LA Progressive: Class Warfare and the Ballot Box

February 12, 2011- “Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much” –Jim Pence, The Hillbilly Report,.

The old Knights of Labor “tried to teach the American wage-earner that he was a wage-earner first and a bricklayer, carpenter, miner, shoemaker, after; that he was a wage-earner first and a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, white, black, Democrat, Republican, after,” historian Norman Ware wrote.

The Knights meant that whatever else divided them, workers had work itself in common. Work was, by far, the most important factor in their lives. Thus, workers should unite as members of the working class, the Knights urged.

Active in the late 19th-century, the Knights were among the pioneers of the union movement in America. They are long gone.

What the Knights tried to teach workers might seem like Mission Impossible today with so many union members who regularly base their votes on issues that aren’t working class issues. But it is Mission Imperative.

The Knights were right. Workers, no matter what job they perform, are wage earners first. “An injury to one is the concern of all,” was the Knights’ famous motto. It still rings true.

“All” meant the whole working class. Leaders of the Knights and other early unions routinely differentiated between the “working class” and the “employer class” or “owner class.” Those terms still have meaning, too. Yet if you use them, the well-heeled union-haters will yell “class warfare!”

Never mind that most rich people stick together and vote their class interests. And since when is voting “warfare?”

For the record, it’s far-right-wing, anti-union Tea Party tilting Republican types — not union leaders – who routinely use gun imagery against politicians and policies they don’t like.

Union leaders and union members don’t suggest “Second Amendment” remedies. We don’t urge anybody to “empty the clip and do what has to be done.” We don’t wave signs warning “We came unarmed (this time)” or pack guns to political rallies.

Anyway, some of my union buddies think it’s high time for union leaders to start re-emphasizing the fact that there is a working class and we’re in it. They say anti-union Republican politicians are able to use social issues to con union members into voting for them because union leaders stopped drawing sharp distinctions between the “working class” and the “owner class.”

In other words, workers have lost their working class consciousness. Sadly, some workers identify more with their bosses than with their fellow workers.


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