For weeks now, I’ve been raving about “Raging Inequality” by Les Leopold. Not so much because it’s a great book, which it is, but because the powerful Communications Workers of America (CWA) union is promoting it, teaching classes, and giving away copies. But I’ve been holding something back.
In essence, the book uses economic data and graphs to show how rotten things have been in America since 1980 in contrast to the period 1945-1980. Then it goes on to suggest how we can return fairness to our nation.
What’s wrong with that?
We’re looking at the wrong end of the graphs. The right side of each graph, the period 1980-2016, isn’t the period that’s out of kilter. It’s 1945-1980, the left side of each graph, that was un-historical. That “American century” of 35 years was downright peculiar in the entire 400-year old history of capitalism. It was the only time in history when the working class of any capitalist country ever held its own against the bosses! All the other periods, including the present one, were just business as usual.
Business as usual means constantly increasing the exploitation of the workers. It’s not anybody’s fault, it’s just the only way that capitalism can work. The only thing that can even slow the process down is resistance from the working class.
The post war period in America began with over 1/3 of all American workers in unions. There were more successful strikes in 1946 than in any year before or since. The unions, especially those led by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), were integrated, practicing solidarity with one another and with the community at large, and even internationalist in their outlook! They were a real force to be reckoned with, and their power took decades to dwindle down to the skeleton that the new progressive AFL-CIO leadership picked up in 1995.
Shouldn’t we be fighting?
Of course we should be fighting every day. That’s why I tout the book so much. It shows where we are now and some of the steps we could make that would take us forward. My objection to it is that we don’t really want to return to 1945-1980, nor can we. We must bear in mind that we are fighting for something entirely new: an end to boss rule.
Until then, every advance that working people make can be taken away, because the bosses are still in power.
Read the book, please!
Let’s do our best to expand this marvelous educational project that the Communications Workers have begun. Let’s read the book and get everyone else to read it.