Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Right to Strike

First, one history lesson: Ralph Hosea Chaplin *1887, 1961† was an artist and labor unionist. He wrote the song, Solidarity Forever. His drawing of a black cat, with arched back, became the symbol of strikes, especially wild cat strikes. Now, Chaplin was a wobblie (member of the I.W.W.). They formed in 1905 from various socialist, anarchist, and radical labor activists. They were targeted at the end of the Wilson Administration in the 1919-20 Palmer Raids. By the middle '20s they had become inconsequential, and a few years later, a small fraction of what they had been.

Now, under the current fiction that comes from Fox, and the rest of the Republican Party, this is changed. The moderate and weak unionists of to-day are described with words that are beyond those that describe the Wobblies. Wilson's [anti-labor] progressiveness they have equated with Leninist-stalinist socialism (communism). What is true, is that the Wobblies did not consolidate their victories, and were eventually crushed by not the police, and thugs, that cracked their heads opened, but by federal government.

The A.F.of L. and the C.I.O. trade and general unions, at their most brave and militant past, were far milder towards capitalism than the Wobblies. John L. Lewis would puke to-day at the condition of Labor.

Wild cat strikes [here is the operative point, when there is a labor-management CONTRACT] are considered illegal. They are spontaneous, and local, and not officially announced, nor sanctioned. Many contracts specifically prohibit their exercise. The courts, and executive government (and the police, and other 'security forces') extend this concept.

Second, another history lesson: The first strike in English speaking America occurred in Jamestown Virginia in 1619. Now, the English wanted a profit making colony, and many of the English thought labor beneath them. John Smith recruited a few Polish artisans to make glass, and other products. The average Englishman, not being able to differentiate, called these people 'Deutsch >> Dutchmen (Germans)'. The Virginia House of Burgess' was elected in 1619, but Catholics and other foreigners were not allowed to vote. The Poles went on strike. The English understood the economics involved. The Poles achieved the suffrage franchise.

Argument: Slaves are not allowed to strike, that is an insurrection. Freemen can strike, and it is not always seen as an insurrection. Laws forbidding strikes transgress freedom. Free labor disappears, it is replaced by serfdom, peonage, slavery or something similar.
"Qu'est-ce qu'un homme révolté ? Un homme qui dit non. Mais s'il refuse, il ne renonce pas : c'est aussi un homme qui dit oui, dès son premier mouvement. Un esclave, qui a reçu des ordres toute sa vie, juge soudain inacceptable un nouveau commandement."
"What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion. A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides that he can not obey some new command."
— Albert Camus. L'Homme Révolté (The Rebel) 1951.
Most of the world has May Day as Labor Day. In the past, general strikes were called for this day. I read, that some in the Occupy Movement have called for one. There is not much intersection between them and the Labor; beyond that, strikes are very rare in the United States. People have to be cognisant of history. Since Ronnie Reagan began the evisceration of Labor, and laissez-faire capitalism has evolved into locust capitalism, and oligarchic, fascist plutocracy; the working class have become increasingly impotent.

Now, there were exceptions to these sort of Republicans in the past:

I am glad to see that a system of labor prevails in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to where they are not obliged to work under all circumstances, and are not tied down and obliged to labor whether you pay them or not! — New Haven, Connecticut. 6 March 1860. Abraham Lincoln.
For Lincoln, this was not an isolated statement. Here he is suggesting the difference between free, and unfree labor (it was not just slavery). Later, speaking to Congress 3 December 1861, Lincoln explains the difference between labor and capital:
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
Which Republican, to-day, would say that? Which apologist of theirs would admit that the words were spoken?, and mean what they mean in a dictionary?

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