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A thick meaty discussion of the western political economy and the checkered history that has led us to the current financial mess we happen to be in. Great viewing, get some popcorn!

History fun. :)

The armament industries have lead the way in the conquest and modernization of the world. One of the key policies of British Empire was to keep manufacturing technology out of the hands of her far flung colonial conquests while denaturing and appropriating any of the native craftsmanship/technology solely for the benefit of the empire. Priya Satia writes about a historical technological divergence that happened around the 1800’s and how that manufactured divide laid the ground work for much of the present economic system and associated cleavages, we have today.

“Bengal, Mysore and Maratha are just three of many places in the Indian subcontinent where Britain at great expense and effort restricted, curtailed or closed down knowledge and capacity for arms manufacturing in India. The near parity between India and Britain in small arms made British conquest of the subcontinent slow, costly and difficult, and made the crushing of indigenous arms manufacture essential.

Perhaps many polities had the potential for industrial growth, but imperial ambition, generating military commitments requiring mass levels of supply, ensured that Britain became the site of industrial take-off – and a global arms depot. In addition to its geological and geographical advantages, Britain had coercive colonial policies enabling jealous control of know-how. Eighteenth-century Britons believed in the government’s right and obligation to use its might to promote industrial prosperity at home and strangle it abroad. We too must recognise the way that war shaped the entwined industrial fates of Britain and its colonies, and the way that power always shapes knowledge-sharing.”

The rest of Satia’s essay is quite heavy on historical specifics, but worth the read if you have the time.

 

 

A timely historical refresher.

The working conditions we have today were born in struggle and paid for in blood.  We don’t understand the sacrifices others made for us these days.  Not completely our fault as the Powers that Be have employed several strategies against the working class, most notably, divide and conquer, to ensure that the mass movements of the past do not crop up again and threaten the established norms of society.

Take note, single day marchers, that what you are doing is almost completely for your benefit.  Your single day of action is meek, unoffensive, and for the most part condoned by those who make the rules.

Why?  Because everything goes back to normal once you go home.  You benefit from venting and feeling like you’ve done something (as insipid as it happens to be) and life goes on.  Problem NOT solved.

Effective protesting is not convenient, short-term, or easy.  It requires a dedicated mass of people who are willing to put their lives on the line and make the society around them,most inconveniently, grind to halt.   The press will demonize you, the anti-union thugs will beat you, and the police will most likely end up killing you because you are not falling in line with the elite’s rules and expectations.

In 1919, workers in Winnipeg said, “Enough”.

“A combination of social and economic inequality and a growing awareness among the working class of these disparities led somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 workers to walk off the job for 42 days, beginning on May 15.

The reasons so many people put their livelihoods at risk by striking in a harshly anti-union climate were manifold.

Poor work conditions, inadequate wages and the refusal by many employers to recognize and negotiate with unions culminated in the unrest that spilled into the streets and left two men dead by the end of the six-week strike.”

The willingness for people exploit other people is almost unlimited.

 

“Employment offices sprouted up across Winnipeg to connect those workers with jobs. Some agencies “lived to fleece newly arrived immigrants” by charging them steep job-finding fees and locking them into contracts with measly salaries and steep room and board charges, Doug Smith wrote in his book Let us Rise: An Illustrated History of the Manitoba Labour Movement”

Fresh and new to Canada? Let’s exploit you and your family, ASAP.  This is the base standard for human behaviour in society.  Not pretty, but unless we organize against it, it is what we will get.

“The railway yard-adjacent communities were also a public health nightmare.

Unsanitary, crowded conditions meant infections and diseases spread with impunity. There were annual outbreaks of typhoid due to the unclean water supply in the late 19th century: nearly 1,300 Winnipeggers just over five per cent of the city’s population were diagnosed with the bacterial infection in 1904.

The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 1,200 people in Winnipeg, and the working class and immigrant neighbourhoods of the north were worst hit.

“It was a deplorable area in which to live: communicable diseases were rampant; it had one of the highest child mortality rates of anywhere in the country; up until the aqueduct [from Shoal Lake] came through, the water supply was a serious danger to the citizens,” Siamandas said.

“These were the seeds of what led to the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919.”

Without equal access to health care, suitable housing, fair wages and education opportunities, and with few of the creature comforts enjoyed by the upper crust, a great unrest was brewing in blue-collar Winnipeg.”

If you ever wondered how bad it has to get before people will act, it is like this.  Gross inequality, squalor, disease and high child mortality.

The Barretts were staunchly anti-union and against collective bargaining. As a matter of principle, the brothers said, they would only deal directly with their workers on an individual basis.

“This is a free country and … as far as we are concerned, the day will never come when we will have to take orders from any union,” Leonard wrote in 1916, refusing to meet a committee of his employees over concerns related to wages and work conditions.

“There was fierce resistance from all employers, public and private, to unionization, and if you dared go on a picket line in Winnipeg, there were injunctions slapped on you and you were in the courts,” said Paul Moist, former national president of Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

This antagonism toward unions continued as working-class tensions deepened during the war.”

Indeed it is a free country.  Freedom has different means depending on which social class you happen to inhabit.  I’m guessing most of my readership is not in the business elite, and as evinced in 1919, the business class has its political shit together we currently do not.  The structures of society are on their side, along with the coercive elements like the police and army.  This is what we have to acknowledge and prepare for if we want to society for the better.

“Leonard scoffed at the suggestion and declared, “God gave me this plant, and by God I’ll run it the way I want to.”

About 45 firms and 1,000 employees went on strike July 22, 1918, after the trades council proposed wage increases and eight-hour days for auto and metalworkers. Though a few of the shops complied, most refused to negotiate with the council, so it was back to work — but the men’s dissatisfaction became a catalyst of the Winnipeg General Strike.

Workers at Vulcan and two other metal shops declared on May 1, 1919, that they would strike again for the right to unionization and a collective bargaining process. The strike started the next day.”

The rest is history, but people today need to know the attitudes that are behind the levers of power.  They cannot be negotiated with when they think they have all the power in the situation.  Power will never cede power willingly.  Only through organized resistance en mass can gains be made.

Please consider this the next time you schedule your appearance at a one day march : who is it benefiting and will your actions change the social bedrock of society.

[Source: cbc.ca]

 

 

 

 

 

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