A Peoples History of the United States – Howard Zinn

Amazing history of the United States. Should be mandatory reading in schools. I took way too many notes but it was so good.

  • Founding Fathers
    • the point of noting those outside the arc of human rights in the Declaration of Independence is not, centuries late and pointlessly, to lay impossible moral burdens on that time. it is to try to understand the way in which the Declaration functioned to mobilize certain groups of Americans, ignoring others.
    • In America, too the rarity behind the words of the Declartion of Independence (issued in the same year as Adam Smiths’s capitalist manifesto, The Wealth of Nations) was that a rising class of important people needed to enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat Engliand, without disturbing too much the relations of wealth and power that had developed over 150 years of colonial history
    • “We the people of the United States” (a phrase coined by the very rich Gouverneur Morris) did not mean Indians or blacks or women or white servants.
    • The inferior position of blacks, the exclusion of indians from the new society, the establishment of supremacy for the rich and powerful in the new nation – all this was already settled in the colonies by the time of the Revolution. With the English out of the way it could now be put on paper, solidified, regularized, given legitimate, by the Constitution of the United Stats, drafted at a convention of Revolutionary leaders in Philadelphia.
    • Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government: the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection as they invadedIndian land; slaveowners needed federal security against slave revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a govvernemtne able to raise money by nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds.
    • Four group, Beard noted, were not represent in the Constutional Convention: slave, indentured servants, women, men without property. and so the Constituion did not reflect the interests of those groups.
    • Tyranny is tyranny let it come from whom it may
  • War
    • here was the traditional device by which those in charge of any social order mobilize and discipline a recalcitrant population – offering the adventure and rewards of military service to get poor people to fight for a cause they may not see clearly as their own
    • ruling elites seem to have learned through the generations – consciously or not – that war makes them more secure against internal trouble
    • Mexican American War
      • Thoreau: “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right… Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you see a file of soldiers… marching in admirable order offer hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart
      • His friend and fellow writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, agreed, but thought it futile to protest. When Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, “What are you doing in there?” it was reported that Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?”
      • Fredrick Douglass on the mexican american war: “The determination of our slaveholding President to prosecute the war, and the probability of his success in wringing from the people men and money to carry it on, is made evident, rather than doubtful, by the puny opposition arrayed against him. no politician of any conservable distinction or eminence seems willing to hazard his popularity with his party… by an open and unqualified disapprobation of the war. none seem willing to take their stand for peace at all risks; and all seem willing that the war should be carried on, in some form or other.
    • WWII
      • “Japan’s strike against the American naval base climaxed a long series of mutually antagonistic acts. in initiating economic sanctions against Japan the United States undertook actions that were widely recognized in Washington as carrying grave risks of war.”
      • state department memo on Japanese expansion: “our general diplomatic and strategic position would be considerably weakened – by our loss of the Chinese, Indian, and South Seas markets (and by our loss of much of the Japanese market for our goods, as Japan would become more and more self-sufficient) as well as by insurmountable restrictions upon our access to the rubber, tin, jute, and other vital materials of the Asian and Oceanic regions.
      • If only the Americans had not insisted on unconditional surrender – that is, if they were willing to accept one condition to the surrender, that the Emperor, a holy figure to the Japanese, remain in place – the Japanese would have agreed to stop the war.
      • It was an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems of control. Charles E Wilson, the president of Gerneral Electric, was so happy about the wartime situation that he suggested a continuing alliance between business and the military for “a permanent war economy.”
    • the Korean war mobilized liberal opinion behind the war and the president. it created the kind of coalition that was needed to sustain a policy of intervention abroad, militarization of the economy at home
    • Cold War
      • the soviet union was obviously behind – it had between fifty and a hundred intercontentianal ballistic missiles and fewer than two hundred long range bombers. but the U.S. budget kept mounting, the hysteria kept growing, the profits of corporations getting defense contracts multiplied, and employment and wages moved ahead just enough to keep a substantial number of Americans depended on war industries for their living.
      • From 1952 on, foreign aid was more and more obviously designed to build up military power in non-communist countries. in the next ten years, of the $50 billion in aid granted by the United States to ninety countries, only 5 billion was for nonmilitary economic development
      • around 1960, the fifteen-year effort since the end of WWII to break up the communist-radical upsurge of the New Deal and wartimes years seemed successful. the communist part was in disarray- its leaders in jail, its members shrunken, its influence in the trade union movement very small. the trade union movement itself and become more controlled, more conservative. the military budget was taking half of the national budget, but the public was accepting this.
  • Government and Law
    • Nations are not communities and have never been
    • “Inasmuch as the primary object of a government, beyond the mere repression of physical violence, is the making of the rules which determine the poperty relations of members of society, the dominant classes whose rights are thus to be determined must perforce obtain from the government such roes as are consistent with the larger interests necessary to the continuance of their economic processes, or they must themselves control the organs of government” In short, Beard said, the rich must, in their own interests, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.
    • there was still another problem: wasn’t it the nature of representative government, even when most broadly based to be conservative, to prevent tumultuous change?
    • In Federalist Paper #10, James Madison argued that representationve government was needed to maintain peace in a society ridden by factional disputers. these disputes came from “the various and unequal distribution of property. those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interestes in society.” the problem, he said, was how to control the factional struggles that came from inequalities in wealth. minority factions could be controlled, he said, by the principle that decisions would be by vote of the majority.
      so the real problem, according to madison, was a majority faction, and here the solution was offered by the Constitution, to have “an extensive republic,” that is, a large nation ranging over thirteen states, for then “it will be more difficult for all who felt it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other… the influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States”
    • Thus, to protect these contracts is to put the great power of the government, its laws, courts, sheriffs, police, on the side of the privileged – and to do it not, as in premodern times, as an exercise of brute force against the weak but as a matter of law.
    • “is it not murder when, compelled by want, people are forced to fester in squalid, germ-filled tenements, where the sunlight never enters and where disease finds a prolific breeding-place? untold thousands went to their deaths in these unspeakable places. yet, so far as the law was concerned, the rents collected by the Asters, as well as by other landlords, were honestly made. the whole institution of law saw nothing out of the way in these conditions, and very significantly so, because, to repeat over and over again, Law did not represent the ethics or ideals of advanced humanity; it exactly reflected, as a pool reflects the sky, the demands and self-interest of the growing propertied classes…”
    • “The circle was completed; the law had come simply to ratify those forms of inequality that the market system produced.”
    • in premodern times, the maldisturbion of wealth was accomplished by simple force. in modern times, explication is designed – it is accomplished by law, which has the look of neutrality and fairness.
    • the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long range stability of the system.
    • “so great is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the common good of the whole community”
  • Rebellion
    • Thomas Jefferson: “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing…. it is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government… god forbid that we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion… the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. it is its natural manure”
    • democracy ending rebellion
      • the farmers had fought, been crushed by the law, their struggle diverted into voting, and the system stabilized by enlarging the class of small landowners, leaving the basic structure of rich and poor intact. it was a common sequence in american history.
      • the two party system came into its own in this time. to give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a period of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic one was an ingenious mode of control. 
      • they (shoe workers) did not accept the social and political order that kept them in poverty, however much it was praised in American schools, churches, newspapers. in Lynn, he says, “articulate, activist Irish shoe and leather workers joined yankees in flatly rejecting the myth of success. irish and yankee worker jointly… looked for labor candidates when they went to the polls, and resisted strikebreaking by local police.” trying to understand why this fire class spirit did not lead to indepened revolutionary political action, Dawley concludes that the main reason is that electoral politics trained the energies of the resisters into the channes of the system.
      • On these issues the political parties took positions, offered choices, obscured the fact that the political system itself and the wealthy classes it represented were responsible for the problems they now offered to solve.
      • the national labor union:as it became less an organizer of labor struggles, and more a lobbyist with congress, converncred with voting, it lost vitality.
    • Eugene Debs: “ your honor, years ago i recognized my kinship with all living beings, and i made up my mind that i was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. i said then, and i say now, that while there is a lower class, i am in it; while there is a criminal element, I’m am of it; while there is a soul in prison, i am not free”
    • “so, son, instead of crying, be strong, so as to be able to comfort your mother… take her for a long walk in the quiet country, gathering wild flowers here and there… but remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don’t you use all for yourself only… help the persecuted and the victim because they are your better friends… in this struggle of life you will find more and love and you will be loved.
  • Women
    • “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward women, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.
    • Shirley Chisholm, a black congress woman, on the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment): “the law cannot do it for us. we must do it for ourselves. women in this country must become revolutionaries. we must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes… we must replace the old, negative thoughts about our femininity with positive thoughts and positive actions.”
    • Perhapas the most profound effect of the women’s movement of the sixties – beyond the actual victories on abortion, in job equality – was called “consciousness raising,” often done in “women’s groups,” which meant in homes all across the country. this meant the rethinking of roles, the rejection of inferiority, the confidence in self, a bond of sisterhood, and new solidarity of mother and daughter.
    • The family was used – men to control women, women to control children, all to be preoccupied with one another, to turn to one another for help, to blame one another for trouble, to do violence to one another when things weren’t going right. why could this not be turned around? could women liberating themselves, children freeing themselves, men and women beginning to understand one another, find the source of their common oppression outside rather than in one another? perhaps then they could create nuggets of strength in their own relationships, millions of pockets of insurrection. they could revolutionize thought and behavior in exactly that seclusion of family privacy which the system had counted on to do its work of control and indoctrination. and together, instead of at odds- male/female, parents/children – they could undertake the changing of society itself.
  • Indigenous peoples
    • “the foundation principle of Indian government had always been the rejection of government. the freedom of the individual was regarded by practically all Indians north of Mexico as a canon indefinitely more precious than the individual’s duty to his community or nation. this anarchist attitude ruled all behavior, beginning with the smallest social unit, the family. the Indian parent was constitutionally reluctant to discipline his children. their every exhibition of self-will was accepted as a favorable indication of the development of maturing character
    • There was an occasional assembling of a council, with a very loose and changing membership, whose decisions were not enforced except by the influence of public opinion. a minister who lived among them described Indian society: “Thus has been maintained for ages, without convulsions and without civil discords, this traditional government, of which the world, perhaps, does not offer another example; a government in which there are no positive laws, buy only long established habits and customs, no code of jurisprudence, but the experience of former times, no magistrates, but advisers, to whom the people nevertheless, pay a willing and implicit obedience, in which age confers rank, wisdom gives power, and moral goodness secures title to universal respect.”
    • Various native americans:
      “Oh, yes, i went to the white man’s schools. i learned to read from school books, newspapers, and the Bible. but in time i found that these were not enough. civilized people depend too much on man-made printed pages. i turn to the Great Spirit’s book which is the whole of his creation…”
      “I had learned many English words and could recite part of the Ten Commandments. i knew how to sleep on a bed, pray to Jesus, comb my hair, eat with a knife and fork, and use a toilet… i had also learned that a person thinks with his head instead of his heart”
      “True, the white man brought great change. but the varied fruits of his civilization, though highly colored and inviting, are sicking and deadening. and if it be the part of civilization to maim, rob, and thwart, then what is progress?
      I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization”
    • Akwseasne notes: “Every now and then i am impressed with the thinking of the non-Indian. i was in clevland last year and got to talking with a non-indian about american history. he said that he was really sorry about what had happened to indians, but that there was good reason for it. the continent had to be developed and he felt that Indians had stood in the way, and thus had had to be removed. “After all,” he remarked, “what did you do with the land when you had it?” I didn’t understand him until later when i discovered that the Cuyahoga River running through clevland is inflammable. so many combustible pollutants are dumped into the river that the inhabitants have to take special precautions during the summer to avoid setting it on fire. after reviewing the argument of my non-Indian friend i decided that he was probably correct. whites had made better use of the land. how many indians could have though of creating an inflammable river?”
  • Supreme Court
    • This was appealed to the Supreme Court, and in Worcheester V. Georga, john Marshall, for the majority, declared that the georgia law on which Worchester was jailed violated the treaty with the Cherokees, which by the Constituion was binding on the states. he ordered Worchester freed. Georgia ignored him and President Jackson refused to enforce the court order.
    • a new york banker toasted the supreme court in 1895: “ i give you, gentlemen, the supreme court of the united states – guardian of the dollar, defender of private property, enemy of speculation, sheet anchor of the republic.”
    • Supreme court in upholding conviction of someone distributing panflets against WWI conscription: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic… the question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent
  • Slavery
    • Harriet Tubman: “There was one of two things i had a right to, liberty or death; if i could not have one, i would have the other; for no man should take me alive”
    • Fredrick Douglass independence day speech: http://www.libertynet.org/edcivic/freddoug.html
    • one of john brown’s companions write this to his parents before he was execution: “i imagine that i hear you, and all of you, mother, father, sisters, and brothers, say – “no, there is no a cause for which we, with less sorrow, could see you die.” believe me when i tell you, that though shut up in prision and under sentence of death, i have spent more happy hours here, and… i would almost as life die now as at any time, for i feel that i am prepared to meet my maker
    • emancipation
      • john brown was executed by the state of Virginia with the approval of the national government. it was the national government which, while weakly enforcing the law ending the slave trade, sternly enforced laws providing for the return of fugitives to slavery. it was the national government that, in andrew jacksons’ administration, collaborated with the south to keep abolitionist literature out of the mail in the southern states. it was the supreme court of the united states that declared in 1857 that the slave dred scott could not sue for his freedom because he was not a person, but property.
      • such a national government would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. it would end slaver only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North. it was Abraham lincoin who combined perfectly the needs of business, the political ambition of the new Replublican party, and the rhetoric of humanitarianism. he would keep the abolition of slavery not at the top of his list of priorities, but close enough to the top so it could be pushed there temporarily by abolitionist pressures and by practical political advantage
      • Lincon:” dear sir… i have not meant to leave any one in doubt. .. my paramount object in this struggle is to save the union and is not either to save or destroy slavery. if i could save the union without freeing any slave, i would do it,; and if i could save it by freeing all the salves, i would do it; and if i could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, i would also do that. what i do about slavery and the colored race, i do because it helps to save this union; and what i forbear, i forbear because i do not believe it would help to save the union… i have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and in intend no modification of my of-expressed personal opinion which that all men, everywhere could be free. yours. A. Lincon”
      • When the emancipation proclamation was issued in January 1 1863 it declared slaves free in those areas still fighting against the union (which it listed very carefully), and said nothing about slaves behind union lines.
      • “lincon got the praise for freeing us, but did he do it? he gave us freedom without giving us any chance to live ourselves and we still had to depend on the southern white man for work, food, and clothing, and he held us out of necessity and want in a state of serviette but little better than slavery.
      • With slavery abolished by order of the government – true, a government push hard to do so, by blacks, free and slave, and by white abolitionists – its end could be orchestrated so as to set limits to emancipation. liberation from the top would go only so far as the interests of the dominant group permitted. if carried further by the momentm of war, the rhetoric of a crusade, it could be pulled back to a safer position. Thus, while the ending of slavery let to a reconstruction of national politics and economics, it was not a radical reconstruction, but a safe one – in fact, a profitable one.
  • Reform and regulation
    • Fredrick Douglass: “Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms. the whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle… if there is no struggle there is no progress. those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. they want rain without thunder and lighting. they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. the struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. power concedes nothing without a demand. it never did and it never will”
    • to the railroad officials: “the commission  is or can be made, of great use to the railroads. it satisfied the popular clamor for a government supervision of ralitords, at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal… the part of wisdom is not to destroy the commission, but to utilize it. “
    • cleveland: “opportunity for safe, careful, and deliberate reform is now offered; and none of us should be unmindful of a time when an abused and irritated people.. may insist upon a radical and sweeping rectification of their wrongs.”
    • the progressive movement was an attempt by the system to adjust to changing conditions in order to achieve more stability. “Through rules with impersonal sanctions, it sought continuity and predictability in a world of endless change. it assigned far greater power to government … and it encouraged the centralization of authority. the new emphasis on strong government was for the benefit of the most powerful economic groups.
    • while the “original impetus” for reform came from protesters and radicals, “in the current century, particularly on the federal level, few reforms were enacted without the tacit approval, if not the guidance, of the large corporate interests.” these interests assembled liberal reformers and intellectuals to aid them in such matters.
    • a definition of liberalism – a means of stabilizing the system in the interests of big business
    • theodore roosevelt often told corporate leaders that social reform was truly conservative
    • “conservatives fight socialism blindly… while the progressives fight it intelligently and seek to remedy the abuses and conditions upon which it thrives.”
    • When the New Deal was over, capitalism remained intact. the rich still controlled the nation’s wealth, as well as its laws, courts, police, newspapers, churches, colleges. enough help had been given to enough people to make Roosevelt a hero to millions, but the same system that had brought depression and crisis – the system of waste, of inequality, of concern for profit over human need – remained.
  • Capitalism and the system
    • the crisis was built into a system which was chaotic in its nature, in which only the very rich were secure. it was a system of periodic crisis – 1837, 1857, 1873 (and later: 1893, 1907, 1919, 1929) – that wiped out small businesses and brought cold, hunger, and death to working people while the fortunes of the Astors,Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, kept growing through war and peace, crisis and recovery. during the 1873 crisis, karnegie was capturing the steel market, rockefeller was wiping out his competitors in oil.
    • workmen’s party of Illinois declaration of independence: “the current system… has shortened human life, deserted morals and fostered crime, corrupted judges, ministers, and statesmen, shattered confidence, love and honor among men, and made life a selfish , merciless storage for existence instead of a noble and generous struggle for perfection, in which equal advantages should be given to all, and human lives relieved from an unnatural and degrading competition for bread…
      Therefore… we do solemnly publish and delaire…
      That we are absolved from all allegiance to the existing political parties of this country, and that as free and independent producers we shall endeavor to acquire the full power to make our own laws, manage our own production, and govern ourselves, acknowledging no rights without duties, no duties without rights. and for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the assistance and cooperation of all workingmen, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our means, and our sacred honor.”
    • very soon after the fourteenth amendment became law, the supreme court began to demolish it as a protection for blacks, and to develop it as a protection for corporations.
    • control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. it requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is. and so, the schools, the churches, the popular literature taught that to be rich was a sign of superiority, to be poor a sign if personal failture, and that the only way upward for a poor person was to climb into the ranks of the rich by extraordinary effort and extraordinary luck.
    • Education
      • These educational institutions did not encourage dissent; they trained the middlemen in the American system – the teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, technicians, politicians – those who would be paid to keep the system going, to be loyal buffers against trouble.
      • “the development of a factory-like system in the nineteenth-century schoolroom was not accidental”
    • this was probably not a conscious plan among the most elite – but a natural development from the twin drives of capitalism and nationalism
    • The Iron Heel: “in the face of the facts that modern man lives more wretchedly than the cave-man and that his producing power is a thousand times greater than that of the cave-man, no other conclusion is possible than that the capitalist class has mismanaged… criminally and selfishly mismanaged.”
    • The Iron Heel: “let us not destroy those wonderful machines that produce efficiently and cheaply. let us control them. let us profit by their efficient and cheapness. let us run them for ourselves. that, gentlemen, is socialism
    • imperialism
      • Woodrow Wilson: “concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. … the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down.
      • Charter of the Organization of American States: “no state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state.”
    • De Bois saw the ingenuity of capitalism in uniting exploiter and exploited – creating a safety valve for explosive class conflict. “it is no longer simply the merchant prince, or the aristocratic monopoly, or even the employing class, that is exploiting the world: it is the nation, a new democratic nation composted of united capital and labor”
    • Depression: there were millions of tons of food around, but it was not profitable to transport it, to sell it. warehouses were full of clothing, but people could not afford it. there were lots of houses, but they stayed empty because people coulnt’d pay the rent, had been evicted, and now lived in shacks in quickly formed “whoovervilles” built on garbage dumps
    • the middle class are cushion against class conflict
  • “Democracy”
    • Whether Democrats or Repulibcans won, national policy would not change in any important way
    • Cleveland: “no harm shall come to any business interest as the result of administrative policy so long as i am president… a transfer of executive control from one party to another does not mean any serious disturbance of existing conditions”
    • it took the usual form of election campaigns, concealing the basic similarity of the parties by dwelling on personalities, gossip and trivialities.
    • “the workers can expect no help from any capitalist party in their struggle against the existing system. they must achieve their liberation by their own efforts. as in former times, a privileged class never surrenders its tyranny, neither can it be expected that the capitalists of this age will give up their rulership without being forced to do it”
    • where a threatening mass movement developed, the two-party system stood ready to send out one of its columns to surround that movement and drain it of vitality. 
  • Anarchy
    • Percy Shelly “Mask of Anarchy” : “Rise like lions after slumber
      In unvanquishable number!
      Shake your chains to the earth, like dew
      Which in sleep had fallen on you –
      Ye are many, they are few!”
  • IWW
    • United Mine Workers constitution: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. there can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
      Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the political as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labor, through an economic organization of the working class without affiliation with any political party.”
    • they (IWW) argued against making contracts with the employer, because this had so often prevented workers from striking on their own, or in sympathy with other strikers, and thus turned union people into the strikebreakers. negotiations by leaders for contracts replaced continuous struggle by the tank and file.
    • IWW on ‘direct action’: “direction action means industrial action directly by, for, and of the workers themselves, without the treacherous aid of labor misleaders or scheming politicians. a strike that is initiated, controlled, and settled by the workers directly affected is direct action… direct action is industrial democracy
    • IWW: “ strikes are near incidents in the class war; they are tests of strength, periodical drills in the course of which the workers train themselves for concerted action. this training is more necessary to prepare the masses for the final “catastrophe,” the general strike which will complete the expropriation of the employers.
    • Anarcho-syndicalism – that the workers would take power, not by seizing the state machinery in and armed rebellion, but by bringing the economic system to a halt in a general strike, then taking it over to use for the good of all.
    • IWW organizer: “ If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. they have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. the workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists” 
    • It (general strike) was an immensely powerful idea. in the ten exciting years after its birth, the IWW became a threat to the capitalist class, exactly when capitalist growth was enormous and profits huge. the IWW never had more than five to ten thousand enrolled members at any one time; people came and went, and perhaps a hundred thousand were members at one time or another. but their energy, their persistence, their inspiration to others, their ability to mobilize thousands at one place, one time, made them an influence on the country vast beyond their numbers. they traveled everywhere (many were unemployed or migrant workers); they organized, wrote, spoke, sang, spread their message and their spirit.
    • The IWW was attacked with all the weapons the system could put together: the newspapers, the courts, the police, the army, mob violence. local authorities passed laws to stop them from speaking; the IWW defied these laws. in Missoula, Montana, a lumber and minind area, hundreds of Wobblies arrived by boxcar after some had been prevented from speaking. they were arrested one after another until they clogged the jails and the courts, and finally fired the town to repeal its anti-speech ordinance.
      in Spokane, washington, in 1909, an ordinance was passed to stop street meetings, and an IWW organizer who insisted on speaking was arrested. thousands of Wobblies marched into the center of town to speak. one by one they spoke and were arrested, until six hundred were in jail. jail conditions were brutal, and several men died in their cells, but the IWW won the right to speak.
    • “they took turns lecturing about the class struggle and leading the singing of Wobbly songs. when they refused to stop, the jailor sent for fire department trucks and orders the fire hoses turned full force on the prisoners. the men used their mattress as shields, and quiet was only restored when the icy water reached knee-high in the cells.
    • ‘is the call of Brotherhood in the human race greater than any fear or discomfort despite the efforts of the masters of life for six thousand years to root out that call of Brotherhood from our minds?”
    • Arrested Wobby to court: “the prosecuting attorney, in his plea to the jury, accused me of saying on a public platform at a plubic meeting, “to hell with the courts, we know what justice is.” He told a great truth when he lied, for if he had searched the innermost recesses of my mind he could have found that thought, never expressed by me before, but which i express now, “To hell with your courts, i know what justice is,” for i have sat in your court room day after day and have seen members of my class pass before this, the so-called bar of justice. i have seen you, judge Sloane, and others of your kind, send them to prision because they dared to infringe upon the sacred rights of property. You have become blind and deaf to the rights of man to pursue life and happiness, and you have crushed those rights so that the sacred right of property shall be preserved. then you tell me to respect the law. i do not. i did violate the law, as i will violate every one of your laws and still come before you to say “The hell with the courts, i know what justice is”.
      The prosecutor lied, but i will accept his lie as a truth and say again so that you, judge sloane, may not be mistaken as to my attitude, “to hell with your courts, i know what justice is.”
    • executed wobbly to big bill hayward: “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”
  • socialism
    • “All that is really necessary for the workers to do in order to end their miseries is to perform such simple things as to take from where there is, with ought regard to established property principles or social philosophies, and to start to produce for themselves. done in a broad social scale, it will lead to lasting results; on a local, isolated plane it will be… defeated… the bootleg miners have shown in a rather clear and impressive way, that the so-much bewailed absence of a socialist ideology on the part of the workers really does not prevent workers from acting quite anti-capitalisticly, quite in accordance with their own needs. The problems of the workers can be solved only by themselves
  • labor movement
    • Sit down strikes: the workers stayed in the plant intend of walking out, and this had clear advantages: they were directly blocking the use of strikebreakers; they did not have to act through union officials but were in direct control of the situation themselves; they did not have to walk outside in the cold and rain, but had shelter; they were not isolated, as in their work, or on the picket line; they were thousands under one roof, free to talk to one another, to form a community of struggle
    • dampening
      • the sit-downs were especially dangerous to  the system because they were not controlled by the regular union leadership.
      • from the trade unions’ point of view, the new law was an aid to union organizing. from the government’s point of view it was an aid to the stability of commerce.
      • unions were not wanted by employers, but they were more controllable – more stabilizing for the system than the wildcat strikes, the factory occupations of the rank and file.
      • The thirties and forties showed more clearly than before the dilemma of working people in the United States. The systems responded to workers’ rebellions by finding new forms of control – internal control by their own organizations as well as outside control by law and force. along with the new controls came concessions. these concessions didn’t solve basic problems; for many people they solved nothing. but they helped enough people to create an atmosphere of progress and improvement, to restore some faith in the system.
  • Civil Rights Movement
    • “the students in that picture had a certain look on their faces, sort of sullen, angry, determined. before, the Negro in the south had always looked on the defensive, cringing. this time they were taking the initiative. they were kids my age, and i knew this had something to do with my own life.”
    • SNCC writer: “now it is over. america has had a chance after chance to show that it really meant “that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights.”/// not it is over. the days of singing freedom songs and the days of combating bullets and billy clubs with love… love is fragile and gentle and seeks a like response. they used to sing “i love everybody” as they ducked bricks and bottles. now they sing:
      Too much love,
      Too much love,
      Nothing kills a nigger like
      Too much love”
    • Aldous Huxley: “liberties are not given, they are taken.”
    • Malcom X: “You’ll get freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom; then you’ll get it. it’s the only way you’ll ge it. when you get that kind of attitude, the you’ll label you as a “crazy negro”. or they’ll call you an extremist or a subversive, or seditions, or a red or a radical. but when you stay radical long enough and get enough people to be like you, then you’ll get your freedom”
    • King was turning is attention to troublesome questions. he still insisted on nonviolence. riots were self-defeating, he thought. but they did express a deep feeling that could not be ignored. and so, nonvolionce, he said, “must be militant, massive non-violence.”
    • was the government turning to murder and terror because the concessions- the legislation, the speeches, the intonation of the civil rights hymn “We Shall Overcome” by president lyndon johnson – were not working? it was discovered later that the government in all the years of the civil rights movement, while making concessions through Congress, was acting through the FBI to harass and break up black militant groups. between 1956 and 1971 the FBI concluded a massive Counterintelligence Program (known as CONTINTELPRO) that took 295 actions against black groups.
    • there was a small amount of change and a lot of publicity. there were more back faces in the newspaper and on television, creating an impression of change – and siphoning off into the mainstream a small but significant number of black leaders.
    • “if the community as a whole is to benefit, then the community as a whole must be organized to manage collectively its internal economy and its business relations with white america. black business firms must be treated and operated as social property, belonging to the general black community, not as the private property of individual or limited groups of individuals. this necessary to the dismantling of capitalist property relations in the black community and their replacement with a  planned communal economy. “
  • Vietnam
    • strategy of the vietcong : The rural vietnamese was not regarded simply as a pawn in the power struggle but as the active element in the thrust… “the purpose of this vast organizational effort was… to restructure the social order of the village and train the villages to control themselves. this was the NLF’s one undeviating thrust from the start. not the killing of ARVN (Saigon) soldiers, not the occupation of real estate, not he preparation for some great pitched battle.. but organization in depth of the rural population through the instrument of self-control”
    • “The ability ability of the Viet-Cong to continuously to rebuild their units and to make good their losses is one of the mysteries of the guerrilla war… not only do the Viet-Cong units have the recuperative powers of the phoenix, but they have an amazing ability to maintain morale. only in rare cases have we found evidences of bad morale among Viet-Cong prisoners or recorded in captured Viet-Cong documents”
    • The air strikes on villages, Secretary of Defence McNaughton said, would “create a counterproductive wave of revulsion abroad and at home.” He suggested instead:
    • “Destructions of locks and dams, however – if handled right – might … offer promise. it should be studied. such destruction doesn’t kill or drown people. by shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after a time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided – which we could offer to do “at the conference table”
    • Woman who survived Laos bombings: “I was at one with the earth, the air, the upland fields, the paddy and the seedbeds of my village. each day and night in the light of the moon i and my friends from the village would wander, calling out and singing, through forest and field, amidst the cries of the birds. during the harvesting and planting season, we would sweat and labor together, under the sun and the rain, contending with poverty and miserable conditions, continuing the farmer’s life which had been the profession of our ancestors.
    • But in 1964 and 1965 i could feel the trembling of the earth and the shock from the sounds of arms exploding around my village. i began to hear the noise of airplanes, circling about in the heavens. one of them would stick its head down and, plunging earthward, loose a loud roar, shocking the heart as light and smoke covered everything so that one could no see anything at all. each day we would exchanged news with neighboring villagers of the bombings that had occurred: the damaged houses, the injured and the dead….
    • the holes! the holes! during that time we needed holes to save our lives. we who were young took our sweat and our strength, which should have been spent raising food in the rice fields and forests to sustain our lives, and squandered it digging holes to protect ourselves.”
    • Ellsberg (who released the Pentagon Papers), by his bold act, had broken with the usual tactic of dissentes inside the government who bided their time and kept their opinions to themselves, hoping for small changes in policy. a colleague urged him not to leave the government because there he had “access,” saying, “don’t cut yourself off. don’t cut your throat.” Ellsberg replied: “life exists outside the executive branch.”
    • Catonsivlle nine who burned draft board documents: “our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burring of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. we could not, so help us god, do otherwise… we say: killing is disorder, life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize. for the sake of that order, we risk our liberty, our good name. the time is passed when good men can remain silent, when obedience can segregate men from public risk, when the poor can die without defense.
    • One establishment intention, perhaps, was that future generations see the war not as the Defense Department itself had described it in the Pentagon Papers – as a ruthless attack on civilization populations for strategic military and economic interest – but as an unfortunate error.
  • Prison / crime
    • Dostevski: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
    • it had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. this was not just because the poor committed more crimes. in fact, they did. the rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. but when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were the could get out on bail, hire clever lawers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people.
    • in 1969, there were 502 convictions for tax fraud. such cases, called “white-collar crimes,” usually involved people with a good deal of money. of those convicted, 20 percent ended up in jail. the fraud averaged $190,000 per case; their sentences averaged seven months. that same year, for burglary and auto theft (crimes of the poor) 60 percent ended up in prision. the auto thefts averaged $992; the sentces averaged eighteen months. the burglaries averaged $321; the sentences averaged thirty-three months.
    • the events of those years underlined what prisoners already sensed – that whatever crimes they had committed, the greatest crimes were being committed by the authorities who maintained the prisons, and by the government of the United State. the law was being broken daily by the President, sending bombers to kill, sending men to be killed, outside the constitution, outside the “highest law of the land.” State and local officials were violating the civil rights of black people, which was against the law, and were not being prosecuted for it.
  • the Establishment
    • “the elimination of Mr. Richard Nixon leaves intact all the mechanisms and all the false values which permitted the Watergate scandal”
    • Samuel Huntington, white house advisor: “to the extent that the United States was governed by anyone during the decades after WWII, it was governed by the president acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the executive office, the federal bureaucracy, congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private sector’s “Establishment.”” This was probably the frankest statement ever made by an Establishment adviser.
    • Huntington further said that the President, to win the election, needed the support of a broad coalition of people, however: “the day after his election, the size of his majority is almost – if not entirely – irrelevant to his ability to government the country. what counts then is his ability to mobilize support from the leaders of key institutions in a society and government… this coaitiion must included key people in congress, the executive branch, and the private sector ‘Establishment’ “ He gives examples:
      “Truman made a point of bringing a substantial number of nonpartisan soldiers, Republican bankers, and wall street lawyers into his Administration. he went to the existing sources of power in the country to get help he needed in ruling the country. Eisenhower in part inherited this coalition… kennedy attempted to recreate a somewhat similar structure of alliances.
    • disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters.
  • The american system
    • They teach us that the supreme act of citizenship is to choose among saviors, by going into a voting booth every four years to choose between two white and well-off anglo-saxon males in inoffensive personality and orthodox opinions
    • the idea of saviors has been built into the entire culture, beyond politics. we look to stars, leaders, experts in every field, thus surrendering our own strengths, demeaning our own ability, obliterating our own selves. but from time to time, americans reject that idea and rebel.
    • these rebellions, so far, have been contained. the american system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. with a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. it is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased.
    • there is no system of control with more openings, apertures, leeways, felxibilites, rewards for the chosen, winning tickets in lotteries. there is none that disperses its controls more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media – none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty.
    • one percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth. the rest of the wealth is distributed in such a way as to turn those in the 99 percent against one another: small property owners against the peopertly-less, black against white, native-born against foreign-born, intellectuals and professionals against the uneducated and unskilled. these groups have resented one another and warred against one another with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country.
    • how skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! how adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the waltz of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. how ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scarce by an irrational, wasteful system. how wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminal bred – by economic inequity – faster than they can be put away, reflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.
  • The turning of the guards
    • most histories understate revolt, overemphasize statesmanship, and thus encourage impotency among citizens. when we look closely at resistance movement, or even at isolated forms of rebellion, we discover that class consciousness, or any other awareness of injustice, has multiple levels. it has many ways of expression, many ways of revealing itself – open, subtle, direct, distorted, in a system of intimidation and control, people do not show how much they know, how deeply they feel, until their practical sense informs them they can do so without being destroyed.
    • in a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbageman and firemen. these people – the employed, the somewhat privileged – are drawn into alliance with the elite. they become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. if they stop obeying, the system falls. that will happen, i think, only when all of us who are slightly privileged and slightly uneasy begin to see that we are like the guards of the prision uprising at Attica – expendable; that the Establishment, whatever rewards it gives us, will also, if necessary to maintain its control, kill us. 
    • capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. it is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
    • the critical question in our time is whether the middle classes, so long led to believe that the solution for such crimes is more jails and more jail terms, may begin to see, by the sheer uncontrollability of crime, that the only prospect is an endless cycle of crime and punishment. they might then conclude that physical security for a working person in the city can come only when everyone in the city is working. and that would require a transformation of national proirites, a change in the system.
    • the problem of pesticides in the air, of asbestos in buildings, of lead pain on walls, of plutonium in the earth, of industrial wastes in drinking water, is a problem beyond class, race, sex. it could unite people of all classes and groups in fury against those few in the establishment who, in their demonic pursuit of more weapons, more positions, keep insisting (like the nuclear regulatory commission, like the tobacco companies, like Hoover and 1932 and lyndon johnson in the vietnam war) that everything is all right.
  • conclusion
    • let us be utopian for a moment so that when we get realistic again it is not the “realism” so useful to the Establishment in its discourtment of action, that “realism anchored to a certain kind of history empty of surprise”. let us imagine what radical change would require of all.
    • the society’s levers of power would have to be taken away from those whose drives have led to the present state – the giant corporations, the military, and their politician collaborators. we would need – by a coordinated effort of local groups all over the country – to reconstruct the economy for both efficiency and justice, producing in a cooperative way what people need most. we would start on our neighborhoods, our cities, out workplaces. work of some kind would be needed by everyone, including people now kept out of the work force – children, old people, “handicapped” people. society could use the enormous energy now idle, the skills and talents now unused. everyone could share the routine but necessary jobs for a  few hours a day, and leave most of the free time for enjoyment, creativity, labors of love, and yet produce enough for an equal and ample distribution of goods. certain basic things would be abundant enough to be taken out of the money system and be available – free – to everyone: food, housing, healthcare, education, transportation.
    • the great problem would be to work out a way of accomplishing this wouthiut a centralized bureaucracy, using not the incentives of prison and punishment, but those incentives of cooperation which spring from natural human desires, which in the past have been used by the state in times of war, but also by social movements that gave hints of how people might behave in different conditions. decision would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods – a network of cooperative, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name “socialist”.
    • people with time, in friendly communities, might create a new diversified, nonviolent culture, in which all forms of personal and group expression would be possible. men and women, black and white, old and young, could then cherish their differences as possible attributes, not as reasons for domination. new values of cooperation and freedom might then show up in the relations of people, the upbringing of children.
    • to do all that, in the complex condition of control in the united states, would require combing the energy of all previous momvemtns in american history – of labor insurgents, black rebels, native americans, women, young people – along with the new energy of an angry middle class. people would need to begin to transform their immediate environments – the workplace, the family, the school, the community – by a series of struggles against absentee authority, to tie control of these places to the people who live and work there.
    • these struggles would involve all the tactics used at various times in the past by people’s movements: demonstrations, marches, civil disobedience; strikes and boycotts and general stries; direct action to redisbure wealth, to reconstruct institutions, to revamp relationships; creating – in music, literature, drama, all the arts, and all the areas of work and play in everyday life – a new culture of sharing, of respect, a new joy in the collaboration of people to help themsevels and one another.
    • there would be many defeats. but when such a movement took hold in hundreds of thousands of places all over the country it would be impossible to suppress, because the very guards of the system depended on to crush such a movement would be among the rebels. it would be a new kind of revolution, the only kind that could happen, i believe, in a country like the united states. it would take enormous energy, sacrifice, commitment, patience. but because it would be a process over time, starting without delay, there would be the immediate satificfactions that people have always found in the affectionate ties of groups striving together for a common goal.
    • the prospect is for times of turmoil, struggle, but also inspiration. there is a chance that such a movement could succeed in doing what the system itself has never done – bring about great change with little violence. this is possible because the more of the 99 percent that begin to see themselves as sharing needs, the more the guards and the prisoners see their common interest, the more the Establishment becomes isolated, ineffectual. the elite’s weapons, money, control of information would be useless in the face of a determined population. the servants of the system would refuse to work to continue the old, deadly order, and would begin using their time, their space – the very things given them by the system to keep them quiet – to dismantle that system while creating a new one.
    • the prisoners of the system will continue to rebel, as before, in ways that cannot be foreseen, at times that cannot be predicted. the new fact of our era is the chance that they may be joined by the guards. we readers and writers of books, have been, for the most part, among the guards. if we understand that, and act on it, not only will life be more satisfying, right off, but our grandchildren, or our great grandchildren, might possibly see a different and marvelous world.