On July 4, we celebrate our country's birthday. While we celebrate, we often fail to ask ourselves, "Why did we separate ourselves from feudal England?" The answer that "we wanted to be independent" begs the next question: "Why did we want to be independent?" We wanted to separate ourselves from feudal England because we were not feudalists and were not part of their system.
That thinking is very applicable for this Fourth of July, 2007. We again need to ask ourselves, "We are not capitalists so why should we support their system?"
Over the course of some 200 years, there were reasons that the workers supported the capitalist system. As the United States economically and politically conquered most of the world, the ruling class gave part of the plunder to the American people as a bribe for their political and military support. The workers in a good portion of the world did not believe that there was any poverty in the United States, and everyone was a capitalist.
At the end of World War II, this ruling class embarked on its greatest effort -- the destruction of the socialist sector of the world. They needed more support than ever from the masses. To achieve this support, they increased the bribe and millions of workers began to purchase houses and automobiles. The workers understandably felt they had an economic stake in the system. That was not enough. The ruling class knew they also had to have the hearts and minds of the people. Every sort of lie, slander, distortion of history, and appeal to racism and to nationalism smothered the political and social consciousness of the people.
Murder, frame-ups, blacklisting and ostracism faced those who would not submit. Thought control almost took over our country. Only approved books could be read, certain subjects could not be discussed, and opposition was equated with treason. The democratic practice of lively political discussion among workers was lost. As young generations matured, they accepted what they inherited and few even thought to question the system.
Times are rapidly changing. With globalization and automation, the ruling class no longer needs to bribe the workers for their support. If the American workers won't work for "competitive" wages, starving workers from other countries will. The auto industry's brutal, callous attempt to force their workers to accept cuts in wages and standards of living is just the latest example.
Yet, under the terrible circumstances of hunger, homelessness, lack of medical care, or lockouts, few workers raise the question of the system. They have been trained to blame individuals or political parties. They will never blame the system unless they are challenged to do so.
Herein lies the importance of the Fourth of July. Just as the people of the 1770s had to be challenged -- "What the heck do we need a king for? We're not part of that system" -- so today we have to challenge the workers, employed and unemployed: "You're not a capitalist. Why support their system?"
Nelson Peery's new book, "Black Radical: The Education of an American Revolutionary," will be in bookstores in August. You can order by sending $29 to Speakers for a New America, c/o People's Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654.