Class Warfare Blog

April 16, 2018

Why Labor History Is Not in Our Schools

Filed under: The Unions — Steve Ruis @ 2:01 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I remember a years long battle to get labor history included in high school curricula. It failed miserably. It continues to fail miserably, not because that history isn’t relevant to today’s world, but because it is.

Allow me to share some quotes from an article in Appalachian Magazine:

In 1921, black, white and immigrant mineworkers took up arms to battle the coal companies that controlled and exploited every aspect of their lives. United, they wore red bandannas to identify each other in battle. They called themselves the “Redneck Army”.

The West Virginia mine wars were the bloodiest labor conflict in American history. Culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, more than 10,000 miners marched from the Kanawha valley toward Mingo to join other striking miners in protest. In their way stood the Logan county sheriff, Don Chafin, who was in the pocket of big coal – a $32,000 payoff each year, roughly $400,000 in today’s dollars.

Chafin commanded a private army of more than 2,000 mercenaries and multiple airplanes equipped to drop bombs on workers. Siding with Chafin and the coal bosses, President Warren G Harding sent federal troops too, armed with gas and more planes (the fourth time that troops had been called in to squash organized miners in the mountain state).

The miners proved what we know today: there is nothing more frightening to a coal boss or corrupt politician than a courageous, united, multi-ethnic coalition of working men and women.

In the coal camps, black people found segregated housing and schools, and lower pay. Operators preferred to break strikes by importing black workers, to sow discord among the races. But by the 1910s, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) was fighting for pay equality, and requiring an oath from every member not to discriminate against any fellow member by “creed, or color, or nationality”.

Its first paid organizer in West Virginia was a black man. Miners swore an oath to each other, across “class or creed”. An early planning committee consisted of three officers: one white person born in West Virginia, one Italian immigrant and one black person.

One miner remarked: “I call it a darn solid mass of different colors and tribes, blended together, woven together, bound, interlocked, tongued and grooved together in one body.”

Do you see why “certain people” will not allow our youths to learn about the labor history of the last century? And as was not said at the end of LooneyTunes cartoons “And That’s Not All, Folks!”

December 9, 2016

The Russian Slur Returns!

When I was young, the most common slur used to brand those one disdained was to call them a communist. (You dirty commie!) Now it seems we are again using Russia as a pejorative.

The most overt such case occurred last month when the Washington Post gave a glowing front-page shout out to an anonymous online blacklist of hundreds of American websites, from marginal conspiracy sites to flagship libertarian and progressive publications. That anonymous website argued that all of them should be investigated by the federal government and potentially prosecuted under the Espionage Act as Russian spies, for wittingly or unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda.

Once again, the Russians/Commies are the bad guys.

Interestingly, as I learn more of history, our tendency to use Russia as a whipping boy has a long history. Take, for example, the aftermath of World War II. Without heroic efforts on the part of communist Russia, half the world would be speaking German now. Russia suffered horrifically from the German invasion. Tens of millions of Russians died from combat-related events and tens of millions more died from deprivation. President Roosevelt and Josef Stalin had an agreement that the U.S. would help Russia recover after the war. But then Roosevelt up and dies and then Truman is President. (Truman replaced Wallace as VP because Wallace was too progressive for the likes of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Remember the Dixiecrats and all them other conservative Dems?) Truman blew off Roosevelt’s promise and told Russia to go fend for itself even though we ponied up big time to rebuild Europe. The reason? Russia was spying on us because we had the atomic bomb. They felt that if the U.S. were the only country to have “the Bomb” then it would become a de facto global dictator (as we had “the Big Stick”). Plus our refusal to honor our promise of post-war help proved our untrustworthiness. But, guess what? The Russians weren’t the only country spying on us for atomic secrets. They were just one of many. (Also remember that communism and socialism were considered “threats to democracy” and were anathema to all conservatives then (as now). And, I have to wonder if any of that would have played out had Wallace succeeded Roosevelt.)

By and large the post-war “red Scare” was trumped up from real and imagined material and turned Russia from an ally into an enemy.

And now we are doing it again. Most of the anti-Russian propaganda currently being stated is just that, propaganda. And, it turns out that the website WaPo heralded, as mentioned above, apparently has links to the CIA and Ukrainian fascists. Plus the website author admits he just made up the list of “treasonous, fake news” websites. Sheesh!

Don’t we ever learn?

Fear is now the most common tool used to sway electorates. Real fears, such as the fear of the effects of Climate Change are pooh-poohed because the plutocrats do not want that particular fear motivating folks. And when no real source of useful fear can be had, made-up fears are entirely adequate. (The Mexican rapists are coming, the rapists are coming! The Russians are trying to fix our elections!) So, Republican attempts to fix our elections are swept under the rug, but the Russians, the Russians … !

I just realized that this blog is probably going to be added to the list of treasonous websites! Oh well, in for a penny….

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