People's History: Socialists and Progressives, 1900-1912 (Chap 13)

Shine On Harvest Moon, 1908, Ziegfield Follies
Ideale, by Enrico Caruso, 1906
St. Louis Blues, 1914
Auld Lang Syne, 1907

Summary
Our country was advancing through free enterprise.
But women, blacks, and children didn't realize
the gains. And though 'progressive' government reform
occurred, it didn't change the business-governed norm.

Chapter
In retrospect, the war between America and Spain -
the "lives and blood and money" of Americans - would stain
our country with the blunt and shameless cause of capital.
And now that Ford's assembly line was making radical
improvements in the business world, the modern working man
became "more wretched than the caveman." Thenceforth we began,
said Henry James, to fill our gardens with the "poison plant
of money passion." From the filthy workplace came the chant
of worker discontent: the New York garment workers' strike,
the seamstress, laundress, factory employee all alike,
inhaling chemicals for fourteen hours in summer heat,
and danger always lurking, like the Shirtwaist Fire - the street
aflame with corpses of the helpless girls who had embraced
while leaping from the fire. So unions grew, and owners braced
for disaccord. The AFL was mostly white and male.
The Wobblies, though, were "One Big Union," founded to assail
the business leaders with a militant approach: "Just fold
your arms, the world will stop!" Courageous, proud, and bold,
and willing to engage in battle, anything it takes.
As Labor grew in strength, the greed, detachment, and mistakes
of management inspired the rapid rise of Socialists,
who used an organized approach instead of guns and fists
to challenge management and fight against the "slavery
of wages." Party leader Debs expressed emphatically
the thinking of the common man. And women, too, became
outspoken organizers. Margaret Sanger would proclaim
a woman's body out of bounds, distinct from sexist law.
And suffrage was a great concern, though Helen Keller saw
a vote as just a choice of "Tweedledum or Tweedledee."
But even worse for women black and poor and born to be
"a pack horse, beast of burden," and in practice still a slave,
and men of color -- lynchings putting many in an early grave.
And children -- tens of thousands worked in factories and mills
and mines while advocates like Mother Jones and stubborn wills
of radicals demanded change. Du Bois was adamant
about the flaws in Booker Washington's experiment
in moderation. "Agitation" leads to liberty,
he said. But progress slowed as government authority --
'Progressive' thinking! -- offered up illusions of reform
while doing little to eradicate the business norm.
Through acts and policies - like Food and Drug, the ICC,
the FTC - Progressives showed the "generosity"
of government to middle class while making special deals
with business (J. P. Morgan's ties and FTC appeals
and Teddy's corporate advisors). So Progressive thought
deterred the gains of humanistic Socialists and bought
more influence for businessmen. But socialism grew,
the Wobblies fought the Boss, the poor against the well-to-do,
until occurred the Labor Movement's greatest tragedy,
the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado. History
records the union-management disputes, but ever more
important: women, children, miners trapped within a war
beyond their understanding, beaten, even burned alive,
in punishment for seeking compensation to survive
oppressive rules. And Wilson, in the heated touch-and-go,
deferred attention to the Europe war and Mexico.

Return to RappingHistory.org