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Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Annie Clemenc and the Italian Hall Massacre by JayRaye

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Annie Takes Up Her Flag

Ana K Clemenc
Ana K Clemenc

On July 23, 1913, 9,000 copper miners of the Keweenaw laid down their tools and walked off the job. The were led by the great Western Federation of Miners, and they had voted by a good majority for a strike: 9,000 out of 13,000 The main issue were hours, the miners wanted an eight hour day, wages, and safety. The miners hated the new one-man drill which they called the “widow-maker.” They claimed this drill made an already dangerous job more dangerous.

The mining companies had steadfastly refused to recognize the Western Federation of Miners in anyway. They would continue to refuse all efforts at negotiation or arbitration, even those plans for arbitration which did not include the union, and this despite the best efforts of Governor Ferris, and the U. S. Department of Labor. James MacNaughton, general manger of Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, famously stated that grass would grow in the streets and that he would teach the miners to eat potato parings before he would negotiate in any way with the striking miners.

The Keweenaw Peninsula was a cold, windy place, jutting out into Lake Superior from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This area was known as the Copper Country of Michigan and included Calumet Township of Houghton County, with the twin towns of Hancock and Houghton ten miles to the south. Calumet Township included the villages of Red Jacket and Laurium.

It was here in Red Jacket, on the third day of the strike that Annie Clemenc, miner’s daughter and miner’s wife took up a massive America flag and led an early morning parade of 400 striking miners and their families. Annie Clemenc was six feet tall, and some claimed she was taller than that by two inches. The flag she carried was so massive that it required a staff two inches thick and ten feet tall. The miners and their supporters marched out of the Italian Hall and through the streets of the Red Jacket to the Blue Jacket and Yellow Jacket mines. They marched silently, without a band, lined up three and four abreast. These early morning marches, with Annie and her flag in the lead, were to become a feature of the strike.

Picket Duty Honored in Spite of Danger

Strikers' march, MI copper strike 1913

Early on in the strike, MacNaughton put extreme pressure on Sheriff Cruse to request that the Governor send in the National Guard. MacNaughton was a member of the Houghton County Board, a Board dominated by mine operators. Sheriff Cruse owed his job to this board, and Cruse obeyed MacNaughton’s order. The entire Michigan National Guard was sent into the strike zone, over 2,000 men. The County Board also contracted with the Waddell-Mahon strikebreaking agency from New York. Soon private gunthugs began pouring into the Keweenaw. These thugs worked hand-in-hand with Cruse, although, technically he was prevented from deputizing them according to Michigan state law. Scores of mine bosses and scabs were deputized and armed, however, 1700 in all, by some accounts

The early morning parades, which the strikers and their families regarded as picket duty, became much more dangerous. Nevertheless the parades continued. Every morning at 6 a. m. as the scabs were going to work in the mines, they were forced to face the fellow workers whom they were betraying. On Sundays, the parades were held later, after church, with everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Annie came dressed all in white. Streamers flowed down from the mast of her flag on each side and were held by little girls, also dressed in white.

Ana Clemenc, a Young Leader

Socialist Party Pin
Socialist Party Pin

Annie was born to George and Mary Klobuchar on March 2, 1888 in Red Jacket, the first of five children born to the couple. Her parents were Slovenian immigrants; her father worked in the copper mines. In May of 1906, at the age of 18, she married Joe Clemenc, a copper miner like her father. They made their home in Red Jacket not far from Annie’s parents and the two younger brothers still living at home. The entire extended family was active in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

In 1910, Annie was elected President of the People’s Slovenian Women’s Lodge #128 of the SNJP, Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota (Slovene National Benefit Society.) She was only 22 years old at the time. She would continue as President of Lodge #128 until 1914, listed in the records as Ana Clemenc, President. Annie was also a member of the JSZ, Jugoslojvanska Socialisticna Zveza (Yugoslav Socialist Federation) which was affiliated with the Socialist Party of America. There are photos of Annie during the strike, wearing her Socialist Party pin.

From Proletarec

Poletarec

The editor of Proletarec (Proletarian), Frank Savs, came from Chicago to the strike zone to cover the strike. Proletarec was the official voice of the JSZ. This story, by “Striker,” was published September 2nd:

The women who carried flags in front of us, they laughed out loud every time the soldiers got mixed up; their screams and claps echoed throughout the city.

We noticed one morning, when we were going to march, the Waddell bastards driving around fast in cars-the deputy superintendent riding with them-going from mine to mine and gathering together scabs, who were dressed in overalls and carrying their lamps. They collected around 40 scabs and showed them to us by the road, thinking it would take away our courage. But they got it badly wrong. When we marched past them and their bosses, we began to laugh heartily and make fun of them. We asked one another, so that the bosses could hear: “Where’s the one thousand and two thousand scabs, the mine owners always talk about? Are these all you can show?”

After completing the march we went to the Italian Hall. Organizer Strizic suggested that women now speak in various languages, which we approved with applause. Ana Klemenc and Katarina Junko spoke in Slovenian.

Mrs. Klemenc recommended that the women should make the effort with all our strength to help our husbands in the battle to victory, because victory will also benefit women and children. Degenerate men, scabs, will fail the women and children…

a translation

ARRESTED AND RELEASED TO CHEERING

Women on the picket line, MI copper strike 1913
Women With Their Fighting Clothes On

Annie was arrested Wednesday, September 10th, in Calumet along with five other women. As they attempted to convince a miner not to go back to work, the women were accosted by Cruse’s deputies. The women fought back against the deputies but were, eventually, arrested. Three hundred supporters followed behind the women as they were taken to the Calumet jail. The crowd remained outside the jail for two hours, cheering loudly for their release.

The crowd followed the six women as they were taken to the court of Judge William Fisher, and the cheering began again as Annie, Maggie Aggarto, and the four other women were released on their own recognizance. The women came out of the court undaunted, shouting and clapping their hands. They marched down the street with their supporters following behind cheering and shouting.

The six women were ordered to appear again in court the next week.

“If this flag will not protect me, then I will die with it.”

Big Annie leads parade of striking copper miners.

Just days a few days later, Annie was found, back in the thick of the fight. On the following Monday morning, September 13th, she led a march of 1,000 strikers and many women supporters through the streets of Calumet as was her usual routine. At the corner of Eighth and Elm, they were confronted by the militia and armed deputies. A soldier on horseback used his saber to knock her flag from her grasp. A striker came to her aid and was pushed to the ground by another soldier who ripped the silk fabric of the flag as he slashed about with his sword.

Annie was also knocked to the ground. The flag was stomped into the mud by the horses of the guardsmen. Big Annie hung on to the flag as soldiers tried to take it from her, shouting:

Kill me! Run your bayonets and sabers through this flag and kill me, but I won’t move. If this flag will not protect me, then I will die with it.

Annie was rescued by other marchers and escaped with only a bayonet blow to the right wrist. The strikers’ march was driven back by soldiers on horseback and by the rifle butts of infantrymen. Deputies joined in on the attack swinging their clubs. The strikers and their supporters retreated to the Italian Hall with Big Annie and her flag, now muddied and slashed.

THE BEST WEAPONS

1913 MI National Guard on Horseback

On Wednesday October 1st, Annie was arrested yet again, this time by a Major Harry Britton. Annie was marching at the head of 400 strikers, carrying her huge American flag as usual. They were on their way to perform picket duty at the mines when they were stopped by deputies and cavalrymen with Major Britton in command.

Major Britton attempted to arrest Annie, claiming she spit at a scab. When the Major used his sword to beat back a striker who came to Annie’s aid, other strikers joined in the fray. Cavalrymen then charged into the midst of the strikers. Major Britton bragged:

Excited horses prancing about are the best weapons.

He describe the results with satisfaction:

..a striker with his head bleeding, blood flowing down over his shirt, [was] half-staggering along the road.

Annie was arrested along with nine others. Annie was released the next day, and went immediately to union headquarters to lead another strikers’ march with her immense American flag.

“Woman’s Story”

Miners Bulletin

This account of picked duty was written by Annie Clemenc and published October 2nd on the front pate of the Miners’ Bulletin, the official voice of the W. F. of M. within the strike zone:

At Seventh Street Tuesday morning a party of strikers met a man with a dinner bucket. I asked him: “Where are you going, partner?” He replied: “To work.” “Not in the mine are you?” “You bet I am.” after talking with him a while his wife came and took him down the street. She seemed very much afraid.

He had just gone when a couple of Austrians came along with their buckets. I stepped up to one I knew: “O! George, you are not going to work, are You? Come, stay with us. Don’t allow that bad woman to drive you to work. Stick to us and we will stick to you.” He stepped back, willing to comply with my request.

Then the deputies came, caught him by the shoulder and pushed him along, saying: “You coward, are you going back because a woman told you not to go to work?” The deputies, some eight or ten of them, pulled him along with them.

A militia officer, I think it was General Abbey, said: “Annie, you have to get away from here.” “No, I am not going. I have a right to stand here and quietly ask the scabs not to go to work.”

I was standing to one side of the crowd and he said: “You will have to get in the auto.” “I won’t go until you tell me the reason.” Then he made me get in the auto. I kept pounding the automobile with my feet and asking what I was being taken to jail for. The officer said: “Why don’t you stay at home?” “I won’t stay at home, my work is here, nobody can stop me. I am going to keep at it until this strike is won.” I was kept in jail from six-thirty until twelve, then released under bond.

THE CHILDREN’S MARCH

PAPA IS STRIKING FOR US

On October 6th, Annie led a parade of 500 children through the streets of Calumet. These were the the children of copper miners who had been on strike for eleven long weeks. One little fellow carried a sign which sums up the entire struggle:

PAPA IS STRIKING FOR US

Many of the children were willing to face truancy charges in order to make this show of support for their fathers. The kept press was quick to seize on the story, declaring in lurid headlines:

YOUNG SYMPATHIZERS WITH STRIKING MINERS REFUSE TO STUDY

The fact that these young children were suffering hunger and deprivation had not bothered these same newspapers. Neither had they bothered themselves with worry over the fact that these same children often lost their fathers in mining accidents which were, tragically, all too frequent in Michigan’s Copper Country.

“Annie Clemenc, an American Joan of Arc”

In the October 8th edition of Day Book, N. D. Cochran profiled Annie. The article was written at the time that Annie was in jail:

I have met Annie Clemenc. I have talked with her. I have seen her marching along the middle of the street, carrying that great American flag. She is a striking figure, strong, with firm but supple muscles, fearless, ready to die for a cause.

A militia officer said to me, “If McNaughton could only buy Big Annie, he could break the strike.” I don’t believe all the millions of dividends taken out of the Calumet and Hecla mine could buy her.

I walked fully two miles with her…and I thought what glorious men and women America would produce if there were millions of mothers like Annie Clemenc. I thought that one Annie Clemenc, miner’s wife, was worth thousands of James McNaughtons.

Annie Clemenc is more of an American in my esteem than the spineless but well-meaning governor of Michigan. And as manhood goes, she’s more of a man in fighting quality, in sand, in courage, in heroism than Governor Ferris.

If Annie Clemenc is in that dirty little jail now, the American flag would be better off on top of that jail than over some courthouse. Where she is there is love of liberty and courage to fight for it. Annie Clemenc isn’t afraid to die.

This article was later reprinted in the Miners’ Bulletin, and in labor newspapers across the country. Big Annie Clemenc of Calumet was becoming a heroine to workers across the nation.

From the El Paso Herald:

STRIKERS PARADE IN FIERCE BLIZZARD
Calumet, Mich., Nov. 8.-During a fierce blizzard which brought between eight and ten inches of snow in the Calumet copper mining region today, the striking miners and their wives and daughters paraded in half a dozen towns. A party of 100 strikers, led by Mrs. Annie Clemenc, established pickets around mining properties here. Eighty were arrested on a charge of violating the federal court’s injunction against picketing. They were released on their own recognizance to appear in court next week.

From the Miners’ Bulletin

The story of Annie’s conviction was printed in the November 15th edition:

The case of Mrs. Annie Clemenc of Calumet charged with assault and battery (pushing an insulting scab off the sidewalk), tried in the circuit court at Houghton last week, resulted in her being found guilty as charged. The incident occurred at Calumet during the early days of the strike, and had it occurred at any other time would not have received passing notice, but during these turbulent times, a scab, being a very precious article must not be disturbed. Mrs. Clemenc has been under bonds since her preliminary hearing which will be maintained until she receives her sentence in January.

The names and addresses of the twelve men finding her guilty were also published.

Planning a Christmas Party for the Children

The Calumet Women’s Auxiliary had been organized in September. It was granted a charter as #15, and each woman who joined, became a card-carrying member of the Western Federation of Miners.The women soon began planning a Christmas party for the children of the strikers to be held on Christmas Eve at the Italian Hall in Red Jacket. The afternoon party for the children was to be followed by a party for the adults in the evening. As president of #15, Annie, took the lead in planning for the event, and she raised donations to buy gifts for the children. Candy, hats, mittens, and toys were purchased. For many of the striker’s children, these would be their only Christmas presents.

The Man Who Cried Fire

Citizens Alliance Button, Michigan Copper Strike 1913

The party began at 2 p. m. as planned. Elin Lesh was at the front door checking for union cards. At 3 p. m. went inside the hall to assist Annie at the stage. There was a Christmas program and, after that, the children where able to come onto the stage to get their presents. Annie and her helpers had some difficulty in getting the children to come onto the stage in an orderly way, and Annie warned the children to wait their turn. There was a lot of noise and confusion in the hall which was crowed with about 700 people, perhaps 500 of them children.

At about 4:40 pm, a man came up the stairs. On his left, at the top of stairs, were double doors leading into the main hall. He went through those doors, and just inside the main hall, he cried, “Fire, Fire.” The man then ran down the stairs, out of the building, and disappeared down the street. The man was wearing a hat pulled down low with the brim over his eyes; he had on a long coat with the collar pulled up, and on his coat was pinned a Citizens Alliance button. The Citizens Alliance was anti-union vigilante organization sponsored by the mine operators.

The cry of fire was picked up, and a panic started with a rush for the stairs which lead to the exit at the front of the building. Within just a few minutes that stairway was packed with party goers, many of them suffocating in the crush. The stairway was packed 6 feet deep at the bottom of the stairs, and for the entire length of the stairs-30 feet. The stairway was 5 feet 9 inches wide.

Silent Night

Italian Hall Massacre

Charles Meyers, who ran a shop downstairs was the first to arrive. He came through the front doors to the second doors at the bottom of the stairs. These doors were open and did not open inward, as so many now believe. Meyers could clearly see that people were trapped and suffocating. He attempted to pull some children free but that proved impossible. He made his way upstairs through a window and continued to assist with the rescue. Dominic Vairo came from his saloon downstairs and had very much the same experience.

The Red Jacket fire station received the first alarm at 4:45 pm, and the fire fighters were on the scene within a few minutes. The fire whistle was also used to call forth the mobs of the Citizens Alliance, the Waddell men, and the deputies. And soon the street outside of the Italian Hall was filled with gunthugs. Frantic relatives and friends of those inside also began to gather. There is no evidence that any of the gunthugs held the doors shut, but the deputies and Waddell men were none to gentle in the way in which they pushed back on the crowd. A Finnish man was severely beaten. Some inside the hall later stated that they thought the deputies had come to kill them all.

As Annie and the women at the stage realized the calamity that was upon them, they first attempted to quiet the panic, and then began to help with the rescue effort. The untangling of the bodies could only be done from the top of the stairs. It was long slow work, lasting for more than an hour. And when it was finished, the bodies of 62 children and 11 adults were laid out on the floor of the hall with some outside in the snow. Annie later remembered:

…a deputy gave me a child. I poured some water on it, but it was dead already.

Out on the street was big Joe Mihelchich kneeling in the snow and sobbing before the bodies of his three children, Paul-5, Agnes-7, and Elizabeth-9. Joe was well remembered as the giant who had tossed deputies around like toys as they tried to arrest him, threatening them and everyone in the vicinity with two lighted sticks of dynamite. He now shook with sobs as he stroked the faces of his dead children, a broken man.

The bodies were taken to the Red Jacket Village Hall, used as a temporary morgue, for identification. There were losses from the SNJP woman’s lodge, all friends of Annie: Mary Smuk lost her 5-year-old daughter, Mary Stauduhar lost her 7-year-old daughter, and Mary Cvetkovich lost her husband. Also, many of dead were members, or related to members, of Annie’s own local of the Women’s Auxiliary.

Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes

The mass funeral was held on December 28th. There was a shortage of coffins, especially for the children, and neighboring communities were contacted. Funerals were held at three Finnish churches, as well as an Italian church, a Croatian church, and a Slovenian church, most likely Annie’s. And then began the march to Lakeview Cemetery.

Estimates are that 50,000 took part in the march to the cemetery. Annie led the way carrying her flag, now draped with black crepe. Snow began to fall as they marched. Church bells could be heard from near and far, tolling for the dead. The little white caskets were covered in flowers. It is said that the weeping from the cemetery could be heard in the town, two miles away.

Fifty men came marching behind the caskets, chanting “Nearer My God to Thee” in the old style of the Cornwall mining districts. There was a band at end of the march. The entire length of the road to the cemetery was lined with mourners, many brought from other towns by special coach.

The dead were laid to rest with eulogies in Finnish, Austrian, English, and Croatian. E. A. McNally, attorney for the strikers, gave a long address. He spoke for all, the living and the dead, when he said:

It is not charity we want; it is justice.

A newspaper later describe Annie at the graveside:

Up above the strikers stood Annie Clemenc, girl leader of the miners. She was not the usual militant Annie Clemenc. She was saying a prayer for the children.

SOURCES

Tall Annie
-by Virginia Law Burns
MI, 1987

Big Annie of Calumet
-by Jerry Stanley
NY, 1996

Death’s Door
The Truth Behind Michigan’s Larges Mass Murder

-by Steve Lehto
MI, 2006

Annie Clemenc
& the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike

-by Lyndon Comstock
SC, 2013

Miners’ Bulletin
“Published by authority of
Western Federation of Miners
to tell the truth regarding
the strike of the copper miners.”
-of Oct 2, 1913
-of Nov 15, 1913

El Paso Herald
(El Paso, TX)
-of Nov 9, 1913

Photos:

Annie with Her Flag

http://thelaborhalloffame.org/liuzzo-clemenc-and-dubrow-2013-induction-group-labor%E2%80%99s-international-hall-fame

Marchers in Sunday Best

http://digarch.lib.mtu.edu/showbib.aspx?bib_id=646270#

Socialist Party Pin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Party_of_America

Proletarec

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-English_press_of_the_Socialist_Party_of_America

The Fighting Woman of Copper Country 1913

http://www.pasty.com/reflections/id329.htm

Annie with Her Flag Leading Parade

http://thelaborhalloffame.org/labor%E2%80%99s-intl-hall-fame-inductee-%E2%80%9Cbig-annie%E2%80%9D-clemenc-be-honored-national-park-service-calumet-michiga

1913 MI National Guard on Horseback

http://www.pasty.com/reflections/id357.htm

Miners’ Bulletin

http://www.1913strike.mtu.edu/tumult.html

PAPA IS STRIKING FOR US

Children's Parade, Calumet Copper Miners Strike -- RPPC by Calumet New Studio, Calumet, Michigan.

I believe that this photo was from The Calumet and Red Jacket News,

http://michigannewspaperhistory.pbworks.com/w/page/20854465/Houghton%20County

Strikers Marching in Snow
Note: photo dated Feb 1914, used here to represent
strikers marching in spite of cold and snow.

http://coppercountry.wordpress.com/page/3/

The Tyomies Publishing Company places the photo in Hancock.

http://www.ihrc.umn.edu/research/vitrage/all/to/ihrc2635.html

Citizens Alliance Button

http://www.copperrange.org/strike.htm

The Children’s Bodies at the Red Jacket Village Hall

http://www.pasty.com/reflections/id256.htm

Small White Coffins

http://www.pasty.com/reflections/id258.htm

[Lully, Lullayhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rt8znceI-8#t=21]

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Hellraisers Journal, The Labor Martyrs Project, and WE NEVER FORGET by JayRaye

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Back of Envelope Containing
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

The Ludlow Monument
The Ludlow Monument

“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

Wesley Everest
“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?

Julius Wayland
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.

Hellraisers Journal

Mother Jones,
“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.

Future Plans

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.

Solidarity,
JayRaye

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]

Photos:

Joe Hill’s Ashes:

http://levantium.com/2011/09/05/gilded-age-barons-labor-day-2011/

Names of Ludlow Martyrs by Kossack [MKSinSAhttp://www.dailykos.com/user/MKSinSA],
for which I am eternally grateful!

The Ludlow Monument (with larger view):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ludlow_Monument_Cropped.jpg

Wesley Everest:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAeverest.htm

Julius A Wayland:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAwaylandJ.htm

Entire Poem by Richard Myers here:

http://www.workingclassheroes.me/?p=2182

Books Mentioned:

Labor’s Untold Story
-by Richard O. Boyer & Herbert M. Morais
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979)

Buried Unsung
Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre

-by Zeese Papanikolas
U of Utah Press, 1982

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We Need to Support Walmart Workers’ #Ride4Respect by JayRaye

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Organization United for Respect at Walmart

#Ride4Respect

Right now as you read this, Walmart Workers are on buses and they are caravanning from various cities to Bentonville, Arkansas where Walmart will be holding its annual shareholders meeting on June 7th. They plan to make their presence known by urging Walmart to stop its retaliation against associates who dare to speak out about working conditions. The #Ride4Respect uses the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement for inspiration. Completely appropriate, in my book. The fight for our rights as workers is a struggle for civil and human rights. Workers are American Citizens, and we are human beings. We don’t stop being Human Beings and Citizens when we pass through the doors of our place of employment.

One of the rights guaranteed to working people by U.S. Labor Law, is the right to speak out about the conditions of labor, and to do so without retaliation from our employer. That retaliation is illegal! Walmart’s retaliation has not ceased, in spite of denial that it exists, and in spite of promises to stop this retaliation (which they deny exists!) This is where the Unfair Labor Practice Strike comes into the picture. Striking Walmart Workers are a big part of the #Ride4Respect. This strike is historic as it will be the first prolonged ULP strike made by Walmart Workers. They are taking OUR Walmart’s fight for respect to another level.

Lisa Lopez walks and gives notice of ULP strike.
A Woman of Courage has put on her fighting clothes!
Mother Jones would be proud!

Impunity!

Now here’s the thing. Walmart should not be able to break labor law with impunity. Neither should workers have to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor law. Like any other crime, we should be able to report the crime, and the cops should show up and put the handcuffs on the culprit, namely Walmart….Yeah…right! We were threatened with arrest at our Black Friday Demo in San Antonio for putting our feet on Walmart’s grass! Six squad cars were there in jiffy when Walmart made their complaint.

So, OK, I’m stating the obvious here: Justice is not blind in America. She sees clearly who butters her bread. Walmart breaks labor laws, retaliates against workers illegally, endangers workers, practices wage theft. And if not done directly by Walmart, then by their supply chain. For which they claim no responsibility, but are ready and willing to claim the profits. They break labor laws with the impunity, meaning they know that no one will come to arrest them.

Therefore, it is up to the workers to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor laws themselves. These are low-wage workers who face hardship from the loss of even one day’s wages. Many of them can expect to be out of work for awhile, until their case is settled. Unless, of course, the case goes against them, in which case, they are just plain out of luck.

A 27 page report documenting Walmart’s abusive and retaliatory labor practices can be downloaded here: http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/.

Organizing Community Support

There is a movement afoot to organize Changing Walmart Teams on a community by community basis. I have been on three conference calls in the past three weeks which have included representatives from Making Change at Walmart, Jobs with Justice, and OUR Walmart. All of this is still in the planning stages, so I won’t go too far into it here. But I can say (speaking only for myself) that building strong local, ongoing, support teams is the most important thing we can do to support Walmart Workers.

This is going to be a long fight! We need to organize community support with a view to the long haul. Small, solid support groups, ready to step outside of the comfort zone. Groups that can hang together and offer real long-term support, and not just organized for one event.

Low-wage workers are finding the courage to stand up, we need to find the courage to stand beside them.

Supporting Low-wage workers is in our interest!

Let me make it plain, that I support the Walmart Workers and other low-wage workers because it is the right and moral thing to do. They are our Fellow Workers, and we care what happens to them.
When will we ever learn?
An injury to one is an injury to all!

But I also want to point out that fighting for low-wage workers is in the interest of the entire working class, from the highest to the lowest paid workers. Trickle-down is a crock of crap. I think all of us would agree on that point. In fact, the welfare of the working class is built from the bottom up, not from the top down. The higher the standard of living that we ensure for lowest paid workers, the better for the rest of us. When the boot of the ruling class comes to grind us down, we need to make sure that there is a limit (as a class!) to how much of a grinding we will take. Sad to say, the American working class has never established that limit. We allow the least among us to be ground down into dust.

Nothing has hurt the American working class more over the years, then its willingness (as a class) to buy into the ruling class notion that middle class workers are being robbed by the poor. Nothing. And then add to that racism and sexism, and we are screwed. But we screw ourselves by eating the load of crap that the ruling class feeds us.

We now have a chance to make a real change for the better. Imagine the American working class with Walmart Workers, Fast Food Workers, and Warehouse Workers solidly organized! What a difference it would make for all of us.

I mean, really, sit down in quiet place and imagine that for a few minutes!
Then get up and start working to make it happen!

William Z Foster: The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized

The question of organizing the many millions of unorganized workers is the most vital matter now before the America labor movement. The future progress of the working class depends upon the solution of this great problem.

The organization of the unorganized is a life and death question for the labor movement. To bring the millions into the unions is necessary not only for the protection of the unorganized workers, and to further class ends in general, but also to safeguard the life of the existing organizations. Many of the trade unions are now under such heavy attacks from the employers that their very existence is threatened. These struggles can be resolved favorably to the workers only by drawing to their support the great mass of unorganized….

Failure of the unions to strengthen their ranks now by the inclusion of vast masses of the unorganized will expose them to the most deadly dangers in the slack industrial period that is not far ahead, when the employers will renew their “open shop” campaign of destruction against the unions with redoubled vigor.

True then, true now.

SOURCES

Making Change at Walmart
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/

OUR Walmart
Organization United for Respect at Walmart
http://forrespect.org/

NLRB Employee Rights
http://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/employee-rights

Organize the Unorganized
-by William Z Foster
Chicago TUEL, 1926
Chapter I-”The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized”
http://archive.org/details/OrganizeTheUnorganized

For further study:
An interesting article on ULP strikes from LaborNotes.com:
http://www.labornotes.org/2012/08/making-sure-strike-centers-unfair-labor-practices

Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
WE DO!!

Follow the #Ride4Respect

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Ride4respect&src=hash

SIGN THIS PETITION
Stand with Walmart Workers/Petition for June 7
http://action.changewalmart.org/page/s/stand-with-strikers

DONATE
https://donate.changewalmart.org/page/contribute/direct-fr?source=20130530_mcaw

JOIN/PLAN AN EVENT
http://corporateactionnetwork.org/campaigns/june-7th-associate-appreciation-day/events

Connect with OUR Walmart
http://forrespect.org/

In Solidarity,
JayRaye

Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: John Brennan, Barack Obama and the Banality of Evil in Service of Late Capitalist Imperialism by Le Gauchiste

12:54 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“Some years ago, reporting the trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem, I spoke of ‘the Banality of evil’ and meant with this … the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness…., and the only specific characteristic one could detect on his part as well as in his behavior … was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.”

–Hannah Arendt

Whether political theorist Hannah Arendt was correct in her assessment of Adolf Eichmann–and I am inclined to believe she was duped by his testimony in Jerusalem and hence overstated the extent to which he was an example of the banality of evil–she was onto something important with the concept. For while the idea of the banality of evil may have become at times a cliche and, far worse, a facile evasion of moral responsibility, it nonetheless provides a way to understand how Late Capitalism’s Imperialism creates conditions that necessitate self-alienation on the part of the individual as well the social formation as a whole.

Torture doesn’t matter anymore, at least not to the Barack Obama administration. Four years ago, John Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be CIA Director (DCI) because of his public support of–and likely participation in–the Bush administration’s programs of torturing terrorism suspects and/or sending them to foreign prisons to be tortured. Apparently wishing to maintain his anti-torture credentials at the time, Obama appointed Brennan to a White House job that did not require Senate confirmation.

Four years later, his human rights record irretrievably tarnished by the illegal drone assassination program, Obama nominated Brennan–who has been running Obama’s drone assassination program from the White House–to be the next DCI. If confirmed, he would succeed Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned following revelations of an extra-marital affair in November 2009.

So, according to Obama, it’s okay to kidnap and torture and kill terrorism suspects without even a hint of “due process of law,” but if you put your dick in the wrong person, you’re unfit to run the CIA.

Obama is, sadly, right: Under the Imperialism of Late Capitalism, only a moral degenerate like John Brennan is fit to run an utterly amoral outfit like the CIA.

By “the Imperialism of Late Capitalism” we mean the forcible opening up of all spatial, ecological and cultural boundaries of peoples and nations to the global flow of capital and goods and services, according to the needs of capital and of Late Capitalism, which itself is wracked by ever-worsening crises that fuel the need for ever-more globalization.

But unlike Barack Obama, whose tolerance for torture and other human rights abuses seems of recent vintage, Brennan’s views were warped from a relatively young age. Born to Irish immigrant parents, John Brennan earned a B.A. in Political Science at Fordham University in 1977 and an M.A. in Government with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 1980.

Although Brennan officially joined the CIA in 1980—he tells reporters a story of how his “wanderlust” was piqued by a CIA recruiting ad in the New York Times—some of his activities at Fordham suggest his recruitment dates back to his school days. Bob Keane, a classmate from the 4th grade through sophomore year at Fordham, told reporters that Brennan spent the summer after freshman year in Indonesia with a cousin who was working for the Agency for International Development, and visited Bahrain on the way home. “I wondered if he had even been recruited that early,” mused Keane. In fact, Brennan spent his junior year abroad learning fluent Arabic and taking Middle Eastern studies courses at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, a well-known site for CIA recruitment and training.

At UT, Brennan wrote an M.A. Thesis, “Human Rights: The Case Study of Egypt,” in which he denied the existence of “absolute human rights,” defended censorship in Egypt and indicated an early tolerance for torture. “Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” wrote Brennan.

Taking his relativistic view of human rights to its logical conclusion, Brennan argued that

“the fact that absolute human rights do not exist (with the probable exception of freedom from torture) makes the [human rights] analysis subject to innumerable conditional criticisms.” (emphasis added.)

Think about that for a moment: John Brennan wrote that, in his opinion, not only are human rights not absolute, freedom from torture is only a “probable exception”–meaning that at the young age of 25, the Jesuit-educated Brennan was rejecting the 200-year-old anti-torture teachings of the Jesuit-educated Cesare Beccaria, the father of modern penology and human rights, who argued that torture is always wrong. Just a few years after his probable recruitment by the CIA, Brennan’s mind was already being warped by the needs of capitalist imperialism.

Working for Bush in the 2000s, Brennan became the embodiment of the banality of evil, helping to facilitate illegal kidnappings and torture in the name of the greater good–in this case so-called “national security.” Under Obama, Brennan has become the chief Angel of Death in the White House, selecting which terror suspects are to be murdered via unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere–and then lying about it later, as when he publicly claimed that drone attacks in Pakistan in 2010 did not cause “a single collateral death” when authorities knew better.

But the tragedy here lies with Barack Obama, who is able to make statements about the horrors of the Sandy Hook massacre while blithely raining down equivalent massacres on schoolchildren in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is this banality of evil–Obama’s ability to commit evil acts while pretending (to himself and to the world) that he remains a basically decent human being who loves his wife and daughters–that is one of the most corrosive aspects of Late Capitalist Imperialism.

Just as capitalist production alienates the worker, not only from the means of production and the product of his labor, but from his true species-essence as a human being, so too the reproduction of the Late Capitalist system requires acts of moral evil that alienate, not only the doers of these deeds but the entire social formation, from their human essence as creative and moral actors. Because such a reality would be intolerable if faced with honesty, the banality of evil represents a form of social-psychological ideology of denial that perpetuates Late Capitalism and the suffering attendant upon it.

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Life So Cheap & Property So Sacred by JayRaye

10:12 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The Real Triangle by John Sloan
The Real Triangle by John Sloan
The New York Call, March 27,1911

January 10, 1910
Jewish Daily Forward

The “Triangle” company…With blood this name will be written in the history of the American workers’ movement, and with feeling will this history recall the names of the strikers of this shop-of the crusaders.

December 28, 1910
City Hall, New York City, NY
Testimony before the New York State Senate and Assembly Joint Investigating Committee
on Corrupt Practices and Insurance Companies Other Than Life Insurance:

Judge M. Linn Bruce, Counsel
Chief Edward F Croker, NYC Fire Department
Bruce: How high can you successfully combat a fire now?
Croker: Not over eighty-five feet.
Bruce: That would be how many stories of an ordinary building?
Croker: About seven.
Bruce: Is this a serious danger?
Croker: I think if you want to go into the so-called workshops which are along Fifth Avenue and west of Broadway and east of Sixth Avenue, twelve, fourteen or fifteen story buildings they call workshops, you will find it very interesting to see the number of people in one of these buildings with absolutely not one fire protection, with out any means of escape in case of fire.

Saturday at about 4:45 PM
March 25, 1911
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

In 1935, Mary Heaton Vorse recalled that terrible day:

“They’re burning!” “They’re jumping out of the windows!”

Screams of sheer horror came over the wires. I called police headquarters and found out that a shirtwaist factory just off Washington Square was on fire. The girls were trapped, the doors having been locked to prevent their going out for a breath of air. I hurried over to the Square, drawn by the contagion of disaster. I could not get very near; fire lines were drawn. People ahead of me were crying:

“Another’s jumped! Another’s jumped, all on fire!”

Like burning torches, girls jumped into the street….

March 29, 1911
Jewish Daily Forward

This poem by Morris Rosenfeld “Poet Laureate of the slum and the sweatshop,” was printed down the left side of the entire first page:

Now let us light the holy candles
And mark the sorrow
Of Jewish masses in darkness and poverty.
This is our funeral,
These our graves,
Our children,
The beautiful, beautiful flowers destroyed,
Our lovely ones burned,
Their ashes buried under a mountain of caskets.

There will come a time
When your time will end, you golden princes.
Meanwhile,
Let this haunt your consciences:
Let the burning building, our daughters in flame
Be the nightmare that destroys your sleep,
The poison that embitters your lives,
The horror that kills your joy.
And in the midst of celebrations for your children,
May you be struck blind with fear over the
Memory of this red avalanche
Until time erases you.

-translated from the original Yiddish
Entire poem here.

Sunday April 2, 1911
Metropolitan Opera House
New York City, NY

Mary Heaton Vorse remembered the meeting as a mass funeral:

A mass funeral was given for the victims. New York labor filled the Opera House from top to bottom, everyone dressed in mourning for their murdered fellow workers. A tiny girl with flaming red hair, Rose Schneiderman, made the unforgettable funeral speech.

The immigrant workers from the Lower East Side filled the galleries while the wealthy reformers decked out in their high hats, furs, and feathers took their seats in the orchestra, and boxes. The working people were skeptical of any promised civic-reform. Such promises, they knew, were seldom kept. Tensions between the two groups mounted as the meeting progressed and threatened to disrupt the meeting altogether.

Frances Perkins, who was sitting near Rose, described her as a pretty little (4’6″) girl with fiery red hair, and blazing eyes, and noticed that she was trembling as she waited to speak. Rose was there as a speaker for the Women’s Trade Union League. When she began to speak the hall grew silent. Her voice was low and quiet, but her words were heard in the hall, printed in the press and sent out all across the nation:

I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies, if I were to come here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public—and we have found you wanting.

Rose Schneiderman, 1910
Rose Schneiderman, 1910
Source Credit: Kheel Center

The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today: the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch fire.

This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job, it matters little if 140-odd are burned to death.

We have tried you, citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.

Public officials have only words of warning for us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back when we rise—back into the conditions that make life unbearable.

I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working-class movement.

Wednesday, April 5, 1911
One hundred thousand mourners
Followed those sad biers.
The streets were filled with people
Weeping bitter tears.
-Ruth Rubin

The day of the mass funeral for the seven unidentified victims of the Triangle Fire was described by the World as a day when “the skies wept [and] rain, ever and again descended in a drenching downpour.” The American fretted:

There was something ominous about the gathering, it was so silent and it was to march through a section of the East Side-the thickly populated foreign districts-where emotions are poignant and demonstrative. The police were plainly worried.

The working people marched from the East Side in silence, dressed in mourning, and carrying their Union banners draped in black. The police need not have worried; the marchers provided their own parade marshals from the Central Federated Union, the Socialist Party, the Bonnaz Embroidery Workers’ Union, and the Women’s Trade Union League.

The American continued:

It was not until the marchers reached Washington Square, and came in sight of the Asch building [the Triangle factory building] that the women gave vent to their sorrow.

It was one long-drawn-out , heart-piercing cry, the mingling of thousands of voices, a sort of human thunder in the elemental storm-a cry that was, perhaps, the most impressive expression of human grief ever heard in this city.

The Twenty-Third Street Ferry took eight hearses across the waters to Brooklyn. The unidentified victims of the Triangle Factory Fire were buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. There were seven graves for the caskets numbered 46, 50, 61, 95, 103, 115, and 127. An eighth grave was for the unnumbered casket containing dismembered body fragments found after the fire and never claimed.

The Aid-Campaign

Many of the grief stricken families were also left without a breadwinner. The City reached out with a massive relief effort. Being one of the few Yiddish speakers in the WTUL, Rose was able to lead relief teams into the East Side tenements. She later remembered:

We went to the East Side to look for our people. Our workers in the Women’s Trade Union League took the volunteers from the Red Cross and together we went to find those who, in this moment of great sorrow, had become oblivious to their own needs.

We found them.

You could find them by the flowers of mourning nailed to the doors of tenements. You could find them by the wailing in the streets of relatives and friends gathered for the funerals. But sometimes you climbed floor after floor up an old tenement, went down the long, dark hall, knocked on the door and after it was opened found them sitting there-a father and his children or an old mother who had lost her daughter-sitting there silent, crushed.

June 30, 1911
Albany, NY

Meetings and resolutions and committees of civic-reformers did produce results for the working women and girls of New York, for on this day the State Legislature created the New York Factory Investigating Commission. There were nine members, among them Robert F. Wagner, Sr, Alfred E. Smith, labor leader Samuel Gompers, and Mary Dreier, President of Women’s Trade Union League. Frances Perkins and Rose Schneiderman were among the corps of inspectors. By the end of 1914, the Commission had produced 36 new laws, marking the beginning of the “golden era in remedial factory legislation.”

March 25, 1961
Washington Place and Greene Street
New York City, NY

As the people of New York City gathered for the Fifty Year Memorial to honor the workers who lost their lives in the Triangle Fire, also on their minds were the twenty-five workers who had died in the Monarch Garment Factory fire just three years earlier. Meanwhile, on the desk of Governor Nelson Rockefeller lay a bill which favored the factory owners and landlords of the City with yet more time to comply with fire and safety regulations.

David Dubinsky, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, gave a speech opposing the delay:

Yes, they need more time. The three years since Monarch is not enough time. The fifty years since Triangle is not enough time,-and the lives that have been lost, the lives of garment workers and firemen, are not enough lives.
We say enough! We say no more Triangles or Monarchs! We say that the toll of life taken by industrial slums must end just as we are wiping out the human cost of residential slums. And we say that it is an outrage in this state that has pioneered so much labor legislation, to have its Industrial Commissioner take a stand that increases rather than cuts down the danger in the shop.
We want a fitting memorial to the martyrs we honor today. No better one can be found than to increase the respect for and the safety of workers. I call on each and every one of you to write today to Governor Rockefeller and to demand that he veto the Albert-Folmer bill. Write to him in Albany, New York. In memory of those who have already been sacrificed to greed – write.

Monday 27 November 2000
The Guardian
Arshad Mahmud in Dhaka

The death of about 50 workers – mainly women and children – in a Bangladesh garment factory on Saturday has refocused attention on the poor working conditions in the industry…
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s failure to protect the 1.2m workers, mostly women, who form the backbone of the industry, is causing growing anger.
About 300 have died since 1990, mainly in fires. People are asking how many more must die before something is done…
Few factories have an alarm system and the fire extinguishers rarely work. Staircases are invariably narrow, gates remain locked during working hours, and most factories lack emergency exits.
As a result, in an emergency – especially a fire – the workers often find themselves trapped, leading them to join potentially fatal stampedes or jump from the windows.

Nov 30, 2012
ANI
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Calling for better working conditions in the garment industry, protesters in Bangladesh took to the streets of Dhaka after 111 people perished in a factory fire last Saturday. Police watched from a distance as the protesters wearing Muslim white death robes lay down on the pavement in front of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BMGEA). The protest was organised by a group called “Magic Movement”.

The brave young woman speaking out at this protest is Sabhnaz Rashid Diya:

This incident has happened before, there were fires before, there were no reports. No proper jurisdiction, no proper um.. there was no law executed through the whole process and the families were not compensated enough. And this has been happening for year after year.

YouTube Video of Protest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt5XaQqA_zk

Magic Movement on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/magic.movement?sk=wall&filter=3

STAND TOGETHER TO RESIST!
The girls and women by their meetings and discussions come to understand and sympathize with each other, and more and more easily they act together. So we must stand together to resist, for we will get what we can take – just that and no more.
-Rose Schneiderman, 1905

Sources:

Jewish Daily Forward
April 3, 1911: “Metropolitan Opera House Packed With Protest Meeting About the Fire
Jacob Schiff and Other Wealthy Individuals Speak — a Few Sharp Comments by a Representative of the Women’s Trade Union League” (translation)

The New York Times (pdf)
April 3, 1911: “Mass Meeting Calls for New Fire Laws”

A Footnote to Folly by Mary Heaton Vorse
NY, 1935

Speech at Memorial Meeting
by David Dubinsky, ILGWU President
Washington Place & Greene Street
New York City, NY, March 25, 1961

The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein
NY, 1962

Women and the American Labor Movement,
From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I

by Philip S. Foner
NY, 1979

Reading American Art by Marianne Doezema
p. 319
Yale U. Press, 1998

Triangle by David Von Drehle
NY, 2003

For Further Study

The Diary Of a Shirtwaist Striker by Teresa S. Malkiel
-a novel written in 1910 about the Uprising of the 20,00
I cannot recommend it enough! Good for adults and older children.
With introductory essay by Francoise Basch
NY, 1990

There are many online sources available, this is my favorite:

http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/story/introduction.html

All for One by Rose Schneiderman & Lucy Goldthwaite
NY, 1967

Madam Secretary, Frances Perkins by Elisabeth P Myers
MY, 1972

And this excellent photo diary by Kossack, Eddie C
On the 100th Triangle Memorial

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/03/26/850933/-Yesterday-s-Memorial-for-the-Triangle-Factory-Fire-Victims

International Solidarity Action Resources

International Labor Rights Forum

http://www.laborrights.org/about-ilrf

International Labor Organization

http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang–en/index.htm

Worker Rights Consortium

http://www.workersrights.org/

Global March Against Child Labor

http://globalmarch.org/aboutus/who-we-are

International Trade Union Confederation/Child and Forced Labor

http://www.ituc-csi.org/forcedlabour.html

Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights

http://www.globallabourrights.org/

Child Labor Public Education Project
-no longer active, but good source for more links.

http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/laborctr/child_labor/

This diary is dedicated
To the men, women, and children who lost their lives while trying to make a living
Sewing the garments that clothe the world.
May we continue to fight for social and economic justice
That we might yet make sweet their resting place.
Solidarity,
JayRaye

Mayn Rue-Platz

Anti-Capitalist Meet Up: Part I, Unemployment and Workfare in the UK by NY brit expat

5:04 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“The industrial reserve army, during the periods of stagnation and average prosperity, weighs down the active army of workers during the periods of over-production and feverish activity, it puts a curb on their pretensions. The relative surplus population is therefore the background against which the law of the demand and supply of labour does its work. It confines the field of action of this law to the limits absolutely convenient to capital’s drive to exploit and dominate the workers (Marx, 1867, Capital, volume I, Penguin edition, p. 792).”

Introduction

This post is part I of a series discussing the labour market under capitalism. In this part, I am addressing the issue of persistent unemployment in capitalism and the introduction of workfare in the UK specifically. I am addressing both economic and political inconsistencies of the introduction of workfare under Capitalism and Bourgeois Democracy. I conclude this post by addressing the crisis of bourgeois democracy that is exemplified by the contradictions between the introduction of forced labour and human rights, one of the strongest weapons belonging to the ideology of bourgeois democracy.

Workfare, a welfare to work scheme, which forces welfare recipients to work to earn their benefit, has existed for some time in the US (see: 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Act); and for a comparison between state workfare programmes in the US see: http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~gwallace/Papers/%288%29.pdf). Originally introduced in the UK by Labour in 1998 and insultingly called the “The New Deal” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal_%28United_Kingdom%29), it enabled penalties for those that refused “reasonable work” and established courses and volunteer work to get those on benefits into work and provided tax credits for working families to keep them working.

However, the attempt by the current government in the UK to extend it has led to both legal action and resistance on the part of those being forced to labour. The 2010 “Work for your Benefits Pilot Scheme” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2010/1222/pdfs/uksiem_20101222_en.pdf) and the extension of the “Mandatory Work Activity scheme” (2011: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2011/688/pdfs/uksiem_20110688_en.pdf; 2012:http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June_2012/12-06-12/13.DWP-Mandatory-Work-Activity.pdf) which is supposedly for those that are not on board with the shift from welfare to work strategy of the government) in numbers of “customers” forced to labour without pay and in light of severe criticism in terms of the introduction of forced labour as well as the known ineffectiveness of these schemes is more than questionable. However, it is certainly consistent with the policies and beliefs of the current government.

The second part of this series will concentrate on workfare in the UK and the actions that are part of the fight-back against the extension of workfare and this will go up tomorrow at 12 noon eastern.

One of the most important contradictions in the capitalist economic system lies in the nature of the labour market itself. On the one hand, capitalism requires free labour; that is, free in the sense that it is no longer tied by law to specific aristocrats that provided subsistence in exchange for labour on their land as serfs or tied to specific masters as slaves. In fact, the existence of slavery and indentured servitude in the US arose initially due to the insufficient number of labourers; it continued due to racism and the usefulness of divide and rule amongst working people. While not denying the importance of morality and human decency, when it started to be an impediment with the development of the domestic market, capital moved to eliminate it. Free labour means that instead labour is free to sell its labour to obtain subsistence. On the other hand, the dependence upon wages earned through labour means that they are subject to the vagaries of the labour market itself and the needs of profitability and capital accumulation within the system itself. However, from its earliest, capitalism and unemployment go hand in hand. The numbers of workers needed by the system depends essentially on profitability criterion; full employment is a fantasy, even in periods of rapid economic growth.

I. Capitalism’s reserve army of labour

“On the basis of capitalism, a system in which the worker does not employ the means of production, but the means of production employ the worker, the law by which a constantly increasing quantity of means of production may be set in motion by a progressively diminishing expenditure of human power, thanks to the advance in the productivity of social labour, undergoes a complete inversion, and is expressed thus: the higher the productivity of labour, the greater is the pressure of the workers on the means of employment, the more precarious therefore becomes the conditions for their existence, namely the sale of their own labour-power for the increase of alien wealth, or in other words, the self-valorization of capital. The fact that the means of production and the productivity of labour increase more rapidly than the productive population expresses itself, therefore, under capitalism, in the inverse form that the working population always increases more rapidly than the valorization requirements of capital (Marx, 1867, op. cit., p. 798).”

This leads to a serious problem. On the one hand, the idea that labour must labour to earn its subsistence is a fundamental perspective that exists in ideology prior to the existence of capitalism; you can even find it in the Bible (see e.g., Genesis 3:17). It is based upon an essential truth that the majority somehow needed to labour in some way to survive. Perhaps one of my favourite defences of the link of labour with subsistence is from Bentham; in fact, he goes so far as to demand the linkage of relief to labour (in houses of industry, workhouses). Listening to what the current government is saying one cannot help wonder if Iain Duncan Smith (the secretary of works and pensions) got lost reading Bentham and never found his way out. In fact, there are strong similarities in Bentham’s discussion of deserving and undeserving poor (which he spends ages on differentiating and then proposes the same remedy to deal with; yep, labour):

“To a person labouring under total and absolute want of ability with regard to work, relief must be administered, without any condition in respect of work, since otherwise he must be left to perish.

To a person possessed of adequate ability, no relief ought to be administered, but on condition of his performing work: to wit such a measure of work as, if employed to an ordinary degree of advantage, will yield a return in value, adequate to the expence of the relief (Bentham, 1796, Essays on the Subject of the Poor Laws, Essay II, sec. III, pp. 44-45).”

Irrespective of his distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor above, Bentham says the following:

“A person deprived of all his limbs, or the use of all his limbs, may still possess ability sufficient to the purpose of serving as inspector to most kinds of work, so long as mental faculties, and sight for observing, and voice for questioning are possessed by him in sufficient vigour (Bentham, op. cit., pp 46-47).”

However, high levels of productivity under capitalism means that less and less labour is needed both relatively and absolutely to satisfy needs and wants. In fact, the introduction of machinery in production of workers consumption goods has reduced the amount of labour necessary to feed the population. The large majority of the working day and production is done for the purposes of production of surplus value, that part of the value of the product going towards profits and rents. However, it has created high amounts of unemployment of labour which cannot and will not be needed due to the profitability criteria under which capitalist production is undertaken.

If the system is such (and capitalism is unique in this sense compared to other economic systems) that persistent unemployment is a by-product of production decisions relying on profitability criteria, addressing unemployment and the subsistence of the unemployed becomes essential. Moreover, there are different forms of unemployment, some of which are essential to production; for example, agriculture has periods of seasonal unemployment and these people must be available for the periods in which they are needed. Additionally, unemployment rises and falls due to the cyclical periods of capitalist growth and crisis; people are drawn in and released from production … this is a relative reserve army of unemployed. They must be available to be drawn into production when needed. Then, there are those that are long-term unemployed that are victims of a system. Increasingly, these numbers are rising in the advanced capitalist world due to the impact of high levels of productivity, the introduction of machinery to replace labour, the decline of industrial and manufacturing sectors in these countries and the general lack of revival of employment due to the nature of economic growth following crises (those jobless recoveries).

“We can now understand the foolishness of the economic wisdom which preaches to the workers that they should adapt their numbers to the valorization requirements of capital. The mechanism of capitalist production and accumulation itself constantly effects this adjustment. The first word of this adaptation is the creation of a relative surplus population, or industrial reserve army. Its last word is the misery of constantly expanding strata of the active army of labour, and the dead weight of pauperism (Marx, 1867, op. cit., p. 798).”

II. Dealing with Persistent Unemployment:

In many senses, the discussions on how to deal with poverty and unemployment created by the capitalist system have gone in waves. For those that do not outright reject public relief for the poor (like Malthus), there are essentially two main positions:

  1. there is either an assertion of the insistence between the link of labour and subsistence (e.g., Bentham, 1834 Poor Law Reform);
  2. or there is a recognition that unemployment of various forms exists and provision for the poor and unemployed must simply be provided (e.g., 1795-7 Poor Law Amendment, Social Welfare State).

At the moment, we are going through a period both in the US and UK where there is an insistence (irrespective of reality) of the link between labour and subsistence. This has introduced further contradictions in terms of the political dynamic of bourgeois democracy and the discussion of human rights and economic contradictions between free labour and forced labour that has been and continues to be introduced.

A possible way to deal with persistent unemployment is, of course, permanent job creation programmes by the state sector, including nationalisation of not only key industries (like health, agriculture, energy, water, electricity, and natural resources) but other sectors like airlines, and automobiles. Again, these are essentially subsidised sectors that should be expected to be non-profitable as their purpose is to provide jobs and incomes for working people as well as the goods and services themselves. Of course, these types of policies have been progressively abandoned in the advanced capitalist world by countries that initiated them in favour of privatisation from the late 1970s forwards to give the market alternative potential areas of profitability as the profitability in industry and manufacturing in the advanced capitalist world has waned and to destroy the power of the unions in these sectors. Essentially, the need for profitability and growth which are the motivating forces of the capitalist system did not, and could not allow, these sectors to exist outside of the control of the market.

The other obvious solution of reduction of working hours while maintaining incomes is inconsistent with profit maximisation criteria and has not led to increased employment in places where this has been done (see France for example); capital moved overseas to where wages are lower and/or machinery was introduced rather than labour employed. For this solution to work, we need to abandon profit maximisation criteria and capitalism. Without the need of production of surplus value and surplus products to sustain growth and profitability in the context of capitalism, high levels of productivity of labour can easily satisfy the needs and wants for all worldwide and the impoverishment of the majority and destruction of the planet can be ended.

III. The Workhouse and Workfare

I will conclude the economic part of the piece with a discussion examining the similarities and differences between the current workfare system and the 1834 Poor Law Amendment which forced the poor into workhouses.

People have questioned the legitimacy of raising the old workhouses for the poor when discussing workfare. Unquestionably, there are differences between the two systems of dealing with the unemployed through forced labour. No one’s liberty in terms of where they reside is at stake in the modern version; workfare is outdoor relief in the sense that no one is forced into a workhouse to obtain it.

While acknowledging the loss of liberty by the poor, Bentham notes that being confined to a specific place arises due to many types of employment; it holds for those that work in the military and as domestic servants in that they are specifically tied to the physical places of employment. He raises that loss of friends and community would arise if they needed to take a job in another location. Finally, he also states that the loss of individual liberty occurs simply due to being part of society or to the existence of government (Bentham, op. cit., pp. 35-36). His justification for forcing people into the workhouse relates to the importance of maintaining control over the poor and the dispensation of relief ensuring that it was tied to labour. For anyone that has read Bentham’s Panopticon (http://cartome.org/panopticon1.htm), control is very important for Bentham; given that he is a liberal, his lack of trust in human nature is impressive and hearkens back to Hobbes rather than to later enlightenment thinkers:

“Where, in a house where no food can be obtained which is not administered by, or by order, of a master, the administering of a meal’s meat is postponed till the work in consideration of which it administered is done, whether the motive employ’d in this case be the nature of a punishment or the nature of reward, or of both together, is a question of words, not worth insisting on for the present purpose. […] What is more, it is consonant not only to the meaning, but to the very words of scripture, letter as well as spirit. ‘Even when we were with you,‘ says St. Paul to the Thessalonians, even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that, if any would work, neither should he eat.’ Is there any place in which the expedient is more certain in point of efficacy or more practicable than in a House of Industry? (Bentham, op. cit., p. 32)”

Following WWII, forced incarceration if one has not committed a crime (and being poor is still not a crime) is considered unacceptable on a moral level. Irrespective, there are strong similarities to the arguments that underlie and justify the two systems.

The most important similarity is the assumption that people are unemployed voluntarily; that humans are inherently lazy, dissolute, immoral. The fact that the vast majority of the unemployed are so due to lack of employment opportunities does not seem to matter to these people. A second similarity is the notion of deserving and undeserving poor which is being used to adjudicate those that are capable and incapable of labour. Finally, there is the insistence of the linkage between labour and subsistence. The modern system replaces the threat of being in a workhouse with loss of benefits to compel labour and it is done under a system of private employers being subsidised by the government while also gaining unpaid labour (see here for the amount of subsidy they obtain for getting people into work: http://www.cesi.org.uk/keypolicy/work-programme). In many senses, workfare creates far more problems for waged labour than the old workhouse system.

While in the 19th century, putting people in workhouses did not impact upon the general labour market in the sense of lowering wages, the modern version of forced labour in the US prison system and in workfare at least in the UK is directly impacting upon the market for waged labour.

In order to obtain benefits, unemployed people are being forced to work under the lie that this is training for work as they do not have the discipline learned by regular labour due to long term unemployment. As a result, companies are using forced labour instead of hiring new workers or granting overtime to those already employed. These forced labourers do not have the job protection of paid labour, they do not have the rights to refuse to work or not, the safety conditions afforded to paid labour are not guaranteed to these people. Given that the labour is unskilled, the argument that this is work training is absurd; how much training is needed to learn to stack shelves? Moreover, studies have indicated that being forced to work does not improve your chances of finding paid labour, so that argument is also fallacious (http://unfairworkfare.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/government-report-concluded-that-workfare-reduces-chances-of-future-employment/). In fact, it is worse than that, participation in workfare can reduce chances of finding paid work and it is extremely ineffective for those with multiple barriers (think of those with disabilities, single mothers, parents with children to support, and caring for extended families). A report commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2008 concluded the following in terms of effectiveness of workfare programmes in the US, Canada and Australia conducted by Richard Crisp and Del Roy Fletcher of The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR):

  • Effectiveness in improving employment outcomes
    – There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.
    – Subsidised (‘transitional’) job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than ‘work for benefit’ programmes.
    – Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.
    – Levels of non-participation in mandatory activities are high in some workfare programmes.
  • Effectiveness for clients with multiple barriers
    – Workfare is least effective for individuals with multiple barriers to work.
    – Welfare recipients with multiple barriers often find it difficult to meet obligations to take part in unpaid work. This can lead to sanctions and, in the most extreme cases, the complete withdrawal of benefits that leaves some individuals with no work and no income.
    – Some states in the US have scaled down large-scale, universal workfare programmes in preference for ‘softer’ and more flexible models that offer greater support to those with the most barriers to work. This includes a greater reliance on subsidised jobs that pay wages rather than benefits to participants (http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2007-2008/rrep533.pdf).

Forced labour is being compelled to compete with free waged labour and is being used to undermine wages and it is undercutting paid employment in a situation where there are larger numbers of unemployed people both due to the economic crisis as well as long-term unemployed due to the destruction of the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

This is creating serious inconsistencies and they do not only have economic implications, they have serious political implications for bourgeois democracy and the ideological legitimation of the system in the face of measures being used to support the capitalist system itself.

IV. A political crisis

The resort to forced labour is creating a political inconsistency with bourgeois democratic notions (or ideology) of liberty and rights of citizens. The notion of human rights is intimately connected to the development of bourgeois democracy; indeed, forced labour is inconsistent with Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees the following:

• (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
• (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
• (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
• (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a23).

In the European Convention on Human Rights, there is a clear divergence from the noble principles espoused above, but Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour with the following exemptions:

Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour but exempts labour:
• done as a normal part of imprisonment,
• in the form of compulsory military service or work done as an alternative by conscientious objectors,
• required to be done during a state of emergency, and
• considered to be a part of a person’s normal “civic obligations” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Convention_on_Human_Rights#Article_4_-_servitude).

It is the definition of forced labour (or unfree labour) that is important for the discussion of workfare and it is that which calls into question the introduction of workfare and also raises the issue of prison labour which is considerably more difficult to address due to civil law in countries where it exists contradicting human rights law:

Unfree labour[…] is a generic or collective term for those work relations, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will by the threat of destitution, detention, violence (including death), lawful compulsion, or other extreme hardship to themselves or to members of their families.

Many of these forms of work may be covered by the term forced labour, which is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as all involuntary work or service exacted under the menace of a penalty. Unfree labour includes all forms of slavery, and related institutions (e.g. debt slavery, serfdom, corvée and labour camps) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_labour).

So theoretically, forced labour is forbidden by the EU convention on human rights. But if you think about it seriously, the linkage between labour and subsistence that underlies workfare (and for that matter, forced labour in prisons) is based exactly on the notion of people being employed against their will by threat of destitution and extreme hardship to themselves or members of their families. While people are not being forced into workhouses, their ability to refuse to work is prevented by their fear of destitution and hardship. Yet that has neither stopped signatories to the UN Declaration on Human Rights (e.g., the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK), or the UK which is a member of the EU introducing workfare.

Moreover, in many senses, the whole capital-labour relationship is based upon the fact that if people do not work they will be destitute in the absence of a social welfare state. In fact, the social welfare state itself broke the link between subsistence and labour; these policies which attempt to revive it on the backs of the poor and unemployed are reintroducing something which is essentially inconsistent with both notions of bourgeois democracy as well as the idea of free labour: forced labour. Even more so, the introduction of these policies in the context of both an economic recession and the existence of long-term unemployment due to capitalist profitability criteria demonstrates clearly both the political and economic crisis that we are experiencing.

The threat to paid labour of forced labour is clear to the British trade union movement which has strongly opposed workfare (http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-21054-f0.cfm).

“Unions believe that workfare is a failed policy. It exploits the people who take part by paying them much less than the minimum wage. It is unfair to other workers because it threatens their jobs and pay rates. It is unfair to other businesses if their competitors are being subsidised by the government in this way. […] All workers are threatened by workfare but the poorest and weakest are threatened most because it is at the bottom end of the labour market that workers in real jobs are most likely to find themselves in competition with those on workfare, as the Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow has pointed out (http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-21054-f0.cfm).”

For those who are tied to the rights and obligation perspective, the question arises whether labour is a civic obligation; that is, is your right not to be forced to labour counterbalanced by your civil responsibilities? But that raises the exact point as to whether your lack of labour is your choice or is a result of the economic system, such that your responsibilities are counterbalanced by the fact that there is no paid labour? If unemployment is involuntary as the vast majority of the unemployment actually is, can it be said that the unemployed are not fulfilling their civil responsibility or rather is it the case that civil society is actually failing in its responsibilities to them?

There is an even more fundamental question at stake which I want to raise here; this relates to the inalienable right to life (for human beings) which is independent of the question of rights and responsibility. If people are ineligible to get welfare benefits because they refuse to participate in workfare schemes are you condemning them to either slow death or forcing them to theft to ensure their lives? This will be addressed in more detail in part II of this series where Locke, for example, links the right to subsistence to the inalienable natural right to life in early bourgeois democratic theory.

References:

Bentham, Jeremy (1796) “Essays on the Poor Laws” in The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, Writings on the Poor Laws, Volume I, Oxford, 2001.

Marx, Karl (1867) Capital, Volume I: A Critique of Political Economy, Penguin, 1990.