‘Machine Guns and Coal Miners’ by George N. Falconer from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 6. December, 1913.

‘National Guard stationed in Ludlow, Colorado, 1914.’

Wonderful writer, leading member of the Colorado Socialist Party and a founding member of the Communist Labor Party with a fantastic essay on the first stages of the 1913-1914 Colorado Coal War that would see the Ludlow massacre six months after this was written. Falconer’s articles deserve a collection.

‘Machine Guns and Coal Miners’ by George N. Falconer from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 6. December, 1913.

MILITARISM is the heavy fist of the Capitalist class to beat the worker into abject submission. So well do they know the value of machine guns and soldiers that the utmost endeavor is constantly put forth by the Government — the ever-ready Servant of Vested interests, to seduce boys into the ranks of patriotic hirelings. Militiamen and soldiers are working men, hired for a consideration, to shoot and kill other workingmen in the name of “law and order.”

Brute force, it is evident, is never entirely discarded by the capitalist robber class in their self-assumed right to exploit the worker of the product of his toil. Behind the courts, judges and injunctions, political machinery, class education and superstition, there always lurks the shadow of the big mit and the heavy club — the Military.

Striking coal miners and their families pose near Joe Zanetell’s tent in Ludlow.

The velvet glove only covers the mailed hand.

Where the barons of the middle ages hired his knights and handmen to prey upon and keep in suppression the serfs of the surrounding territory, the coal barons of Colorado, New York and West Virginia maintain their teachers and editors, their preachers and professors, their lawyers, judges and political heelers for the same identical purpose — the robbing of the working class. When these forces fail to work expeditiously then — the honorable Governor is beseeched to call out the National Guard to preserve “law and order.”

The difference between the first exploiter of labor — the man with the knotted club — and John D. Rockefeller the holy, oily Christian philanthropist, is one of degree only. The robbery of the worker is equally complete. The spoils of the idle robber of today is greater than ever. Only the methods have changed.

Why the Soldier Fights the Worker

We were asked by a strike miner the other day why were troops always called during a strike of workingmen; why were machine guns always turned on the toilers and never on the financiers, the exploiters of labor?

Why is Government ever ready to protect the interests of the strong, so seldom on the side of the weak? The answer was (quoting Marx): “Political Power, properly socalled, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.” The political power of Colorado is today where it has been the past twenty years — in the hands of the mine owners and other capitalists. The difference between Peabody and the Republican party, eight years ago, and Amons (the present Governor) and the Democratic party, is hardly discernible. Both administrations prove the capitalist government is nothing but a business man’s committee.

Quida, somewhere, remarks that a king is a fat man who bows well, and a President of a Republic is a fat or thin man who bows badly. The essential point is that they each bow equally to the dominant capitalist class, the class that owns and controls the mines, fields, factories and workshops. This fact is being demonstrated just now in Colorado, the land of big mountains and puny statesmen; a land possessing aa invigorating climate, and as ugly a bunch of raw, crude, insincere, brutal political huxters as ever crawled from some dark corner to cut down their unsuspicious prey, and lots of them attend church regularly. Governor Amons is a pious man. All Colorado politicians pray and — prey!

Why does the soldier fight the worker? Because, comrade workingman, the soldier is a man with a wooden head, who is used as a club to secure “concessions,” “promote trade interests,” preserve “law and order” and make himself generally useful. So the interests of a horde of parasites of the Guggenheim and Rockefeller type be protected.

One of these days soldiers will refuse to shoot their fellow workers; they will use their weapons against those who put them into their hands for murderous purposes. When workingmen absolutely refuse to shoot at the bidding of a monkey captain — that day the war game shall stop.

‘Coal miners with rifles prepare to confront the federal troops during the UMW labor strike against CF&I, in Camp San Rafael, Trinidad, Las Animas County, Colorado.’

Machine Gun— A Fine Exhibit

June last there was exhibited in front of one of Denver’s popular theatres a machine gun. A boy dressed in khaki stood by enlightening the curious. A sign in front of the big piece read: “U.S. Field Gun. Latest model. Hurls a 15-lb. shell or shrapnel over four miles. This is one of eight guns issued to the Colorado Militia. The two batteries cost the U.S. $170,000. WE WANT MEN TO MAN THEM.” In times of peace prepare for machine guns. A single one of these guns planted on the sidewalk of any big city, we were informed, would command a mob (workers, of course) from three lines of approach, and rake the streets from end to end.

Machine Guns — latest product of Christian Civilization— an argument which American capitalists are preparing in answer to the demands of Trades Unionism and — Socialism!

We can hear the roar, the groans of the dying, the silence of the dead. Right and left a frightened populace yelp and drop and tumble. Down! Rapid fire! Night! Stillness! The troopers, as they boarded the train at Denver the other day for Trinidad, amid the plaudits of ladies fair, caressed the muzzles of the machine guns, to be used, if necessary, against the coal miners.

Machine Guns in Trinidad

The coal operators were already supplied with gunmen and machine guns. Over eight hundred thugs, from the various detective agencies, now becoming so popular; about 200 desperadoes were recruited in Denver at $3.50 per day, all expenses paid. Several shootings have taken place, both thugs and strikers biting the dust. The operators’ machine gun was used on a miner’s tent, now an exhibit in Denver, in which can be seen about 30 holes made by the grapeshot. Cooking utensils were riddled. Fortunately the inmates of the tent squatted on the floor and thus escaped the deadly shot — much to the surprise of the gunmen who confessed their wonder at no one being hurt.

They have mounted several machine guns on automobiles. The operators have also what is called a “Steel Battleship.” This automobile has a high body of solid sheet steel, built up so as to conceal the guards inside. The steel furnishes resistance to bullets and is so arranged that the assassins on the inside may shoot their rifles in perfect safety. What think you, my brave American patriots, of such a Coward’s Castle? It carries a rapid-fire machine gun and can shoot 250 shots a minute. This machine has been paraded on Trinidad’s main street several times, with the avowed object of over-awing the striking miners. The miners, however, are laughing and keeping watch — they are game and are prepared to fight and die if necessary. Death at the hands of an assassin above ground is no worse than death by starvation or gas explosion underground — so many of them declare.

The Dear, Good Public

And the public, the dear pee-pul here in Denver, over whom so many news- paper tears are shed — what of them? Poor political and economic runts that they are ; slaves of the pay envelope and Mother Grundy; job worshippers, cringing-servile defenders of their equally servile bosses, white-collared sissies, failing” to understand the position of the miners, snivel and grunt about the high cost of living and the steady increase in the price of coal. Damn them, for a measly pack of would-be’s, may the price of coal, beef, soup, pudding and salvation continue to soar. These human July bugs, impotently buzzing against the strong wall of capitalism, are getting that for which they vote from year to year — the private ownership of a public necessity — coal. The newspapers are stupidly, brutally indifferent to the miners’ cause. The churches, as usual, are silent. Big business is tearful over the loss of capital, due to the strike. The bankers, alone, seem happy; they urged the calling out of the troops and are advancing a million-dollar loan to finance the expedition; money to be returned, plus interest, in due time. Happy, blessed bankers!

The coal miners are going to win in this strike. The union, international in scope, has a membership of 45,000. Every army, said Napoleon, crawls on its belly. The commissariat of the miners’ union is healthy. The treasury is good — nearly one million dollars on hand. The physical needs of the strikers and their families are being attended to. They are prepared to hold out for a year, if necessary. They are willing that bankers, lawyers, preachers, prominent business men, and mine owners dig coal; THEY won’t until THEIR demands are granted which are:

‘UMWA coal miners on strike against CF&I, in Ludlow, Las Animas County, Colorado, pose with onions, celery, bread, a full gunny sack, and a washtub full of spinach.’

Recognition of the union.

A 10 per cent advance in wages on tonnage rates and a daily wage scale on the same basis as that of the state of Wyoming.

Ten per cent advance on the wages paid coke oven workers.

An eight-hour day for all classes of labor in the coal mines and coke ovens.

Pay for all narrow work and dead work which includes brushing, timbering, removing falls, handling impurities, etc.

Check weighmen at all mines to be elected by the miners without any interference by company officials.

Right to trade in any store that mine workers please, and the right to choose their own boarding place and their own physician.

Enforcement of the Colorado mining laws.

Abolition of the notorious and criminal guard system which has prevailed in the mining camps of Colorado for many years.

Too modest, say you, and we are all with you. But organization must precede the carrying out of any program, revolutionary, or otherwise, and organization is the big thing aimed at among the striking miners. Organization is Power. Power! ‘Tis a kingly word. Given the power, through industrial organization, it is only a Tittle time, when miners and workers the world over shall inscribe on their banners, “Abolish the Wage and Profit System.” In the accomplishment of this grand and holy task we, the Socialists of Colorado, stand ready to help them agitate, educate and organize themselves, industrially and politically, to the end that they may become the masters of themselves, with the power to rule their own destinies.

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v14n06-dec-1913-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf

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