Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bonus That Keeps On Giving!

It was a historian, speaking from China, practically on the other side of the world, that taught me a thing or two about my own country, and some of its unspoken, and untaught history.

Interviewed by an American, this Chinese historian was responding to a question that the interviewer had posed.

The American asked about the supposed Tiananmen Square Massacre, presumably to prove that there were certain subjects that Chinese citizens were forbidden to discuss (Although it's likely that the violence associated with the movement occurred outside of the Square in the city of Beijing.).

To recap that bit of Chinese history, let me cut and paste a portion of a Wikipedia article:

The movement [for the continuation of "economic reform and liberalization"] lasted seven weeks after Hu's death on 15 April. Premier Li Peng, a hardline conservative, declared martial law on 20 May, but no military action took place until 4 June, when the tanks and troops of the People's Liberation Army moved into the streets of Beijing, using live fire while proceeding to Tiananmen Square to clear the area of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, and the majority of estimates range from several hundred to thousands.[10] There was widespread international condemnation of the government's use of force against the protesters.

The Chinese historian responded to the American's question without equivocation, saying essentially that he wasn't afraid to discuss this black chapter in Chinese history (1989), but that America had a similar dark chapter of its own, of which only a few Americans are aware.

It was called the Bonus Army Movement.

The what? I remember thinking. What a strange name for a movement. And who were the people in this "Bonus Army"? And how in the Hell did we, in this country, have a response from our government that was similar to what occurred in China, even if it was on a lesser scale? From that moment, I knew that I wouldn't rest until I had the whole of the story. Here's what I learned.

Before I go further, let me tell you what the Bonus Army Movement was a precursor for: The integration of whites and blacks in the military; The taking of organized, mass grievances to the very footsteps of our nation's government, Washington D.C., the Capitol and the White House; and the G.I. Bill.

There's a series of You Tube videos that I would like for you to watch. They give actual film footage of our own Tiananmen Square. If you haven't seen them, you'll want to see all three of them. The history that the three videos represent, should be taught in every school, to every student, rather than the sanitized version that we were all subjected to.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Defence League's (JDL) Motto became, "Never Again."

We can't say "Never Again," if we don't know what has gone before. Without that knowledge, we don't know what to be cognizant of, and how far governments are willing to go to suppress the actions of its citizenry.

To set up what you're about to see, here's a little historical background:

Six years after the end of World War I Congress enacted a bill that would reward veterans of the conflict a cash bonus for their service. However, the legislation stipulated that the veterans would not collect their bonus until 1945.

This delayed gratification was acceptable to the World War I veterans during the prosperous '20s but the onslaught of the Great Depression changed their attitude. Out of work, destitute, and with families to feed, the veterans organized a march on Washington in May of 1932 to force Congress to immediately pay their bonus. An estimated 15,000 made their way to the nation's capital and dubbed themselves the "Bonus Expeditionary Force."

Using scrap wood, iron and any other loose materials they could find, the veterans set up ramshackle camps throughout the city. The largest housed an estimated 10,000 people. They waited in vain for Congress to act. On June 17 the Senate voted against the House-passed bill that would have given the Bonus Marchers immediate payment of their benefit.

Having no other place to go, the majority of the Bonus Army remained encamped in the city, despite the fact that Congress had adjourned for the summer. Finally, President Hoover ordered the Army to forcibly remove the veterans. On July 28 a force of tanks and cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur stormed the camps and drove the veterans out. Their makeshift houses were then set ablaze.
More here.

Many economist believe that we might suffer a double-dip recession. If we can't dig ourselves out of the economic hole that Bush dug, we may very well find ourselves falling deeper into the hole, but one without a bottom--a depression. Were that to happen, this nation's government may resort to the unthinkable, if people take their grievance, as did the Bonus Army, within the shadows of our nation's institutions, our Capitol, and White House.

In the interest of revealing "actionable intelligence" to guide future behavior and actions, if the people of this nation are faced once again with similar actions from our government, let me offer the following three, timely videos for your illumination:







12 comments:

Greg L said...

BD,

This is a very interesting post and is a reminder that an understanding of history is critical to an appreciation of how things have come to be. I never knew the history behind the GI bill and without questions there are parallels between the age of the Bonus army and now. I have a number of thoughts in response.

First, it comes as no shock that the interracial nature on the Bonus Army would have been a great cause of concern as that would have shifted the entire nature of the struggle to one entirely of class. Class struggle is the stuff of revolutions the world over and that combined with people knowing how to fight would have been a great cause of concern particularly if the public sympathy was with the Bonus Army. I'm of the belief that race is frequently used as a wedge to prevent people from unifying across racial lines and on the basis of class. I'm not suggesting that racism isn't a problem, but I am suggesting that it's more a economic construct rather than purely a social one alone.

It's interesting today how vets have been abandoned in the sense that many are homeless and jobless just as they were during the time of the Bonus Army. This too is a reflection of class differences as well as it's generally known that the conscripts or volunteers come from the lower classes. In this sense they're ground up as canon fodder in support of an agenda that frequently has nothing to do with notions of protecting freedom and etc., but more to do with promoting economic hegemony and just like a piece of equipment that's no longer needed, they're thrown away.

The history of the GI bill seems to correlate highly with the union movement in the sense that capital had to negotiate with labor and at that time "labor" had a few more cards to play as capital was hard pressed to accomplish its ends without it. It's interesting how the onset of WWII accelerated the passage of the GI bill and the bonuses.

to be continued..

Greg L said...

I should point out that the same privatization pendulum that has currently weakened labor's hand versus capital is also reflected in the current military set up. I don't need to point out that much of military effort has been privatized with outfits like Xe and others. That tends to reduce the reliance on conscripts while making less necessary to secure public support and to also do right by the troops. There's been some discussion of cutting veterans benefits in the current austerity push and that can only come about from reduced reliance on "labor". Increasingly, it looks like we're moving toward the mercenary or robot model to conduct wars.

Finally, the harsh routing of the Bonus Army is explanation enough why this isn't in the history books. It's both shameful and outrageous, but it's also par for the course. There's no doubt that the main fear was some foreign power using the Bonus Army for subversion, hence the draconian response. If we've done this, then it's hard to get up on a high horse and mete out sanctions and etc against Syria, Libya, Iran, China and others. In many of these instances, we're actually involved in subversion with so called "democracy groups" to knowingly force a draconian response so we have an excuse engage in regime change. We have a long history of that and if you do that enough to others, then quite naturally you suspect someone's doing that to you even when it's not the case.

Black Diaspora said...

One

"This is a very interesting post and is a reminder that an understanding of history is critical to an appreciation of how things have come to be."

Without perspective (which a study of history provides), we err in believing in the uniqueness of a situation, or that, as you have suggested, we feel righteously justified in forcing a morality which we, ourselves, have violated.

"I never knew the history behind the GI bill and without questions there are parallels between the age of the Bonus army and now. I have a number of thoughts in response."

Although I was a recipient of the G.I. Bill, I, too, knew nothing of its origin.

You're right about the "parallels." What's the saying: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The reason: The human heart hasn't changed that much in eons.

"First, it comes as no shock that the interracial nature on the Bonus Army would have been a great cause of concern as that would have shifted the entire nature of the struggle to one entirely of class."

Excellent observation. That "wedge" you mentioned, was designed to prevent this very thing. How are you going to keep them pacified, once they've seen what racial unity can achieve?

"I'm not suggesting that racism isn't a problem, but I am suggesting that it's more a economic construct rather than purely a social one alone."

Many would argue that it was an "economic construct" from the beginning. Some historians have traced this construct, and the various permutations of "racism" over time, to reach that very conclusion.

"In this sense they're ground up as canon fodder in support of an agenda..., but more to do with promoting economic hegemony and just like a piece of equipment that's no longer needed, they're thrown away."

President Obama has a proposal on the table requiring congressional approval: the giving of tax credits to businesses that hire a vet.

Let's see if this, too, will be obstructed, simply because Obama supports it. You'd think that businesses and corporations would use just a little of that money they have saquirreled away waiting on a Republican administration, and Obama's electorial defeat.

You're not buying that "uncertainty" thing are you? It's not about a lack of consumer demand that has businesses sitting on their money: It's that they believe that Republicans are friendlier to business than Democrats, and that a black man in the White House is an abomination to all that's American.

Black Diaspora said...

Two:

@Greg:

"The history of the GI bill seems to correlate highly with the union movement in the sense that capital had to negotiate with labor...."

That's very likely.

Without pressure to "negotiate with labor," we're seeing, once again, capital's indifference to our nation's veterans, although it might be argued, as you have suggested, that much of what these veterans achieved militarily as active-duty soldiers, might be transformed into capital opportunities for business.

"Increasingly, it looks like we're moving toward the mercenary or robot model to conduct wars."

As corporations become more multinational, this new military model seems to fit this new corporate model. As the world's natural resources become increasing scarce, a strong military, quick on its feet, and deadly in it purpose, will become corporations' greatest ally, and asset, in the war for economic preeminence and monetary dominance.

"In many of these instances, we're actually involved in subversion with so called "democracy groups" to knowingly force a draconian response so we have an excuse engage in regime change."

I wouldn't put anything out of the realm of possibility when it comes to our government.

I wonder how many other "shameful" actions have our government taken in the name of freedom, democracy, and security.

Cheney's book is hot off the press. Bush's book raked in the cash. I suspect that this one will, too.

Neither Bush, nor Cheney has any qualms when it comes to admitting that they sanctioned torture. No, they won't call it that, but the International Court of Justice in the Hague might believe otherwise.

Our Rule of Law is a joke. It only applies to jokesters, not those for whom the flouting of the Law is the Rule.

msladydeborah said...

I literally stumbled upon this information while looking for historial footage for my other blog. I watched the footage and learned a lot about the struggle for fairness and equality.

The information about dissent and confrontations between the government and the people of this nation is not readily taught in our educational system. It's always great when we can share information that we discover.

Black Diaspora said...

msladydeborah said..."The information about dissent and confrontations between the government and the people of this nation is not readily taught in our educational system."

You're SO right! For one, it destroys the myths that have grown up around this country--our "American exceptionalism."

And for two, as you suggest, it gives the impression that all is well between the government and the people, and that the airing of grievances have always been addressed without violence, and without delay.

"It's always great when we can share information that we discover."

Without fail, you, and your blog, have definitely been on the forefront of that sharing.

Greg L said...

>>>Let's see if this, too, will be obstructed, simply because Obama supports it. You'd think that businesses and corporations would use just a little of that money they have saquirreled away waiting on a Republican administration, and Obama's electorial defeat.

You're not buying that "uncertainty" thing are you? It's not about a lack of consumer demand that has businesses sitting on their money: It's that they believe that Republicans are friendlier to business than Democrats, and that a black man in the White House is an abomination to all that's American.<<<

I think there are broad themes related to certain behaviors. Those who tend to be greedy and self serving find it also useful to be racist at time. That tends to support their economic objectives.

You bring up a good point on all this money being stockpiled and I believe there's a deeper reason for that. While the republican wing of the political class might slightly outbid the dems in accommodating the oligarchs, I've come to doubt that these guys are going to start spending money if there's a changing of the guard in the presidency. Of course, as you know, interest rates on savings is at a record low and today I read that there are some very wealthy people fleeing the stock markets who are actually PAYING certain banks for the privilege of housing their money in their vaults. That has to make one start wonder what gives here, especially when the normal expectation is that one is paid to put their money in a bank.

As you point out, consumer demand is down because everyone is holding back for fear of needing money, but that's not it totally. There are many who are expecting a deflationary depression after the plug is pulled and they're hoping to buy up everything for pennies on the dollar and then ride the horse back up again. Everything includes cheap labor right here in the US.

All this is being done at the threat of peace and tranquility in our own nation IMO. This is the same backdrop against which the Bonus Army was formed and I suspect that we'll see a modern version of that.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "I've come to doubt that these guys are going to start spending money if there's a changing of the guard in the presidency."

You're right, they won't, and neither will repatriated money taxed at 5%, rather than the standard 35%, initiate a spending binge, and a hiring flurry that will stimulate the economy.

But just the suggestion of it (a federal government ran by small-government, regulation-hating Republicans who believe that tax cuts and corporate loopholes generate a job-creating, business-growing climate, especially to an electorate that is seeing a weak economy grow weaker), can be enticing.

The center of gravity for real, effective power has shifted from the government to corporations and businesses (the supposed job creators)--and they will milk this advantage for all it's worth, and extract as much money as they can, whether it comes directly from the government or directly from harried (sacked and pillaged) consumers.

"That has to make one start wonder what gives here, especially when the normal expectation is that one is paid to put their money in a bank."

It appears that liquidity (in this case, cash without the need to convert an asset) is a stronger draw than gold, which recently saw a slight decline in value.

"There are many who are expecting a deflationary depression after the plug is pulled and they're hoping to buy up everything for pennies on the dollar and then ride the horse back up again."

Bingo! as they say. Liquidity makes this possible, not tying up one's money in gold, or any other material asset, that will drop in value once the spending spree begins.

"This is the same backdrop against which the Bonus Army was formed and I suspect that we'll see a modern version of that."

Very true. It occurred in desperate times, with unemployment rife, and hope low.

I wouldn't be surprised that the government has a contingency plan to meet the threat were it to surface.

Here's Steve Wynn speaking for the Koch brothers, Tea Party activists, and corporatist to boot, and this after having the best quarter he's ever had in the gaming industry:

"And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right.

"A President that seems, that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration.And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America.

"You bet and until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, God, don't be attacking Obama. Well, this is Obama's deal and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America.

"The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution [A Big Lie, Of Course] and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest, their holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth."



Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/wynn-ceo-steve-wynn-conference-call-transcript-obama-2011-7#ixzz1WBaKnqcC

Greg L said...

>>>"A President that seems, that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration.And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America.<<<

Wynn is an idiot whose only purpose is to dispense talking points to people like LTE. I'm certain he's a recipient of the Fed's low interest rate loan giveaway is probably figuring out how he can insert himself in the North Korean and Panama trade deals.

Methinks that the folks drinking from Wynn's pond is diminishing based on a recent AP-GFK poll where record numbers (87%) view the congress unfavorably with Speaker Boehner, the republicans and the tea party taking the worst end of the hits here. The corporate controlled press amplifies the voices of folks like Wynn, Bachman and Perry but it would seem to that fewer people are actually listening. What's resonating with most people are the economic conditions they find themselves in and it's clear that talk about low taxes and socialism are seen as having little to do with those conditions. A significant portion of those polled believe that the republicans are obstructionists I suspect a backlash is brewing. The main thing here is that many of those who lead us have effectively lost the consent of the people to govern.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2011/08/25/ap_gfk_poll_87_in_us_disapprove_of_congress/

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "Methinks that the folks drinking from Wynn's pond is diminishing based on a recent AP-GFK poll where record numbers (87%) view the congress unfavorably with Speaker Boehner, the republicans and the tea party taking the worst end of the hits here."

I hope you're right. The article that you linked says so.

Nevertheless, I was disheartened to learn recently that a growing number of thinkers from a group I'd never suspect of being Tea Party supporters, are subscribing to a Tea Party ideology.

Kandake CimCiptivan said...

This was truly something I had never known happened or even heard of. Sometimes after discovering new information of where we have been as a country and hearing the words, LAND OF THE FREE, I cringe...

I'm going to share this one with my friends.

Black Diaspora said...

@Kandake CimCiptivan

Thanks for your comments. What worry me is this: If we've been there before "as a country," there's nothing to stop us from going there again (where defenseless American soldiers, turned civilians, are chased by our military tanks, at the behest of an American president, and an American general), especially since very few us (no doubt by design) knew about this egregiously bad display of American patriotism.

If our troops, both black and white, could be treated with such disdain by our government, I pray for the safety of those Occupy Wall Street protesters, protesting both the government and Wall Street--and the un-holy alliance between the two.