For a century the I.W.W. has used songs, cartoons, posters and poetry to spread the message that working folk must join together to gain economic justice.
When Enron happened, followed by Global Crossing, Worldcom, Qwest and others, many of us believed workers would rebel in large numbers. Guess not yet. Our collective capacity for becoming distracted by dramatic events is substantial.
The bosses have a tremendous propaganda advantage. They control the government, the media, the public schools. It has been that way for a long time. Well, maybe not quite this long...
Our capacity for action and belief are deeply rooted in our culture and our past. We seem unable to shake off a certain obedience to authority, even corrupt authority.
Yet the urge to fight for our rights exists somewhere in all of us.
What exactly is behind the Wobbly concept of economic justice? Putting the boss to work.
Those who don't work shouldn't get a free ride because of an exploitative economic system.
What is a free ride? Getting rich from owning thousands of apartments, or raking in tens of millions from employing thousands of low-paid workers are good examples.
At the heart of the economic system that gives the bosses a free ride is the wage. The wage system allows CEO's of corporations to amass obscene fortunes, while workers worry about the next car payment.
Not all workers understand the concept of class consciousness. Indeed, some are even downright against the idea. A century ago workers referred to such a fellow as a scissorbill.
Personally, i have no quarrel whatsoever with the thousands of small businessmen who seek to make a living. Self-ownership of the apparatus for making a living is a goal we should all aspire to.
But these folks live in a system that is dedicated to exploitation, rather than to economic justice.
I still recall my strong bias against the arguments i heard for economic justice. I was a product of the public school system in a small rural community. I was taught respect for authority, even when that authority is corrupt. I was inculcated with the idea that the prevailing system is somehow above reproach.
Yet i felt a counter-influence. What i witnessed almost daily seemed to contradict the argument that the system was honest, fair, just.
Conflicting notions. Dual consciousness. Obedience and defiance. How to reconcile?
They say get an education. Better yourself by climbing the ladder.
There is a flaw in this idea. The capitalist system depends upon having a lower class to exploit. As long as the current system prevails, exploitation will continue.
I felt liberated when i accepted that my defiance is justified by what i witness in everyday life. There is no reconciliation. There is either acquiescence and need alongside of greed, or there is struggle.
Personally, i choose not to climb the ladder on the backs of my fellow workers. Following the lead of the old-time wobblies like Joe Hill, i prefer to see us all try to climb the ladder together.
Hopefully some day all workers will see that they have more in common with each other than with those who rake in the money at the top. As i type this, the IWW is organizing in 14 countries around the world.
Wobblies have always been concerned with human dignity, human rights, and the environment. We all wish to build a better future.
Interested readers are invited to learn more about the I.W.W.
Join us. Fight for our rights today so our children don't have to engage in the same struggle.
Yeah, that's right. You can give the boss a boot. :-)
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