In the 21st. Century as the corporate bodies try to trash workers pay and conditions, ably encouraged and supported by that millionaire cabal sitting in the Westminster Houses of Hypocrisy and Corruption, we should do well to remember that this is not a new phenomenon, it has been part and parcel of this system of capitalism since its inception. Our history is littered by brutal and cruel attacks on our living conditions, some more brutal than others. You can pick your era, and you will find the workers in struggle to hold onto what meagre conditions they have, or to try to extract some sort of improvement.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of those brutal and cold blooded attacks on workers in struggle, resulting in the murder of men, women and children. April 20, 1914, in America saw the state and its corporate buddies brutally attack a tent town of striking miners and their families. The event is recorded in our history as the Ludlow Massacre.
It was an era of bitter struggles across the industrial world, and in America there had been numerous strikes by miners, railroad workers and textile workers and many others. In Colorado the miners had been in a long struggle trying to unionise against long hours, low pay and the mining companies continuous policy of failing to abide by labour laws. The conditions were exacerbated by the fact the the miners had to live in company towns, homes built and owned by the company, and instead of “money” were paid in company tokens, called “script”, which could only by used in company stores. In 1913 the miners took strike action after the companies rejected seven demands from the Union of Mine Workers of America, (UMWA). The strike action was met with the company evicting the families from the company homes.
The miners union, (UMWA) then leased land on which they built tent villages for the miners and their families. By now the mine owners had recruited an armed detective agency to protect their scab labour and to harass the striking miners. The detective agency, (militiamen) often fired into the tent villages. To combat this the miners dug deep pits in the tents to protect their families. On April 20, 1914, a combined force of National Guard, and company militiamen set up a machine gun on the ridge over looking the tents at Ludlow. This resulted in the miners arming themselves to protect their families.
Throughout the day gunfire was exchanged, but many of the tent inhabitants were able to escape to the hills. However many stayed huddle in the pits underneath their tents. At approximately 7pm in the evening, the state's and companies' armed thugs descended on the camp. The camp leader Louis Tika came forward to negotiate with the Guard commander, a Lt. Karl Linderfelt. However negotiation was not on the minds of the Guardsmen nor the militiamen.
What happened next is described by an eyewitness, an engineer, named Godfrey Irwin, his report states; “Suddenly an officer raised his rifle, and felled Tikas with the butt. Tikas fell face downward…we saw the militiamen fall back… they aimed their rifles and deliberately fired them into the unconscious man’s body…. it was a murder and nothing less,”
After this cold blooded murder, the militia proceeded to spray the camp with their machine guns then moved in and torched the tents. In one tent four women and 11 children had been hiding in the pit of their tent as it burned, two of the women and all 11 children suffocated in the smoke. The final death toll is disputed, but what is certain is at least 19 to 26 people including 11 children, died at the Ludlow Massacre, all in the name of profit for the companies.
The strike went on until December 1914 and so did the repression and deaths. This is the true face of capitalism, its blood drenched hand has stained the working class for centuries and it is not likely to change. Only when it is eradicated will we be able to walk that road to justice and a fair society.