Joe Hill’s Ashes
WE NEVER FORGET
At Joe Hill’s funeral, sashes were worn by many in attendance with “WE NEVER FORGET” written on them in big bold capital letters. This slogan was also written on the program for the day’s events. A year later, the ashes were handed out to IWW delegates from every state of the USA (except Utah) and from countries all around the world. The envelopes also carried this slogan. The Labor Martyrs Project uses this slogan to honor all of our Labor Martyrs, quite certain that Fellow Worker Joe Hill would not mind.
The Labor Martyrs Project
By way of explaination, I’ll give the simple “what-when-where-&-who” first. “Why” is a bit harder to explain, and a lot more personal.
What: the The Labor Martyrs Project honors those who have died in the class struggle on the side of the working class, by remembering, at minimum, their names and ages.
When: 1877 through 1937.
Where: the United States. I wanted to include Canada and Mexico, but the more I learned, the more I realized that just the task of covering the labor martyrs of the USA was an immense project, probably beyond what any one person can accomplish. For example, some sources claim that there were more than 200 workers who died in labor conflicts just in year 1934 alone. Each and every one of them deserves to have their name recorded for history.
Who: that would be us, the working class. These are our martyrs who died in the struggle to give us and our children a better life.
At The Ludlow Monument
It all started when I picked up a book called Labor’s Untold Story. That was the first I ever heard of the Ludlow Massacre. I think this might have been about 1986. I didn’t have a car at that time, so I took a Greyhound bus out to Colorado. The bus driver didn’t want to drop me off at Ludlow because it wasn’t a scheduled stop, but I talked him into it. Took me 3 hours to walk back to Walsenburg, but that’s alright, I had a lot to think about. It is difficult to describe the feeling that I had standing at the foot of the Ludlow Monument. Just a few days ago, I came by this poem written by our very own Richard Myers (RIP), I could not describe the experience any better:
Helen and Gust of Ludlow
“He’s haunted by the memory
Of heroes that he could not save,
And it was Gust that drove the dray
Collecting children for the grave.”
I left. I went alone that night
Where miners and their families died.
I searched for answers in the pits
Where helpless children tried to hide.
I raged at phantoms on the hill
Whence gunfire ‘cross the plain had swept,
And then before the monument
I knelt down on the ground and wept.
I went back again for the 75th commemoration. That was on June 10, 1989, and of that date I am certain since Zeese Papanikolas was there and kindly signed my copy of Buried Unsung with the date and location (Ludlow.) I made that trip by Greyhound also, but that time I packed up my mountain bike, so I was able to get around a bit better. A very kind family put me up for the night, fed me, and we had a great visit. I loved all the folks I met in Walsenburg and Trinidad. The woman who ran the little history museum in Walsenburg was an incredible help. She directed me to the exact location where Mother Jones was held in the underground cell. I was able to go there and stand there for a little while. It had been turned into someone’s office, but no one seemed to mind me stopping by. A very kind shopkeeper boxed up my bike and even delivered it to the bus stop for my return trip home. I was only asking for a box, but he offered to take care of everything, and wouldn’t take any payment.
Well, this is turning into a ramble, but it is all part of how I became obsessed with Labor Martyrs. While in Trinidad on that visit, I rode my bike up to the cemetery. Again standing there where the martyrs are buried changed me. That I could be a working class union woman, and a Socialist to boot, and yet reach my 30s without ever hearing of them and what they went through upset me in a way that I can not describe. They deserve better from us than to be forgotten.
And from there I ate, slept, and dreamed labor history. Reading, taking notes. I never knew for sure what I would do with all those notes, boxes full of notes arranged mostly in chronological order, but they sure do come in handy now.
So the “Why” boils down to this: our labor martyrs deserve to be remembered by us. Each and every one. And remembered, at minimum, by their names and ages.
Memory and Class Consciousness
The Monument reads:
In Memory of
The men, women and children
Who lost their lives
In Freedoms’s Cause
At Ludlow, Colorado
April 20, 1914
Erected by the
United Mine Workers of America
“Tell the boys I died for my class.”
I won’t go into a long analysis here. Suffice to say that as we lose the memory of our history as a class, so goes our class consciousness. The heroes of the day understood that they were fighting for their class. From Joe Hill who writes in the Rebel Girl, “she is true to her class and her kind,” to Wesley Everest who went to his death saying “tell the boys I died for my class,” these workers understood that they were undertaking a struggle which was The Class Struggle. That they were up against a powerful and ruthless foe. They fought, not only for themselves, but for the Working Class as a whole and for the future generations of working people. They voiced this class conscious view over and over again in speeches, verse, and song. We owe them a debt that we can never repay. The very least we can do is to honor their memory.
The Unknown Worker Tag
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I kept researching and avoided actually publishing anything, hoping to find missing names. However, if I were to stick with that plan, the Project would never be published. Some names will probably never be found. And so I’ve created the [Unknown Workerhttp://www.dailykos.com/news/Unknown%20Worker] Tag. These Labor Martyrs will be honored by whatever information I can find about them . For example, in [this diaryhttp://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/06/1244695/-WE-NEVER-FORGET-August-3-1913-Bloody-Sunday-in-Wheatland-California], I could say that one was Puerto Rican and the other was an English “lad.” Here’s hoping that others will take this information and search further. Perhaps, their names can yet be discovered! When there names are found, the tag can be removed from that diary.
What Makes a Labor Martyr?
d. Nov 10, 1912
Most of the time this question is easy to answer. Workers go out on strike, and they are shot down in the streets, their union halls are raided and they are shot down in their own hall, or dragged out of the hall tortured and hung; they are put into filthy cold crowed jails, beaten and battered, and then refused medical care. Machine guns were very efficient means of murdering working people without much exertion on the part of the military, the police, the gunthugs, the deputies, etc. These are the easy cases to decide.
But what of workers driven to suicide through persecution? Or the lawyer who worked himself into an early grave with a bleeding ulcer on behalf of his unjustly convicted union clients? The old man kept in the same cold cellar cell as Mother Jones who got sick there and died soon after release? The young man, a neighbor to the Ludlow Tent Colony, who caught a stray bullet and was killed? Reasonable people can disagree on these questions. The answer as to who should be considered a Labor Martyr is not always completely clear.
“You ought to be out raising hell.”
[Hellraisers Journalhttp://www.dailykos.com/blog/Hellraisers%20Journal] is designed to keep me on track with the WE NEVER FORGET diaries. It’s less than perfect system. I’m still behind from when I went on vacation in August, and events are producing more and more Martyrs. Hellraisers is good at forcing me to work hard at catching up. Also, because of the Hellraisers diaries, I can simply write about the martyrs without going into the entire history of the strike. I’m not saying that I won’t write anymore diaries like [this onehttp://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/04/20/1083217/-WE-NEVER-FORGET-April-20-1914-The-Ludlow-Masscre] or [this onehttp://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/30/1092207/-WE-NEVER-FORGET-Spring-1912-The-San-Diego-Free-Speech-Fight], but the Martyrs didn’t always die in big events, they were often shot down casually here and there, and their names were lost to history. Those Martyrs deserve to be remembered also. And now, with Hellraisers giving the back-ground story, I can write these diaries with much less difficulty.
Hellraisers Journal will cover the period 1897 to (but not including) 1922, covering the life and times of Mother Jones. This will take 10 years (God willing and creek don’t rise.) These were the most active years of Mother Jones. This will cover 25 years of the 51 years that I want to eventually cover for the Labor Martyrs Project. And these are the years that I know the best, so, for me, that’s a good place to start.
[Today's Hellraisers Journal:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/13/1246838/-Hellraisers-Journal-Mother-Jones-Remembers-Virden-Martyrs-at-Union-Miners-Cemetery-in-Mt-Olive] “Mother Jones Remembers Virden Martyrs at Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mt Olive.”
Something’s gotta give!
And so, some of the readers of Hellraisers may have noticed that I’ve stopped covering modern day events. This is regrettable, but unavoidable if I’m going to keep up with the Labor Martyrs Project. A lot goes into research, reviewing, comparing sources, compiling and integrating my notes, etc. There are books on the shelf that need to be read, and many more books on my list to buy. As well as books I’ve already read that need to be reviewed as I write. Therefore, I’ve made the decision to focus exclusively on the Labor Martyrs Project which includes both Hellraisers Journal and WE NEVER FORGET.
I own the domain name WE NEVER FORGET as dot com and as dot org & a few others also. Eventually, I hope to republish everything to one of them (probably dot org.) This is way off in the future as I have zero expertise in web site building.
I want to thank everyone who has read my diaries, tipped & rec’d them, repub’d them, and invited me to join groups so that I can repub them myself. Special thanks to gooderservice, Brae, and ruleoflaw, Big Al, and others who visit every day or almost every day.
I Am a Union Woman-Leenya Rideout
[The bosses ride fine horses
While we walk in the mud.
Their banner is a dollar sign
While ours is striped with blood.
-Aunt Molly Jacksonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O25Oy0RsJkA]
Joe Hill’s Ashes:
Names of Ludlow Martyrs by Kossack [MKSinSAhttp://www.dailykos.com/user/MKSinSA],
for which I am eternally grateful!
The Ludlow Monument (with larger view):
Julius A Wayland:
Entire Poem by Richard Myers here:
Labor’s Untold Story
-by Richard O. Boyer & Herbert M. Morais
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979)
Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre
-by Zeese Papanikolas
U of Utah Press, 1982