This day has always been important to me. This and May 1st reminds me of what it truly means to be American. That it means resistance, that it means necessary action, that it requires hard labor to continually shape my country into the American Vision it should be.
To honor this holiday I am leaving you with a few excerpts from the epic A People’s History of The United States by Howard Zinn. This should be required reading for any American, or for anyone who has an interest in the TRUTH of American history. Go BUY this book. Sit and read it. Mull over all the people like YOU that sweat, and bled, and died to give you this America you are living in. Mull over how little you may be doing to live up to these people, or perhaps revel in the fact that you are one of the many “little people” that do Big Things!
Maybe this will sound eerily familiar…
“And so it went, in industry after industry-shrewd, efficient businessmen building empires, choking out competition, maintaining high prices, keeping wages low, using government subsidies. These industries were the first beneficiaries of the “welfare state.” By the turn of the century, American Telephone and telegraph had a monopoly of the nation’s telephone system, International Harvester made 85 percent of all farm machinery, and in every other industry resources became concentrated, controlled. The banks had interests in so many of these monopolies as to create an interlocking network of powerful corporation directors, each of whom sat on the boards of many other corporations. According to a Senate report of the early twentieth century, Morgan at his peak sat on the board of forty-eight corporations; Rockefeller, thirty-seven corporations
Meanwhile, the government of the United States was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx described a capitalist state: pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich. Not that the rich agreed among themselves; they had disputes over policies. But the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long-range stability of the system. The arrangement between Democrats and Republicans to elect Rutherford Hayes in 1877 set the tone. Whether Democrats or Republicans won, national policy would not change in any important way.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, despite its look of somber, black-robed fairness, was doing its bit for the ruling elite. How could it be independent, with its members chosen by the President and ratified by the Senate? How could it be neutral between rich and poor when its members were often former wealthy lawyers, and almost always came from the upper class? Early in the nineteenth century the Court laid the legal basis for a nationally regulated economy by establishing federal control over interstate commerce, and the legal basis for corporate capitalism by making the contract sacred.
By this time the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were “persons” and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations.
The justices of the Supreme Court were not simply interpreters of the Constitution. They were men of certain backgrounds, of certain interests. One of them (Justice Samuel Miller) had said in 1875: “It is vain to contend with Judges who have been at the bar the advocates for forty years of railroad companies, and all forms of associated capital. . . .” In 1893, Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer, addressing the New York State Bar Association, said:
It is the unvarying law that the wealth of the community will be in the hands of the few. . . . The great majority of men are unwilling to endure that long self-denial and saving which makes accumulations possible . .. and hence it always has been, and until human nature is remodeled always will be true, that the wealth of a nation is in the hands of a few, while the many subsist upon the proceeds of their daily toil.
If this sounds familiar (and it stupidly should) you should read what we had to do to overcome this oligarchy and to create this holiday Labor Day to showcase the power the people have when they unite!
You can read the whole chapter here:
You should buy the whole book. It’s pretty damn awesome.
Happy Labor Day!