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Forum Post: The Counter-Attack of Seattle's Elites

Posted 3 months ago on April 21, 2014, 3:30 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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The Counter-Attack of Seattle's Elites

Monday, 21 April 2014 09:21
By Shamus Cooke, CounterPunch | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23203-the-counter-attack-of-seattles-elites

Seattle’s corporations were blindsided, it all happened so fast. Socialist candidate Kshama Sawant’s successful City Council campaign tore through Seattle politics like a tornado, leaving the 1% devastated, unable to cope with a storm they didn’t see coming. The Seattle elite had no way to counter her arguments, silence her supporters, or keep her from gathering a tidal wave of support for the $15 campaign. The establishment was paralyzed, powerless.

But Sawant’s election victory was just the beginning of the humiliation for Seattle’s super wealthy. After singlehandedly transforming city politics, Sawant used her newly elected bully pulpit to torment the mayor and City Council and harangue Seattle’s corporations, while simultaneously mobilizing thousands in the streets to bulldoze through her progressive agenda. The 1% had absolutely no idea what to do — they’d never experienced anything like it. They conceded defeat and agreed to a $15 minimum wage — in words.

Sawant didn’t buy it, refusing to declare victory until it was in her hands. After the mayor and the City Council created a committee to implement the $15 minimum wage, Sawant was busy sounding the alarm bells, correctly predicting that such a radical change would never be accepted without a fight by Seattle’s 1%, who would eventually recover from their shell shock and re-group to attack.

That attack is now beginning. But a direct assault isn’t yet possible. Sawant’s position is fortified by her broad-based support, the result of her devastatingly effective campaign. Thus, the 1% are playing a long game, using a combination of tried and true tactics, where they’ll “agree” to Sawant’s demands on one hand, while slandering her as an “extremist” on the other, all the while proposing a plan for $15 with just enough loopholes to render it meaningless. For example, the corporations want a $15 that includes “total compensation,” meaning that any benefit — like health insurance costs — could be counted as part of a worker’s wage, thus changing the definition of minimum wage.

These are some of the tactics being employed by the newly-formed Seattle corporate front group “One Seattle,” whose members include some of the largest corporations in the world, and who collectively despise Sawant nearly as much as she hates them. The “middle ground’ in this conflict doesn’t exist.

Which leads to another tactic of One Seattle: creating the illusion of a middle ground — the super wealthy plan to use middle class small business owners as proxies in this war, since “mom and pop” are more lovable than Starbucks’ multimillionaire CEO.

This corporate tactic to win the hearts and minds of the public by putting forward the friendly face of small business owners was recently exposed by Seattle’s weekly newspaper “The Stranger,” who revealed a leaked memo from ‘One Seattle’ which detailed the “small business strategy,” as well as other above-mentioned tactics that Seattle’s biggest corporations were going to use to undermine Sawant and the $15 Now campaign

But One Seattle is still playing defense against a relentless Sawant, who continues to signal no hint of mercy. Having predicted the stalling tactic of City Council, Sawant and $15 Now have been threatening to go over the heads of Council by organizing a public ballot measure initiative — a conference on April 26th will vote on whether this strategy is pursued.

The Seattle 1% is terrified of the ballot initiative. One of the City Council members who claims to be in favor of $15 complained,

“I hate the idea that we’re pressured to make a decision [about $15] because of the ballot threat.”

This quote reveals, in small part, the inherent power of the $15 demand: it’s gathered such broad support that politicians are forced to react, and none dare oppose $15 in Seattle. It’s also forced politicians and corporate hacks to debate the $15 demand publicly, the discussions of which are raising the consciousness of working people all over Seattle.

For example, this Seattle news segment shows a $15 Now spokesperson devastating her corporate opponent on a public debate about $15. Such discussions in Seattle have been happening well before Kshama was elected, educating the public in the process.

More importantly, the $15 demand inspires confidence in working people, who for decades have been taught to act defensively, if at all. The $15 demand is the first time in years that working people have gone on the offensive. This is precisely the type of confidence that union workers need in order to demand higher wages at the bargaining table, and the type of self-assurance that non-union workers need to demand $15 and a union.

This dynamic gives $15 a power unlike the myriad other demands that progressive people insist that working people should unite under; $15 is being accepted as a reasonable demand by large numbers of people, and a demand is only powerful if it becomes tangible in the minds of working people, which is a pre-condition for a demand to be realizable.

It is also a demand that will make a huge difference in the lives working people currently on the low end of the wage scale; it will help unite the working class by bringing the bottom up closer to the rest of the class; it will have an impact on reducing the growing inequalities in wealth; and it will help unions recruit by demonstrating that they can play a significant, positive role in the lives of working people.

But this battle can’t be limited to Seattle. Fortunately, groups across the country are adopting the $15 demand, which will further enforce the position of working people in Seattle. When Sawant speaks in Portland on April 24th, another front will be opened in the battle for $15, alongside the recently announced offensive in San Francisco, where SEIU 1021 announced that they would pursue a $15 ballot measure

The ultimate success of the $15 demand will depend on the energy, organization and resources dedicated by labor and community groups, combined with the mobilization of the broader community. Its failure would mean yet another victory for the corporate elite.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

5 Comments

5 Comments


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[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19979) 3 months ago

Damn, that's an important piece !!! Thanx Leo !! Solidarity !

ommm mane padme humm ...

[-] 2 points by grapes (2740) 3 months ago

$15 an hour minimum wage is fair enough and will arrest our race-to-the-bottom. Even better yet would be to index the amount to inflation which had caused this predicament of our working-stiffs to begin with. May this become law not just in Seattle but across all dominions of our nation. No more stiffing the working people.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 3 months ago

The Rhetoric of Violence

Monday, 21 April 2014 10:09
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23208-the-rhetoric-of-violence

At least nine people were killed and at least 35 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday police announced that a man had been arrested on charges of firing on a number of motorists recently, wounding three of them, on Kansas City-area highways. On April 13 three people, including a child, were murdered at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Overland Park, Kan., leading to the arrest of a white supremacist. On April 12, armed militias in Nevada got the federal government to retreat, allowing rancher Cliven Bundy to continue to graze his cattle on public land. All this happened over a span of only nine days in the life of a country where more than 250 people are shot every day. In America, violence and the threat of lethal force are the ways we communicate. Violence—the preferred form of control by the state—is an expression of our hatred, self-loathing and lust for vengeance. And this bloodletting will increasingly mark a nation in terminal decline.

Violence, as H. Rap Brown said, is “as American as cherry pie.” It has a long and coveted place in U.S. history. Vigilante groups including slave patrols, gunslingers, Pinkerton and Baldwin-Felts detectives, gangs of strikebreakers, gun thugs, company militias, the White Citizens’ Council, the Knights of the White Camellia, and the Ku Klux Klan, which boasted more than 3 million members between 1915 and 1944 and took over the governance of some states, formed and shaped America. Heavily armed mercenary paramilitaries, armed militias such as the Oath Keepers and the anti-immigration extremist group Ranch Rescue, along with omnipotent and militarized police forces, are parts of a seamless continuation of America’s gun culture and tradition of vigilantism. And roaming the landscape along with these vigilante groups are lone gunmen who kill for money or power or at the command of their personal demons.

Vigilante groups in America do not trade violence for violence. They murder anyone who defies the structures of capitalism, even if the victims are unarmed. The vigilantes, often working with the approval and sometimes with the collusion of state law enforcement agencies, are rarely held accountable. They are capitalism’s shock troops, its ideological vanguard, used to break populist movements. Imagine that, if instead of right-wing militias, so-called “ecoterrorists”—who have never been found responsible for taking a single American life—had showed up armed in Nevada. How would the authorities have responded if those carrying guns had been from Earth First? Take a guess. Across U.S. history, hundreds of unarmed labor union members have been shot to death by vigilante groups working on behalf of coal, steel or mining concerns, and thousands more have been wounded. The United States has had the bloodiest labor wars in the industrialized world. Murderous rampages by vigilante groups, almost always in the pay of companies or oligarchs, have been unleashed on union members and agitators although no American labor union ever publicly called for an armed uprising. African-Americans, too, have endured a vigilante reign of terror, one that lasted for generations after the Civil War.

And all the while, vigilantes have been lionized by popular culture, winning mythic status in Hollywood movies that glorify lone avengers.

Vigilante bands have served and continue to serve the interests of state power or, as in the case involving the Nevada rancher, corporations that seek to eradicate public lands. They are used to make sure the dispossessed and marginalized remain dispossessed and marginalized. They revel in a demented hypermasculinity. They champion a racist nationalism that is fused with the iconography, language and rituals of the Christian religion. And they have huge megaphones on the airwaves, funded by the most retrograde forces in American capitalism, to spread their message. They are the bedrock of American fascism. The terror inflicted by street shootings in cities like Chicago conveniently gives these vigilante groups their right to existence.

The raison d’être given by vigilante groups for the need to bear arms is that these weapons protect us from tyranny and keep us safe and secure in our homes. But history does not support this contention. The Communist Party during the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany did not lack for weapons. Throughout the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, citizens had assault weapons in their homes. In Yugoslavia during the war there, AK-47 assault rifles were almost as common in households as stoves. I watched in Iraq and Yugoslavia as heavily armed units encircled houses and those inside walked out with hands in the air, leaving their assault rifles inside. And neither will American families engage in shootouts should members of the U.S. Army or SWAT teams surround their homes. When roughly 10,000 armed miners at Blair Mountain in West Virginia rose up in 1921 for the right to form unions and held gun thugs and company militias at bay, the government called in the Army. The miners were not suicidal. When the Army arrived they disbanded. And faced with the full weight of the U.S. military, almost any armed group would disband, and that includes vigilantes. The militias in Nevada might have gotten the Bureau of Land Management to back down, but they would have scattered like frightened crows if the government had sent in the 101st Airborne.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 3 months ago

America’s vigilante violence, rather than a protection from tyranny, is an expression of the fear by white people, especially white men, of the black underclass. This underclass has been enslaved, lynched, imprisoned and impoverished for centuries. The white vigilantes do not acknowledge the reality of this oppression, but at the same time they are deeply worried about retribution directed against whites. Guns, for this reason, are easily available to white people while gun ownership is largely criminalized for blacks. The hatred expressed by vigilante groups for people of color, along with Jews and Muslims, is matched by their hatred for the college-educated elite, who did not decry the steady impoverishment of the working class. People of color, along with those who espouse the liberal social values of the college-educated elites, including gun control, are seen by the vigilantes as contaminants to society that must be removed to restore the nation to health.

Richard Rorty in “Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America” writes that when our breakdown begins, “the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words ‘nigger’ and ‘kike’ will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

Our inability to formulate a coherent, militant revolutionary ideology, meanwhile, leaves us powerless in the face of mounting violence. We wander around in a daze. We lack the toughness and asceticism of the radicals who went before us—the Wobblies, the anarchists, the socialists and the communists. We preach a mishmash of tolerance and Oprah-like hope and exude a fuzzy faith in the power of the people. And because of this we are run over like frogs blindly hopping up and down on a road.

Our most cherished civil liberties have been taken from us. Our incomes are in free fall while obscene wealth is in the hands of a few oligarchs. We are watched and monitored by the most pervasive security and surveillance system in human history. We are hemmed in by archipelagos of prisons. And the ecosystem on which we depend for life is being destroyed. And, through it all, we are bombarded with propaganda, manipulated and mocked by our elites as we dance in their choreographed political charades.

We must begin to speak in the language of revolution, not accommodation. We must direct the rage that grips huge swaths of the population not against the oppressed but against the structures of corporate power that create oppression. We will have to begin from scratch, for America has no revolutionary intellectual tradition, with the exception of Thomas Paine. We have produced notable anarchists—Randolph Bourne, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Noam Chomsky. We have an array of great black radicals, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, James Cone and Cornel West, as astute about the evils of empire as white supremacy. We once had some fine socialists, Eugene V. Debs among them. But we lack genuine revolutionists such as Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci and Frantz Fanon, and because of this we are losing the class war.

As the historian Richard Hofstadter writes in “American Violence,” his book with Michael Wallace, class conflict and income inequality in the United States, now at near historical levels, have traditionally been “overshadowed by ethnic-religious and racial conflict. Intermittent group warfare has been our substitute for, or alternative to, class war, and class war itself, when it has flared up, has seldom taken place in a clear atmosphere, unclouded by our racial-ethnic antagonisms and by our complex hierarchy of status based upon religious-ethnic-racial qualities.”

There have been a few forays into insurrectionary violence, including the 1786-87 Shays’ Rebellion and the armed uprising by the Blair Mountain coal miners. But these insurrections have lacked, as Hofstadter wrote, “an ideological and a geographical center.” Insurrectionary violence in America has, he observed, “been too various, diffuse, and spontaneous to be forged into a single, sustained, inveterate hatred shared by entire social classes.” A revolutionary language and consciousness must replace the current murderous nihilism.

The government is banking on the fact that we are not hard-wired for revolution. The state, for this reason, permits the population to load itself up with weapons, including assault rifles, because it understands that they are almost never turned against centers of power. There are some 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. There is no reliable data on the number of military-style assault weapons in private hands, but one estimate is 1.5 million. The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world—an average of 90 per 100 people. We shoot each other or we shoot ourselves. Of the 282 people shot every day in the U.S., according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 32 die in murders and 51 commit suicide.

As we build a revolutionary consciousness, we must never place our faith in violence, even as we understand that violence, especially by vigilantes, criminals and militarized police forces, will be used against us. Our strength is our truth. And this truth terrifies our power elites. Truth, not force, is the real power of revolutionaries. It was an understanding of the truth about the decadence of the czarist regime that led soldiers in the 1917 February Revolution in Russia to mutiny against their officers, leading to the abdication of Nicholas II. It was similar truths that, having finally penetrated the militaries, doomed Louis XVI, the Shah of Iran and the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Revolutions do not succeed because of violence, although violence is often a component of revolutions. The glorification of violence as the principal agent of change is a lie. Revolutions succeed because of revolutionary thinking. Such consciousness takes years to build. It slowly, invisibly burrows into the organs of power. It leads those on the inside to defect to the revolution. And once that happens, state power crumbles.

Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals and African-Americans will increasingly suffer the wrath of vigilante violence as the nation becomes more restive. Liberal institutions, their credibility shredded because of their myopic support for neoliberalism, will become irrelevant. Chauvinism, violent retribution, a perverted Christianity and the celebration of a mythic Anglo-Saxon history will sever sections of the population from reality, enticing them into an American fascism. This is what is coming. It cannot be fought with counterviolence. It can be fought only with ideas. We better prepare.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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