Friday, 15 July 2011

Why the American jobless don’t revolt

“There used to be a sense that unemployment was rich soil for radicalisation and revolt,” labour historian Nelson Lichtenstein told the New York Times. “That was a motif in American history for a long time, but we don’t seem to have that anymore.”
America is seeing ‘the gravest job crisis’ since Roosevelt, but the budget deficit and not unemployment is dominating the political discourse. The jobless themselves are keeping quiet. “Unlike the hard-pressed in, say, Greece or Spain, the jobless in America seem, well, subdued”, the NYT observes.
One factor is that today’s unemployed are more dispersed, living in suburban areas. In the 1960s, the unemployed would organise around the welfare or unemployment offices (see also the classic Poor People’s Movements by Piven and Cloward – DK). Many of those offices have closed. Benefits are now handled by phone or online.
In the past, unions supported the unemployed workers’ movements, but today many unions are struggling for survival and do not have the resources for such activities. There are online efforts to organise the unemployed, such as UCubed, but these cannot take the place of organising in real life. And finally, some of the anger is being channelled by the Tea Party, who believe that benefits stimulate poor people to stay poor.
The article in the NYT concludes by saying that in the Great Depression, it took a while for the poor to mobilize. Many saw Roosevelt as an ally and only later became disillusioned. The paper hints that Obama, when he runs for re-election next year, may face similar disillusionment.
Image: The Single Men's Unemployed Association parading to Bathurst Street United Church. Toronto, Canada, ca 1930. Library and Archives Canada / Wikimedia

1 comment:

OrsanS said...

A shift in revolutionary tactics.
267 comments Adbusters , 13 Jul 2011

Alright you 90,000 redeemers, rebels and radicals out there,

A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote:

"The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people."
— Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University
Barcelona, Spain

The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.

On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.

Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?

The most exciting candidate that we've heard so far is one that gets at the core of why the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it.