On Land and Work
Upon reading your exchange with The America First Party about unused idle lands going to waist, the following excerpts inspired to the thoughts and "challenge" below....
For it is a challenge I have for you more than just a comment. First allow me to introduce myself that you may know from what sort of perspective I am proposing this challenge from.
Although I am but a simple working class American, not as educated nor as resourcefully well read as you fellows, I am however a thoughtful soul and "patriotic" enough to be somewhat familiar with the material and historical personages upon whom you resource your topic of debate. I have also had the fortune of experience to have walked both within and around the property lines of which you two refer. Both sides: that of the idle and luxuriantly wealthy landowners, as well as that of grim realities and the rigor of being yet another starving homeless person(?) in our great land of exaggeratedly indolent (credit/debt) wealth. I have, therefore an interesting first hand perspective of the psychology at work on both sides of this very fence of which you speak. The reasons for becoming displaced of work and home are so many and so grim that the task of "fixing" the issue is quit daunting. Yet, if we overlook all the evil filled stories of woe of how people become destitute, or simply landless, pause a moment all the busy blaming and finger pointing and simply say, "How do we fix this?" perhaps then we might have begun a functional dialog that leads to Solutions.
With that said, I challenge you, the literati talking heads who care so much and yearn so much for a cure to these ills and woes of society, yet perhaps are at a loss for really What To Do About It. For doesn't always seem to be that those who care enough to help rarely actually have the resources to do so, and those who have the resources necessary, have so many other projects on their board as it is. And really, truth be told, everybody has their own mess of problems that take most of our time as it is let alone time and energy enough to "save the world" too. So it is that the best approach is have small portions of the task assigned and delegated to several people each of whom tackles that ingredient or task that they are best suited to perform or contribute.
Now, you both have said "if only the rich would share the land, even but a piece of their scrap, unusable lands with the poor, this would help heal the inequities of our society and allow the under privileged a functional foundation upon which to rejuvenate and anchor their own piece of the American Pie!" Well I challenge you to change the way you phrase and word these complaints and desires! I challenge you to use a new language and a new perspective that i will call "Solutionism." Stop this endless bantering that is so easy to ignore, everyone knows your right, but no one has to do anything or respond to your arguments with anything other than clarifictory debate because that is all your asking for! Use your power of rallying words to rally up Solutions! You lovers of "isms" and "ists" and profound quotations, try this new 'ism': Solutionism. Set aside being wordy Activists and become Solutionists!
As a Solutionist, I challenge you to a real world test of your debate. The challenge is this: Pick out one of these deserted and idle lands of which you speak, preferably one that has both green ground as well as some sort of abandoned rust factory, talk, bribe or coerce the owner to tax deductably donate this currently unproductive land...and then pick out a group of out of work, homeless hungry Americans. And: Give them both to me and I will show you why the world is the way it is. And... I will produce for you a solution to the homeless and hungry and the idle land problems facing our American economy today. I will teach and guide both to be self sustainably productive, and profitable.
Let's make all that time spent dickering over who cares more eloquently about America's hungry unemployed workers worthy of your time pointing it out to us. (By the way, Thank You for that.) What does this land debate get us though but momentarily stirred up and aroused... if you don't also provide a solution to the issue? What reason is there to care whether the rich use their assets with humane concern or not? Or Whether the poor could benefit from co-opting idle factories and uncultivated plots of dirt, if the argument never produces action and solutions? Smug self satisfaction for us, the passionate pens of the world, pats on our backs, we're right, their wrong and a thousand reader's righteous agreement. That's all? Big deal. But if your pens and passionate debates resulted in some poor workers being relocated to some unused land, with a plan of action. And perhaps at least a bucketful of seeds at the start of spring, (i.e. the ability to make or acquire the tools necessary to accomplish that plan) then we'd have a reason to feel like the debate was worth the time and ink to write and read. No offense please, it is the critic that points us in the direction we need to go, but then it is just as important to begin that journey as well.
There should be no real problem finding a piece of suitable property for this experiment, for the proper papers can be drawn up to make at least a tax deductible if not even a profitable event for the land owner. It should be only slightly more difficult to gather up the requisite number of displaced needy Americans, as of course there will be labor involved in this experiment and I must, however reluctantly, agree with Mr. Pittman that many of America's poor do indeed seem to hold, in common with many blue collar and wealthier citizens, a new American resistance to "getting their hands dirty." This attitude of disdain for working hard used to be a peculiarity cultivated primarily by idle inheritors of wealth, but now has infected every class strata, no matter their occupation or level of expected output. Many US born workers have for some reason adopted the idea that American's ought not work as hard as other nationalities, or more correctly perhaps, it is a white American attitude adopted and asserted as a kind of 'proof' of their superiority over other races, of whom every one expects a higher level of exertion at work. Am I not safe in saying that you are familiar with the phrase, "working as hard as a Mexican" used as a slur or jab at fellow employees who work too diligently? Perhaps this unique "American attitude" could be a factor in why companies move overseas, were the employees have yet to demand their "right" to limit the amount of effort and diligence they're willing to "give" their jobs. Indeed much of the (white) lower class workers openly bespeak of their primary goal at work to be paid for doing as little work in a day as possible. Some would argue that this is a result of too low of wages, and the catch 22 is completed by reciprocal claims that that is exactly why wages remain so low...
Even so, American work ethics aside for the time being, I think this would be a most worthy project and source of 'proof at last' as to the truth of this eternal debate as to whether the poor of America really would benefit from receiving a bone fide All American Opportunity to make something of and for themselves "if but only given the chance by those greedy rich landowners."
What do you say? Is your beneficence where your mouth is? Both of you debaters have the ears of enough people that certainly we could come up with an agreeably useless and idle piece of property somewhere to "have it out" in the real world of people, plants and power plans. Let's discover the reality of this idea of yours, this merger of idle assets and idle workers that you allude to. What will it produce? Nothing? Just enough for those involved? Not enough? More than enough? A new industry? Maybe even a new way to "bid on the stock fall" so to speak and make a net loss asset profitable again? Please take me up on this, I promise you, it will be completely worth it, and completely profitable in one way or another...if not for the people involved, at least for the landowner's land taxes. Which points to an aspect of our country's founding fathers that was overlooked in your debates.
The "founding fathers" were, one and all, land owners, farmers... and slave holders. Grandiose ideologies aside, they also conducted their businesses and cultivated their wealth with the tools and methods that worked best at increasing their profits according to the acceptable ways and means given them in the societal time period they lived in. Some of them may indeed have recognized the inherent injustices of slavery, yet they also used that tool to their own best interest. Just as the asset holding CEO's of today do. There always has been and mayhap always will be a gap between "correct ideology" as to proper socio-economic governance and what works in real time. That is why we must turn from this eternal and generally fruitless mudslinging, however fun and self aggrandizing it may be, and begin seeking and experimenting with solutions. Like all commercial ventures, it may cost a bit in research and development, yet the payoffs are usually worth the investment... So, Whose up for a little game of "let's give the poor people a piece of land and see what really happens?" Should be jolly good fun, and probably sellable to the networks at some point along the way too! There's money every where, in every thing. it's about how you look at and do things and that is the fishing pole we need to rent to own to America's working poor.
In closing, so much of the brain power in America gets diverted like a clean water river from ever becoming "drank" by those activities that would result in Solutions by fantastic intellectual arguments and debates that simply don't actually solve anything. I wish I could remind these good heart, well meaning Geniuses that this is a naturally occurring phenomenon that the right wing Empire is well aware of. It is indeed why freedom of speech is still allowed in America because they know that people who might otherwise be out there overthrowing regimes will become mired in their "freedom to complain." Days and years will pass in debate over the finer points of "what might be" while Darth Bush conquers the planet in Our name and with Our taxes all because we have become afraid to lose our freedoms of speech and diverse opinion if we actually make good on any of these great ideas we fill our libraries with. I don't mean to offend you, nor belittle the great contribution you make to our lives, I just want to remind you intellectual giants to also use your powers of Big readerships to encourage us to follow up on these issues you point out to us. To not only point out the problem, but to also help "push start the car" of Solutions. People generally won't do anything if they don't know where to start, or where that start may lead them. We need a 'Solutions Team' to compliment and make useful your 'Here's The Problem Team.' That is what my challenge is about, and this particular Jobs&Land debate can be a great starting point, because the Solution Experiment in this case is apparent and can be made understandable to a majority American demographic. This particular debate, challenge and Solution is Timely. The Issue is clear. The Debate has current appeal. And the Solution Experiment is simple and profitable... imagine America watching This TV show: The Land Donation, The Jobless People, The Project to make something of it. It's very All American. It can be used to educate We The People about the politics of economy and how simple it can be for Everyday Americans to take back our country's kidnapped economy with simple tools and a simple plan from those White House bastards who have convinced us that only they can lead us out of this deficit They created.
Thanks for entering the discussion on land and work. Your comments are very much appreciated, and I'll try to respond to the main points. I do agree with your overall attitude in approaching the problem...
It is very important to look at social ill with an eye towards the solution. But when you look towards the solution, one must begin by looking at the cause of the social ill. Whether it is Sexism or homelessness, slavery or poverty, one needs to ask why it exists if they want to answer how to make it not exist. Finger-pointing to individual or particular people as the cause of a social-problem? It's more about identifying with a social problem is here, and hopefully then, we can come up with an idea to remove the cause of the social problem. Or, at least, to make it powerless cause its evil.
The cause of lands locked up and kept away from the people is a Capitalist class. My remedy was rather simple, and hardly upset the social order -- let the workers work the land, and benefit from their work, and the Capitalist can keep their deeds. The ultimate remedy would be the removal of all Capitalists, but this seemed too radical to present to a right-wing, political party. A simple "let the poor borrow the land" proposal seemed sufficient to prove that a Capitalist, political-party will reject any suggestion that empowers the common laborer.
On Community Land and Work Projects...
The simple fact is that these experiments have been tried by the thousands, and their results have been gathering dust over the past few centuries. Robert Owen's water mills in New Lanark are an example from the year 1800 of cooperative economics and sociology. In Kropotkin's essay, "Anarchism and Communism," he discusses the myriad of various commune efforts that have been taken. People uniting together in solidarity, finding some piece of land, and working it cooperatively, oftentimes in a far-distant continent of which they are foreigners. Graham Purchase, author of "Reprinted in Small Communal Experiments and Why They Fail," wrote "In the anarchist press today one still finds adverts for prospective small and isolated anarchist colonies." (Jura Books) So, it is quite certain that such paths have often been taken, but by a few, isolated individuals -- not entire societies.
Many of these experiments proved extremely successful, others did not. Some lasted for a few years, and died out without having any success, but more or less, the majority have been extinguished. Charles Fourier attempted "Utopian, Socialist Phalanx" communities, and these, too, were eventually dissolved and now, almost completely forgotten. They only attracted a handful. The problem, as Kropotkin stated, was that these communes were in distant lands, that were cheap. They should have been right in downtown Paris, or on the public transit line of New York City, rather than in the middle of nowhere. They should have been a viable, readily-available alternative to working or being unemployment under Capitalist constraints. In fact, these communes are often counter-revolutionary, because they take the most revolutionary-minded and strip them out of society. Instead of spreading the ideals of a new world, they are working with 18th century tools to make their food.
However, cooperative land experiments have often achieved tremendous results. But these experiments were accessible to the people. In an economy where Capitalist enterprises offered no employment, one could work for a cooperative. It was within distance of home, of the community, and of all the people you've made social bonds with. It is no great leap to work for some cooperative, land project if it's right around the corner and down the street. By putting it in the jungles of Australia or the tundras of Siberia, you're setting up your commune to fail. It isolates the individual, and makes them feel less connected and less in contact with the rest of humanity.
The Mondragon Cooperative, which I mentioned during the debate, has worked wonders, as far as a cooperative, land-and-work project goes. It was not some far-off commune away from the towns; its cooperatives were industrial centers formed right in the heart of the urban landscape. It provide thousands of jobs to the poor, the hungry, and the homeless. Earlier, I had quoted the statistic for them: "Only one of five businesses survive for the first five years in the United States; but after fifty years, the cooperatives of Mondragon have a survival rate greater than 97%." [*1] This is for a federation of cooperative businesses that has more than 20,000 employees.
Mondragon is not the only instance where worker self-organization and self-management has alleviated poverty and created jobs. Consider the MST in Brazil, or the Landless, Workers Movement. Through peaceful, community organizing, they have forced the government to redistribute twenty million acres of land to 350,000 families. [*2] They have brought about a real change for their people, by giving them the opportunity to make wealth for themselves. It wasn't a problem of human ambition or human initiative; it was a problem of the property arrangements of human society. And the solution was the rearrangement of property relations in human society.
In Barcelona in 1936, the workers of the CNT-FAI, Anarchist-Syndicalist union seized all of the private industries. They operated and managed the fields, the factories, and the farms for themselves. With the government abolished, the CNT-FAI also provided public services, such as a universal, public health care system, as well as universal education and food for all. Consider the brilliance of action that comes when the people are both empowered and responsible for themselves...
The more one digs through these examples, the more one finds a the trend. These land-work projects succeed and capture the public's popular enthusiasm, when they are readily available and accessible to all. The most ideal situation is the one where every individual believes they have a right to the land beneath their feet. As Peter Kropotkin wrote of the isolated workers commune...
On the Discussion of the Subject...
Actually, it certainly needed to be pointed out entirely. At the beginning, the national secretary of the America First Party denied the existence of poverty in the United States, claiming that the U.S., federal government rigged those statistics to justify its welfare spending. More important, though, is that media stations, news outlets, and columnists and commentators don't discuss the subject of poverty as much as they should. A story about fifty to a hundred million Americans isn't updated daily with its new advances, progresses, and setbacks. No, it's usually some "comment piece," that some obscure writer has decided to write, because their conscience has been struck. And once the article is finished, you'll never hear another word from them about it again. It's a problem worth stating, and asking if there are solutions for it, but only briefly and shortly, and never long enough to develop any real progress. By all means, poverty, having effected the greater part of humanity, must be confronted -- we cannot turn our backs on poverty as others have turned their backs on concentration camps and wars.
The reason why leaders, politicians, professors, and journalists refuse to cover poverty more thoroughly is because it does not benefit their bottom line They are employees, just as much as those who work in car manufacturing plants. Almost everything that they can do to help the consumer is something that hurts the employer -- whether it's denying poverty so that nobody blames Capitalism, or whether it's withholding safety equipment because of the costs. Your political leaders won't discuss it, because they want you to see the glory of your nation, without actually considering that there are millions starving and homeless.
On the Irritating Nature of Work...
What happened to the attitude that we shouldn't point fingers and should just think about solutions? And actually, your facts aren't solid. Mexican workers labor hard in the U.S. because of the threatening conditions imposed upon them, by economic necessity and by an archaic, literally Fascist border policy. White Americans aren't the only ones who don't want to work. Chinese office workers are considered to be the worst among cyberslackers -- those who just surf the web at work instead of working. [*5]
It would be too easy to look at society, and just say, "There's some who are white, who work less, and there's some who are black, that work more; therefore, the whites refuse to work, because it is too irksome, and the blacks should have to do it, because it doesn't bother them." Just like the borders policy that causes the evil, it is simply a Racist, ethnocentric idea. All Americans are descendants of immigrants, all of whom had held their position of absolute-bottom-rung of society, exploited and oppressed and imprisoned and deported. I don't think a few generations later they suddenly lose the ability to labor. Rather, it is a corrupt, vicious, cruel system of Capitalism that keeps the few on top, and those who assist in dominating the majority get a little advantage. That's where middle-class, "white" Americans come into play, but these middle-classes exist in every tyranny and every government. And note that oppression is color-independent.
The reason why jobs shift overseas is because of authoritarian, statist intervention on behalf of Capitalism at every single point it is questioned. Because there are torturers and inquisitors, serving the church of capital, ready to imprison and execute anyone who is bold enough to question poverty. It is the same reason why American workers were forced to labor twelve and fourteen hours a day in the United States -- because we could be forced and coerced into it. And today, by use of poverty and state-sanctioned violence, we're still forced into it, though the chains don't weigh quite so much anymore.
Most importantly, however, is that work doesn't have to be viciously demanding. There is machinery that reduces any task to a simple procedure that is not too demanding on either the nerves or the muscles. It is the Capitalist mode of production that leads to miserable, suffocating work conditions -- that makes the human conscience naturally repelled by the existence of day-to-day life.
The problem is not other workers. The problem is workers that don't want to cooperate and collaborate in creating their own liberty -- which, would necessarily mean, the liberty of all workers.
The Founding Fathers...
That was true of all founding fathers, except one -- Thomas Paine. The only founding father to rally against the evils of human slavery was also the only one to condemn Capitalism as inherently cruel.
All About the Revolution...
Thought begets action, and there is no revolution without a revolutionary ideal; and there is no revolutionary ideal, without the people being able to communicate with each other, express their suffering, and sympathize with one another.
I do appreciate your comments, though I have disagreed with them at points here and there. You certainly do raise some very important questions that were all worth investigating. Thank you.
*1. "Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex," by William Foote Whyte and Kathleen King Whyte, Second Edition Revised, page 3.