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I have read a few articles lately that have posited the viewpoint that if we, the politically active people, spend our time working on social issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization then we are using time that could be more well spent doing union organizing and other things that would result in real economic gain for all Americans.  And that if we focus on economic issues then the social issues will all be taken care of more easily when we are all better off.   While there is definitely some truth to this I would like to argue for a more balanced view.  I think the situation is actually a little more complex.  

What has happened is this: over the past 30 years, the elite 400 people in America - who own so much and for the most part control the nation - have been able to accomplish a significant part of their goal by rolling back all of our rights and by lowering our standard of living so they can keep the excess capital for themselves.  They do not need this capital, but they want to have it so that they can have more control.  The reason this has occurred is the balance between haves and have nots has been upset.   Under capitalism, both sides are supposed to always be fighting for a greater share of the capital which will give the people more rights and a higher standard of living, and give the rich more power and control.  Since 1980, the people have, in large part, stopped participating in this fight.  This is because one of the greatest strategies of the elite is to use the media to manipulate the people into behavior that will give the rich the upper hand.

Over the last 30 years, the elite have accomplished this by focusing the public’s attention on social issues that do not affect the struggle for capital and resources.   So, most of the people’s energy has been focused on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, animal rights, identity politics, drug legalization, and many others.   Now, the elite view these social issues as completely unimportant because they do not affect the outcome of the game (or at least very little).  The rich purposely use the media to distract people into fighting for these issues that do not matter to them - thus siphoning off energy that could have been used by people in the game.  So, since people have not been paying as much attention to the bread and butter economic issues, we have seen the fall of unionism, leading to longer hours, lower pay, fewer benefits, and  an overall lower standard of living. This means less capital for the people and more for the elite.

Now, some thinkers among the people have started to realize this in the past few years.  They have stood up and said, “Wait, we need to focus on economic issues, not social ones, because without capital the entire game is lost.”  They are correct about this.  In order for the people to return to the place of having any real power in society and having a decent life in the long run, they have only two choices.  They either need to take control of enough capital to have power or they need to render capital worthless by eliminating it.  That means we either have to overthrow capitalism completely or we have to take control of large amounts of capital.

The problem comes when the very well-intentioned thinkers go too far in the other direction and tell the people that the social issues do not matter and that only economic ones do - because this is not true.  Economic issues are fundamental to any people, since the lack of economic power will eventually render all social issues meaningless.  If one is starving, one tends not to worry so much about their gender identity.  But to do this is to take the same strategy are rich but from the other side.  And it is my supposition that we do not want to do this.   The game of the rich is not necessarily our game. We want more out of life than just basic economic security.

As the labor movement of the last century figured out, just economics are not enough.  In the Lawrence Massachusetts textile strike of 1912 led by the Industrial workers of the world (IWW), the workers asked for bread but roses too.   After years of struggle the IWW figured out that just economics were not enough to make life worth living.  In this strike, the roses meant beauty, art and joy - but I see the social issues to be like roses as well.  They are not essential to survival or essential to getting the upper hand in the battle with the rich, but they are an important part of life.

In addition, social issues can help to inspire people and transform and radicalize their thinking.  Many that end up working on hard economic issues began their activism with social issues that were close to their heart.  Social issues can be very important in helping young people to enter into a life of social awareness.

In the end we need a more balanced approach.  We do need to strategically focus the majority of our energy on the economic issues because they are so critical - but we also want to keep fighting the social battles as well because they are part of our zeitgeist.  Just as the IWW found that we the people also want to focus our energy on art, fun, and joy, we now see that we also want to focus it on marijuana legalization, gay rights, and pro-choice.  These social issues all help to define who we are as a people.  It is not enough to simply survive.  We must then build the type of world that we want to live in.  We need bread, but we want roses too.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the (0+ / 0-)

    few, or the one"

    I'm not a trekee, but that quote from Spock in "The Wrath of Khan" has stuck with me over the years.

    your quote:

    We want more out of life than just basic economic security.

    belies the fact that you already enjoy basic economic security.

    First things first,

    "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

    by Keith930 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 01:27:42 PM PST

    •  basic economic security (0+ / 0-)

      First, actually I do not have basic economic security personally and there are many others like me.

      Second, in this sentence I was speaking in terms of choosing one strategy over another as a goal not about the current state.

      Thank you for your comment.

  •  Awhile back... (0+ / 0-)

    Awhile back I came up with a few suggestions, at least two of which have been part of some Occupy actions from time to time. I also would like to see Occupy Wall Street and Critical Mass team up...could make for a few powerful actions. Both have the same leaderless, populist activism concept and both drive NYC Dictator Bloomberg crazy.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. Read the PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT Newsletter

    by mole333 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 01:38:35 PM PST

  •  Even Economics is a Secondary Goal. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gvico

    The ultimate goal is that we have to establish a responsible democracy in the country. As long as the 1% and really it's the global 1% controls the country, none of the goals whether social or economic can be achieved.

    The moral protests, the unions' recall/repeal efforts, and actions like the port strikes are helping build awareness of the core problems. That's what we need to be doing first.

    If there's any area of interest that helps highlight the core problem of control of the country, that's an area where a new movement should spring up and press its case.

    No one movement is capable of turning this country around.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 01:57:00 PM PST

    •  Good point (0+ / 0-)

      I agree entirely.

      Another important step I think would be for occupy to to address the issues of the minority poor in our country.  They have been suffering under this type of economic injustice for a long time.  If these two groups could coordinate and work together it could bring the 99% great power.

      People like Cornell West have done some work in this area but there needs to be much more.

  •  Where should we put energy? Hmmm.... (0+ / 0-)

    How about knife sharpening and gun cleaning?

    These are the days of swine and poses.

    by Saint Jimmy on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 04:27:34 PM PST

  •  You're Not Going To Like My Suggestion (0+ / 0-)

    But it is the most important.  You and all 99% protestors should put your energy into getting Progressives and Obama elected in 2012.  We can't sit back and "hope" for the best, we need to work hard because believe me the fight has just begun.

    Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011)

    by Rosalie907 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 08:26:54 PM PST

    •  I get it (0+ / 0-)

      I understand what you are saying and you will be glad to hear that we are doing just that.  We are working with Americans Elect to build non party politics and avoid the rigged two party system.  We are also working to get Green Party people elected.  I agree with you.  The only way we can repair this country is to work on all possible fronts.  We need to get actual progressives elected (Green Party).  We need to sue them in the courts (ACLU), we need to protest in the streets (Occupy), we need to bombard them with letters and calls and email.  We need to do all of it.  Though taking to the streets is the most powerful of these choices it is not enough by itself.

      Where I do disagree is the suggestion that Obama is in any way progressive or is somehow helping us.  He is not.  All his actions have shown him to be for the .1%.  Those are the facts.  I am open to the possibility that he will have a great awakening and change who he is--but that has not happened yet.  Now, Bernie Sanders would be a good choice.

      But yes, you make a good point, we do need to work on all fronts.

      Americans elect: Americans Elect

      Green Party: http://www.gp.org/...
      Green Party

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