Saturday, April 7, 2012

Defend the right to vote but we can't rely on the vote to defend our rights

They shot and burned to death 20 people, including a dozen women and small children.
Left: the Ludlow Massacre, for wanting to belong to a union

I believe emphatically that we should defend the right to vote as it was a major concession won from the capitalist class through struggle with different sections of the working class wining it at different times. None of the major advances made by workers of all types were made by sticking a piece of paper in a ballot box every two or four years.  In the US, workers have never had an independent mass party of our own at the national level so have pretty much had a choice between one or the other of the candidates of big business.  Every major gain we have won was won in the wake of the most violent resistance and repression from US capitalism; from the murder of workers in Ludlow Co by agents of the coal operators and shooting of workers by Dearborn cops and Henry Ford's goons during the Ford Hunger March in 1932 to the racist killings of blacks and other workers of color in the Apartheid South.  We only have to look at history from a working class point of view to see that it is heroic sacrifice and mass direct action that has produced all the legislative gains we have made over the past 70 or so years, not the ballot box.  American workers can be proud of our history.

So we have to look at what was happening in society when progressive social legislation arose.  The Wagner Act of 1935 which the history books written by the 1%'s historians claim gave workers the right to organize in to Unions, arose after a mass movement of the working class.  There were three General Strikes in 1934: Minneapolis, led by socialists, which saw 40,000 workers and farmers waging pitched battles with cops in the streets of that city. San Francisco led by the Communist Party and Toledo Ohio led by the followers of the preacher and social activist,  A. J Muste. 

The WPA, Social Security Act (which included unemployed benefits) Fair Labor Standards Act, and programs like the US Housing Authority and Farm Security Administration were all born in this period.  By 1936-37 hundreds of thousands of workers were occupying their workplaces and the great 44-day Flint occupation took place that broke the back of GM, the most powerful corporation in the world at that time that spied on and terrorized workers as a matter of course.

The same situation occurred during the Civil Rights Movement.  The famous 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education declared segregated schools unconstitutional.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 officially ending segregation in public places and racial discrimination in employment and education followed the March on Washington attended by 200,000 people.  Black youth fought the racist apartheid system in the south facing dogs, lynchings, and terrorism from the KKK. The famous Kissing Case was publicized throughout Europe. * This was a great embarrassment for the great democracy in the face of the world as images of teenagers having dogs set upon them or being murdered for the right to go to school or in to a restaurant were seen throughout the world.  The black revolt in the 1960's and women's and student anti-war revolts that occurred at that time influenced us all.

All the politicians in the two corporate parties did was put in to writing or legislate what workers had already taken in the streets.

* In 1958, a landmark civil rights case involving nine-year-old James Hanover Thompson and seven-year-old David "Fuzzy" Ezzelle Simpson sparked international outrage. The two boys from Monroe, North Carolina were accused of rape after being kissed on the cheek by a white girl in an innocent schoolyard game.

The girl told her parents about the game, and Thompson and Simpson were hunted down with shotguns and incarcerated. They were charged with molestation and sentenced to 10 years in reform school. Within six days of their arrest, the boys were beaten six times. Source
For further reading on the Kissing Case see Negroes With Guns by Robert F Williams

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