I recently saw the movie, “The Hunger Games.” The defeat on the faces of the townspeople as they trudged to work or lined up for the lottery reminded me of something I read about the Homestead strike in “The War on Labor & the Left” by Patricia Cayo Sexton. In 1892 the striking workers at the plant owned by Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick successfully fought the Pinkerton strike breakers who arrived by boat on the Monongahela River for thirteen hours, the governor of Pennsylvania, Robert E. Pattison, and a Democrat, sent 8000 National Guardsman to Homestead and declared Marshall Law. The Guardsman protected the strike breakers and the plant was reopened with scab labor. The company then pressed charges against the strikers for murder and conspiracy although no charges were pressed against the strike breakers. Although the juries would not convict the strikers, the union crumbled under the costs of the trials and the presence of strikebreakers in the plant. Strike leaders and the Mayor of Homestead were blacklisted and lost their homes. The returning men had their rates cut in half and the 12 hour, seven day week remained the standard for the steel industry. International reaction overwhelmingly condemned Carnegie and the use of government forces and mercenaries against the workers. The workers who remained in the broken down town were described as “discouraged and sullen” in 1894 by the American writer Hamlin Garland. (Sexton, 1991.)
Multiply this scenario through the years of labor history before and after the Homestead strike. Multiply the poverty of the workers contrasted with the wealth of the owners. Multiply the dead fallen in battle against mercenaries and military and then add in those killed in industrial accidents, disease and hunger. Combine the workers dead and defeated with the enslaved human beings who built much of the wealth of the wealthy and the Native Americans who continue to be denied their rights while the scraps of lands they are allowed to keep continue to be polluted with toxic waste. Add in those who died fighting prejudice and racism and those who are victims of racism today. Aside from the enormous human cost, how much money-government money, tax dollars- is spent on our own repression? How much money is spent to keep us down? We are unarmed for the most part, mostly untrained in the art of violence. We have nothing but our minds and bodies to fight with and yet, millions if not billions of dollars are spent to make sure we do not stand up like human beings.
In the October 16-31 issue of CounterPunch, there’s an article by Daniel Kovalik called, “The Blood Toll of Plan Colombia.” In speaking about the presence of multinational corporations in Columbia, he writes, “the rise of right wing paramilitaries in areas designated for multi-national exploitation is a common one…the best documented example of this grim phenomenon…involves North Carolina based Chiquita Banana which actually admitted, in a criminal case brought by the US Justice Department, to paying paramilitary forces $1.7 million and running them 3,000 kalishnikov rifles between 1997 and 2004.” Who was the defense lawyer for Chiquita? Eric Holder. Also from this article are the following facts from a report by Peace Brigades International, “Mining in Columbia: At What Cost?”
- “In the past 10 years 40% of all Colombian land has been awarded to or solicited by mining and crude oil companies.”
- “80 % of the human rights abuses of the past 10 years were committed in mining and energy producing regions.”
- “87% of Colombia’s displaced population originates from these areas.” (Kovalik, 2012.)
According to a BBC article, the US has spent $6 billion dollars allegedly trying to stop the drug trade with Plan Colombia. (BBC, 2012)
All over the world, through centuries common people have been subjected to inhuman violence. Most of us in the US have not seen or experienced this violence but it is coming closer and closer. I do not believe the Democratic Party or Barak Obama will change this course, but I do believe that if Romney and Ryan win the election with their attitude of corporate entitlement – everything that contains life, anything than can be exploited for personal and corporate gain belongs to the corporation – things will get worse faster.
One man does not run the country and one man or woman cannot change or stop the evil that is so intertwined with racism and sexism to the point where the cradle of civilization is being routinely bombed, where the birthplace of all human beings is being routinely and violently exploited, where the bountiful earth is being raped and polluted with chemicals, where the waters are filled with toxic and nuclear waste, where the diversity and uniqueness of our planet is being destroyed by the madness of men who want everything to be tasteless, odorless, colorless and dressed in a three piece suit. They’ll keep a stable of women. They’ll look out over the dying planet with puffed up chests and smile at their metal and plastic world.
We can at least slow that down. Voting doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything more. We’ve already seen so much evidence of voter suppression over the past few elections that it’s clear that those who are suppressing the vote do not believe in democracy. We may not have actually existing democracy and Barak Obama may not be bringing it along, but voting for those who openly express contempt for the majority of Americans is irresponsible. Some people want to be on what they think of as the winning team. They want to stand next to the important person. They want to be rich and brush against fame. But most of us are not rich or famous, we are the majority and we can make a difference if we recognize who we are and act together for our own interests instead of against them.
BBC. Q&A Colombia’s civil conflict. August 28, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12447532
Kovalik, D. CounterPunch. Vol. 19, No. 18. p 2,3. October 16-31, 2012.
Sexton, P. The war on labor and the left. Understanding America’s unique conservatism. San Francisco, 1991, Westview Press, p 80-84