Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Witness At Ludlow

A Witness At Ludlow

A nugget of working class history from the archive of The Western Socialist, the old paper of the World Socialist Party of the United States, that has recently been posted on the WSPUS website.

The Ludlow Massacre of 1914 was one of the most notorious episodes of murderous class war in the history of the American Labor Movement. Forty-five men, women and children murdered by the Colorado National Guard in the midst of a Colorado Coal Strike.

Some readers of the piece might know of the "Infamous Baldwin-Felts thugs" mentioned in the piece via John Sayles's classic 1980s labour movement film, Matewan.

And of course, most people know of John D. Rockefeller Jr. - the Rockefeller Family name, the Rockefeller Center, and all that jazz - and some people nowadays are prone to get sentimental about the 'old money' of yesteryear and contrast their seeming noblesse oblige with today's rapacious parasites but please bear in mind that they bought their 'blue blood' via the red blood of workers like those murdered at Ludlow.

The author of the piece, the late Sam Orner, was a IWW soap-boxer in his youth before joining the Workers/World Socialist Party of the United States - the companion party of the SPGB - sometime in the early 1920s. (That's a guess on my part, btw. It could have been as early as 1919 . . . as late as 1923.)

He was by all accounts a fascinating and robust character and you definitely get a flavour of that from his reminiscences of that period in the piece. He has his own footnote in American working class history for his role in 1934 Taxi Cab Drivers Strike (Scroll down for the sub-section entitled 'New York City' for further details.)

I know an older Scottish comrade from the SPGB who, from his frequent trips to the States these past 40 years, got to know Sam Orner when the latter was in his 60s and 70s and, by all accounts, Sam was the same combative and fiery straight talking revolutionary socialist right up till the very end of his life. The sort of old school comrade who could walk into a empty room, and come out the other side with a split, a faction fight and a paper sale of 27 copies of the 'Western Socialist'.

PS - I've posted the MySpace Socialist Standard page link to the article rather than the original piece from the WSPUS website because I've tagged on some 'further links' at the bottom of the piece, but please visit the article at the original source and check out the website in the greater depth. There's further nuggets to be unearthed, and why shouldn't you discover them before I do?

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