The Class War in America

Just years before the start of the French Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of the “royalists” and their sycophants, a French journalist wrote the following:

The distance which separates the rich from other citizens is growing daily and poverty becomes more insupportable at the sight of the astonishing progress of luxury which tires the view of the indigent. Hatred grows more bitter, and the State is divided into two classes; the greedy and insensitive, and the murmuring malcontents.

As a Union organizer for the Teamsters, consider me among the malcontents as those words from 1783 ring just as true today in the United States as they did 230 years ago in pre-revolutionary France.

During his time as president, FDR rightly named the very rich of his period “economic royalists.” Today we call them the 1 percent. The sycophants of today are those who worship the “greedy and insensitive” and assist them in their destruction of America’s middle class.

Today, much talk and print is devoted to the downfall of America’s workers. Never was it mentioned what the “economic royalists” of today mutter under their breath until one of their own, Warren Buffet, let the cat out of the bag, declaring that, “There is a class war going on, my class started it, and we are winning it.” To put the class war in stark relief, a multinational corporation CEO was quoted in a local newspaper as saying to a roundtable of corporate owners the following: “Until we drive the wages of the American worker down to those of the Mexicans, we cannot remain competitive in this global economy.”

Warren Buffet and that CEO know that it isn’t automation, computerization and other “breakthroughs” in the production process that have caused workers’ incomes to slide downward, but attacks on collective bargaining, right-to-work laws, corporate lockouts, Wall Street cannibalization of profitable companies, and way, way too much political and economic power for that greedy 1 percent.

While corporate profits and executive pay go through the roof, the workers are forced to take wage cuts and to pay dearly for their corporate-sponsored health care. Other hard-won benefits are being trimmed or taken completely away, and the corporate philosophy on providing a decent retirement after years of loyal service by the workers is considered a relic from another age. The harder the American worker works, the more he or she is being skimmed by that top 1 percent, who amassed 93 percent of all income made since President Obama took office. This is absolutely Robin Hood in reverse.

As long as this class war persists, and it will not end until we the workers end it, you are going to have a polarized country. A divided country is beneficial to the economic royalists. Their “scorched earth, screw the workers” philosophy is working. The top 400 families amassed just this year $1.7 trillion in wealth, 5 times more wealth than they did 10 years ago. Their patrons and cheerleaders in Congress, especially the teabaggers with their no-compromise mentality, assure us that this country will remain divided. Civility, bipartisanship and tolerance are considered weaknesses by these mouthpieces for the ultra-rich.

As in any war including the class war, sides are taken. You are either for the American workers, and their hopes and dreams for a better life for themselves, their families, their friends and neighbors, or you are for the Wall-Streeters, private-equity owners, hedge funders and corporate America chieftains, who are waging this class war against the American workers and who are determined to take even more for themselves and their class at our expense.

Our government is supposed to mediate this natural friction between capital and labor. It has failed miserably to do this over the past four decades. With few exceptions our elected representatives from both parties have chosen to honor wealth over work. These politicians have been kissing the asses of Wall Streeters, and as a result the American workers, who built this country, fight its wars, and daily work their butts off, have witnessed a very sharp decline in their family’s standard of living.

Until the workers of this country rise up and put aside those differences that the 1 percent use to keep us divided — racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, religion, etc. — we will continue to slide down the economic ladder with all the hardship that entails. Our top priority in the Unions should not be getting politicians elected, but educating our own members about the class war that is being waged against us, and enlisting all workers, Union and non-Union, into this life-and-death struggle for the middle class.

Rick is a Teamster organizer in Ohio. Read other articles by Rick.