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How Relevant Is International Women’s Day to the Current War on Women? by Geminijen

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today’s diary, a co-production of NY Brit Expat and myself, reposts the historical documents we used last year quoting the words and actions of the “founding mothers” of International Women’s Day. Normally, such a historical tour de force on the anniversary of IWD is presented as a nostalgic commemoration of the struggles working class women waged to achieve the gains we have today. But it can also be used as a cautionary note for our current struggles in the renewed “war on women” and efforts to dismantle the social welfare state (austerity programs). For “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Yesterday, millions of women marched in the streets from China to Mexico, to celebrate International Women’s Day. If you live in the United States, however, you may have never heard of IWD. IWD officially began in 1911. It was started by European Socialists in the Second International honoring the striking women textile workers in New York City. Due to its socialist origin , however, it was excised from the United States memory, much as Labor Day replaced May Day, except in small immigrant enclaves or radical union groups.

While in Europe and the of rest of the world it continues to be widely celebrated, it has been watered down over the years and tends to honour women in name only, by putting a woman’s face on a male socialist agenda or taking the radical roots out of the holiday by turning it into a facile celebration giving women flowers (yellow roses to symbolize women’s demand for “Bread and Roses” in the early textile strikes – only they’ve eliminated the demand for bread).

During the women’s movement in the United States in the 1970s and 80s, women resurrected the holiday and in 1975 it was given the blessing of the United Nations. When the women’s movement re-appropriated the holiday in the States, it focused on specific women’s rights (i.e., reproductive rights such as abortion) but often at the expense of focusing on issues that would traditionally be the domain of working class women or women of color (i.e., racism, women in sweatshops, etc). They were criticized rightly for being bourgeois.

This week in New York alone, there are any number of IWD events and acknowledgements, including three specifically designated IWD Marches organized by the radical left and socialist movements: the flyer for one mentions a laundry list of different anti-capitalist issues, a couple of women’s issues but does not mention abortion; the second focuses on Abortion on Demand and Pornography; the third focuses on violence against women ranging from domestic abuse to violence in the prison system (my favorite). Didn’t see one slogan re childcare. So the struggle continues.

IWD, in fact, was the culmination of a century of women working in the labor, feminist, socialist, and anti-slavery and segregation movements to bring together the common interests of the working class and women’s rights advocates. Four major trends led to the establishment of IWD:

The first was a revolutionary fervour in Europe and the United States toward socialism, democracy and the vote. In Europe it was exemplified by a movement for working class men without property seeking the vote to further a socialist government. This was paralleled by a movement for middle class women to get the vote. This situation was mirrored in the United States by the struggle to gain the vote for black men and white women. The contradictions between these two types of suffrage movements were evident (should we fight for non-propertied or black men to get the vote, even if women were excluded? Should we fight for women to get the vote even if this excludes people of color or persons who did not own property?). The solution, of course, was to get the vote for both groups. Clara Zetkin was among the early socialists to see working class women as the driving force towards universal suffrage (everyone gets the vote independent of property qualifications to which it had been historically tied) since they bridged the divide, yet retain the principle of a revolutionary socialist agenda.

It was Clara Zetkin who advocated for the merging of the working class socialist movement and women’s movement through the establishment of International Women’s Day as a way to forward the goals of both labour and women. The first clear victories in which the leadership of working class women following the establishment of IWD were the organization of the textile workers and women’s suffrage in the United States and the Russian Revolution in 1917 which began with a massive strike by women textile workers in Petrograde (St. Petersburg) on International Women’s Day against both the orders of the Unions and left-wing political parties. The strikes lit the match of a country on the verge; they doubled in size to 200,000 workers and over the next few days, 66,000 men of the local army garrison joined forces with the strikers. The February Russian revolution began and the Tsar was forced to abdicate (

The second important factor was the increased numbers of women in the labour movement, particularly in the textile industry, as more and more women were pulled into factories and out of homes with the rise of industrial capitalism. Their struggle to free themselves from the patriarchal home as Alexandra Kollantai noted in 1902 was critical:

“Among the numerous problems raised by contemporary reality there is probably none more important for mankind, none more vital and urgent than the problem of motherhood created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The problem of protecting and providing for the mother and young child is one that faces social politicians, knocks relentlessly at the door of the statesman, engages the health and hygiene specialists, concerns the social statistician, haunts the representative of the working class and weighs down on the shoulders of tens of millions of mothers compelled to earn their own living [...] The demand that the social collective (the community) provide maternity insurance and child protection was born of the immediate and vital needs of the class of hired workers. Of all the strata of society, this class is the one which most requires that a solution be found to the painful conflict between compulsory professional labour by women and their duties as representatives of their sex, as mothers. Following a powerful class instinct rather than a clearly understood idea, the working class strove to find a way of resolving this conflict (Society and Motherhood, 1915).”

Women’s struggle to obtain decent work conditions in the marketplace, instead of being viewed as cheap labour, is exemplified in the call for both “bread and roses.” The textile strikes beginning in 1857 and the massive strikes between 1908 and 1915 were the activist expression of women’s struggle for power. This was especially true after the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory strike where mostly women workers, but also children and a few men were killed in a sweatshop fire.

While initially the feminist movement focused on human rights issues for women such as suffrage, many of the women felt allied to working class struggles for decent wages and rights and took up the call that freedom and equality for one group meant freedom and equality for all although there were and continue to be disputes as to whether equality means equality or equal opportunity and upward mobility in the capitalist system.

While the anti-slavery movement seems distinct, the end of slavery pushed all workers, black and white into the same labor struggle as wage laborers. Once this occurred, it was up to anti-racist groups to fight for equality within the labour movement. This, of course, always raised the question of equality for the other major group excluded from equality in the labor force — women.

These movements, occurring in a short period between the end of the civil war and the end of WWI, provided the activist and theoretical base to try to unite diverse groups into the revolutionary struggle. The formation of IWD was an explicit effort to unite the interests and theories of women and male labor (including workers of color that was implied in the socialist agenda) under a Revolutionary Socialist agenda in support of universal suffrage and economic equality.

The socialist women during this period who led the fight for dignity for women’s new role in the workforce and the socialization of women’s unpaid labor in the home achieved many social gains in Europe and the United States including free public education, public healthcare and childcare in some places, regulation of working hours, wages and safety conditions and pensions for the elderly. Moreover, women’s struggle for universal suffrage helped achieve gains not only for women but for the working class as a whole, including gains for people of color in the United States.

Unfortunately, many of these struggles were ultimately couched in terms of individual reforms instead of a total change of the capitalist system. At least some of this was due, as becomes clear in the historical documents, to the white supremacy and male chauvinism in the socialist movement and the classism and white supremacy in the women’s movement. As capitalism continues to devour everything in its path – leading first to a Eurocentric Imperialism and finally to Global domination, we have seen these gains receding.

As the textile and garment industry is outsourced to third world countries, it is a bitter irony that the textile and garment workers of Haiti, Cambodia and Bangladesh live in almost the exact same conditions as the women textile workers did here one hundred years ago: 14 hour work days, 7 days a week, unsafe conditions. Only this time the repetition of the horror of the Triangle shirtwaist factory has increased in scale as can be seen in the 1,134 deaths in the collapse of the garment factory at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

Because of the mobility of capital under global capitalism, companies facing the threat of strikes can quickly relocate to other locations, leaving workers without a source of survival. For workers, this constant threat of replacement makes fighting for higher standards risky. The call of workers in almost all these countries, including the United States, has shifted from demands for full-time stable well paid union jobs, fought for factory by factory, to political demands that the nation states provide a minimum wage to all workers. There is currently a call for a global minimum wage.

In the United States, with the flight of the textile industry, women workers are now concentrated in the food service industry (another transfer of women’s work from home to the market) where jobs cannot be outsourced. Kollantai’s prediction of the demise of the patriarchal nuclear family under capitalism is coming true. Almost 50% of marriages end in divorce and many younger people are not marrying (marriage was always lower among the working class since there was little wealth to protect or inherit). However, since the socialized safety net protections that women fought for to replace the nuclear family and provide a modicum of protection are under attack through the imposition of austerity programs, there is an increase in the feminization of poverty and single mothers. Since the problem is that there is not enough work, women are working part-time in two or three jobs in addition to taking care of their children without benefit of social supports from either the institution of marriage or of the state. Two thirds of the workers in the fast food industry are single women of color, many of them mothers, living below the poverty lines.

Yet the struggle continues. Impoverished women garment workers in Haiti, Cambodia Bangladesh have gone on strike, fought pitched street battles with police and burned factories, demanding better wages and better working conditions. And there is the beginning of a vibrant movement among low waged workers at Walmart in in the fast food industry in the United States.

The following excerpts (which we hope you will read, view, sing-along- with, explore and enjoy) are just a sampling of some of the actions and words of some prominent working women and movements during the period leading up to International Women’s Day. As we celebrate IWD today,however, let’s keep in mind how our current struggles are the same, how they have changed and what we can learn from our fore-mothers.

By the Red Star Singers (If you want to get the tune and sing along, hit the link:

They got women on TV, but I still ain’t satisfied
Cause cooptation’s all I see and I still ain’t satisfied
They call me Ms., they sell me blue jeans
Call it Women’s Lib, make it sound obscene
Oh they lied, Oh they lied, Oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They got women prison guards, but I still ain’t satisfied
With so many behind bars, I still ain’t satisfied
I won’t plead guilt, I don’t want no bum deal
I don’t want crumbs, I want the whole meal
Chorus: Oh they lied, Oh they lied, Oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They legalized abortion, but I still ain’t satisfied
Cause it still costs a fortune and I still ain’t satisfied
I’m singing about control of my own womb
And no reform is gonna change my tune
Chorus: Oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They give out pennies here and there but I still ain’t satisfied
To set up centers for childcare but I still ain’t satisfied
And while we work everyday at slave wages,
They brainwash our kids at tender ages
Oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

I got some pride, I won’t be lied to
I did decide that halfway won’t do
Chorus: oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

In the words of the women who brought you International Women’s Day:

We need to go back to the rise of the post-Civil War labour movement and the first wave of feminism to see the inevitable class contradictions that arose between women of the bourgeoisie and women of the working class. The differences in approach are obvious when we look at the issues. Bourgeois women advocating women’s suffrage linked it to property qualifications and argued that women as a group should be enfranchised without looking at how this left blacks and many propertyless workers without the vote ( The birth control movement also wound up linking to eugenics groups that were aligned to repugnant issues targeting the poor and people of colour.

To win equality for all people, women of the left argued that the economic and social exploitation endemic to the capitalist system be eliminated by the triumph of socialism. While suffrage and access to birth control were clearly important reform issues, they would not in and of itself enable all women’s, or for that matter, all people’s equality. . However when reformist men chose to limit their call for the vote to blacks and propertyless working men — forgetting that this still excluded women — the dynamics shifted and the call for socialists to specifically include women in their demand for the vote was born.

“Sojourner Truth” (1797-1883):

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“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say (”

There has been some debate as to whether or not Sojourner Truth actually said the words “Ain’t I a woman” as the speech was reconstructed. Alice Walker prefers the original speech above and we are keeping it. Essentially, the controversy is over a resource written by a man in a newspaper that was one month after the event vs. an informal report by a woman who was at the event. Which resource is more legitimate? Since sources from the side of the oppressed are always both “stronger” — less polite — and de-legitimatized, we am opting for the female on the spot source vs. the male resource with (as the article shows) a specific agenda in terms of tone.

Harriot Stanton Blatch recalled how as a 10-year-old, she once read the morning papers to visiting SOJOURNA TRUTH as she smoked her pipe. Young Blatch asked,
“Sojourner, can’t you read?” To which Truth answered, “Oh no, honey, I can’t read little things like letters. I read big things like men.” Born a slave named Isabella, Sojourna bore at least 5 children, 2 girls sold from her, won her son back from an Alabama slaveholder, worked as a cook, maid and laundress in New York City, illiterate, preached against prostitution 1830, a mystic, chose name 1843, preached throughout Long Island and Connecticut, at abolitionist meetings, spoke at women’s rights meetings in 1850s, and is remembered for her dramatic “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered at the Women’s convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851.

I. Labour and Organising:

Early 20th century US labour history and its relation to international women’s day:

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“A lady is the last thing on earth I want to be. Capitalists side-track the women into clubs and make ladies of them.”
“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”

Labor organizer Mother Jones worked tirelessly for economic justice. While her opponents called her the “most dangerous woman in America,” fellow organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn called Jones “the greatest woman agitator of our times.” Jones combined dynamic speaking skills and radical organizing methods to mobilize thousands of laborers and working-class families. She said of herself,

“I’m not a humanitarian; I’m a hell-raiser.”

Mother Jones’ organizing methods were unique for her time. She welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She organized miners’ wives into teams armed with mops and brooms to guard the mines against scabs. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, “We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines.”

Here is a short video on the life of Mother Jones:

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Cork, Ireland, moved to the United States in the 1840s, where her father worked in railroad construction. Mary became a teacher after trying her hand at dressmaking. In 1861 married a member of Iron Molders’ Union in Memphis. Six years later, she lost her husband and four young children to a yellow fever epidemic, and returned to Chicago to open a seamstress shop. After losing all her possessions in the great Chicago fire of 1871, Jones sought community in the Knights of Labor. She reconstructed herself as “Mother” Jones, radical organizer. Five-feet tall with snow-white hair, all black dress and confrontational style, Jones was indeed a fierce maternal presence.

From the late 1870s through the early 1920s, Jones participated in hundreds of strikes across the country. Living by the philosophy, “wherever there is a fight,” she supported workers in the railroad, steel, copper, brewing, textile, and mining industries. In 1903 she organized children textile workers to march on President Roosevelt’s home (

Mary, like many working class women, saw the suffrage movement as an upper class women’s distraction, saying,

“the plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.”

Although she was suspicious of feminists, her courage and organizing were part of the struggle that informed International Women’s Day and deserves to be remembered on this day if for no other reason that the preceding cautionary quotes.

Lucy Parsons (born c. 1853 – March 7, 1942)
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From her (1905) speech to the IWW:

“We, the women of this country, have no ballot even if we wished to use it, and the only way that we can be represented is to take a man to represent us. You men have made such a mess of it in representing us that we have not much confidence in asking you [.. .]

We [women] are the slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men. Whenever wages are to be reduced the capitalist class use women to reduce them, and if there is anything that you men should do in the future it is to organize the women. [. . .]

Now, what do we mean when we say revolutionary Socialist?
We mean that the land shall belong to the landless, the tools to the toiler, and the products to the producers. [. . .] I believe that if every man and every woman who works, or who toils in the mines, mills, the workshops, the fields, the factories and the farms of our broad America should decide in their minds that they shall have that which of right belongs to them, and that no idler shall live upon their toil [. . .] then there is no army that is large enough to overcome you, for you yourselves constitute the army [. . .].
My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production […].” (

Lucy Parsons was a founding member of the IWW. She worked as an organizer for the IWW and anarchist activist who was a major organizer of the Haymarket Affair of 1886 in Chicago that led to the massacre of eight workers (her husband was executed in 1887 on charges of conspiring with the Haymarket Riot), addressed the founding convention of the IWW on two occasions. She was described by Chicago Police Department in the 1920s as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters (” Her speeches touched on issues close to her heart: the oppression of women and how to develop radical new tactics to win strikes. Her ideas clearly were in advance of the time, presage the “sit-in” strikes of the 1930s, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and her words resonate today. Delegate applause interrupted her speech several times and at the end.

The Uprising of the 20,000:

Interestingly enough while people may have heard the name of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, it is often mostly known due to the horrific fire in 1911. However, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory plays quite a role in the history of trade union struggles in NYC; it was in response to the horrific working conditions at the factory that workers staged a short-term strike which resulted in a lock-out by the company. This led to a 14 week strike known as the “Uprising of the 20,000″ (

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At that point a 19-year old girl named Clara Lemlich who was sitting in the crowd stood up and began walking towards the podium while shouting “I want to say a few words!”Once she got to the podium, she continued, “I have no further patience for talk as I am one of those who feels and suffers from the things pictured. I move that we go on a general strike…now!” The audience rose to their feet and cheered, then voted for a strike (

“The news of the strike spread quickly to all the New York garment workers. At a series of mass meetings, after the leading figures of the American labor movement spoke in general terms about the need for solidarity and preparedness, Clara Lemlich rose to speak about the conditions she and other women worked under and demanded an end to talk and the calling of a strike of the entire industry. The crowd responded enthusiastically and, after taking a traditional Yiddish oath, “If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise,” voted for a general strike. Approximately 20,000 out of the 32,000 workers in the shirtwaist trade walked out in the next two days.”

 photo maymyrighthandwither.jpg

Some music to enjoy (well without the music):
The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand
Dedicated to the Waistmakers of 1909

In the black of the winter of nineteen nine,
When we froze and bled on the picket line,
We showed the world that women could fight
And we rose and won with women’s might.
Hail the waistmakers of nineteen nine,
Making their stand on the picket line,
Breaking the power of those who reign,
Pointing the way, smashing the chain.
And we gave new courage to the men
Who carried on in nineteen ten
And shoulder to shoulder we’ll win through,
Led by the I.L.G.W.U.
(From: Let’s Sing! Educational Department, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, New York City, n.d.,… ).”

The strike was not completely successful. While Union recognition was not achieved, conditions on working hours, health and safety standards and wages were agreed but many employers in the industry (including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory owners) refused to sign. In 1910, the ILGWU led a strike of 60,000 cloakmakers called “The Great Revolt” that lasted several months and which led to higher wages, union recognition rudimentary health benefits, and an agreement of arbitration rather than strikes to settle disagreements between workers and employers. (
 photo onstrike.jpg
Following the strike of the 20,000, waves of strikes spread through the garment trade starting with Cleveland and Philadelphia and in 1910 and 19111, they hit Chicago. Beginning at Hart, Schaffner, and Marx in September 1910 when 16 women struck. While wages, working conditions and working hours were bad, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the imposition of a bonus system that allowed supervisors to play favourites with some workers, as well as a cut in the piece rate of 1/4 cent. By the end of the week, the original 16 were joined by 2,000 other women. When the United Garment Workers union (UGW) officially sanctioned the strike, 41,000 workers walked off the job. The UGW refused to call a general strike and only called out workers that were without contracts. Hart, Schaffner and Marx shifted work to non-union sub-contractors. As the fall progressed, the strike increasingly looked like a lost cause. In early November, the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) urged the strikers to settle, and the UGW withdrew support in December. Workers under Sidney Hillman’s leadership ratified a contract with HSM that went into effect on January 14. Other workers, the most radical of the strikers, held out until February, when the general strike was called off. As many workers as could returned to their shops, but many were refused re-employment (

Hannah Shapiro Glick
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“It wasn’t because I wanted to work, but I could see that every little cent helped. …I went to work at Hart, Schaffner & Marx; I thought, “I have to better myself.” [...] There’s nothing like in a big place to work; ’cause they have a wonderful system to work.(4) [...] We got along nicely with every language, let me tell you, but I always minded my own business, but when it came to this, [the strike] I couldn’t stand this [...]. They were all afraid to say a word but I wasn’t [...]. People who are older than I am would stay in the house and not to budge. So I was the first one [...] If not for me, it seems they couldn’t move [...] I’m a strong girl; I never regretted it [...] I think if not for the strike, they would never have what they have now; we had to strike and I think we had the right to go [...] They stayed like glue; they felt they had to show we have to be recognized as people and, really, we struggled; it wasn’t easy [...]The workingman has to live too, that’s what it had to show and it did too (”

(excerpted from research by Rebecca Sive, (also see: In 1922, Hannah Shapiro was identified in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Joint Board Report as the initiator of the 1910 Chicago strike. Although she never emerged as a political leader, Glick was one of the “girl strikers” Buhle’s Socialist thinkers admired.

On September 22, 1910, Hannah [a.k.a. "Annie"] Shapiro (later Glick), a seventeen-year-old Jewish immigrant born in the Ukraine, initiated the workers’ walkout in shop 5 of a major clothing manufacturer. Shapiro, complained to her foreman about a cut in the piecework rate from 4 cents to 3 & 3/4 cents for seaming a pair of pants. He replied that nothing could be done. Under Shapiro’s leadership, workers from shop 5 walked out. By Wednesday, workers in other company shops refused to do the work of Shapiro’s shop and, by the end of the week, workers in seven out of ten Hart, Schaffner & Marx shops were out. A month later, 40,000 Chicago garment workers were on strike.
By her own account, Glick was young, fearless, and responsive to the righteousness of the workers’ struggle. Her convictions gave her strength; she was a tireless picketer and a good speaker, though not a trained organizer. Although she remembered meeting Jane Addams, dancing with Clarence Darrow [who represented the workers during arbitration], organizing with Agnes Nestor and Mary Dreier Robins, and watching Bessie Abramovitch (Hillman) flirt, She had no memory of Clara Masilotti, the Italian strike leader. Furthermore, Glick does not appear “conferring” in any photographs, nor did she write any articles about the strike, or teach English to strikers She did not speak at meetings of the workers, as Abramovitch did. However, she was always her own woman. She did not participate in the selling of the “Special Girl Strikers’ Edition” of the Chicago Daily Socialist because she did not agree with Socialist organizing tactics. Of her own significance in the strike, Glick said

“The strike, I’ll tell you the truth for me, it was a joke, but for the married people…But I was the spokes [sic]… At first they said, ‘A young girl, what does she know, good from bad, couldn’t she make up 1/4 cent? [...] Women can’t stick to anything.’

In retrospect, she saw her importance as having been a model of steadfast courage.

The Creation of International Women’s Day
The declaration of a women’s day was called by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 and was celebrated across the US on February 28th. In fact, it was celebrated in the US on the last Sunday in February up until 1913 (

In 1910, at the Socialist (second) International (second internationall) in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin suggested the creation of International Women’s day was established to honour women’s rights and to support the struggle for women’s suffrage.
In 1911, the first international women’s day was celebrated on March 19th by demonstrations in Austria (1918), Germany (1918), Denmark (1915) and Switzerland (1971) where over 1 million women and men attended the demonstrations. The dates in parentheses indicate when women achieved not only the right to vote, but the right to vote independently of property qualifications; in parentheses is the date that women’s suffrage was granted in these countries (women’s suffrage timeline). This most basic right of bourgeois democracies was denied to women and is still denied in many countries.

Some More US Labour History:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

And this leads us once again to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the fire on March 25th 1911. The death of 146 people (17 men, 129 women mostly young immigrants; 146 out of 500 people employed at the company) either burnt to death or who died after jumping from the building.
 photo bodiesfromtriangleshirtwaistfactoryfire.jpg
These deaths all happened in the space of 18 minutes when a rag caught on fire in the space housing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (they occupied the 8-10 floors of the Asch building); in order to prevent workers from leaving early or stealing from the firm, workers going off shift had to pass through doors where their bags would be searched. The exits of the 9th floor were simply impassable, some doors were locked, the fire escapes buckled due to the heat of the flames. The locked doors ensured that those trapped inside (those on the 10th floor were able to make it to the roof) had the choice of being burned to death or jumping out the windows to their deaths (the fireman’s safety nets could not hold the weight of people from those heights, the fire ladders were too short to reach these floors and the water hoses could not reach a fire that high). These unnecessary and horrific deaths became a unifying theme for international women’s day and its link to working class struggles for justice (Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire).
Cornell University’s International Labour Relations Department has a 100 year tribute to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. This is a fantastic resource and includes a history of the struggles for wages, better working conditions, limits to working hours of the early 20th century in the garment district, eyewitness accounts of survivors, photos of the fire, its aftermath and the funerals. There are also transcripts of the trial against the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company (Blanck and Harris) that were found innocent of second-degree manslaughter as they denied knowledge that the doors were locked. In 1914, they finally settled a civil suit paying $75 per victim (cornell triangle fire)
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350,000 people participated in the funeral march a few days after the fire. At the memorial meeting, Rose Schneiderman gave a speech that has meaning even today.
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“I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting. 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 on fire.
This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the 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 146 of us 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, 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 to us – warning that we 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, 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 my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement (rose schneiderman).”

The Bread and Roses Strike (Lawrence MA, 1912)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, along with Joseph Ettor was one of the major organisers for the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, aka the “Bread and Roses Strike” derived from a sign carried by a woman worker.
Lawrence MA was a mill town; housing was “provided” for workers and was priced higher than elsewhere in New England. Other workers lived in cramped tenements. According to Jone Johnson Lewis (1912_lawrence), the average worker at Lawrence earned less than $9 per week; housing costs were $1 to $6 per week. Introduction of new machinery lead to a speed-up leading to increased productivity but lower wages and less hours available to work. The strike began on January 11th when a few Polish women workers went on strike as their pay was shorted. The next day, 10,000 workers went out; strike numbers rose to 25,000.

The IWW was the main organising force, after meeting with them, the workers demanded:
• 15% pay increase
• 54 hour work week
• overtime pay at double the normal rate of pay
• elimination of bonus pay, which rewarded only a few and encouraged all to work longer hours

Needless to say, the city responded rather badly to the strike.

“The city reacted with nightime militia patrols, turning fire hoses on strikers, and sending some of the strikers to jail. Groups elsewhere, often Socialists, organized strike relief, including soup kitchens, medical care, and funds paid to the striking families (1912 lawrence).

The death of a woman striker, Anna LoPizzo whom was killed as police broke up a picket line on January 29 increased tensions.

“Strikers accused the police of the shooting. Police arrested IWW organizer Joseph Ettor and Italian socialist, newpaper editor, and poet Arturo Giovannitti who were at a meeting three miles away at the time and charged them as accessories to murder in her death. After this arrest, martial law was enforced and all public meetings were declared illegal (”

Dynamite was planted around the town by people paid by the company owners to try and win public sympathy at the expense of the strikers and IWW. Children of the strikers were evacuated to NYC on trains where temporary foster care was provided for them (as an aside, Margaret Sanger was one of the nurses on the train). When the next attempt to relocate children happened; the city reacted violently, mothers and children were clubbed and beaten and children were taken from their parents. This led to a congressional investigation in which the workers actually testified; Helen Taft (the wife of President Taft) actually attended the congressional meetings in sympathy with the workers. This enabled the building of public sympathy as the IWW brought attention to the situation and held solidarity rallies in NY (led by Flynn) and Boston. The company gave in on March 12th to the original demands of the strikers and Ettor and Giovannitti were acquitted of murder on November 26th.
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The song, Rebel Girl, written in honour of Flynn by Joe Hill best expresses her life (elizabeth gurley flynn). The video below begins with Flynn reminiscing about her life, before the song begins:

Born in Concord, NH to a family of socialists and feminists that finally settled in the Bronx in 1900, Flynn attended public school in the Bronx in New York City. At the age of 16 she gave her first public address to the Harlem Socialist Club, where she spoke on “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” Upon her arrest for blocking traffic during one of her soapbox speeches she was expelled from high school, and in 1907 she began full-time organizing for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
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Flynn’s efforts for the IWW took her all over the United States, where she led organizing campaigns among garment workers in Minersville, Pennsylvania; silk weavers in Patterson, New Jersey; hotel and restaurant workers in New York City; miners in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range; and textile workers in the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike of 1912. She spoke in meeting halls, at factory gates, and on street corners in cities and towns across the country.

Many of the workers whom Flynn sought to organize were women and children, and Flynn combined her class-based politics with recognition of the particular oppression women experienced because of their sex. She criticized male chauvinism in the IWW and pressed the union to be more sensitive to the needs and interests of working class women.

With other Communist leaders, Flynn fell victim to the anti-Communist hysteria that suffused the United States after the war. After a nine-month trial in 1952, she was convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the United States government. During her prison term from January 1955 to May 1957 at the women’s federal penitentiary at Alderson, West Virginia, she wrote, took notes on prison life, and participated in the integration of a cottage composed of African-American women.

Flynn published two books about her life:
The Rebel Girl, An Autobiography: My First Life (1906-1926; revised edition, 1973) and The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner (1955). The following books provide discussions of Flynn in the context of women activists and labor radicals: Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (1969); Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880-1917 (1980).

Women’s Suffrage, Race and Class Struggle:
The Women’s Suffrage movement split upon both race and class early in its history.

CLARA ZETKIN. (1857-1933).

“As far as the proletarian woman is concerned, it is capitalism’s need to exploit and to search incessantly for a cheap labor force that has created the women’s question. It is for this reason, too, that the proletarian woman has become enmeshed in the mechanism of the economic life of our period and has been driven into the workshop and to the machines. She went out into the economic life in order to aid her husband in making a living, but the capitalist mode of production transformed her into on unfair competitor. She wanted to bring prosperity to her family, but instead misery descended upon it. The proletarian woman obtained her own employment because she wanted to create a more sunny and pleasant life for her children, but instead she became almost entirely separated from them. She became an equal of the man as a worker; the machine rendered muscular force superfluous and everywhere women’s work showed the same results in production as men’s work. And since women constitute a cheap labor force and above all a submissive one that only in the rarest of cases dares to kick against the thorns of capitalist exploitation, the capitalists multiply the possibilities of women’s work in industry. As a result of all this, the proletarian woman has achieved her independence. But verily, the price was very high and for the moment they have gained very little. If during the Age of the Family, a man had the right (just think of the law of Electoral Bavaria!) to tame his wife occasionally with a whip, capitalism is now taming her with scorpions. In former times, the rule of a man over his wife was ameliorated by their personal relationship. Between an employer and his worker, however, exists only a cash nexus. The proletarian woman has gained her economic independence, but neither as a human being nor as a woman or wife has she had the possibility to develop her individuality. For her task as a wife and a mother, there remain only the breadcrumbs which the capitalist production drops from the table.

Therefore the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be similar to the struggle that the bourgeois woman wages against the male of her class. On the contrary, it must be a joint struggle with the male of her class against the entire class of capitalists. She does not need to fight against the men of her class in order to tear down the barriers which have been raised against her participation in the free competition of the market place. Capitalism’s need to exploit and the development of the modern mode of production totally relieves her of having to fight such a struggle. On the contrary, new barriers need to be erected against the exploitation of the proletarian woman. Her rights as wife and mother need to be restored and permanently secured. Her final aim is not the free competition with the man, but the achievement of the political rule of the proletariat. The proletarian woman fights hand in hand with the man of her class against capitalist society. To be sure, she also agrees with the demands of the bourgeois women’s movement, but she regards the fulfillment of these demands simply as a means to enable that movement to enter the battle, equipped with the same weapons, alongside the proletariat (”

Radical Socialist and feminist, Clara Zetkin joined the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany in 1875. Zetkin belonged to the Radical wing of the Party along with Rosa Luxemburg. She married a Russian revolutionary living in exile (for a bibliography of Zetkin, see Clara Zetkin bibliography).
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Clara Zetkin was influenced by Bebel’s position in Women and Socialism which argued that it was the goal of socialists “not only to achieve equality of men and women under the present social order, which constitutes the sole aim of the bourgeois women’s movement, but to go far beyond this and to remove all barriers that make one human being [economically]dependent upon another, which includes the dependence of one sex upon another.”

In 1889, Zetkin wrote:

“What made women’s labour particularly attractive to the capitalists was not only its lower price but also the greater submissiveness of women. The capitalists speculate on the two following factors: the female worker must be paid as poorly as possible and the competition of female labour must be employed to lower the wages of male workers as much as possible. In the same manner the capitalists use child labour to depress women’s wages and the work of machines to depress all human labour.”

In 1891 Zetkin became editor of the SPD’s journal, Die Gleichheit (Equality). An impressive journalist, Zetkin took the circulation from 11,000 in 1903 to 67,000 three years later. She was also active against militarism. At the time of WW1, Zetkin wrote in November, 1914:

“When the men kill, it is up to us women to fight for the preservation of life. When the men are silent, it is our duty to raise our voices in behalf of our ideals.”

A strong campaigner for women’s suffrage, Zetkin was elected secretary of the International Socialist Women. In 1907, she became the leader of the women’s office at the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) and organized the first international women’s conference (Clara Zetkin). She wrote:

“The socialist parties of all countries are duty bound to fight energetically for the implementation of universal women’s suffrage which is to be vigorously advocated both by agitation and by parliamentary means. When a battle for suffrage is conducted, it should only be conducted according to socialist principles, and therefore with the demand of universal suffrage for all men and women [irrespective of class and property ownership].”

In 1910 at the Second International, she advocated for the formation of International Women’s Day on March 8th (
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Video of Zetkin:

IDA BELL WELLS-BARNETT (Holy Springs, Mississippi) July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931)
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The following story illustrates how Well’s long history of fighting for black rights influenced the suffrage movement:

On March 3, 1913, as 5,000 women prepared to parade through President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, demanding the right to vote, Ida B. Wells was standing to the side. A black journalist and civil-rights activist, she had taken time out from her anti-lynching campaign to lobby for woman suffrage in Chicago.
But a few days earlier, leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had insisted she not march with the Illinois delegation. Certain Southern women, they said, had threatened to pull out if a black woman marched alongside whites.

A constitutional amendment for woman suffrage, the object of the parade, would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the state legislatures after garnering two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. In the Southern states, opposition to woman suffrage was intensified as legislators feared that granting women the vote would add even more black voters to the voting rolls.

So, the parade organizers reasoned, a compromise had to be struck: African American women could march in the suffrage parade, but in order to prevent raising even more opposition in the South, they would have to march at the back of the march. The organizers of the march asked that the African American women march at the back of the parade.

Mary Terrell accepted the decision. But Ida Wells-Barnett did not. She tried to get the white Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters. The Alpha Suffrage Club women either marched in the back, or, as did Ida Wells-Barnett herself, decided not to march in the parade at all.
But, as the parade progressed, Wells-Barnett emerged from the crowd and joined the (white) Illinois delegation, marching between two white supporters. She refused to comply with the segregation. This was neither the first nor the last time that African American women found their support of women’s rights received with less than enthusiasm.
Didn’t black women have as much right to vote as white women? Sixty-five years earlier, at the dawn of the woman’s suffrage movement, most suffragists would have said yes. In fact, early feminists were often anti-slavery activists before they started arguing for women’s rights. And the parallels between black slaves — who could not vote or hold property — and women — who could do neither in most states — couldn’t be ignored (Sources: and

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Born of slave parents, Ida B. Wells became a teacher, refused to give up her seat to go to the “coloured section” and sued the railroad in the 1880s. She led the national campaign against lynching, and founded Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago with Black suffragists.

But the rights of blacks and women did not always go hand in hand. In 1869, as America was about to give black men the right to vote, the woman’s movement split in two. Half the activists felt that any expansion of voting rights was a step in the right direction; the other half were angry that women were being left behind.

By 1900, most suffragists had lost their enthusiasm for civil rights, and actually used racism to push for the vote. Anna Howard Shaw, head of NAWSA, said it was “humiliating” that black men could vote while well-bred white women could not. Other suffragists scrambled to reassure white Southerners that white women outnumbered male blacks in the South. If women got the vote, they argued, they would help preserve “white supremacy. “But not all white suffragists shunned blacks, but Wells was never really embraced by the white suffrage movement. And though both white and black women won the vote in 1920, they did not do it by marching together.

The discussions on the left addressed Women’s Suffrage differently and from a critical perspective compared to those of bourgeois feminist movements. Questions were raised amongst the anarchists such as Emma Goldman asked whether the ballot was a priority, that it distracted women from true emancipation and tied our emancipation towards participating in elections rather than elimination of oppression and the state; Mother Jones argued that it was not a priority, we should be fighting class oppression. Amongst the Socialists and Communists, support for Women’s Suffrage was strong. However, their argument was strongly differentiated from the Bourgeois Women’s Suffrage movement and emphasised that while extension of bourgeois democracy was appropriate if nothing else on social grounds and economic grounds; simply getting women into political movements was important. However, it was always emphasised that true liberation and emancipation would only come through the struggle and creation of socialism.

Emma Goldman (June 27 [O.S. June 15] 1869 – May 14, 1940)
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“The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.”
“Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman’s greatest misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.

As a matter of fact, the most advanced students of universal suffrage have come to realize that all existing systems of political power are absurd, and are completely inadequate to meet the pressing issues of life (”

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire to an orthodox Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and moved first to Rochester, NY before she moved and settled to live in NYC. An anarchist writer, theoretician and activist, Goldman wrote and worked extensively on women’s issues on birth control, marriage (she was an ardent supporter of “free love”), and freedom of speech, an opponent of homophobia, militarism and conscription. A believer in direct action and violence to support political ends, she was imprisoned several times for “incitement to riot.”

In 1892 she was involved in the Homestead strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (against the Homestead PA steel plant owned by Andrew Carnegie and run by Henry Clay Frick a strong opponent of the union). Her lover, Alexander Birkman, tried unsuccessfully to kill Frick in an attempt to strike terror and raise political consciousness (he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the attempt).
In 1901, Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley (who died from his wounds). Czolgosz said that he was inspired after listening to one of Goldman’s speeches but said that she had no role in the assassination. He was executed for the crime, but she refused to condemn his actions and was vilified leading to a crackdown on anarchists under Teddy Roosevelt the succeeding president. Goldman founded the journal “Mother Earth” in 1906 and when Beckman was released he took over control of the journal while she toured the country advocating anarchism, birth control, free-love and freedom of speech for the next 10 years. Their relationship broke down and Goldman formed a relationship with Ben Reitman (her “hobo” doctor).
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Following the passage of conscription for WWI, Goldman became active in the anti-conscription movement and formed the No Conscription League with Beckman leading to her arrest in June 1917 and imprisonment until 1919.

Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the U.S.
Department of Justice’s General Intelligence Division, were intent on using the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1918 to deport any non-citizens they could identify as advocates of anarchy or revolution. “Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman,” Hoover wrote while they were in prison, “are, beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country and return to the community will result in undue harm.” They (and 247 other people) were deported en masse to Russia. Initially supportive of the revolution, Goldman and Beckman became rapidly and strongly disenchanted and left the country in 1921.

She then lived in the UK after marrying to get British citizenship to provide her with some safety; she started writing her biography in 1928, travelled to Canada. She was allowed to return to the US for a lecture tour in 1933, as long as she did not speak of politics or current events. She visited Spain (she strongly support the anarcho-syndicalists during the Civil War and championed their cause) and her support for their struggle was formally recognised by the CNT-FAI. She died in 1940 in Toronto Canada (Emma Goldman).

Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)

From Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle (1912)

“Economically and socially, the women of the exploiting classes do not make up an independent stratum of the population. They perform a social function merely as instruments of natural reproduction for the ruling classes. The women of the proletariat, on the contrary, are independent economically; they are engaged in productive work for society just as the men are. Not in the sense that they help the men by their housework, scraping out a daily living and raising children for meagre compensation. This work is not productive within the meaning of the present economic system of capitalism, even though it entails an immense expenditure of energy and self-sacrifice in a thousand little tasks. This is only the private concern of the proletarians, their blessing and felicity, and precisely for this reason nothing but empty air as far as modem society is concerned. Only that work is productive which produces surplus value and yields capitalist profit – as long as the rule of capital and the wage system still exists. From this standpoint the dancer in a cafe, who makes a profit for her employer with her legs, is a productive working-woman, while all the toil of the woman and mothers of the proletariat within the four walls of the home is considered unproductive work. This sounds crude and crazy but it is an accurate expression of the crudeness and craziness of today’s capitalist economic order; and to understand this crude reality clearly and sharply is the first necessity for the proletarian woman (”

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Rosa Luxemburg was born in Russian-controlled Poland. She was the 5th child of a Jewish Timber Merchant; a childhood illness left her with a permanent limp. Rosa Luxemburg was a leading Marxist theoretician and organiser whose writings were pertinent to many debates of the period and are still relevant to contemporary debates especially on Reform versus Revolution, Tactics and Strategy, Political Organisation, Political Economy and discussions of the National Question (
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In 1886, Luxemburg joined the Polish Proletariat Party which organised a general strike leaving in 1887 resulting in 4 leaders killed and the party disbanded. Rosa fled to Switzerland in 1889, studying at Zurich University. She co-founded the Social Democratic party of the Kingdom of Poland (and later Lithuania joined the group) with Leo Jogiches. She wrote extensively on the national question, political economy, politics and history. In 1896, she married Gustav Lübeck, got German citizenship and moved to Berlin. She was active in the left-wing of the SPD leading the fight against Bernstein’s revisionist policies (See Social Reform or Revolution). A supporter of the use of direct action and the general strike, she ran into difficulties with the right of the SPD and also the government. She was imprisoned 3 times for her political activities between the periods of 1904-6. She finally broke with the SPD in 1914 when they voted to support the war and agreed to a truce with the Imperial Government. In 1914, Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin, and Franz Mehring, founded the Die Internationale group; it became the Spartacus League in January 1916. The Spartacist League vehemently rejected the SPD’s support for the war, trying to lead Germany’s proletariat to an anti-war general strike. As a result, in June 1916 Luxemburg was imprisoned for two and a half years, as was Karl Liebknecht. During imprisonment, she was twice relocated, first to Posen (now Poznań), then to Breslau (now Wrocław). Freed from Prison in Breslau in 1918, Luxemburg and Liebknecht reorganised the Spartacist League which along with the Independent Socialists and the International Communists of Germany (IKD) united to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) on 1st January 1919 under her and Liebknecht’s leadership.

In January 1919 a second revolutionary wave took Berlin. The leader of the SPD (Friedrich Ebert, a former student of Luxemburg) ordered the destruction of the left-wing revolution. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were captured on the 15th of January in Berlin and were first questioned and then murdered by the Freikorps’ Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision. While Leibknecht body was delivered anonymously to a morgue; Rosa Luxemburg’s body was dumped in a river (see Rosa Luxemburg).

Alexandra Kollantai (1872-1953)

young kollantai:
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Today, for International Women’s Day 2013, we are including the words of Alexandra Kollantai, on the question of maternity insurance, motherhood and children. Many readers might ask why this topic? Isn’t the question surrounding reproductive rights the purview of bourgeois feminists? Shouldn’t we be focused on articles that pertain to women’s role in the workforce and IWD, especially when the writer is Kollantai, a leading advocate of IWD during the Russian Revolution, For those women, we refer you to the following link: To mark International Women’s Day 2010, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reproduces Alexandra Kollontai’s classic history and explanation of this important anniversary. Kollontai’s writings are available on line (see: Alexandra Kollantai bibliography).

However, we chose the article on maternity insurance because: 1) if you watch the news today, you will see the same problem of maternity insurance, motherhood and children (albeit an updated version) being argued in the halls of the U.S. Congress in 2013 just as it was argued by Russian society in 1902; and 2) as Kolantai, herself notes, it is the most vital and urgent problem created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The article, although already significantly edited, is very long. We hope the opening will entice you enough to follow the link and read the entire argument. Then go discuss it with the women in your neighbourhood.

Kollantai in Sweden when she was a diplomat there:
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Society and Motherhood (Source: Alexandra Kollontai: Selected Articles and Speeches, Progress Publishers, 1984; First Published: Society and Motherhood, Petrograd, 1916, pp. 3-18, abridged; Transcribed: Sally Ryan for, 2000)

“Among the numerous problems raised by contemporary reality there is probably none more important for mankind, none more vital and urgent than the problem of motherhood created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The problem of protecting and providing for the mother and young child is one that faces social politicians, knocks relentlessly at the door of the statesman, engages the health and hygiene specialists, concerns the social statistician, haunts the representative of the working class and weighs down on the shoulders of tens of millions of mothers compelled to earn their own living.

Side by side with the problem of sex and marriage, enveloped in the poetical language of the psychological suffering, insoluble difficulties and unsatisfied needs of noble souls, there is always to be found the majestic and tragic figure of motherhood wearily carrying her heavy burden. Neo-Malthusians, social-reformers and philanthropists have all hastened to provide their own particular solution to this thorny problem, and all sing the praises of their own method of restoring paradise lost to mothers and babies.

The prosperity of national industry and the development of the national economy depend upon a constant supply of fresh labour […] the principle of state maternity insurance [is] a principle in sharp contradiction with the present social structure as [it] undermines the basis of marriage and violates the fundamental concepts of private-family rights and relationships. However, if, in the name of ‘higher’ considerations of state and under the pressure of necessity, the state authorities have been compelled to advance and implement a measure so at odds with the prevailing spirit of the representatives of the bourgeois world, at the other end of the social scale, among the working class, the principle of providing for and protecting mother and child is welcomed with enthusiasm and sympathy.

The demand that the social collective (the community) provide maternity insurance and child protection was born of the immediate and vital needs of the class of hired workers. Of all the strata of society, this class is the one which most requires that a solution be found to the painful conflict between compulsory professional labour by women and their duties as representatives of their sex, as mothers. Following a powerful class instinct rather than a clearly understood idea, the working class strove to find a way of resolving this conflict (Society and Motherhood 1915).

An ardent supporter of working class women, Kollantai, herself came from the bourgeois intelligentsia. Her father was a general and her mother came from a wealthy peasant family. Her mother’s divorce from her first husband and the long and unhappy struggle of her parents to be together helped develop her ideas on love, sex and marriage which became a critical part of her feminist theory. Her own early marriage ended because she felt “trapped.” She became increasingly involved with the populist ideas of the Peasant Commune in the 1890s which led her to the budding Marxist movement in St. Petersburg. In 1898 she left her child by her first marriage with her parents and went to study economics abroad in Europe. In 1899, she returned to Russia where she met Lenin who supported her feminist ideas. She was a witness of the popular uprising in 1905 known as Bloody Sunday, at Saint Petersburg in front of the Winter Palace. She went into exile to Germany in 1908. She left Germany when the SPD supported WWI which she adamantly opposed. She settled in Norway where her antiwar views were accepted. She finally returned to Russia after the Tsar abdicated in 1917. She became the most well-known advocate for women’s equality in Russia and the most prominent woman in the Soviet administration .She was best known for founding the Zhenotdel or “Women’s Department” (1919) where she worked to improve the conditions of women’s lives, fighting illiteracy and educating women about the new marriage, education, and working laws put in place by the Soviet Union (Alexandra Kollantai .

In the 1920s, she joined a left-wing faction of the Communist party that opposed Lenin and was effectively purged from any further meaningful role in the party. Because of her previously close relationship with Lenin, however, she was allowed to live out her days in various diplomatic positions abroad (Alexandra Kollantai ).

Kollontai raised eyebrows with her unflinching advocacy of free love. Kollontai’s views on the role of marriage and the family under Communism were arguably more influential on today’s society than her advocacy of “free love.” Kollontai believed that, like the state, the family unit would wither away. She viewed marriage and traditional families as legacies of the oppressive, property-rights-based, egoist past. Under Communism, both men and women would work for, and be supported by, society, not their families. Similarly, their children would be wards of, and reared basically by society. Kollontai admonished men and women to discard their nostalgia for traditional family life. “The worker-mother must learn not to differentiate between yours and mine; she must remember that there are only our children, the children of Russia’s communist workers.” However, she also praised maternal attachment: “Communist society will take upon itself all the duties involved in the education of the child, but the joys of parenthood will not be taken away from those who are capable of appreciating them.”Alexandra Kollantai
Zetkin and Kollantai (1921)at the International Women’s Conference:
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In solidarity with all women’s struggles:
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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


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


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.


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.



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:


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:


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:

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.


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


Annie with Her Flag

Marchers in Sunday Best

Socialist Party Pin


The Fighting Woman of Copper Country 1913

Annie with Her Flag Leading Parade

1913 MI National Guard on Horseback

Miners’ Bulletin


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,

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

The Tyomies Publishing Company places the photo in Hancock.

Citizens Alliance Button

The Children’s Bodies at the Red Jacket Village Hall

Small White Coffins

[Lully, Lullay]

Feb 23 1903: Mother Jones and the Massacre of the Raleigh County Miners

3:50 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Mother Jones

by JayRaye

“Has anyone ever told you, my children, about the lives you are living…?”

Let us stop and consider, for a moment, what would cause thousands of miners to lay down their tools and go out on strike, when striking meant homelessness and hunger for themselves and their families. Striking also brought down upon them the terror of the company guards, heavily armed deputies (often one and the same), state militia, bullpens, raids, court injunctions, and the wrath of the capitalistic press.

In 1897, Mother Jones was in West Virginia traveling and speaking to miners and their families. John Walker of the United Mine Workers of America was traveling with her. In 1904, a reporter who had accompanied her wrote this account of one of her speeches:

‘Has any one ever told you, my children, about the lives you are living, more so that you may understand how it is you pass your days on earth? Have you told each other about it and thought it over among yourselves, so that you might imagine a brighter day and begin to bring it to pass? If no one has done so, I will do it for you today. I want you to see yourselves as you are, Mothers and children, and to think if it is not time you look on yourselves, and upon each other. Let us consider this together, for I am on of you, and I know what it is to suffer.’

So the old lady, standing very quietly in her deep, far-reaching voice, painted a picture of the life of a miner from his young boyhood to his old age. It was a vivid picture. She talked of the first introduction a boy had to those dismal caves under the earth, dripping with moisture often so low that he must crawl into the coal veins; most lie on his back to work. She told how miners stood bent over until the back ached too much to straighten, or in sulpher water that ate through the shoes and made sores on the flesh; how their hands became cracked and the nails broken off in the quick; how the bit of bacon and beans in the dinner pail failed to stop the craving of their empty stomachs, and the thought of the barefoot children, at home and the sick mother was all too dreary to make the homegoing a cheerful one….

And so, while he smoked, the miner thought how he could never own a home, were it ever so humble; how he could not make his wife happy, or his children any better than himself, and how he must get up in the morning and go through it all again; how that some day the fall of rock would come or the rheumatism cripple him; that Mary herself might die and leave him, and some day there would be no longer for him even the job that was so hard and old age and hunger and pain would be his lot. And why, because some other human beings, no more the sons of God than the coal diggers, broke the commandment of God which says, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ and took from the toiler all the wealth which he created, all but enough to keep him alive for a period of years through which he might toil for their advantage.

‘You pity yourselves, but you do not pity your brothers, or you would stand together to help on another,’ said “Mother” Jones. And then in an impassioned vein she called upon them to awaken their minds so that they might live another life. As she ceased speaking men and women looked at each other with shamed faces, for almost every one had been weeping. and suddenly a man pushed his way through the crowd. He was sniveling on his coat sleeve, but he cried out hoarsely:

‘You, John Walker; don’t you go tell us that ‘ere’s “Mother” Jones. That’s Jesus Christ come down on earth again , and saying he’s an old woman so he can come here and talk to us poor devils. God, God-nobody else knows what the poor suffer that way.’

The man was quieted by his wife and led away, while ‘Mother’ Jones looked after him with dilating eyes, and then broke out fiercely in one of her characteristically impassioned appeals for organization. The reporter feared the outbreak was too sacrilegious for publication….

“I dislike to ask you always to take the dangerous fields…”

On May 10, 1902, John Mitchell wrote to Mother Jones who was working as an organizer for the United Mine Workers:

Read the rest of this entry →

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


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 Worker] Tag. These Labor Martyrs will be honored by whatever information I can find about them . For example, in [this diary], 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 Journal] 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 one] or [this one], 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:] “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.


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 Jackson]


Joe Hill’s Ashes:

Names of Ludlow Martyrs by Kossack [MKSinSA],
for which I am eternally grateful!

The Ludlow Monument (with larger view):

Wesley Everest:

Julius A Wayland:

Entire Poem by Richard Myers here:

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: Workers, not Servants by Irene Ortiz Rosen

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today we are fortunate to have a diary describing the current condition of domestic workers in Mexico. This is an issue which has received increasing attention in the last three years. A long-time activist in the Domestic Worker Movement, Irene Ortiz Rosen, is the Co-Founder and Director of Collectivo Atabal, an organization of activists and feminists formed to defend the rights, dignity and demands of domestic workers in Mexico City. She is also the Co-Author of “Así es, Pues” a socio-economic study of domestic workers in Cuernavaca. A recent emigrant from Mexico, she approaches the subject from a global perspective which emphasizes the class and anti-imperialist aspects of the struggle as well as its patriarchal nature.

In the world of labor, a large group of women whose work is the maintenance of the homes of others is largely ignored—domestic workers. According to the ILO, there are more than 52 million domestic workers in the world.

In almost all countries, domestic workers share the following characteristics: 1) invisibility; 2) migration; 3) low levels of education; 4) gender, ethnic and racial discrimination; and 5) the informality of their labor. These are all products of poverty.
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Domestic workers make up an invisible workforce because their work is carried out in the private sphere, that is, the homes of their employers. Their contract is verbal, their work is isolated, and their mobility is common.

Generally they are migrants, usually, within their own countries. This is the case for indigenous women and women who come from rural areas in Latin America. And as the gap in inequality grows throughout the world, in the poorest countries the phenomenon of migration (usually without papers) is growing beyond borders. That is how they arrive to United States and Canada, by informally working as House Cleaning Personnel, Nannies and Home Attendants. In New York alone, we are talking about more than 200 thousand people who are working under disadvantaged conditions due to their Undocumented status.

Their discrimination is shared with nearly all women, and its logic corresponds to the subordination of women in a patriarchal culture. Within the patriarchal view of the traditional role of women, their work is an extension of the reproductive role, which is considered natural for their gender.

We should not forget that women in general, as housewives and mothers, perform domestic work without any pay whatever. Consequently, their work is not considered part of the national economy despite the fact that it makes up about 20% of the GDP. If a woman looks for waged work, she enters the labor market in a disadvantaged way; forty-five percent of women domestic workers receive salaries that are 10% lower than salaries received by men for the same work.
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Global economic policies that have impoverished the majority of the world´s population have brought women in all countries into the public sphere. The women working in the public sphere then need to hire a domestic worker to care for their children and home. However, because they, themselves, are not paid well, they are unable to pay a fair wage, even if they value the services being performed by domestic help.

Out of an employed population of 42.6 million in Mexico, there are 1.58 million domestic workers. They make up the fifth-largest group of informal workers.
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The Mexican Federal Labor Law (LFT), in a brief chapter, only refers to domestic workers who live in the homes of their employers, “live-in workers,” and specifies two rights: the wage and the working day. In Article 334, it says, “the pay should be 50% in kind (food and a room).” And in Article 333 it says, “they have the right to have necessary time to eat and to rest at night.” In practice this means that the wage is minimal and that the working day is 12 to 15 hours.
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In the case of “external” workers,” their employers are typically members of the middle class and look upon this work as a “service of help,” sporadic and temporary. The law does not specify their labor rights. Their only power is to negotiate their wages according to the current state of supply and demand in the labor market. Occasionally, those who are valued on their jobs because they have been doing it for so long and those who are part of a union (some are unionized) do achieve better work conditions.

From my experience of 20 years as an organizer of this workforce in my country, I see similarities not only in the conditions of the work, but in the efforts and organizing strategies as well, in Latin America, in California, New York, Chicago and Canada.

Labor union organization, as it is well known, is almost impossible because domestic workers don´t work for a single employer. The attempts to organize the unions in Latin America, are almost symbolic, without recognition or force when facing the employers. They are more like social organizations.

Nonetheless, over the past 40 years, there have been organizations, each with its own character in each country. The principal demand is to stop “live in” which is the most exploited type of work. There have also been addition demands, like regularizing the working day, receiving full pay for holidays and other benefits like the year-end bonus, vacation time and health insurance.
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The strategies implemented and agreed upon are based on the sociopolitical and historical context of each country. In my work, emphasis is on the following strategies: 1) the search for alliance; 2) integrating oneself in social movements; 3) searching for solidarity and actively seeking the company of activists and advisers. This includes, accepting and looking for donations, creating campaigns, editing publications, reaching the media, lobbying political actors, and most importantly, educating workers about their rights.

In Mexico, the initiative began when activists pushed workers to unionize. There are also the personal goals of the workers affiliated with unions such as educating them about their rights, the acknowledgment of dignity in their industry, the improvement of their working conditions and their legal defense in abuse cases.
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Of collective achievements, I would like to point out the best known ones: The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights recently won after ten years of struggle in New York State; a federal deputy of indigenous origin in Bolivia who had been the leader of a domestic workers organization; in Brazil, a representative of a domestic workers organization to parliament, along with labor law reform and the recognition of a domestic workers union; In Uruguay, the syndicate achieved health coverage legislation, along with severance pay and a bonus on retirement. In Mexico, 20 years after activists began promoting the organization, an indigenous leader, is continuing the process of organizing in Mexico City.

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The most significant achievement is the adoption of Convention 189 by the ILO on June 16, 2011, which advocates for the dignity of work for domestic workers, along with the adoption of Recommendation 201, which sets the goal of guaranteeing dignified pay and working conditions for domestic workers around the world. At this point, however, only six countries have ratified the convention: The Philippines, Mauritius, Italy, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Uruguay.

I want to conclude by emphasizing that with every achievement, the workers face new challenges that motivates them to keep on fighting. The Bill of Rights, in New York, now has the task of informing each worker of it’s content and it’s right to be followed. No more, no less. It’s a process that some must begin and others must continue in hopes that tomorrow things will be better for everyone.

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


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!


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:

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.


Making Change at Walmart

OUR Walmart
Organization United for Respect at Walmart

NLRB Employee Rights

Organize the Unorganized
-by William Z Foster
Chicago TUEL, 1926
Chapter I-”The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized”

For further study:
An interesting article on ULP strikes from

Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?

Follow the #Ride4Respect

Stand with Walmart Workers/Petition for June 7



Connect with OUR Walmart

In Solidarity,

Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the Paterson Silk Strike by JayRaye

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn with Pat Quinlan, Carlo Tresca,
Adolph Lessig, and Big Bill Haywood
Paterson, New Jersey 1913

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Arrives

On January 27, 1913 at the Doherty Silk Mill in Paterson, New Jersey, a workers committee requested a meeting with management. They wanted an end to the hated four-loom system which had doubled their work load with no increase in pay, and had caused the lay-offs of many of their fellow workers. When four members of that committee were fired, 800 silk workers, almost the entire work force, walked off the job spontaneously. They were without union organization to back them up. Being mostly foreign-born, non-English-speaking, unskilled workers, the AFL’s United Textile Workers did not want them.

But, in fact, there was another textile union in Paterson at that time: the IWW’s National Industrial Union of Textile Workers, Local 152 which local organizers, Ewald Koettgen and Adolph Lessig had established over several years of organizing. It was there, with this stalwart band of 100 Wobblies, that the strikers found a union willing to back up their strike. As it became clear that Doherty would not bargain with the strikers, Local 152 request help from IWW headquarters in Chicago.

On February 25, 1913, national IWW organizers, Pat Quinland, Carlos Tresca, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrived to speak at a mass meeting. All three were arrested that night at the meeting. Strikers followed them to the jail and held a rally outside the jail, singing and shouting for their release. Women shouted, “When the strike is won, Gurley Flynn will be the boss!”

By the time Big Bill Haywood arrived, later that week, the strike had spread to silk mills across Paterson. 300 mills were shut down, and 25,000 silk workers were on strike. Big Bill advised the strikers: “fold your arms or put your hands in your pocket and let the manufacturers do the worrying.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Speaking to Strikers
Paterson, New Jersey 1913

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Speaks to Strikers

Meetings, rallies, marches, speeches, and singing were features of any IWW strike, and the Paterson Silk Strike fit that mold. Mass meetings were held every morning, and shop committee meetings each afternoon. Each shop elected two strikers to represent them on the shop committee, and this was the committee that ran the strike. There were also special meetings for the women and children who made up more than half of the strikers.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was much beloved by the strikers. Reporter Art Shields describes the strikers reaction to her:

Fifteen to twenty-thousand strikers and sympathizers were applauding a beautiful young woman, whose passionate voice reached everyone in the crowd. She spoke from a high platform heaped with gorgeous flowers. But violets and roses paled before this twenty-one-year-old beauty, and I fell in love with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at first sight.

I wasn’t her only captive. No other woman speaker except Mother Jones won so many hearts as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She won them in struggles against big exploiters, not in quiet lecture halls….

And there was a dramatic scene when Elizabeth called an Italian girl she knew to the platform. This was a pale, thin teenager..Elizabeth embraced her and then said, “The silk bosses are killing Angelica. They are working her to death. They put her on four looms instead of two. She’s working twice as hard as before.”

…”But that isn’t all the silk bosses did to Angelica. They didn’t give her enough to eat.” Angelica, she said, was the only support of a sick mother and her younger brothers and sisters. Her father was dead. Her family was hungry The family seldom ate meat. “She’s also striking,” Elizabeth said, “for a raise to give her family enough to eat.”

The silk bosses are robbers, Elizabeth continued. The cars they are driving, the diamonds their wives are wearing, the rich food their families are eating, their winter vacations in Florida’s sunshine-all come from the labors of Angelica and twenty-five thousand other silk workers. “And when you win the raises you are fighting for,” she said, “you’ll get back only a little of what you produced. But these raises are just a beginning. The time is coming when you will run these plants for yourselves.”

“She got to be an idol with us.”

Irma Lombardi was a young seventeen-year-old striker. She left us this description of Gurley Flynn:

Gurley Flynn called a meeting just for the women one day. She started with that lovely way of hers. She looked at us and said, “Would you like to have nice clothes?” We replied, “Oh, yes.” “Would you like to have nice shoes?” “Oh,yes.” we shouted. “Well, you can’t have them. Your bosses’ daughters have those things!” We got mad. We knew it was true. We had shoes with holes, and they had lovely things. Then she said, “Would you like to have soft hands like your bosses’ daughters?” and we got mad all over again. She was a beautiful speaker. She got be an idol with us.

Sophie Cohen was the child of a former mill worker. Though not a striker, her father was passionate in his support of the strike, and often brought her to the rallies. She later remembered Gurley Flynn:

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
IWW Organizer

Gurley Flynn looked just like the pictures we see of her now. She was young, vibrant, enthusiastic. She wan’t really a good speaker, but she gave so much of herself in her talks. She would come at night to the soup kitchens. There were big cauldrons of soup set up in a lot next to the church and she would get up on a platform. There were red flares around her, and she’d get them singing and then she’d talk with them. It was just the thing people needed to keep them together and give them courage.

Sundays in Haledon

Meetings were not allowed in Paterson, but the nearby town of Haledon had a Socialist mayor who welcomed the strikers. On Sundays thousands of strikers marched to Haledon. A striker’s family offered the use of their two-story house. Speeches were given from the upper balcony to the crowd gathered below in the street and in the large green field opposite the house. Gurley Flynn later remembered those Sunday meetings fondly:

Sunday after Sunday , as the days became pleasanter, we spoke there to enormous crowds of thousands of people-the strikers and their families, workers from other Paterson industries, people from nearby New Jersey cities, delegations from all over America and from foreign countries. People who saw these Haledon meetings never forgot them.

But there was a deeper reason for going to Haledon on Sundays, Gurley Flynn explained:

Because Sunday is the day before Monday. Monday is the day that a break comes in every strike, if it is to come at all during the week. If you can bring the people safely over Monday they usually go along for the rest of the week. If on Sunday, however, you let those people stay at home, sit around the stove without any fire in it, sit down at the table were there isn’t much food, see the feet of the children with shoes getting thin and the bodies of children where the clothes are getting ragged, they begin to think in terms of “myself” and lose the spirit of the mass and the realization that all are suffering as they are suffering…And so our original reason for going to Haledon was to give them novelty, to give them variety, to take them en masse out of the city of Paterson some place else to sort of picnic over Sunday that would stimulate them for the rest of the week.

Mass Arrests
On the picket lines, the strikers were subject to daily mass arrest. Many were sentenced to ten or twenty days, some to six months at hard labor. Most of the strikers went straight back to the picket line upon their release. Seventeen-year-old Hannah Silverman was arrested three times. She was back on the picket line the next morning each time she was released. Big Bill Haywood hailed her as “the greatest little IWW woman in America.” When Carrie Torello was arrested, she gathered her children together, put them in the patrol wagon and told another striker, “If you see Freddie, tell him to come to Jail.”

The Paterson Press
The Paterson Press openly called for violence against the IWW organizers, calling for the formation of a vigilance committee to drive them out of town:

Los Angeles, Akron, Denver, Ottowa, and other cities kicked the I.W.W. out of town in short order…What is Paterson doing to discourage this revolutionary horde?

And another example:

Akron, Ohio, could not find a law to banish this dangerous revolutionist [Big Bill] and his cohorts but a citizens’ committee of 1000 men did the trick in short order. Can Akron, Ohio, accomplish something that Paterson, N.J., cannot duplicate? The Paterson Press dislikes to believe it, but time will tell.

On Thursday, April 17, 1913, Modestino Valentino was murdered by private detectives, hired gunmen imported from New York by the mill owners. This man’s only crime against the mill owners was that he was standing on his own front porch watching the strikers hoot at the scab-herders. He was not a striker, nor was he a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. The hooting so bothered the gunmen that they felt compelled to open fire on unarmed workers. Gurley Flynn described how he died:

[He] grabbed his child and started through the doorway, when he was shot in the back. His wife grabbed the child and her husband fell and dead at her feet.

Gurley Flynn went with a committee of strikers to visit the widow:

She was in bed, awaiting the birth of a second child. On the other side of a folding partition was the casket of her dead husband, parallel to the bed. The priest came in while we were there but he made no objection to our request [for the I.W.W. to provide for the funeral.] She was a simple grief-stricken woman, who expressed her sympathy with the strikers, many of whom were her neighbors. She placed the blame where it belonged-on the company thugs who murdered her husband. It was a tragic example of force and violence by the employers in the class struggle-a worker dead , a woman widowed, two children, one unborn, left orphans-a story repeated all too often in my experience.

According to IWW historian, Fred Thompson, five workers in all lost their lives in the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913.

Hunger, the Great Strikebreaker
In spite of the courage shown by the strikers and their leaders, the silk strikers were defeated. Some small concessions were made by a few of the mill owners, but for the most part, strikers went back to work defeated. Some had been replaced by scabs and were never rehired. Gurley Flynn partially blamed the Pageant for the loss of the strike, asserting that it was a distraction from strike duties. It was a financial disaster also, which only further discouraged the strikers. But in the end the strike was lost because the strikers were starving. Gurley Flynn later spoke of the suffering that the strikers endured before they were driven back to work by hunger:

I saw men go out in Paterson without shoes, in the middle of winter and with bags on their feet, I went into a family to have a picture taken of a mother with eight children who didn’t have a crust of bread, didn’t have a bowl of milk for the baby in the house,-but the father was out on the picket line. Others were just as bad off. Thousands of them that we never heard of at all. This was the difficulty that the workers had to contend with in Paterson: hunger; hunger gnawing at their vitals; hunger tearing them down; and still they had the courage to fight it out for six months.

Let us honor their courage and sacrifice by continuing the struggle for social and economic justice.



The IWW: Its First Seventy Years 1905-1975
-by Fred W Thompson & Patrick Murfin
IWW Press, 1976

The Rebel Girl
My First Life (1906-1926)

-by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
NY, 1979

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

-by Philip S Foner
NY, 1979

My Shaping-Up Years
-by Art Shields
NY, 1982

Solidarity Forever
An Oral History of the IWW

-ed by Bird, Georgaks, & Shaffer
Lake View Press, 1985

Words on Fire
The Life and Writing of
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

-by Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall
Rutgers U Press, 1987

Rebel Voices
An IWW Anthology

-ed by Joyce L Kornbluh
Charles H Kerr Pub, 1988

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The West Virginia Court-Martial of Mother Jones by JayRaye

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

From the cover of the International Socialist Review of March 1913


June 11, 1912
Charleston Gazette
Interview with Mother Jones

I am simply a social revolutionist. I believe in collective ownership of the means of wealth. At this time the natural commodities of this country are cornered in the hands of a few. The man who owns the means of wealth gets the major profit, and the worker, who produces the wealth from the means in the hands of the capitalist, takes what he can get. Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than we think, evolution and revolution will have accomplished the overturning of the system under which we now live, and the worker will have gained his own.

This change will come as the result of education. My life work has been to try to educate the worker to a sense of the wrongs he has had to suffer, and does suffer-and to stir up the oppressed to a point of getting off their knees and demanding that which I believe to be rightfully theirs. When force is used to hinder the worker in his efforts to obtain the thing which are his he has the right to meet force with force. He has the right to strike for what is his due, and he has no right to be satisfied with less. The people want to do right , but they have been hoodwinked for ages. They are now awakening, and the day of their enfranchisement is near at hand.
[Reprinted in the March 1913 issue of the International Socialist Review.] (pdf!)

Mother Jones gave this interview shortly after her arrival in Charleston. She came by train from Butte, Montana where she had been working with the copper miners of the Western Federation of Miners. Now, she was in West Virginia to assist the the striking miners of the United Mine Workers of America. The miners of Paint Creek were striking for renewal of their contract. The operators were refusing to sign a new contract preferring instead to bust the Union. At issue were all of the usual grievances: dangerous conditions, short weights, payment in company scrip, poor housing, low wages, blacklisting, poor medical care, and never-ending debt. But above all, the miners hated the brutal company-guard system.

To break the strike, the operators had contracted with the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency which supplied them with three hundred gun-thugs who began a campaign of terror against the miners and their families. Even before Mother Jones arrived, there had been clashes with the company guards, and loss of life on both sides. The guards had more weapons, including machine guns, but the miners had more men, seven thousand by some accounts.


Cabin Creek was known as “forbidden territory.” Miner [Frank Keeney] was not afraid to enter, but could find no one to go with him until early August when he found Mother Jones. Miner [Fred Mooney] later told the story:

He [Frank Keeney] proceeded to locate Mother Jones and after a thorough understanding was reached, a date was set for Mother Jones to go into the forbidden territory. I was standing on the bridge at Cabin Creek Junction the day Mother Jones entered Cabin Creek. Her hair was snow white, but she could walk mile after mile and never show fatigue. When we saw her drive by in a horse drawn vehicle we knew the meaning of that visit and we fully expected to hear of her being killed by the gunmen. She arrived at Eskdale without mishap, but after she passed through the business center of town and as she approached the southern residence section a body of gunmen could be seen just ahead….

But she drove her rig near [to the gunmen] and one of the miners assisted her to alight. She surveyed the scene with a critical eye and walked straight up to the muzzle of one of the machine guns and patting the muzzle of the gun, said to the gunman behind it, “Listen here, you, you fire one shot here today and there are 800 men in those hills (pointing to the almost inaccessible hills to the east) who will not leave one of your gang alive.”

It was a bluff, there were no miners in those hills. But the bluff worked. Mother Jones held her mass meeting in Eskdale, and the miners of Cabin Creek joined the strike with Eskdale as a militant center of strike activity.


Mother Jones Speaks

We have the stenographer hired by the operators to thank for the preservation of these speeches. These five speeches were later entered into the court-martial proceedings as evidence against Mother Jones. Full text of the August 15th speech can be read [here.]

August 1, 1912
Charleston, WV
Speech on the levee
from the back of a dray wagon:

…We have broken the chains of chattel slavery, we changed his condition from a chattel slave to wage slave. But you say we didn’t make it any better. Oh, yes, we did, we made it better for the chattel slave. Then we entered into industrial slavery. That was one step in advance. We forever wiped out chattel slavery and came into industrial slavery. Now, industrial slavery is the battle you are in….

Today we are four hundred thousand strong, marching on to liberty, marching on to freedom. We are the United Mine workers of America today numbering four hundred thousand….

August 4, 1912
Montgomery, WV
Speech at the baseball park:

…Now, the Judge said if the operators would quit paying the Baldwin guards they would leave the State. The operators don’t pay the Baldwin guards, they don’t pay them a penny. If it had to come out of their pockets the Baldwin guards would be gone long ago. The miners are robbed in the weighing of coal, in rent and in the store, they pay the Baldwin guards. (Applause.)

You are the fellows that have got the right to clean up the Baldwin guards because you are the fellows who pay them…

August 15, 1912
Charleston, West Virginia
Speech on the capitol steps:

[After first reading a petition to Governor Glasscock for removal of the armed company guards...]

I want to say with all due respect to the Governor-I want to say to you that the Governor will not, cannot do anything, for this reason: The Governor was placed in this building by Scott and Elkins [industrialists] and he don’t dare oppose them. (Loud applause.) Therefore, you are asking the Governor of the State to do something that he cannot do with out betraying the class he belongs to…

We will give the Governor until tomorrow night to take them guards out of Cabin Creek..Here on the steps of the Capitol of West Virginia, I say that if the Governor won’t make them go then we will make them go…

It is freedom or death, and your children will be free. We are not going to leave a slave class to the coming generation, and I want to say to you that the next generation will not charge us for what we have done, they will charge and condemn us for what we have left undone. (Cries of: “That is right.”)…

I see that hour. I see the Star breaking your chains; your chains will be broken, men. You will have to suffer more and more, but it won’t be long. There is an awakening among all the nations of the earth…

Oh, men, have you any hearts? Oh, men, do you feel? Oh, men, do you see the judgement day on the throne above, when you will be asked, “Where did you get your gold?” You stole it from these wretches. You murdered, you assassinated, you starved, you burned them to death, that you and your wives might have palaces, and that your wives might go to the sea-shore…

[They say] “Oh, them horrible miners. Oh, that horrible old Mother Jones, that horrible old woman.” I am horrible, I admit, and I want to be to you blood-sucking pirates. I want you, my boys, to buckle on your armor. This is the fighting age. This is not the age for cowards, put them out of the way…

This day marks the forward march of the workers in the state of West Virginia. Slavery and oppression will gradually die…The day of oppression will be gone. I will be with you whether true or false. I will be with you at midnight or when the battle rages, when the last bullet ceases, but I will be in my joy…

September 6, 1912
Charleston, WV
Speech in the courthouse square:

…When we were on the Capitol grounds the last time you came here, you had a petition to the Governor for a peacful remedy and solutiion ot this condition. The mine owners, the bankers, the plunderers of the State went in on the side door and got a hearing, and you didn’t. (Loud applause.)…

Now, then, go with me up those creeks, and see the blood-hounds of the mine owners, approved of by your public officials, see them insulting women, see them coming up the track. I went up there and they followed me like hounds But some day I will follow them. When I see them go to Hell, I will get the coal and pile it up on them….

Now then, let me ask you. When the miners-a miner that they have robed him of one leg in the mines and never paid him a penny for it-when he entered a protest, they went into his house not quite a week ago, and threw out his whole earthly belongings, and he and his wife and six children slept on the roadside all night. Now, you can’t contradict that. Suppose we had taken a mine owner and his wife and children and threw them out on the road and made them sleep all night, the papers would be howling “anarchy”…

The whole machinery of capitalism is rotten to the core. This meeting tonight indicates a milestone of progress of the miners and workers of the State of West Virginia. I will be with you, and the Baldwin guards will go. You will not be serfs, you will march, march, march on from milestone to milestone of human freedom, you will rise like men in the new day and slavery will get its death blow. It has got to die…

September 21, 1912
Charleston, WV
Speech on the lawn of the YMCA:

…We have entered West Virginia-I have – and a hundred thousand miners have pledged their support to me, “If you need us, Mother, we will be there.” Five thousand men last Sunday night said, “We are ready, Mother, when you call on us.” The revolution is here. We can tie up every wheel, every railroad in the State, when we want to do it. Tyranny, robbery and oppression of the people must go…

This strike ain’t going to end until we get a check-weighman on the tipple. That is the law. It is on the statute books-that your coal will be weighed…You miners here have stood for it [being robbed of weight], you have starved your children, starved yourselves, you have lived in dog-kennels -they wouldn’t build one for their dogs as bad as yours. You have lived in them and permitted them to rob you, and then got the militia for the robbers. You can get all the militia in the state, we will fight it to the finish-if the men don’t fight, the women will. They won’t stand for it….

I don’t worry about [jail], I am down at the Fleetwood when they want to put me in jail for violation of the law, come along for me, come. There is coming a day when I will take the whole bunch of you and put you in jail. (Applause.)


Throughout that fall and winter, Mother Jones continued giving speeches for the miners. She led parades for the women and children, always advocating for the education of the miner’s children and end of child labor. She traveled to Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, and Washington D.C, giving speeches and raising money for the strikers. Sadly, these speeches have not been recorded for history.


At about 11 PM on the night of February 7, 1913, the “Bull Moose Special,” an armored train equipped with machine guns, opened fire on the miners and their families at Holly Grove. Maud Estep later [testified] that her husband, stiking miner, [Francis Estep] was shot dead as he tried to get his pregnant wife and son to safety in the cellar.

Three days later the miners marched in protest to Mucklow where they were met by the gun thugs. Twelve miners and four company guards died in the battle that followed. Governor Glasscock declared martial law in the strike zone, ordered six companies of militia to occupy the area, and established a military commission. A wave of arrests soon followed.


Mother Jones in the hands of the military.

On February 13, Mother Jones was in Charleston attempting to lead a protest march and speak with the Governor when she was taken into custody along with 125 other protesters. Charleston was outside the area of martial law, yet those arrested were transported into the martial law district and imprisoned in Pratt to await trial by the military court. The miners were held in harsh conditions, but Mother Jones was held in a [commandeered boardinghouse], and cared for by the landlady, Isabel Carney.

Meanwhile, a new governor, Dr. Henry Hatfield, was sworn in on March 4, 1913. In later years he recalled traveling to the strike area where he found Mother Jones sick with pneumonia and with a temperature of 104 degrees. He recalled having her treated in Charleston and then returned to the boardinghouse prison, although there is no official record of this.

Visitors were forbidden, but one reporter did manage to get in to see her, A.J. Hollis of the Pittsburgh Leader who managed to interview her through the basement floorboards. He was detained for several hours in the bullpen for his efforts. An exception was made for Cora Older, wife of the editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, who quoted Mother Jones:

I can raise just as much hell in jail as anywhere.

Mother Jones did write letters from the military prison, perhaps smuggled out as she later remembered. She had some powerful allies in Washington D.C: William B Wilson, former UMWA official and, now Secretary of Labor, and also US Senators Borah and Kern. She was able to get messages out to all three of them. Some of her letters were published in the [Appeal to Reason] and other socialist newspapers of the day. Other letters were more personal:

March 6, 1913
Letter to [Terence V. Powderly]
(as written, without correction):

Pratt W Va
Military Bastile
My dear friend
You no doubt have heard of my arrest by the hounds of capitalism they have me in close confinement-there are two military guarding me day and night. No one is allowed to speak to me. they squashed all constitutional rights and handed me over to the military. here I am-the first thing I will do if I am turned loose will be to go up and see you.
Tomorrow at ten o clock we will be taken before the Military Court for trial. They charge me and 3 national organizers besid the Editor of the Argus a local labor paper. neither one of us was in the marshall law zone they picked me up on the streets of Charleston-kidnaped me moved me with 2 others down in the military camp. here I am now for 22 days! not allowed to speak to anyone or see anyone. Just think of it I have lived 80 years and never before charged with any crime. Now I am charged with stealing a cannon from the Military-inciting to riot-putting dinamite under track to blow up A.C.O. road-We were not there at all. Just think what the tools of the olagarchy can descend to. I know they are death on me for I have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
They came to me yesterday wanted to get a Lawyer & witnesses I refused to get either. I said if I have brok the Law of the State or nation I do not want any Lawyer or Witnesses. One fellow Said I should be Drummed out of the State. I have a lot to tell you when I see you God spare me the Heart to fight them Love to my dear Emma [Mrs Powderly] tell her not to worry-I’ll fight the Pirates forever.


Friday, March 7, 1913, 10 AM
Pratt, West Virginia
From the Proceedings of the
Military Commission:

Mary Jones: Will you permit me to make a statement, General Wallace?
The Judge Advocate: Proceed, Mother.
Mary Jones: I have no defense to make. Whatever I have done in West Virginia, I have
done it all over the United States, and when I get out, I will do it again. The Judge Advocate: We will enter a plea of not guilty for you.

Mother Jones along with four other defendants refused to recognize the validity of the military court. Pleas of not guilty were entered for them. The forty-five other defendants pleaded not guilt and were provided counsel. The charges included murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit property damage, charges of being an accessory after the fact, and weapons charges. They were all facing long prison sentences, and even the death penalty was a possibility.

The five speeches noted above were entered as evidence by the prosecution in an attempt to prove that the Mother Jones had inflamed the miners and had caused them to murder company mine guards. When in fact, she had counseled only self-defense. The mine guards who died, were killed in battle with weapons in hand. Unlike Francis Estep who was shot and killed, unarmed, in his own home.

The editor of the socialist newspaper, Labor Argus was one of the defendants, and several pages from that newspaper were read into the record, including this:

It has always been said that it was a hard job to keep a woman’s mouth shut. Governor Glasscock is evidently of that opinion as he sent sixteen soldiers with guns and ammunition to keep an old woman over eighty years of age from making a speech and then failed. We would advise the Governor to send the whole regiment along the next time he wants to stop Mother Jones from speaking.

March 12, 1913
Captan Charles R Morgan for the defense:

Now, gentlemen, as to one of my clients, the aged lady, who has sat here so patiently and listened to the testimony…this old lady is fighting the battles of the laboring man and has been for years and years…

[Those] speeches that she made were made all the way back last summer, shortly after the poor old woman had waded the creek in order to get to the place she was going to speak. My God, it is enough to make the blood of an old woman boil when she is force to do things of that kind; when men-will stand on each side of the creek and force an old woman to march in the middle of it, in order that she may get up to say a few works to “the boys” that she-whose interest she thinks she is advancing-Where is there a single item of evidence connecting this old woman with the conspiracy, if a conspiracy has been shown, and which we say we do not think has been shown. Now, the state has failed.

The verdicts and sentences were submitted by the military commission to Governor Hatfield under seal, and were never revealed by the Governor. No official record has ever been found. However, many of the prisoners were soon released. Mother Jones was one of those who remained a prisoner of the military. According to Edward Steel, the “ringleaders” were kept as hostages to strengthen the Governor’s hand in forcing the the national leaders of the UMWA to accept his proposed settlement of the strike.


Meanwhile, Senator John W. Kern of Indiana, Democratic Majority Leader, had introduced a resolution calling for an investigation into the conditions of coal mining in West Virginia. During debate on the resolution, Senator Goff of West Virginia referred to Mother Jones as the “grandmother of all agitators.” Senator Kern then took the floor and read this telegram from Mother Jones into the Congressional Record:

Hansford, West Virginia
May 4, 1913
Senator Kern
Care Senate Chamber
Washington, D.C.
From out the military prison walls, where I have been forced to pass my eighty-first milestone of life., I plead with you for the honor of this Nation. I send you groans and tears of men, women, and children as I have heard them in this State, and beg you to force that investigation. Children yet unborn will rise and bless you.
Mother Jones

The Kern Resolution passed and the investigation eventually totaled over 2000 pages of testimony. The final report is available online and makes interesting reading:

U.S. Congress. Senate. Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor. Investigations of Conditions in the Paint Creek District, West Virginia. 1913.
[Final Report] (pdf!)

The strike was eventually settled with some concessions by the operators as to checkwieghman, bimonthly pay, and a grievance procedure. But the hated company-guard system remained intact.

Mother Jones was released May 10th, and the last prisoners were released in June, about the time that the Senate committee arrived in West Virginia to begin hearing testimony.


May 27, 1913
New York City
Speech at Carnegie Hall:

I hope you do not believe that, as Comrade Wanhope has said, that the miners of West Virginia simply decided casually “to take guns and do a share of the killing.” They got guns only wen it became clear that the authorities, acting on behalf of their masters would not accede to the just and peaceful requests of the miners.

I organized a meeting at which a committee was chosen to go to Charleston to present a petition to the Governor asking him to remove the Baldwin gunmen from the mine territory. We went, several thousand miners and myself to Charleston, and met on the grounds in front of the State Capitol. The Governor came out and heard the petition read….

The petition was unavailing. The guards were not removed. The men came back to Charleston, and held another meeting on the river bank. Then they went and bought up every gun in Charleston. They had appealed to the constituted authorities for protection, but they had failed, and they decided to fight for themselves-not because they favored violence but because they had no other choice.

Meanwhile, encouraged by the indifference of the Governor, the thugs began a veritable reign of terror. The war was then begun. Some guards were killed by miners in self protection, and the militia came. A short period of peace followed, and militia was withdrawn. This was the signal for the agents of the mine owners to intensify the war against the workers. Men, women and children were evicted from their home; miners were shot down in cold blood, and reign of terror grew even more terrible. When I protested the barbarism of the capitalists and their henchmen., I was deprived of all the rights of an American citizen and imprisoned in a military bastille for three months…

West Virginia is on trial before the bar of the nation. The military arrests and court-martial to which I and others were forced to undergo in West Virginia was the first move ever made by the ruling class to have the working class tried by military and not civil courts. It is up to the American workers to make sure that it is the last.

Mother Jones,
Grand Old Champion of Labor:

O’er the hills and through the valley
In ev’ry mining town;
Mother Jones was ready to help them,
She never turned them down.
On front with the striking miners
She always could be found;
And received a hearty welcome
In ev’ry mining town.

[The Death of Mother Jones, sung by Gene Autry, 1931]


Struggle in the coal fields:
the autobiography of Fred Mooney

With JW Hess
WV University Library, 1967

Mother Jones Speaks
Collected Writings and Speeches

Edited by Philip S Foner
NY, 1983

The Correspondence of
Mother Jones

Edited by Edward M Steel
U of Pittsburgh Press, 1985

The Speeches and Writings of
Mother Jones

U of Pettsburgh Press, 1988

The Court-Martial of
Mother Jones

Edited by Edward M Steel, Jr
U Press of Kentucky, 1995

The Mother Jones Museum

(Amazing photo collection!)


Working Class Radicals: The Socialist Party
in West Virginia, 1898-1920

by Frederick A. Barkey
WV U Press, 2012

And see this link for interview with Barkey:

A Union Man: The Life of C. Frank Keeney
Charles Belmont Keeney
Available here only:

The Autobiography of
Mother Jones

With Mary Field Parton
[Charles H Kerr Publishing], 1990
Pittston Strike Commemorative Edition

This diary is dedicate to
Francesco Estep
Who lost his life in Freedom’s Cause.

Francis Estep, from Holly Grove, W. VA,
In 19 and 13 loaded coal, twelve hours a day.
Six days a week, 47 and a half cent a ton.
He was hot down by gun thugs
At the young age of 31.

So is this little marker his only memorial today?
For a man who gave his life to the UMWofA.
Is this how we remember all the sacrifices he made?
To let the briars and the weeds
Take over his union and grave?

-Hazel Dickens

Let us honor our Martyrs by keeping our Unions
strong and democratic.

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.
Mother Jones

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What the H*ll Is Crowdfunding? And Why is it Causing So Much Controversy? by Geminijen

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today, instead of presenting a diary written by one of our regular or guest members, we are presenting an excerpt from a paper on “Crowdfunding” by Minsun Ji and Tony Robinson. Crowdfunding is the term used for raising money over the internet. In most cases, a political candidate or charity solicits donations to fund their organization. Recently it has also been used to solicit donations for socially responsible businesses (usually cooperative start-ups). And since Obama’s JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, it has been used to solicit not just donations but equity investment funds for cooperative start-ups by exempting these ventures from Security and Exchange regulations.
 photo 2029e18b-6761-47df-84dd-e3881aaec8b0_zps644b2dc5.jpg
It is this last feature which has led to all the brouhaha. On one side, are anarchists, libertarians, the cooperative movement and silicone valley free traders, supporting Crowdfunding as democratizing the investment process so that the 99% can develop capital which has previously been controlled by — well, the big capitalists–or the 1% ; on the other side are the unions, most Marxists and some liberal democrats who see the crowdfunding provisions in the JOBS Act as a plot by Wall Street to avoid SEC regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act and that will, once again, allow for speculation, fraud and destabilization of the economy at the expense of the 99%.

The political compromise in the JOBS Act was to establish regulations to limit the size of the investment (both in terms of a $1 million cap and no more that 10% of an investor’s income), exclude the investment of pension funds, exclude investors from decision making rights, etc. The authors of the paper excerpted below also note that so far there has been very little fraud in crowdfunding due to its emphasis on smaller, more socially responsible ventures. (They failed to note, however, that most of this fraud free history was when crowdfunding still consisted of donations, not profit making equity — also, does anyone remember the 1984 Saving and Loan scandal after government regulations had been decimated under Regan, where Wall Street types stole billions from the small Banks set up to help the “little guy”?).

Personally, when I first heard about crowdfunding, my reaction was pretty much like most class conscious workers and Marxists — I was afraid, not only of individual investors and small businesses being duped, but that the whole thing was a Wall street scam which could cause the whole economy to go under due to speculative financial “bubbles.” (And I wrote as much in a diary in this very venue).

On the other hand, in a paper on a hybrid union- cooperative model from the United Steelworkers (“An Emerging Solidarity:Worker Cooperatives, Unions,and the New Union Co-op Model,February 1, 2013), Rob Witherall does not totally discount the idea of crowdfunding as one of many methods to develop capital investment for coops — as long as it controlled and regulated by the union. At this point, my own position(and that in Ji’s and Witherall’s papers) place crowdfunding in the context of a global economy where changes in technology, capital mobility and the end of centralized industrial manufacturing has resulted in the growth of the informal workforce (both here and abroad) that has greatly damaged traditional union organizing solutions. This has led us to explore if we can use new possibilities to our advantage in a changing world. And whether these possibilities will take us toward or further away from a true anti-capitalist future. So here is a full discussion, presented primarily from the pro-crowdfunding point of view since this is the view, as anti-capitalists, that we don’t often hear. Let the argument begin.

“Crowdfunding the Future of Union-Coop Collaboration” by Minsun Ji,
Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver,
Tony Robinson, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado Denver,, February 2, 2013:

In 2012, United States union leaders and the worker cooperative community split ways over President Obama’s “Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act,” which significantly liberalized regulations on small business equity financing, including “crowdfunding” practices. Both the AFL-CIO and SEIU took vigorous stands against the JOBS Act, claiming that by diminishing government oversight over small business crowdfunding, the JOBS Act promoted corruption and destabilizing investment bubbles.

Major American labor leaders condemned the bill, claiming that the “cynically named JOBS Act” would weaken government SEC regulations and expose workers and small investors to fraud and financial disaster (Elk, 2012). AFL-CIO president Trumka said he was “personally outraged,” with the bill. “This is a vote against investors in the real economy and for Wall Street speculators. When the next bubble bursts, Americans will know who to blame” (Kapur, 2012).

Even as U.S. labor leaders criticized the JOBS act and its crowdfunding centerpiece, other progressive leaders—and in particular leaders within the workers’ cooperative movement–celebrated the act as ushering in a new era of democratic, decentralized capital investment (Fink, 2012; Mann, 2011). Progressive champion of economic localism, Michael Shuman (2009), has long lauded crowdfunding for taking investment decisions out of the hands of an elite circle of SEC accredited investors and giving them to millions of small-scale, local investors. The 2012 Conference of the Federation of Worker Owned Cooperatives hailed crowdfunding as ushering in a “new era of innovation” ( Kassan and Long (2012) summarized the enthusiasm for crowdfunding among many supporters of an alternative economy: “While crowd funding alone isn’t a silver bullet, it does play an important role in revitalizing the entrepreneurial small business sector of the economy. Its simplicity and ingenuity is American capitalism in its finest form.”

This paper explores the crowdfunding revolution celebrated by the JOBS Act, and examines reasons for the striking disagreement between labor unions and the coop community regarding the JOBS Act. We argue that instead of resisting crowdfunding, labor unions should embrace it as a democratic financing tool that can support union-friendly worker owned cooperatives in growing a progressive economy. We also explore how the owners of worker coops should consider union membership, for both pragmatic and political reasons, as union connections can help finance and strength worker cooperatives, even as they can help keep the worker owned cooperative movement grounded in political transformation, rather than just pursuing economic growth.

The Crowdfunding Revolution and the JOBS Act. … Taking advantage of the democratization of information and connectivity afforded by social media, crowdfunding appeals in the last decade have raised millions of dollars in donations to support thousands of small-scale initiatives. Crowdfunding—the mobilization of small scale donations or investments from a crowd of individuals—has funded activities ranging from indie band tours across America ($60,000 raised by the UK rock band Marillion), the production of independent movies (The Age of Stupid film project raised £1.5 million British Pounds), and social purpose ventures (the Tesla Museum project raised $1.4 million). In 2011, there were over 500,000 crowdfunding appeals made over the internet through crowdfunding portals like Kiva, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, which ultimately attracted millions of small donors who gave over a billion dollars to small businesses nationwide (Best, Nice and Jones, 2012: 25; Drake, 2012).

The new JOBS act promises to dramatically grow these numbers. Until the JOBS Act, all crowdfunding transactions were required to be donations to small businesses, rather than equity investments. Under U.S. Securities law, it was illegal for average people to give their support to a small or local business with the expectation of economic return. This is because prior to the crowdfunding law, all companies (even the smallest) were prohibited from offering equity to the general public without full registration with the SEC and adherence to all SEC rules, which is costly and complicated. Furthermore, only SEC accredited investors (less than 2% of the population [Shuman, 2009]) were allowed to directly purchase those equity securities, substantially limiting the kinds of companies allowed to offer their stock publicly and the pool of people who were allowed to invest in those companies. … But rules changed after the JOBS ACT.

The 2012 JOBS Act amended federal securities law to benefit small and emerging businesses by easing rules on public offerings by small businesses and by broadening the base of people allowed to buy equity in those companies. In signing the law, President Obama was responding to a groundswell of pressure from innovative venture capitalists, small businesses locked out of traditional venture capital circles, and progressive economic thinkers who all supported crowdfunding liberalization as a way to decentralize capital formation, foster innovative businesses and social enterprises, and encourage small business florescence (Best, Nice and Jones, 2012; Bradford, 2012; Sustainable Economy Law Center, 2012). The idea united liberal economists with free-market conservatives, and the JOBS Act sailed through Congress with historic speed, passing in mere months with solid bipartisan support.

Perhaps the most dramatic reform was Title III of the JOBS Act, which created a new exemption from federal securities law for “crowdfunded” securities offerings. This exemption is meant to substantially democratize investment into small businesses, by making it possible for small businesses to raise money through small investments from a large number of people, even without filing an array of financial and registration documents with the SEC under traditional securities law. Furthermore, small-scale investors in the company do not need to be SEC accredited (Bradford, 2012; Vidra, 2012). Anyone in the public who is attracted to a small entrepreneur’s internet crowdfunding appeal can invest in the company, joining with a crowd of other small donors in mobilizing what can be huge cash infusions into the business. In 2012, for example, Pebble Watches raised more than $10 million dollars in less than 30 days from 69,000 small web donors (Heesan, 2013).

The JOBS act dramatically democratized the capital financing landscape. Small companies with unique business models now have an alternative source of “venture capital,” which has historically been controlled by a small circle of traditional profit-seeking investors. These small companies can now turn to “community finance” circles—crowds of small scale donors contacted across the internet and who are more likely than accredited Wall Street investors to support small, local businesses with a “social purpose” (Lehner, 2013). In this way, crowdfunding “stands to revolutionize small businesses and entrepreneurial capital raising by permitting any individual to invest in private companies over the internet with limited regulatory hurdles” (Fink, 2012: 4).

By decentralizing processes of capital formation, crowdfunding undermines the power of traditional capital investors, transfers the social web’s model of informal cooperation to the world of investment, “and leads to democratization and transparency in finance” (Rothler, 2011: 5; see also Best, Nice and Jones, 2012: 3).

There are, of course, restrictions meant to direct crowdfunding to small businesses and to balance the desire for freely flowing, decentralized capital investment with the need to minimize investor risk and the dangers of financial chicanery or ineptitude by either businesses or investors. For example:
• A business can sell no more than $1 million of securities in the aggregate to all investors;
• No single crowdfund investor can purchase more than $2,000 of securities, or 5% of the investor’s annual income or net worth (10% for investors with annual income or net worth exceeding $100,000);
• The transactions must be conducted through a registered funding portal or broker who must adhere to rules meant to insure investor knowledge of the risks involved.
[Editor's Note: Further important restrictions prohibit investment of any pension funds and do not allow investors any decision making power over the business/coop]

With these basic regulations, supporters hail the Act as ushering in an era where average people will have the ability to support local business or social purpose business ventures, and where businesses can turn to sources of capital beyond the Wall Street moguls who prioritize high profit rates over such concerns as local embeddedness, social purpose, or fair labor practices (Elk, 2012). In so doing, the JOBS Act represents a democratization of capital formation—a radical “disruption of the finance supply chain and distribution mechanism” that has been previously controlled by a tiny percentage of accredited institutional investors (Drake, 2012). Scott Purcell, President of the Crowdfunding platform Arctic Island, argues that the Crowdfunding allowances of the JOBS act “will completely transform capital formation for small businesses, [enabling] small businesses to get the capital they need.” (cited in Drake, 2012)

The scale of democratic capital that could be unleashed through crowdfunding is immense. Even before the JOBS act, when crowdfunding could only be through donations without any equity return, $750 million was given through 532,000 American crowdfunding campaigns (Best, Nice and Jones, 2012: 25). Industry consultants are now predicting equity crowdfunding to grow to somewhere between $4 and $6 billion by 2015 (Price 2012; Best, Nice and Jones, 2012; Fink , 2012). Analysts predict a global trillion dollar crowdfunding market in the years to come, and the Word Bank is partnering with groups like Crowdfund Capital Advisors to explore crowdfunding’s potential benefits in developing countries (Lawton and Marom, 2012).

As Kassan and Long (2012) describe the future of the United States:

“The vast majority of the American public, the 99 percent of us who
are ‘unaccredited’ investors, will soon have the opportunity to keep
their money local. The half of our economy made up of small, independent
businesses will now have access to capital that previously could only go to
giant public companies. Americans have $30 trillion dollars invested in
securities — imagine if even 10 percent of that went from Wall Street to Main
Street. What could $3 trillion dollars do in our communities?”

Labor and the JOBS Act

Why did labor leaders resist the 2012 JOBS Act? It comes down to labor’s enduring concern with the dangers of deregulated capital. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, labor leaders and a many economists found it dangerous that the government was once again on a bi-partisan path to financial deregulation. Simon Johnson, the former chief IMF economist, called the bill “a colossal mistake of historic proportions,” that “would gut investor protection in the United States” under the cloak of creating jobs (Johnson, 2012). William Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth for Massachusetts, expressed similar concerns:

“As regulators we must be vigilant that the exemption will not
become a tool for financial fraud and abuse…Unscrupulous penny stock
promoters have used misrepresentations to market obscure and low-value
stocks to individuals, often through pump and dump schemes. These kinds
of fraud operators have not gone away…In this segment of the market,
company information may be limited or simply false, and investors typically
lack investment sophistication and are often insufficiently cautious (Sullivan
and Ma, 2012).”

In the AFL-CIO’s statement opposing the Act, labor leaders argued that the Act deregulated Wall Street, weakened the regulatory ability of the SEC, and allowed companies to sell stock “without complying with key corporate governance reforms in the recently passed Dodd-Frank Act” (Elk, 2012). Small, untested companies would now be allowed to circulate all sorts of promotional claims, without producing the audited financial documents now required by the SEC (Moberg, 2012).

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said he was outraged by the act, which would do nothing but “re-inflate a stock market bubble” (Kapur, 4). Critics found particular animus for the “crowdfunding” exemption in the bill, with the IMF former chief economist Johnson calling it “perhaps the worst part of the bill,” allowing companies to solicit small investors with little government oversight (Johnson, 2012). Moberg (2012) explained specific labor union concerns as follows:

“For at least two reasons, unions have a stake in how the financial markets work. They are interested in protecting investments that provide retirement security for their members and other workers. And they have seen how deregulated financial markets have disastrous effects on workers. They encourage financial speculation and engineering that worsens inequality and often destroys jobs (witness the merger and takeover craze), exploits the vulnerable (witness the predatory lending during the last decade), and creates bubbles [...] all at the expense of the real economy and the majority of working people.”

Though such concerns are understandable, there is substantial evidence that fears of a crowdfunded “stock market bubble” destroying the wealth of millions of small investors are overstated. First, the reality is that the JOBS Act maintains a healthy set of regulations on both the issuers of crowdfunding appeals and those who invest in them. Issuers must file disclosure documents with the SEC detailing the names and addresses of business owners, providing prior year’s tax returns, outlining the business plan and governance structure, describing the intended use of crowdfunding proceeds, and setting targets for the offering (with regular progress updates). Offerings can only occur through registered brokers or funding portals, which must show due diligence to insure that companies listing on the portal are legitimate and that investors are aware of the risks of investing. In fact, some economists find that the regulations remain too excessive for the kind of small-scale investment contemplated under the Act (Bradford, 2012).

Second, the Act limits funding appeals to no more than $1 million in a 12 month period, and restricts any individual donor from giving the greater of $2,000 or 5% of their annual income/net worth (10% of income or net worth if the individual is worth more than $100,000). These restrictions substantially limit the damage that can occur from bad investments and financial fraud, and hardly suggest that a massively inflated stock market bubble such as the pre-2008 market would be likely.

Third, the crowdfunding marketplace has been remarkably fraud free for years. Though billions of dollars have been donated through crowdfunding portals over the last decade, there has not been a single case of prosecuted fraud involving crowdfunding (Fink, 2012). The absence of fraud and investor disaster is due to several factors, including the small scale of crowd-funded investments (most people invest less than they do in lottery tickets during the year [Forbes]). Additionally, the “transparency and social networking dynamics of crowdfunding have been excellent at keeping fraud near zero” (Lawton and Marom, 2012) as crowdfunding typically involves thousands of small investors tracking the businesses they are investing in and sharing information across the web. Furthermore, the kinds of social ventures that take the crowdfunding route are inherently less likely to engage in the kind of profit-seeking fraud that characterized the moguls of finance preceding the 2008 meltdown.

“The trustworthiness of social entrepreneurs is regarded to be much higher due to the primacy of the social aim, and the thus the costs of fraudulent risk should be reduced in theory,” Lehner (2013) explains. “We see early empirical claims for this based on the traditional non-profit literature” (see, for example, Haugh, 2006 and Laratta, 2010)…..

Unions and Cooperatives Face the Informal Economy.It is well established that the rise of an increasingly informal and flexible global economy, populated by non-standard and casual workers, has resulted in shrinking union density in the United States and elsewhere. Temporary work is a rapidly growing sector of the U.S. economy, and the explosion of non-standard and casual workers across the globe has led to the new concept of a global “precariat” (precarious/informal workers, who are unlinked from dependable job prospects), which is increasingly replacing the large factory based “proletariat”– once the backbone of union organizing campaigns (Standing, 2011; Davis, 2006).

A related development is the decline of manufacturing and the rise of service-sector employment: 85% of today’s U.S. economy is service-sector work (Curl, 2010), which is typically more informal and precarious than the manufacturing employment of old.

These trends of an increasingly informal service economy help account for dramatically shrinking private sector union density in America (falling from 24.6% in 1973 to 6.9% in 2010), simply because informal workers are much more difficult to organize and because employers can flee unionized sites for non-unionized locales of more exploitable workers (Schmacher 2000, 2).

While formal unions have found their strength eroding in the new global order, decentralized workers cooperatives have grown rapidly, as their organizational model matches the decentralized and fluid dynamics of today’s global world. “Today, increased technology, globalization of labor markets and the mobility of capital has ended the reign of large centralized factories. The new casual and decentralized labor force has decimated the major strength of trade unions’ power—a large, unified labor force. Unions have been forced to look at the creation of unionized worker-coops, not just as a fall back during depressions, but as the new order of the day” (Geminijen 2012).

As union strength declines globally, worker cooperatives are growing. In 2010, the International Cooperative Alliance represented co-operatives with over one billion members, in 180 countries (including cooperatives of all sorts, not just worker coops). In some countries, like Spain and Italy, workers cooperatives have grown to constitute a sizable share of the national economy. Some studies have found that worker coops have proved more resilient than mainstream businesses after the 2008 crisis, creating more post-recession jobs in many countries than has the traditional business sector (CICOPA, 2012) .

In the United States as well, the trend of economic informalization has been coupled with expanding worker owned cooperatives, especially within the service sector (i.e., cleaning, food catering, moving assistance, landscaping, child care), and with an especially notable growth of immigrant worker own cooperatives (Ji and Robinson, 2012). In New York City and the Bay Area, worker cooperative networks are rapidly growing. In Cleveland, city, university and business leaders have united behind the innovative “Evergreen Initiative,” a well-funded plan to build an expanding network of worker cooperatives across the city (Alperovitz, et. al.2010; Johnsen, 2010).

Still, the economic scale and impact of worker cooperatives remains very small overall—especially in the United States. Even as workers cooperatives blossom across the globe, with a model of decentralized, small-scale employee ownership that responds well to the growth of the precariat in the increasingly informal global economy, these small businesses still lack mass numbers, organizational power, and—most importantly—adequate access to capital resources (California Financial Opportunity Roundtable, 2012).

Non-traditional small enterprises like a local worker cooperative face tremendous difficulties raising adequate capital (Bauer-Leeb and Lundquist. 2012; Lehner, 2013; Schwienbacher and Larralde, 2010). For one, the typical “social purpose” goals of worker cooperatives are often seen by investors as undermining financial returns. Furthermore, the unfamiliar corporate governance and legal structures of workers cooperatives can dissuade traditional investors (Artz and Kim, 2011: 47). There is also a deep cultural distance between the social entrepreneur and the traditional wall street investor, who speak fundamentally different languages (“social purpose investing” versus business/managerial excellence) (Lehner, 2013: 2-4; Ridley-Duff and Bull, 2011). These obstacles help explain why a 2003 bank of England study found that “social entrepreneurs indeed have a hard time accessing traditional debt finance,” and why the business plans of small social entrepreneurs are rejected 98% of the time by traditional venture capitalists (Lehner, 2013: 4).

With their decentralized and flexible business model, worker owned cooperatives are a good match for today’s globalizing informal economy—yet they lack adequate capital to fully exploit their potential. Unions have deep wells of intellectual capital, financial resources and organizational might, and yet their membership and power is shrinking as they face new economic realities. Both coops and unions, therefore, can benefit greatly from partnership and collaboration. But in a country like the United States, with little history of deep union-coop collaboration, the question remains: how to do it? The JOBS Act offers one answer to that question, because the “relatively new form of informal financing” (Hemer, 2011) that it has set free—crowdfunding—presents unique opportunities to bring labor and coops together around a flexible and decentralizing funding strategy that well matches today’s underlying economic trends.

Union-Coop Collaboration: A Crowdfunding Solution.

The SEC has not yet fully written the new investment regulations that will guide the implementation of the JOBS Act’s crowdfunding regime. But as those rules are announced, workers cooperatives will be able to directly market the social vision of their business through internet platforms, attracting crowds of small investors. In preparation of the new rules, Websites like “The Crowdfunding Cooperative” are emerging with a goal to “massively scale” cooperatives, “making it easy to manage community share issues and find coops to invest in” ( .

For these reasons, the 2012 National Worker Cooperative Conference called crowdfunding a revolutionary “new era of innovation” for worker coop financing . Reflecting on the favorably changing landscape of worker cooperative financing, Melissa Hoover (Director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives) concluded that “there are some substantive things happening in the past year that feel different. There was the International Year of the Cooperative, more media attention, more academic inquiries, enough lawyers to start a [workers coop] legal professionals group, interest from sustainable business and socially responsible business people, crowdfunding tools starting to be used for worker cooperatives, and first calls from outside investors wanting to develop funding vehicles for worker cooperatives.”

Unions can be part of this crowdfunding revolution. There is already a history of financing collaboration between unions and coops, as unions have sometimes helped finance worker buyout of companies. But most union-facilitated worker buyouts in the last several decades have resulted in only nominal worker ownership and governance of a company— as in the case of most Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) that do not give workers democratic control of management and which do not always result in workers have majority ownership of all the stock (Bell 2006; Olsen, 1982; Hochner et., al. 1988) . Through the creative embrace of crowdfunding, unions can go beyond ESOPS and help finance actual worker-owned and worker-managed cooperatives. We are seeing movement in this direction already.
 photo ae3cc9be-961d-4373-9f54-c1428aaff1ea_zpsf39756b4.jpg
Republic Windows.

In 2012 the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) successfully executed a buyout campaign to turn one of their unionized workplaces into worker owned cooperative. This coop campaign had been pursued since 2008, when 250 workers from the Republic Windows manufacturing company in Chicago occupied the factory to demand unpaid wages, and then occupied again in 2012 in order to prevent a second owner from shutting down the factory (Kunichoff, 2012).

The largest obstacle to the success of the worker buyout of Republic Windows, and the same obstacle that has undermined so many other worker cooperatives, was inadequate access to start-up finance capital. The Bank of America, which owned most of the debt at Republic Windows, refused to consider financing a worker cooperative buyout. In the absence of traditional capital to finance the worker owned cooperative—known as New Era Windows– the Electrical Union Local 1111 played a critical role in solidifying community support, developing worker leadership and negotiating with a bank for financing (Flanders, 2012). But additional funding was needed. In the end, to fully fund their vision of a worker coop, Republic Windows workers turned to a grassroots microcredit organization, Working World, which helped finance the worker buyout with no-interest loan money. This loan money came from a small scale capital loan fund for locally based worker cooperatives, that was seeded by community crowdfunded donations (Gonzales, 2012; see also

Though such examples are promising, the fact is that these kinds of union-facilitated cooperative start-ups have been quite rare, and typically involve very limited capital. Part of the reason is that before the JOBS act, U.S. securities law meant that community supporters wishing to crowdfund such businesses as New Era Windows had to donate their money without hope of financial return. But after the JOBS act, community supporters can now choose to actually buy an equity investment in social purpose companies. It is predictable that even more community crowdfunding dollars will flow into businesses like New Era Windows , since there is now a possibility of receiving a return on one’s social investment.

In this new environment, labor unions could choose to embrace crowdfunding, and deepen their connection to the workers cooperative movement by developing strategies to catalyze the investment dollars of individual union members into community-sensitive, socially responsible worker cooperatives, as now allowed by law. For their part, workers cooperatives could self-consciously “earn” union support by building business models in accordance with union friendly practices, becoming community members of local unions, and involving their worker-owners in broader political causes than the economic success of their cooperative.

To be clear, unions would not be allowed under the JOBS act to channel their pension fund investment dollars or any other institutional investment fund into crowdfunded worker cooperatives—simply because the JOBS Act targets individual donors and frees them to make small investments in non-SEC registered businesses. Nor would union leadership be able to offer specific investment advice to their members, urging them to invest in any specific crowdfunded business, as such formal investment advice remains illegal under the JOBS act, except when done by accredited brokers, promoting SEC registered companies. But, there are several ways that unions might use the new Crowdfunding law to build on the latent support that their members might have for worker cooperatives, and to bring the efforts of unions and coops closer together. We lay out some possibilities below.

[…]Certify Unionized Crowd Fund Advisors. The National Crowdfunding Association has launched a Certified Crowdfund Advisor (Best, Nice and Jones, 2012) certification program. As described on the CCA website, The CCA certificate “identifies the holder as being an expert in crowdfunding and thus professionally able to help everyone from small business owners to investors regarding how to participate in crowdfunding” ( Dedicating union dollars to helping members of union locals and state labor federations achieve such certificate would facilitate the educational strategy discussed above, while providing authoritative and specialized investment education to union members interested in building up worker cooperatives.

Establish a Union-Sponsored Crowdfund Portal. Unions have been successful at mobilizing social purpose spending by their members when they have self-consciously created the “environmental conditions” to catalyze such actions (Zhullo, 208). In the field of crowdfunding, one of those environmental conditions could be to establish a union-sponsored crowdfund portal that facilitates investment in worker cooperatives that share union values of worker empowerment and broader social justice. Such crowdfunding investment portals are necessary because under the JOBS act, crowdfund investors and businesses cannot connect directly. Rather, to better insure the validity of businesses seeking crowdfunds and the knowledge level of potential investors, these two parties must connect through an independent “middleman” portal—a web-based platform that must insure that the businesses on their site meet minimum standards outlined in the law and that small investors using the portal are educated into the risks and opportunities of investing. Many of these crowdfunding platforms already exist, such as IndieGoGo, Kiva, and Kickstarter. Furthermore, many of these extant portals have a specific angle—such as portals that focus on green businesses (Green Unite), arts related businesses (New Jelly), local agricultural initiatives (Three Revolutions), innovative product designers (Christie Street) or on projects friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals (FundPride). There are also several emerging portals already dedicated to cooperative financing, such as and the crowdfunding co-operative.
Along those lines, a union collaborative could come together to launch a crowdfund portal that features only worker-owned cooperatives that share union-friendly business practices and values. In providing information about businesses featured on the union crowdfunding portal, the portal could publish metrics to rate businesses on a “social purpose” scale, using such tools as the Social Return on Investment (SROI) method, as standardized by the SROI network (; see also Lehner, 2013). Union members (who arguably are more willing to accept lower rates of return in favor of “social investment” goals [Quarter, et. al., 2001]) could be directed to this portal to facilitate their investments into union-friendly worker cooperatives.

Such a portal would have important legal restrictions on its communications with users. Under the law, crowdfunding portals cannot offer investment advice or recommendations, but it as of yet unclear how the SEC will interpret this principle in terms of what kinds of information portals can and cannot share with their visitors. Clearly portals cannot advise investment in any specific company, but it seems likely the SEC will allow them to act as a kind of educational clearinghouse, focusing all their offerings only on one kind of business (worker cooperatives) and sharing information such as which businesses are union organized and where businesses might be rated on the SROI scale.

n.b. Cartoons come from The Scoop Shovel, the official Organ of the
Manitoba Co-operative Dairies, Manitoba Egg and Poultry Pool, Manitoba Co-operative Livestock Producers at

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “And the eyes of the world are watching now” by KibbutzAmiad

2:59 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run /There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun / Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one / But the union makes us strong.”

It was about an attempt to destroy collective bargaining. It was about furthering the war on one of the last remaining bastions of union strength, the public sector workers. It was about entrenching the idea of education as a corporate tool to create “human resources” instead of educated citizens. It was about destroying another union by pitting the “reserve army of the unemployed” – capital’s most potent tool – against the ginned up image of “union thugs”, worker against worker.

The attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union were typical of the attacks on organized labor all around the United States. Those greedy, ungrateful teachers – don’t they know that workers are supposed to consider themselves lucky to have a job, any job, under any conditions and for any pay? How dare they strike when so many people are unemployed? When the Democratic mayor supports the corporate backed “charter – schools” ? And – unspoken, but implicit in every attack – when we are, after all, only talking about minority children and the women who teach them.

Union President Karen Lewis, an African American woman and the subject of endless vitriol, saw it clearly.

She invited the billionaires, the Gates Foundation elite, the politicians, to sit in unair-conditioned rooms amid peeling plaster and be evaluated. Be unable to go to a dentist when they have a toothache, a doctor when you are ill, be hungry while you are tested. Show us, she said, why do the billionaires have so much influence because they can write a check, despite having only one vote? She asked the questions that needed asking, the questions the media would not ask otherwise.

What, she asked, is unreasonable about what the teachers are actually asking for? Why do kindergartners need to be tested five and six times a year? I’m tired, she said, of being called a“thug”. “We are the foundation and they are trying to destroy us!” she shouted, at an impassioned rally at Union Park. “Your policies are harming children,” she bluntly stated. She knew what the attacks were really about and named it. “Introducing the market into the classroom is not education. You are asking us to do harm to children and THAT’S why we are here!”

From a striking teacher, about Lewis’ words: I want to cry tears of joy because I feel validated. No one has ever validated what I do and how hard I work. As a teacher, no one ever thanks me.

What are public resources? And what are they for? This is a germinal issue and your answer will determine which side of the class struggle you are on. The privatization of public space, public money, public assets has yielded great profits for the few and great hardship to the many. The attack on public workers in Wisconsin, in Chicago, and across the nation is another front in the war on workers everywhere.

I am not a human resource. I am a human being. Our children are not resources to be exploited by the ruling class for private profit. And education is not simply an indoctrination process meant to churn out cheap labor. That is what the Chicago teachers strike was about.

The tentative ( as I write this) agreement includes the following :

* 600 additional art, music, physical education and world language teachers.
> * Prep time for paraprofessionals and clinicians.
> * Teacher evaluations limited to 30% of the student test scores.
> * Up to $250 reimbursement for school supplies, which are often out of pocket for teachers.
> * Additional wrap-around services, including hiring of nurses, social workers and counselors.
> * Books on day one for teachers and students. Teachers had to wait for up to six weeks for materials to arrive
> * Defeating merit-pay for teachers. (Note – studies show merit pay does not work).

In many states, the attacks on teachers have had different outcomes. The state of public education in Florida, for example, public schools have been thrown into the volcano to appease the endless appetite of the corporate god:

High priced “consultants” are brought in to produce reports that will destroy the public schools and the unionized teachers: (for a glimpse into the truly amoral and horrifying human debris that are being used to destroy public schools and students in Florida, make sure you read this. )

And all working people suffer. It’s a scenario that has been replayed in many states.

The Chicago Teachers Union stood up to the bulldozer of private profit at public expense and said “enough”. They were supported by a majority of the public – something that astonished the media and the politicians who were confident that their slander and lies would have the desired effect. But the Chicago Teachers Union got the facts out: (the truth about school closings) (the truth about who is to blame for the conditions in the schools) (The truth about the origins of the propaganda);a8a81e0.1209b (what it is really like to teach in a Chicago public school, and what the challenges mean to teachers and students).

The Chicago Teachers Union did not create the poverty, the crime, the homelessness, the hunger, the lack of essential resources. The working class people of Chicago did not create them. The union pointed this out, clearly and sharply, and told the corporate interests and their political mouthpieces that their “prescriptions” would harm, even kill, the “patients”.

This is a fight for all of us, emblematic of the fight of workers everywhere. The courage of the teachers of Chicago, their refusal to be intimidated by an apparently overwhelmingly powerful foe, gives inspiration and instruction. They are winning. And the eyes of the world are indeed watching – will this start a trend? Or will it be a hope crushed in its infancy?

“You can blow out a candle / But you can’t blow out a fire / when the flames begins to catch/ the wind will blow it higher”
– Peter Gabriel, “Biko”

The answer will depend on our willingness to live and support what we’ve always known. The Union makes us strong.