TagReagan

The crushing of the air traffic controllers union and the downfall of labor in the US

A la Nick P‘s “Secret History” series, apropos recent conversations, here’s some background on the crushing of the US labor movement under Reagan:

Two days later, on the basis of an obscure and previously unenforced 1955 law banning strikes by government unions, Reagan fired all 11,359 controllers who had defied his back-to-work order. Thus began a massive government union-busting operation that ended with the permanent dismissal and blacklisting of the workers, the seizure of PATCO’s finances, and the decertification of the union.

It included the spectacle of PATCO leaders being led to jail in shackles and FBI agents and federal marshals converging on the picket lines. Four PATCO members were jailed by the federal government in the spring and summer of 1983 for participating in the strike. Ron May, Gary Greene and Lee Grant were leaders of PATCO in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Along with Dick Hoover in Houston, they were singled out by the Reagan administration for their militant role in the strike, convicted on felony charges of striking against the government, imprisoned, fined and permanently stripped of their civil rights. […]

The defeat of PATCO was the signal for a wave of union-busting, wage-cutting and mass layoffs carried out by big business in every sector of the American economy. Once again, the fierce resistance of workers in auto, steel, the mines, the airlines, meatpacking, transport and other industries was sabotaged by the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions. The result was a vast decline in the social position of the working class, the destruction of gains won in previous decades of struggle, and an immense growth of social inequality.

The consolidation of the financial oligarchy that dominates every aspect of American society and plunders the social wealth to increase its already staggering personal wealth is directly bound up with the betrayal of the PATCO strike and the struggles that followed. These betrayals set the stage for the intensified attack on jobs and living standards that is now under way, with General Motors and Ford slashing tens of thousands of jobs and gutting health and retirement benefits, and the auto parts maker Delphi demanding wage cuts of 60 percent.

World Socialist Worker Web Site: 25 years since the PATCO strike: A historical turning point in the class struggle

(Thanks to Nick P for the correction – it’s World Socialist Web Site, not World Socialist Worker)

The US as Police State, part 1

This week marks the beginning of the “terrorism preparedness” drills Top Officials 4 and Vigilant Shield 08:

VS-08 will be conducted concurrent with Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4), the nation’s premier exercise of terrorism preparedness sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, and several other linked exercises as part of the National Level Exercise 1-08. These linked exercises will take place October 15-20 and are being conducted throughout the United States and in conjunction with several partner nations including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Territory of Guam

As usual, the truthers are shitting their pants in anticipation of a false flag terror attack and/or a preparation for the declaration of martial law. Nevermind that these threats failed to materialize during Operation Noble Resolve last August. (Aside: does anyone have a list of times that Alex Jones has “cried wolf” about terrorist attacks and/or declarations of martial law?)

Critics on the war on terror often remark on how our reaction to 9/11 is exactly what the terrorists wanted. We now cower in fear of terror attacks, give up freedoms, and question each other loyalty. I can’t help but wonder if the reactions to these drills aren’t exactly what the police state wants: a constant state of fear and loathing. Besides, “they” don’t have to declare martial law. We’ve been living under martial law since at least the 80s, when Reagan escalated the war on drugs to its current paramilitary status. But even before the effective beginning of martial law in the 80s, the US has had a long history of government repression. The real question is not whether the United States is becoming police state, but to ask if it has ever been a democracy.

When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, it was still legal for a person to own another person, only property owners were allowed to vote, and women weren’t allowed to vote at all. Only about 10-16% of the population had the right to vote.

It wasn’t until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment was passed in 1865 that slavery was constitutionally banned. It was another 5 years before the fifteenth amendment, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote, was ratified. Until the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, women didn’t have a constitutional right to vote.

However, even these constitutional protections didn’t ensure a right to vote for every US citizen – it took another amendment, the 24th, to ban poll taxes. The 24th amendment wasn’t ratified until 1964. Also in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, finally ending any legal basis for racial or sexual discrimination. In other words, for the first 177 years of US history there existed state based repression of significant segments of society (and that’s aside from the Lebensraum policy of US expansion that all but eradicated the native population).

Even those who were allowed to vote couldn’t rely on their vote being counted. Vote fraud didn’t start with Diebold machines and the 2000 election – the case against Kennedy is one of the most famous.

Meanwhile, throughout the Vietnam War, men who couldn’t get deferments were enslaved by the government to fight and die on foreign soil, until the draft expired in 1973 (thanks to a one man filibuster by Mike Gravel).

Which brings us up to the War on Drugs, declared by Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971. Before we even had all our troops out of Vietnam, Nixon was already declaring war on a segment of US citizens: drug users. Though, as stated on Wikipedia the “war on drugs” could be considered to go back to the prohibition of opium in 1880, it was Nixon that began using the martial term “war.” So just as the US was finally being freed of slavery and granting a universal right to vote (except of course in the cases of prison labor, and I won’t even go into voter suppression issues), we entered a new era of government repression.

But if there was ever any “free” period in US history, perhaps it was the 1970s. Although the war on drugs was officially declared, the country seemed to be awash in drugs at the time. The war was ending, segregation was ending, AIDS hadn’t hit epidemic levels and homosexuality was being more accepted. In 1993 R.U. Sirius wrote:

The seventies actually were cool. Much cooler than the ballyhooed sixties. There was more sex in the seventies, more tolerance, the right wing was completely in retreat, Richard Nixon was still a pig, and cocaine wasn’t bad for your health yet! In the mid-seventies it was possible to believe that the whole country was moderately hip–and if that wasn’t enough, Punk was coming along to kick moderately hip’s laidback butt.

I’m sure there was more of a dark side, but if there’s a case for nostalgia for a period of US history, I guess this was it. But if the people of the United States were at last free from government repression in the 70s, the state made up for it in the 80s.

End Part One.

Read part 2.

Read defensively tomorrow

Is April Fool’s an officially recognized Discordian holiday? Anyway, Hoax Musuem has a top 100 April Fool’s hoaxes of all time.

In 1995 the Irish Times reported that the Disney Corporation was negotiating with the Russian government to purchase the embalmed body of communist leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The body has been kept on display in Red Square since the leader’s death. Disney proposed moving the body and the mausoleum to the new Euro Disney, where it would be given the “full Disney treatment.” This would include displaying the body “under stroboscopic lights which will tone up the pallid face while excerpts from President Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ speech will be played in quadrophonic sound.” Lenin t-shirts would also be sold. Disney anticipated that this attraction would attract more visitors to the theme park, significantly boosting profits which had been weak since the park’s opening. The Russians were said to be agreeable to the sale of Lenin’s body. But a controversy had erupted about the sale of the mausoleum. Liberal groups wanted to keep the mausoleum empty “to symbolize the ’emptiness of the Communist system,'” while Russian nationalists wanted to transform it into a memorial to Tsar Nicholas II.

Link (via Capital of Nasty).

They didn’t include the time that The Joker forced Batman into a boner.

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