Madison: It’s class warfare plain and simple

Thanks to Joe Wildman

Common Dreams

[We can always count on the right wing nuts to go too far. Looks like this is the one that could turn the tide on the Reagan insanity. One can hope… DS]

From the front lines in Madison, WI

As someone who has been involved in the protests in Madison for the past six days, I find the news media coverage of the momentous events in this town to in no way portray the reality of what is going on here. In their attempts to constantly be balanced, the news media seem to have lost all ability to be accurate.

The mass protests by unions and their allies that have occurred in Madison, WI, resulted after an abrupt announcement by Governor Walker late last Friday, Feb. 11, that he was introducing and fast-tracking a so-called “Budget Repair” bill, which would not only deeply cut benefits to public workers, but effectively strip unions of all of their collective bargaining rights. The response to the Governor’s move was rapid and in no way orchestrated or long-planned – there was absolutely no possible time for that. By late Monday, Feb 14, the WI state legislature announced a hearing of the bill in the Joint Finance Committee which was open for public testimony. It was then that unions and affected public sector workers began to try to organize to fight the bill.

Interestingly, members of the public, including myself, arrived early Tuesday morning to have our positions heard in the committee hearing on the bill. When the public testimony began, numerous media outlets were present to cover the proceedings. The media portrayed the hearing as a chance for “both sides” to have their voices heard, as if this were an even dispute between two viewpoints with equally numbered constituents. That was not the case. The clerk’s office documented testimony against the bill versus for the bill to be roughly 20 to 1, at least. Moreover, I know first hand that many of the bill supporters who spoke before and after I did had not been waiting in line with the rest of us. Where did they come from? They seemed to be placed into the queue somehow, conveniently, very early in the day when the media was present. As the proceeding wore on, few if any supporters of the bill were present at all.

These six days of protests have been completely non-violent and peaceful. There have been rumblings that protesters have “trashed” the capitol. That is completely false. Members of unions, particularly the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants’ Association (MGAA), have been regularly organizing volunteer crews to clean up trash and litter.

As crowds swelled from approximately 13,000 on Tuesday, to around 70,000 (some estimate 100,000) on Saturday, the media finally began to take notice. But curiously, most media outlets only began to show up when the Tea Party announced it plans for a counter-rally on Saturday. Contrary to sources, these Saturday rallies did not consist of a meeting of disputing views in virtually equally numbers, nor were they a “clash.” The Walker supporters numbered roughly 700-1000 at most, while the anti-bill, pro-union activists outnumbered them nearly 100 to 1. Furthermore, there was no violence and no confrontation between opposing sides. (But interestingly, it was the first day that the capitol police posted signs on the capitol building stating “No Firearms Allowed.”) The Tea Party contingent barely made a blip with their paltry turnout.

As far as the actual issue at hand, most media outlets merely mimicked the talking points repeated ad infinitum by Governor Scott Walker, and did no investigating into the veracity of his claims, nor any critical questioning about the situation in Wisconsin. Here are some facts:

1. The state of Wisconsin is not facing a financial crisis. Though specific numbers have been continually disputed and some even claim that the state faces a surplus at the end of the 2009-2011 budget, what is clear is that Wisconsin’s financial woes are moderate at most, and do not constitute a dire situation. The $3.6 billion shortfall that Walker keeps repeating is based on the State Budget Office Analysis which calculated the 2011-2013 biennial figures based on agency requests. These requests always exceed actual monies allocated. The 2011-2013 actual budget has not even come out yet. Walker is misrepresenting these details. Moreover, Governor Walker was unconcerned about budget matters when he offered over $140 million in tax incentives to out-of-state multinational corporations, but now he is suddenly unable to afford to take care of his in-state workforce. The “crisis” is manufactured.

2. The government employee unions bargained for and ratified contracts late last year that provided numerous concessions, including but not limited to freezes in compensation for two years and increased health insurance premiums. Unions are not opposed to “sacrifices”; in fact, they had ALREADY agreed to them.

3. The erosion of collective bargaining rights has nothing at all to do with the contrived “Budget Repair.” Stripping unions of their freedom to negotiate will do nothing to help alleviate deficits.

4. The workers in the private sector have not been voluntarily sacrificing for the public good; pay cuts and loss of benefits have been thrust upon them without any say on their part, precisely because they do not have unions to support them.

5. The rhetoric spewed by the right, such as “I lost my pension, so should you” is akin to saying “My legs were cut off, now yours should be, too.” Unionists would prefer that our legs not be cut off – and we would like to see all non-union workers walking again too. Our battle is for the rights of ALL workers, and our victories are YOUR victories. This is trickle-up economics – and it actually works.

6. Union workers are not lazy slackers; indeed they do some of the most difficult jobs imaginable, such as being home-health care workers, factory laborers, and teachers.

7. The gap between rich and poor started to increase in the 1970s and has reached its widest margin today. Coincidentally, during that same time period, massive tax cuts for corporations and for the wealthy have been mounting.

8. The people who have not sacrificed are the wealthy and corporations. They have the ability to repair these purported budget deficits, yet those who can barely make a decent living are instead called upon to lose what little they have. All the while, Wall Street flourishes and the rich continue to accumulate more and more of the financial wealth of the nation.

9. The struggle in Wisconsin is not about my union or any other union; it is class warfare, plain and simple. It is a battle for decent human rights and against the systematic, concerted and well-orchestrated effort to remove all the rights of workers in this country. Anyone and everyone who makes less than a six-figure income – i.e. the poor and middle class – should be outraged by this immoral and unjust bill and united in our effort to protect our right to a decent living.

Why is it that those who have never had to worry about money, never had to sacrifice, and never had to fight for anything in their lives continually get more and more while working folks get less and less? And why, inexplicably, do other working folks support this race to the bottom?

The corporatization of America has already occurred; now we are well into the third-worldification of America.

We Wisconsin workers are fighting for you and fighting for this country. We must win.

Kristine Mattis is PhD student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison, and a member of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA), the union of graduate employees. She was also previously a secondary school teacher and a member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA).


It’s always refreshing to see a little public disruption occur inside our own borders. At least the patient is twitching in their coma. But after close observation of our drama over the past half century, with it’s fits and starts and relapses into unconsciousness, I have to wonder if we are at all clear on just what we’re trying to “win”. Certainly the huge concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the unfit and undeserving is causing a lot of problems. But even absent that dynamic, it’s hard to really believe the good old U.S. is going to smoothly transition to a paradise of eco-villages, electric cars and grass-fed beef. Too much of our “decent living” is accomplished by indecent means.

In any event, All Power to the People – whatever they decide(are allowed) to do with it.

At the turn of the twentieth century labor was on the march in the US and around the world, anti-imperialist were everywhere and the Trusts (what they called corporate monopolies then) were busted. Then came that most egregious (worse by far than the Bushes) racist and liar ever to hold power in the US who flim-flamed us into WWI and viscously attacked labor and any form of political dissent. People were murdered by authoritarian thugs with impunity and saying you were ambivalent about the war could put you in prison. The US never recovered from that episode of pernicious plutocratic wilding. The IWW was stamped out. Left leaning authors and speakers, like Emma Goldman, were jailed or exiled.

The “W” in the names of two recent presidents stands for George Herbert Walker, the outrageous crook and war monger who amassed a great fortune while being in charge of weapons procurement for the US in WWI. In the wake of WWI a right wing consolidation led to the social disaster of the Great Depression, which in turn, radicalized folks again and brought on general strikes and a renewed threat to the system of organized crime that passed for an establishment. After trying and failing to stage a right wing armed takeover of the government, said establishment, Roosevelt’s term being “the malefactors of great wealth,” in which the patriarch of the criminal Bush clan, Senator Prescot Bush was involved (really – look it up) the more sociopathic wing of the plutocracy was pushed back by the New Deal in a successful attempt to save Criminal Capitalism from itself.

The beast was fairly quiet in its lair until it was able to exploit WWII to extend its control over the US and much of the rest of the world. The lingering effects of the New Deal and the burgeoning of an educated middle class as a result of the GI bill, continued to cause problems for the Pirates of Wall Street and profit margins shrank while progressive income taxes made the national government fiscally sound. Enter Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. His famous memo (google it) was a call to action on the part of wealth to take back control of the country so as to re-inflate profit margins and gradually impose authoritarian, non-democratic rule in the US. That program was wildly successful and today the US is the most unequal, most undemocratic, most crime ridden (well there are the client mafia states like Russia which would not exist as crime havens without the support of the US) “advanced” country on Earth.

This is all to make the point that it is all discussion of US politics is about our Class War. In fact, to a first approximation, there is no other sort of war. Class based societies like ours nurture class conflict and aggressive war. It is integral to the function of large scale markets. Class war makes “progress,” as seen through the eyes of the insanely acquisitive, possible.

There is a hidden uber-class in this scheme. They are the intelligent sociopaths. In an “unregulated” (read as criminal) commercial environment intelligent sociopaths always come to rule the mass of folks with normal brains. To the sociopath, a functioning conscience is a disability that marks the prey ready for the taking. So the irony is that our self congratulating right wingers are themselves a sub-class who are being exploited by the sociopaths amongst them. The problem is that the damage that causes people to loose their moral sense also destroys their interest in the future itself. So, in a fully evolved class war such as we are participating in, whether we want to or even think we are involved, the end can be seen to be near for the society as a whole. Other cultures and societies have experienced this sort of social death down through history, and as the TV is showing you, some are experiencing it right now. Class is a dead end game – literally.

That’s how I see it.


Workers of the World unight, you have nothing to loose but your:

A. Health Care

B. Retirement

C. Affordable Food

D. Forests

E. Chains

F. All Of The Above

Although I do not come from the political left, I believe it is imperative that workers’ right be seen as human rights and that the effort to break unions is an attack on the right of association. If corporations can have trade associations that lobby government, then to deny the right to unionize and to have collective bargaining creates an inherent inequality between legal persons.

Only by placing workers rights in the category of human rights can this world every achieve economic justice in a global economy.

Dear Whess,

My understanding is that if you are for the human and civil rights of workers you are on the left. If, like me you are for doing away with the whole concept of wage labor you are a left radical. If you are in favor of doing away with rights guaranteed by government you are radical right or, in some taxonomies, a reactionary. However, the manipulation of such concepts as rights, political terminology, freedom, reform, and the like, via mass media propaganda has made generalized discussions of such things just silly. Ideology turns out to be a disease. Who knew?