Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ludlow Massacre

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I just read about an event in American History I'd never heard of before--The Ludlow Massacre. Basically, what happened was that in 1914, thousands of coal mine workers in Ludlow, Colorado went on strike against low pay, dangerous conditions, and feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.

When the strike began, the miners were evicted from their homes in the mining towns, they were attacked by men hired by the mining companies, the National Guard was sent in--not to protect the miners--but to help break the strike. In the end, corporate interests and the government won, and sixty-six men, women, and children had been killed.

Question: Why didn't I learn about this in school? Why didn't I learn more about class conflict in America in school? I suppose acknowledging that there is, and has always been, class conflict in America means doing away with the comfortable illusion that, in America, everyone is equal.

4 comments:

  1. If you haven't seen it yet, the documentary 'Harlan County' is a must see.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCiVMngILEI

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  2. It's things like this that make me wonder what on earth people are talking about when they say things are going downhill in society, morally. Jeez, lynchings, molestation, racism, sexism, all kinds of stuff has been wrong for a very long time and some of it is getting better.

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  3. The massacre occurred during a time in history when there were literally thousands of labor strikes going on across the country typically peopled by immigrant workers spurred by leftist labor leaders who sought justice and defied corporate paternalism.

    For a long time, this "affront" stupefied not only the absent mine owners but also local law enforcement so that, eventually, the movement grew so large and organized that the state militia and then the National Guard -- not to mention the notorious Pinkertons -- were brought in on the company dime to keep the peace, but they caused most of the mayhem.

    At the time, Ludlow was covered extensively by the local and national media (I did my thesis on this), but for all its storied layers, it, along with much of our labor history, was buried because of the apparent stain it left on the corporate/national consciousness. The whole labor movement was frequently (though only sometimes correctly) relegated to Bolshevist/red politics. This -- along with the shame of the lawless militia and mercenaries -- helped keep the story out the mainstream history books until Howard Zinn remembered it in his "People's History."

    Thanks for mentioning it -- it's a story that is close to my heart.

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  4. There is a John Sayles movie called Matewan that is about the 1920's west virgina coal miners efforts to organize. It has been awhile since I have seen it but it is pretty good.

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