Flimsy Sanity: Looking on the bright side of a depression

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, October 03, 2008

Looking on the bright side of a depression

Many of our most important social gains were actually achieved in periods of crisis.

Public education and shortening the 16-hour workday were first won during the tumultuous robber-baron years of the late 19th and early 20th century. Social security, unemployment insurance and other “New Deal” reforms were legislated right in the middle of the Great Depression. And finally, the historic GI bill was passed while the government was arguing, unsuccessfully, for “patriotic” extension of the WWII wage freeze.

From a business point of view, any profits diverted to social spending or to increased wages and benefits is a waste. As a result, all these reforms required enormously-powerful popular movements or serious threats of social upheaval such as the incredible 1946 rolling-strike wave in which 10 million participated.

Fortunately, from the very beginning there were many within the ranks of American labor who openly challenged capitalism’s primacy of private profit over public welfare.

In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were actually some 323 newspapers and periodicals that took up the cause of democratic socialism and kept a steady check on the now thoroughly, historically-discredited JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller industrialists.

The Appeal to Reason, one of the most widely read socialist papers, reached a weekly circulation of 600,000 copies in 1912.

On Election Day in that same year, labor’s universally-recognized national icon, Eugene V. Debs, won 897,000 votes for President as candidate of the Socialist Party (SP)--and this was before women had the right to vote. The SP had almost 118,000 dues-paying members.
- http://www.counterpunch.org/finamore09292008.html

On the other hand, we could go the way of others in our hemisphere. We are just a fat banana republic (Banana Republic is a pejorative term for a small country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g., bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy and corrupt clique...a banana republic also typically has large wealth inequities, poor infrastructure, poor schools, a "backward" economy, low capital spending, a reliance on foreign capital and money printing, budget deficits, and a weakening currency.-Wikipedia). Good thing we have Blackwater to keep order but "Yes we Have No Bananas".


  • At 9:08 AM, Anonymous R J Adams said…

    What a pity so many good people have to endure so much suffering brought about by depressions, in order to be able to live a slightly better existence.

    No bananas, bananas are useful; the US is a snake-oil republic.

  • At 5:14 PM, Blogger Not Your Mama said…

    Actually it's true, we need to feel some pain to get anything accomplished because most people really don't care as long as bad things are only happening to "the other guy".

    In bad times everybody becomes more of a "socialist".

  • At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ''Socialism''is no more an evil word than ''Christianity.'' Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women and children are created equal, and shalt not starve.

    Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a two-fer. He named his party the National Socialists, the Nazis. Hitler also had crosses painted on his tanks and airplanes. The swastika wasn’t a pagan symbol, as so many people believe. It was a working person’s Christian cross, made of axes, of tools.

    About Stalin’s shuttered churches, and those in China today: Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx’s statement that that ''religion is the opium of the people.'' Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx himself had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.

    When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Whom do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then: Karl Marx or the United States of America?

    Stalin was happy to take Marx’s truism as a decree, and Chinese tyrants as well, since it seemingly empowered them to put preachers out of business who might speak ill of them or their goals.

    The statement has also entitled many in this country to say that socialists are anti-religion, are anti-God, and therefore absolutely loathsome.
    Kurt Vonnegut

  • At 6:49 PM, Blogger Dale said…

    I would think that there is still the worry that Naomi Klein, in her book 'the shock doctrine' fears. As we can see with the bailout, power in our day is far more savvy. These crises are used to concentrate their control even further. I suppose that is the other side. Or it might help to make permanent a 'reasonably sized' poverty class - our own indigenous 3rd world: gosh, we solve immigration and outsourcing problems in one fell swoop (emphasis on fell).

  • At 6:19 AM, Blogger Nader Enthusiast said…

    Yes, RJ, the little people don't have much to say about anything.

    NYM: I agree completely. It is like almost all the people who have a soapbox think that people will just rise up if they give them the information - be it the prescription drug business or the GM modification of seeds. But even in the big things not nearly as many people care about Iraq as about their money.

    Dale: Yes, I expect the yellow shirts (my term for the local FBI Infragard informants because the term "red, white and blue shirts" is too long and they love those yellow ribbons and well, brown shirts has already been used) have their guns polished.

    Of course, less cars will run and that will be a good thing.


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