fragments of an attempted writing.
Whenever I find myself back in the upper Midwest, and have conversations with those family, friends, and acquaintances who have the misfortune of being conservative politically, it strikes me again that these folk have their opinions formed in part (large part, I tend to think) by a context in which they (more or less rightly) find themselves surrounded by progressives.  This is, of course, fairly obviously true for folks living in Milwaukee, Madison, and the Twin Cities, and especially folks who have a connection to universities there.  If they are intellectuals, they tend to perpetually pissed off at having been scoffed at or dismissed because of their conservative views, if they have ever presented them in the usual intellectual environments.

Whenever I have occasion to note this, I always think to myself that it would be nice to see these folks suffer with living in an area where the policies they support have been enacted, or are in the process of being enacted.  Places such as, say, Tennessee or Texas.  I have absolutely no doubt that 98.5% of these Northern conservatives would find themselves horrified if they had to suffer through Tennessean or Texan life, and the reasons for their disdain would go far beyond music and accents and BBQ taking the place of brats.

I know that many of the reasons these people would hate the South would have to do with the results of political policies these folks embrace - the socio-cultural ramifications of having third world levels of income disparity in so many Southern locales, a lack of unionization and a legal hostility to unions ("right to work" laws, etc.), the überbanal Christianization of education (such as TN's "don't say gay" bill), the lack of well funded state offices (try going to the DMV in WI and TN in the same year - the contrast between the experiences is surreal), and perhaps most especially, the rabid, racist, and crass levels and manifestations of class distinction in the South - as much as Northern conservatives espouse meritocracy, and love the meritocracy talk they hear coming from the mouths of Southern conservative politicos, it won't take that many years in a place like Memphis to learn that class, and not merit, has a hell of a lot more to do with which locals are rich in Memphis, and, indeed, that many Memphis cultural traditions are not just different from, but hostile to, the (relatively) meritocratic traditions of domestic life in the upper Midwest, so framed as it is by Germanic and Scandinavian cultural influences.  Rich people in Memphis don't work on their own homes.  Most rich people in MN and WI still do, as in actually do substantial physical labor on their own properties, and not just plan out what the servants will do.  In the upper Midwest, do-it-yourself is something of a religion.    I would love to take some of these Northern conservatives to some of the petit-bourgeois Memphis neighborhoods I have had the misfortune of going into to install light fixtures I made, and introduce them to the staff in those homes, and have them get a glance at the owners of those homes and how they treat their hired help.  Of course there are social anomalies everywhere, but given enough exposure to the norms, I think these Northern conservatives would be well put off by what they saw in the South.  They like to bitch about their taxes going to public schools, but I'd like to take these Northern conservatives to visit, say, 10 suburban public schools in suburbs of Memphis, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, etc., and compare these schools to suburban public schools in WI and MN.  The contrast, at least as witnessed by any reasonable person, will be chilling.

My aunt, from Ohio, is an NRA loving Rush Limbaugh listening conservative, and decidedly working class.  When she has come to Memphis she has never failed to express her displeasure regarding bad experiences with working class culture there.  One time, when buying beer with her at a gas station, she chastised the gas station clerk for not being able to speak something in the ballpark of proper English (the clerk spoke thick Ebonics).  But of course it doesn't occur to her to think about the economic and political factors at work behind gas station clerks in her area of Ohio (they are likely enough to be black there as well) and gas station clerks in Memphis.  My Northern conservative folks want to walk into a gas station and have it reasonably well kept up - they want there to be credit card receipt paper at the pump (there never is at my local gas station in Memphis), they want the bathroom to have been moderately cleaned in recent days, and so forth.  But these sorts of expectations come with a price, and when you enact the social and economic policies that are enacted in places like TN and TX, you get predictable results.

One could argue that it is culture, and not politics, which is the driving force behind these sorts of differences.  In a word, bullshit.  Culture of course will have noticeable effects - someone from a Germanic background in MN is generally going to approach their property in a different manner than someone from a Scotch-Irish background in the South.  When a Northerner in a middle class neighborhood works on his house it is in order to improve or protect the integrity and worth of the home.  When a Southerner does it - it is in order to display eye candy, and this display is nearly always motivated by class motivating factors.   So sure, culture is a part of it.  But a guy I used to work with at my shop in Memphis, a fellow who had been a Piggly-Wiggly manager, as had his father, told me about the differences in employee work ethic in Memphis grocery stores in the 70s, when grocery clerks were paid $10 an hour, and in the 00s, when they were paid less than that.  The work ethic norms transcended race, so that was not a factor (and the guy telling me this was a racist).  White or black, when grocery clerks were paid a living wage they performed their tasks much "better" than when paid peanuts.  Of course, the reason clerks were paid more back then was because even when not unionized, there was the potential threat of unionization, and that threat is now gone in places like TN and TX.  The only grocery stores in Memphis with union employees currently are Kroger stores, and they are only union because of union pressure placed on the company outside of the state of TN.  Talking to a union worker at Kroger (though not all Kroger employees in Memphis are union) as opposed to a non-union worker at another Memphis grocery store is another experiment which reveals sharp contrasts.  If you are on the winning side of things in the class war in the South, you might get to live in a pristine house and drive a decent car and eat at niceish restaurants and put your kids in elite schools, but so much of your civic life, or life outside your little class based enclave, will be ugly and course and unstable, and I'm confident that very few of these Northern conservative folks could handle that - as much as they might think otherwise, they have been reared to intuit certain expectations of the social and civic orders, and they tend to be disgusted when those expectations are not met.

My wife and I spent a bit of time in Milwaukee this week, and at one event some rural WI folk had to come to a family gig in a "bad" neighborhood in Milwaukee.  My wife and I laughed about this.  Even in the "bad,"  minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, the gas station employees still refill the credit card receipt paper at the pump, and the floor appeared to have been mopped that morning.


  1. It might not be long before people in the upper midwest get to regularly experience what it's like to live with third-world levels of wealth disparity. Both parties are trying to outcompete one another to lick the boots of the oligarchs.

  2. JS,

    True. A Walker WI looks more and more like TN.

  3. Just within the US, this model fails to explain the Pacific Northwest, especially Oregon. Oregon is a high tax, high services state. Washington is low tax, low services. Ideologically they're similar - progressive-ish, rich people cloaking their use of the state as a slot machine with progressive ideology just like they cloak this use with other ideology elsewhere. And yet dealing with the government in Washington, Oregon, and the very top of CA is horrendous. There is negative work ethic. There is insane stratification and complete lack of civic-mindedness. Properties are generally poorly maintained; construction standards are a joke and abysmally inappropriate for the climate.

    Europe and Asia can provide a lot of examples where this model just doesn't work as well.

    You're just too smalltown for your own good, Owen, you think you know everything based on your residence in a few culturally distinct areas of one large, diverse country. But you just don't have enough information or lived experience to be making the calls you think you can make. Don't ossify like this, it's a waste. - mercyorbemoaned (Russians won't let me sign in)

  4. @Anonymous - What point are you trying to make?

    Are you saying that Washington and Oregon are similar to Texas and Memphis in terms of low taxes, favorable treatment of rich people, and hostility to unions?

    Or are you saying that these states are completely different from Texas and Memphis in terms of policies, yet are getting similar results?

  5. mercy,

    Have you ever been to the South? Have you ever worked in the building trades or in a peripheral trade? To compare pacific northwest class stratification with that of the Delta is just plain cute.

    Washington state does not begin to approach the extremes taken by Republican governments in TN and TX. Aside from my wife telling me something about China (where she lived for a spell) I don't follow Asian politics once, but name it and claim it with regard to Europe. You know not of what you speak.

    The folks I met from the West Coast who moved to MN when I lived there did not seem to be in particular awe of the gov't services or the quality of the trades. The folks from the West Coast I have met in Memphis all routinely bitch and gripe about gov't services, construction quality, etc. And were not just talking simple anecdotal here - building standards in the pacific states are considerably more strict than in TN and Delta states and gov't services are not a matter of hearsay - they are discernible to anyone with google. There have been occasional anomalies, but these are harder and harder to find - TN used to have a progressive state medicare system but that was dismantled about a decade ago. Try again.

  6. You really hit the nail on the head with this post. I am a fourth on one side and ninth on the other generation Minnesotan and most of my family are conservatives (I don't understand why). I always say that they get to enjoy the benefits of living in a progressive (not so much anymore) state, while also getting to complain about it. I grew up in one of the fancier suburbs (the people that live there think, at least) and now I live in one of the less desirable first-ring suburbs with a large East-African Muslim population and I can't get any of my family to come over for a damn BBQ! I have been to the South and I know I would not want to ever live anywhere else than MN. But I also value the quality of living of our state. Even the supposed worst parts of MN where my family won't dare trek are really relatively nice compared to say even St. Louis. Conservatism has become a really bad problem here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Good Lord help us!

  7. Did you follow our absurd government shutdown at all?

    Are you back in MN at the moment?

  8. I am going to be an ultramaterialist and say that this is all due to the humidity. I live in New Orleans, so a hot day in Memphis seems like it would be an average day here sans hurricane. I was up in the Smoky Mountains near Knoxville recently, and people were freaking out over a heat wave. Even though my wife and I were dissapointed that it was not much cooler there than here, we didn't think much of their "heat wave". Still, during four months of the year, between the heat, the mosquitoes, the thunder storms, the torrential downpours, etc. I don't go outside, I can't imagine why anyone would.

    But it's true. The last place we lived was California, and the government there would routinely shut parts of the highways down at night so as not to disturb the flow of commute traffic. Here, they just take a really, really, really long time to do anything. In California, to get your water turned on, you just had to call a phone number and the problem was solved. Here in New Orleans, you have to drive all the way into downtown to the central office, take a number, and have somebody do it from their computer. And don't even ask how long it takes to replace a trash can. And the most atrocious thing of all is that they charge sales tax on food, which was unheard of in California. Low taxes my ass.

    In reading this article, the first person who came to mind is my arch-nemesis John Zmirak, from my Inside Catholic / Crisis Magazine days. He lives in New York, born and raised apparently, but has nothing but great things to say about conservative evangelicals in the great unwashed Heartland. It is ironic that he lives and consistently praises a region of the world completely governed by the most progressive forces imaginable, but can have some faux nostalgia for a group of people he has never actually met in person. One wonders if he would become a hedonistic Marxist if forced to live in Memphis or even New Orleans. Then again, the Ludwig von Mises Institute is in Auburn, AL, so maybe they feel right at home.

  9. I got the same sense after 9/11, when leading conservative pundits (who tended to live in the Northeast) would make a fetish out of NASCAR or the American South. As if any of them would survive a day in rural bumfuckingstan.

    I can think of a few others as well-the Wendell Barryites who've never lived in a small town in their lives, the people who glamourise traditional tough guy virtues but who've never been in a real tough guy occupation themselves-like back breaking blue collar work, or something like the police or military.

  10. Gavin McInnes is the most egregious example of this phenomenon... came from a well to do Canadian family, started Vice with government funding in Montreal, made a fortune off cultural branding and guerilla marketing the coke addled 20 something New York lifestyle, made ironic racism and libertarianism "cool," sells out to Viacom and basically goes into semiretirement in his 30s... and writes for Takimag - in the comfort of his home off the Hudson with his bourgeois liberal friends (and his cocaine Republican buddies)... he talks about how much he loves the South, but wouldn't move because it's "too hot." That guy is such a douche.

  11. I consider my left turn economically to be due to going on state medicaid here in NY after moving up from TX. (I consider it one of the most practical things I've learned so far in seminary). ;)

  12. Well, this ex-Bostonian loves her adopted South and wouldn't return to the frozen North on a bet. And I'm pretty conservative (except on immigration and stuff). And I think Yankee liberals are insufferable. (I'm related to a slew of them.)

    I can't speak for the midwest. I have relatives by marriage there, but all my blood relations are from the Boston area. And all I can say for the Northeast is: If it's so wonderful, how come only the rich can afford housing there? When we lived in Vermont, young native Vermonters couldn't afford Vermont. Rich New Yorkers and New Jerseyites were making Vermont unaffordable for Vermonters.

    Not trying to make any grandiose political point here; just observing that IMHO the North (at least the Northeast) sucks pond-water, and thank God for the sweet sunny South. Anyway, Yankees can't cook, and biscuits are the ambrosia of the gods. (Had my first one in Chattanooga when I was 32 and wondered where they'd been all my life.)


  13. I love Yankees and I love Liberals that have balls..... You want to know what the "south" does with its weakest, come to Memphis and I will show you parts of the "hood" your nightmares cannot find.....

  14. jw, surely you don't think such nightmare hoods do not exist up north? My BIL in Milwaukee tells me Milwaukee is the most segregated city on earth. And I'm personally familiar with the area around the Cathedral Housing Project in the South End of Boston. Haven't been there in eons; for all I know it's "gentrified" now. But back in the day...yowzer!



  15. When comparing segregation in Milwaukee compared to Memphis one must keep in mind that Memphis, like many third world cities, has working class and underclass neighborhoods in close proximity to master class neighborhoods in order to facilitate the slave class being able to serve the master class more efficiently - this urban demographic characteristic goes back to the days of slavery and Jim Crow. Many white master class Memphians will protest a charge of racism on the basis that they live in such close proximity to many blacks, have various associations with many blacks, and have black "fiends" - this is utter bullshit and all of those relations and associations have strong class elements to them, inevitably.

    The neighborhood I was in in Milwaukee last week was Hispanic, black and white, with the Hispanics having the plurality.

  16. I'm personally familiar with the area around the Cathedral Housing Project in the South End of Boston. Haven't been there in eons; for all I know it's "gentrified" now. But back in the day...yowzer!

    I can attest to that. I've lived in WI most of my life but during the first 4 years of my marriage we lived on the North Shore of Boston (near Beverly and Salem) while my husband attended grad school. He was heavily involved with an inner city ministry and would frequently go to Roxbury. It was never a given that he would return home safely. The South End was a very dangerous place to be.

    Overall I loved living in New England but it obviously wasn't affordable in terms of housing, so back we came to WI.

    Yankees can't cook

    So true. Up here it's just a sea of bread, pasta, casseroles and bratwurst. Yawn. I visited TX for the first time a few years ago and almost passed out with joy while at a buffet because there was no wheat in sight, it was all Tex Mex food, which I deeply appreciated, as I have celiac disease, plus it's so much tastier than boring midwestern fare.

    My BIL in Milwaukee tells me Milwaukee is the most segregated city on earth.

    Interesting. Will have to see if we find that to be the case as well. My daughter will start attending UW-Milwaukee in a few weeks so I'll soon start becoming much more familiar with that city. My daughter much prefers Milwaukee to Chicago so far, as do I. Suffice to say Chicago has areas as scary as Roxbury. I haven't noticed that about Milwaukee yet.

  17. I have lived in all four points on this country, North, South, East, and West and none of them are as nasty as the South. The South lives and breads on the destruction of the working people and the poor.

    The South has even won to the point of turning white working people against black working people and black and against white and has the Hispanic population grows they will just add them to the hatred movement, all this brought to you by the "Bible Belt".

    The South has somehow swollowed, been impregnated by, given birth to, the same ideas that it once fought against; The Capitalist take over of society to the point that mans freedom, life, happiness, willing to live must come second to the "individual" will of the Corporate Government.

    Yes Memphis TN is one of the worst places within the American borders to live, we have a higher infant mortality rate than most third world countries, we have a high high-school drop out rate that Cuba (which is suppose to be the evil Socialist Third World Country according to our government).

    People that talk as if the South is a grand place to live are ether blind, def, or just plain dumb.

    Oh and I am not telling you what some dude close to me (aka this guy I talk to sometimes) tells me, I am telling you what I know. I go in and out of the worst "hood" you could imagine every day.

  18. Since I'm regularly in Milwaukee, I'll comment.

    I'm guessing Owen got gas at 27th and National. It's not really a bad neighborhood. Yes, Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the country. During the manufacturing era, Milwaukee had a fairly large middle class black population. With the loss of manufacturing jobs, significant poverty abounds in the central city. Unemployment among black males hasn't been lower than 20% in over a decade. There are nightly shootings in Milwaukee, and there will be over 150 murders before the end of a typical year.

    I have always been a tourist in other cities, so I can't really say too much about them. As best I can tell, our poor and those in similar states like Minnesota tend to live better than in other places. Our poor don't live too well, so that tells you something about those other places. Our public infrastructure is significant. There are nice public parks. Some of the nicest ones are in poor neighborhoods. Milwaukee has a very nice bus system.

  19. I inflated the murder count. Milw had 94 for 2010.

  20. White or black, when grocery clerks were paid a living wage they performed their tasks much "better" than when paid peanuts.

    No surprise here. An employer who pays high wages will attract more and better applicants, such that he can pick the good and fire the bad. An employer who pays low wages takes what he can get. High wages don't motivate workers to work well. They simply allow employers to find and keep motivated workers.

    Of course, the reason clerks were paid more back then was because even when not unionized, there was the potential threat of unionization, and that threat is now gone in places like TN and TX.

    Doubt it. I live near the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, PA, which has a unionized Giant Eagle grocery, plus non-unionized Whole Foods and Trader Joe's groceries. Guess which grocers pay workers more? Guess which grocers have staff that appear bright, helpful, and hard at work?

  21. Joe,

    Whole Foods and Trader Joes are niche businesses which attract specific types of workers for reasons other than pay & benefits. Whole Foods appeals to certain subcultures, and those subcultures provide certain types of workers from which one can predict certain types of worker behaviors. The "appear bright, helpful, and hard at work" routine at Whole Foods is also buttressed by a management that is superb at taking advantage of the benefits of its boutique status as well as crushing labor organization. There is a reader of this blog who is a long time Whole Foods employee who can attest to that.

  22. Subcultures provide certain types of workers from which one can predict certain types of worker behaviors

    That's the key point, isn't it? The power of culture? If employers had the same rights to hire and fire in Wisconsin as they do in Tennessee, then most employers would prefer Wisconsin to Tennesee, because Wisconsin's subculture provides "certain types of workers" whom employers desire. THAT's why the pressure to change closed-shop laws exists in states like Wisconsin - the people there know that forcing workers to join unions as a condition of employment ends up harming workers and employers alike.

    I say this as someone whose grandfather helped found the AFL-CIO in Erie, PA and whose grandparents and in-laws were all union workers. They got nothing from their unions except corruption and grief: money taken from their paychecks and spent on God knows what, but no support when it was needed.

  23. Joe,

    Uh, no. With regard to workers at Whole Foods, we are not talking about cultures providing a niche work force, we are talking about consumer and lifestyle groups - there is no uniform "Wisconsin culture" or "PA culture" that they draw from. They draw from local vegans, and local college kids who are the type who wear Che t-shirts but could not tell you what the Paris Commune was, and they draw from middle age ladies who think that taking St. John's Wort from a corporate vitamin company selling something concocted in a factory constitutes serious natural health.

    The old corruption canard is perhaps the epitome of taking the bait in a shock doctrine economic universe. In virtually every industry when union structures were formed agreements were made in which federal and/or local govt's and the businesses in question made deals with the unions. Inevitably a part of those deals had to do with very specific details concerning the structure and administration of the unions and rules concerning union membership. In sector after sector after sector, a uniform phenomenon was seen - radicals played the significant role in the agitation and direct actions and formation of the union and then when the time comes to make a real deal the deal brokered to the union involves a de-radicalization of the union - all communists, anarcho-syndacalists, some socialists, and others heavily involved in the former direct actions were forced out of the unions altogether or at least forced out of union leadership and strict rules put in place in an attempt to keep them out. The union agrees to terms which greatly reduce the direct actions in which it is willing to engage in, etc. This inevitably brought a transition in leadership (which often involved now famous power struggles within union, with the radicals pretty much always losing). The new leadership often did not consist of real workers who fought, as a matter of principle, in the initial struggles which created the threat which the business had been so threatened by, instead the new leadership came from the emerging labor aristocracy and were bureaucrats seeking bureaucratic solutions to every problem. In this phenomenon it appeared to many that Capital was selling the house to labor but in hindsight it was a brilliant and calculated move. In dealing with unions the corporations force them into structural patters most conducive to corruption, you pay off certain segments of workers creating well defined hierarchies within labor, more complicated and sophisticated than existed before, so that now you have both race and intra-class struggles to turn workers against each other, and you pay off union hacks who will be given the good life in return for keeping their unions quiet and subdued, then, after a couple decades of throwing the dog a bone, you slowly start to starve and then beat him again.

  24. -cont'd-

    So now we live in a time when anti-union folks can point to the big bureaucratic unions and say "see, this is what happens when..." BULLSHIT. The reality was constructed by Capital in order to destroy and discredit organized labor. To take the "unions are corrupt" bait now is to play Capital's fool in exactly the manner they orchestrated. Did the majority of unionized workers go for it at points in American labor history? Sure - they placed a bad bet, taking short term financial security over the long term integrity of the labor movement. But what is the solution today, from a labor point of view? It is certainly not to assert as a general rule that "unions are as bad as corporations" or somesuch, even though in terms of hostility to the right demands of workers they may be just as bad as the corporations in question. The response should be manifold - we need (and in some instances now are seeing) a influx of real radicals into the established labor organizations. The model is not dissimilar to when conservatives in America decided that to win in American culture you needed not just to control federal gov't but to have a political infrastructure that had people in place at every level of gov't, from local school board to the White House. This is probably the primary work of many radical organizations today - to infiltrate unions in the attempt to pull them in a more radical direction. I don't know how successful this will be but I know of some unions whose radical make-up today, at least in terms of local and regional leadership, is at levels not seen since before the 1950s. Then there need to be radical groups which engage in direct action independent from the bureaucratic unions - we see this in many forms today, from the old Wobblies taking on Starbucks and Jimmy Johns to new suave groups like US Uncut taking on Bank of America and about a dozen other tax dodging and exploitative corporations. And then you have older, bureaucratic unions which have never pissed away their radicals and their proclivity toward direct action, the most well known expression of this at the moment are the Longshoremen. There are some unions that appear to be "too corrupt to save" but after years of writing off the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO and then seeing the internal politicking that has gone on in those groups since the latest recession and particularly since the WI protests and the pressure rank-and-file and lower level union leadership is putting on upper level union leadership to engage in more direct action causes one to have just a wee hint of hope. If nothing else one might hope that increasing radicalization at the lower levels will someday result in more wildcat strikes in those old, corrupt unions. The most hopeful phenomenon seen today are younger, more radical unions that have distanced themselves from the hyper-bureaucratic and corruption prone models of the older unions, and whose identity is very much tied into direction action, perhaps the most well known example of this at the moment is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - it is these new, young, more radical unions that will do the important work of organizing in traditionally non-union sectors, if it is to be done.

    There are a number of works which describe in detail the phenomenon of Capital coercing unions toward corrupt structures which would ultimately be self-defeating for unions. One of the more accessible works is Sharon Smith's Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States.

  25. In dealing with unions the corporations force them into structural patters most conducive to corruption....

    I see your point, but I don't think this is right. To my mind, a closed shop in which workers are automatically enrolled and required to pay dues every month (garnished from their paychecks) is the pattern that leads to corruption. In the closed shop setting, union leaders have no incentive to be radical and a strong disincentive to do so: a strike means no wages and therefore no garnished dues.

    Unions would stay radical (e.g., would ramp up the rhetoric, call more strikes, etc.) if they had to ask workers to pay dues in cash and, in the course of making that request, had to explain what the union was doing for the workers right now.

    Unions would also be more likely to stay radical if employers could get away with pre-OSHA and pre-plaintiffs' lawyer risks of death and dismemberment (you don't see workers dying regularly in most industries, WVA coal mines excepted) and if we had closed borders such that no immigrants were willing to work for slave wages. But I doubt you are for either of those changes.

    I do think it is unfair to suggest that "capital" mendaciously convinced "labor" to act against labor's long-term interest. GM and US Steel routinely gave workers pension promises and health-care benefits that bought short-term peace at a long-term cost that "capital" didn't understand or appreciate. In my opinion, "capital" isn't as smart or as prophetic as you seem to think it is.

  26. Joe,

    Unions have long used all sorts of coercive methods to keep workers in line, and that includes those times when radicals were doing the organizing, especially from the 1880s to 1940s. Many unions managed to stay radical for decades whilst coercing workers to join unions, sometimes by way of the threat of violence (if only those days would return, a boy can dream). All players in this fight are attempting to get large groups of people to assent to general or broadly applicable terms. Any attempt to "individualize" union activity ends up benefiting Capital disproportionately, such as we see with the plethora of state laws recently passed or in the works at the moment which require unionized workforces to vote on keeping or ditching their union each year, which means the union will have to spend a great deal of its resources to fight perpetual campaigns to remain at a given shop or company.

    The politics of closed borders, with regard to labor, is just another sorry attempt at race baiting - trying to get white laborers to see brown and black laborers as threats to their own financial security.

    As for Capital being "smart" I don't mean to suggest that every move in question was done with a chess move like calculation which had benefits which would be realized three and four decades later in mind. That said, as Marx sufficiently showed in Capital Volume 1, there is a "logic" to the movement of capital and its relation to labor which operates according to certain patterns of repeated press-release-press-release, throw a dog a bone, beat dog, throw a dog a bone, beat dog, etc., etc., along with ever seeking new means to turn certain sectors of labor against other sectors. No men in a dark room had to conceive and plan on the implementation of the phenomena I describe for Capital to operate along the schema I suggest.

  27. -cont'd-

    Keep in mind when thinking about radical involvement in unions that getting a given shop or industry organized is not the ultimate or end goal. This is the difference between a radical in the labor movement and some social dem type in the labor movement. The ultimate or end goal of the radical is to destroy Capital, to end the situation wherein labor is subject to the whims of capitalists and to crush the mechanisms of capitalism decisively. Radicals ultimately want a whole lot more change than just an organized shop or industry. They view their activity as part of a broad class war, and in war you use whatever weapons you have available to you to hurt your enemy and you keep your troops in line and coordinated via whatever means you have at your disposal. In the context of war, corrupt unions and closed shops may not be the perfect weapons, but sometimes they are the only weapons, and so you use them. There are plenty of areas where the question of gain vs. loss in the short term is complex. For instance, minimum wage and living wage laws may well increase unemployment for a time in a given location wherein these laws are enacted. But the laws and the struggle to get them enacted increase class consciousness, increase class hostility, and hurt the enemy even as they hurt the working class by increasing unemployment and provoking other hostile reactions from Capital. Sometimes in war you take a small, seemingly insignificant hill by expending a lot of lives and resources but also taking a lot of enemy lives and resources. That hill's strategic value may be little or it may be great, sometimes even a fight of little strategic value still yields important results - such as your troops getting experience in combat, etc. In massive, large-scale warfare, virtually every action has significant costs and risks and potential benefits whose value is not always easily discerned. OSHA may be an imperfect law which occasionally hurts labor in the process of helping it, but it also provides some direct benefits to some of labor, and it hurts or at least restrains Capital. In the midst of a multi-theater broad scale war in which your side has no central command many mistakes will be made and many imperfect scenarios will be encountered, but taken as it is I think OSHA a worthwhile labor victory.

  28. Can't tell you how much I agree with this post.
    After visiting a food shelf for the first time in my life, I treated myself (sarcasm included here) to a phone call with my conservative Republican mother. She told me she would rather have me and my family, her grandchildren, we're talking here, go to a govt program like welfare or WIC than ask her or my Dad for help. Somehow in her mind it would be "enabling" us to give us food, even if we needed it, while we struggled in our first year of starting our own business.
    There is some strange virus at work in the "up by your bootstraps" Midwest...which has turned parents on their children, and vise versa...nobody really gives a bloody damn about patriotism anymore...just the protection of their money. Ick.

  29. Bless your heart, Owen, if you don't want to be a grownup I certainly can't make you. - mercyorbemoaned

  30. The hallmark of maturity is found in those Southern patronizing condescensions, isn't it mercy? Bless my heart indeed.

  31. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend last weekend, where he told me about an unfortunate trip he had to make with his uncles recently. Both are working class teabaggers, who on this occasion were discussing the evils of government agencies, with special emphasis on the EPA. Without any sense of irony, mid conversation, one of the uncles started coughing and complained about the damned smog burning his eyes.

    I do not think the northern conservatives would think that the problems of the south are anything other than the south not being conservative enough yet.


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