Thursday, 31 July 2014

VIOLENCE AND SOCIETY: An Introduction (Part I)

There is hardly a major motion picture, especially coming out of Hollywood that does not deal with violence, often extreme and gratuitous, and often making hundreds of millions at the box office, thus reflecting public fascination with violence. Computer-video games, comic-hero books, novels, and TV shows are all consumed with plots dealing with violence. In short, popular culture, especially in the US and more broadly in the Western World, is immersed in violence.  Violence also finds expression through a number of sports, including American football, European/Latin American soccer, boxing, hockey, martial arts, etc. One could argue that even ancient Romans had the gladiator games, so there is really not much change in that regard or in the glorification of sports violence as entertainment.

There is something seriously wrong with a society’s moral compass when its major form of entertainment as well news programs has violence at its core reflecting its core values.  Yet, when a 14-year unbalance student unloads a gun on his fellow students, everyone wonders about the source of violence as though that student came from another planet to behave in such manner. Many scholars argue that owing to the pervasive nature of violence in the mainstream (commercial) culture, many people, including young people, are desensitized and accept violence as “normal” because it is at the core of secular Western culture. 

This is not to say that there is only secular Western violence, because we have seen and continue to see examples of atrocious acts of religious violence, between Sunni Muslims killing Shiite Muslims, Jews killing Muslims and vice versa in unconventional wars and state-organized wars.  Given that a political decision was made by the US and then other governments to label Muslims who engage in unconventional war as terrorists, it must be state that violence itself is politically defined and a given society in different era of history has given its own definition. For example, human sacrifice would be deemed an act of extreme violence today, but not so for the Minoans, Etruscans, among many others, including the Aztecs. At the same time, it must be stated that a society differentiates what it deems violence on the basis of what the state accords, namely, killing in war is not violence punishable by a court of law because the state sanctions it, while a citizen killing another in a crime of passion may be punishable by death in some countries, including the US.

Violence is the result of environmental (social conditioning) factors as well as genetic (neurobiological).  There have been thinkers throughout history, among them Machiavelli and Hobbes, who concluded that humans are violent by nature, that is innate tendencies owing perhaps to original sin or instinct for survival or hunger for power that makes human violent from birth to death. Others, among them rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment as well as Western and Eastern religious figures, including non-violent Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi rejected the view that humans are violent by nature, attributing violence to learned behavior.  

From the classic work of Enlightenment thinker Cesare Beccaria’s, On Crimes and Punishments (1764) that injected scientific reason into the field of criminology until the early 21st century in the US where capital punishment has not been reconsidered despite the massive scholarly works indicating it is not a deterrent for criminal activity the world has not advanced as much as many would like to believe in how it views crime and how it responds to it in the last three centuries.  

A factor that Beccaria tried to stress must be removed in dealing with criminal, the irrational or emotional continues to dominate. This is rather intriguing about human nature considering that people do not necessarily have a strong emotional response to mass killings, even of children as victims, during wars. They have no problem readily wanting the blood of a man who killed during a robbery amid tense moments, but that same man becomes a hero if he kills one thousand people in war because killing under the legitimacy of the state is a heroic endeavor. 

There is something seriously wrong with a society’s value system when we have chronic cases of gang rapes in India that authorities overlook, on the one hand, and Israeli citizens cheering, celebrating, and singing once they learn that their bombs have killed children in Gaza. These cases of organized violence, one carried out by individuals and tolerated by the state and society at large as we have seen in India in the past four decades, and the other case where the state is carrying out war crimes against Palestinian children while US lawmakers demonize the victims of war crimes and defend the war crimes as defined by the United Nations. 

As civilization becomes more modernized with greater sophisticated technological and scientific tools available to facilitate and improve people’s lives, violence at the individual level as well as mass violence in the form of state-sponsored warfare and unconventional war has increased, with the 20th century leaving us a legacy of two global wars and many smaller wars. At the same time, the most advanced technologically and scientific nation in the world, namely the US, has the highest incidents of individual violence on the world on a per capita basis. This may not surprise some criminologists who see a correlation between US record of wars from 1898 to the present and the record of crime by individuals. 

As an integral part of the human experience, violence is a mirror of the human condition reflected and articulated in literature, art, theater, music, dance, as well as many academic disciplines from psychology to criminal justice, from social work to religion. Violence transcends gender, race and ethnicity. Although there is no scientific evidence that women are less destructive or cruel than men by nature, throughout history men, especially Caucasians have been among the most violent. Th3e male rite of passage to manhood has been based on the ability to demonstrate physical strength and dominance over the other, male and female. This is deeply imbedded in patriarchal culture. Besides patriarchy, poverty, social injustice, a culture of militarism, authoritarianism, and materialism and hedonism are some factors that account for violence.    

Contrary to popular opinion, violence is not limited only to individuals physically attacking others or property for a variety of reasons from mental illness to ideological considerations. Throughout history, far greater violence has been carried out by governments against other groups of people or their own than individual acts of violence associated with crimes of passion, abnormal behavior, etc. In the 20th century alone, we had the holocaust of the Armenians carried out by the Turkish government, the holocaust of Jews, gypsies, and Communists carried out by the Nazi regime, innocent Cambodians falling victims to the assassin regime of Khmer Rouge, Muslim Bosnians victimized by Orthodox Serbs, Rwanda tribes slaughtering each other in the name of ethnic cleansing, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced and thoroughly destroyed both countries and left them to a fate far worse than before the invasion; and these are just some of the worse examples.

Given that nations systematically pursue policies that exterminate people in the hundreds of thousands or millions, individuals are influenced by the culture of violence that is prevalent in society. When governments indoctrinate people to accept mass killings in the name of whatever pretext from patriotism to securing freedom for the people at the receiving end of military attack, then the individual can just as easily find causes for aggression and violence that society glorifies. 

If nations are bloodthirsty in their quest for political, economic, military hegemony, that ideology of power is inculcated into the mind of the individual. If government objectifies masses of people, including children it kills in the name of some principle as a pretext, so does the individual objectify the rape victims? If the government has no desire for peaceful coexistence and the only goal is exploitation, domination and destruction, why should people behave any different in their inter-personal relationships?  

The political and civic leadership of a society has a significant responsibility in the level of violence, as we can clearly see when comparing gun violence in the US vs. Switzerland, the latter ranking 5th in the world in individual gun ownership, but lacking the culture of violence of the US that ranks number one. Therefore, while gun violence is an issue in the US that has a culture of violence, it is not so in Switzerland with a very high gun ownership. 

While the correlation between state-sponsored violence and individual violence has been well documented and analyzed by scholars ever since the Enlightenment era, it was in the interwar era (1920s and 1930s) that scholars focused on the inexorable relationship between state-sponsored institutionalized violence manifesting itself in military and police policy, one the hand, and individual violence, on the other. The mass devastation of the First World War, followed by the Great Depression in 1929 and the rise of Fascism, Nazism, and military dictatorships in a number of countries from Japan to Eastern Europe resulted in some interwar existentialist thinkers to conclude that human beings sought out violence because the rationalism on which Western Civilization stood had collapsed and there was a search of meaning on the part of people who drifted toward nihilism. 

Ironically, during that same period, Mahatma Gandhi formulated his nonviolence philosophy as a means of ending British colonial rule in India. The irony here is that while the sharp contrast between the non-violence path India under Gandhi’s leadership assumes in the interwar era, on the one hand, and the institutionalized violent path that Europeans too under ultra-right wing racist regimes. These examples between Europe and India further illustrate the cultural uniqueness of the two societies, one immersed in materialism, militarism and the psychology of violence as the vehicle for power, while the other under Gandhi seeking self-determination through heroic non-violence at a time that British soldiers and police were beating and killing anti-colonial protesters.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

WOMEN AND CHRISTIANITY: Institutional Discrimination through Faith

Have women been well served by Christianity, as defenders of the faith argue, or has religion been a source of perpetuating gender inequality, and in the worst cases institutional persecution, in the last 2000 years, as critics charge? Has religion as an integral part of the dominant culture been a catalyst for gender inequality, as feminists insist, or has it been of greater service to women as a legitimate institutional outlet and a source of socialization and spiritual salvation, as apologists maintain? Clearly, feminists from Simone de Beauvoir to Mary Daly among many others dealing with this issue have focused on various issues from class-based linked to religion as the source of legitimizing gender discrimination to merely cultural aspects focused on Christianity as a male-dominated religion with built-in prejudices against women. There are many facets as how not just women but society at large was cheated because of gender discrimination, invaiably rooted in class relationships. In my view the greatest tragedy of women discriminated under Christianity as well as other religions is the denial to half of the population to make creative contributions and realize their full potential in life. Needless to say, others see denial to women in the domain of creativity not nearly as bad as witch burnings.

There was the tragedy of the witch hunts from the 13th until the 18th century, resulting in several tens of thousands or perhaps a few hundred thousands dead, depending on the source. The era of “gendercide” represents the worst aspects of Christian church treatment of women, but was there anything positive the church offered to women? One could argue that the psychological (spiritual) comfort Christianity affords to women burdened by so much in the family and community is invaluable. No doubt, religion has always served those with psychological problems, and it is only fitting that many religiously-affiliated universities require that clergy study psychology as part of their training to deal with the public.

It is true that women, especially of the lower classes, have been more faithful followers of Christianity than men and in far greater numbers. That this is the case may be a reflection of the problems they face in their lives and a discriminatory and unequal society, but the institution is there for them when they need spiritual comfort. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” Psalms 28:7-9
Throughout the history not just of Christianity, but all major religions, the female has been depicted as the source of life, mother earth, deified female, symbol of love, but also source of sin and evil. 

Why such contradictory symbolic images of the female within Christianity, but in all religions? Are the men writing such views of women conflicted between the mother figure of “purity” as they want to believe, the Virgin Mary type, and the temptress love symbol such as Magdalene the ‘saintly sinner’?  And what do we make of the fact that women from the lower social classes throughout history have been more faithful and in far greater numbers to the church than middle class and upper class women? Nowhere is this more evident than among America’s black community from the era of slavery to the present. However, the same holds true for peasants in Latin America as well as Eastern Europe.

Those who have studied the world’s religion know that all major religions discriminate against women, more so in practice than in doctrine intended to engender harmony between the sexes. Christianity is no exception, any more than Judaism from whose roots it sprang, or from Islam that it influenced along with Judaism. However, Oriental religions are not much better in this regard, given that China’s Confucius hardly had much regard for women, and India’s Hinduism male hegemony over the female is very clear. In fact, the hierarchical role of male in relationship to female reflects that of the broader socioeconomic order across all 
societies, with remarkable similarities between them.  Gender and social roles were not always so.

Gender roles change with the emergence of civilization, which entails writing, private property, military, organized state and religion. There is ample evidence that women’s role before civilization reflected the communitarian and collectivist social structure of classless tribal entities. In the Paleolithic Age (20,000-10,000 B.C.) the female in some tribes represented the source of life and the dominant deities were female, indicating societal priorities as far as the significance of continuing the species.  The mother earth deity becomes well established in the Neolithic Age (10,000-7,500) in various tribes around the world that domesticated animals and settled in permanent agricultural communities, women remain key to community survival because of the division of labor with the main tasks falling on the female.  Farming and animal husbandry changed from a predominantly female-dominated endeavor to a male one around 3000 B.C. when private property and organized tribes established military forces with warrior chieftains. This change in production meant change in social organization, with religion reflecting the changes and the male deities taking precedence over the female ones. 

Historical overview
The first disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were males and there were no women among the apostles. However, the mother of Christ and Mary Magdalene played a role in the genesis of the new faith that emerged during the reign of Roman Emperor August Caesar and eventually spread to conquer the empire in the next five centuries.  Primitive Christianity of the early Church fathers was clearly the domain of males who interpreted and added to church doctrine and religious practice on the basis of their own beliefs rooted in paganism and Greek philosophy. 

The emerging religion permeated the upper classes of the Empire through the wives that were apparently attracted to Christianity because it preached equality before God and the soul transcended the body of male-female distinctions. At the spiritual level only, there was gender equality. Furthermore, according to the New Testament, husbands must respect their wives as Jesus respected, loved and cared for the church. This position was not one shared by pagans. 

While Christianity spiritually elevated women to the same level as men because Christ transcended gender, at the social, economic and political levels, women were to maintain their traditional subservient role. This was largely because the early church fathers were Greek-speaking, and Greek-educated who did not deviate from the view that the woman must remain wife, mother and homebound.  Drawing parallels between women and slaves, some historians argue that Christianity accepted slaves as spiritual equals to their masters because all creation has one Father. Therefore, Christianity never advocated anything other than spiritual emancipation and to a large degree it strengthened the doctrinal foundations for patriarchy as the foundation of social organization pagans had been practicing. Despite the Reformation of the 16th century and some radicalization of the church in the 20th century, and despite some progressive elements among the varieties of Christians, for the most part Christianity at its core has not changed its fundamental view on the gender matter in the last 2,000 years.

The views of the early church fathers were based mostly on the writings of the apostle Paul who relied heavily on Judaic and Greek religious and philosophical sources. Here is a sample of Paul’s work.
“Women should keep quiet in church. They must take a subordinate place. If they want to find out anything they should ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church. A man ought not to wear anything on his head in church, for he is the image of God and reflects God’s glory, while woman  man; and man was not created for woman but woman for man. That is why is ought to wear upon her head something to symbolize her subjugation.
The view of Apostle Paul is the one that was in fact practiced for centuries and not the spiritual egalitarian one for which the religion permits, or the view that some women were martyrs alongside males thus they were equal. Moreover, this view remained so even with the Reformation thinkers, despite very minor exceptions. The reason of course is that the broader society was organized along gender division lines and the church merely reinforced this.

Early converts to Christianity included women from the lower classes in the Eastern provinces of the Empire. However, women were compelled to wear veils because it was universally believed that female hair is a source of seductiveness women use – just as in the Old Testament and later in Islam where the exact same view prevails.  This does not mean that a woman could not gain respect in the church, because she could always become a nun and devote herself to the institution for life. Marrying the Lord by serving the institution, the woman renounced temporal life and strove for spiritual purity.

The decline of the Western Roman Empire beginning in the 3rd century coincides with the hold their lives together amid the decadence of secular institutions. Political chaos, economic decline, public financial ruin as the economy became increasingly one of barter owing to lack of money and hyper inflation were all factors that drove people to reject the Empire’s pagan religion and to embrace the promise of eternal Paradise in the afterlife at least.  The greater the decline amid the internal problems and Barbarian invasions, the more Christianity gained legitimacy among the upper classes of Rome, largely because mothers and wives of nobles embraced the new faith.

In 313 Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity that had become too large to ignore, given that bishops were exerting enormous influence among citizens. Constantine’s mother was a convert and Christians credit her for the legalization of the faith, a symbolic issue given that the Virgin Mary was also the figure to which women prayed. Already a part of society, the cult of the mother became the cult of the mother of God in the Middle Ages, paradoxically linked to female virginity.  

Until the 5th century and the works of St. Augustine, the church did not have an official position on marriage that differed from what pagans practiced. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
 Sex during marriage was ideally limited to procreation only. There were different opinions whether marital infidelity of either spouse required or merely permitted divorce, although the latter view prevailed. Divorce was a sin, but some bishops believed there were exceptions to the rule, a position St. Augustine adopted as well. Unlike Arabs and some pagans, Christians insisted on monogamy and believed that sexual pleasure even within marriage is a distraction from spiritual purification. Total abstinence was the only form of acceptable birth control method, given that sexual pleasure constituted a sin with woman at the core of it, even within the marriage. Just as the church regarded marriage as the lesser of two evils, it discouraged divorce and remarriage, an issue that drove many widows throughout history into monasteries for practical reasons of survival as well as socially acceptability. 

In the fifth century, the neo-Platonist philosopher St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, laid the doctrinal foundations for the West European church. St. Augustine argued that according to Genesis, Adam and Eve covered their genitals immediately after they ate forbidden fruit representing original sin. Although the source of sin was not in sexual acts but in the fact that Adam and Eve violated the will of their creator, Augustine insisted that sexual feelings induced guilt that can only be eliminated through baptism and Christian way of life because all posterity after Adam and Eve carries the original sin within. This Platonist interpretation was not accepted by all church father, among them Bishop Julian of Eclanum who denied that infants cannot possibly possess any sin. Nevertheless, Augustine insisted that sin is innate and women are far more likely to be damned for all eternity than men because they carry Eve’s evil seed.

Arranged marriages constituted another manner of subjugating women from the Middle Ages until very recently for many parts of the Christian world. The father, brothers, and other male relatives decided on the husband that the bride had to wed, assuming the dowry that the bride was agreed upon.  This is not exactly like the Asian tradition of forced marriage in centuries past and even today in many parts of Asia, but arranged Christian marriages were based on class status, mainly to keep the fief of the Lord under his domain during the Middle Ages. This nothing more than a business deal that basically continued along class-based criteria after the feudal/manorial system gave way to capitalism in Europe.  

Reformation to Enlightenment
The Reformation beginning with Martin Luther in the early 16th century offer some hope that it would result in reformation for how the institution viewed the role of women. However, Luther believed that just as man must submit his will to the will of God and obey without question, similarly the woman must obey the will of her husband so there must be harmony. In fact, Luther saw sin as the violation of God’s will by man, so by extension woman cannot violate the will of man. Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, etc. had traditional views of women not much different than the Catholic Church. Women were to be silent, obedient, their education confined to bible study in the vernacular, household duties and tending to farm and animal husbandry. Because of the permission to study the bible in the vernacular, the implication was that this was a step toward affirming spiritual equality, though Protestants opposed female convents as an outlet for women to transcend their social inferiority.

Coinciding with the English Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the Age of Reason began to shape a new identity not just for the middle class of Western Europe, but of women in urban areas. These new influences invariably influenced religious identity, including how middle class women saw themselves in society. This was especially after the French Revolution where women were involved in Jacobin Clubs. There had been women writers raising gender issues ever since the Renaissance, but their voices became more active by the 18th century, influencing the rest of society that identified such urban middle class women as humanist sinners.  On the other hand, it is ironic that the age of witch hunts took place mostly in the Age of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment!

Women and Christianity in Modern Times
While the age of democratization of Western society in the West entailed a necessary institutional change that included Christian women’s role in society. While attitudes had not changed within the institution and missionary work remained the dominant one for females, society’s needs pushed women toward the fields of nursing and primary education. A 19th century American doctor-missionary Katharine Bushnell argued in her book entitled God’s Word to Women that gender equality is to be found in the correct reading of the Bible. Preaching social reform, Bushnell insisted that there is nothing in the Bible calling for institutional discrimination of the sexes and the degradation of women in society.

While this was one of the early voices of Christian feminism, it was easily drowned by the overwhelming majority that called for women to remain in their traditional role, despite the middle class women protests for voting rights. Christianity in its many denominations maintained traditional views on women, although class status did play a major role, given that the working class and peasant/farming women readily obeyed the church while the rebellion came from the middle class women.

Institutional inequality reflected in the class structure was also reflected in gender inequality, with women in some countries like the US often discovering that they had more in common with the discriminated workers (Emma Goldman, for example) or with minorities such as blacks fighting for equal rights. In short, women realized in the 20th century that gender inequality within the Christian institutions was an integral part of the larger society and dominant culture and emancipation rested with a collective solution and solidarity with other groups.  

 It is very difficult to argue with either a woman or man laying in bed ill who is praying for their health, given that scientific studies show prayer and faith does in fact help with recovery much faster versus an individual who has no faith and does not pray. It is difficult to argue with a woman praying to Jesus because she is dependent on narcotics, or her husband has left her with three children to care for and no resources. It is difficult to argue with a woman who insists that she has seen the light of the Lord after she had been an alcoholic. It is just pointless and counterproductive to argue on the basis of scientific reason with someone, woman or man, who cries out for help and believes the answer rests with Jesus through the church.  

Having said this, the larger issue is what benefits has the church provided to women over the centuries and what services has it offered. Not surprisingly, it is devout women who are the most dogmatic defenders of the faith, and critics of anyone trying to see both sides of this issue from a historical perspective. It is women who are the arch defenders of the mother church, more than men and who die for the institution, even though they know that the institution discriminates against their gender.  For Christian women to feel so strongly about the church that has historically relegated them to second class citizen is a reflection of their need to identify with the institution for their own emotional fulfillment, partly because of pain they endured in their lives, partly because their mothers inculcated this idea in them, partly because they see no other way to transcend society’s prejudice against them. 

It is ironic that Chritianity starting out as a religion of the poor and both genders that felt outcats in the provinces of the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus became insitutionalized in four centuries and quickly turned its back on social justice. Identifying with the elites of society, the religion became thoroughly coopted and reflected the traditional views on gender and class. Not that it could survive any other way, given that it early years were nothing but systematic persecution. Despite its identification with the elites, women of all classes, especially the poor remained faithful to the church, having nothing else to turn to except hope for a better life in the afterlife. I would be remiss if I did not conclude with my existentialist view that the church offered and continues to offer women that embrace it a sense of purpose otherwise unavailable in their lives. No matter how the church is an integral part of the dominant culture and mainstream institutions, women as the beneficiaries of injustice had nowhere to turn except God, even at the cost of denying their own creative potential.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


On 23 Juluy 2014, Navi Pillay, U high commissioner for human rights, announced that Israel's military action in Gaza during July may constitue a "war crime" because the tagrets were children and the demolition of houses. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has convened an emergency discussion on the matter. However, there is absolutely no doubt that the US will block any effort to bring to justice the war criminals, largely because Washington had given Israel the green light on the operations that resulted in war crimes.

There is no doubt that even the most monstrous human being that is still in possession of his faculties, a modicum of moral fiber, and just a touch of humanity would not admit that it is appropriate to kill children, that they are collateral damage victims, or any other excuse that we have heard from Tel Aviv and its supporters in the US and the West. This is not a lesson in moral absolutism, but at least human beings ought to agree on some basic principles, including killing of children is immoral and a war crime to be punished accordingly. The exact same principle is applied to all people, including Hamas when it too engages in killing Israeli children, and the same punishment must be accorded to that group as well for its war crimes. The World Court at the Hague has only proceeded with cases against Africans and some from the former Yugoslav Republic, leaving out anyone from the white-dominated Western World, thus making a mockery of the court.

Double standard practices at the World Court aside and ethical issues notwithstanding, what we have in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has been going on since the 1940s and because of unequivocal US backing of Israel owing to a great many factors from early Cold War ideology to tangible American Jewish lobby interests, this conflict has no end with most of victims falling on the Palestinian side. At the root of this conflict is US complicity because of massive aid provided to Israel on a sustained basis, but also broader Western complicity that simply follows the US lead on Middle East policy.

The other major issue here is Arab indifference, largely because the West has been very successful in keeping the Arabs divided, and they have been using the Palestinian conflict largely as a pretext to maintain the status quo, while in essence cooperating with the US that always backs Israel no matter what war crimes it commits. Israeli war as a way of life has been institutionalized within Israel, serving defense interests at home and in the West, but causing many Israelis a great deal of unease regarding the future of their children.  
The Israeli war and collective punishment of Palestinians that has women and children as the majority of the victims is causing a great deal of guilt among humane and rational Israelis who want to see an end to the conflict and a permanent political solution. 

At the same time, I was struck by an article in the Jerusalem Post that Arab media was more interested in the Soccer World Cup out of Brazil than it was on what Hamas and Israel were doing. The Israeli newspaper notes that with the ISIS Jihadists in Syria and Iraq attracting attention, a possible Kurdish declaration of independence from Iraq, and a host of other areas of conflict in Muslim countries, from Yemen and Libya to Afghanistan Arab media has not taken as much notice. This view is confirmed by Turkey’s Premier Erdogan who insists that Arab indifference is as reprehensible as the silence of the US and the entire Western World over this issue.

It is estimated that in the last fourteen years, about 1400 Palestinian children have been killed and many more wounded; more than seven thousand children have been detained, interrogated and tortured by Israeli authorities; about half of the children exposed to intermittent war conditions suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. Israeli policy under the current and past regimes has been that the only children taken into account as human are Israeli, while Palestinian children are those belonging to terrorists. This view was very clearly expressed in a letter from Prime Minister Netanyahu to Obama in December 2012 on the occasion of the Sandy Hook massacres in the US. Reverting to the “victimization” mindset and using the reprehensible holocaust of Jews by Nazis, the Israeli government gives itself license to engage in collective punishment and insist that it is beyond accountability of international war crimes laws. The reason for this is only because the US that enjoys military superpower status provides all the diplomatic, military, economic, and massive propaganda cover for Israel whose only issue is security for itself even if it means killing en masse and indiscriminately.

The more serious issue is how the US and Western media have been covering the most recent slaughter of Palestinian children by Israel. Amid the mass destruction of Gaza, the US and most Western media outlets have been focusing on other stories. The tragic downfall of the Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine has been the big story, and the conclusion has been that Moscow is responsible. Never mind that the black boxes have not been examined, that no independent investigation has reached any conclusion, the only issue is Russia is at fault, while the pro-Nazi Ukrainian regime has no responsibility despite the plane flying over Ukrainian air space.

Iran’s potential to develop nuclear energy that can also be used to develop nuclear weapons is another story. Never mind that Israel has nuclear weapons, that it is killing children in Gaza, that it is destabilizing the already unstable Middle East thanks to Jihadists and US support of such rebel elements in Syria, the real issue for the Western media is to make sure Iran does not develop nukes at some point in the future. Even the New York Times that likes to claim “objectivity” has been almost silent on the massacre of Palestinian children, while devoting lots of space to the three Israeli teens missing since July 2, 2014. The three innocent Israeli teens deserve lots of coverage without question, but do the 1400 massacred Palestinian deserve any? 

Even more absurd as well as grosslly inaccurate is another NYT story on why many Americans are siding with Israel the militartist aggressor intent on ethnic cleansing rather than the Palestinian victims. The New York paper argued that the reason is because Arab Spring failed to bring about democracy in the Arab World. In the entire history of Israel is there any time when war was launched against Palestinians and Arab neighbors that the US and the media-manipulated public opinion ever sided with Palestinians? Blatant racism on the basis on religion and skin color is very evident here, but even worse, we have a very clear case of journalism that is hardly worthy of the title. I would have far greater respect for such media outlets if they simply stated that they are mouthpieces of Tel Aviv and Washington. Instead, we have a double-standard practiced on a sustained basis not just by the US media, but the European as well, trying to find just about any pretext to demonize the victims in the conflict. Under such conditions, why is anyone surprised when Turkey’s premier Erdogan lashes out at racism of the West against Muslims?  

I was not at all amazed that according to a public opinion poll in Israel, one-third to as many as one-half of Israelis do want to have Palestinians working for them or work next to them. Nor am I surprised that all studies show that Western media is heavily pro-Israel and anti-Muslim, depicting Muslims as terrorist with strong racist undertones and stereotyping them, while personalizing the stories of the Israelis. This is not to argue that Hamas is made up of boy scouts that the Arabs are angels and the Israelis are evil. Nor does anyone have the right to argue that Israelis are the new Nazis in the Middle East, despite their policy of apartheid that is very similar to that of former South Africa. 

Israel has every right to self-defense and peace within its own borders. The issue is do the Palestinians have any rights other than perpetual occupation and tyrannical conditions under Israel? And what is the political and moral responsibility of the US here? Must short-term profits of defense contractors take precedence over everything else in the world? Can the military solution that Israel chose with US compliance lead to anything but more cyclical violence? Because Israel did not approve of US diplomatic solutions in Syria and Iran, nor US rapprochement with Iran, Obama had to give the green light to the Gaza military operations, while in return promising as few million dollars to the Palestinians to take care of their medical and other needs.

The ultimate insult in these small wars that Israel engages peridocally is that the US, which has approved and backed them, steps in after mounting world protests to present itself as the "peacemaker" and objective intermediary. That the militarist supowerpower behind Israel tries to present itself as the peace broker is insulting to all people, but especially to Palestinians who know that the US has had a role in killing their children. It is an insult to all humanity that on one from the US would ever stand trial for war crimes, just as no one from Israel would face such trial, presenting themselves as peacemakers and victims instead. Even worse, the media would gladly propagate to project the image of Israel as the real victim in the war it launched in Gaza and the US as the peace broker.

The US and Israel hoped to send a message to Iran, Syria and Russia by engaging in this latest Gaza conflict of July 2014. However, this too has already failed because most of the world sees very clearly behind the thin veil of US-Israeli militarism. The policy of militarism has already failed for the US trying to impose its hegemony over the Middle East and the trans-Caucasus region. In the end, China, Russia, and Iran will enjoy the benefits in these regions. Just as the US-backed rebels in Syria have become a major problem for the US because the ISIS jihadists are threatening Iraq’s territorial integrity, and just as there is no military solution for Syria, Iran, any more than Ukraine, there is only a political solution for Palestine, a political solution that die-hard ideologues refuse to accept and defense contractors dread because their profits will be negatively impacted. The clock is ticking on the end of Pax Americana, as it is on the indifferent dictatorial Arab regimes secretly backing the US in its support of Israel. Killing children for proft, killing children for ideological reasons, killing children because of indifference places one in the lowest depths of humanity's pile, or of Dante's Inferno. 

Monday, 14 July 2014


The Problem of Labor and Democracy
Governments, mainstream politicians working within the existing system, businesses, many think tanks and a segment of academia, and the media portray workers as the enemy of progress and society trying to achieve “bourgeois consensus” under the market economy that its apologists project as the only possible option without any room for criticism outside the system.

Whether in the West or in the rest of the world, politicians representing businesses, advocates of globalization and neoliberal orthodoxy, and even workers regard the labor movement and workers as a class as “the enemy” of the status quo. While some analysts may view as normal simply because the working class has antithetical interests from the capitalist class and is engaged in an endless class struggle, it is amazing that in pluralistic societies the socioeconomic and political elites have unleashed such an open war against labor that is essential to a democratic society.  

In his classic study The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson describes the horrible conditions of the working class during the First Industrial Revolution and how they could have led to a political revolution if Parliament had not addressed some of the problems.  Instead of having a revolution like France, England evolved to develop a liberal bourgeois society that took into account some of the very basic needs of labor. Many intellectuals as well as activists of all types, including Jacobites, Luddites, Owenites, Chartists and all the others protested the absence of social justice until government realized reform was preferable to revolution that the rest of Europe encountered in 1848. The withering away of working class rights, lower living standards, and erosion of social justice affecting workers is extremely dangerous for a democracy in the 21st century and creates the foundations for social upheaval in the future unless gross socioeconomic inequities and lack of political representation are addressed.

Theme: At the core of the war on workers is the direct correlation between the decline of the social welfare state whose foundations were laid during the Great Depression, and the emergence of “containment militarism” established in the early Cold War, followed by the gradual rise of the corporate welfare state.

Historical Introduction: The Early Cold War 
The war on the working class and especially on unionized or aspiring unionized workers has been relentless with the media, mainstream politicians, and just about anyone trying to mold public opinion to support the existing political economy and its culture. This trend started with the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War that the US government used as a pretext to force labor into a docile role in society. This policy was then internationalized (globalized) and governments throughout the world from Latin America to Europe and Asia friendly to the US followed the lead of the superpower of the West.

This is reflected in the split of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) over the Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine and the hard line of the Truman administration to opt for confrontation instead of coexistence with Moscow and the Soviet bloc. The WFTU had included labor unions from the entire world and helped promote the war effort, but the AFL led a campaign that resulted in the creation of the pro-US anti-Communist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

Reflecting the Cold War East-West division, the existence of rival international organizations necessarily weakened labor because national and local trade unions had to choose sides and become co-opted by political parties, thus losing their solidarity and their strength to fight for workers and social justice.  The early Cold War was the beginning of the long decline not just of trade unions, but of labor as a political force in society as it had been during the 1930s and 1940s in the US, some European and some Latin American countries.

The WFT represented an era when labor in most countries was at the zenith of its power because it played such a significant role in the Second World War that made the international political climate possible for the creation of the unified WFTU. However, this global unity and temporary power labor enjoyed in society was bound to be short lived not only because of the Cold War but because of nationalism among trade unions as well as their respective governments; resolve to use them as instruments of their policies. This was as much in the US and the USSR as it was for European, Latin American, and Asian labor central (confederations where regional syndicates were members). 

Trade unions in non-Communist countries operating under the cover of the political opposition paid a high price of persecution. Others were co-opted by governments, something that diminished the credibility of the trade union leadership in the eyes of the rank-and-file. In any case, workers’ interests were compromised either as members of unions that were persecuted or unions co-opted. US-backed right wing regime persecuted labor in Colombia, Peru, South Korea, Greece, Turkey, Iran under the Shah, Philippines, South Africa, to mention only a few of the countries where labor had few rights and where the anti-Communist campaign was used to persecute workers and deny them social justice. Added to this reality of Cold War labor politics, the great shift in manufacturing from the developed to the less developed nations contributed to the gradual demise of the trade unions and to the erosion of working class living standards because their counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere were earning a great deal less and enjoyed far fewer benefits. (For more on this issue see “US Foreign Policy and the World Federation of Trade Unions”, Jon Kofas, Diplomatic History, Vol. 26 No. 1 2002) 

The Reagan-Thatcher Decade
After the early Cold War that placed political perimeters on organized labor, the next big blow to the working class as a whole came during the Reagan-Thatcher decade. From Truman to Reagan, organized labor in the US and in pro-West countries had become an integral part of the political establishment, some trade union bosses immersed in corruption, others merely following dictates of management because they knew that the courts would side with employers and not support their struggle. The message to unionized and un-unionized workers was that conformity was the only option, otherwise it was eclipse. Against such a powerful institutional anti-labor tide that included the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, and numerous think tanks that argued against giving any power to labor, most workers became disillusioned and simply tried to survive rather than fight for working class rights and social justice through labor solidarity.  

Receiving new life in the 1980s in the US, the anti-labor trend gradually spread to the rest of the world in the age of globalization and neoliberal policies. Many observers of labor issues may be surprised that the war on labor has prevailed in Europe that traditionally respected labor rights under varieties of regimes, from conservative to Socialist, all embracing neoliberal policies that at their core are vehemently anti-labor. Although university studies as well as those conducted by the International Labor Office (ILO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and other mainstream international organizations.
Even in the former Communist bloc where the proletariat was once the national symbol the anti-labor movement gained political momentum. The worker and the peasant as symbols of society have been replaced with the millionaire or billionaire businessman invariably linked to public and private sector corruption that go hand in hand.  Not that labor conditions are much different in the one-party state of China that claims to Communism, but practices capitalism and some of the most exploitative conditions in the world at the expense of workers.

Mainstream politics and media portray workers as the enemy of progress and society trying to achieve “bourgeois consensus” under the market economy that its apologists project as the only possible option without any room for criticism outside the system. Whether in the West or in the rest of the world, politicians representing businesses, advocates of globalization and neoliberal orthodoxy, and even workers see not just trade unions, not just the labor movement, but workers as a class as “the enemy” of the status quo.  One must wonder if slaves in ancient Rome detested other slaves because they detested slavery as an institution and saw it as a blemish on society.

It is as though the working class is not producing capital and keeping society going for the parasitic elites living off the profits that labor produces. According to the analysis of mainstream media, politicians and varieties of well-paid analysts, workers are the obstacle and arch enemy to be reduced as closely to slavery as possible, so that the socioeconomic and political elites do not feel threatened by the emergence of working class solidarity. In the culture of liberal bourgeois democracy it is trendy to detest the working class while defending the civil rights of the individual worker who may someday become a businessman and redeem himself as the Calvinist work ethic implies. In the last three decades it is fashionable not to use the term working class at all or to refer to its problems. There is something very seriously wrong when the president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Phil Neuenfeldt, in his effort to save the union against Republican efforts in that state argued during the 2012 elections that there was a growing movement “to reclaim the middle class”, refusing to use the word worker or labor.

The real focus of society, including mainstream trade unions like the conservative AFL-CIO, has been and remains on the middle class and its problems owing to its shrinkage numerically and of course economically. Especially in the US and to a large degree in EU, there is almost a pretense that the working class does not even exist, and society is made up only of one large middle class with variations.

No doubt, the class structure accounts for antagonism between labor and capital, as it does between labor and the broader middle classes that identify with capital where their aspirations rest. Of course, if everyone belonged to the capitalist class, there would be a classless utopian society made up of capitalists! Because workers have been the popular base for Communist parties and regimes, it is understandable that hard core anti-Communist conservatives and liberals would detest them. In the age of mass politics of pluralistic societies, the socioeconomic and political elites fear workers because of sheer numbers. The goal is to co-opt them by promising that their policies represent “all citizens”, but in essence there is enormous fear of labor in case the bourgeois parties fail to co-opt them so they can form and maintain a government. The way to maintain control is ceaseless anti-labor propaganda aimed to maintain the status quo.

In his classic work entitled Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, Harry Braverman analyzes the role of the working class in modern society where the state as an instrument of capital places institutional constraints on workers. Written during the Nixon era, Braverman’s study undertook to analyze the changing “new working class” that include “occupations which serve as the repositories for specialized knowledge in production and administration: engineers, technicians, scientists, lower managerial and administrative aides and experts, teachers, etc. ”.  

Class Identity in the Dominant Culture
A much broader definition of the working class is appropriate, considering that even the term itself is a source of confusion in the media and public dialogue. This confusion is deliberate because in bourgeois society class identity is very different than it was in the former Communist bloc. For example, it is interesting that a teacher or a bank teller would rarely identify themselves as “working class”, claiming middle class status instead. The question, of course, is if a banking service worker is middle class, what is the bank president? Is society made up of one large middle class and has capitalism managed to end the class system despite the enormous socioeconomic polarization?

Self-assigned class identity has a great deal to do with how the “dominant culture” that defines the norm in society views and projects the class system and specifically the working class, so that very few people in the working class would identify with it. In short, people prefer class identity of what they aspire to and not what they really are, which is also the basis of how they often vote. One reason for this is that the media and business establishment has been trying to wipe off the image of workers that they are indeed part of the working class and ought to have a working class consciousness. If we live in a bourgeois society, then the only acceptable class consciousness is bourgeois. Even when a fast food chain hires some teenager to flip burgers, or a department store chain hires someone to sell shoes, there is the promise that within months if not weeks that low-paid worker will earn the title “assistant manager”. There are no workers any more, just management that cannot be part of a labor union. Therefore, there is no working class consciousness and no need for a labor union either in the fast food areas or any service sector.

Given that the sociopolitical elites determine the dominant culture that control everything from political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, the subculture of the working class is always on the periphery rather than mainstream of society. Therefore, class identity necessarily gravitates toward the dominant culture and only a small percentage embraces the subculture, especially minorities. When elements of the subculture are commoditized – commercially exploited in art, music, fashion, sports, etc. – then that element of the working class subculture becomes an integral part (co-opted) by the dominant culture. Class identity itself can be commoditized and transformed thus assuming a sense of socio-cultural legitimacy. In the absence of being part of the dominant culture that is the domain of the elites, there is no socio-cultural legitimacy.

Workers are made to feel that they must either conform to the bourgeois institutional structure and dominant culture, or they have no one to blame but themselves for their failure. In the early 19th century, English industrial workers took out their frustrations against labor-saving machines in the textile industry. US auto workers had somewhat of an anti-labor-saving device reaction when robotics was introduced. Instead of placing the focus on the labor-management issue, it was worker against the machines.

Rather than focusing on class solidarity, workers tend to focus on why they dislike their follow workers for different reasons, why they dislike workers in another field of work, why they hate their specific job but would be happier doing another as workers, etc. All along, they are dreaming of success as defined by the dominant culture operating under and determined by capitalism. For this worldview of the working class to be inculcated into the mind of the public it takes enormous propaganda and ceaseless effort by all institutions, from political and educational to business and social.

There are many fine scholarly works on how the working class in the US and the Western World has been fighting a losing battle from the end of WWII until today. Braverman’s work is one of many that remains a classic, though a product of the 1969s. Complimenting Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, Monopoly Capital written during the Kennedy-Johnson era, Braverman’s work written from a Marxist perspective is worthy of study and analysis for the mid-20th century. My only comment is that “degradation of work” was never limited to the mid-20th century, but it goes as far back as the dawn of civilization and it will continue well into the 21st century.

If Braverman, Baran and Sweezy were writing today in the age of globalization and neoliberal policies devastating the working class across the world, they would probably see that capital concentration is at much higher levels than in the mid-20th century, and labor not just in the US but globally in much worse shape after the Reagan-Thatcher decade. Even more tragic, trade unions are weaker and some on the way to eclipse co-opted by the mainstream political parties and divided. Meanwhile, leftist politicians, of all varieties from center-left to far left, are divided and weak against the tide of neoliberal assault on workers, and a new wave of far right wing politics that is just as anti-labor as the traditional conservatives and many liberals.    
Why are workers who keep society going the evil social class and arch enemy to be disciplined by the heroic capitalists? Why must they be forced into docile role in society without a voice in a pluralistic society if they belong in labor unions and forced to submit to whatever capital with the state’s backing offers them? What possible threat do workers represent to bourgeois society in the 21st century that is free of Communism challenging the West with an alternative social order?

Why is the mainstream media, politicians, well paid pro-business consultants and academics, and just about everyone who is not in the working class deems labor as a threat to be viewed no differently than a military force views its enemy in the battlefield? Even individual workers blame each other for problems in society or they blame groups of workers such as non-unionized service industry laborers blaming auto union workers for the high prices of cars. The enormous executive salaries and profiteering by the company during the upswing business cycle is not to blame for the price of the car, but the auto worker alone is to blame.

I was recently watching a European TV debate with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative who argued that everything would be great in the economy of any society, if only business had a completely free hand and workers were not the obstacle. She went on and on about how workers are the enemy of capitalist progress and how governments must contain them. At one point, when another panelist asked who would actually do the work in the absence of workers, she replied that workers’ role is no different than that of any tool under the control of the business owner. The implication was that as a tool, the workers ought to behave accordingly, and suppress any aspirations to their own humanity. As a fan of the rationalist Western tradition, I could not understand the hatred that this IMF representative harbored toward workers, considering that without them business could not function, even if the specific business relied largely on computers and robotics.

How can human beings detest the person who picks tomatoes in the fields, paves the roads, work in a steel factory, anyone who actually produces goods and services for society, instead of trading derivatives in some Wall Street office and making millions through parasitic methods that add no value to the economy? Why is the CEO and executives who drive a company into the ground while walking away with millions the heroes, while the workers who lose their jobs are the violins because they demand their money paid into the defrauded company pension fund? There is no problem when the general taxpayer has to bail out capitalism to the tune of several trillion dollars as was just in the last recession of 2008-2013, but God forbid a worker make any demands for a 25 cent wage and a better health care plan. 

Owing to deplorable working conditions so that Western multinational corporations can make just a bit more profit, 1,129 garment workers were killed in the capital of Bangladesh, but there the outrage for the worst accident of its type in history was not the same by governments and businesses as when workers in factories or service sector want to be unionized. In short, businesses and government project the view that the worker is just a disposable commodity, and not a human being like his capitalist employer.  This is reflected not only in slave labor but also in the reality of illegal work throughout many parts of the world, including all Western nations that have no problems calling themselves democratic but refusing to provide human rights to a segment of the labor force.

The culture of hating workers has become so pervasive that even many workers are ideologically anti-labor and see the working class in the very negative terms that the mainstream media depicts them. How has civilization evolved to hate people who work but praise those who defraud, and what does this say about our values? For the last three and half decades, I have been reading about and watching on TV – both US and European – politicians, journalists, academics, and especially business people on crusade against workers as though all calamities that befell planet earth emanate from anyone in the working class. Especially from the start of the Reagan-Thatcher anti-labor pro-business decade, the worker is the arch enemy of society, an enemy that must be reduced as closely to a docile minimum wage entity without any rights whatever as possible. In the second half of the 21st century, this mindset is part of a global trend. Hating workers is the safe thing to embrace, while praising anything to do with the working class is an anathema.

It is difficult to find any society from ancient civilizations to the present that honor workers who are responsible for the survival of those that do not work for any number of reasons, whether they old or ill, or they are owners of capital and have others working for them. Plato and Aristotle had nothing kind to say about slaves who did much of the work so that Athenian citizens like Plato and Aristotle could enjoy a life of leisure essential to creative endeavors.   Athenians enjoyed a thriving culture and Spartans a thriving militaristic society because slaves did the work for them. If everyone worked more or less equally in the fields, mines, at sea, in arts and crafts, then there would not be as much time to devote to military affairs for Spartans or to culture and military affairs for Athens. Despite this reality that at the base of a civilization is labor, someone has to work otherwise civilization will become extinguished there has never been a celebration of the peasant or worker as a hero in society.
Like Plato and Aristotle, Confucius defended slavery and did not view people doing manual work as anything but lowly in society. In the hierarchical system that Confucius laid out, the value of workers doing the most difficult tasks in society were not appreciated nearly as much as those engaged in intellectual pursuits. There is hardly much appreciation for workers in ancient Egypt, although they kept the imperial system going. Similarly, the Romans had disdain for their slaves, peasants and workers, reflecting the kind of elitism that existed in classical Greece.   

Reflected in the works of the intelligentsia, the master-slave social structure on which the mode of production was based started in Mesopotamia, as a result of wars and the institutionalization of private property. This mode of production prevailed in the Near East, North Africa, ancient Greece and Rome where attitudes about work reflected the disdain of workers, and the value system of the master class whether that class of master were landowners or merchants, invariably with a hegemonic role in state affairs running the government and military. 

Anti-Labor Policies and Dilution of Democracy
There is a direct correlation between anti-labor policies that accelerated in the 1980s and the decline not just of the middle class and social justice, but of democracy in the Western World. There is, of course at the same time of labor’s declining influence in society, the rise of the corporate welfare state. Nowhere is this more evident than in the US and UK after 1980 where we see that the attack on the working class in general is accompanied by a sharp rise in corporate gifts in the form of the fiscal legislation, subsidies and laws that favor capital and its movement on a world scale. For example, the corporate empire of the media giant Murdoch took place under Thatcher whose anti-labor pro-business policies made it possible.   

Among the many hundreds of books and articles on the American working class losing its role in society in the last seventy years, an article by James Gregory, Southernizing the American Working Class, (Labor History, Vol. 39, No 2, 1998) accurately depicts how in the post-WWII era the American working class gradually lapsed into the status of black southern workers; a role that some labor historians compare with Third World workers. Indeed, the American labor force once the envy of the world, has experienced gradual downward mobility, especially from the end of the Vietnam War to the present, and rapidly after the Reagan anti-labor era. At the core of this issue is that workers’ American Dream of owning a home, a car and having the ability to send the kids to college so they can move into the lower middle class has become a distant dream reserved for the few.

In short, the promise of capitalism and democracy has not presented the working class with the fruits they expected, so the institutional mainstream has been appealing to American patriotism and asking people to remain loyal to the status quo because the nation has enemies, like Muslim terrorists. Is there any kind of relationship between the war on terror and the American Dream for the worker? The answer is yes, because the economy has become weaker considerably in the last six decades in relationship to the rest of the world, but military spending has remained very high and the sums devoted to keep corporate welfare strong has made it impossible for the working class to enjoy the fruits of its own labor. How long can the institutional structure remain untouched before there is serious political and social upheaval? It is difficult to say what the boiling point will be in the otherwise fairly conservative American society that fears revolution more than it does a Great Depression that may be coming before the middle of this century.

The working class of EU members was actually making very good progress partly because the social safety net was not as seriously damaged in the rush to adopt neoliberal policies in the 1980s and 1990s as was the case in the US. Moreover, the EU does not have the burden of the massive defense spending problem of the US, and it has a tradition where trade unions have played a role in achieving political consensus under a liberal bourgeois political economy. More significant, Europe has a greater variety of democracies, ranging from the very progressive Norwegian model that some wish to emulate to the more conservative elitist system that exists in Germany where “labor aristocracy” (highly paid trade unionists) are a world apart from unorganized immigrant workers barely making a living.

The major attack on labor has come in the last ten years, largely because the global recession that started in 2007-8 has convinced governments that workers must pay for the losses of the banks and corporations as well as the fiscal problems governments are facing. The so-called austerity measures that either have been implemented officially by the IMF in a number of countries including Ireland, Portugal, Greece and other parts of the world, or unofficially as in Spain, France, Italy, etc. have entailed massive income redistribution from labor to capital. This is clearly seen in statistics that various European and OECD entities have provided, but also in studies that universities and labor institutes have conducted. Why has income redistribution taken place to strengthen capital? The assumption is that the stronger capital is in society, the healthier the economy. Does this assumption hold true, however, if capital is not more equitably distributed so that there can be greater economic and social justice as well as a viable democracy?

Conclusions: Can Democracy Survive with a Weak Working Class?
From the 1940s when labor was at the zenith of its influence in society until today, we have seen a very radical transformation that took place as a result of government policy intended to strengthen capital at the expense of labor. In order to accomplish this goal, there was a much broader institutional effort where mainstream media was at the core of the anti-labor campaign. Whereas during the Roosevelt and Truman presidencies newspapers devoted articles on labor affairs, by the end of the century it is almost impossible to find any newspaper, TV, radio, or web page devoting any articles on labor issues. By contrast, there is no end to media outlets devoting all kinds of news and analysis on business matters, as though business does not require workers to run it but somehow runs itself and workers have simply vanished from the face of the earth.    

The value system of the bourgeois society is reflected in our daily institutional dealings. This issue was perfectly captured when Pope Francis wondered why it is that media goes into a hysteria mode when the stock market drop by a couple of percentage points, but never mention that a homeless woman dies on a park bench in the middle of winter in New York city? What does it say about society when its entire focus is on markets that benefit the small percentage of the rich, while the many problems of the many are ignored?  
Can such a society be a functioning democracy, or simply call itself so for the sake of appearances? By the early 21st century, it is much clearer to look back around the middle of the 20th century to see how the gradual demise of organized labor and the institutionalization of anti-labor ideology and policies are directly linked to downsizing the social welfare state. Many scholars wonder if democracy can survive without a strong middle class.  My question is can there be a future of democracy in the absence of a solid working class that in essence supports the viable middle class?