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Thursday, October 13, 2011
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Friday, October 14, 2011Letters
The Populist movement
Ted Rudow III, MA, Encina Ave, Palo Alto, CA
The Populist movement started at the end of the first Gilded Age in the 1890s. The movement developed from farmers' alliances, formed in the 1880s, in reaction to falling crop prices and poor credit facilities. The leaders formed the People's Party (1892), also known as the Populist Party, which advocated a variety of measures to help farmers. Mass protests were staged by the unemployed workers, especially in the 1930s during the Great Depression. It took roughly four years to organise this. The first uprising started around 1933, and continued in 1934, '35, and '36.
The marches of unemployed people went into the street, in some cases actually occupied the factories, as we saw later with the Flint sit-down strike. So, there was massive unrest and disruption across the country, from both farmers and unemployed people. And what's interesting is, it was farmers who were in debt both in the 1890s and the 1930s. Today it is the students who are in debt, to a great extent, to large banks.
That energy was channeled into what we now know as the New Deal. Since the '30s, and especially starting in the '50s, '60s and '70s, the right actually claimed the label and mantra of populism, and they have successfully changed the entire discourse and politics of this country under populist rhetoric. New research shows that household income has declined more in the two years after the recession officially ended than it did during the recession itself. Money needs to flow from the top down, not from the bottom up.