By Arun Gupta, AlterNet
- Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Behind the sleek face of the iPad is an ugly backstory that has revealed once more the horrors of globalization. The buzz about Apple’s sordid business practices is courtesy of the New York Times series on the “iEconomy. In some ways it’s well reported but adds little new to what critics of the Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, have been saying for years. The series’ biggest impact may be discomfiting Apple fanatics who as they read the articles realize that the iPad they are holding is assembled from child labor, toxic shop floors, involuntary overtime, suicidal working conditions, and preventable accidents that kill and maim workers.
Photo Credit: edenpictures on Flickr
With the spread of political occupations to all 50 states today, lessons can be gleaned from past occupations for a movement that shows no signs of going away.
By Arun Gupta
November 14, 2011
Political occupations have a storied history starting with the first recorded labor strike. Some 3,176 years ago in Ancient Egypt royal tomb builders from the desert village of Deir el-Medina repeatedly occupied temples following the failure of Pharaoh Ramses III to provide wages consisting of wheat, fish, beer, clothing and other provisions.
In the centuries since, other movements have stamped their mark on history by occupying spaces, such as the Diggers who formed a utopian agrarian community on common land in 17th century England, and the workers, soldiers and citizens who established the ill-fated Paris Commune in 1871.
American history is rich with examples of political occupations that left a lasting impact. Sometimes the 99% pushed progress forward, as with Rosa Park’s occupation of a bus seat that propelled the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ended with Alabama’s bus segregation being declared unconstitutional. Often the 1% of the time – slaveholders, robber barons and merchants of war – re-asserted control with new methods of domination such as after the Great Upheaval of 1877. But each event proved that true democracy lies in collective act of taking space public and private, while corporations and the state are just two arms of the same beast.
With the spread of political occupations to all 50 states today, the most dynamic democratic movement since the 1960s, lessons can be gleaned from past occupations for a movement that shows no signs of going away. Here are seven of the most important occupations that changed American history.
Why progressives need to think beyond the mantra of creating a “middle class America.”
We’ve hit 14 occupations thus far. The latest ones being Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia, and Lexington, Kentucky. One common refrain is “the American Dream” is no longer possible, it’s dead or it’s a nightmare. The American Dream is shorthand for the middle class utopia. It’s the post-WWII ideal of well-paying working class jobs that can support a family, which have full benefits, and hope that the next generation will be better educated, have more opportunities and greater prosperity.
It’s a powerful mythology that ignores how socially deadening post-war society was. It was based on American Apartheid, virulent anti-Communism and suffocating notions of sexuality. Poverty was still widespread at home, Cold War militarism and the rise of advertising boosted the economy and plunder from the underdeveloped world allowed for increasing standards of living at home.
In the following article published before the occupy movement began I argue against the idea that “saving” the middle class should be the center of political or social struggles. Now, this is highly relevant to the Occupy movement because many people we have interviewed think we can just return to this post-war fantasy with a few policy tweaks and an election or two.
Just as the current crisis festered over many decades and is thus deeply rooted in our socio-economic system, creating a new world means radically restructuring our society and social relations, something that is not going to happen overnight or by electing some Democrats.
By Arun Gupta
The neoconservative ideas that shaped the war on terror have evaporated as the United States is battered by an economic depression that shows no end.
September 9, 2011
The events made my mind reel. The angry plumes of smoke, office paper raining like confetti, tumbling windows flashing in the sunlight. I could make out jumpers and watched a jet fighter whoosh by the burning towers, bank and disappear. I thought, “This is like a movie.”
It upset me that my only way to comprehend the events was to reference the Hollywood imaginarium. But it was understandable. Where else would I have seen images resembling the war in my backyard – collapsing skyscrapers, gigantic fireballs and thousands of dead?
The need to make sense of the events of Sept. 11 – the plot by al-Qaeda, four hijacked airliners, the demolished twin towers and nearly 3,000 dead – is universal. It is why the state’s first task after 9/11 – before one bomb dropped, one soldier deployed – was to imprint the “war on terror” on the collective American mindset.