privatization of community assets, The Commons. With ratification, the concepts and words of Progressive politics are dealt yet another blow.]
2004 Hawaii Democratic Party Platform:
To restore the United States of America as a nation valuing its
diverse peoples and pluralistic ideals, the Hawaii Democratic Party
will lead the way to defeat Republican candidates at all levels of
If you cherish peace, justice, freedom, diversity and pluralism, you will not find those values within the fundamentalists of the military-industrial-media-religious complex who have seized power in the once United States of America. If you cherish the ideas and ideals of America's founding fathers, they are being eroded deeply by these fundamentalists whose lusts for power and needs to control others are overwhelming us.
The issue, then, is simple. Will those who vote in November 2004 ratify the Bush coup d'état or not? Should the coup d'état be ratified by popular and electoral vote, fear will indeed be appropriate. Fear not so much of terrorists as of the coup. Progress, a very loaded word, is then stopped dead.
In Genesis, a creation story in two versions, Judeo-Christians are urged to dominate, to take dominion. Did that God expect or ordain the consequences which flow from that charge? Is dominion, domination, progress? Do those who today call themselves "Progressives" obey the call to dominate? Confusing, no?
The Hebrew God, as seen in The Old Testament, was a wrathful omniscience who most violently cleansed others. He comes across as a prototypical Terminator à la Arnie Muscle-Man. In sharp contrast, Jesus, the Christ is Love, Peace, Compassion, Freedom and Justice embodied and hung out to dry.
Images from The Old Testament are loaded with death and violence. Christ's story from The New Testament ends up very gory and horrific. Today, we approach Apocalypse, rapture, the end and the beginning. Mel Gibson moves from Mad Max to Passion conflating the post-nuclear horrors with his staunch traditional Catholic perspectives. Even the Pope is more liberal. He thereby rekindles passions better left dormant and pockets millions.
As I mention frequently, historian John Lukacs early identified (1984) the resurgence of barbarism to mark these nascent years of this 21st century. His last book, At the End of An Age, (1) extends his prophecy. Much like Daniel Quinn in his Ishmael series, (2) Lukacs demands we look very critically at Mother Culture (Quinn's term). Mother Culture is the pervasive myth carried in the conditioned unconscious of virtually all humankind. The words and languages may change but the myth remains consistent. As Quinn notes, to see the fallacies of Mother Culture, to abandon Mother Culture, is to cut off food. Alienation, separation, and survival fears are very potent deterrents to deviation from Mother Culture.
Lukacs makes a very strong point: ". . . we do not have ideas, we choose them." Quinn, then, identifies that the ideas most frequently chosen are embedded in Mother Culture. When we become aware of the ideas we choose, when we know Mother Culture, we are highly conflicted. To opt out of Mother Culture means choosing to live outside Mother Culture. Opting out has high costs.
Progressives in American political contexts may also be identified with those who opt out of Mother Culture. Is that a viable generalization?
Lukacs insists that ending the Modern Age, as he identifies it, is not to end the world. We need in his words, ". . . to rethink the modern notion of 'Progress'."
In working up to the pivotal 2004 election, Dennis J. Kucinich, Congressman from Ohio, has clasped the name "Progressive" to his campaign. He dusts off, as few of his youthful supporters probably are aware, ideas and challenges which earlier held others enraptured with hopes to break free of Mother Culture's dominance. Key to Kuchinch's stance is the power to choose other ways of being and to act upon our choices positively. If successful, Progressives may opt out of Mother Culture without losing lunch as well.
Earlier in the 20th century, America's heartland states of Wisconsin and Minnesota boiled up with Progressive impulses. Progressives, old and new, insist that people, not Plutocrats or Oligarchs, must determine society's directions, policies and practices.
The near-tyrannical practices of Plutocrats, Oligarchs and Robber Barons, their private Pinkerton Armies, their control of police forces and legislatures, their dictation of content to newspapers and magazines were burying America. They contorted America to expansionist and imperialist missions beyond her borders. In the Plutocratic view now resurgent, People are to be dominated as is nature.
Resistance took many forms. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) attempted to organize mines and heavy industry, particularly in the Western mountain states. Branded "Anarchists" and later "Communists," the Wobblies were hunted like animals, ruthlessly beaten and murdered.
Wisconsin's Progressives under Senator Robert LaFollette put a political face on resistance. Minnesota's Farmer-Labor coalitions echoed and expanded demands for political and economic justice. Massacre was the response. Muckrakers such as Sinclair Lewis wrote volumes indicting the Plutocrats and Robber Barons.
World War One, the War to End All Wars, intervened. Draconian laws were enacted to curb and to punish dissent. Scott Nearing, prolific progressive, was one victim. Johnny marched off to France and soaked his blood into that soil to mingle with the best and brightest of Great Britain, France, Austria and Germany. Old empires shook and the new American empire muscled up to take over. Armistice became interlude. The Charleston '20s gave way to Great Depression in the '30s before giving way to war in the '40s.
Exploited workers tried to organize. From stockyards to factories, strikes broke out. Pinkertons, police and, at the Veterans' Bonus March in Washington, the US Army smashed and killed to enforce and to maintain dominance by the few. Small gains were made as American Federation of Labor (AFL) was upstaged by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The haughty tradespeople of AFL wanted little to do with the rough and uncouth CIO factory workers. The Plutocrats played them off on each other. As is frequently the case, divide and conquer gave way to assimilation as labor leadership succumbed to power lusts of their own.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a landed aristocrat, set up his 1930s New Deal, a landmark Great Depression effort to save what could be saved of America's society and economy. First, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) made some key concessions to labor. Struck down by an earlier partisan Supreme Court in 1935, a leaky compromise was patched together in the Wagner Act later that year. Further efforts and furious conflicts finally incorporated wage and hour legislation along with a modified National Labor Relations Board in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.
The Taft-Hartley Act remains on the books in skeletal form. Successive Republican administrations have gutted it until today enforcement is weak and spotty. Labor in the form of AFL-CIO has squeaked mightily as it has been dismantled. Union membership has shrunk as management has made it very clear that to question them is to question Mother Culture. To question Mother Culture means cutting off access to wages, cutting off food in Quinn's construct. The essential actuality remains that management hates labor. It uses all its political power to infringe and to deny acceptably fair treatment for workers.
World War Two intervened. War bred a surface prosperity. Prosperity came from gun barrels. Jobs were plentiful. Women fled the home to go to work. Attention was thoroughly driven away from domestic problems. John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers (UMW) was one of the few labor leaders who hewed to a vision of workers' rights, decent wages, safe working conditions, health and pension benefits. He was vilified. Federal troops supported management resistance to UMW demands.
Attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) under Walter Reuther to attain similar rights were also driven down by force. Some advances were made to guarantee continued war production. Disgruntled union workers were accused of sabotaging tanks, planes and ships. Management took a few steps back biding time to recoup them later.
Postwar prosperity tended to blur labor efforts to expand organization. Anti-communism, from 1917 Bolshevik accession to 1991 peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union, was the shroud within which any resistance to plutocratic control was cloaked. "Progressive" was etched in the public mind as Communist. Attention to social needs, extension and expansion of safety net for the unfortunates of society are relentlessly attacked.
No effort is spared to make "welfare" a nasty word. Those who received welfare in any form other than corporate welfare were slackers if not Communists. The attacks on anarchists, Wobblies, communists, unions, people on welfare have worked. The new enemy is named Terrorism.
Under the guise of a "War on Terrorism," the old Plutocratic agendas are again given full effect. Treasury is looted to prevent present and future possibilities of social action. War is touted, financed, and glorified to divert attention for myriad other societal needs. Resumption of space exploration is set to be yet another diversion of effort, money and power from "progressive" alternatives. Civil rights and constitutional guarantees of due process, privacy, free speech, assembly, etc., are gutted with more Draconian prospects should the Bush coup be ratified.
Added to the mix is blatant appeal to Judeo-Christian fundamentalists raging up in Old Testament wrath to vitiate any promise embodied in a savaged Jesus, the Christ.
To have any hope, however dim and distant, of countering, resisting these forces, of reentering a Progressive agenda into American life; the Bush coup cannot be ratified.
The Democratic Party must, then, affirm as Platform that the overwhelming issue for 2004 is ending the Bush coup d'état.
· · · · · ·
Notes and Resources
1. At the End of An Age, John Lukacs, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002, ISBN 0-300-09296-2. (back)
2. Ishmael, Daniel Quinn, Bantam, 1993, ISBN 0-553-56166-9 (back)
Privatization: A Platform Issue - Milo Clark (March 15, 2004)
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Milo Clark on Swans (with bio).
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