what were they thinking?: the germans

The neoliberal/capitalist class plan for reform in Germany does not vary in any detail from the de-Keynesian American political-economic scheme that has been implemented by Republicans and Democrats over the past 25 years. You have to wonder if Germans really cared so much about singlehandedly fixing the US trade deficit that they actually elected a neoliberal regime to hurry up and rape them–as if the SPD wasn’t doing it fast enough. Or if, like in America, elections are rigged by the bosses’ political employees. Having elected the Merkel-Schroeder coalition, strapped working Germans can now look forward to paying not only for increasing oil prices but also picking up the whole health care tab, all the while losing quality jobs and helping their capitalist overlords achieve a corrupt security based in severe social stratification. Neoliberals make many disingenuous claims. One, they claim they need the working class to consume more. Neoliberals, here’s a question for you: How are German workers going to increase consumption when they have to bear the whole burden of health care and other social goods as individuals? And apparently the neoliberal officialese bullshit about “job creation” is still in currency. Does anyone believe this “jobs” line anymore after all these years? Neoliberalism has nothing to do with job creation. That’s a flat lie. It has everything to do with redirecting wealth from the working middle and lower classes to the owning upper class. Since this classic neoliberal song and dance is no secret, we have to guess that the voting Germans just thought “Grevious inequality works so well in the US. Why not here?” I will soon review the excellent and well-written book The Impact of Inequality, which catalogs in excruciating detail the effects and causes of inequality-based social degradation. See Wilkinson, Richard G. 2005. The impact of inequality: How to make sick societies healthier. New York: The New Press.

From Rippert, Ulrich. 2005. “Big business lobbies step up pressure on Germany’s grand coalition.”
29 October, the World Socialist Website

“All power proceeds from big business and its lobbies.” This is not how the German constitution reads, but this is how it is interpreted by numerous economic research institutes and business groups that, under the guise of scientific research, lobby on behalf of the employers and major capitalist interests.

From the beginning of coalition negotiations between the Union parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU)—and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), a wave of reports has appeared that demand lower wages, the dismantling of protection against dismissal, elimination of employer contributions for social security, introduction of educational fees, etc., etc.

They have a good chance of finding an audience. Those involved in the coalition negotiations have made no secret of the fact that business demands have top priority.

Over the past week, Germany’s prominent economic institutes have submitted their autumn reports. Their central prognosis is that there is no prospect in the foreseeable future for a turnaround or a noticeable upswing either in German economic development or the job market. Therefore, wages should be held as low as possible, the economists conclude.

They assert that wages regulated by Germany’s tariff agreements should rise by about 1 percent at most, “even if the economic situation improves and the job market situation eases somewhat.” The trade unions have to send “reliable signals that they are not seeking at the first opportunity to compensate for losses with higher wage agreements.”

“Top Institutes Demand Shrinking Wages,” was the headline of Spiegel-Online’s report, which points out that even as they demand wage restraint, economic researchers regard low private consumption as the “biggest problem.”

“Weak consumer spending since 2002 has not yet been overcome,” the article reads. Increased energy costs and contributions to health insurance still have a negative effect on purchasing power. Real consumption will therefore sink this year by 0.5 percent, and in the coming year by about at least 0.2 percent.

The economic reports call upon the government to cut state expenditures while lowering taxes for business, thereby reducing the budget deficit.

A few days previously, the chairman of the federal employers’ association, Dieter Hundt, issued a catalog of demands under the heading, “The Expectations of German Business from the Coalition Negotiations.” Germany’s main federation of business organisations prioritises two demands: first, further tax cuts for big business, and second, a “fundamental reorganisation of our social security system.”

Germany’s health and nursing care insurance must be completely freed from its current “financing based on an employer-employee relationship,” the strategy paper reads. In other words, the employers’ portion of social security financing is to be transferred to the workers—a massive shift in favour of big business. As the first step, Hundt demands a “freezing of the employer contribution to health insurance.”

At the same time, the pension age must be raised to 67 years. “Even if that was not a component of the election programmes of the CDU/CSU and SPD, prominent politicians from both parties have repeatedly referred to this necessity,” stressed the employer’s chief spokesman, who then told the press, “[N]ot political maneuvering, but rather economic necessities” must dominate the coalition negotiations.

The constantly recurring formula reads, “for more growth and jobs,” followed by the demand that unemployment insurance contributions be lowered and the value-added tax increased. The VAT is levied only on final products, that is, retail goods. It is a consumption tax. As it replaces progressive taxation, the working-class consumer takes on a larger share of the tax burden. The fresh revenues resulting from the VAT increase are to be used to lower owners’ social welfare contributions and thereby cut costs for entrepreneurs.

The formulation, “We cannot avoid introducing further job market flexibility,” is aimed at abolishing protections against dismissal for all enterprises with less than 20 employees. In larger enterprises, a weakened form of protection against dismissal is to apply, but only after the third year of employment. The existing laws protecting workers against dismissal are, according to Hundt, the chief obstacle to the creation of new jobs. Only if entrepreneurs are given free rein, as is the case in America, with its culture of “hire and fire,” will it be possible to create new jobs.

Even more extensive and detailed are the suggestions—perhaps more accurately, instructions—issued by the German Economic Institute in Cologne. The institute presented its comprehensive 75-page “Reform Concept for the New Federal Government” just a few days after the September 18 elections to the parliament (Bundestag). The text bears a title that reads like an ultimatum—”Vision Germany: What Must Be Done Now”—and reads like a blueprint for the programme of the incoming government.

A 100-day programme of immediate tasks and a 1,000-day programme of longer-term concepts are set forth in accordance with the demands of big business and the employer associations.

The table of contents gives the game away: lower contributions for unemployment insurance, the abolition of social solidarity-based tax systems, increased value-added tax, lower taxes for enterprises, dismantling of job-protection measures, cuts in ancillary wage costs, an intensification of the anti-welfare Hartz IV measures, competition in the health insurance and care system, modernisation of labour and tariff laws, family policy to be adapted to employment requirements, fundamental reform of the tax system, and so on.

In addition, the document proposes the dismantling of state assistance programmes, the slimming down of the state, increasing flexibility in the field of education, and a “more efficient organisation of student fess.” (I don’t know what a student “fess” is.)

It is worthwhile looking at the individual chapters more closely. Each subsection is devoted to a particular problem, followed by a detailed suggestion for reform and the arguments that should be made in favour of its implementation. Thus, the chapter “Lower Business Taxes” explains that the extension of the European Union to the East has weakened Germany’s position in the field of international tax competitiveness, because business tax in the new European Union member states averages about 20 percent, while enterprises in Germany pay rates of 38.6 percent.

Therefore, the corporation tax should be lowered from its existing level by 6 percent—a measure that was already agreed on, but not yet implemented by the Union parties and SPD at the so-called “jobs summit” held in the spring of this year. The resulting reduction in tax income, estimated at 5.3 billion euros, is to be compensated for by the “abolition of tax write-offs” and the dismantling of unspecified subsidies.

In this connection, the axing of tax rebates for commuters and the cancellation of premiums for Sunday, holiday and night shift working was discussed last spring. Such measures shift money directly from the pockets of employees into the coffers of the employers. An additional demand is the cancellation of death duties for family enterprises.

In the chapter “Facilitate Job Creation,” the demand is raised for the legalisation of the practice of employing workers initially on short-term contracts, and then continually renewing such contracts, instead of employing them on the basis of a proper full-time contract.

Under the headings “Cuts in Ancillary Wage Costs” and “Cuts in Active Labour Policy,” a series of demands is raised for a further intensification of the measures begun under the Hartz IV legislation, including even more draconian requirements before unemployed persons can receive any benefits. Payments for those retiring early are to be cut, and the document also demands the elimination of existing training and job-bridging schemes.

Germany’s health insurance system is to be further curtailed, in order to force workers to take out additional private insurance. One demand is for an increase in practice fees and payments for medicine—measures that hit the poorest social layers hardest. The list of cuts is almost endless, and extends to the “abolition of child benefits for pupils or students over 19, as well as the abolition of financial assistance for students in favour of study fees amounting to 2,500 euros annually.”

The whole package represents a massive reallocation of social wealth from the poorest to the richest, and is justified in a thoroughly demagogic fashion by most political parties and a majority of the media as a “campaign for job creation.”

Germany’s outgoing SPD-Green Party government had already saved 30 billion euros taken from the poorest layers of the population via social cuts, and handed this money over to the rich and super-rich in the form of tax gifts. Over the same period, many German enterprises have recorded record profits while at the same time wiping out huge numbers of jobs.

Along with the destruction of legally regulated tariff jobs, the attacks on Germany’s welfare system are aimed at forcing the unemployed to accept low-wage employment. Within the space of a few years, a huge low-wage sector has been established with up to 6 million such jobs. Now this sector is to be systematically expanded.

Big business associations and their institutes are determined to introduce American-type conditions in Germany and Europe. Recent events should serve as a warning. A few weeks ago, the management of Delphi, America’s largest auto supplier, with more than 35,000 workers in the US and many works in other countries, demanded wage cuts of 60 percent for its American workers and then filed for bankruptcy protection in order to impose its demands.

The preface to the dissertation “Vision Germany: What Must Be Done Now” recommends that the state should take less responsibility and give more freedom of choice to the individual. Privatisation and competition are regarded as the basis for growth and prosperity.

A glimpse across the Atlantic shows the real meaning of such clichés. The recent hurricane disaster in New Orleans was testimony to the devastating consequences of privatising social life and subjecting every aspect of society to the profit motives of a privileged minority.

The fact that the Cologne Institute had a finished economic programme for implementation by all governing parties just a few days after the election throws light on the forces behind the decision for early elections in Germany. In view of increasing public opposition to government policy, the most influential business groups were vehemently opposed to any “standstill” until scheduled elections due in autumn of next year. They are determined to impose their anti-social policies at all costs and without delay.

Germany’s new chancellor, Angela Merkel (CDU), has already made clear where she stands. Last Sunday, she assured communications professionals that there would be “no return to social romanticism.”

sexual assault, working class abasement

Excerpted from a critique of the movie “North Country”, this article discusses the connections among economic decline, company unions, working class abasement, and sexual assault. It critiques privileged artists’ facile romanticization of legal resolution within the U.S.
North Country is directed by Niki Caro; screenplay by Michael Seitzman, based on the book, Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler.

The Jenson v. Eveleth Mines case, the first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit in US history, inspired North Country, the new film directed by New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro (Whale Rider). The lead plaintiff in that case, Lois Jenson, who began working at the northern Minnesota iron mine in 1975, along with 14 other women, ultimately won a multimillion-dollar settlement in 1998—eleven years after the suit was filed.

The punishing and often degrading legal battle against the company exacted an immense toll on the women, most of whom were left physically and mentally debilitated.

The Mesabi Iron Range contains some 110 miles of small towns built at the turn of the last century along a seam of iron ore called taconite. Eveleth Mines was opened by Ford Motor Co. in 1966, and the workers were organized by the United Steelworkers of America (USWA). In 1974, there was an affirmative action “consent decree” between the federal government, nine of the largest steel companies and the USWA, requiring the companies to provide 20 percent of their new jobs to women and racial minorities.

The Bingham/Gansler book hints at some of the conditions that led to the attacks on female workers: “At Eveleth Mines, attrition was high. In 1980, 1,425 employees worked at the mine. But in 1982, the mine shut down an entire line of production, cutting the workforce in half. In August 1983, Eveleth shut down completely for eight weeks. By the end of 1983, a paltry 723 remained—702 miners had vanished as if into the pit. Eveleth Mines had an additional problem: It was the least efficient of all the mines on the Range. Its labor and railroad costs were the highest, and it expended the second largest amount of energy per ton of taconite pellets.

“With so few jobs to go around, hostility at the mine increased toward the women who had enough seniority to keep their jobs.”

Various elements fed into the severity of the sexual harassment, aside from the brutality of the conditions and the inevitable backwardness of the semi-rural area. The United Steel Workers bureaucracy, steeped in chauvinism and anti-communism, refused to conduct a struggle against the loss of jobs, pitting workers against each other in times of economic downturn. In the late 1970s and 1980s, this same bureaucracy presided over the decimation of the US steel industry without lifting a finger.

Clearly, when workers are stressed about the possibility of losing the only decent jobs in a given area and cut off from any progressive solution, the imposition of racial and gender quotas will tend to bring out the worst in the most susceptible layers of the population. Moreover, the events took place under conditions of a general turn to the political right, not only within the more privileged layers of the American population, but also within sections of the working class. All in all, unhappily, the most propitious possible conditions existed for the abuses the women miners suffered.

The actual Jenson trial was a far more torturous ordeal than its shallow recreation in the film would suggest. Jenson describes the 11-year lawsuit as her rape by the judicial system; Class Action cites her comment: “I felt naked on the stand. The atmosphere in the courtroom was just like being at Eveleth Mines. I felt like a criminal and I was going to be sentenced to something.”

Are life’s problems (and the problems of working class women in particular) solved by victory in a hard-fought court case, with the hero(ine) handed a check at the end, as North Country implies? This schmaltz is little more than the American lotto myth. The conditions of working women are hardly idyllic in America; indeed, they are measurably worsening, thanks to bipartisan efforts in Washington.

A recent press release from the National Women’s Law Center notes that on October 26, the House Ways and Means Committee approved more than $8 billion in cuts to programs that benefit low- and middle-income women and their families in order to finance an additional $70 billion or more in tax cuts for the wealthy.

As well as cutting child support enforcement and other services, the Committee intends to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance Needy Families program with more severe requirements and restrictions on access to education and training. Also affected are Child Care and Development Block Grants, for which only $500 million in additional funding will be provided over the next five years. This represents half of the $1 billion increase previously approved by the House, far less than what will be needed to meet the increased child care demands resulting from the bill’s increased work requirements.

“Poor women and their children who have so little are being asked to make painful sacrifices while Congress moves ahead with plans to give even larger tax breaks to those who already have so much,” summarizes the NWLC.

Such is real life in America. From the film industry, often even with decent intentions, we largely receive stereotyped and trivial products, sharply at odds with life.

It is also worth noting that North Country, which rather complacently lauds the practice of launching class-action suits, appears precisely at the historical moment when the Bush administration, with the support of the Democratic Party, has signed into law a measure that will severely curtail the ability of consumers and workers to use class action lawsuits to seek damages for corporate malfeasance. The “golden age” of American jurisprudence advertised in North Country, in other words, which was never so golden to begin with, is already at an end!

Laurier, Joanne. 2005. “Serious problem, treated by not so serious people.” World Socialist Website, October 31. See http://www.wsws.org.

B.C. teachers lead workers against neoliberal corruption

Despite all efforts by “politicians” across the spectrum to deny
it — and of postmodern academics to obfuscate it out of existence, — the
class struggle has emerged through all the platitudes and into plain sight.
Edited from an article by Derrick O’Keefe and Charles Demers
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) are at the centre of a showdown between labour and the province’s corporate-backed government. For a week and a half, since the imposition of Bill 12, teachers have been defying an unjust law and winning major support from organized labour and the general public.
The legislation, which has spawned the slogan “”Kill Bill 12″,” consisted of a three-year wage freeze, and addressed none of the BCTF’s bargaining concerns, such as ballooning class sizes as well as class composition. It was rammed through by the Liberal B.C. Legislature on the basis of earlier legislation that has subjected teachers to “”essential service”” status, stripping them of their legal right to collectively strike, the one source of working class agency in a capitalists’ politico-juridical eden.
After hiding for many days behind the woefully incompetent labour minister Mike de Jong, Campbell emerged with a single, feeble talking-point with which to fight the growing public support for the union: That the teachers had to obey the rushed and illegal legislation crammed through in bad faith by his government because “democracy” is based on the “rule of law.” To reiterate this point, Justice Wally Oppal, —a popular Liberal recruit,— was paraded in front of news cameras parroting the party line.

Now, in the head-to-head battle between British Columbia teachers and the B.C. Liberal regime, the Liberal government appears to be blinking in astonishment at the mounting, solidaristic working class resistance. It may be one of the first contemporary cases in the Anglo American world where neoliberal hardball was met with far-reaching working class hardball.

After days of bombast about refusing to negotiate while teachers carried on the “illegalized strike,” Vince Ready, the default mediator for major labour disputes in the province, has been appointed to “facilitate talks.”

With his infamously pink-faced, drunk driver’s mug shot plastered all across B.C., on picket signs and websites in solidarity with the union, Gordon Campbell’s law-and-order” tough talk isn’t washing with anyone. But even for a man who was using his elite Good Ol’ Boy privileges to cavort in Hawaii with a mistress when he was arrested for committing a potentially deadly crime, Campbell’s appeal to the sanctity of the rule of law is patently and transparently disingenuous and corrupt:

Not only did drunk-driving Campbell, in his first term, tear up legal collective agreements with public sector unions as well as holding an illegal and illegitimate referendum on Native land rights plainly outside of provincial jurisdiction, but the very legislation which he calls on teachers to respect is in contravention of international labour laws to which Canada is a signatory.

The background to this latest mobilization of thousands against the Liberal Campbell government is two-fold: The sustained Liberal attack on the province’s labour movement and the related Liberal efforts to undermine public education and weaken a solid union. The B.C. teachers’ long record of commitment to international solidarity and other progressive causes, in addition to its financial contribution campaigns against the Liberal government, mark it for especially vindictive treatment by the party of the exploiter class.
Also figuring into the dispute has been the Liberal government’s abysmal record on the rights of children and the provision of student services. As exponential increases in post-secondary tuitions (following Campbell’s repeal of the previous NDP government’s tuition freeze) put university education out of the reach of many British Columbians, some districts have
even had to cut to K to 12 education to four-day school-weeks.

In addition, Campbell’s government has stripped bare the legal protections of children at work in the province, giving British Columbia the dubious honour of enforcing the most relaxed restrictions on child labour in North America. Today, the only legal safety net keeping 12-year-old children in four-day districts from working full-time hours in mines or mills is federal legislation concerning those two industries.

Campbell and the B.C. Liberals, fresh off re-election and with the considerable advantage of the corporate media’s sympathetic cooperation, have ramped up their efforts to vilify the teachers and, failing that, to crush them through the liberal courts. Yet the close to 40,000 teachers remain determined, buoyed by province-wide labour and community mobilizations of solidarity.
This morning, public sector workers are expected to shut down a number of services in the B.C. interior’s Kootenays region, joining teachers for rallies in Trail and Cranbrook, among other towns. These actions come a day after a rally and CUPE walkout in Prince George, the economic hub of northern B.C. On Monday, a mass rally at the provincial legislature kicked off a week of solidarity actions coordinated by the B.C. Federation of Labour. Despite all efforts by “respectable politicians” across the spectrum to deny it — and of postmodern academics to obfuscate it out of existence — the class struggle has emerged through all the condescending platitudes and into plain sight.
The struggle was apparent Monday, when, despite persistent rain, the mood of demonstrators in the small provincial capital of Victoria was defiant, if not upbeat. Almost 20,000 turned out to show their support for the latest round of resistance to the neoliberal Campbell agenda. (Print media downplayed the support, pegging their numbers from eight to 15 thousand, with Canada’s “newspaper of record,” The Globe and Mail, managing to offer two varying crowd sizes in yesterday’s issue).
While Victoria workers shut down the city and rallied at the legislature, Campbell waded into the forefront of the dispute after days of leaving the PR to de Jong. The premier, mocked at the rally by his own grinning mug on dozens of signs reading “”drunk with power”” and “”what a real law breaker looks like”, — held a press conference in which he announced that he and his cronies had the courts appointing a special prosecutor to explore charges of criminal contempt against the BCTF. Last Thursday, the court ordered the union’s assets frozen, preventing, among other things, strike pay of $50/day from being paid to teachers.
Speakers at the teachers’ rally were for the most part the heads of the major public sector unions. Also featured were representatives from Teachers’ Federations from every province and territory in Canada. If the crowd was surprised and heartened by the words of solidarity from Nunavut, they were electrified by the words of Thulas Nxesi of the South African Democratic Teachers Union:
“We are appalled at the actions of your government in unilaterally imposing contracts, in stripping away hard won conditions of service, in seeking to outlaw basic labour rights, and in drastically reducing the teaching force. The conditions you describe are reminiscent of those experienced by South African teachers under the Apartheid government.
A message from Mexican teachers pledged support and reported on a demonstration at the Canadian embassy. The cross-country and international solidarity drove home for many the stakes involved in this fight with the Campbell government.

In addition to mass rallies and statements, solidarity has been expressed in myriad ways. Public sentiment has been expressed through honking, by bringing donuts and home-baked cookies to the picket lines, and even by donating hard cash. The day after the Supreme Court’s ruling ending the $50 daily strike pay, one teacher reported that a complete stranger came to the line and handed over a $50 bill to picketers. The B.C. public has been largely unmoved by the barrage of right-wing talk jocks and anti-worker print editorials.
The teachers’ fight may well be the most critical one yet with the Campbell government. It’s no exaggeration to say that working people around the world are watching the resistance with pride. This province’s educators are determined to teach neoliberal class warriors as well as their working class brothers and sisters some lessons.
Charles Demers and Derrick O’Keefe are co-editors of Seven Oaks, an on-line journal of politics, culture and resistance. Article from rabble.ca. October 19, 2005. “B.C. teachers teach Gordon Campbell a lesson”.

capitalist warfare on the upper working class

After years and years of GM following Ford’s warning, “Small cars make small profits!”, and churning out and advertising SUVs, now love of exhaust fumes and Texan oil dynasties has given way in the purchasing decisions of middle America to the reality of $3 a gallon gas prices.

C’mon. Even if you can count on suburbanites’ psychological weaknesses, the capitalists at GM knew this was coming. They knew the oil robber barons were going to pump up the cost of gas, what with that Iraq thing, and they knew that Americans couldn’t really afford the suburban vanity tanks very well to begin with. So now GM has been unable to sell all this gas-guzzling narcissism-on-wheels, surprise, surprise, and profits have plummeted.

Who’s going to pay for the GM capitalists’ ridiculous, irresponsible speculation on the stupidity of Americans? Well the GM union employees, naturally, to the tune of $1 billion in retirement funds. It’s really no profligate speculation at all when profit losses can be taken out of the hide of the employees.

GM’s losses are in the multiple billions, and I suppose we can consider the logic of forcing the employees, a labor aristocracy who’ve never really supported other workers, to suffer to the extent that they’ve gambled by being a company union–a gang of workers–instead of a real union.

Still, it’s all debauchery and capitalist ineffeciency.

The hammer comes down on other upper working class folks. Today the NY Times runs an article on the soaring expense of post-secondary education. Partially they try to explain this expense by saying that employee wages and benefits costs are rising. (While also admitting that people no longer pay taxes for education–it’s effectively become privatized.) They don’t present figures on what employees make. While administrative costs have risen (to try to get more money out of potential donors), educators get paid peanuts.

Now apparently no mainstream communications outfit in the US can even mention that the US economy is presumed to depend on workers paying endlessly for unaccountable “health care” firms’ massive, skyrocketing profits. Businesses are trying to shed the health care costs like mad. So who is supposed to support these ridiculous “health care” costs? Workers themselves. That’s right, the folks with stagnating or falling wages, a steadily falling share of the national wealth, who have to bear the costs of insane housing speculation, and who bear consumer debt in excess of their income, somehow are supposed to also prop up limitless “health care” profits by themselves as well. That’s an awesome economic development scheme. Good luck to those greedy fucking capitalist bastards. What a sorry, sorry state this country is in.

war trauma and authoritarianism

Last night PBS, which I normally detest as it is for the most part publically-funded elite propaganda, aired a well-done, provacative show which featured interviews with people in various positions vis-a-vis the Vietnam War. It was an “American Experience” special called “Vietnam: A television history” (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/).

I was shocked that that kind of quality work could come out of mainstream media. I thought the Republicans had wholly ruined PBS along with NPR. But apparently recent events have forced some upper working class people (professionals, like communication professionals) to differentiate working class interests from the hegemonic neoconservative articulation of elite interests. The lesson is that upper working class people will not be such good sell-outs and yes-men when the elites pull neoconservatism on them.

Here are the seven groups that featured in interviews:

(1) The capitalist (financial, political, and military) elites who designed and implemented the US invasion of Vietnam in order to promote their control of the Asian economic-political system via opium, heroin, and oil traffic (see the excellent history by Scott, Peter Dale. 2005. “Drugs and oil: The deep politics of U.S. Asian wars.” Pp. 171-198 in War and State Terrorism, edited by M. Selden and A.Y. So. Boulder: Rowman & Littlefield).
(2) Working class American men who worked and died as soldiers in Vietnam; and one American sister of a soldier.
(3) Vietnamese men who worked as soldiers in Vietnam.
(4) Upper working class students and academic workers who struggled collectively in the U.S. to end the war in Vietnam.
(5) Liberal elite university administrators who disagreed with pro-war elites, but invited the police to repress the students.
(6) Working class police who fought to silence the students.
(7) The communication professionals (media), who presented to the public pro-war elite propaganda, including lies about the outcome of military clashes and lies about protest in the U.S.

There are some startling dynamics among these groups that I think must be discussed. I address here the dynamics between soldiers and other working class people.

While the working class American men who worked as soldiers in Vietnam were surprised to find that the elites running the war were willing to send soldiers off to be killed for unclear reasons, the soldiers had limited exposure to those elites, and reserved their most virulent hatred for the working class people around them who did not get sent to war and instead struggled to end the war from within the U.S. In fact, decades later, both police and soldiers expressed the desire to be able to kill the non-militarized Americans who did not support war.

This is surprising because elites’ wars, prosecuted without concern for working class lives, often need to be preempted or stopped by the struggle of working class people. If they don’t struggle with authorities and elites to protect the worth and quality of their lives, working class people will be used as a huge supply of not just labor power, but cannon fodder. When I say this, I mean this is true for all working class people, including “middle” class workers. When all is said and done, under capitalism, elites can’t see working class people as anything other than commodities, tools, resources; and working class lives and quality of life are not going to be taken into decision-making consideration without working class people struggling to put their own interests on the table.

The reason for the direction of the soldiers’ hatred, one of the ex-soldiers explained, is that he cannot agree that Vietnam was was not a war for American “freedom” (in other words, an ill-defined, sublime good); he would not be able, psychologically, to accept the idea that his soldier friends died horribly for no sublime cause. He clung to the idea that war is fought for “freedom” and he hated anyone who would say that the war was prosecuted for the machiavellian advantages of elites.

I suspect a bolstering reason why soldiers direct their hatred at their non-soldier fellow workingclass men and women:

Soldiers and police are heavily trained to regard non-militarized non-elites as subhuman. This is pure authoritarian training. Not only designated “enemies” are dehumanized, but working class people who are not militarized are dehumanized through military training, and daily military discourse and socialization. The authoritarian military training is: The proof of humanity is to act as an efficient tool for authority, and, later, to experience trauma doing so.

There is a consensus that non-military working class people did not psychologically support returning militarized working class people after the Vietnam War, but I can see there being difficulty there, because militarized people are so thoroughly trained to regard and treat their non-militarized peers as subhuman. They can’t engage with them substantively. It would be very hard indeed for these groups of people to connect, as war trauma would further cement the ex-soldiers’ authoritarian training and alienate working class men and women from each other.

In a way, it is maybe useful to think of many of the men who return from war as angry ghosts, carrying on their backs the angry ghosts of their friends who died before the war could be ended. They can only demand the silent attention of those who did not endure their trauma, the “living” who must, in the soldiers’ view, only listen passively to the soldiers’ experiential trauma, the story of cruel death. Ghosts are blind and deaf to the experience and struggles of “the living,” and cannot see that the living do care and try to stop more working class people from being sent to cruel deaths. Soldiers see that anti-war struggle as self-interested, since it stems the tide of war and does not benefit their already-fallen comrades. By contrast, true altruism, in their haunted minds, is single-minded loyalty to dead soldiers. Justice, for the ex-soldier/ghost, inheres in the continual, horrific sacrifice of working class lives. I think that this is akin to the psychology of the genocide survivor who feels it unjust that she lives while her family and friends were killed. Justice becomes obliteration.

As a working class person who tries to end the elites’ war, it is maybe wisest to resign yourself to the fact that if you succeed, after war, you will have a population of angry ghosts living amongst you. It is the working class that is haunted by war. Elites live blithely.

Dyson on race, class, and justice

An excerpt from Michael Eric Dyson, taped on Democracy Now! October 14, 2005:

“And what I beg all of my constituencies and what I beg as a part of a multiple kinship group, as the anthropologists call it, I beg every community to understand we in the same boat. You might be in the anti-war movement and speaking out tomorrow, but don’t forget the folk in Katrina. That’s the beauty of what Sister Goodman was talking about and Brother Damu was talking about, what Sister Cindy Sheehan understands. It ain’t just there. It’s not when those bodies die, and God bless them, it’s not simply when white bodies perish and white girls disappear, it’s also about the unheralded casualties of people who are yet on earth, and yet the life blood has been sucked by the vulture of American empire.

And these people will never be spoken for, because they are the walking wounded and the living dead. And so I beg of you that as — that those of us who are able to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised understand we in the same boat. The anti-war movement has been generated by this fearless woman (Sheehan) who has moved forward in the name of a sense of outrage at the libel and the mis-telling of truth that has been put forth by this political ventriloquist whose strings are being pulled by corporate capitalism to make him say what he’s saying.

And at the same time, don’t miss how it’s operating down in Halliburton and down in New Orleans and Mississippi and in Alabama. These black people, you see…People say, ‘Well, it’s not about race, it’s about class.’ What you talking about? Race often is the language class speaks. Race makes class hurt more. See, even poor white brothers and sisters are not necessarily going to school in concentrated effects of poverty. Even some white brothers and sisters are able to escape their poverty, making more money than some black people who have gone to college. But the reality is, poor white folk got more in common with poor black folk and poor brown folk and poor yellow folk than they got in common with the white overseers and the black over-rulers and the Latino sellouts who have abdicated their responsibility to represent the people.

And so, as I end, I beg you, please gird up your loins and tell the truth where you are. You see in Palestine, and as the Palestinians were struggling for self-determination with their Israeli brothers and sisters, they both came to a common declaration. They said we want the quiet miracle of a normal life. That’s what I want for so many millions of people both here in the country and around the globe. There’s so many people who suffer, who don’t have our education. They don’t have our bank accounts. They don’t have our sense of leisure and luxury. And if you and I can’t see beyond our own myopic, narcissistic self-preoccupation to help somebody else, to open up our minds, so we can open up our hearts, so we can open up our lives, and God knows our pocketbooks.

But it is more than the charity. People said in the Katrina, ‘Well, you see.’ and some of the rightwing conservatives said, ‘Well, the most people who were helping there were white folks trying to lift those helicopter things down to help those folk.’ Well, charity ain’t justice. Charity is beautiful, but you ain’t got to be charitable to me if I already got justice. If I already got a sense of participation, you ain’t got to be charitable to me. Just treat me right every day.”

Professor Dyson spoke a few weeks ago at the first annual Unvarnished Truth Awards in Washington D.C. The awards were organized by Pacifica and were held the same weekend as thousands came to D.C for the massive anti-war march. Michael Eric Dyson is one of the expected speakers at the Millions More Movement event in Washington D.C. He is a professor, author, cultural critic and a Baptist minister. His latest book is titled, “Is Bill Cosby Right?”