Abridged from remarks delivered at a July 1 antiwar demonstration in Kennebunkport, Maine, when President Bush came to town.
I was born in 1946 just as World War II ended.
I remember the Korean War, 1953.
I remember the Bay of Pigs, 1959.
I remember Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, 1964 to 1975.
I remember the invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1965.
El Salvador 1981. Lebanon 1982. Grenada 1983. Libya 1986. Panama 1988. Iraq 1991. Bosnia 1993. Haiti 1993. Afghanistan 2001. Iraq again 2003.
And lets not forget the Cold War …
My grandparents came here at the beginning of the 20th century. If they were alive, their list, for the first half of the century, would be just as long.
If this is a democratic country, then how do you explain the fact that 80 percent of the people oppose this war and yet more and more troops are sent? I’ll tell you why, from a working-class perspective.
When you wake up and go to work, where you spend most of the waking hours of your life, you move into a democracy-free zone. Yes, a democracy-free zone.
A place where the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply — except to the corporate bosses.
A place where you do not have freedom of speech.
A place where, if you violate the bosses’ law, even if you have a union, you are guilty until proven innocent and if you don’t have a union, which 88 percent of us don’t, then you are just plain guilty.
If you think the Bill of Rights applies to you at work, you haven’t given it much thought, and if you haven’t given it much thought, you ought to ask yourself: Why?
The law that governs the workplace is the law of master/servant — it was true 400 years ago in Jamestown and it is true today. The main difference is today you can quit your job. For that we can thank those who fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War, and the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery and servitude.
Yes, you can quit your job … if you can afford it.
A society where people can’t practice democracy at work is the same society where the common people do not get to participate in the governance of their country!
We are a people governed by a wealthy elite, by the people who had these fine houses built in Kennebunkport with profits from chattel and wage slavery.
It is not just Bush and Cheney we need to impeach … it is the whole system.
In 1886 there were 30,000 members of the Knights of Labor in Maine with over 100 meeting halls. The Knights were a union of Black and white, women and men. They believed that the economy should be based on producer and consumer cooperatives. They had no use for the courts that screwed them or the banks that used loans and mortgages to strip them of their labor, the profits of which went, of course, to the bankers.
The Knights said that if the profits created by the labor of the common people became the property of the few, there would be no democracy.
Bankers and corporate executives use their stolen wealth to consolidate more and more political power and use that power to get richer and richer. And in the process promote the never-ending war which is our history.
A labor leader once described war as a situation where workers are on opposite sides — of the same gun.
By definition, democracy is majority rule, something the people of the United States have yet to participate in. Ninety-three percent of the wealth in this country is the property of 20 percent of the population, which means that 80 percent of the population gets to fight over the 7 percent that’s left.
And who do you think profits from war?
And who do you think makes the sacrifice?
My opposition to the Vietnam War started in 1964. I remember some activists of that day saying we would not be able to stop the war, but if we kept at it we might be able to prevent the seventh Vietnam War.
Well, the activists played an important role in stopping the Vietnam War — it took 11 years — and maybe we stopped the elite from pursing a certain kind of war for awhile, but the seventh war after Vietnam has come and gone.
By my reckoning this is at least the tenth.
Sister and brothers, we need to end this war.
We need to impeach Bush and Cheney.
And we need to make our voices heard across the land that the system based on competition and greed needs to be replaced with a system based on cooperation and love.
The system needs to be impeached, and the ruling elite sent packing by the common people.
The swords must be melted down into photovoltaic cells.
Love must replace greed.
Peter Kellman (pkellman @psouth.net) is president of the Southern Maine Labor Council AFL-CIO.