Ludlow massacre in the USA, 100 years ago

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Woody Guthrie: Ludlow Massacre

Refers to the violent deaths of 20 people, 11 of them children, during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The striking heroes gunned down 100 years ago

Saturday 19th April 2014

PETER FROST marks the centenary of the most violent strike in the history of the US

The date is April 20 1914. A few flecks of snow fall on the quiet campsite built by striking miners nestled at the entrance to a canyon in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The camp, with its many immigrant miners, is celebrating the Orthodox church’s Easter.

At around 10am a strange visitor creeps into the campsite. It is an armoured car and the six barrels of its Gatling machine gun suddenly break the silence as they pump bullets into the tents.

Other men empty cans of paraffin on to the flimsy dwellings and set them alight. On this day here in the coalfields of southern Colorado, 18 innocent men, women and children died in what became known as the Ludlow massacre.

Coal miners in Colorado and other western states had been trying to win the right to join the union for many years.

By 1913 many had joined the United Mine Workers (UMW) and had started what would be a 14-month strike to increase their wages and the right to belong to a union.

The employers, led by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company owned by John D Rockefeller Jnr, fought back violently. His father John D Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, was the richest man in the world.

Capitalists like Rockefeller did all they could to keep wages and conditions for their workers at rock bottom and were perfectly happy to employ and pay local police, the state or National Guard or private armies of thugs and strike-breakers to achieve their obscene profits.

They were happy with a situation that saw their workers not just without a union but also living in company-owned houses and paid in company scrip that could only be spent at the company store with its high company prices.

Thrown out of those company houses at the beginning of the strike, the Colorado miners and their families had set up a tent colony on public property outside the town.

The massacre was a carefully planned, 14-hour attack on that tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards and other thugs hired as private detectives and strike-breakers.

The Baldwin Felts Detective Agency was a well-known private army that made its money as violent strike-breakers all over the US.

It had been employed to break the strike. It brought an armoured car mounted with a Gatling machine gun — strikers called it the “Death Special.”

This bosses’ army shot and burned to death 18 striking miners and their families. Four women, two of them pregnant, and 11 small children died holding each other in the trenches under the burning tents.

The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that were randomly shot through the tent colony by company thugs.

Labour historians believe as many as 200 people lost their lives in the terrible strike.

Not one of the bosses or their perpetrators of the slaughter were ever punished, but scores of miners and their leaders were arrested and blacklisted, never able to work in the coal industry again.

The massacre caused protests outside Rockefeller’s New York mansion. Public opinion decided that Rockefeller’s methods were unacceptable. Rockefeller’s spin doctors worked overtime to try to clean up his image, but public outrage led to congressional inquiries and limited new labour legislation.

Woody Guthrie was later inspired to write a song about the incident. It is still sung today on picket lines and at union events.A monument erected by the United Mine Workers of America stands today in the ghost town outside Ludlow, Colorado, in remembrance of the brave and innocent souls who died for freedom and human dignity a century ago.

ROCKEFELLERS ARE DIVESTING FROM OIL The family whose enormous fortune was made off of the oil business are divesting their philanthropic organization from fossil fuels. [NYT]

10 thoughts on “Ludlow massacre in the USA, 100 years ago

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  2. 100 years ago: Police attack mass May Day rally in New York
    Union workers at 1914 rally

    This week, 100 years ago, a May Day rally in New York, celebrating the revolutionary holiday of the international working class, was brutally attacked by baton-wielding police, injuring dozens.

    The marchers, composed of 40,000 workers, many of whom were marching under socialist banners, took some four hours to fill up Union Square before the police attack took place. Police used a quarrel between socialists, IWW members, and anarchists as the pretext for launching an assault on the marchers, with 200 police storming a section of the parade, clubbing workers, and triggering a stampede.

    One press report described the scene: “Clubs flew right and left, police jumping over the bodies of prostrate men, women and boys and even two babies…” At one point, police drove the crowd against an iron-spiked railing, knocking down a 30-foot section of it, and pinning two women on top of it.

    The rally itself was dominated by popular hostility to the massacre of striking coal miners in Ludlow, Colorado, carried out by state forces and John D. Rockefeller’s hired goons, and the US imperialist invasion of Mexico the previous month.

    The famous author Upton Sinclair had begun a hunger strike in response to the events in Ludlow, while pickets were stationed outside Rockefeller’s office and home. Supporters of Sinclair disrupted a church service on May Day that they suspected Rockefeller might have been attending, but the millionaire had absented himself.

    A resolution calling for the arming of workers in opposition to company thugs and state forces was passed at the May Day rally in Philadelphia, while resolutions calling for a general strike were advanced by miners in Illinois and West Virginia.

    The attitude of the trade union bureaucracy stood in marked contrast to that of the increasingly militant and socialist-minded working class. The head of the AFL-CIO, Samuel Gompers, repeatedly expressed his opposition to May Day and the internationalist perspective it was associated with, calling on workers to instead participate in the state-sanctioned Labor Day in September.


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  6. Yesterday was Labor Day, so I explained what happened in the “Second Civil War,” when more than 100 West Virginia coal miners were killed fighting for the right to organize. A member of our movement wrote to me and said, “hey, what about the Colorado Coal Wars?”

    OK, then. That’s our subject today. The murders of a four-month-old boy, and a three-month-old girl.

    The owner of the coal mine in Ludlow, Colorado in 1914 was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. You may have heard the name.

    Coal mining was very dangerous work; mine walls collapsed, there were explosions, and miners sometimes suffocated. Almost one out of a hundred died each year. The company paid miners by the ton; no one paid for safety measures, and OSHA didn’t exist yet.

    Miners lived in a “company town,” with their wives and children. No one was allowed to visit. No one was allowed to leave. Miners had to spend their money at the company store. Anyone offering a hint of trouble was evicted, and left homeless. The rules were enforced by “guards” carrying machine guns.

    By 1914, Colorado mine workers had been trying to organize for 31 years. No luck at Ludlow, where the company hired foreign workers from many different countries who couldn’t understand a word they were saying to each other, much less form a union.

    Nevertheless, somehow, the miners managed to call a strike. They asked for a raise, an eight-hour work day, payment for safety measures, enforcement of mine safety laws, the right to buy products at non-company stores, and no more machine-gun “guards.” In other words, they asked for things that we take for granted today.

    Rockefeller fired all of them. And evicted all of them. They went to live in tents, on land leased by the union, outside the company town.

    Rockefeller brought in scabs. The strikers confronted the scabs. So Rockefeller brought in goons, more “guards” with machine guns. The goons occasionally fired shots into tents, to intimidate the strikers.

    The Colorado National Guard was sent in, supposedly to keep the peace, but actually to protect the scabs, and dismantle the strikers’ tent villages.

    Seven months into the strike, after a very harsh winter, the militia and the company “guards” decided to destroy the tent village at Ludlow, once and for all. They raked the camp with machine gun fire, and set it ablaze. They killed nineteen people, including 11 children. (The children were caught under a burning tent; they suffocated and burned to death.) The militia shot the union leader in the back, and then put his corpse on display for three days.

    For ten days, there was open warfare in Colorado between the miners and the company militias. President Wilson sent in federal troops, who disarmed both sides. No one was punished for the Ludlow massacre.

    The strike failed. However, the massacre brought national attention to the brutal conditions in the mines, and forced Rockefeller to accept the need for reform. Non-union “worker committees” were established to address health, safety and living conditions. Workers who formed a union were no longer fired. The stage was set for the victory of the mineworkers union, over the next two decades.

    Yesterday, I asked you whether you had ever heard of the “Second Civil War” in West Virginia – and if not, why not? Here is an answer, from my own experience. When I was in college, I covered labor organizing in Boston for an alternative weekly. And then I didn’t. I had to stop, because the publisher told my editor that he didn’t want to read any more “f*ck*ng” union stories.

    But here I am, forty years later, still telling them. People died so that you and I would have the right to organize. They shouldn’t be forgotten.


    Rep. Alan Grayson


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