Fortunately for me, my strength to survive is derived from my knowledge of dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism has proven time and again that when the chips are down, historical events and movements make history turn things around.
My life goes back to the days when the Republican and Democratic parties were so much alike that they looked like identical twins. Over ten million workers were out of work. People were on relief, collecting a pound of butter, a peck of potatoes, a loaf of bread and other commodities once a month to keep them alive. To keep warm, men collected coal from the steam engine boiler remains found on railroad tracks. People sold apples on street corners and kids sold newspapers – earning two-thirds of a cent for each paper sold.
Organizations such as the Workers Alliance, the Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born and the Communist Party took to the streets in a tremendous fight for jobs, civil liberties for the foreign born and demands for our government to represent the working class and not big business. In 1928, Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Al Smith did not address these important class issues.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the Democratic Party candidate against Republican Herbert Hoover, who had promised that every family would have two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot. Instead, millions were thrown out of work.
Roosevelt came forth with the New Deal, promising workers employment and new programs such as the Works Project Administration (WPA), Public Works Administration (PWA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), National Recovery Act (NRA) and other efforts to bolster the economy.
A new era had begun in American history and politics. At this point the dialectical materialist view comes into the picture. Prior to Roosevelt’s election everything looked hopeless. However, as the struggle intensified against reaction, things began to change. But it took struggle by many organizations and people to make things change. This dialectical process is a spiral, which pushes back reaction and catapults progressive change. But it takes unity of the people’s struggle. The trade union movement pushed forward with organizing the unorganized with the Communist Party playing a leading role. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was born, and progressive legislation brought forth Social Security, unemployment compensation, workers compensation and many other benefits for the people.
Since the 1930s, accompanying the emergence of progressive forces within and independent of the Democratic Party, many struggles have taken place against wars, McCarthyism, racism and other reactionary policies. Even though the Democratic and Republican parties have great similarities, especially in foreign policy, the struggles by minorities, women, youth, seniors and the labor movement have been able to stem the tide against monopoly capitalism in many areas, including foreign policy. The mass struggle against the Vietnam War is an example. The mass sentiment that led to the Clinton administration returning Elian Gonzalez to his home in Cuba completely shattered U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba.
Two years ago, when Bush was the Republican presidential candidate and Al Gore was the Democratic candidate, some people in the peace and progressive movements supported Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, arguing that there was no difference between the Democrats and Republicans.
The AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, NAACP and large segments of the people’s movements argued that there was a great difference. But in spite of past differences, and even present or future ones, we must find common ground, unite and organize with all forces for peace and progress. Because now what we have in the White House is a pack of political wolves.
These wolves increased the military budget from $288 billion to $368 billion in less than a year. Following 9/11, they created a psychosis of fear among the American people. Using this fear, they have campaigned for war against Iraq and pushed a union-busting Homeland Security Act. They are violating the civil liberties of the American people. Their main aim is to guarantee security for corporate America, allowing the Bush wolves to invade and take over Iraq, Iran, and other countries, and completely ignoring the protests of much of America and people the world over.
Progressive America has its work cut out for it. Things may look bleak but we must not despair. It is a natural phenomenon for the forces of peace, prosperity and security to struggle for a better life. History is turning things around. Once the majority of the American people learn the truth, justice and progress will prevail. This is part of the dialectical process.
John Gilman is a frequent contributor to the People’s Weekly World. He can be reached at Johngilman@aol.com