One very interesting aspect of the actual history is the connection between sponsored right-wing labor unions and the imposition of cars-first infrastructure.
Take the case of Dave Beck, the President of the Teamsters union who preceded the infamous Jimmy Hoffa. When Eisenhower asked his old buddy Lucius Clay to head a Presidential Commission to organize automotive-industrial capitalists to ram through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, Clay appointed five cronies to what quickly became known as the Clay Committee.
Dave Beck was one of those five appointees.
Mr. Beck’s Wikipedia page makes it rather clear why he was asked to help formulate the plan for completing the last major segment of the cars-first project. Beck, who had risen to power as a successful opponent of political unionism, had impeccable credentials:
In 1937, Beck formed the Western Conference of Teamsters as a means of counteracting the [complacent] leadership of Joint Councils in San Francisco. Beck persuaded Teamsters president Daniel J. Tobin that the Western Conference of Teamsters was no threat to the power and authority of the international union. Harry Bridges, leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), had led a successful four-day strike in 1934. Bridges was now leading “the march inland”—an attempt to organize warehouse workers away from shipping ports. Beck was alarmed by Bridges’ radical politics and worried that the ILA would encroach on Teamster jurisdictions. But Teamster joint councils in Los Angeles and other California ports seemed unconcerned. As an end run around the complacent joint councils, Beck formed a large regional organization. Beck engaged in fierce organizing battles and membership raids against the ILA, effectively stifling the “march inland.” The Western Conference of Teamsters, and Beck, emerged significantly stronger from these battles.
Beck became Teamsters national president in 1952 and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1953 — i.e. right at the pinnacle of the Red Scare. However, by 1957 (a year after the Clay Committee had finished its work with total success), Beck’s history of embezzling from his own union had become a matter of public knowledge. Having reduced the already anemic level of democracy inside the Teamsters union, Beck opted not to seek another term as its head. He was sent to federal prison for tax evasion in 1962.
Such is the stuff of the “labor” voice of the Clay Committee.
Meanwhile, contemplate the way in which Beck ended it all:
After his release from prison, Beck lived in a basement in a house he himself had built for his mother and sister in the 1940s. He retained his $50,000-a-year Teamster president’s pension and became a multimillionaire investing in parking lots.
I’ll say it again: Orwell couldn’t surpass this real-world material.
Mainstream history insists that the United States got cars-first transportation because the people spontaneously demanded it. The masses saw the automobile, and insisted on re-building the nation to facilitate it. “Americans are having a love affair with the car,” so the story goes, is all anybody needs to know about the origins of the present.
But here’s the thing: The peddlers of this tale never provide any serious evidence that this is how things actually happened. Why is that?
Here at DbC, we hold that the reason nobody provides details in support of the “love affair” thesis is that it is impossible to do so, since popular demand has never, in fact, been the leading force in the shaping of transportation policy and infrastructure in America.
All along, the actual reality has been corporate capitalist dictation of such policy and infrastructure.
Consider, for instance, the words of Lucius D. Clay, “Eisenhower’s man” in the effort to ram through funding for the Interstate Highway System in the mid-1950s. Clay, at the time a member of General Motors’ Board of Directors, explained his actions as follows:
We are indeed a nation on wheels and we cannot permit these wheels to slow down. Our mass industries must have moving supply lines to feed raw materials into our factories and moving distribution lines to carry the finished product to store or home. Moreover, the hands which produce these goods and the services which make them useful must also move from home to factory to store to home.
Our highway system has helped make this possible.
To me, the importance to the national economy of this modern highway system outweighs all other reasons why it should be built.
All I can say is that 10 years from now we’ll have 80 million motor vehicles-and we better have the roads. Because if we don’t have the roads, we may not have the 80 million vehicles. And that, I think, would be very unfortunate for the whole country.
If we don’t build the roads, we may not have the cars.
Hardly the words of somebody operating in a situation where the masses are clamoring for more automobiles, is it?
“He [Eisenhower] felt that it [accepting the legitimacy of Iran's overwhelmingly popular elected government in 1953]…might have grave effects on United States oil concessions in other parts of the world.” (Minutes of March 11, 1953 White House Meeting of the National Security Council)
Having already authorized Operation Ajax, “President Eisenhower did not wish to hear details of covert operations, so did not attend [further] meetings” about its implementation. (All the Shah’s Men, p. 164)
A brave hero of democracy and freedom and chain-of-responsibility, indeed.
P.S. Any American who runs his or her mouth about the Middle East without first obtaining serious knowledge of Operation Ajax is a hypocrite, a fool, and simply unqualified to make any sound on the topic.
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