Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The myth of freedom in the land of the free

The US touts itself as the land of free, but it has laws which are designed to crush criticisms of the state.

New Haven, CT - In 1893, a massive financial panic sent demand for the Pullman Palace Car Company into a downward spiral. The luxury rail car company reacted by slashing workers' wages and increasing their work load. After negotiations with ownership broke down the following year, the American Railway Union, in solidarity with Pullman factory workers, launched a boycott that eventually shut down railroads across the US. It was a full-scale insurrection, as the late historian Howard Zinn put it, that soon "met with the full force of the capitalist state".

The US Attorney General won a court order to stop the strike, but the union and its leader, Eugene V Debs, refused to quit. President Grover Cleveland, over the objections of Illinois' governor, ordered federal troops to Chicago under the pretense of maintaining public safety. Soldiers fired their bayoneted rifles into the crowd of 5,000, killing 13 strike sympathisers. Seven hundred, including Debs, were arrested. Debs wasn't a socialist before the strike, but he was after. The event radicalised him. "In the gleam of edvery bayonet and the flash of every rifle," Debs said later on, "the class struggle was revealed". Read More