Class Tyranny in Wisconsin

By now you’ve probably heard about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s attack on working class people and labor unions in Wisconsin. This week, Walker’s bill, which undermines public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain and slashes their benefits, among other things, passed through the state Senate, without a single Democratic Senator present for the vote, and the Assembly, in the face of three weeks of massive protests, the largest demonstrations in Wisconsin since the Vietnam War.

The Washington Post reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won his drive to strip the state’s government workers of nearly all of their collective-bargaining rights Thursday, after a three-week standoff that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol.

The new legislation represents a major setback for organized labor, but the political battle over public employees and their rights to bargain is likely to continue – not only in Madison.

The state Assembly passed Walker’s proposal a day after Republican senators outmaneuvered the 14 Democratic senators who had fled Wisconsin to deny a quorum needed for passing a budget measure. By stripping the bill of its spending language, they were able to pass it with only Republicans present.

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Workers’ ability to come together collectively and negotiate with their employer is a basic human right that many of the rich and powerful in this country would like to see stripped away. Politicians like Scott Walker and many corporate leaders see strong unions as a threat to their power, and they are essentially declaring war on the working class and unions. Similar bills are being proposed in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, and resistance is growing.

Why is this relevant for Sikhs?

The late scholar Jagjit Singh states in The Sikh Revolution:

The Sikh movement was not only a social revolution, but also a plebian political revolution… The Sikh Revolution was the product of an ideology which from its very inception had identified itself with the ‘lowest of the low’ and which had forcefully and consistently been pursued for over 250 years.

Indeed, a large base of the men and women who came together to follow the Gurus and create a new faith and a new way of life were from modest means, working people, lower caste people, whose connection to Sikhi meant liberation from the shackles of class and caste oppression. Jagjit Singh continues:

The Gurus wanted to bring about revolutionary changes. It was from this purpose that Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa in order to capture political power for a plebian mission. He did not depend on the privileged castes or classes to bring this about. He wanted the downtrodden, degraded, and despised sections of the society to work out their own destiny.

Empowering working class people and creating a society with economic equality continued to be a priority under Banda Singh Bahadur’s leadership. The author of Haqiqat (1784-85) writes:

On attaining power the Sikhs repopulated the whole country. They dispersed the ashraf (the privileged feudal classes) and the firqa-i-sipahi (the soldier class) and conciliated the rayyat (the tillers of the soil) and the ahl-i-hirfa (the artisans and the craftsmen, i.e. the working classes). (quoted in Jagjit Singh’s The Sikh Revolution).

I find this revolutionary history of ours extremely inspiring, and it fuels my feeling of solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin and many other states who are the backbone of this country who are under attack by power-hungry politicians. Workers and their supporters are rallying in many cities throughout the country. Find a demonstration near you here, and you can learn more about how to support workers in Wisconsin here.

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3 Responses to “Class Tyranny in Wisconsin”

  1. nathalie mermet says:

    Look, it's time for a revolution, we are not being allowed our basic rights as animals on this planet. The right to food and shelter. So, when institutions try to squeeze blood out of stones, they will find themselves stoned. Anyway, bankers and financial institutions need to cut their loses and we need to stop paying them. They gambled on an ever increasing wage which never happened for any of us. They told us that paying for higher education would pay off with higher wages and it didn't. We have not seen an increase in wages in this country to compare to the increase of the cost of living. People wake up the game is profit at all costs. So, when we cut down on gas consumption the oil industry must increase it's prices, why? Cause they must show a profit. It's a sick game that doesn't work. And not a single soul out there in politics or industry is willing to address the insanity of the system and provide a way out. They are insisting on keeping the systems in place, causing, we the people, to sink deeper and deeper into poverty. Until we have no choose but to revolt.

  2. H S says: and TLH are both hardcore liberals with no brains of their own or no reason where they can argue with a layman about what's right or not. Somehow they think the word 'liberal' is the word that seems fancy to them and they automatically adopt all of their stands by being brain washed. Get some facts dude/dudette before blindly supporting Unions. I can't believe how people blindly follow someone like Obama and support is illogical and economy crushing policies. Are you liking the change and hope of Obama?

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