It is mind blowing how much energy, how much force of will, existed in the 1870's when those who were controlling oil and the railroads and the banks were getting richer and the majority of the people were suffering from poverty, unhealthy, often deadly, working conditions, sickness and lack of rights. The worker's unions that emerged out of this are incredibly important for us to know about. The measures which were taken that we would now regard as drastic or violent, but which were the only recourse they had and were absolutely in line with the amount of abuse people were receiving. It is incredible! But what is more incredible, is that our educations as Americans are not deeply infused with this major part of our history. That our traditions are not infused with telling these stories at all. That these stories were somehow forgotten, removed from the fabric of our society as though they were unnecessary, as though they served no purpose...
I remember in elementary and all the way through high school, hearing kids call each other 'communist'. Even to this day I hear it. And I know how little these people know about the American Communist movement. About the terrible conditions that they were trying to put to an end...it is sad that we have forgotten as a whole the awesome amount of effort that went into getting us the eight hour a day work week, to creating working conditions that were not a threat to our life, to obtaining the right to vote (for almost everyone) and the option to own property. Workers who decided to put their lives on the line to fight back against the oppression they were experiencing at the hands of the wealthy 'capitalists' such as Rockefeller, JP Morgan, the Astors and the Vanderbilts. This is not propaganda. This is not conspiracy theory. This is fact.
And the heroes of our country risked their lives and banded together to redirect things:
"In the year 1877, the country was in the depths of the Depression. That summer, in the hot cities where poor families lived in cellars and drank infested water, the children became sick in large numbers. The New York Times wrote: "... already the cry of the dying children begins to be heard. ... Soon, to judge from the past, there will be a thousand deaths of infants per week in the city." That first week in July, in Baltimore, where all liquid sewage ran through the streets, 139 babies died."
"That year there came a series of tumultuous strikes by railroad workers in a dozen cities; they shook the nation as no labor conflict in its history had done."
"It began with wage cuts on railroad after railroad, in tense situations of already low wages ($1.75 a day for brakemen working twelve hours), scheming and profiteering by the railroad companies, deaths and injuries among the workers-loss of hands, feet, fingers, the crushing of men between cars...."
"David Burbank, in his book on the St. Louis events, Reign of the Rabble, writes:
"Only around St. Louis did the original strike on the railroads expand into such a systematically organized and complete shut-down of all industry that the term general strike is fully justified. And only there did the socialists assume undisputed leadership.... no American city has come so close to being ruled by a workers' soviet, as we would now call it, as St. Louis, Missouri, in the year 1877.""
"In 1877, the same year blacks learned they did not have enough strength to make real the promise of equality in the Civil War, working people learned they were not united enough, not powerful enough, to defeat the combination of private capital and government power. But there was more to come."