Labor Day, Railroad Strike, & Socialist Eugene Debs
Labor Day. To appreciate it, one needs to know the history preceding it.
At the time the United States was founded, most people were farmers or worked in trades, such as blacksmiths, cobblers, bakers, upholsterers, etc.
Then, the Industrial Revolution began when the Scottish inventor James Watt developed a steam engine to pump water out of coal mines.
Steam and water were soon harnessed in the early 19th century to power pumps, railroads, ships, and factories, which mass produced products, such as textiles.
This led to the creation of factories which could mass produce items inexpensively.
Originally, there was no Federal Income tax.
The Federal Government was financed primarily from:
EXCISE TAXES on items like salt, tobacco, liquor;
TARIFF TAXES on imports.
Tariffs made products imported from European factories more expensive, causing consumers to buy the less expensive products made in American factories.
Most of America’s factories were located in Northern states.
The problem was, the tariff taxes that helped the Northern states hurt the Southern states, as the South was predominately agricultural and had few factories to protect.
At one point, nearly 90 percent of the Federal Budget came from Tariff Taxes collected at Southern Ports.
This fueled animosity between the states leading up to the Civil War.
After the Civil War, the North passed even more tariff taxes which successfully allowed Northern factories to grow enormous.
Manufacturing produced items like clothes, glass, dishes, and farm tools for a fraction of the previous costs.
Machines freed women up from tedious daily tasks, such as hand-weaving thread, hand-sewing cloth, and hand-washing clothes.
Instead of carrying water from a well, pumps and pipes brought water directly into homes.
New ways of making stronger iron and steel led to the building of bridges, skyscrapers, steamboats, and mining machinery.
Railroads began taking people safely and inexpensively across the entire nation, opening up unprecedented mobility and opportunity.
Inventions and advances in manufacturing made more goods available at cheaper prices resulting in Americans experiencing the fastest increase in the standard of living of any people in world history.
As to labor, factories had a continual source of workers from the millions of immigrants, who not only got a job, but learned the language and trade skills.
President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty in 1886.
Immigrants were not a financial burden on the government, as there were no welfare programs. Extended family members, individual charity, and churches provided the welfare net.
Immigrants were anxious to assimilate and learn the English language.
An example of the ideal factory was one created by George Pullman, who founded the Pullman Railroad Sleeping Car Company just outside of Chicago, Illinois.
George Pullman saw that workers needed a place to live, so he built them houses in a safe little village around the factory.
To save them the hassle of making payments, rent was simply deducted from their paychecks.
Workers were paid company “scrip,” similar to food stamps, which were redeemable at the company-owned grocery stores.
It was thought to be a utopian workers’ community and worked well for over a decade.
Then something happened.
There was a nationwide economic depression in 1893 and orders for railroad sleeping cars suddenly dropped off.
To keep the company afloat, George Pullman had to make cuts in wages and lay off hundreds of employees, though, for the time being, rent and groceries stayed the same price.
Some immigrants from Europe had brought with them Karl Marx’s idea of a class-struggle.
Employees were distraught, as they had grown completely dependent on the company.
Some employees walked off their jobs, demanding lower rents and higher pay, being unaware that the reason for the cuts was that company needed to stay in business during the national economic crash.
The growing discontent was a seedbed for the socialist-communist agenda of redistribution of wealth.
A leader of the strikes was Eugene V. Debs. A high school drop-out, Debs got a job cleaning grease from freight engines.
He was promoted to locomotive fireman and rose in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman. He briefly served as a Terre Haute city clerk and one-term Indiana state representative.
When the nation experienced the financial crisis, Debs agitated and organized a strike of railroad workers in 1894.
Soon, railroad workers across the nation boycotted trains carrying Pullman cars.
There was rioting, pillaging, and burning of railroad cars, destroying an estimated $80 million worth of property.
A New York Times editorial, July 9, 1894, called Debs “a lawbreaker at large, an enemy of the human race.”
“Debs’ Rebellion” became a national issue when it interrupted the trains delivering mail.
President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to break the strike.
More violence erupted, and two men were killed.
Debs was arrested for mail obstruction and put in jail for six months, where he “ravenously” read Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
Marx and Friedrich Engels explained (Marx and Engels Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 318):
“Conspirators by no means confine themselves to organizing the revolutionary proletariat. Their business consists in … spurring it in to artificial crises …
For them the only condition required for the revolution is a sufficient organization of their own conspiracy. They are the alchemists of the revolution.”
Since 1894 was an election year, President Grover Cleveland thought it would improve his chances of getting re-elected if he appeased workers with a national “LABOR DAY.”
He chose the FIRST MONDAY in SEPTEMBER.
Though strike-organizer Eugene Debs went to prison, and Grover Cleveland lost the election, LABOR DAY remained a national holiday.
President Cleveland intentionally did not choose May 1st as LABOR DAY because he did not want it to be in coordination with the Socialist-Communist “International Workers Day.”
He also did not chose May 1st as it was the anniversary of the bloody Chicago’s Haymarket Riot, where anarchist rioters blew up a pipe bomb on May 1, 1886, killing 7 policemen and injuring 60 others.
Attorney Clarence Darrow gained fame for defending Debs and the rioters. Darrow later defended evolution in the Scope’s Monkey Trial.
The statue dedicated to the police officers who died in the Haymarket Riot was blown up on October 6, 1969, by Bill Ayers’ militant leftist group “Weatherman Underground” during their Days of Rage.
The Haymarket statue was rebuilt, only to be blown up again by the Weatherman Underground on October 6, 1970.
Bill Ayers later helped launch the political career of a young Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama.
After six months in prison, Eugene Debs founded the Social Democracy of America (1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (1898) and the Socialist Party of America (1901).
Debs ran five times for U.S. President on the Socialist Party of America ticket. As he won no electoral votes, he opposed to the electoral process.
When World War I started, Eugene Debs urged resistance to the draft.
One of those who followed his call to be a draft-dodger was Roger Baldwin, who later founded the A.C.L.U. to help defend those who were accused of being communist agitators.
In 1918, Debs was charged with ten counts of sedition and sentenced to ten years in prison.
In protest of his sentence, unionists, anarchists, socialists, and communists marched in support of Debs in a May Day parade in Cleveland, Ohio.
Predictably, the parade broke out into Antifa-style violence – the May Day Riots of 1919.
When Debs’ attorney asked for a Presidential pardon, Woodrow Wilson wrote “denied” across the paperwork, and stated:
“While the flower of American youth was pouring out its blood to vindicate the cause of civilization, this man, Debs, stood behind the lines sniping, attacking, and denouncing them … This man was a traitor to his country and he will never be pardoned during my administration.”
The next President, Warren G. Harding, also did not pardon Debs, and the White House released the statement:
“There is no question of his guilt … He is … a dangerous man calculated to mislead the unthinking and affording excuse for those with criminal intent.”
In 1979, Bernie Sanders produced a documentary praising Eugene Debs. He hung a portrait of Debs in the City Hall of Burlington, Vermont, and dedicated a plaque to him in his Congressional office.
After Vladimir Lenin organized the Bolshevik Revolution overthrowing Russia’s government, he formed the Communist International in 1919. This persuaded some members of the Socialist Party of America to form the Communist Party USA.
The Communist Party USA ran candidates for U.S. President every year from 1920 till they decided to support Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had allied himself with Josef Stalin during World War II.
The contributions that unions help bring about included:
– the 8-hour work day,
– a 40-hour work week,
– minimum wages,
– safer working conditions, and
– more benefits for workers.
Henry Ford’s Motor Company was one of the first to implement these benefits.
A story circulated that Henry Ford met a Yemeni sailor at port and told him about auto factory jobs that paid five dollars a day.
The sailor spread the word, leading to chain migration from Yemen and other parts of the Middle East.
Whether Ford actually did this, perhaps to counter growing union strength, is unverified, but it is a fact that large numbers of Middle Eastern Muslims began immigrating to Dearborn, Michigan, and worked in the auto industry.
Unions were anti-immigrant, as cheaper labor undercut their wages.
As unions grew in size, another situation developed, where top leadership tended to hold values different than rank-and-file union workers.
Many members supported the Second Amendment, traditional marriage, biological definitions of sex, and protection of the unborn, yet many in leadership funneled union dues to support candidates who advocated opposing views.
One of the unanticipated consequences of workers’ benefits improving was the increase cost of doing business.
Companies, in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace, had to find ways to lower costs, which meant replacing jobs with “automation” and “out-sourcing.”
After World War II, America helped rebuild Germany and Japan with new factories.
These overseas factories, with their cheaper labor costs and newer machinery, produced items for less and took a larger part of the global market.
They hired lobbyists to push for lowering tariffs so they could bring less expensive products in, gaining a competitive advantage over American factories.
Issues that increased the cost of doing business in America included:
– Higher wages;
– Increased taxes;
– Expensive lawsuits;
– Burdensome regulations;
– Environmental restrictions;
– Crony capitalism, where politicians provided subsidies, contracts, and relaxed regulations for companies supporting their political agendas and reelections; and companies not supportive were put at a disadvantage, some being faced with the choice of either going out of business or out of the country.
As American-made products became more expensive in comparison to foreign-made products, consumers bought fewer of them, resulting in American factories needing fewer workers.
“Squeeze the sponge and the water goes out” — as manufacturing costs in America rose, manufacturers moved with their jobs to other countries.
To personalize this, if you needed gas for your car, and the gas station on your side of the street sold it at $4.50 a gallon, but the station on the other side of the street sold it for just $2.50 a gallon, would you cross the street?
Just as water seeks its own level, individuals and businesses are motivated to save money.
Bringing jobs back to America is as simple as making it more profitable for factories to be located here than there.
But coalescing the political will in Congress is an uphill battle.
Another by-product of companies leaving the country was their loss of patriotism, creating what became termed “globalists.”
Globalists are patriotic only to the bottom-line on their financial statements.
Additionally, socialist political strategies include intentionally raising unemployment rates so more unemployed workers will sign up for welfare benefits.
Once unemployed workers become dependent on government benefits and entitlements, they are inclined to vote for the candidates who promise to continue them.
Tragically, for some political strategists, more unemployment means an increased voter base.
If entitlements are threatened, some are even inclined to be organized into revolutionaries.
Socialist thinker Friedrich Engels wrote (London: W.O. Henderson, The Life of Friedrich Engels, 1976; Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, 1844):
“Every fresh slump must ruin more small capitalists and increase the workers who live only by their labor.
This will increase the number of the unemployed and this is the main problem that worries economists.
In the end commercial crises will lead to a social revolution far beyond the comprehension of the economists with their scholastic wisdom.”
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushschev reportedly told Ezra Taft Benson, Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture, in 1959:
“We won’t have to fight you; We’ll so weaken your economy, until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands.”
Among American workers, union membership since 1950 has declined from 50 percent to currently less than 12 percent.
Instead of addressing the need to attract manufacturers, with their jobs, back to America, many unions have focused their efforts to increase membership by recruiting from other occupations, such as government, education, medical professionals, sports, service industry, and retail.
Warning American workers of the hidden danger of “social justice” movements, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had spent 11 years in Union of Soviet Socialist Republics labor camps, stated, June 30, 1975:
“I … call upon America to be more careful with its trust …
Prevent those … who are attempting to establish even finer … legal shades of equality – because of their distorted outlook … short-sightedness and … self-interest -
from falsely using the struggle for peace and for social justice to lead you down a false road …
They are trying to weaken you; they are trying to disarm your strong and magnificent country in the face of this fearful threat …
I call upon you: ordinary working men of America … do not let yourselves become weak.”