Rather belated (I meant to post them a week apart), here's part two of Waylon Hedegaard's history of the labour union. If anything, this one was more interesting than the previous, for me, as he's now addressing the USian history, much of which I know less about than that of my own country.
While there's some parallel with the British history of the same time, the stereotype of the US doing everything bigger, brasher and louder is once again shown to have at least a kernel of truth. We certainly had our company towns, anarchists, politicians willing to send the army in to break strikes and so forth (and anyone who sees Winston Churchill as the saint he's sometimes made out to be should really read about the Tonypandy riots sometime, let alone his views on home rule for Ireland and India). The US, though, had them in spades; the company towns were even more like petty fiefdoms, the strike-breakers, and the strikers, even more violent, the profit-first-and-bugger-the-morals capitalism even more untrammelled.
Going off at a tangent from Waylon's point, while Marx may have his detractors (and I'm one of them, I should add), those who see "communism" as a dirty word and "socialism" as barely better, should maybe look at what Karl said in its historical context, rather than regard the travesty of it that Lenin and Stalin went on to make. Put yourself in the position of a worker at the time (or, indeed, in a modern sweatshop in India or China); working your fingers (the ones you haven't lost due to unsafe working conditions) to the bone, in cruelly punishing conditions, for barely enough wages—or sometimes not enough—to maintain a subsistence diet, whilst the people who own the factories (or, increasingly, the people who control the people who control the companies which control the owners of the factories) could quite easily lose more money than you'd see in a lifetime, and barely blink at the loss. Put yourself, as I say, in the position of one of those workers, and Karl's ideas—or at the very least his statement of what the problems were—do seem to have at least something going for them, don't they? If they are making wealth for which the word "obscene" starts to become correct usage, from your labour, as you face starvation, death from industrial accident and an (extremely shortened) old-age crippled by arthritis or black-lung, suddenly a free market untrammelled by moral concerns and a "small" government, constrained, libertarian-style, to "staying out of business regulation" start to look rather less attractive.
Anyways, I'll shut up and let you watch the video. Which ends, I should point out, at a point before the word "communism" had been invented; lest my little tangent-exploration might put you off.
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