Category Archives: Liberalism

Collective Bargaining in the South

By KurtFF8

A recent AP article points out that 9 of the 10 states in the United States that lack collective bargaining rights for state workers are found in the South.  The article points out that in places like Virginia, the drive is to move pensions from a government benefit for state workers to an investment in the private sector.

This is a Neo-Liberal move that is in line with the continued “enclosure of the commons” method of taking everything that is in the public sector and making it for profit in the private sector.  When unions are unable to negotiate for their own workers, the balance of power remains more firmly at the top with the most powerful of society.  As Leftists, we don’t merely want to call for a “balance of power,” however.  Our goal is to tip the balance in favor of the working class so it can itself achieve power for itself as a class.

The fact that the majority of states that lack collective bargaining for state workers fall in the South underlines the argument that organizing in the South should be a top priority for those who want to build the labor movement in general.

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Liberalism, Mississippi, North Carolina, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Virginia

Anniversary of Secession: What it means today

By KurtFF8

Today is the anniversary of the declaration of Secession by South Carolina from the United States in 1860.  This lead to the founding of the Confederacy and lead the  nation on a path to a long bloody conflict that cost the lives of countless people on both sides.  What does this anniversary mean for 2010 though?  For the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust: it means it’s time to throw a party.

The Secession Ball

Tonight, the two groups mentioned above will be throwing what they are calling “The Secession Ball” what is according to the website is “Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of South Carolina’s Secession.” They claim to even have the President Pro-Tempore of the SC Senate planning on attending the ball.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans officials condemns slavery and their spokesperson for the event claims that they are not celebrating the war, but instead just the courage of those who decided to sign the secession statement, while the NAACP has planed a march to protest the event tonight.

So if they are not celebrating the war or slavery, why the event?  Many organizations and individuals who attempt to defend things like the foundation of the Confederate States tend to appeal to notions of States’ Rights and of “Heritage” (“not hate”).  But it doesn’t take much to demonstrate how secession and the creation of the Confederacy were explicitly about preserving slavery and that the specific rights sought out in trying to defend “States Rights” in this particular case were the rights of the state to keep Slavery a legal institution.

So the courage to stand up to the Union ought to be seen as the “courage to defend slavery.”

Causes of the Civil War

 

John Brown is often portrayed as "insane" for his radical anti-slavery actions, and was even executed for them

Slavery was the base of the economic power for the Southern elite in the pre-Civil War South.  After decades of complicated power struggles and debates about expanding the institution to new American states, the Southern elite was threatened and to use a phrase Marx used, launched a “Slave owner rebellion.”  As I noted above, they made their reasons for secession quite clear: to preserve slavery.  While other factors, such as “taxes and tariffs,” are sometimes pointed to as causes for the war, these factors existed in so far as they interfered with the source of the wealth that was being harmed: the institution of slavery!

This is of course a long historical debate, but the arguments for Southern Secession tend to be red herrings when it comes to slavery.  Even these groups putting on the “Secession Ball” make sure to note that they are opposed to slavery and the Civil War’s bloody toll.  Yet they defend the event that is noted for its strong defense of slavery and for starting that very war.

States’ Rights

When “States’ Rights” is appealed to as the reason for the South’s actions, what rights those States were looking to protect are often ignored.  This is because it was the right to own slavery by the Southern elite.  Yet the argument over States’ Rights was not resolved at the end of the War.

After the Civil War ended and what is often referred to as “radical reconstruction” was abandoned to an extent, the newer elites in the South instituted “Jim Crow Laws.”  It was the “Jim Crow South” that was responsible for racial segregation that wasn’t to be fully broken until the civil rights movement exploded in the 1960s.  The arguments for maintaining these laws often appealed to the same thing: States’ Rights.

We can also see a similar kind of rhetoric of States’ Rights in the opposition to the moderate attempt at health care reform over the past few years.  It’s rare in the history of the South that these concept is appealed to actually expand the rights of the majority of the people, but instead States’ Rights are often appealed to for the strengthening of the elite.

We need to be clear about the nature of celebrating the Confederacy in any way: It was a reactionary attempt to preserve slavery in the South, and its’ defeat needs to be celebrated, not its’ founding.

 

Further Reading:

150 Years Ago: Marx & Engels on the War Against Slavery

Collection of Marx and Engels writings on the Civil War

Huffington Post Article

Guardian Article

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, confederacy, Demonstration Announcements, Gulf States, Human Rights, Leftists in the U.S. South, Liberalism, slavery, Solidarity, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights, U.S. Civil War, United States

Blue Dog Democrats take major hit in mid-term elections

By KurtFF8

One of the political groupings that lost the most in the elections last week were southern Blue Dog Democrats.  The conservative group of Democrats formed in 1995 represented the most right-wing of the Democratic Party.  The Party spent a lot of time hoping they could gain power at the national level by appealing to the more conservative elements of the South (something the GOP has historically done since the end of segregation).  This “neo-Southern strategy” has to some extent, come to an end (at least in the short run).

I’ve said, and am not alone in saying, that the failure of the Democratic Party last week is their responsibility.  It doesn’t represent a major right wing shift or prestige of the Tea Party (although within the conservative movement in the United States, it has obviously grown considerably) but instead was a failure of the Democratic Party to bring anything to the table to get their even liberal supporters to stand behind.

Take health care for example.  The Democrats started at a compromise: a public option.  Then the GOP negotiated away from that compromise and the health care reform that was passed was significantly watered down, in a major part as the result of the poor political choices of the Democrats.

But why do the Democrats do this?  There are of course various different factors.  One factor, the Blue Dogs.  The conservative section of their party is constantly a road block for progressive legislation that also blocks the Democratic Party from ever being able to reach the status of a Social Democratic party (which puts America in a strange position compared to the rest of the “Advanced Industrialized World”).  Another, perhaps obvious factor, is the power of Pharmaceutical and Health Insurance companies.  They are some of the most profitable industries in the country and are not currently being threatened by any major/strong labor movement.  The relationship between the Democratic Party and capital is no surprise to the Left.  And in a place like the South that disproportionately lacks a strong labor movement, even the mainstream “alternative” to the GOP is significantly more right leaning.  As a result, the discourse in Southern politics revolves less around class consciousness, and fighting capital, but instead is more around conservative issues like abortion (which was one of Rick Scott’s big talking points).  This and the resistance to what the right has labeled “Obamacare,” are some of the things that have galvanized the right.

But the Left often makes the mistake of thinking that the working class is just moving more to the right, and that things like the Tea Party are made up of misguided workers.  This is a misconception, as the labor movement in the US (while it has its host of problems, both historically and today), is not the base of these reactionary movements, and never has been.  The “mobilization of the Tea Party” for this election should instead be viewed as a “lack of support by and lack of mobilization of the working class” instead.

So in a place like the South, where labor has to chose between overtly pro-business candidates, and just-a-little-less-overtly pro-business candidates: it’s easy to see why groups like the Blue Dogs have failed this time around.  That’s not to say that the strategy of playing on conservatism of elements of the working class in the South won’t work in the future for the 2 pro-capitalist parties that rule America, but if we are to measure this election as anything: it should be a lack of faith in the party that is self described as being pro-labor.  This is why an independent working class organization (party, social movement, whichever your flavor of the Left) is greatly needed, especially in the US South.

Further reading: Election nearly wipes out white Southern Democrats AP Article

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Gulf States, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Liberalism, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, The Left, United States, workers

Misrepresenting the Left – We are Not Liberals

For your consideration: A thought-provoking, and timely, piece from a Southern Leftist. – Hasten_Await

By Ron Jacobs

Despite the current media-induced confusion, liberals are not leftists. This misconception is not only embarrassing to those of us who are genuinely leftist in our politics, it is also discrediting the Left. From the New York Times to FOX News, the portrayal of the US Democratic party and Barack Obama as leftist is creating a perception in the US populace that leftists are ineffective politicos who have no principles they won’t modify. Of course, the Left has not done that great of a job explaining the situation in any other way, thereby leaving the way open for the misconceptions put forth by the media to appear as truth.

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Filed under Liberalism, The Left, Uncategorized