Julius Caesar called it “divide and conquer,” and he deployed the strategy as effectively against domestic and political adversaries as he did against so-called barbarian tribes as he expanded and consolidated the boundaries of Rome. It worked well enough for a while, right up until the moment his adversaries murdered him in the Senate.
Divide and conquer was the favored tactic by wealthy businessmen and companies against the labor movement in the early part of the 20th Century. In this country blacks and newly arrived immigrants were brought to the gates of companies, often with their families and in camps, where they served as examples to employees who sought to organize against abusive or unsafe working conditions. In post-World War One Yugoslavia, Italian refugees or poor Bosnian peasants were camped at the gates, the message that these squatters would gladly take the jobs from anyone attempting to Unionize.
For the better part of a century the Unions prevailed. They fought for and set humane working conditions, such as meal breaks, safer working conditions, reasonable working hours, fair living wages, quality of life advantages for their families and themselves and, after a lifetime of work, the right of a dignified retirement and old age.
Unions fought for and won benefits that resonated throughout the industrial world, lifting millions more from poverty through labor laws extending far beyond the Union ranks. Unions literally created the middle class in this country and in Western Germany after the Second World War. At the height of Unions in the United States the output of the nation skyrocketed, but as Corporations exercised greater and greater influence over government an interesting thing occurred. Assaults upon organized labor increased. Not because GDP suffered. It continued its rapid and unprecedented rise. But because business was so powerful in the government that it could now move to eradicate Unions altogether. In the last 20 years Republican efforts, financed and organized by big business masters have steadily degraded the influence of Unions, to the obvious and apparent detriment to the middle class.
Through media consolidation, big business has taken control of the national dialogue and narrative. By infiltrating the FCC they have degraded the level of discourse, skewing it fully to one side of the argument. Accurate, unfiltered and unbiased information has become more difficult to access. Despite the internet, media consolidations to a smaller and smaller number of media and corporate giants has made accurate information more difficult to come by. Media giants like FOX news, with agenda driven programming are unabashed in demonizing Unions and the poor alike. They play on the fears of the middle class, who at the end of the day, are their true target for subversion.
Immigrants and the poor have become those modern-day squatters once encamped as implicit and explicit threats to middle class workers against asserting their rights through organization. But is the problem of immigration any different today than it was during the last great wave of immigration in 1910?
The numbers are staggering, at first glance. in 2010 there were 35.2 million legal and illegal immigrants to the United States, nearly triple the 13.5 million reaching our shores in 1910. However, comparing the populations shows a much different picture, and reveals the dangerous anti-American agenda of these media conglomerates. There were 92 million Americans in 1910, and 310 million now, meaning the immigration wave of 1910, in todays terms would be more than 42 million, or much higher than the actual 35 million today.
And America not only survived the 1910 wave, but it prospered. Many of those immigrants were the first to organize and fight(and sometimes die) for better working conditions, and better lives through Unionization. They arrived in a nation still largely agricultural with a Gross domestic Product of $33.4 million annually, and built a nation with a GDP of $14.7 trillion-that’s trillion today. Indeed, by the onset of World War One, as Unions began to gain a foothold the GDP double in only a few short years. Within 10 years GDP had tripled.
The numbers are clear. All that has really changed is the assault on the Unions in part by using immigrants and the poor to threaten and terrorize the disappearing middle class. And it has worked, when working people turn and accuse Union members who have given them much that is taken for granted. Overheard during the pro-Union protests in Madison Wisconsin earlier this year, a man struggling in a low-paying job without healthcare asked why Unions should have those benefits when he had none. Divide and conquer. It worked for Caesar, but only for a time.