America’s Labor Day appropriately comes in the late summer season of harvest and bounty, not the European workers May Day marked by capitalist-hating marches and former Soviet weapons parades of socialists and Marxists.
America’s harvest Labor Day used to befit our once-pragmatic labor movement, whose only answer to questions about what workers wanted was that of AFL founder Samuel Gompers: “More.”
But increasingly, American organized labor has taken the leftward ideological dead-end path of Europe.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has boasted that he is a card-carrying member of Democratic Socialists of America, and under his leadership young labor organizers have been indoctrinated in a program that openly advocates class warfare and the eradication of capitalism.
Only about 7 percent of industrial workers in the United States are union members, down from more than a third of our labor force only six decades ago.
But in today’s America more people are employed by government than work in all of manufacturing. The collars of most of America’s union members are no longer blue, but white and pink.
Government is the fastest — indeed almost the only (except illegal aliens and lowest skilled) — growing part of the labor movement, with nearly a third of government workers forced to join and pay dues to public employee unions (which then kick back a fat slice of extorted dues in contributions to political candidates of America’s Big Government political party, the Democratic Party).
Nowadays when a political ad tells you that “local police endorse Joe Doe for Congress,” rest assured that the endorsers are highly paid bosses of the police union, not rank and file officers, and that the ad has been paid for with union dues "collected at gunpoint."
When you hear a New York City firefighter attacking former Mayor Rudi Giuliani, know that this is a well-paid spokesman for the highly partisan firefighter union using his seemingly-neutral government position of trust to help elect a Democrat as America’s next president.
This Labor Day, an Aug. 27 article entitled “The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism and Gains Popularity” in the left-leaning New York Times merits contemplation.
Modern Israel was founded by Zionist socialists, utopians who set up communes based on an ideal of equality in which all land was owned and all children were raised by the collective, not individuals. Fruits of labor on these kibbutzim were divided equally, whether a member worked 12 hours a day or not at all.
This was the young state of Israel embraced by Hollywood leftists such as Barbra Streisand — who, you’ll notice, has lost most of her enthusiasm for the Jewish state in recent decades as it has evolved away from atheistic socialism and towards religion and capitalism.
The Kibbutzim had already become a joke more than quarter century ago when I first visited Israel. “They now lay around in hammocks collecting their fat government subsidies,” one Israeli critic told me, “and pay Arabs five shekels an hour to do the farm labor.”
This had been the failed pattern of America’s hundreds of failed socialist communes during the 1800s. Members joined for the free food and, in the case of the Oneida Commune, for the easy sex.
But a large proportion of these small “c” communists, as during the first year of the pilgrim’s Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, took as much as they could from the common pot while doing as little work as they could get away with to refill that pot.
The same thing happened in the late Communist Soviet Union, where a common joke among factory laborers was “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”
The names of two of America’s 19th century utopian communes have survived: Amana in Iowa and Oneida in New York. They survived not as socialist communes but as successful capitalist joint stock companies, one famous for quality appliances such as microwave ovens, the other renowned for high quality tableware.
The grandchildren of their socialist founders became wealthy capitalist stockholders because these two communes created successful brand names. But many hundreds of other such heavens on earth vanished after the passing of their founding charismatic leader or self-sacrificing first generation.
If socialism could have worked anywhere, it was in the kibbutzim of Israel. These communards were among the best-educated, most intelligent and idealistic people on Earth. They had the nightmare of the Holocaust at their backs and millions of anti-Semitic Arabs in their face. They had billions in subsidies from successful Jewish communities around the world to help them survive.
But even in Zion, socialism proved so antithetical to human nature that it failed.
“By 2000,” wrote New York Times reporter Isabel Kershner, “more than half of Israel’s 257 collective farms were bankrupt.”
She obviously took care to avoid mentioning that not all “collective farms” in Israel are kibbutzim. Many of the most successful of these farms in recent decades have been moshavim, cooperatives in which members farmed their own individual portions of cooperative land and kept more for themselves if their individual work produced more than other members.
Moshavs, as any free marketeer could have predicted, have been far more successful than the typical communist kibbutz that lacks any individual profit incentive to work harder. Israel has almost twice as many moshavim as kibbutzim.
But because kibbutzim were allotted large portions of Israel’s choicest land by the early Zionist movement and Jewish State, they have been gold mines in waiting.
Many kibbutzim, wrote Kershner, have begun selling off home sites to non-members and letting outsiders buy what amount to shares of successful kibbutz businesses — as happened with Amana and Oneida.
With socialism failing around the world, it seems odd this holiday that Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards a few days ago evaded a question about whether he wanted socialized medicine as in Cuba.
“I don’t know enough about the Cuban health system,” Edwards sidestepped. “Is it controlled by the government?” In an earlier, freer America, that statement alone would forever disqualify John Edwards from ever becoming president.
Happy Labor Day.
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