When I was in Italy a couple of years ago, Italian workers declared a national strike in protest of the economic policies of their conservative billionaire prime minister and Bush buddy, Silvio Berlusconi.
Aside from a skeleton crew of hotel workers and cabbies, the entire country shut down for one day, and Berlusconi got the message loud and clear– back off, Jack!
So I got to thinking: Could something like this work in the United States? Theoretically it could, but there is a problem. Italy is a country with many strong labor unions that have solidarity with each other, and when the call goes out to strike, all the workers fall into line.
In the U.S., labor unions no longer have that kind of clout, and most American employees are on their own. Which means they are at the mercy of corporate America for their wages, job security, and health care.
If Americans were living in a real democracy, they would have a strong voice in the three most important areas of their lives, and they would make their views known to the government vis-a-vis the political process. So, for example, if it were clear that a majority of Americans needed and wanted affordable health care, their elected representatives in Congress would write legislation to make this become a reality. That’s the way the democratic political process is supposed to work– at least that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Unfortunately, the election process in America today is a fraud (See Archives for December’s article: “How Democrats Enabled Republicans to Steal 2004 Presidential Election.”) Moreover, the mainstream news media is little more than a public relations tool of the current administration, and corporate America is the de facto power behind the government.
Perhaps I am overstating this a bit, but anyone who denies the validity of the above assertions is living in a Matrix-like fantasyland. So wake up, unplug, and face the truth! Accept the fact that democracy is being unceremoniously lowered into the grave and corporate fascism is the reality in America today.
Whenever the term fascism is used to describe the current state of affairs in America, even liberals tend to cringe, because they associate it with Hitler and Mussolini, death camps and brown shirts. True, the U.S. is not there yet, although given the lies and propaganda used to justify the war in Iraq, the civil liberties abuses and torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and the rigged presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, we’re not far way.
Add to this unsavory litany the reluctance of the mainstream news media to report the truth about the Bush administration and hold it accountable for its lies, corruption, and anti-democratic policies, and the reality becomes that much closer.
In fact the only difference from an institutional point of view between the political fascism of Hitler and Mussolini and the corporate fascism of America today is, Hitler and Mussolini ran their countries with an iron fist with the help and support of large corporations and the national press, whereas in America large corporations run the country from behind the scenes with the help and support of politicians and the mainstream news media. Not much of a difference, for all practical purposes, unless you believe that ruthless, profit-driven multinational corporations act more ethically and altruistically than power-driven dictators.
And perhaps many Americans do believe this, if they think about it at all. Which would explain why about half of all the citizens who voted in the last presidential election mindlessly voted against their own self-interests and in favor of candidates who represent the same corporations that brainwash and exploit them on a daily basis
The $64,000 question is, if both major political parties and the mainstream news media are in the pockets of the large corporate interests “like so many nickels and dimes,” how can Americans– short of violence or revolution– fight back and reinstate democracy?
Up until now, liberals and progressives thought the answer was by organizing politically with groups like MoveOn.org or Howard Dean. This was a noble effort, but it didn’t work against the Machiavellian forces of corporate fascism. It was like sending a college debate team to fight Tony Soprano and his crew on their own turf. So stopping thinking old school! Get over the idea that you can affect change by supporting political candidates or parties. It’s too late for that. There’s only one way to deal with corporate fascists. Hit ’em where it hurts the most. Kick ’em in the economic nuts! And not just you, but millions like you at the same time
If MoveOn.org and Howard Dean have taught us anything, it’s that the Internet is the perfect tool to recruit millions of citizens for a united cause. So my suggestion is this: All populist groups– irrespective of their political stripe or affiliation– should give up supporting candidates or parties, band together as one organization, and switch to the economic front to counter corporate fascism– as they do in Italy.
Next, form a national organization– let’s call it something non-threatening like the National Employees Association (NEA)– that represents ALL American workers. Then set a national agenda with specific goals and demands that appeal to the basic economic needs of U.S. employees and citizens alike.
For example: All Americans should have affordable health care– and they should have it now, not ten years from now! Once this demand is made public, it would be up to corporate America and their political stooges to respond. If they ignore the demand, or attempt to sabotage it, then the NEA will call a national strike on a pre-set day against all insurance companies, hospitals, and HMOs.
On that day, no one pays his or her health insurance bill and no one goes to work in the health care industry. In addition, all NEA members will boycott any company that does not support their association’s position.
Will this work? You’re damn right it will– if the employee association is 50 to 100 million strong. The trick is to get American employees to sign up and participate. That’s where the Internet comes in. With the right leadership and strategy, every employee in the country (including the owners of small independent businesses who also are battling corporate fascism) will want to become a member.
After all, employees and small independent businesses in the United States are the ones who do a lion’s share of the work to keep the country from collapsing. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. The appeal must be economic, not political.
And once large corporations understand that the free ride is over, that employees and small independent business owners are united and can exert serious economic leverage against them, they will think twice about trying to screw them the next time around. This will strike a major blow against corporate fascism and score a long-awaited victory for democracy.
After that, the NEA can finish the job, and its members can go to work on the political process by informing their friendly elected Congress person: You’d better pass legislation that is good for all Americans and not just your corporate buddies– or you’re next, Jack!