Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Troubles in the Middle Kingdoms

The uprising in Egypt is followed by the uprising of besieged labor unions in Wisconsin. People are eager to make connections and equate the two, but they have different causes.

The Egyptian uprising in Tahir Square was a classic "People's Power" celebration of the replacement of one ruling class puppet for another. You can tell that the US was ready to back a new puppet by the corporate media coverage of the events. They made it look like a spontaneous uprising, not in any way influenced by the typical CIA Color Revolution program. It's always inspiring to see millions of people coming together in collective joy to celebrate the end of a murderous dictatorship. Unfortunately, they often don't notice that the new boss is the same as the old boss, and the powers that select the figureheads remain in place,

Our version of that was the exciting Election Day, 2008, and the joyous Inauguration Day of 2009, when the Washington Mall was packed with ecstatic people cheering the end of the Bush-Cheney era.

Heck, most of the world was celebrating. Even the Nobel committee was inspired enough to give the new President a Peace Prize, which he accepted, and then gave a speech in which he gave a Just War defense of American militarism.

When the Egyptian uprising began, I asked my Egyptian Facebook friend what was going on. He replied that he didn't know, but that Egyptian Army generals were at the Pentagon, at that very minute. Hmmm.
Then we got stirring pictures of the Egyptian Army soldiers refusing to fire on the protesters, and protesters riding on tanks. How inspiring! But odd, unless you want to make a guess what the Generals were told at the Pentagon.

Then we are told that Mubarak was going to make a speech in which he would step down. Hallelujah! But just how did corporate media "know" what he was going to say?

But he didn't go along with the announced script. He said that he was planning on staying until the elections in September and that no foreign power could change his mind. Hmmmm.

And then he disappeared. The next day his vice-president appeared and announced that Mubarak had changed his mind. But where was he? They told us that he flew to a resort. Or that he was in a coma.

Whatever. The TV switched to the dancing crowds in the streets, busily celebrating the military takeover of the government. (Although, as Chomsky pointed out, the military has been in control for decades).

And then the military announced that the Emergency Laws would be lifted as soon as possible. But not now. And that strikes were prohibited, and that people needed to leave the Square, because the revolution was over, and everything was OK now.

And most of the people did. Just like in the US, while Obama continues Bush policies of war, torture, (hey, how's that Guantanamo closing coming along?), government secrecy, hand-outs for the rich and cut-backs for the poor, and even re-opens Bush policies that failed - the most obvious being attacks on Social Security-there are still millions of Democrats who blindly accept these policies as tolerable, as long as the President claims to be a "Democrat", instead of a "Republican".

The same thing happened in the Eastern European countries, the first to have People's Power revolutions. Once the party was over, a whole lot of people missed their guaranteed jobs, houses and food. Now some of them have had their own IMF riots. It turns out that punching a ballot every four years doesn't actually give you a lot of say over your life. How about that? About half of voters in our country remain stubbornly sure of the same thing, refusing to vote no matter how much pro-voting propaganda is aimed at them.

So what, then, is the uprising in Wisconsin, if not a People's Power revolution?

Well, it's the American version of the IMF riot, the expected revolt of the people when faced with cutbacks, privatization of public property, layoffs, and more, to pay for the debts run up by the wealthy.

Here's a quote from "The Sorrows of Empire", by Chalmers Johnson, about Argentina, and its IMF riot.

"By 2002, Argentina held the unenviable record of having accumulated the largest amount of public debt by any single country in history-some $160 billion. Its national income shrank by nearly two-thirds in the space of a year; more than half of its largely middle-class population found itself living below the poverty line; and no politician of any orientation dared appear on the streets for fear of public lynching.

The IMF agreed to help the Argentine government meet its debt service payments and then made exactly the same mistake it had in 1997 in East Asia. As a condition for its loans, it demanded an austerity budget that involved firing large numbers of government workers, cutting pensions, reducing wages, and eliminating fringe benefits. Rioting and a fierce police reaction brought the country to a standstill. In December 2000, the IMF provided nearly $40 billion to Argentina on the condition that the government continue to pay foreign debts by intensifying its squeeze on the poorest elements of the society. No government could meet these terms and avoid revolution. Argentina went through five governments and six economic ministers in
fourteen months, but the IMF decided that the country was still not being tough enough and was, in any case, of little strategic importance to the United States. It therefore pulled the plug, and refused to supply any more loans. Double-digit monthly inflation resulted, the peso fell ion value by 220 percent, and social order collapsed. Argentina, once the most prosperous country in latin american, became a basket case-thanks to neoliberalism, globalization, and the IMF."

This being the American version, there is craven acceptance by the workers of the "need" for cutbacks, and the focus turns to peripheral concerns. In this case, the right of collective bargaining. Of course, it's important, but one of the things it's needed for is to protect workers from wage cuts and give-backs! What good is it to have a union if you all agree to the corporate agenda?

The public workers meager demands remind me of the Republic Windows workers, who occupied their factory. Unlike their Argentinian counterparts, they did not operate it as a cooperative. No, they simply demanded what was DUE to them under the LAW, and it was hailed as a great victory when the owners paid them what they were owed! Pitiful!

We'll see if Mr. Johnson was right and "no government" could withstand revolution when cutting out social spending and attacking workers.

This is America! We are brainwashed to hate on command, and it works on our fellow citizens as well.
Welfare mothers, prisoners, homeless people and minorities have been hated for years. The campaign against teachers, prison guards (ironically) and other public workers has just started, but is coming along swimmingly. (The prison guards, of course, are not being attacked for their brutality to the caged, but for their sick time and pensions).

We'll see what develops, as more and more people lose everything.


Pangolin said...

It's unthinkable to tax the rich. Cutting their heads off however is becoming more thinkable all the time.

The problem with soundbite media and a lack of good historical knowledge in our conversations is that we forget what democracy was for. It was about giving the poor some measure for redress of grievances short of sticking a pike in your face. In Europe they are surrounded by the wreckage of pike-in-face politics so it's hard to forget.

In the U.S. they've decided that a runaround of democratic process can be achieved by means of rigged voting machines and total control of the conversation via television news. I'm sharpening my pike.

wagelaborer said...

You must have been a Boy Scout.

You're getting prepared!

Anonymous said...

You need to read some Ann Coulter to see how much "they" hate us little people. Jobs are lost because of unions, social security is portrayed as welfare, etc. Bullies always say we brought it on ourselves.

wagelaborer said...

Unfortunately, my local paper carries Ann Coulter's column, so I've read her.

The creepier thing than the hatred the ruling class has for us is the internalization of it by so many of us.

My son and his liberal friends went to see Ann Coulter when she gave a speech here, with the idea that they would ask questions afterwards. Instead, they left in fear and depression after being exposed to the hateful people who crowded in to hear her.

Pangolin said...

"Unfortunately, my local paper carries Ann Coulter's column, so I've read her."

I've emptied a stopped up toilet with a ladle but Ewwwww!! I mean, my hands I can wash.......

People who are fans of Ann Coulter are the kind of men that rape drunk girls at frat parties and their female ilk that point out the drunk girls for abuse so that they can keep drinking themselves.

I live in a college town. Garbage like that just doesn't occur; it's cultivated.

Mike B) said...

Methinks what most citizens of the Middle East want is a bourgeois democracy with a little Arabic flavour. In Iran, they want a Persian flavour. In general, people want free speech and the ability to vote for the political representatives of Capital. Some want a more theocratic twist; but I think most just want to be able to wear lipstick, jeans and be on Facebook like the rest of the world. They're tired, very tired of crony capitalism. Talk about a military industrial complex, lots of the Egyptian generals own shopping malls.

Anyway, I too would rather live in a more civilised bourgeois democracy like Australia than a less civilized bourgeois democracy like the USA. So, I can sympathise with Egyptians who want an end to Mubarek and Iranians who want an end to puritanical theocracy.

What I really want doesn't matter much because nobody else wants it or understands it i.e. common ownership and democratic control the collective product of labour.

wagelaborer said...

I live in a college town, also, Pangolin. The Republican Club brought Coulter to defile our town.

Yeah, Mike, I agree. The ruling class has SO much influence over the way the working class thinks.

Wait, didn't someone a long time ago point that very thing out?

We need study classes, in which people can learn a different way of looking at class relations.

But nowadays, with TV, the internet and video games, no one shows up for working class education.

Anonymous said...

I picked up a copy of Barbara Ehrenreich's "Fear of Falling" in the bargain bin. I find it more enlightening than "What's the Matter With Kansas?" and written way before. Especially interesting is the hate for "non-productive" ivory tower intellectuals - although the conservatives have tons more think tanks, astro-turf organizations, etc. A common theme is that liberals are hypocrites but they are not.

Your entry is interesting and so too they article you referenced.

wagelaborer said...

Yeah, but the right wing think tanks ARE productive.

They produce confused, hateful Americans, ready to screw themselves as long as someone else gets it worse!

Grace said...

Peaceful revolution in Egypt and then the very next week Wisconsin! Masses gathered in the freezing there to protect the rights that have already been hard earned and mean something to who we are as a government of the people, by the people, for the people. This is treason by Walker. These rights cannot be lost or we are lost as a Nation. Those rights will never come back. Neo feudalism will rule the land.

DavidG said...

Hey, wagelaborer, would you and your blog like to join our PEACE Movement?

The details are on the Sidebar which has a link to the Charter.

If you check it out and it seems to coincide with your objectives, then I'd be happy to put your blog on our Membership list.

Take care now!


Flimsy Sanity said...

Speaking of "unproductive workers" I heard that half our economy is involved with banking. How much more "unproductive" can you get?

wagelaborer said...

Yeah, they're not just unproductive, they're actively destructive.

It is more profitable to destroy a business, and suck out the pensions, sell the equipment and fire the workers, than it is to run it and sell the products.