The Bonus Army, 20,000 strong, converged on D.C., set up a shanty-town, seeking relief from the horrific conditions of the Great Depression. These WW I. veterans and their families demanded promised bonuses. They were tolerated for a time but then those-who-follow-orders, including such luminaries as General MacArthur, Major Eisenhower and his aid, George Patton, were sent to disperse the “insubordinate” vets, leaving three dead and more than a thousand injured. This was under President Hoover who was villified when hordes of homeless victims of Laisse Faire capitalism named their make-shift villages Hooverville. Later when vets marched on Washington President Roosevelt personally greeted them, serving coffee. You can imagine the response, had Fox Faux News been around at the time. So far, L.A. has the only city council to recognize the Hoovervilles of our time by endorsing their (our) Occupation.
Naomi Klein points out in her book, Shock Doctrine, that the Great Depression came out of policies very like those being pushed today by the corporate-owned, two-factioned Republicratic Party – privatization, consolidation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, retrenchment of hard-won programs that benefit the average citizen, fanatical belief in a mythical “free market” whose Darwinian-Draconian rules, under close scrutiny, turn out to only apply to the 99%.
Howard Zinn, in his People’s History of the U.S., itemizes many a discouraging outcome for people in that Depression organizing against the pirateers but not all efforts were defeated. The 40 hour week was attained by commited activists. A banner in my home town still expresses another: Unions, the people who brought you weekends. The 1% have always recognized that a certain share of the spoils must be allocated to a malleable fraction of the population, call it middle class, to serve as a buffer against the rabble, the discontented. They have argued however, among themselves, just how big this buffer need be and we can see since Reagan that those who favor the smaller buffer have been dominating the argument. When the disconted population reaches a certain mass we get “unrest”, Occupiers in the town squares. We are then offered the Hoover response, guns and clubs, teargas, or the Roosevelt response, placation, expand the buffer. Fine if you’re in the expansion, not so fine if you ain’t. Maybe we can do better. Maybe we have to.