10 thoughts on “United States farmers’ anti-World War I revolt

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  6. Butte, Montana, June 5: Miners demonstrate against conscription

    A crowd estimated in the thousands marches in this copper mining city against the Wilson administration’s imposition of the draft. The parade begins with an estimated 600, led by miners’ wives marching behind a twelve-foot red flag. It is soon attacked by police and “patriotic citizens,” but does not disperse. “Women paraders fought the police, and the crowd swelled to several thousand,” the New York Times reports.

    Mayor W.H. Maloney mounts a business clock in the center of the city and orders the crowd to disperse within 15 minutes. At that point, “Troops that had been held at their barracks came at a run with their bayonets fixed.” The demonstrators then reassemble outside the Finnish socialist hall, where the crowd is addressed by a woman speaking in Finnish.

    The leadership of an Irish anti-conscription organization called the Pearce Connolly Club are jailed the same day for distributing anti-conscription literature in Butte. The city is placed under martial law.

    Demonstrations against conscription are also reported among the miners of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at Hancock, Houghton, Calumet, and Nagaunee, where national guardsmen, local police, and vigilantes are used to disperse and arrest protesters.

    Arrests, beatings, and public humiliations of individual “slackers” are reported from across the US. Many of these individuals are publicly forced to kiss the American flag.

    June 5, Conscription Day, is nonetheless declared to be a success by the Wilson administration, with estimates that some 9 million American men—overwhelmingly workers and farmers—enroll in the draft.


  7. Flagstaff, Arizona, June 5: American Indians refuse conscription

    American Indians refuse conscription at several locations across the US. At Flagstaff, Navajo Indians drive draft officials and other officers off their reservation when they attempt to impose conscription. Ute Indians in Colorado refuse to register and have reportedly threatened to burn the nearby city of Ignacio. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, leaders of the Pueblo are arrested and charged with “conspiring to prevent registration.”

    Only two decades have passed from the conclusion of the bloody Plains Indians Wars—the killing and forced dispossession of the tribes of the trans-Mississippi West to make way for American mining, railroading, and ranching interests. American Indians have been forced onto poverty-stricken reservations and, through the Dawes Act of 1887, compelled to privatize their lands and give up traditional cultural practices. Now they are asked to fight and die in Wilson’s “war for democracy.”


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  10. Oklahoma, August 2: “Green Corn Rebellion” of tenant farmers against conscription

    An uprising involving thousands of Oklahoma tenant farmers and allies—white, black, and American Indians of the Muskogee and Seminole nations—against the imposition of military conscription is met with massive repression, resulting in hundreds of arrests and three deaths.

    Called the “Green Corn Rebellion” because the tenant farmers allegedly intend to march on Washington, DC, surviving on roasted green corn as they move, the rebellion emerges in a part of the United States where socialism has had a major influence. In Seminole County, the center of the rebellion, the Socialist Party won 22 percent of the vote in the 1916 presidential election. The same year saw the emergence of a union of tenant farmers calling itself the “Working Class Union,” or WCU, which was inspired by the revolutionary trade unionism of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The WCU, which claims 35,000 members in Oklahoma, has armed itself and carried out violent reprisals against the vigilante “justice” of the rural elite.

    According to one local newspaper account, a statement has been issued to the tenant farmers calling for resistance to conscription:

    Now is the time to rebel against this war with Germany, boys. Boys, get together and don’t go. Rich man’s war. Poor man’s fight. The war is over with Germany if you don’t go and J.P. Morgan & Co. is lost. Their great speculation is the only cause of the war.

    An army of some 800 to 1,000 farmers respond to the call to arms on August 2, burning down bridges and cutting telegraph lines. However, after a skirmish with a large sheriff’s posse, the men disperse. Three are killed in the exchange. Mass repression follows. Some 450 are arrested, of whom 150 receive lengthy prison sentences lasting as long as 10 years. The Oklahoma Socialist Party, facing persecution, disbands. The IWW in Oklahoma is also targeted.


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