American democracy arose because those consciously locked out of the system put their bodies on the line and demanded justice. The exclusion of the poor and the working class from the systems of power in this country was deliberate. The Founding Fathers deeply feared popular democracy. They rigged the system to favor the elite from the start, something that has been largely whitewashed in public schools and by a corporate media that has effectively substituted myth for history. March 14, 2011 http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/15...and_our_cowardly_political_class/?page=entire The liberal class is discovering what happens when you tolerate the intolerant. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let hate speech pollute the airways. Let corporations buy up your courts and state and federal legislative bodies. Let the Christian religion be manipulated by charlatans to demonize Muslims, gays and intellectuals, discredit science and become a source of personal enrichment. Let unions wither under corporate assault. Let social services and public education be stripped of funding. Let Wall Street loot the national treasury with impunity. Let sleazy con artists use lies and deception to carry out unethical sting operations on tottering liberal institutions, and you roll out the welcome mat for fascism. Workers in this country paid for their rights by suffering brutal beatings, mass expulsions from company housing and jobs, crippling strikes, targeted assassinations of union leaders and armed battles with hired gun thugs and state militias. The Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Carnegies and the Morgansâthe Koch Brothers Industries, Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart of their dayânever gave a damn about workers. All they cared about was profit. The eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, job safety, paid vacations, retirement benefits and health insurance were achieved because hundreds of thousands of workers physically fought a system of capitalist exploitation. They rallied around radicals such as âMotherâ Jones, United Mine Workersâ President John L. Lewis and âBigâ Bill Haywood and his Wobblies as well as the socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs. Lewis said, âI have pleaded your case from the pulpit and from the public platformânot in the quavering tones of a feeble mendicant asking alms, but in the thundering voice of the captain of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which free men are entitled.â Those who fought to achieve these rights endured tremendous suffering, pain and deprivation. It is they who made possible our middle class and opened up our democracy. The elite hired goons and criminal militias to evict striking miners from company houses, infiltrate fledgling union organizations and murder suspected union leaders and sympathizers. Federal marshals, state militias, sheriffâs deputies and at times Army troops, along with the courts and legislative bodies, were repeatedly used to crush and stymie worker revolts. Striking sugar cane workers were gunned down in Thibodaux, La., in 1887. Steel workers were shot to death in 1892 in Homestead, Pa. Railroad workers in the Pullman strike of 1894 were murdered. Coal miners at Ludlow, Colo., in 1914 and at Matewan, W.Va., in 1920 were massacred. Our freedoms and rights were paid for with their courage and blood. American democracy arose because those consciously locked out of the system put their bodies on the line and demanded justice. The exclusion of the poor and the working class from the systems of power in this country was deliberate. The Founding Fathers deeply feared popular democracy. They rigged the system to favor the elite from the start, something that has been largely whitewashed in public schools and by a corporate media that has effectively substituted myth for history. Europeâs poor, fleeing to America from squalid slums and workhouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, were viewed by the privileged as commodities to exploit. Slaves, Native Americans, indentured servants, women, and men without property were not represented at the Constitutional Conventions. And American history, as Howard Zinn illustrated in âThe Peopleâs History of the United States,â is one long fight by the marginalized and disenfranchised for dignity and freedom. Those who fought understood the innate cruelty of capitalism. âWhen you sell your product, you retain your person,â said a tract published in the 1880s during the Lowell, Mass., mill strikes. âBut when you sell your labour, you sell yourself, losing the rights of free men and becoming vassals of mammoth establishments of a monied aristocracy that threatens annihilation to anyone who questions their right to enslave and oppress. Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism.â As Noam Chomsky points out, the sentiment expressed by the Lowell millworkers predated Marxism. âAt one time in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century, a hundred and fifty years ago, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery,â Chomsky told David Barsamian. âThat was not an unusual position. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which Northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. Weâre against chattel slavery and wage slavery. Free people do not rent themselves to others. Maybe youâre forced to do it temporarily, but thatâs only on the way to becoming a free person, a free man, to put it in the rhetoric of the day. You become a free man when youâre not compelled to take orders from others. Thatâs an Enlightenment ideal. Incidentally, this was not coming from European radicalism. There were workers in Lowell, Mass., a couple of miles from where we are. You could even read editorials in the New York Times saying this around that time. It took a long time to drive into peopleâs heads the idea that it is legitimate to rent yourself. Now thatâs unfortunately pretty much accepted. So thatâs internalizing oppression. Anyone who thinks itâs legitimate to be a wage laborer is internalizing oppression in a way which would have seemed intolerable to people in the mills, letâs say, a hundred and fifty years ago. â¦ tâs an [unfortunate] achievement [of indoctrination in our culture].â Our consumer society and celebrity culture foster a frightening historical amnesia. We chatter mindlessly about something called the âAmerican Dream.â And now that the oligarchic elite have regained control of all levers of power, and that dream is being exposed as a cruel hoax, we are being shoved back into the cage. There will be hell to pay to get back to where we were. Slick public relations campaigns, the collapse of public educationânearly a third of the country is illiterate or semiliterateâand the rise of amoral politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who posed as liberals while they sold their souls for corporate money, have left us largely defenseless. The last vestiges of unionized workers in the public sector are reduced to protesting in Wisconsin for collective bargainingâin short, the ability to ask employers for decent working conditions. That shows how far the country has deteriorated. And it looks as though even this basic right to ask, as well as raise money through union dues, has been successfully revoked in Madison. The only hope now is more concerted and militant disruptions of the systems of power.