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Commentary :: Labor
A Cold “Civil War” Is Brewing In The Land - In Solidarity With The Wisconsin Public Workers’ Unions Struggle- Reflections On Boston’s Labor Support Rally
23 Feb 2011
Which side are you on now? Which side are you on? Are you on the bosses' side? Or the side of the Wisconsin Public Employees?
Sometimes a rally, like many other events, is just a rally. For example, after a while the various anti-war rallies, their speakers, and their purposes (lately Iraq, Afghanistan, or both) have tended to be <i>pro forma</i> events, necessary but very much on a well-trodden subject that we leftist militants are not gaining ground on among the masses that we are trying to influence. On Tuesday February 22, 2011, at a rally held in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston in support of the beleaguered and battling Wisconsin public workers unions, however, there was a refreshing and positive change.

On that day, on short notice, several hundred spirited union workers, public and private, and their supporters rallied on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Wisconsin. Of course, the now obligatory anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-anti Tea Party movement sent a small force to suck up some bourgeois media attention (and got it out of all proportion to their numbers under some quaint theory of even-handed impartiality). I do not know, or remember, the names of every union that was represented but it was a cross-section of the labor movement in the Boston area, and the representatives were serious in their commitment and understanding that the class struggle, hell, the class war has just heated up several degrees even if they would not have been able to articulate it that way. Clearly understood though was that the lines were now drawn by this vanguard militant segment of the local labor movement.

Needless to say, lacking serious class-struggle traditions in this generation (and part of the last) there were many workers, young and old, in the crowd who had illusions in the good offices of the government, especially in the good offices of the Democratic Party occupants of that government. That was reflected in the speakers’ list chock full of Democratic Party office-holders, from Congressmen to locals, who had even the most attenuated relationship to the local labor movement, including no friend of labor Governor Deval Patrick fresh from a recent electoral win in heavily liberal Massachusetts. These illusions will, of necessity, begin to shake themselves out a bit as the class struggle gets even hotter but for today there is a militant base on which to draw around the struggle to preserve our unions, preserve the heart of a union, the collective-bargaining process (and, needless to say as well, the right to strike).

To give dramatic symbolism to the day’s efforts and to underline what is at stake, as well as highlight that cold “civil war” warning in the headline to today’s entry let me finish with this little observation seen in front of the State House. The Tea Party contingent set up their small operation, unknowingly I am sure, across Beacon Street in front of the now-famous Saint-Gaudens sculpture depicting the black soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment (led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw)that did great service to the Union cause down in the South during the American Civil War, and who had the privilege of entering defeated and captured Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 to the words of “John Brown’s Body.” In order to counteract the effect of the heckling by the Tea Party advocates some young, stalwart craft union workers got up behind that cohort and used the sculpture as a standing ground to do their pro-union sloganeering work. While they also may not have known what the frieze represented as we head to the observance of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War that scene should give one pause for reflection.

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