At Stake is Our Future Freedom
A strong and democratic labor movement, a quality and democratically controlled public school system, democratic participation for all citizens, and a public confidence in the equal application of the law that is justly blind to ethnicity, class, and gender identification ... this is what I want to strive for.
“(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
“(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
“(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
“(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
— Article 23, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some view this document as an extension of FDR’s four freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear). But the UDHR is even more; it is a culmination of the struggle for universal human rights that began with The Enlightenment. Morality and “progressive” principles, our principles, are universal. Labor rights and labor issues are front and center to our universal principles.
The principles of inalienable human rights started with The Enlightenment; evolved through a series of revolutions and upheavals and became central to our expectations of a global society. For many in the world, the UDHR represents a light held high, its visions and lofty goals remain to this day, unfulfilled.
If America wishes to claim a unique place in the world, it must be based on our morality – a commitment to democracy and universal human rights. If we are to stand on the high ground, we must attend to our shortcomings. We must strive to make our home a place where all people are secure in the knowledge that we are an equitable nation, that our laws apply equally to all under the jurisdiction of the states.
There is no loophole in the 14th Amendment for race, citizenship, or sexual identity; equality before the law must apply to all persons under the jurisdiction of all American states. I contend that the concept of ‘person’ should be interpreted by the courts only as an individual living human. Otherwise, the 13th Amendment would be logically interpreted as the abolition of corporate ownership. For if a person cannot be owned, and a corporation is legally equal to a person, then a corporation cannot be owned. Laws must be logical and provide a consistent framework for transposition, or they are illogical and invalid.
We are a nation founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, having a legal system rooted in English Common Law and a Constitution based primarily on Madison’s interpretation of Montesquieu and Polybius.
I agree with Montesquieu when he said of government:
“It should seek to establish frugality by law, so as to prevent its citizens from being tempted to advance their own private interests at the expense of the public good. For the same reason, the laws by which property is transferred should aim to preserve an equal distribution of property among citizens.”
I disagree with his views on censorship. Like many in the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, there was a mistrust of common people.
The Enlightenment of Montesquieu and Madison, being the intellectual creation of aristocrats and landed gentry, tended to be silent on issues of class, and fundamental rights. Jefferson at times showed enough solidarity with those enlightened individuals who advocated abolition of slavery, to toy with the idea in some of his writings, but never to an extent of freeing his own human chattel. Of our slaveholding founding fathers, it was only Washington that freed his slaves, but only by his Last Will and Testament.
The answer to the aristocrat and bourgeois disdain for the common people was, and should be, a good public school system, designed to develop a citizenry capable of critical thinking. A system that elevates and seeks to develop an enlightened citizenry works best when it applies to all people equally and is not arbitrarily divided into districts that isolate peoples by class, ethnicity, or gender. An equitable system works best when the society ensures equal pay for equal work and actively enforces equity of opportunity, housing, and education, across school district, municipal, and county lines.
The American System is skewed in favor of the oligarchy – the rich who finance the political system. FDR and Teddy Roosevelt, in some ways, were notable exceptions – effectively betraying their class for the greater public good. While FDR was transformed by his struggle against polio – he was also shaped by his long partnership with, by far the most progressive Roosevelt, Eleanor.
The Labor Movement was thrice eviscerated by the right wing in our country: during the post-Russian Revolution Red Scare, during the Mccarthy era, and now. Communist, Socialist, and “wobblies” were driven out during the first two purges, and the political power of unions emasculated. Now, in the post-Citizens United era, the emasculation is done to remove unions as a source of money for many forms of leftist and Democratic politics. These “divide and conquer” policies, by extremists and Plutarchical lackies in the right wing, tend to increase radicalization at both ends of the political spectrum.
True representative democracy, one that does not require vast amounts of money, where voting rights are upheld, and has few impediments for office seekers, is the safest and most stable escape valve for civil unrest. Add to democracy a just and democratic society, where class, race, and gender identification do not regulate our political influence, nor limit our political participation. Democratically operated trade unions must be willing participants in crafting social justice and equal opportunity for all.
Labor activism, combined with regulation of campaign financing and greater democratic participation, are the only counterweights, short of an uprising, capable of stopping our current slide into a plutocracy. At stake is our future freedom, for since 9/11, in the name of security, we have outfitted our government with the tools for establishing the most totalitarian state in human history. Orwell’s 1984 seems naive compared to our current capabilities of putting ourselves under the boot of self-imposed tyranny.
A strong and democratic labor movement, a quality and democratically controlled public school system, democratic participation for all citizens, and a public confidence in the equal application of the law that is justly blind to ethnicity, class, and gender identification … this is what I want to strive for this Labor Day, and each day, until a just and equitable democracy is established in our state and the United States. Then, and only then, can we call ourselves the light to the world.
Sit down and listen to FDR’s Four Freedoms Speech. (https://upload.wikimedia.org/…/FDR%27s_1941_State_of_the_Un…)
Then read Eleanor Roosevelt’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Then wonder how far we have retreated from the light of a once great vision for ourselves and our planet, toward the darkness of plutocratic tyranny.
Mentioned in This Press Release
Recent Press Releases by Joseph Thomas Klein
We are engaged in a struggle for democracy against the oligarchs, influential capitalists who want to control the government in order to benefit personally, often at the expense of the common citizen.