Posts tagged Howard Zinn

Wednesday Lazy Linking

The Ludlow Massacre

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., speaking to assembled Colorado miners, September 20, 1915.

We are all partners in a way. Capital can’t get along without you men, and you men can’t get along without capital. When anybody comes along and tells you that capital and labor can’t get along together that man is your worst enemy. We are getting along friendly enough here in this mine right now, and there is no reason why you men cannot get along with the managers of my company when I am back in New York.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., June 10, 1914.

There was no Ludlow massacre. The engagement started as a desperate fight for life by two small squads of militia against the entire tent colony … There were no women or children shot by the authorities of the State or representatives of the operators … While this loss of life is profoundly to be regretted, it is unjust in the extreme to lay it at the door of the defenders of law and property, who were in no slightest way responsible for it.

From the New York World. Reprinted in Walter H. Fink, The Ludlow Massacre (1914), 7–21.

On the day of the Ludlow battle a chum and myself left the house of the Rev. J. O. Ferris, the Episcopal minister with whom I boarded in Trinidad, for a long tramp through the hills. We walked fourteen miles, intending to take the Colorado & Southern Railway back to Trinidad from Ludlow station.

We were going down a trail on the mountain side above the tent city at Ludlow when my chum pulled my sleeve and at the same instant we heard shooting. The militia were coming out of Hastings Canyon and firing as they came. We lay flat behind a rock and after a few minutes I raised my hat aloft on a stick. Instantly bullets came in our direction. One penetrated my hat. The militiamen must have been watching the hillside through glasses and thought my old hat betrayed the whereabouts of a sharpshooter of the miners.

Then came the killing of Louis Tikas, the Greek leader of the strikers. We saw the militiamen parley outside the tent city, and, a few minutes later, Tikas came out to meet them. We watched them talking. Suddenly an officer raised his rifle, gripping the barrel, and felled Tikas with the butt.

Tikas fell face downward. As he lay there we saw the militiamen fall back. Then they aimed their rifles and deliberately fired them into the unconscious man’s body. It was the first murder I had ever seen, for it was a murder and nothing less. Then the miners ran about in the tent colony and women and children scuttled for safety in the pits which afterward trapped them.

We watched from our rock shelter while the militia dragged up their machine guns and poured a murderous fire into the arroyo from a height by Water Tank Hill above the Ludlow depot. Then came the firing of the tents.

I am positive that by no possible chance could they have been set ablaze accidentally. The militiamen were thick about the northwest corner of the colony where the fire started and we could see distinctly from our lofty observation place what looked like a blazing torch waved in the midst of militia a few seconds before the general conflagration swept through the place. What followed everybody knows.

Sickened by what we had seen, we took a freight back into Trinidad.

New York Times, April 21, 1914.

The Ludlow camp is a mass of charred debris, and buried beneath it is a story of horror imparalleled in the history of industrial warfare. In the holes which had been dug for their protection against the rifles’ fire the women and children died like trapped rats when the flames swept over them. One pit, uncovered [the day after the massacre] disclosed the bodies of ten children and two women.

Fellow Workers,

Today is the 94th anniversary of the Ludlow massacre—April 20th, 1914. The United Mine Workers of America led a massive strike in Rockefeller’s Colorado coal mines from 1913 to 1914, demanding an eight hour day, an increase in wages, the removal of company-hired guards from the coal pits, and freedom for workers to arrange for their own housing, choose their own doctor, and receive pay in cash instead of company scrip. Tens of thousands of workers — over 90% of the miners in the coal-pits — went on strike. When the miners went on strike, they lost everything, because they all had to live in company towns, with company landlords. They lost their money; they couldn’t shop at the stores; and they were thrown out of their homes. So they set up shanty-towns on land that the union leased for them, and lived in tents high in the hills through the long winter months of a bitter strike. The company hired guards from private detective agencies, and they got the governor to call up the Colorado National Guard on their behalf. On April 20th, the National Guard and the company thugs pretended to negotiate with Louis Tikas while setting up machine-guns in the high-points around the camps. They fired down into shanty-town and, after many of the strikers dug into the ground for cover, they torched the tents. By the end of the night 45 people were dead—32 of them women and children—shot, smothered, or burned alive. They were murdered by company death squads and by agents of the State, in order to defend John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s laws and his legally-fabricated claims to property that he never worked, and had barely ever seen.

Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence.

As I read about this, I wondered why this extraordinary event, so full of drama, so peopled by remarkable personalities, was never mentioned in the history books. Why was this strike, which cast a dark shadow on the Rockefeller interests and on corporate America generally, considered less important than the building by John D. Rockefeller of the Standard Oil Company, which was looked on as an important and positive event in the development of American industry?

I knew there was no secret meeting of industrialists and historians to agree to emphasize the admirable achievements of the great corporations and ignore the bloody costs of industrialization in America. But I concluded that a certain unspoken understanding lay beneath the writing of textbooks and the teaching of history: that it would be considered bold, radical, perhaps even communist to emphasize class struggle in the United States, a country where the dominant ideology emphasized the oneness of the nation We the People, in order to…etc., etc. and the glories of the American system.

An anonymous proletarian. First printed by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1908.

We have fed you all for a thousand years
And you hail us still unfed
Though there’s never a dollar of all your wealth
But marks the workers dead
We have yielded our best to give you rest
And you lie on crimson wool
But if blood be the price of all your wealth
Good God we have paid in full

There is never a mine blown skyward now
But we’re buried alive for you
There’s never a wreck drifts shoreward now
But we are its ghastly crew
Go reckon our dead by the forges red
And the factories where we spin
If blood be the price of your cursèd wealth
Good God we have paid it in

We have fed you all for a thousand years
For that was our doom, you know
From the days when you chained us in your fields
To the strike a week ago
You have taken our lives, and our husbands and wives
And we’re told it’s your legal share
But if blood be the price of your lawful wealth
Good God we bought it fair.

Further reading:

Bomb after bomb

Last weekend, CounterPunch featured Howard Zinn’s introduction to elin o’Hara slavick’s book of cartographic drawings of American aerial bombing, Bomb after Bomb. I agree with Mark Brady that this is one of the best things that Zinn has ever written. Some of the most important stuff in the essay has to do with patriotism, the conflation of the country with the State, and the criminality of aerial warfare as such. A sample:

We have had enough experience, with the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders, with the bombings carried out by the Allies, with the torture stories coming out of Iraq, to know that ordinary people with ordinary consciences will allow their instincts for decency to be overcome by the compulsion to obey authority. It is time therefore, to educate the coming generation in disobedience to authority, to help them understand that institutions like governments and corporations are cold to anything but self-interest, that the interests of powerful entities run counter to the interests of most people.

This clash of interest between governments and citizens is camouflaged by phrases that pretend that everyone in the nation has a common interest, and so wars are waged and bombs dropped for national security, national defense, and national interest.

Patriotism is defined as obedience to government, obscuring the difference between the government and the people. Thus, soldiers are led to believe that we are fighting for our country when in fact they are fighting for the government — an artificial entity different from the people of the country — and indeed are following policies dangerous to its own people.

My own reflections on my experiences as a bombardier, and my research on the wars of the United States have led me to certain conclusions about war and the dropping of bombs that accompany modern warfare.

One: The means of waging war (demolition bombs, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, nuclear weapons, napalm) have become so horrendous in their effects on human beings that no political end— however laudable, the existence of no enemy — however vicious, can justify war.

Two: The horrors of the means are certain, the achievement of the ends always uncertain.

Three: When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant.

Four: War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it, so that the most ordinary of people become capable of terrible acts.

Five: Since the ratio of civilian deaths to military deaths in war has risen sharply with each subsequent war of the past century (10% civilian deaths in World War I, 50% in World War II, 70% in Vietnam, 80-90% in Afghanistan and Iraq) and since a significant percentage of these civilians are children, then war is inevitably a war against children.

Six: We cannot claim that there is a moral distinction between a government which bombs and kills innocent people and a terrorist organization which does the same. The argument is made that deaths in the first case are accidental, while in the second case they are deliberate. However, it does not matter that the pilot dropping the bombs does not intend to kill innocent people — that he does so is inevitable, for it is the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate. Even if the bombing equipment is so sophisticated that the pilot can target a house, a vehicle, there is never certainty about who is in the house or who is in the vehicle.

Seven: War, and the bombing that accompanies war, are the ultimate terrorism, for governments can command means of destruction on a far greater scale than any terrorist group.

These considerations lead me to conclude that if we care about human life, about justice, about the equal right of all children to exist, we must, in defiance of whatever we are told by those in authority, pledge ourselves to oppose all wars.

— Howard Zinn, Introduction to elin o’Hara slavick’s Bomb after Bomb

Read the whole thing.

(Via Mark Brady @ Liberty & Power 2007-12-15.)