Peter Rachleff

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The Power of Words: Books That Move Hearts, Strengthen Minds and Change History.

On-air date: 
Mon, 07/13/2015
Listen to or download this episode here: 

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The written word can be a powerful thing.  A poem can create in a few sentences a new and magical way to experience the world.  A novel can take readers places they have never been and introduce them to people they will never meet.  Through memoir, we can discover a bond with people whose lives may be very different from our own.  And the power of non-fiction to help us understand—and even change—the world is essential to democracy.

Today TTT explores the Power of Words with:

Peter Rachleff, retired history professor at Macalester College and co-founder of the East Side Freedom Library   www.eastsidefreedomlibrary.org and Monte Bute, a faculty member at Metropolitan State University who has inspired hundreds of students to wrestle with important, and often challenging, thinkers who have helped shape our times.

Monday, Jan 27: Socialism: It’s Not a Dirty Word

Help TTT continue to produce hyper local public affairs programming like this each week. Donate to TruthToTell's parent, CivicMedia-Minnesota today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The United States is unique among the world’s democracies in the relative absence of socialism as an accepted worldview and political movement.Unlike most democracies, the U.S. does not have socialist party capable of winning major elections – a fact that might surprise some Tea Party members who insist that President Barak Obama is himself a socialist!

Yet socialism has played an important role in American history—especially here in Minnesota, where socialists were at the heart of the labor and progressive farm movements, were elected mayors and city council members in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and played a critical role in the foundation of the Farmer-Labor Party.  And signs that history may be repeating itself surfaced in Minneapolis this past November when Ty Moore of Socialist Alternative came within 229 votes of being elected to the city council.

Given the growing divide between the 1 percent and the rest of us and the continued ability of corporate America to shape our political choices, it is no wonder that socialist ideas are making a comeback.  And while large numbers of Americans continue to favor capitalism over socialism, a 2011 poll by Pew Research showed that 49 % of respondents between the ages of 20 and 29 had a positive view of socialism compared to 43 % for capitalism.  Interestingly, the same poll showed Blacks favoring socialism over capitalism by 59% to 34 % and Liberal Democrats preferring socialism by a similar margin. 

Without giving too much credence to one opinion survey, the combination of social trends and renewed organizing on the ground suggests that we may be in for a renewed encounter with socialist ideas and politics.  So what is socialism anyway?  Is there more than one kind?  What role has socialism played in our political history—and perhaps most importantly, what role will it play in the months and years ahead?

To help us think about these questions TruthtoTell’s Andy Driscoll and guest co-host Tom O’Connell welcome two guests who are deeply familiar with socialism past and present. Tune in Monday at 9am. 

On-air guests: 

PETER RACHLEFF- Professor Emeritus in History, Macalester College, social justice activist

TY MOORE- Recent Socialist Alternative Minneapolis City Council Candidate

TruthToTell, Monday, Jan 27: Socialism: It’s Not a Dirty Word

On-air date: 
Mon, 01/27/2014
Listen to or download this episode here: 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Help TTT continue to produce hyper local public affairs programming like this each week. Donate to TruthToTell's parent, CivicMedia-Minnesota today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The United States is unique among the world’s democracies in the relative absence of socialism as an accepted worldview and political movement. Unlike most democracies, the U.S. does not have socialist party capable of winning major elections – a fact that might surprise some Tea Party members who insist that President Barak Obama is himself a socialist!

Yet socialism has played an important role in American history—especially here in Minnesota, where socialists were at the heart of the labor and progressive farm movements, were elected mayors and city council members in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and played a critical role in the foundation of the Farmer-Labor Party.  And signs that history may be repeating itself surfaced in Minneapolis this past November when Ty Moore of Socialist Alternative came within 229 votes of being elected to the city council.

Given the growing divide between the 1 percent and the rest of us and the continued ability of corporate America to shape our political choices, it is no wonder that socialist ideas are making a comeback.  And while large numbers of Americans continue to favor capitalism over socialism, a 2011 poll by Pew Research showed that 49 % of respondents between the ages of 20 and 29 had a positive view of socialism compared to 43 % for capitalism.  Interestingly, the same poll showed Blacks favoring socialism over capitalism by 59% to 34 % and Liberal Democrats preferring socialism by a similar margin. 

Without giving too much credence to one opinion survey, the combination of social trends and renewed organizing on the ground suggests that we may be in for a renewed encounter with socialist ideas and politics.  So what is socialism anyway?  Is there more than one kind?  What role has socialism played in our political history—and perhaps most importantly, what role will it play in the months and years ahead?

To help us think about these questions TruthtoTell’s Andy Driscoll and guest co-host Tom O’Connell welcome two guests who are deeply familiar with socialism past and present. Tune in Monday at 9am. 

On-air guests:

PETER RACHLEFF- Professor Emeritus in History, Macalester College, social justice activist

TY MOORE- Recent Socialist Alternative Minneapolis City Council Candidate

TruthToTell, Monday July 30-9AM: REGULATING MINNESOTA POLLUTERS: Impossible?; TruthToTell, July 23: LABOR IN CRISIS: Fair Trade vs. Foreign Policy?

UPCOMING SHOW

Tune in this coming Monday from 9:00 am to 10:00 am on KFAI, (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, and 106.7 FM in St. Paul) to catch our upcoming program:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Remember – call and join the conversation – 612-341-0980 – or Tweet us @TTTAndyDriscoll or post onTruthToTell’s Facebook page.

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST – PLEASE DONATE HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Things have not improved since a year ago April when TTT presented a two-week series on the ravages of sulfide mining to come if PolyMet and other mining companies have their way with us – us being Minnesotans of all sorts.

While some delays have been invoked over the applications for DNR-issued mining permits, the political powers that be continue to pressure the relevant state and federal agencies regulating Minnesota industries of all sorts to look past the potential harms bubbling up into our environment – our water, air and food – by industries given too much deference and pitting economic benefits against human health and other natural resources and animals.

Here are some questions we posed last year for our guests – and you, the public – last year in the face of local area legislators and St. Paul regulatory authorities pushing through permits to further pollute those resources we rely on to give life to all living things:

What more are we willing to sacrifice in terms of what we’re able to eat, drink and breathe in order to provide some – perhaps a lot – of short-term construction work – along with far fewer full time, permanent jobs?

These are but a few questions that require some deep and introspective thinking and evaluating by millions of people who surely want clean air and water and unadulterated food, but who have, through no fault of their own, found themselves unemployed, limited in their training and education to the work they did before and eager to earn a living for themselves and their families.

That’s what makes projects like the PolyMet Copper-Nickel Mine project well north of the Twin Cities such a seductive venture. The mine would be dug smack in the middle of the Superior National Forest, in what is called the Duluth Complex – a relatively untapped lode of these metals – the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation.

All local and statewide politicians, several labor groups and the Chambers of Commerce are one in arguing this issue: create the jobs – and forget the environmental damage their work may cause in both the long and short term. They claim this all-new, non-ferrous mining operation will produce the important copper and nickel used in a variety of products we use every day – with an interesting emphasis on renewable, rechargeable and critical-use tools – like batteries, hybrid vehicles, and pollution-reducing catalytic converters. Clever marketing.

Some local state representatives, senators, mostly Democrats last year, and joining them this year – Republican majorities - and even Amy Klobuchar and Jim Oberstar, endorse the project and angrily dismiss worried environmental groups and the Fond du Lac tribe’s arguments and even the Environmental Protection Agency’s lowest environmental rating as just so much (as if job-killing were an active agenda for clean water and food). The company isn’t much talking, so we can only consult their website for what is little more than a marketing pitch.

It would be easy to keep our focus on mining and the sulfuric acid aftermath of mining copper and nickel in Minnesota’s copper-rich Duluth Complex.

But this time we want to spread our wings a bit and remind our listeners that regulation in Minnesota may be silo-ed – isolated, that is – by agencies like the DNR (whose job includes the promotion and enabling of mining in the state, not just the protection of fish and wildlife); like the MN Pollution Control Agency, whose job has evolved to actually permitting pollution in greater quantities, then turn around and issue warnings when that pollution becomes dangerous to human health – but never shut down a polluter, whether a dangerous coal-fired utility, an animal or dairy feedlot with dangerous wastes overflowing into ditches and waterways feeding the rivers, or a waste-burning plant in the middle of the city threatening the breathing of residents; and like the Minnesota Health Department, which talks a good game, but is powerless to step in and actually require revisions in business practices that would save lives and ensure safer operations for the public health. Years of agency staffing with corporate sympathizers has left us bereft of real regulation.

In other words, we want to talk about regulation and its effectiveness – or lack of it – in protecting the public welfare over the economic benefits of deferring to corporate interests with the excuse that jobs are somehow in jeopardy if regulation imposes restrictions on those corporations…or, perhaps, denies them the authority to open shop at all without proving first that an enterprise will be safe for human and animal exposure.

After all, wasn’t regulation instituted to PREVENT harm to living beings? Why can’t we require an industry claiming to be safe for the environment to PROVE IT FIRST??

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI talk with those who are feeling slightly less powerful than the companies, politicians and state agencies turning the notion of regulation on its head and forcing victims to do the proving.

GUESTS:

 PAULA MACCABEE – Attorney, Water Legacy and Sierra Club North Star Chapter


 ROBERT DESJARLAIT (Ojibwe-Anishinabe) – Co-Founder, Protect Our Manoomin (Wide Rice); Of the Red Lake Anishinaabe Nation; Visual artist, historian, educator and traditional dancer.


BRUCE JOHNSON – Retired MPCA Regulation Staff and Northern Minnesota resident.

No comments yet - be the first!

 

MOST RECENT SHOW

Listen to our most recent show here, or browse our archives >

Monday, July 23, 2012

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST – PLEASE DONATE HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During the election season of 1972 – when George McGovern was challenging the policies and programs – not to mention the leadership – of Richard Nixon in the latter’s first term and the continuing war in Vietnam (remember the Kent State student killings in 1970, Nixon’s 1969 bombing of Cambodia – less than year in office – and the 1972 “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam), millions of rural and blue collar voters – much as they have more recently as Tea Party members – piled into the polls to vote for Nixon in direct contravention of their unions’ leadership. At least that’s how it appeared.

The Committee to Re-Elect, the Nixon machine found guilty of the Watergate break-in and laundering of campaign funds plus a massive cover-up a couple of years later, leading to Nixon’s unprecedented resignation in disgrace – portrayed George McGovern as little more than a professorial flake of a progressive. The campaign against the man who would have ended the Vietnam bloodbath at least three or four years and thousands of American and Asian lives before it finally stopped may well have succeeded based in major part on the abandonment of rank-and-file union members that year. This carried on right through the election of Ronald Reagan where more damage, perhaps fatal blows, were inflicted on collective bargaining and worker protections, including health and pension benefits. And, still suburban working class men and women vote Republican in significant numbers.

We have written and discussed how the rank-and-file’s shift to the right has flown in the face of all that labor’s founding forefathers sought in the bloody battles for recognition and certification representing overworked and underpaid workers in almost every one of America’s industries – most of them gone now, thanks to so-called free trade policies of Republican administrations and buttressed by gutless Democrats – all of whom have lost sight of labor’s struggle and heritage in the fattening of the middle class through the post-WWII decades, including two more conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

How does war and fair trade mix? How does the loss of many rank-and-file union members – especially the trades – to Republicans who have shipped their jobs overseas and given tax and regulatory breaks to those who have exploited labor while destroying the environment many unions believe impedes job creation sit with a public whose support organized labor has needed down through the ages?

Many authors have written well about the millions of Americans so willing to vote against their own best interests, but where was labor leadership when it came to standing up against the forces of evil here and overseas – against war when the crunch came? What’s the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank first raised this issue. But that included seniors and previously declared liberals in one bellwether state’s voting public.

Linking labor’s overseas strategy and tactics in times of war and third world development issues. The AFL-CIO has adamantly avoiding opposing America’s involvement in war dating back years and several conflicts, cooperating and colluding with the CIA and other agencies. In a review of the book authored by one of this Monday’s guests, Dr. Kim Scipes’s AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), social critic and writer Paul Street writes: 

Unbeknownst to most American union members and many U.S. labor officials, and without their support, the top foreign policy operatives of the AFL and the AFL-CIO have consistently collaborated with American government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in carrying out an imperialist foreign policy that has attacked working and living standards in “developing countries” (known as “Third World” nations during the Cold War).

Anytime you’re inclined to label labor as “imperialist” – stand back. But, as Scipes – a prolific professor of sociology at Purdue University and a long time labor union member and supporter – writes in his preface: “This is a book that has been very difficult for me to write. I am a strong believer in collective action, and especially collective action by working people, so as to improve their wages, working conditions, and the general conditions of their lives. Also, I am a strong believer in unions…” He goes on to list his union affiliations. But he also goes onto state flatly that the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program and leadership “…support and have worked to extend the U.S. empire. Besides attacking workers and unions around the world who challenge U.S. corporate investment…the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program can exist in the United states only by attacking labor democracy within the U.S. labor movement itself.”

He also says this program started about 100 years ago.

What have been the ramifications of all of this “empire” support as we have engaged in wars and exploitation all around the planet? And what about its effect on the Fair Trade Movement. How can the AFL-CIO possibly justify its behavior elsewhere as it opposes NAFTA and colludes with U.S. government adventurism overseas?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query the author and his reviewers – plus state and local labor leaders – in search of answers to the many questions these issues raise.

GUESTS:

  KIM SCIPES, PhD – Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University (North Central); Author, AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010)


  PETER RACHLEFF, PhD – Professor of History, Macalester College, St. Paul; Labor Historian


  JOSH WISE – Director, Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition

 

  TOM O’CONNELL – Professor of Social Science, Metropolitan State University; Chair, CivicMedia/Minnesota; Labor Historian

TruthToTell, Monday July 23-9AM: LABOR IN CRISIS: Fair Trade vs. Foreign Policy?; TruthToTell, July 16: NICK COLEMAN THE SENATOR: Right Up There with Fritz and Company

UPCOMING SHOW

Tune in this coming Monday from 9:00 am to 10:00 am on KFAI, (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, and 106.7 FM in St. Paul) to catch our upcoming program:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Remember – call and join the conversation – 612-341-0980 – or Tweet us @TTTAndyDriscoll or post onTruthToTell’s Facebook page.

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST – PLEASE DONATE HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During the election season of 1972 – when George McGovern was challenging the policies and programs – not to mention the leadership – of Richard Nixon in the latter’s first term and the continuing war in Vietnam (remember the Kent State student killings in 1970, Nixon’s 1969 bombing of Cambodia – less than year in office – and the 1972 “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam), millions of rural and blue collar voters – much as they have more recently as Tea Party members – piled into the polls to vote for Nixon in direct contravention of their unions’ leadership. At least that’s how it appeared.

The Committee to Re-Elect, the Nixon machine found guilty of the Watergate break-in and laundering of campaign funds plus a massive cover-up a couple of years later, leading to Nixon’s unprecedented resignation in disgrace – portrayed George McGovern as little more than a professorial flake of a progressive. The campaign against the man who would have ended the Vietnam bloodbath at least three or four years and thousands of American and Asian lives before it finally stopped may well have succeeded based in major part on the abandonment of rank-and-file union members that year. This carried on right through the election of Ronald Reagan where more damage, perhaps fatal blows, were inflicted on collective bargaining and worker protections, including health and pension benefits. And, still suburban working class men and women vote Republican in significant numbers.

We have written and discussed how the rank-and-file’s shift to the right has flown in the face of all that labor’s founding forefathers sought in the bloody battles for recognition and certification representing overworked and underpaid workers in almost every one of America’s industries – most of them gone now, thanks to so-called free trade policies of Republican administrations and buttressed by gutless Democrats – all of whom have lost sight of labor’s struggle and heritage in the fattening of the middle class through the post-WWII decades, including two more conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

How does war and fair trade mix? How does the loss of many rank-and-file union members – especially the trades – to Republicans who have shipped their jobs overseas and given tax and regulatory breaks to those who have exploited labor while destroying the environment many unions believe impedes job creation sit with a public whose support organized labor has needed down through the ages?

Many authors have written well about the millions of Americans so willing to vote against their own best interests, but where was labor leadership when it came to standing up against the forces of evil here and overseas – against war when the crunch came? What’s the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank first raised this issue. But that included seniors and previously declared liberals in one bellwether state’s voting public.

Linking labor’s overseas strategy and tactics in times of war and third world development issues. The AFL-CIOhas adamantly avoiding opposing America’s involvement in war dating back years and several conflicts, cooperating and colluding with the CIA and other agencies. In a review of the book authored by one of this Monday’s guests, Dr. Kim Scipes’s AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), social critic and writer Paul Street writes: 

Unbeknownst to most American union members and many U.S. labor officials, and without their support, the top foreign policy operatives of the AFL and the AFL-CIO have consistently collaborated with American government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in carrying out an imperialist foreign policy that has attacked working and living standards in “developing countries” (known as “Third World” nations during the Cold War).

Anytime you’re inclined to label labor as “imperialist” – stand back. But, as Scipes – a prolific professor of sociology at Purdue University and a long time labor union member and supporter – writes in his preface: “This is a book that has been very difficult for me to write. I am a strong believer in collective action, and especially collective action by working people, so as to improve their wages, working conditions, and the general conditions of their lives. Also, I am a strong believer in unions…” He goes on to list his union affiliations. But he also goes onto state flatly that the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program and leadership “…support and have worked to extend the U.S. empire. Besides attacking workers and unions around the world who challenge U.S. corporate investment…the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program can exist in the United states only by attacking labor democracy within the U.S. labor movement itself.”

He also says this program started about 100 years ago.

What have been the ramifications of all of this “empire” support as we have engaged in wars and exploitation all around the planet? And what about its effect on the Fair Trade Movement. How can the AFL-CIO possibly justify its behavior elsewhere as it opposes NAFTA and colludes with U.S. government adventurism overseas?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query the author and his reviewers – plus state and local labor leaders – in search of answers to the many questions these issues raise.

GUESTS:

  KIM SCIPES, PhD – Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University (North Central); Author, AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010)

  PETER RACHLEFF, PhD – Professor of History, Macalester College, St. Paul; Labor Historian

  JOSH WISE – Director, Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition

 

 

 

 LINDA HAMILTON – President, Minnesota Nurses Association

  TOM O’CONNELL – Professor of Social Science, Metropolitan State University; Chair, CivicMedia/Minnesota; Labor Historian

No comments yet - be the first!

 

MOST RECENT SHOW

Listen to our most recent show here, or browse our archives >

Monday, July 16, 2012

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST – PLEASE DONATE HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nick Coleman.

Who? That writer from the Strib? The columnist who used to write for the Pioneer Press?

No. That Nick Coleman is the son of the Nicholas David Coleman who left a significant mark on Minnesota’s political landscape for well over 30 years and would likely have kept it up for another 20 or 30 had he survived the leukemia that killed him in January of 1981.

Like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Don Fraser, Rudy Perpich, Wendy Anderson, Al Quie and Elmer Andersen and probably about two dozen other truly prominent political movers and shakers from the 1960s onward, Nick Coleman was, for his time in Minnesota’s recent history (that being the last 50-75 years) a rock-solid political animal and a flawed personality who charmed the hell out of friends and enemies alike.

Nick served as the Minnesota Senate’s Majority Leader for a major part of his political life – almost 20 years. He presided over Senate passage of the original Minnesota Miraclewhich  marked the shift in education financing from the very regressive property tax to the very progressive (and most say fairer) income tax.

It says something about the state of the state’s slide toward a much more conservative tenor and rancorous political climate that the Minnesota Miracle eroded before our very eyes to where we once again fork over more in property taxes to fund education than we do in fairer income taxes. People bitch a lot more over property taxes than the small slices they pay in income taxes, so conservatives (of both parties) have successfully shifted the burden to a tax that knows no downward income limits: it penalizes the poorest of us and forces school districts to run a-begging to residents who have watched their property taxes rise either by rate increases or based on rising property values.

Nick didn’t hang around long enough to see this erosion and the decided disappearance in political civility that has accompanied the emergence of a wholly radical right wing in Minnesota.

Still, Nick’s was a life of color, of ups and downs, of marriage, divorce, remarrying and the raising of yet another generation of five men and a woman, most of whom have made their marks in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on the Twin Cities’ and Minnesota’s political and cultural scene. Nick Coleman, the Younger, made his mark as a wry observer of the  passing scene in sports, culture and politics. Brother Patrick is a steward of the state’s historical collections, the younger Chris Coleman has risen to be a two-term mayor of St. Paul, the one to truly follow in his father’s footsteps.

It took another former state Senator, John Watson Milton, a former colleague of Nick’s, six years to research the nooks and crannies of Nick’s life and history. For the Good of the Order: Nick Coleman and the High Tide of Liberal Politics in Minnesota, 1971-1981 (Ramsey County Historical Press, 2012) is Milton’s lengthy tome in which junkies like yours truly can really become immersed, but it’s also a completely thorough historical treatise on Coleman’s Irish roots in an Irish town like St. Paul became while tracing Nick’s fascinating life as a human and political animal.

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI will talk with the author and a couple of those closest to Coleman throughout his life. (We'll also chat for a time with Brian Kaller, who's back in the Cities to talk about his new homeland - Ireland – and its survival in the face of austerity. Brian's writing for several blogs - his own and other publications about his observations of Irish culture and economies.)

GUESTS:

JOHN WATSON MILTON – former State Senator and Ramsey County Commissioner; Author, For the Good of the Order: Nick Coleman and the High Tide of Liberal Politics in Minnesota, 1971-1981 and several other books and novels.

PATRICK COLEMAN – Second Eldest of Nick Coleman’s sons and Manager of Collections for the Minnesota Historical Society.

JOHN KAUL – Former Chief of Staff to the Majority Leader under Nick Coleman, legislative affairs specialist for several organizations and a photographer and videographer/documentarian.

 

 

 

TruthToTell, July 23: LABOR IN CRISIS: Fair Trade vs. Foreign Policy?-AUDIO Podcast Up HERE

On-air date: 
Mon, 07/23/2012

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST – PLEASE DONATE HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During the election season of 1972 – when George McGovern was challenging the policies and programs – not to mention the leadership – of Richard Nixon in the latter’s first term and the continuing war in Vietnam (remember the Kent State student killings in 1970, Nixon’s 1969 bombing of Cambodia – less than year in office – and the 1972 “Christmas Bombing” of North Vietnam), millions of rural and blue collar voters – much as they have more recently as Tea Party members – piled into the polls to vote for Nixon in direct contravention of their unions’ leadership. At least that’s how it appeared.

The Committee to Re-Elect, the Nixon machine found guilty of the Watergate break-in and laundering of campaign funds plus a massive cover-up a couple of years later, leading to Nixon’s unprecedented resignation in disgrace – portrayed George McGovern as little more than a professorial flake of a progressive. The campaign against the man who would have ended the Vietnam bloodbath at least three or four years and thousands of American and Asian lives before it finally stopped may well have succeeded based in major part on the abandonment of rank-and-file union members that year. This carried on right through the election of Ronald Reagan where more damage, perhaps fatal blows, were inflicted on collective bargaining and worker protections, including health and pension benefits. And, still suburban working class men and women vote Republican in significant numbers.

We have written and discussed how the rank-and-file’s shift to the right has flown in the face of all that labor’s founding forefathers sought in the bloody battles for recognition and certification representing overworked and underpaid workers in almost every one of America’s industries – most of them gone now, thanks to so-called free trade policies of Republican administrations and buttressed by gutless Democrats – all of whom have lost sight of labor’s struggle and heritage in the fattening of the middle class through the post-WWII decades, including two more conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

How does war and fair trade mix? How does the loss of many rank-and-file union members – especially the trades – to Republicans who have shipped their jobs overseas and given tax and regulatory breaks to those who have exploited labor while destroying the environment many unions believe impedes job creation sit with a public whose support organized labor has needed down through the ages?

Many authors have written well about the millions of Americans so willing to vote against their own best interests, but where was labor leadership when it came to standing up against the forces of evil here and overseas – against war when the crunch came? What’s the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank first raised this issue. But that included seniors and previously declared liberals in one bellwether state’s voting public.

Linking labor’s overseas strategy and tactics in times of war and third world development issues. The AFL-CIO has adamantly avoiding opposing America’s involvement in war dating back years and several conflicts, cooperating and colluding with the CIA and other agencies. In a review of the book authored by one of this Monday’s guests, Dr. Kim Scipes’s AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), social critic and writer Paul Street writes: 

Unbeknownst to most American union members and many U.S. labor officials, and without their support, the top foreign policy operatives of the AFL and the AFL-CIO have consistently collaborated with American government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in carrying out an imperialist foreign policy that has attacked working and living standards in “developing countries” (known as “Third World” nations during the Cold War).

Anytime you’re inclined to label labor as “imperialist” – stand back. But, as Scipes – a prolific professor of sociology at Purdue University and a long time labor union member and supporter – writes in his preface: “This is a book that has been very difficult for me to write. I am a strong believer in collective action, and especially collective action by working people, so as to improve their wages, working conditions, and the general conditions of their lives. Also, I am a strong believer in unions…” He goes on to list his union affiliations. But he also goes onto state flatly that the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program and leadership “…support and have worked to extend the U.S. empire. Besides attacking workers and unions around the world who challenge U.S. corporate investment…the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy program can exist in the United states only by attacking labor democracy within the U.S. labor movement itself.”

He also says this program started about 100 years ago.

What have been the ramifications of all of this “empire” support as we have engaged in wars and exploitation all around the planet? And what about its effect on the Fair Trade Movement. How can the AFL-CIO possibly justify its behavior elsewhere as it opposes NAFTA and colludes with U.S. government adventurism overseas?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query the author and his reviewers – plus state and local labor leaders – in search of answers to the many questions these issues raise.

GUESTS:

  KIM SCIPES, PhD – Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University (North Central); Author, AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010)


  PETER RACHLEFF, PhD – Professor of History, Macalester College, St. Paul; Labor Historian


  JOSH WISE – Director, Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition

 

  TOM O’CONNELL – Professor of Social Science, Metropolitan State University; Chair, CivicMedia/Minnesota; Labor Historian


53:28 minutes (48.96 MB)