Category Archives: Union Labor History

100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Voices of the Revolution – March, 1917

Selections from the excellent book “Voices of Revolution” by Mark D. Steinberg, Translated by Marian Schwartz; Yale University Press, 2001

Edited by IWPCHI

We present these selections from the massive outpouring of appeals, declarations, poems, essays and songs written by Russian people from all walks of life in response to the long-awaited overthrow of the hated Tzarist regime. These are representative of the political level of the Russian working class, peasantry and soldiery in the days immediately after the February revolution. – IWPCHI

Historical period: March, 1917

[The following poem was written by Mikhail Serafimovich, a private in the Reserve Cavalry]

I most humbly ask the gentlemen editors if you might not find a way to put the verse copied out below in your newspaper.

“Long live free Russia.”

The joyous cry floods my soul—-

“Long live our freedom,”

The red flag stills my heart.

A leaden weight has fallen,

The world dreams a shining dream…

I’m young again, my body drunk,

My soul replete with feelings.

With feelings as vast and endless

As drops in the cup of the sea.

*******************

The Russian National Hymn

(to the tune of “How Glorious Is Our Lord in Zion”)

Blessed is the Father of all

The God of Gods inscrutable!

Who creates from nothing, from mortal life,

Joyous souls immutable.

Blessed too are all the nations

And every living creature,

Wondrous nature’s emanations,

And matter inanimate of feature.

[…]

Blessed is our Holy Rus—-

Our family of nations, tribes,

Our homeland with its bounds unloosed,

Its freedom and its law prescribed.

Blessed is the new republic

Of our cherished nation’s power,

With a leader now elected

By this huge dear land of ours.

[…]

[Signed]

Muzhik Mikula

March 1917

**************************

“To the Fallen Freedom Fighters” by metalworker Demian Semyonov

To the Fallen Freedom Fighters

Memory eternal to all who have fought.

For freedom through great tribulation!

The blood they sacrificed has bought

This sacred freedom for our nation.

Much they suffered, their needs subdued,

Awaiting the dawn with freedom’s hope …

For naught their pleas and howls flew

To the ear of the tyrant, to the Tsar’s own throne

[…]

Our pleas for bread they would not abide,

and instead of bread sent bayonets, lead!

In sacrifice too many comrades died …

But they tore the crown from the despot’s head.

In our hour of trial, you did not despair,

You sallied forth with naked chest…

May the earth be a bed as soft as air!

[…]

Please put the attached poem in the newspaper.

D. Semyonov

At your service

*********************************

[Note: The Tzarist government, in its dying days, attempted to excuse its own vast incompetence and inability to provide the soldiers at the front with even basic supplies, from boots to bullets, by blaming the shortages on the long-suffering armament factory workers who had gone on strike for higher wages

in order to feed themselves and their families. By doing this they tried to get the soldiers to attack the rebellious workers instead of the government that was actually responsible for the shortages. The workers in the factories vigorously denounced this attempt and sought successfully to appeal directly to the soldiers themselves in explaining what was really going on. – IWPCHI]

“Appeal to soldiers from the workers of the A. M. Ouf machine, metal and engineering factories, Petrograd (28-29 March, 1917)”

“We, the workers of the Ouf factory, in a gathering of eight hundred people, loudly protest the disgraceful and insolent agitation aimed at us, the workers, by dark and ignorant persons. We declare that we and the soldiers have common interests; there are no enemies among us, for we are all the working class. This lie is coming not from our camp, for it is bubbling up in an underhanded way, from underground, fearful of just retribution.

Comrade soldiers! The slander that is coming out of our enemies’ camp must be stopped immediately. We must declare that workers and soldiers are one and that we will not allow our enemies to sow enmity between us. […] We declare that our comrade soldiers and we workers shall henceforth fight for our interests— the interests of the working people. And to our enemies, who are attempting to divide us, we loudly declare, “No! Stand back! For you are our enslavers, for you are living off our labor, you are breathing through us, and it’s you who depend on us, not we on you.”

[…]

In their speeches in response, the soldiers’ representatives assured the workers that the army does not believe the foul slander of the bourgeois press and that the soldiers know the secret purpose of this slander— to make the workers and the soldiers quarrel […]

Capital hand in hand with Labor! As true in 1899 as it is today.

Capital hand in hand with labor! by Horace Taylor. 13 November 1899. Illustration shows Marcus Alonzo Hanna as a vulture with large dollar sign on its breast pinning a man representing "labor" to a rock.

“Capital hand in hand with labor!  “If there is anything the matter with Trusts the Republican Party can be relied upon to fix it.” — Hanna.” by Horace Taylor. 13 November 1899. Illustration shows Marcus Alonzo Hanna as a vulture with large dollar sign on its breast pinning a man representing “labor” to a rock.  Source: Library of Congress

 

We are pleased to present to you our dear readers this political cartoon from 1899 extolling the warm relationship of capital and labor as partners with identical interests.  Our “friends” at the AFL-CIO headquarters  will undoubtedly be upset to see their “partners” the capitalists portrayed in such a harsh light.  It gets harder and harder every day for them to sell their lie that workers and their exploiters are natural allies; we are so happy to make their work just that much more difficult.

The cartoon was created by Horace Taylor on 13 November 1899 and shows John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust political fixer Mark Hanna of the Republican Party “shaking hands” in partnership with a worker.  The Library of Congress lists this artwork as part of their collection, but for some strange reason they do not offer a color reproduction (or any downloadable high-resolution image) of this honest depiction of the true relationship between capital and labor.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Workers of the world, Unite!

Capitalism must die so that the working class may live!

— IWPCHI

 

Labor Day 2016: “Workers Must Establish and Maintain Their Own Press If They Expect to be Properly Represented”

Perhaps in response to the spread of popular daily papers being published all over the Midwest in the wake of major union organizing efforts at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the AFL began to publish their own papers, with a far more leftist slant than their leadership in Washington, D.C. would have approved of.

The following selection from the labor press of the AFL back in 1904 will show that there once was a time when even the class-collaborationist and hidebound AFL of Samuel Gompers understood – in direct contradiction to the fundamental belief of today’s AFL-CIO “leadership” – that the interests of labor and capital were fundamentally opposed to each other.  “Let the unions understand that they may expect nothing of value from their natural enemies – and in the final analysis the whole question is sifted down to and rests upon and is controlled by the economic interests of the employing class as opposed to those interests of the working class.” So spoke the AFL back in 1904!

This article, which makes an eloquent plea for the necessity of the establishment of an independent labor press if the cause of the working class was to be fairly represented in the mass media, was written 112 years ago – and for the most part could have been written yesterday.  The need for such a press is just as important today as it was then, although in 1904 there were dozens of labor papers in existence scattered throughout the US.  In 2016, apart from the revolutionary socialist press that fights for the cause of the working class – but is almost completely ignored by the mass of slavish US workers – there is no labor press at all.  This is because the pro-capitalist AFL-CIO, whose affiliated locals once recognized the need for and published dozens of such papers, is now led by such a gang of housebroken puppets of the capitalist class that this crying need of the working class goes totally unanswered.   ———— IWPCHI

From the ‘Ohio Valley Worker’ – the ‘Official Paper of the Federated Trades Council of Louisville, Trades and Labor Council of New Albany, Central Labor Union of Jeffersonville.’ [Kentucky and Indiana, USA] – Volume I, Number 33, 10 September 1904

INDEPENDENT LABOR PRESS A NECESSITY

Labor Given the Knife by the Great Molders of Public Opinion.

The Workers Must Establish and Maintain Their Own Press If They Expect to be Properly Represented.

No argument is needed to convince the intelligent observer of passing events of the growing need of a labor press that has no entangling alliances with any of the agencies which have undertaken the task of emasculating the labor unions or destroying them entirely. The most superficial reader of the daily press is quick to notice the manner in which the news agencies of the world are continuously and forever giving Labor the worst of it in every conceivable manner. The Associated Press, the chief news-gathering agency in America, is made up of one or more daily papers in the various cities of the country, and the stuff put upon the wires and known as the Associated Press dispatches is usually gleaned from the matter prepared for these local papers. Very often a proof of the matter set up for the daily papers is supplied the [sic – IWPCHI] Associated Press correspondent, and often, without any corrections or changes whatever, the matter is telegraphed all over the country and appears in all papers receiving the press report as Associated Press dispatches.

The foregoing recital is made for the purpose of showing that, while the Associated Press if damned for false stories, especially in nearly all cases where there is a strike or other controversy between Capital and Labor, in reality the blame rests upon the daily papers, whose reporters, acting under instructions, have juggled the facts so as to make it appear that Labor is wrong and that the employers are persecuted saints. To be sure, the daily paper merely serves its master in this. It looks to the “business interests,” the banks, corporations, manufacturers, and large employers of labor generally for its support. And, obeying the impulse to defend the class-interest of the element to which it belongs, the daily paper uses all its powers to thwart organized labor, confuse the union membership, and help the employers to a victory that means no improvement in the condition of the workers.

The facts above stated are so patent, and are being more and more recognized by wage-earners, as the days come and go, that we deem an extended mention thereof to be superficial were it not for the moral the story contains.

Under the circumstances what is Labor to do? Must it docilely submit to the fate of inaction? Shall it cower and cringe before the public gaze because it has been lied about and vilified – and whipped back to the factory, shop or mill through the misrepresentation of men in control of the daily press, whose economic interests are opposed to those of the workers? No! There is a better solution of the problem. The thing to do is to build up a LABOR press – owned by Labor and controlled by Labor. Through your own press, fellow-workers, you may become powerful, but not otherwise. With a medium that is under your ownership and control your organization may become a power not now more than dreamed of. To establish and make secure such a Labor press is the duty of the hour. You must have your own medium to give utterance to your demands, crystallize the sentiment that may be created in your favor, and finally do battle for you in every conflict in which you may be engaged.

THE WORKER is the only paper within several hundred miles of Louisville that is organized and established on the right basis. It is the only one that is democratically owned by the forces of Labor, and therefore is the only medium through which the favors of those friendly to Labor ever reach the point for which they are intended. It is the only genuine Labor paper.

Everyone who reads the Louisville daily papers will recall that within the past couple of years they vied with each other in their efforts to get up a union labor department. Regularly each week a column or two was devoted to the news of the unions. Where are these departments now? When they have not entirely disappeared they have dwindled to virtually nothing. This is a manifestation of the studied purpose of the Employers’ Association and all its friends to give no recognition to organized labor except to oppose and belittle this great movement. A representative of one of the daily papers, in a semi-confidential manner, gave the writer the tip several months ago that from that time on there would be less labor union news in the city daily papers than has been customary to give. Events have proven that he knew whereof he spoke. Labor is to be ignored – or, if given any consideration at all, it is to be given the knife.

Again, let the unions understand that they may expect nothing of value from their natural enemies – and in the final analysis the whole question is sifted down to and rests upon and is controlled by the economic interests of the employing class as opposed to those interests of the working class. We do not blame the employers for defending their interests, but the workers MUST awaken to a proper defense of THEIR interests, and this can be done only by and through the press which they own and control, and not through the press that almost without exception gives Labor the hot end of it in every great issue and on every great question.

Set up and support your own press and keep it true to its purpose. Therein lies your only safeguard, fellow-unionists.

[Emphasis given in capitalized words in original – IWPCHI]

Labor Day, 2016: Once Upon A Time, The US Had “Labor Newspapers”… Lots of Them

On this “Labor Day” weekend we are reminded of the terrible state of the union movement in the USA.  Under the pro-capitalist leadership of the AFL-CIO since the anti-communist witch-hunts led by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy back in the ’50s drove the commies out of the unions, the percentage of the US working class holding union cards has steadily dwindled.

Union membership rose vertically in 1930s under anti-capitalist Communist and trotskyist leadership; collapsed when "Reds" were driven out of unions in late 1940s.

Union membership rose vertically in 1930s under anti-capitalist Communist and Trotskyist leadership; collapsed when “Reds” were driven out of unions in late 1940s.  Wealth distribution towards top of income pyramid shows distinct inverse relationship to percentage of workers in higher-paid union jobs. Anticommunist, pro-capitalist AFL-CIO “leadership” has overseen 65 years of almost unbroken failure to organize the unorganized.  Time to dump these bums and build a revolutionary Trotskyist class-struggle leadership in the unions!

Today’s AFL-CIO “leadership” regales the membership with the lie that “the interests of labor and capital are one and the same”.  Look at point one in the following AFL-CIO handout:

Pro-capitalist AFL-CIO spreads lies about "unity of interests" of capital and labor. Is it any wonder that union membership has fallen off a cliff with these "labor lieutenants of capital" at the helm?

Pro-capitalist AFL-CIO spreads lies about “unity of interests” of capital and labor. Is it any wonder that union membership has fallen off a cliff with these “labor lieutenants of capital” at the helm?  Every word of this document is pure bullshit, sowing illusions that workers can get a fair deal under the capitalist system.

It wasn’t always this way.  In the late 19th and the early years of the 20th century US workers and their union leaders understood that the interests of capital and labor were directly COUNTERPOSED and IRRECONCILABLE.  Union leadership in those days was full of anarchists, socialists and (after 1917) Communists inspired by the Bolshevik Russian Revolution.  Though the top AFL-CIO leaders like Sam Gompers were hidebound pro-capitalist quislings, many of the local unions had more left-leaning leaders who taught that the working class could expect nothing but a knife in the back from the capitalist class – and their media outlets, which in the early days of the union movement before radio and television meant just one thing: the newspapers.  And so, in order for the truth about the union movement to be broadcast to the masses, the socialist parties and later on the AFL-CIO itself began publishing newspapers telling the workers’ side of the story.  From union and socialist and anarchist strongholds like the lumber and mining unions in the Pacific Northwest to the shores of the Atlantic, union newspapers were created.  Where once the US produced perhaps dozens of daily socialist, anarchist and trade-unionist newspapers none are in existence today.   Outside of the important revolutionary socialist papers that struggle to obtain the support of the slavish, pro-capitalist US working class of today (and can only publish weekly or biweekly or monthly as a result) the US has not a single pro-union daily newspaper!  What is wrong with this country and its working class?   Here is a selection of papers we ran across today as we checked out the archives at  Newspapers.com:

The Knights of Labor, Richmond, Virginia, 1886: “That is the Most Perfect Government in Which An Injury To One Is the Concern Of All.”

Richmond, VA K of L paper_'The Labor Herald'_ 17jul1886

The Knights of Labor were originally organized as a secret society at a time when union organizing was punished as a “conspiracy” of labor against the “rightful rulers” of the USA.  Having just emerged from secrecy in 1886 during the rapid rise of the “Eight-Hour Day” movement, the K of L were driven back underground in the wake of the vicious anti-union attacks led by the US capitalist class and their press in revenge for the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago that took place in May of 1886.

Mt. Vernon, Illinois “Progressive Farmer” of the Farmer’s Mutual Benefit Association (FMBA), 1895

Farmers across the US were forced to band together in the wake of economic crises of the late 1800s that resulted from land speculation and droughts that ruined the rural economy and kept farmers at the mercy of bankers, grain speculators and railroads. The Farmers Mutual Benefit Association was formed and published newspapers across the Midwest.

Farmers across the US were forced to band together in the wake of economic crises of the late 1800s that resulted from land speculation and droughts that ruined the rural economy and kept farmers at the mercy of bankers, grain speculators and railroads. (Some things never change!) The Farmers Mutual Benefit Association, though not a trade union, was formed and published newspapers across the Midwest.

 

Elwood, Indiana “Daily Labor Record”, 1896

Insert here

Even small towns like Elwood, Indiana had their own labor papers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany and Jeffersonville Indiana’s “Ohio Valley Worker”, 1904: “The Official Paper of the Federated Trades Council of Louisville, Trades and Labor Council of New Albany, Central Labor Union of Jeffersonville.”

Perhaps in response to the spread of popular daily papers being published all over the Midwest in the wake of major union organizing efforts at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the AFL began to publish their own papers, with a far more leftist slant than their leadership in Washington, D.C. would have approved of.

Perhaps in response to the spread of popular daily papers being published all over the Midwest in the wake of major union organizing efforts at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the AFL began to publish their own papers, with a far more leftist slant than their leadership in Washington, D.C. would have approved of. This one features a poem dedicated to Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs.

 

Greensboro, North Carolina “Labor News”, 1908: “Organ of the State Federation of Labor.  Endorsed by Greensboro Trades Council.  Motto: Organization, Education And Elevation.”

The less-than-inspiring motto of this AFL paper demonstrates a more conservative political philosophy and an appetite for seeking the approval of pro-capitalist "public opinion".

The less-than-inspiring motto of this AFL paper demonstrates a more conservative political philosophy and an appetite for seeking the approval of pro-capitalist “public opinion”.

 

Everett, Washington “Washington Socialist”, 1914: “Workers Of The World, Unite!  You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains.  You Have A World To Win.”

A revolutionary socialist newspaper of 1914 pulls no punches about where it stands. Anti war articles rail against WWI: "[We] deplore the fact that the wage class of Europe have allowed themselves to be lured to the battlefield to be slaughtered for the benefit of the master class."

A revolutionary Socialist Party newspaper of 1914 pulls no punches about where it stands. Anti-war articles rail against WWI: “[We] deplore the fact that the wage class of Europe have allowed themselves to be lured to the battlefield to be slaughtered for the benefit of the master class…the proletariat have no country, but are and should be citizens of the world, and that they have therefore but ONE enemy, the capitalist class…”

Decatur, Illinois “Labor World”, 1915:  “The Paper That Won’t Be Muzzled… Endorsed By The Trades And Labor Assembly”

Insert

WWI saw the US working class, which had initially completely opposed any involvement in the “War to end all wars”, being driven by the jingoist press into joining in the effort to defeat “the Hun”.  The Socialist movement, led in many midwestern cities by German workers, was attacked for its principled anti-war stance for being “pro-German”.  This placed the editors of newspapers on the defensive throughout the period of build-up to the entry of the US into the war until the anti-communist Palmer Raids shut down many of these papers in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917.

 

Everett, Washington “Northwest Worker”, 1917:  “Official Organ of the Socialist Party of Snohomish and Stevens Counties… Spokesman for the Only Useful Class in Society – The Working Class”

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By 1917, the US had been transformed by 3 years of incessant warmongering from the capitalist press from a nation utterly opposed to entry into WWI to a nation eager to plunge into the worst bloodbath in world history to that time.  Working-class papers that had held to their anti-war principles were severely attacked in print and in public.  The Socialist Party openly hails the bourgeois-democratic revolution that had taken place in Russia in February of 1917, toppling the hated Czar from his throne.

 

Cincinnati, Ohio “Labor Advocate”, 1917: “A Paper Without A Muzzle For All Who Toil… Property and Official Organ of the Building Trades Council of Cincinnati and Vicinity… Independent… Non-Partisan”

Pro-capitalist AFL newspaper pushes pro-war propaganda, using a front-page cartoon of a German soldier butchering a (probably Belgian) woman with a babe in her arms. The dear American Mother urges her sons to take up the sword to defend the innocent woman from "the Hun". Touting in its masthead the slogans "Independent" and "Non-Partisan" it urges its readers to take a very partisan stance in the mass slaughter of WWI.

Pro-capitalist AFL newspaper pushes pro-war propaganda, using a front-page cartoon of a German soldier butchering a (probably Belgian) woman with a babe in her arms. The dear American Mother urges her sons to take up the sword to defend the innocent woman from “the Hun”. Touting in its masthead the slogans “Independent” and “Non-Partisan” it urges its readers to take a very partisan stance in the mass slaughter of WWI.

 

Duluth and Superior, Minnesota “Labor World”, 1918:  “For Social Justice, Economic Reform, And Political Progress”

The motto says it all: this paper is pro-capitalist and reformist, seeking labor "peace" and mere "political progress", not revolution. The blurb in the upper-left corner of the masthead, addressed to potential business advertisers, states that the people who read this paper are not of the "working class" but of the "consuming class".

The motto says it all: this AFL paper is pro-capitalist and reformist, seeking labor “peace” and mere “political progress”, not revolution. The blurb in the upper-left corner of the masthead, addressed to potential business advertisers, states that the people who read this paper are not of the “working class” but of the “consuming class”.

 

Wilmington, North Carolina “Union Labor Record”, 1918:  “The Medium of Organized Labor and Guardian of the Workingman’s Interest.  Endorsed by the North Carolina State Federation of Labor.”

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By the end of 1918, the US working class – outside of a few strongholds of internationalist socialism — has been stampeded into supporting the US drive to enter WWI.  This southern AFL paper decries war profiteering while trumpeting a “united war work drive”.

 

Everett, Washington “Labor Journal”, 1922: “Official Paper Everett Central Labor Council… Published In The Interest Of Organized Labor”

Insert

Another pro-capitalist AFL paper, featuring the uplifting, inspiring saying (in the face of a mass lockout of workers by the railroad barons): “In the struggle between poverty and talent, poverty generally triumphs.”

The AFL-CIO unions today publish not newspapers but newsletters for their membership only, featuring self-aggrandizing pabulum about how great the local piecards are… and of course the death notices… and large displays of US flags everywhere – along with attacks on the Republicans and lists of “friends of Labor” Democrats to vote for in the upcoming elections.  No wonder the AFL-CIO is going down the tubes with this pathetic, pro-capitalist leadership!  If we want to see the union membership rise again like it did in the 1930s, we need to kick out the pro-capitalist labor fakers and replace them with a revolutionary Trotskyist class-struggle leadership that fights not just for “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” but for workers socialist revolution in the USA and around the world!  There will not be any dancing in the streets after WWIII, sisters and brothers.

Workers of the World, Unite!  Capitalism Must Die So The Working Class May Live!

—IWPCHI