Chris Hedges responds to the battle for Wisconsin

While doing so he criticized his usual targets, which he grouped under the name he recently gave them, the Liberal Class. When developing his criticism with respect to the events in Wisconsin, Hedges makes what amounts to an implicit call for an American liberation theology.

The pillars of the liberal establishment, which once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, have collapsed. The liberal church forgot that heretics exist. It forgot that the scum of society — look at the new Newt Gingrich — always wrap themselves in the flag and clutch the Christian cross to promote programs that mock the core teachings of Jesus Christ. And, for all their years of seminary training and Bible study, these liberal clergy have stood by mutely as televangelists betrayed and exploited the Gospel to promote bigotry, hatred and greed. What was the point, I wonder, of ordination? Did they think the radical message of the Gospel was something they would never have to fight for?

Atheists like me sometimes forget that the teachings Jesus left to posterity are vastly superior to the teachings of the religious institutions which loudly carry his flag. We forget that Jesus would make his way to the side of Wisconsin’s public employees, to the homes of the illegal immigrants in America, to the poor loafing about in America’s cities, and so on. And he surely would find his way to these people just as he had during his lifetime. Why, therefore, have America’s religious leaders remained silent about the battle for Wisconsin (and much else besides)? Why do they emulate the Pharisees of Jesus’ time? I ask because I know that their silence is a fact that is as rare as it would be welcomed in so many other cases.

As for me, I will not waste my time waiting for the Christian right to stand with the poor, weak and threatened. The institutional churches, well….

Update

Peter Laarman addressed the issue raised by Chris Hedges in his essay “Will the Religious Side with Workers?,” which recently appeared in Religion Dispatches. Here are a few passages from his essay:

At this moment, when the embattled US labor movement urgently needs strong community-based allies and much greater moral legitimation, there ought to be no better place to find both than among the faithful. Yet broad-based strategic and moral support from the religious side has been slow to materialize.

In saying this, I do not disparage or minimize the importance of the religious support that public sector workers, in my home state of Wisconsin in particular, have been able to marshal.

However:

I want to ask why many more of the faithful never took sides during the long war against unions and union workers that’s been raging since the mid-1970s — even prior to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of the Air Traffic Controllers.

And:

Where were the vast majority of American religious leaders during these decades of attacks on workers and their organizations? It’s not that labor’s gospel of gaining a fair share of the economic productivity that workers help create is so very different from religion’s stated interest in shared prosperity. And it’s not that no religious figures ever took the side of unions in earlier U.S. history.

Cross-posted to FireDogLake

From parliamentary intrigue to popular contestation

Once Wisconsin’s Republican Senators made hash out of parliamentary procedure to cleave the union-busting component of Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, it seems as though the Wisconsin GOP had triumphed over their partisan and popular adversaries. The Senators even included no-strike by public employee measures in the new bill. Their will and that of Governor Walker appeared firm as police — but not the Wisconsin National Guard! — began to remove protesters from the antechamber to the Assembly while permitting entry into the Capitol Building through an entrance that included weapons screening. Despite their having to face this repression, the demonstrators refused to yield. The New York Times now reports that:

As thousands of demonstrators converged on the Capitol, the police cut off access to the building on Thursday, creating a taut atmosphere in which Republican State Assembly members were seeking to maintain order long enough to vote on a bill that sharply curtails bargaining rights for government workers.

The State Assembly had been scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday morning. Though it is virtually certain to pass, it was now unclear when that vote might take place.

So, the protest campaign continues. Meanwhile, the demonstrators, their supporters and their opponents can only wait for the appearance of the legal challenges to this bill, challenges which will come soon enough.

Update

Wisconsin’s State Assembly finished its nasty chore and passed the anti-union bill 53-42. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, expressed well the absurdity of the moment when he claimed: “‘It will show to people in Wisconsin and throughout the country that we are not afraid to make hard decisions’.” Let us hope that over the coming months that members of the Wisconsin GOP will have many occasions to display their brave nature.

Cross-posted at FireDogLake

Shame on the Wisconsin GOP

Legitimacy be damned

Mary Spicuzza and Clay Barbour of The Wisconsin State Journal report:

In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Republicans used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to overcome a three-week stalemate with Democrats and pass an amended version of the governor’s controversial budget repair bill.

With a crowd of protesters chanting outside their chambers, Senators approved an amended version of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees.

The new bill removes fiscal elements of the proposal but still curbs collective bargaining and increases employee payments in pension and health benefits. The changes would amount to an approximate 8 percent pay cut for public workers.

The House will pass the amended bill tomorrow. But the law will likely need to pass a number of legal and political tests. These tests may include: A general strike, new demonstrations and multiple legal challenges based upon the legally suspect parliamentary maneuvering that enabled the Senate to overcome the quorum problem created by the Democrats.

This event also reveals with undeniable clarity Wisconsin Republicans to be shameless hypocrites. It shows that the union-busting component of Walker’s Budget Repair Bill was a non-fiscal and decidedly political goal.

Recall elections now in Wisconsin’s future

David Dayan of FireDogLake reports:

The Wisconsin State Democratic Party just sent out an email to supporters announcing that they have officially filed recall papers against all 8 Republican Senators eligible for recall immediately. Depending on their success in gathering enough signatures – and the threshold is not too high, they need between 14,000 and 20,000 signatures in the various districts – the State Senate will be up for grabs in Wisconsin as early as this year.

The filing of recall papers starts a 60-day clock for signature gathering. Then the signatures are examined and challenges made, but if the recall petition meets all requirements, the recall begins just 6 weeks later. Recalls in Wisconsin include primaries and general elections; it’s basically a do-over special election.

Wisconsin recall central is located here.

A major drawback to the recall program: Democratic Senators will replace Republican Senators.

Reactionary Republicans and their hatred of social and political solidarity

Writing for the Nation, Ilyse Hogue succinctly makes a point that, to my mind, cannot be repeated or reemphasized often enough:

For the past two weeks, all eyes have been glued to Madison, Wisconsin. The collective and joyful resistance to Governor Scott Walker’s power-grabbing budget bill has inspired the demoralized progressive base and put the corporate-backed assault on working people front and center in the national conversation.

But while it’s obvious that the right wing is out to break the back of the progressive movement, it’s easy to miss the strategy that guides their selection of specific targets. Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena, those that connect people’s personal struggles across the country to the political struggle in Washington. Once we recognize the critical role these progressive service organizations play in building progressive politics, the right’s broader strategy in Wisconsin and elsewhere becomes clear. Scott Walker is a soldier in the same army as James O’ Keefe and Lila Rose, the right-wing video pranksters who tried to smear ACORN and Planned Parenthood.

The rightwing in America, Ms. Hogue suggests, does not merely want to defeat the progressives, to win this or that battle or destroy just one or two organizations. Rather, the goal pursued by the reactionary right in the United States targets those social institutions which produce social goods and a popular politics meant to serve the interests specific to every America citizen. This is the gist of Ms. Hogue’s article. She expresses it by identifying the rightwing attack on two forms of solidarity: Social solidarity and political solidarity.

  1. Social solidarity refers to the provisions of those services and goods individuals need because America’s system of markets has failed to provide for those needs.
  2. Political solidarity refers to those institutions meant to represent the interests of the individuals whom are unable to pursue and defend effectively their interests whether as individuals or as members of a group.

    The right, then, wants to reduce its opponents to a needy, voiceless and powerless mass. And it is the nature of this very project that reveals the radical and reactionary character of the right in the United States today. Sadly, the evils of totalitarianism can be found in this reactionary project, a project which begins with the dehumanization of the ‘other’ and ends with….

    As Kevin Zeese put the matter moments ago: “Wisconsin is ground zero for the race to the bottom.” At this time, contesting the rightwing project begins there. But the Wisconsin conflict will not be the only skirmish in this struggle.

    Cross-posted at FireDogLake

    What’s wrong with this thought?

    E.J. Dionne, while discussing the Wisconsin conflict, asserted that:

    It’s said that this fight is all about partisanship — and it’s true that Walker’s proposal is tougher on the most Democratic-leaning public-employee unions than on the ones more sympathetic to Republicans.

    But this goes beyond partisanship. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which swept away decades of restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections, has already tilted the political playing field toward the country’s most formidable business interests. Eviscerating the power of the unions would make Republicans and Democrats alike more dependent than ever on rich and powerful interests and undercut the countervailing strength of working people who, as those Kohler workers know, already have enough problems.

    Even critics of public-employee unions should be able to recognize a power grab when they see one.

    The key problem here, as I see it, is one of timing. Labor in the United States today hardly stands as a countervailing power to the power available to American capital and its political allies. Union membership as of 1.2011 amounts to 11.9% of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 6.9% of private sector workers belong to a union while a mere 36.2% of America’s public sector workers belong to a union. Simply put, a fraction of America’s economic and political elite had already broken the union movement before Scott Walker put his name on the 2010 Wisconsin ballot. It used the Stagflation Crisis of the 1970-80s as a pretext on which to make a public assault on America’s unions. The AFL-CIO’s 1981 Solidarity March failed to intimidate the Reagan faction of the GOP or to embolden the remnants of the New Deal Coalition who cared about the fate of America’s working class. And it is because organized labor lacked the power to defeat the Reaganite onslaught of the 1980s that it ceased to provide a base from which sympathetic Democrats could contest the rightward drift of the American political elite.

    The Democratic Party already depends upon and prefers the help it gets from big capital. Organized labor may have a seat at the big table, but it literally pays dearly for the meager results it gets for its money. One need only to consider the fact that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama supported the horrible Blanche Lincoln in the 2010 Arkansas primary, and gave her this support even though a Lincoln nomination would only produce a defeat in November. Moreover, Obama’s election along with his very disappointing tenure as President supports nothing else but the conclusion that the leaders of the Democratic Party belong to the FIRE sector of the economy. In fact, one can measure Obama’s labor sympathies by the fight he made in support of the Employee Free Choice Act while President.

    As for my take on Wisconsin: What we are seeing in Madison today is not organized labor fighting a state politician and his party in defense of the right of some workers to collectively bargain with the State of Wisconsin. Nor, for that matter, is the conflict a local instance of the national Democrats making a stand on behalf of its base. What we are seeing instead is a troubled part of American society defending itself against the predatory practices of a social and political system dominated by big capital, its money and its political allies. What about the legacy parties in Washington? As we know, they are already spoken for by their well-heeled friends. At least some Democratic Senators of the Wisconsin Senate had the nerve to flee to Illinois, thus saving the Party from colluding one more with the Republicans. That is far more than one could reasonably expect from the national Democrats.

    Cross-posted at FireDogLake