Tuesday, June 19, 2012

History is written by the ruling class

I'm sitting here contemplating writing something about the decline of organized Labor in the US as I read a piece in Foreign Affairs on the issue by two academics. I took a sip of my tea from a cup some visitors I took to Lake Tahoe gave me.  It says, "Lake Tahoe, Discovered 1844."  The victor gets the spoils and writes the history books I thought.  Taught history is capitalist history, predominantly white male protestant history.  But these facts are secondary. My history is not taught, the history of white workers is not taught, if it is, like the history of all exploited people's, it is taught in capitalist institutions, schools and especially universities where their ideology is strongest, as a concession to the struggles from below and historically over their objections; and it is not taught right.

So I don't like that my history, my mother's struggles (she left school at fourteen and went to work) the history of my class is not taught or distorted when it is.  When I read that Donald Trump or JP Getty built this or that it really makes me angry.  Workers built it, the others had the capital and increased their wealth through it on the backs of workers.  Part of building a united front anti-capitalist movement globally is recognizing that in countries where colonization is more recent (Britain was colonized by the Romans over 2000 years ago and indigenous culture long disappeared for the most part) the savage history, destruction of their culture and way of life is still very dominant in their consciousness.

When I was recently in Australia I would see the indigenous people there and I talked to some of them and I imagined how angry they must be also, not out of a hatred of any particular people, but that their way of life, their home, has been taken from them. It is an example of all that is good about human nature that in general the descendants of the poor and oppressed who were forced through starvation, poverty and violence to settle in faraway lands are treated humanly by those whose lives were disrupted by such migrations.  Imagine how Palestinians feel.  I never fully understood how the Irish people felt until I became more political and sought out my own understanding of the world by traveling and talking to people as well.

How must a Native American (some use the term Indian over here) feel when the whole world around them propagates the historically false view that Lake Tahoe was "discovered in 1884"? No it wasn't.  It was discovered much earlier than that.  We know it was, we can prove it was, and we know by whom I'm sure.

So in order to build the unity necessary to eliminate the system and the class that propagates this myth, workers must recognize this false history and adopt the struggle against it as part of our own, of all exploited people no matter what religion or race or color.  We must not fall prey to the attempts by middle class lefty liberal types that blame workers for this situation and lay guilt trips on them.  This is common to the white middle class in this country, who have color, class and often gender privilege to feel guilty about it and fall prey to it attacking white workers to prove how un-racist they are. Guilt is poisonous, this doesn't mean we shouldn't be aware and sensitive but we cannot be blamed for what someone who had a similar appearance or the same religion to us did. If that was the case, the Iraqis would hate all blacks, Latinos and whites for what has been done to their country by US capitalists.

All of us have an obligation not to feel sorry for people but to be inspired by their history of resistance and join them as soldiers in arms to rise the entire class up in the struggle against oppression, racism and war and an end to the capitalist system of production.

We can start by recognizing that Lake Tahoe was discovered long before 1844.

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