Monday, November 7, 2011

Labor Union Violence in America: A Brief History

In the wake of last week’s Occupy Oakland general strike, which—not insignificantly—gained union support before culminating with riots, The Blaze is taking a look at the history of violence surrounding union activity in America, especially strikes.

And nearly 150 years, it’s apparently no mere misunderstanding or shop-worn cultural stereotype: The United States has had the “bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world”—so concluded Philip Taft and Philip Ross for their oft-cited study, American Labor Violence: Its Causes, Character, and Outcome.

Who’s Been Running the Show?

 Taft and Ross found that “minority groups within the labor movement or without direct attachment to it advocated the use of violence against established institutions and also against leaders in government, industry, and society…Those who saw in violence a creative force…had no objectives of immediate gain; they were not concerned with public opinion. They were revolutionaries for whom the radical transformation of the economic and social system was the only and all-consuming passion.

Sound familiar?

Socialist (and Violent) Roots of U.S. Labor Unions

The International Working People’s Association became the center for national anarchist federations in the early 1880s and “favored warfare against capitalist society and its leaders,” Taft and Ross said. Soon militant social revolutionary groups organized education and defense outposts, their members meeting regularly and drilling “with arms,” the authors noted, adding that insurrection and terror against individuals was also advocated.

This ideology “gained added strength from the terroristic acts of members of the People’s Will, an organization of Russian revolutionaries who carried out campaigns of violence against persons, culminating in the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881,” Taft and Ross noted.

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