Comments on: Thursday Round-up: chapping your a$$ edition! History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 11:01:25 +0000 hourly 1 By: Emma Sat, 12 Dec 2009 21:24:44 +0000 Kathleen Lowery,

I think casting comments about unions and organized labor movements as nostalgia for the old days misses a lot of the politics, history, and complexities of organized labor and diminishes both its successes and failures.

If you want to talk about the plusses and minuses of organized labor I’m happy to do that. (For example, I said unions helped a lot of guys for a reason.) Or if you don’t want to talk about organized labor at all, that’s fine. But nothing I’m saying is about nostalgia for the “good old days”, which is what I took your comments to mean.

Regardless of one’s utopian visions (and I have many which I think would match quite nicely with at least some of yours) people are going to work. I don’t see that workers are not “workers” in some unspecified “old sense” of the word. And the dynamics of labor will very likely be the same as they have been for all of recorded history (AFAICT). There are organized labor movements worldwide. I think that says something for their relevance today.

I’m all for taking care of everybody. I think organized labor IS one way to help take care of everybody, not just the folks who are union members. So I don’t see the value of leaving organized labor in the dustbin, as you, IMO, imply will happen once we change our politics sufficiently. Rhetorically pole vaulting over the problem of labor’s relation to profits doesn’t make the issue go away. And since it hasn’t as of yet gone away, I think we’re better off grappling with it.

By: Kathleen Lowrey Fri, 11 Dec 2009 19:58:46 +0000 rootlesscosmo — I totes agree with you, of course, but I think the missing key is to really address the way American politics works on a moving wall of “the undeserving”, and the way the left is often as mean and brutal about it as the right.

(I also — I just can’t get on board for the “oh for the days of the unions” discourse, the world economy has changed such that a lot of people are not, and will never be, “workers” in the old sense and “work” as a synonym for “virtue”, agh, don’t get me started).

What if we had a politics of, hey, we’re gonna take care of everybody. So that people didn’t have this wild fear of falling into the “undeserving” class, or resentment that the “undeserving” class was getting too many goodies, or whatever. What if we had a politics that said, “you might not be very good at anything and you might need a lot of help and that’s okay!” I mean, I think one of the reasons Communism failed wasn’t that it was *too* generous but that it had one inflexible model of virtuous citizenry — the worker.

What’s nice about capitalism is it recognizes the importance of the shirker — the hedonist, the pleasure seeker. What if that became the basis of our politics somehow? Heaven knows, as Historiann pointed out above, whatever the current base of lefty politics in the U.S. is, it’s not workin’.

By: Historiann Fri, 11 Dec 2009 16:12:08 +0000 Susan–I think I’d put a requirement for a signature on my education deliveries, each and every one! (Others might find it acceptable to leave it on the doorstep or with a neighbor.)

Emma’s point about the workers whose benefits stand to be taxed (instead of the millionaires and billionaires who live off of investment income!) is an excellent one. We’ll see who’s really running the show if labor gets the bill for health insurance reform (and if they don’t get card check ASAP next year). And let’s see if all of those union workers who knocked on doors and got people out on election day last year will do the same in 2010 and 2012!

By: Susan Fri, 11 Dec 2009 04:35:32 +0000 What if you deliver education and no one is at home to receive it?

By: Paul S. Fri, 11 Dec 2009 03:44:16 +0000 Laughing at or condescending to people isn’t a winning strategy. Smugness will be the death of the left.

True enough, I think – it’s already hurt the left a LOT over the last 30 years. In fairness to the left, I think that their alleged sense of smug superiority is often grossly exaggerated by the populist right, but there is enough of the attitude in reality to give the right something to work with. Three other things that the right has been very successful in doing are – 1. Convincing large numbers of middle-class and lower-middle-class Americans that their economic interests are similar to those of the wealthiest portion of society – i.e., Bush’s tax cuts were widely popular with the middle class as well as the wealthy. 2. Convincing many people that economic issues are less important than “culture war” issues – i.e., millions of Americans of middle or low income probably vote Republican mainly because they see the party as being right on moral issues like anti-abortion and anti-same-sex-marriage, and largely ignore the negative effects that the economics of the right have on their lives. 3. Convincing many people that anything done by the government is automatically incompetent and inefficient while private industry is always capable and efficient – this belief is still influential with much of the U.S. population, despite a much less than efficient performance by leading private industries in the last couple of years, and that’s no small accomplishment.

By: rootlesscosmo Fri, 11 Dec 2009 03:25:23 +0000 Not mentioned so far is that the subtext in “smugness” (as in its earlier version “limousine liberals”) is “privileged white N—-rlovers who want to deprive us hard-working white folks of our all-white neighborhoods/schools/job categories and spend our hard-earned taxes on idle Black folk and take away our guns so we can’t defend our whiteness.” Class ressentiment in the US is always racialized and gendered; “limousine liberals” are both fancy and nancy, their educated talk only a secret code that keeps us on the outside and their professed concern for people of color a pious cloak to hide their unclean letch for rough trade. The Marxist-Leninists’ projected cross-racial class unity came to grief on this (peculiarly American?) rock; Weather simply gave up on the white working class after 1969, though its strategy wasn’t much more successful than PL’s.

By: KoshemBos Fri, 11 Dec 2009 02:30:34 +0000 I find Chris Hedges’ article rambling, stream of consciousness, anecdotal writing more than a coherent analytical view of liberals in America. There is even the mandatory knock of something related to Israel, European decedent Christian owe the wide liberal universe.

The real question is not what happened; we know most of the failures of the Liberals (look at the mirror). What we would like to know is: why? Can we change it? Can we have an impact on health care reform, beyond the regular mostly useless blog diet, than just replace the current uninsured with the many millions of illegal aligns?

Chris Hedges has the right to be angry, but the real question is why did The Nation, stating explicitly that Obama is too close to wall Street, nevertheless endorsed him despite having another candidate who represented the blue collar workers and was not as close to WS as Obama?

By: Emma Fri, 11 Dec 2009 01:29:40 +0000 We need to take this issue away from the right by learning how to be compassionate about it, from not exploiting it in the manipulative way that they do, and – finally – by losing our collective sense that we deserve to come first cause we’re the smartest.

We used to have a labor movement in the U.S. that was responsible for enabling a lot of guys who didn’t go to college to make really good livings. This election was a watershed for how dismissive the Democratic party was toward organized labor. And how dismissive it continues to be re: the health insurance reform. (You know who has “cadillac” health plans? Unionized workers, that’s who.) We need to bring these people back to the table.

By: Historiann Thu, 10 Dec 2009 23:28:54 +0000 Kathleen’s comments get very nicely at what I was suggesting, without nearly as much complexity or eloquence. I think we could extend Bageant’s arguments about the fat guys and the smokers to the not-so-smart. Thing is, those not-so-smart people know they’re being screwed. They were a critical part of Obama’s victory coalition, and because many of them are still hurting, still unemployed, and because whatever happens with health *insurance* reform, it’s not kicking in for YEARS, perhaps still without health care, they’re ripe for the picking by people who deploy populist rhetoric, whatever their actual policy positions. Palin is a populist heroine who is a voice for their anger that the world isn’t working the way it should for them. The Dems are doomed if they don’t try to start talking populism and (more importantly) enacting a populist platform.

This all goes back to those discussions about whether the Dems are just ineffective or incompetent (as Hedges implies progressives are), or are they evil (that is, actually enacting the policies they’re comfortable with). I tend to go more with the latter than the former explanation. I agree with Matt’s analysis of Obama as “the latest steward of this [corporatist] ideology and manager of the endless class war.”

N.B. When I cited Obama’s lack of experience, I wasn’t criticizing him for it. Many presidents have shown that you don’t have to have decades of legislative or executive experience in order to be effective. I was merely pointing out the fatuousness of those who hammered Bush because of his lack of experience, and then turned around to embrace Obama. Thus, the lack of reflection and willingness to engage in a cult of celebrity appears to afflict all people.

By: Matt L Thu, 10 Dec 2009 21:24:29 +0000 Oh, on history majors, our numbers have gone up a little bit in the past couple of years. The social science history teaching program has steady numbers too, even though there are no jobs for them in the upper Midwest.

I read the Joe Bageant piece. Sorry, it seemed like a pity party. Yes, we are in a classist society where people judge you on appearance, diction and self presentation. Yes, nicotine is a horrible and addictive vice of the ‘proles.’ (A disclaimer, I had quit smoking for six years and then fell off the wagon two years ago. I feel rotten & god(dess) help me quit again.) But it is also irrelevant.

There has been a class war of the rich against the poor for the last 30 years. Its called Reaganism. Its been perpetrated by the Republican Party and abetted by moderate Democrats. You can blame Alexander Cockburn for being a churlish d#*k towards the obese, but he is not responsible for the destruction of the education system or the flight of manufacturing overseas.

The left or liberal democrats did not decide to build health care for children on the backs of poor smokers. “Reagan-Friedman thought” dictates that social services can’t be paid for by increasing income taxes on the wealthy. So Republicans and Moderate Democrats decided that they would impose a sin tax to pay for health care for children, in the name of bi-partisanship and compromise. (Funny how revenue neutrality is always a condition for starting a new social program, but never applies to new wars or new military spending.)

Obama is simply the latest steward of this ideology and manager of the endless class war.