Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Notations On Our World (Special Weekly Edition): Mindset


These 14 Small Mindset Shifts Will Change Your Life

For the most part, we can’t change the world. We can’t change the fundamental facts of existence–like the fact that we’re going to die. We can’t change other people.

Does that mean that everything is hopeless and permanently broken?

No, because although we have that extreme powerlessness in one sense, we have an incredible superpower in another: We can change how we think about things. We can change how we view them, how we orient ourselves to them.

That’s the essence of Stoicism, by the way. The idea that we don’t control what happens, but we do control ourselves. When we respond to what happens, the main thing we control is our mind and the story we tell ourselves.

So one way to think about Stoicism itself then is as a collection of mindset shifts for the many situations that life seems to thrust us in. Indeed, Seneca’s Letters, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and Epictetus’ Discourses are filled with passages, anecdotes, and quotes which force a shift in perspective.

Here are 14 that I have taken from the Stoics over the years that have changed my life. I think they’ll do the same for you.

Everything is an opportunity for excellence. The now famous passage from Marcus Aurelius is that the impediment to action advances action, that what stands in the way becomes the way. But do you know what he was talking about specifically? He was talking about difficult people! He was saying that difficult people are an opportunity to practice excellence and virtue–be it forgiveness or patience or cheerfulness. And so it goes for all the things that are not in our control in life. So when I find myself in situations big and small, positive or negative, I try to see each of them as an opportunity for me to be the best I’m capable of being in that moment. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are, we can always do this.

Every event has two handles, Epictetus said: “one by which it can be carried, and one by which it can’t. If your brother does you wrong, don’t grab it by his wronging, because this is the handle incapable of lifting it. Instead, use the other—that he is your brother, that you were raised together, and then you will have hold of the handle that carries.” Another way to say that is that there are multiple ways to look at every situation, multiple ways to determine how you’re going to react. Some of them are sturdy and some of them are not. Some are kind and resilient, some are not. Which will you choose? Which handle will you grab?

The world is dyed by the color of your thoughts. Marcus said, “The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes the color of your thoughts.” He also said, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” If you see the world as a negative, horrible place, you’re right. If you look for shittiness, you will see shittiness. If you believe that you were screwed, you’re right. But if you look for beauty in the mundane, you’ll see it. If you look for evidence of goodness in people, you’ll find it. If you decide to see the agency and power you do have over your life (which as we’ve said is largely in how we think), well, you’ll find you have quite a bit.

There is a tax on everything. Taxes aren’t just from the government. Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius, “All the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.” Annoying people are a tax on being outside your house. Delays are a tax on travel. Haters are a tax on having a YouTube channel. There’s a tax on money too–and the more successful you are, the more you pay. Seneca said he tried to pay the taxes gladly. I love that. After all, it’s usually a sign of a good problem. It means you had a killer year financially. It means you’re alive and breathing. You can whine about the cost. Or you can pay and move on.

Poverty isn’t only having too little. Of course, not having what you need to survive is insufficient. But what about people who have a lot…but are insatiable? Who are plagued by envy and comparison? Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca talk about rich people who are not content with what they have and are thus quite poor. But feeling like you have ‘enough’–that’s rich no matter what your income is.

Alive time or Dead time? This isn’t from the Stoics exactly, but close enough. Robert Greene once told me there were two types of time in life: Alive time and Dead time. One is when you sit around, when you wait until things happen to you. The other is when you are using that time productively, actively. You’re stuck at the airport–you don’t control that. You decide whether it’s alive time or dead time (you read a book, you take a walk, you call your grandmother). I had a year left on a job when Robert gave me that advice. I could have just sat on my hands. Instead, it was an incredibly productive period of reading and researching and filling boxes of notecards that helped me write The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy.

Anxiety isn’t escaped. It’s discarded. This was a breakthrough I had during the pandemic. Suddenly, I had a lot less to worry about. I wasn’t doing the things that, in the past, I told myself were the causes of my anxiety. I wasn’t having to get to a plane. I wasn’t battling traffic to get somewhere on time. I wasn’t having to prepare for this talk or that one. So you’d think that my anxiety would have gone way down. But it didn’t. And what I realized is that anxiety has nothing to do with any of these things. The airport isn’t the one to blame. I am! Marcus Aurelius actually talks about this in Meditations. “Today I escaped from anxiety,” he says. “Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.” It’s not your parents that are frustrating you. They’re just doing what they do. You are the source of the frustration. That’s a little frustrating, but it’s also freeing. Because it means you can stop it! You can choose to discard it.

It’s the surprise that kills you. Stuff is going to happen, but what makes it harder is when it catches us off guard. The unexpected blow lands heaviest, Seneca said. That’s why we should practice the art of premeditatio malorumessentially, a pre-mortem of the things that could happen in a day or a life. This takes the sting out of them in advance…it also lets us prepare and prevent. And for no one is this more important than parents and leaders. Seneca said that the one thing a leader is not allowed to say is, “Wow, I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

You can’t learn what you think you already know. Conceit, Zeno said, was the enemy of wisdom and learning. This was the essential worldview of Socrates, the hero of the Stoics. Think of Socrates’ method. He didn’t go around telling people anything. He went around asking questions. That’s how he learned so much and ended up becoming so smart. If you want to get smarter, stop thinking you’re so smart. If you want to learn, focus on all the things you don’t know. Humility, admission of ignorance–these are the starting points. This is the attitude that gets you further in life.

What good is posthumous fame? Marcus Aurelius knew he was famous. He knew they were building statues of him. He knew he would have a legacy. He also knew this was basically worthless. What good is posthumous fame, he asks in Meditations, when you’re not around to enjoy it?! He reminded himself too that you know, it’s not like the people in the future were going to be way better than the people alive right now–there will be idiots in the future too. What do I care about how many people read my books in 100 years? What matters is if I am doing my best right now, if I am taking pleasure and pride from doing my best right now. So stop trying to live forever by achieving all this greatness, stop trying to get more than you need, stop trying to perform for history. Do the good you can do now. Stop chasing something you will never touch. Legacy is not for you. You’ll be dead. Leave it to others.

People are just doing their job. I don’t just mean at work. After bumping into a particularly frustrating person, Marcus Aurelius asks himself, “Is a world without shamelessness possible?” No, he answers. “There have to be shameless people in the world. This is one of them.” This is just someone fulfilling their role. Seeing things this way not only prevents me from being surprised, but it makes me sympathetic. This person has a crappy job.It’s not fun to be them–they have to be one of the jerks that exist in the world. And then I remind myself that I am lucky that my job is to try to be a good person.

They don’t want you to be miserable. It’s strange that Stoics have the reputation for being unfeeling when Seneca wrote three very beautiful essays on loss and grief called Consolations. I read these essays whenever I lose someone or miss someone who I loved. Anyway, one of the lessons that hit me the most is when he is writing to the daughter of a now-deceased friend. He brings up a great point, basically saying, look, your dad loved you so much. Of course, he would be honored that you miss him, but do you think he would want his death to make you miserable? Would he want the mere mention of his name to bring you pain? No, that would be his worst nightmare. He would want you to be happy. He would want you to go on with your life. He wouldn’t want his memory to haunt you like a ghost–he would want the thought of him to bring you joy and happiness. Of course, we’re always going to feel sad when we lose someone, but then we can remind ourselves of this and try to smile too.

Opinions are optional. “Remember, you always have the power to have no opinion,” Marcus says. Do you need to have an opinion about the weather today–is it changing anything? Do you need to have an opinion about the way your kid does their hair? So what if this person likes music that sounds weird to you? So what if that person is a vegetarian? “These things are not asking to be judged by you,” Marcus writes. “Leave them alone.” Especially because these opinions often make us miserable! “It’s not things that upset us,” Epictetus says, “it’s our opinions about things.” The less opinions you have, especially about other people and things outside your control, the happier you will be. The nicer you’ll be to be around too.


The last one is the most powerful one, I think. And it’s about the thing we have the least amount of power and control over: the fact that we’re all going to die.

But the Stoics want us to think about it differently…

Death isn’t in the future. It’s happening now. It’s easy to see death as this thing that lies off in the distant future. It’s a fixed event that happens to us once…at the end. This is literally true but it’s also incorrect. “This is our big mistake,” as Seneca points out, “to think we look forward toward death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.”

It’s better to think of death as a process—something that is always happening. We are dying every day, he said. Even as you read this email, time is passing that you will never get back. That time, he said, belongs to death. Powerful, right? Death doesn’t lie off in the distance. It’s with us right now. It’s the second hand on the clock. It’s the setting sun. As the arrow of time moves, death follows, claiming every moment that has passed. What ought we do about it? The answer is live. Live while you can. Put nothing off. Leave nothing unfinished. Seize it while it still belongs to us.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week: A Lookback at the Other 9/11


Chile: The Complete Cooper File

On this 50th Anniversary of the Coup Everything in One Place

September 11, 2023

By Marc Cooper

I begin this link-laden note to you with a heartfelt explanation. I am fully aware that many of you who have subscribed and supported the Coop Scoop did not do so because you were interested only in Chile and its political history and yet you have been showered with a lot of related content over the past months. Bear with me a moment.

Fifty years ago today the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a brutal military coup that led to a 17 year long dictatorship. It took many lives and changed Chile forever.

It also changed me forever and that is why I ask your indulgence in producing so much content about Chile in this period. I was 22 years old. I was working as translator to Salvador Allende. My office was in the Palacia Moneda that was bombarded and rocketed by the Chilean Air Force. I went into hiding and was able to escape Chile 8 days after the coup thanks to the Mexican embassy and the United Nations.

I share with everybody else who survived those times a certain lingering and permanent trauma. For us, September 11, 1973 is the seminal day of our lives. We divide our lives in two. Before the Coup. After the Coup. And the publication of all this content definitely has a cathartic aspect.

With the 50th anniversary of the coup falling this year, this week, today, many of us felt compelled to get as much of this story out into the world as possible. As some of you know I have been compiling a “dig” — a collection— of Chile content on and sharing some of it here.

Today I am going to post all the links in I can here from my work and others regarding this 50th anniversary. Indulge me this one time. I might very well post another piece or two here in the coming days about the fall out from the anniversary but as of tomorrow I shift my focus back to domestic politics and will not overwhelm you much more with Chile content. I promise.

That said… here is everything you need to read and know about Chile as it marks the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile. Thanks for your support and indulgence.

Chilean Coup 1973: An Eyewitness History An hour long intimate interview with me done this week by British journalist Michael Goldfarb.

Talking Chile with Suzi Weissman. Podcast with me recorded this week.

Chile’s Utopia Has Been Postponed. This is the home page of my web package on This page aggregated MOST of what I produced this year on Chile and is almost a one-stop resource.

You can search thru the above link for individual stories but here I will break some out for you.

If Neoliberalism Was Born in Chile, Will It Die There? A podcast interview with me conducted earlier this year.

50 Years After His Coup: The Ghost of Pinochet Still Stalks ChileThe dead weight of Pinochet’s legacy on contemporary Chile. This story was published 10 days ago.

The DEFINITIVE history of the CIA in Chile. A comprehensive two part interview with leading Chile researcher PeterKornbluh. It’s a much more nuanced story that some believe. Part One. And Part Two.

The two part interview in Spanish is also appearing in Mexico this week at And it has been published in Chile in

Here are the links to the Spanish-Chilean version. Parte 1. And Parte 2.

The First Year of leftist President Gabriel Boric and How the Right Has Become Ascendant. Deeply reported this year during a month in Chile, I look at how the political situation in Chile has become inverted. A general uprising in 2019. A leftist government elected in 2021. And in 2023 the Right starts calling the shots.

Pinochet and Me: A Chilean MemoirAn excerpt from my book of the same title. This chapter details how I survived the coup itself and got out.

Two Allende Supporters, Two Nights in Jail and a Gun An essay detailing how I and writer Ariel Dorfman on separate occasions were arrested briefly during the last days of the Allende government and how we were treated by police. Not what you expect.

The Radical Walls of Santiago A photo/essay about the political murals of Santiago photographed by yours truly.

Suggested Books and Readings:

Before I list some books I STRONGLY recommend reading the latest essay by Ariel Dorfman in the New York Review of Books. If you are not a subscriber it’s well worth the 1$ to open it.


The below piece by my long time colleague John Dinges is also worth your time.

— First Person Singular: An Internationalist in Chile Fifty Years Ago By John Dinges, The Progressive

Now.. some books.

— Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir by Marc Cooper

— The Pinochet File by Peter Kornbluh

 The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents. By John Dinges

Magazine Reading

Marc Cooper: What The Final days of Allende Felt Like

I don’t have a link for this piece yet as it is being translated into Spanish for publication in Chile and Latin America. But I am going to further abuse the space offered by my newsletter to publish the entire (unedited) text. Here it is. And, yes, after this week we resume normal coverage of Donald Trump’s assault on reason and democracy.

Chile 1973: The Final Days

By Marc Cooper

A couple of weeks before the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende, who I was working for as his translator for publication, an Argentine friend who had earlier been my room mate came over to visit. His nome de guerre was Django. He had been a guerrilla fighter in the Argentine ERP and was exiled in Chile. His sister, who also wound up in Chile, had been one of the more celebrated Argentine political prisoners and she also had roomed at my apartment for a while.

Django sat, gazing out rather ruefully, over the sprawl of Santiago from my 17th floor living room window.  “Esto se va a la mierda,” he told me. “Son los ultimos dias.”  And with that he pulled a Browning 9mm semi automatic out from his jacket and said, adamantly: “They are not taking me alive. I have already checked out the Swedish Embassy and if I have to I will shoot my way into it when the coup comes.”

It was not a great shock at that point to hear anybody discuss the possibility or probability of a coup.  It’s just that nobody, at least nobody I knew, had any idea when it would come or what it would it look like.  I was among the naïve and the romantic who on the one hand believed an armed confrontation was probable and I assumed –or at least wished—that the Armed Forces would split and that a good number of the working class recruits would join the other side of the barricades and defend the democratic government against fascists.

As it turned out, there were never any barricades to join and while some pockets of the Army and Navy were ready to resist the coup, they were extinguished with great dispatch and never got any traction.   

It seemed to me at the time, to many others and to the Armed Forces that the die was cast for the overthrow of Allende some weeks earlier.  On June 29 1973, one small tank regiment, backed by a neo-fascist civilian group, staged a Keystone Kops attempted coup that went nowhere fast but did manage to kill 22 people.  While the movement to crush the attempt was underway, Allende took to the airwaves and called upon workers to seize and occupy their workplaces.  Allende no doubt meant this as a temporary defensive measure, but the Chilean workers didn’t. In the days and weeks following they refused to give back any factories and the political opposition was talking more openly about the coup. Chile’s productive forces were in the hands of organized but unarmed workers.

Then there was the faction of the Popular Unity government, the most moderate faction, led by the Chilean Communist Party, who seemed to believe that a coup, or a civil war, could be prevented by a chorus of slogans.  So for weeks we were inundated with Communist propaganda repeating No No No a La Guerra Civil, No!  This reached some rather tragicomic proportions when the CP organized a petition campaign against civil war (though I am not sure who those pleas were addressed to). Then the CP organized a TV marathon on Channel 9 of the University of Chile, again calling on people to oppose civil war. It made little sense to me.

Around that time, I paid a lunch visit to the legendary exiled Peruvian revolutionary Hugo Blanco to get his view on the impending clash.  He was direct and simple, “If you think it is going to rain,” he said. “It’s probably a good idea to get some umbrellas.”

President Allende and his divided cabinet did have a strategy to de-escalate.  After the failed June 29 coup attempt, Allende called upon the center—right (but moving ever rightward) Christian Democratic Party to commence a dialogue with the left with the aim of eventually entering as a minority partner in the government to broaden its base and stabilize the situation.  Allende pushed hard for this. So did the Communists.  But the left wing of Allende’s Socialist Party, another party called MAPU and the extra-parliamentary MIR opposed any dialogue and any compromise and instead called for re-enforcing organs of “popular power” or self-government and self-defense.  I was solidly in this faction and to be clinical about it, the only firearm I possessed was an Argentine .22 six shooter that I paid $6 for and probably would have blown up I had ever pulled the trigger.

In the end, the debate over compromise was all moot. After a sputtering beginning, the Christian Democrats broke off talks.  A few days later, in August 22nd, they signed a a joint public declaration with the extreme right National Party calling upon the military to take out the Allende government.  When the pro-democracy Commander in Chief of the Army, Carlos Prats, was forced to resign after he lost confidence of the corps of generals, it was obvious that a coup was right around the corner.  

But what to do?

On September 4, 1973 –the third anniversary of Allende’s election and one week before the coup—the left made its last great public appearance. As many as a million Chileans paraded for hours on end late into the night to the Moneda Palace as Allende waved from a balcony as they passed by.  The chants were almost uniform: Allende, Allende, El Pueblo Te Defiende! El Pueblo Armado Jamas Sera Aplastado!  Queremos Armas!

It was both a heroic and a pathetic scene. Heroic because here was Chile’s organized and massive left more than ready to fight and, yet, everybody knew there were no guns and no way to arm tens of thousands of workers. A week later the coup crushed the life out of the previous three years of the Chilean Revolution and the previous century of democratic rule.

Allende was not a fool. He was not indifferent to the risk he was taking. Nor was he naïve about what the consequences of failure would mean.  Those who don’t live in Chile have often been quick to slam Allende, asking why he did not arm the workers.  I am usually dumbfounded by such an enormously stupid question that generally comes from U.S. based café revolutionaries.  None of these critics could ever tell you three important details about such a “plan:” 1) Where were those million guns supposed to come from? How was the government supposed to acquire them without the military noticing? 2) How do you distribute and train those you armed. 3) And how do you defeat a professional and highly trained Army, Air Force, Navy and national militarized police especially when they know you are arming up and they want to strike first?

More to the point: peaceful revolution was not a tactical choice for Allende.  It was his life’s work and commitment. He first ran for president in 1958.  The parties that brought him to power had spent decades working and supporting the system.  And so it was for the two mainstays of his coalition – the Communists and the Socialists (even if the latter took on a more radical pose in the final year).  Allende functioned inside the parameters of the Cold War so he was not about to come out publicly and criticize the then-Stalinist states for being anti-democratic. But he made his own commitment to democracy an absolute value. And he should be admired, respected and celebrated for that as there are far too many leftists willing to condone the oppression and repression that was not only a trademark of the Soviet Union and China but also of Cuba and Vietnam.

After 50 years of reflection I have arrived at the same conclusion of many of my former friends and comrades who shared my no compromise view of 1973.  Allende had it right.  He was elected with 35% of the vote.  Almost three yrs later in bi-elections he won an amazing 44% in the midst of hyper inflation and political chaos.  But the Left was still a minority. And it meant that if guns had magically appeared, the only path to victory and stability would have been one more left wing dictatorship –something alien to Allende’s character and desires.  The only way out in 1973 was some sort of compromise with the Christian Democrats to broaden the base of the government and de-escalate.  Those of us who argued against were naïve. The Communists supported dialogue and while Allende was programmatically en sync with the CP he was not aligned with them ideologically and, frankly, they were a tough and sectarian group to get along with. Also. I, for one, am not willing to vouch for what kind of post-revolutionary society they aspired to as it was probably not quite the same as Allende’s.  

One can say that Salvador Allende was the veritable father of revolutionary democratic socialism, long before the emergence of its current, more moderate incarnation.  For that he should be center stage in the pantheon of Great Leftist Statesmen. 

P.S.  Ten years after the coup I found myself in Stockholm for a few days. I checked the phone book and there was Django’s number and address. He had made it. -++++

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

#OutsiderVibes (Special Edition): The Peacemaker

As the war in Ukraine rages on, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un Meet and  Coups ravage Africa, our team decided to feature a special edition of "Vibes" on our World: 

Monday, September 4, 2023

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week: Homo Deus: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOMORROW with Yuval Noah Harari & Other Thoughts

As September Looms, we present a snapshot of history courtesy of Professor Harrari, Professor Richardson, and Professor Cooper as we look forward to the privilege to serve:


On March 4, 1858, South Carolina senator James Henry Hammond rose to his feet to explain to the Senate how society worked. “In all social systems,” he said, “there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life.” That class, he said, needed little intellect and little skill, but it should be strong, docile, and loyal. 

“Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization and refinement,” Hammond said. His workers were the “mud-sill” on which society rested, the same way that a stately house rested on wooden sills driven into the mud. 

He told his northern colleagues that the South had perfected this system by enslavement based on race, while northerners pretended that they had abolished slavery. “Aye, the name, but not the thing,” he said. “[Y]our whole hireling class of manual laborers and ‘operatives,’ as you call them, are essentially slaves.” 

While southern leaders had made sure to keep their enslaved people from political power, Hammond said, he warned that northerners had made the terrible mistake of giving their “slaves” the vote. As the majority, they could, if they only realized it, control society. Then “where would you  be?” he asked. “Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided, not…with arms…but by the quiet process of the ballot-box.” 

He warned that it was only a matter of time before workers took over northern cities and began slaughtering men of property. 

Hammond’s vision was of a world divided between the haves and the have-nots, where men of means commandeered the production of workers and justified that theft with the argument that such a concentration of wealth would allow superior men to move society forward. It was a vision that spoke for the South’s wealthy planter class—enslavers who held more than 50 of their Black neighbors in bondage and made up about 1% of the population—but such a vision didn’t even speak for the majority of white southerners, most of whom were much poorer than such a vision suggested. 

And it certainly didn’t speak for northerners, to whom Hammond’s vision of a society divided between dim drudges and the rich and powerful was both troubling and deeply insulting.

On September 30, 1859, at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair, rising politician Abraham Lincoln answered Hammond’s vision of a society dominated by a few wealthy men. While the South Carolina enslaver argued that labor depended on capital to spur men to work, either by hiring them or enslaving them, Lincoln said there was an entirely different way to see the world.  

Representing an economy in which most people worked directly on the land or water to pull wheat into wagons and fish into barrels, Lincoln believed that “[l]abor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed—that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior—greatly the superior of capital.” 

A man who had, himself, worked his way up from poverty to prominence (while Hammond had married into money), Lincoln went on: “[T]he opponents of the ‘mud-sill’ theory insist that there is not…any such things as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life.”

And then Lincoln articulated what would become the ideology of the fledgling Republican Party: 

“The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account for another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor—the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all—gives hope to all, and energy and progress, and improvement of condition to all.” 

In such a worldview, everyone shared a harmony of interest. What was good for the individual worker was, ultimately, good for everyone. There was no conflict between labor and capital; capital was simply “pre-exerted labor.” Except for a few unproductive financiers and those who wasted their wealth on luxuries, everyone was part of the same harmonious system. 

The protection of property was crucial to this system, but so was opposition to great accumulations of wealth. Levelers who wanted to confiscate property would upset this harmony, as Hammond warned, but so would rich men who sought to monopolize land, money, or the means of production. If a few people took over most of a country’s money or resources, rising laborers would be forced to work for them forever or, at best, would have to pay exorbitant prices for the land or equipment they needed to become independent. 

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Lincoln’s day, but on this Labor Day weekend, it strikes me that the worldviews of men like Hammond and Lincoln are still fundamental to our society: Should our government protect people of property as they exploit the majority so they can accumulate wealth and move society forward as they wish? Or should we protect the right of ordinary Americans to build their own lives, making sure that no one can monopolize the country’s money and resources, with the expectation that their efforts will build society from the ground up? 


Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond (New York: John F. Trow & Co., 1866), at

Abraham Lincoln, September 30, 1859, “An Address by Abraham Lincoln Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair.” 

Almost one hundred and forty-one years ago, on September 5, 1882, workers in New York City celebrated the first Labor Day holiday with a parade. The parade almost didn’t happen: there was no band, and no one wanted to start marching without music. Once the Jewelers Union of Newark Two showed up with musicians, the rest of the marchers, eventually numbering between 10,000 and 20,000 men and women, fell in behind them to parade through lower Manhattan. At noon, when they reached the end of the route, the march broke up and the participants listened to speeches, drank beer, and had picnics. Other workers joined them.

Their goal was to emphasize the importance of workers in the industrializing economy and to warn politicians that they could not be ignored. Less than 20 years before, northern men had fought a war to defend a society based on free labor and had, they thought, put in place a government that would support the ability of all hardworking men to rise to prosperity. 

By 1882, though, factories and the fortunes they created had swung the government toward men of capital, and workingmen worried they would lose their rights if they didn’t work together. A decade before, the Republican Party, which had formed to protect free labor, had thrown its weight behind Wall Street. By the 1880s, even the staunchly Republican Chicago Tribune complained about the links between business and government: “Behind every one of half of the portly and well-dressed members of the Senate can be seen the outlines of some corporation interested in getting or preventing legislation,” it wrote. The Senate, Harper’s Weekly noted, was “a club of rich men.” 

The workers marching in New York City carried banners saying: “Labor Built This Republic and Labor Shall Rule it,” “Labor Creates All Wealth,” “No Land Monopoly,” “No Money Monopoly,” “Labor Pays All Taxes,” “The Laborer Must Receive and Enjoy the Full Fruit of His Labor,” ‘Eight Hours for a Legal Day’s Work,” and “The True Remedy is Organization and the Ballot.” 

The New York Times denied that workers were any special class in the United States, saying that “[e]very one who works with his brain, who applies accumulated capital to industry, who directs or facilitates the operations of industry and the exchange of its products, is just as truly a laboring man as he who toils with his hands…and each contributes to the creation of wealth and the payment of taxes and is entitled to a share in the fruits of labor in proportion to the value of his service in the production of net results.”

In other words, the growing inequality in the country was a function of the greater value of bosses than their workers, and the government could not possibly adjust that equation. The New York Daily Tribune scolded the workers for holding a political—even a “demagogical” —event. “It is one thing to organize a large force of…workingmen…when they are led to believe that the demonstration is purely non-partisan; but quite another thing to lead them into a political organization….” 

Two years later, workers helped to elect Democrat Grover Cleveland to the White House. A number of Republicans crossed over to support the reformer, afraid that, as he said, “The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor…. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters.” 

In 1888, Cleveland won the popular vote by about 100,000 votes, but his Republican opponent, Benjamin Harrison, won in the Electoral College. Harrison promised that his would be “A BUSINESS MAN’S ADMINISTRATION” and said that “before the close of the present Administration business men will be thoroughly well content with it….” 

Businessmen mostly were, but the rest of the country wasn’t. In November 1892 a Democratic landslide put Cleveland back in office, along with the first Democratic Congress since before the Civil War. As soon as the results of the election became apparent, the Republicans declared that the economy would collapse. Harrison’s administration had been “beyond question the best business administration the country has ever seen,” one businessmen’s club insisted, so losing it could only be a calamity. “The Republicans will be passive spectators,” the Chicago Tribune noted. “It will not be their funeral.” People would be thrown out of work, but “[p]erhaps the working classes of the country need such a lesson….”

As investors rushed to take their money out of the U.S. stock market, the economy collapsed a few days before Cleveland took office in early March 1893. Trying to stabilize the economy by enacting the proposals capitalists wanted, Cleveland and the Democratic Congress had to abandon many of the pro-worker policies they had promised, and the Supreme Court struck down the rest (including the income tax).

They could, however, support Labor Day and its indication of workers’ political power. On June 28, 1894, Cleveland signed Congress’s bill making Labor Day a legal holiday.    

In Chicago the chair of the House Labor Committee, Lawrence McGann (D-IL), told the crowd gathered for the first official observance: “Let us each Labor day, hold a congress and formulate propositions for the amelioration of the people. Send them to your Representatives with your earnest, intelligent indorsement [sic], and the laws will be changed.”


New York Times, September 6, 1882, p. 8.

New York Times, September 6, 1882, p. 4.

New York Daily Tribune, September 7, 1882, p. 4.

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Coop Scoop: Chile --50 Yrs After the First 9/11

Pinochet"s Ghost Has Been Reanimated



By Marc Cooper

Coverage of the presidential/politico/legal fiasco will resume again later this week on the Coop Scoop…so get your shovels, nose clips and Wellington Boots ready!

But today, I am delighted to announce that after beginning work back in January I have now virtually completed my “journalistic dig” on Chile 50 years after the September 11 Pinochet coup. It’s been a painful sometimes PTSD-influenced journey but one worthwhile.

Having been Salvador Allende’s translator and having survived the coup, I felt it my moral duty to take on this bear of a project and I am glad I did.

My final long form piece has just gone live on where you can also find the mini-cornucopia of reporting, photos and other content that comprise “the dig.”

Here’s my chunky piece on the weight of Pinochet’s legacy, 17 years after his death, 33 years after he ceded power and a half century after his 1973 coup. The parallels between Chile and the US today are intentional!

A big thank you to Truthdig publisher Zuade Kaufman and Editor Alexander Zaitcheck as well to all those in Chile who lent their knowledge and experiences.

Click here—>The Other 9/11: A Ghost Story.

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