Exceptional in Inferiority

American decline is the plan

In 1998, there was a general strike in Denmark that lasted for 11 days. Although the Internet was in its infancy then, I was working at Dow Jones at the time and had access to its subscription-based international wire service, where I could read daily reports on the strike.

That availability was not the contradiction it might seem, because these news services were intended for subscribers who worked in finance or other businesses — the corporate owners of the mass media lie as a matter of routine in content for the general public but will provide truthful reports to corporate leaders, who prefer to know what is actually happening so as to stay one step ahead. So when not rigging the office computers to scrawl “workers of the world unite” when the screen savers kicked in, my other tactic to stay sane in that inhumane office was to peruse the news wire. (I would soon quit Dow Jones without having a new job lined up, which tells you how wonderful it was to work there, although it was a good education in how finance capital functions.)

What vividly stood out for me was that the key demand of the Danish general strike was for a sixth week of mandatory paid vacation. A general strike, never mind one advancing such a goal, would be quite improbable in the United States, And needless to say, the corporate media would do its part to keep it that way as I recall not a single story managing to find its way into any newspaper. Ultimately, Danish workers did not get that sixth week, but did extract a couple of concessions when union leaders made a hurried deal with industrialists who were threatening to close their businesses and move elsewhere.

Workers in Denmark, along with many other European countries, are still legally entitled to five weeks of paid vacation. Danish workers additionally have nine paid holidays, making a total of 34 guaranteed paid days off per year.

For those of you scoring at home, that is 34 more days of guaranteed paid days off per year than working people in the United States.

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Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His first book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books and his second book, What Do We Need Bosses For?, is forthcoming from Autonomedia.

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