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Militia slaughters strikers at Ludlow, Colorado

Militia slaughters strikers at Ludlow, Colorado


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Ending a bitter coal-miners’ strike, Colorado militiamen attack a tent colony of strikers, killing dozens of men, women and children.

When the evictions failed to end the strike, the Rockefeller interests hired private detectives that attacked the tent colonies with rifles and Gatling guns. The miners fought back, and several were killed. When the tenacity of the strikers became apparent, the Rockefellers approached the governor of Colorado, who authorized the use of the National Guard. The Rockefellers agreed to pay their wages.

At first, the strikers believed that the government had sent the National Guard to protect them. They soon discovered, though, that the militia was under orders to break the strike. On this day in 1914, two companies of guardsmen attacked the largest tent colony of strikers near the town of Ludlow, home to about 1,000 men, women, and children. The attack began in the morning with a barrage of bullets fired into the tents. The miners shot back with pistols and rifles.

After a strike leader was killed while attempting to negotiate a truce, the strikers feared the attack would intensify. To stay safe from gunfire, women and children took cover in pits dug beneath the tents. At dusk, guardsmen moved down from the hills and set the tent colony on fire with torches, shooting at the families as they fled into the hills. The true carnage, however, was not discovered until the next day, when a telephone linesman discovered a pit under one of the tents filled with the burned remains of 11 children and two women.

Although the “Ludlow Massacre” outraged many Americans, the tragedy did little to help the beleaguered Colorado miners and their families. Additional federal troops crushed the coal-miners’ strike, and the miners failed to achieve recognition of their union or any significant improvement in their wages and working conditions. Sixty-six men, women and children died during the strike, but not a single militiaman or private detective was charged with any crime.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About John D. Rockefeller


Ludlow, Colorado

Ludlow is a ghost town in Las Animas County, Colorado, United States. It was famous as the site of the Ludlow Massacre–part of the Colorado Coalfield War–in 1914. The town site is located at the entrance to a canyon in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is located along the western side of Interstate 25 approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of the town of Trinidad. Nearby points of interest include the Ludlow Monument, a monument to the coal miners and their families who were killed in the 1914 massacre, the Hastings coke ovens, and the Victor American Hastings Mine Disaster Monument.

Robert Adams made a series of photographs in Ludlow in 1981. [3] In June 2009, the Ludlow Tent Colony Site was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark by Department of the Interior in a ceremony attended by Governor Bill Ritter following approval in January of that year. [4]

On 20 April 1914, after months of sporadic violence and the withdrawal of a larger contingent of troops a few days before, Colorado National Guardsmen and local militia fired on strikers participating in the United Mine Workers of America strike against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron company. Roughly 20 occupants of the colony, including at least 12 women and children, were killed––mostly by smoke inhalation in the ensuing conflagration. Also among the dead was Greek labor-organizer Louis Tikas. [5] A single Guardsman is known to have been killed by gunfire from the strikers. [6] The violence at Ludlow sparked the most intense period of violence of the Colorado Coalfield War, which lasted until President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops into Colorado to end the fighting on 29 April.

  1. ^"Cuchara, CO ZIP Code - United States". codigo-postal.co . Retrieved 16 March 2020 .
  2. ^
  3. "Ludlow, Colorado". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 13 October 1978 . Retrieved 16 March 2020 .
  4. ^
  5. Adams, Robert (1981). "Ludlow" . Retrieved 7 February 2020 .
  6. ^
  7. McPhee, Mike (27 June 2009). "Mining strike site in Ludlow gets feds' nod". The Denver Post . Retrieved 3 March 2020 .
  8. ^
  9. "Water Tank Hill". The Colorado Coalfield War Archaeological Project. University of Denver . Retrieved 11 January 2020 .
  10. ^
  11. Andrews, Thomas G. Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN0-674-04691-9 .

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Ludlow Massacre

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Ludlow Massacre, attack on striking coal miners and their families by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, resulting in the deaths of 25 people, including 11 children.

About 10,000 miners under the direction of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been on strike since September 13, 1913, protesting low pay and abysmal working conditions in the coalfields of Colorado. Evicted from the company towns by the operators of industrialist John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, striking miners constructed tent colonies, the largest of which housed about 1,200 strikers, in Ludlow. The striking miners were a polyglot of ethnicities, including a large number of Greeks and Italians.

Tensions ran high between the armed strikers and the company-hired detectives. The Colorado National Guard, which had been deployed to reduce violence, favoured the operators by escorting strikebreakers to the mines and overlooking the violent actions of the detectives. Labour activist Mary (“Mother”) Jones led a campaign to bring national attention to the strike.

In April 1914 the cost of maintaining the troops led to a reduction in the National Guard presence, resulting in increased violence. On Sunday, April 19, 1914, the National Guard encircled the Ludlow camp and deployed a machine gun on a bluff overlooking the strikers. Although no one knows exactly what instigated the violence, some accounts suggest that officers of the National Guard demanded that the miners turn over at least one individual, possibly a striker or even a hostage that they were holding, but the miners refused. The National Guard then opened fire on the camp, initiating a pitched battle that lasted throughout the day. Three of the striking leaders, including labour organizer Louis Tikas, were captured and killed by the National Guard anecdotal evidence suggests that Tikas had been lured out to discuss a truce. As the strikers ran out of ammunition, they retreated from the camp into the surrounding countryside. Women and children, hiding from the bullets that strafed the camp, huddled in cellars that had been dug underneath their tents. In the evening the National Guard troops soaked the tents in kerosene and set them on fire. In one cellar 11 children and 2 women were found burned and suffocated. In all, 25 people were killed during the Ludlow Massacre, 3 of whom were National Guard troops.

In retaliation for the massacre, miners attacked antiunion town officials, strikebreakers, and the mines, taking control of an area about 50 miles long and 5 miles wide. As many as 50 people died during the reaction to the Ludlow Massacre. Fearing a further escalation of violence, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops to restore order. Unlike the National Guard, the federal troops were impartial and kept strikebreakers out of the coal mines. The strike ended on December 10, 1914. While the workers got little in the way of tangible benefits from their strike, the UMWA gained 4,000 new members.

Congress held hearings but took no concrete actions. The trials of more than 400 miners dragged on until 1920, but none were convicted. Twelve National Guardsmen were exonerated before a court-martial. Determined to undercut unions and avoid another violent strike, Rockefeller instituted a system of company-sponsored unions as an alternative to the UMWA.


Colorado miners strike and Columbine mine massacre, 1927 - Sam Lowry

Short history of a strike by miners in Colorado in 1927 and the massacre of strikers at the Columbine mine by the state militia. The strike lead to an almost complete shut down of the mining industry in the state.

For the fifty years prior to 1927, the struggles in the Colorado mines had been a flashpoint for labour relations throughout the mining industry and had been marked by many strikes, aborted uprisings and confrontations between miners and mine owners, and the state militia.

The presence of the state militia in many strikes of course made the coal mine disputes not only memorable because of the heroic actions of the miners, but also because confrontations, more often than not, led to the spilling of worker's blood.

One of the most well-known strikes of this nature was the Ludlow strike of 1914, where 17 workers and members of their families were murdered by the militia. The subsequent actions of workers across the state after the attack at Ludlow had created one of the largest uprisings by workers in American labour history, with whole towns being occupied by armed miners. However, although this history of labour unrest in the Colorado mines had brought about some gains for workers, the severe repression the miners faced had enabled their employers to, on the whole, ignore the miners' demands, so under these circumstances, conditions and wages had not changed considerably.

Another of the most well remembered strikes of the time was the mine strike of 1927, and the subsequent massacre of workers by the militia at the Columbine mine.

As they had remained since the late 1800s, conditions in the mines were deplorable, and large accidents often leading to scores of deaths were common. In 1917, 121 miners had been killed in an accident at a mine in Hastings, two years later 31 miners were killed in explosions at the Oakdale and Empire mines and in 1922 and 1923, 27 were killed in mines in Sopris and Southwestern. Individual accidents resulting in deaths were almost daily occurrences. Conditions of pay weren't any better, with many miners often being paid in scrip, money which was only redeemable at company owned stores in mining towns. Workers had to pay for their own tools, blasting powder and were not paid for "dead work", which was work that was not directly mining for coal, but important to the mine nonetheless, such as timbering supports to keep the mine safe.

Miners in Colorado had observed a general strike called by the revolutionary syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1927 in support of the arrested anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, who were executed in August of that year and later in the year, taking notice of the continuing discontent amongst the miners, the IWW called a strike of all mine workers on October 18.

The striking miners shut down every one of the coal mines in northern Colorado except the Columbine mine, situated just north of Denver in a small town called Serene, which was being kept running (albeit with a very slow rate of production) by 150 scabs who had been brought in on the promise of a fifty cents a day increase in pay. The imported scabs were housed in Serene, which had been turned into something resembling a fortress, with barbed wire on the fences and armed guards at the gates.

All in all, 113 mines across the state had been closed, with 13 still running. The majority of miners in the state were on strike, about 8,400. As in Columbine, the 1,750 scabs who were keeping the 13 remaining mines open were lured away from the strike by promises of increased pay and other such incentives. However, frequent mass gatherings on the coalfields in the south of the state brought more and more of the miners still at work out to join the strike. Picket lines were almost constantly harassed by the police, and arrests were frequent. Union halls were closed, often violently, and arrested strikers were moved from one jail to another to prevent access by IWW lawyers, while many were just driven to the state line and left there.

The imprisoned IWW members however, did not stay silent in the jails. A number of them participated in demonstrations from inside jails and on one occasion, workers from the Lafayette mine refused to leave a jail they had been placed in because, as they anticipated, that on their leaving they would just be replaced by more arrested miners. Since they had grown acclimatised to the cells, they thought it best to stay so as there would be no room for other strikers to be locked up. Another group of jailed miners even managed to convince their jailers to form a deputies' union to obtain better wages and conditions.

The local press launched frequent attacks on the IWW and the strikers from their pages, often using the diverse nationalities of miners involved in the strike to stir up racial tension. The IWW leaders were also often smeared, being described by one paper as "tramps with their pants pressed". By and large these attempts to discredit the strike failed, and the communities local to strike centres mostly ignored them.

In the south of the state, the company that owned most of the local mines, Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF+I), had been at the 'bargaining' table with the company controlled 'union' that had been in place since the Ludlow strike. The company union was granted a 68 cent a day increase and a resolution was unanimously passed by the 'workers representatives' to fire any IWW members on the payroll. These actions played a large part in breaking the strike in the south. The Columbine mine, still the only mine in northern Colorado remaining in operation became a focal point of attempts by the company that owned it, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, to break the strike in the north. After five weeks of strike action and economic stagnation for the mine owners, they became increasingly desperate to find a way to end the strike quickly, and many more police and National Guardsmen were drafted into Serene, bringing with them weapons including several machine guns.

Mass rallies had been held by workers outside the Columbine mine in Serene for several weeks and on the morning of November 21, about 500 miners and their families marched towards the north gate of the town. On their arrival, they were met by plainclothed militiamen with rifles, blocking the entrance to the gate, backed up by mine guards inside the town also armed with rifles and tear gas grenades. Upon being refused entry into the town and after a short discussion, the miners asserted their wish to enter, telling the militiamen that many of them had children in Serene's school, that they needed access to a public post office in the town and that they still had a right to hold rallies.

With the militiamen still refusing the open the gate, Adam Bell, a strike leader, approached the gate and was struck on the head with a baton. As he fell to the floor, the miners surged forward to protect him as he lay unconscious. Tear gas canisters were fired by the militia, and many were thrown back by the rushing miners. The strikers began to scale the gate and a battle soon ensued, with police beating the miners back and seriously injuring several people, including a mother of sixteen, while the miners fought back with rocks.

The militiamen and police sustained minor injuries, the general consensus of the day amongst the IWW men had been to leave their weapons at the union hall or at home. Eventually, the miners forced their way through the gate, and many began to scale the fences around the gates. The police retreated about a hundred yards inside the town, and fired into the mass of surging strikers with their rifles and at least two machine guns. The miners quickly scattered, but at least six people had been killed and more than sixty injured by the hail of bullets, several seriously. The miners also later claimed that not only were they fired upon by the retreated police line, but also from another machine gun positioned at the mine tipple on their flank, which would have created a devastating crossfire.

The massacre at Columbine was not the last instance of violence against miners during the strike, with two strikers being killed in Walsenburg two weeks later, as well as numerous attacks on pickets and union halls.

The owner of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, Josephine Roche (a liberal, who recognised the need for a union, so long as said union wasn't the IWW), brought an end to the strike several weeks after the incident at Columbine, declaring that the company union was to be affiliated with the American Federation of Labour, as well as eventually recognising the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

The UMWA, whose members had responded to the massacre at Ludlow thirteen years previously with such a stunning show of aggression against the Colorado mine owners and authorities, collaborated with the owners at the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company for token improvements in pay and conditions for years proceeding the end of the strike.

However, the backbone of IWW support in the Colorado mines had been broken by the companies, and the union would never return to such prominence in the industry again. Rather unsurprisingly, no militia or policemen were ever held accountable for the massacre at the Columbine mine, the only physical reminder of the attack being a small monument at the site of the shootings. However, the striking miners and the victims of the militia's bullets will always be remembered as the manifestation of decades of struggle in the Colorado coal pits, which, while having limited actual accomplishments, was one of the finest examples of mass working class action in American labour history.


A Tailing Tale of Lt. Joseph Cramer

Joseph Cramer stands as an unsung hero of the horrific massacre at Sand Creek. Born in 1838 in New York, Cramer was one of the tens of thousands of men who headed west during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Immediately after arriving in Colorado, he made his way into the mountains and the Central City area.

Like most of his fellow Argonauts Cramer found more hardships than riches. Hard rock mining was difficult and dangerous work, with little chance of “Striking it Rich.” To recover the precious metal, holes were drilled into solid rock, black powder blasting resulted in piles of rubble that had to be mucked out, all this done in dark, wet, poorly ventilated tunnels. Most gold seekers lived in extremely primitive conditions. Cramer lived in Nevada Gulch in accommodations his friend, Silas Soule, referred to as a “dirt den.”

When fire engulfed Nevada City in November of 1861, destroying everything in Nevada Gulch, Cramer enlisted in the First Colorado Cavalry. The Civil War began in April of that year and recruiting for the cavalry began in August. Many discouraged miners, tired and broke, and seeking a steady income, saw enlisting in the cavalry as an opportunity to improve their lot. However, payday in “Gilpin’s Pet Lambs” was infrequent at best.

In August 1864, Joseph Cramer was stationed at Fort Lyons under Major Wynkoop and later Major Anthony. Several weeks before Wynkoop was to meet with Chief One Eye, Crammer engaged in a clash with some Arapahos who had approached the fort. When a scout spotted the band of Indians, Wynkoop sent Lieutenant Cramer and Lieutenant Horace Baldwin leading fifteen soldiers each. Cramer had pursued the Arapahos for nearly twenty miles, leaving his men far behind, when the band turned to fight. They engaged in a skirmish that continued for nearly four miles before the Arapahos rode off.

Cramer discovered later that the band was led by Chief Left Hand’s brother, Neva, who was trying to deliver a “peace” letter from Black Kettle. Apparently, after Neva’s band of Indians rode off, leaving Cramer unharmed, they returned to the same area. Cramer and Baldwin’s soldiers were watering their horses, vulnerable to an attack. However, as was later revealed, Neva thought he could kill them all, but did not wish to fight, because he was on a mission of peace.

Shortly after Cramer’s skirmish with Neva, he was injured in a riding accident that injured his kidney and laid him up for several days. In spite of his injuries, however, in September Cramer accompanied Wynkoop, Soule and others to the Smokey Hill and was in attendance at most of the talks. Wynkoop had given orders no additional Indians were to be permitted to come near the camp. However, several Arapaho and Cheyenne men came nosing around. Of particular interest to them was the mountain howitzers Wynkoop had brought with him. A drunken Lieutenant Hardin called his men into formation, increasing the tension of the moment, when Lt. Cramer arrived, and dismissed the troops. When word of the encounter reached Chief Black Kettle, he resolved the problem.

Two months after Major Anthony replaced Major Wynkoop at Fort Lyon, Lt. Cramer attended a meeting between Anthony and Chief Black Kettle. Cramer later testified in the hearings on the Sand Creek massacre that Black Kettle feared soldiers from Denver and the east might come across his young men while hunting and kill them, then he would not be able to restrain his men. Major Anthony assured Black Kettle that his men would be perfectly safe.

In late November, John Chivington, along with his “hundred days’ men” arrived at Fort Lyon and plans for the attack on Sand Creek were set into motion. Cramer was one of the most vocal against the attack. He later said in his testimony, “I stated to him (Major Anthony) that I was perfectly willing to obey orders, but that I did it under protest, but I believed that he directly, and all officers who accompanied Major Wynkoop to the Smokey Hill indirectly, would perjure themselves both as officers and men that I believed it to be murder to go out and kill those Indians, as I felt that Major Wynkoop’s command owed their lives to this same band of Indians . . . I told him that I thought that Black Kettle and his tribe had acted in good faith that they had saved the lives of one hundred twenty of our men and the settlers in the Arkansas valley, and that he with his tribe could be of use to us to fight the other Indians, and that he (Chief Black Kettle) was willing to do so. He (Major Anthony) stated that Black Kettle would not be killed that it was a promise given by Colonel Chivington or an understanding between himself and Colonel Chivington that Black Kettle and his friends should be spared that the expedition was to surround the camp and take the stolen stock and kill the Indians that had been committing the depredations during the last spring and summer.”

In a letter to Major Wynkoop from Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, written on December 19, 1864, Cramer describes the horrific details of the attack. He stated, “I will acknowledge I am ashamed to own I was in it with my company. Col. Chivington came down here with the gallant third known as Chivington Brigade, like a thief in the dark throwing his scouts around the post, with instructions to let no one out . . .

. . . came on to Black Kettle’s village of 103 lodges, containing not over 500 all told, 350 of which were women and children. Three days previous, Major Anthony gave John Smith, Lowderbuck of Co. “G” and a government driver permission to go out there and trade with them, and they were in the village when the fight came off. John Smith came out holding up his hands and running towards us, when he was shot at by several, and the word was passed along to shoot him.

… I got so mad I swore I would not burn powder, and I did not. Capt. Soule the same. . . I think the officer in charge should be hung. . . Bucks, women, and children were scalped, fingers cut off to get the rings on them, and this as much with Officers as men, and one of the Officers a Major, and a Lt. Col. cut off ears, of all he came across, a squaw ripped open and a child taken from her, little children shot while begging for their lives. . .

Black Kettle, White Antelope, War Bonnet, Left Hand, Little Robe and several other chiefs were killed.”

Silas Soule’s similar letter to Wynkoop indicated that Cramer also refused to shoot during the attack. “He [Chivington] said Downing will have me cashiered if possible. If they do I want you to help me. I think they will try to do the same for Cramer for he has shot his mouth off a good deal, and did not shoot his pistol in the massacre.”

Denver citizens honored Chivington and the Third Regiment with celebrations and parades, and it was rumored that the soldiers were showing off their gruesome trophies from the mutilations. The celebratory mood tuned, however, when stories leaked out detailing the massacre. An official investigation was begun, and Lt. James Cannon, Captain Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer were among those who gave testimony to the details of the horrific actions of Chivington and his men.

In November 1865, following the suspicious deaths of Cannon and Soule, Cramer mustered out of the cavalry and left Colorado.

Reference: Forgotten Heroes and Villains of Sand Creek, by Carol Turner


Militia slaughters strikers at Ludlow, Colorado - Apr 20, 1914 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

Ending a bitter coal-miners’ strike, Colorado militiamen attack a tent colony of strikers, killing dozens of men, women, and children.

The conflict had begun the previous September. About 11,000 miners in southern Colorado went on strike against the powerful Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation (CF&I) to protest low pay, dangerous working conditions, and the company’s autocratic dominance over the workers’ lives. The CF&I, which was owned by the Rockefeller family and Standard Oil, responded to the strike by immediately evicting the miners and their families from company-owned shacks. With help from the United Mine Workers, the miners moved with their families to canvas tent colonies scattered around the nearby hills and continued to strike.

When the evictions failed to end the strike, the Rockefeller interests hired private detectives that attacked the tent colonies with rifles and Gatling guns. The miners fought back, and several were killed. When the tenacity of the strikers became apparent, the Rockefellers approached the governor of Colorado, who authorized the use of the National Guard. The Rockefellers agreed to pay their wages.

At first, the strikers believed that the government had sent the National Guard to protect them. They soon discovered, though, that the militia was under orders to break the strike. On this day in 1914, two companies of guardsmen attacked the largest tent colony of strikers near the town of Ludlow, home to about 1,000 men, women, and children. The attack began in the morning with a barrage of bullets fired into the tents. The miners shot back with pistols and rifles.

After a strike leader was killed while attempting to negotiate a truce, the strikers feared the attack would intensify. To stay safe from gunfire, women and children took cover in pits dug beneath the tents. At dusk, guardsmen moved down from the hills and set the tent colony on fire with torches, shooting at the families as they fled into the hills. The true carnage, however, was not discovered until the next day, when a telephone linesman discovered a pit under one of the tents filled with the burned remains of 11 children and 2 women.

Although the “Ludlow Massacre” outraged many Americans, the tragedy did little to help the beleaguered Colorado miners and their families. Additional federal troops crushed the coal-miners’ strike, and the miners failed to achieve recognition of their union or any significant improvement in their wages and working conditions. Sixty-six men, women, and children died during the strike, but not a single militiaman or private detective was charged with any crime.


Ludlow Massacre and the Colorado National Guard

The Ludlow Massacre emanated from a labor conflict: the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. Approximately twenty-one people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely excoriated for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars resulted in the deaths of an estimated twenty-one people accounts vary. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three largest companies involved were Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, owned by the powerful Rockefeller family Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, and Victor-American Fuel Company.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. An estimated 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. Thomas G. Andrews described it as the “deadliest strike in the history of the United States”, and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history”. Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour work day.

The Ludlow site, 18 miles northwest of Trinidad, Colorado, is now a ghost town. The massacre site is owned by the United Mine Workers of America, which erected a granite monument in memory of the miners and their families who died that day. The Ludlow tent colony site was designated as a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009, and dedicated on June 28, 2009. Evidence from modern archeological investigation largely supports the strikers’ reports of the event.

Areas of the Rocky Mountains have veins of coal close to the surface of the land, providing significant and relatively accessible reserves. In 1867, these coal deposits caught the attention of William Jackson Palmer, then leading a survey team planning the route of the Kansas Pacific Railway. The rapid expansion of rail transport in the United States made coal a highly valued commodity, and it was rapidly commercialized.

At its peak in 1910, the coal mining industry of Colorado employed 15,864 people, accounting for 10 percent of those employed in the state. Colorado’s coal industry was dominated by a handful of operators. Colorado Fuel and Iron, was the largest coal operator in the west, as well as one of the nation’s most powerful corporations, at one point employing 7,050 individuals and controlling 71,837 acres (290.71 km 2 ) of coal land. The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company was purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1902, and nine years later he turned over his controlling interest in the company to his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who managed the company from his offices at 26 Broadway in New York.

Mining was dangerous and difficult work. Colliers in Colorado were at constant risk for explosion, suffocation, and collapsing mine walls. In 1912, the death rate in Colorado’s mines was 7.055 per 1,000 employees, compared to a national rate of 3.15. In 1914, the United States House Committee on Mines and Mining reported that

Colorado has good mining laws and such that ought to afford protection to the miners as to safety in the mine if they were enforced, yet in this State the percentage of fatalities is larger than any other, showing there is undoubtedly something wrong in reference to the management of its coal mines.

Miners were generally paid according to tonnage of coal produced, while so-called “dead work”, such as shoring up unstable roofs, was often unpaid. According to historian Thomas G. Andrews, the tonnage system drove many poor and ambitious colliers to gamble with their lives by neglecting precautions and taking on risk, with consequences that were often fatal. Between 1884 and 1912, mining accidents claimed the lives of more than 1,700 in Colorado. In 1913 alone, � men would die in Colorado’s mines, and 6 in the mine workings on the surface, in accidents that widowed 51 and left 108 children fatherless.”

Colliers had little opportunity to air their grievances. Many colliers resided in company towns, in which all land, real estate, and amenities were owned by the mine operator, and which were expressly designed to inculcate loyalty and squelch dissent. Welfare capitalists believed that anger and unrest among the workers could be placated by raising colliers’ standard of living, while subsuming it under company management. Company towns indeed brought tangible improvements to the lives of many colliers and their families, including larger houses, better medical care, and broader access to education. But, ownership of the towns provided companies considerable control over all aspects of workers’ lives, and they did not always use this power to augment public welfare. Historian Philip S. Foner has described company towns as “feudal domain[s], with the company acting as lord and master. … The ‘law’ consisted of the company rules. Curfews were imposed. Company guards – brutal thugs armed with machine guns and rifles loaded with soft-point bullets – would not admit any ‘suspicious’ stranger into the camp and would not permit any miner to leave.” Miners who came into conflict with the company were liable to find themselves and their families summarily evicted from their homes.

Frustrated by working conditions which they believed were unsafe and unjust, colliers increasingly turned to unionism. Nationwide, organized mines boasted 40 percent fewer fatalities than nonunion mines. Colorado miners had repeatedly attempted to unionize since the state’s first strike in 1883. The Western Federation of Miners organized primarily hard-rock miners in the gold and silver camps during the 1890s.

Beginning in 1900, the United Mine Workers of America began organizing coal miners in the western states, including southern Colorado. The union decided to focus on the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company because of its harsh management tactics under the conservative and distant Rockefellers and other investors. To break or prevent strikes, the coal companies hired strike breakers, mainly from Mexico and southern and eastern Europe. The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company’s management mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines, a practice which discouraged communication that might lead to organization.

Despite attempts to suppress union activity, secret organizing by the United Mine Workers of America continued in the years leading up to 1913. Eventually, the union presented a list of seven demands on behalf of the miners:

  1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent
  2. Compensation for digging coal at a ton-rate based on 2,000 pounds (Previous ton-rates were of long-tons of 2,200 pounds)
  3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work-day law
  4. Payment for “dead work” (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)
  5. Weight-checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)
  6. Right to use any store, and to choose their boarding houses and doctors
  7. Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws (such as mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the company guard system

The major coal companies rejected the demands. In September 1913, the United Mine Workers of America called a strike. Those who went on strike were evicted from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages prepared by the union. The tents were built on wood platforms and furnished with cast iron stoves on land leased by the union in preparation for a strike.

When leasing the sites, the union had strategically selected tent locations near the mouths of canyons that led to the coal camps, for the purpose of blocking any strikebreakers’ traffic. Confrontations between striking miners and working miners, referred to as “scabs” by the union, sometimes resulted in deaths. The company hired the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency to protect the new workers and harass the strikers.

Baldwin–Felts had a reputation for aggressive strike breaking. Agents shone searchlights on the tent villages at night and fired bullets into the tents at random, occasionally killing and maiming people. They used an improvised armored car, mounted with a machine gun the union called the “Death Special” to patrol the camp’s perimeters. The steel-covered car was built in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company plant in Pueblo, Colorado from the chassis of a large touring sedan. Frequent sniper attacks on the tent colonies drove the miners to dig pits beneath the tents where they and their families could be better protected. Armed battles also occurred between (mostly Greek) strikers and sheriffs recently deputized to suppress the strike, thus earning the title “Colorado Coalfield War.

As strike-related violence mounted, Colorado governor Elias M. Ammons called in the Colorado National Guard on October 28. At first, the Guard’s appearance calmed the situation, but the sympathies of Guard leaders lay with company management. Guard Adjutant-General John Chase, who had served during the violent Cripple Creek strike 10 years earlier, imposed a harsh regime. On March 10, 1914, the body of a replacement worker was found on the railroad tracks near Forbes, Colorado. The National Guard said that the man had been murdered by the strikers. In retaliation, Chase ordered the Forbes tent colony destroyed. The attack was launched while the residents were attending a funeral of two infants who had died a few days earlier. The attack was witnessed by photographer Lou Dold, whose images of the destruction appear often in accounts of the strike.

The strikers persevered until the spring of 1914. By then, according to historian Anthony DeStefanis, the National Guard had largely broken the strike by helping the mine operators bring in non-union workers. The state had also run out of money to maintain the Guard, and Governor Ammons decided to recall them. The governor and the mining companies, fearing a breakdown in order, left one company of National Guardsmen in southern Colorado. They formed a new company called “Troop A”, which consisted largely of Colorado Fuel & Iron Company mine camp guards and mine guards hired by Baldwin–Felts, who were given National Guard uniforms to wear.

On the morning of April 20, the day after the Orthodox Easter was celebrated by some in the tent colony, three Guardsmen appeared at the camp ordering the release of a man they claimed was being held against his will. The camp leader, Louis Tikas, left to meet with a local militia commander at the train station in Ludlow village, a half mile (0.8 km) from the colony. While this meeting was progressing, two companies of militia installed a machine gun on a ridge near the camp and took a position along a rail route about half a mile south of Ludlow. Anticipating trouble, Tikas ran back to the camp. The miners set out to flank the militia positions and a gunfight soon broke out. When two dynamite explosions by the militia alerted the Ludlow tent colony, the miners took up positions at the bottom of the hill. When the militia opened fire, hundreds of miners and their families ran for cover.

The fighting raged for the entire day. The militia was reinforced by non-uniformed mine guards later in the afternoon. At dusk, a passing freight train stopped on the tracks in front of the Guards’ machine-gun placements, allowing many of the miners and their families to escape to an outcrop of hills to the east called the “Black Hills.” By 7:00 p.m., the camp was in flames, and the militia descended on it and began to search and loot the camp. Tikas had remained in the camp the entire day and was still there when the fire started. Tikas and two other men were captured by the militia. Tikas and Lt. Karl Linderfelt, commander of one of two Guard companies, had confronted each other several times in the previous months. While two militiamen held Tikas, Linderfelt broke a rifle butt over his head. Tikas and the other two captured miners were later found shot dead. Tikas had been shot in the back. Their bodies lay along the Colorado and Southern Railway tracks for three days in full view of passing trains. The militia officers refused to allow them to be moved until a local of a railway union demanded the bodies be taken away for burial.

During the battle, four women and eleven children had been hiding in a pit beneath one tent, where they were trapped when the tent above them was set on fire. Two of the women and all of the children suffocated. These deaths became a rallying cry for the United Mine Workers of America, who called the incident the “Ludlow Massacre.”

Julia May Courtney reported different numbers in her contemporaneous article “Remember Ludlow!” for the magazine Mother Earth. She said that, in addition to men who were killed, a total of 55 women and children had died in the massacre. According to her account, the militia:

Colorado National Guard fired the two largest buildings—the strikers’ stores—and going from tent to tent, poured oil on the flimsy structures, setting fire to them. From the blazing tents rushed the women and children, only to be beaten back into the fire by the rain of bullets from the militia. The men rushed to the assistance of their families and as they did so, they were dropped as the whirring messengers of death sped surely to the mark … into the cellars—the pits of hell under their blazing tents—crept the women and children, less fearful of the smoke and flames than of the nameless horror of the spitting bullets. One man counted the bodies of nine little children, taken from one ashy pit, their tiny fingers burned away as they held to the edge in their struggle to escape … thugs in State uniform hacked at the lifeless forms, in some instances nearly cutting off heads and limbs to show their contempt for the strikers. Fifty-five women and children perished in the fire of the Ludlow tent colony. Relief parties carrying the Red Cross flag were driven back by the gunmen, and for twenty-four hours the bodies lay crisping in the ashes, while rescuers vainly tried to cross the firing line.

In addition to the miners associated victims, three company guards and one militiaman were killed in the day’s fighting.

In the aftermath of the massacre, the Ten Day War ensued which was part of the wider Colorado Coalfield War. As news of the deaths of women and children spread, the leaders of organized labor issued a call to arms. They urged union members to get “all the arms and ammunition legally available”. Subsequently, a wide-scale guerrilla war by the coal miners began against the mine guards and facilities located throughout Colorado’s southern coalfields. In the town of Trinidad, the United Mine Workers of America openly and officially distributed arms and ammunition to strikers at union headquarters. Over the next ten days, 700 to 1,000 strikers “attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to the buildings.” At least fifty people, including those at Ludlow, were killed during the ten days of fighting between the mine guards and miners. Hundreds of state militia reinforcements were rushed to the coalfields to regain control of the situation. The fighting, however, only ended after President Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops. The troops, who reported directly to Washington, DC, disarmed both sides, displacing and often arresting the militia in the process. The Colorado Coalfield War produced a total death toll of approximately 75 people.

The United Mine Workers of America finally ran out of money, and called off the strike on December 10, 1914. In the end, the strikers failed to obtain their demands, the union did not obtain recognition, and many striking workers were replaced. Four-hundred-eight strikers were arrested, 332 of whom were indicted for murder. Only John R. Lawson, leader of the strike, was convicted of murder. His verdict was eventually overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court. Twenty-two National Guardsmen, including 10 officers, were court martialed. All were acquitted, except Lt. Linderfelt, who was found guilty of assault for his attack on Louis Tikas. However, he received only a light reprimand.

Rev. Cook pastored the local church in Trinidad, Colorado. He was one of the few pastors in Trinidad who was permitted to search and provide Christian burials to the deceased victims of the Ludlow Massacre.

Although the UMWA failed to win recognition by the company, the strike had a lasting effect both on conditions at the Colorado mines and on labor relations nationally. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. engaged W. L. Mackenzie King, a labor relations expert and future Canadian Prime Minister, to help him develop reforms for the mines and towns. Improvements included paved roads and recreational facilities, as well as worker representation on committees dealing with working conditions, safety, health, and recreation. He prohibited discrimination against workers who had belonged to unions, and ordered the establishment of a company union. The Rockefeller plan was accepted by the miners in a vote.

Rockefeller also brought in pioneer public relations expert Ivy Lee, who warned that the Rockefellers were losing public support and developed a strategy that Junior followed to repair it. Junior had to overcome his shyness, go personally to Colorado to meet with the miners and their families, inspect the conditions of the homes and the factories, attend social events, and especially to listen closely to the grievances. This was novel advice, and attracted widespread media attention. The Rockefellers were able both to resolve the conflict, and present a more humanized versions of their leaders.

Over time, Ludlow has assumed “a striking centrality in the interpretation of the nation’s history developed by several of the most important left-leaning thinkers of the twentieth century.” Historian Howard Zinn wrote his master’s thesis and several book chapters on Ludlow. While in graduate school, George McGovern (1922-2012) wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject, later published in book form as The Great Coalfield War. He was a historian, former United States Senator and Democratic presidential nominee.

A United States Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR), headed by labor lawyer Frank Walsh, conducted hearings in Washington, DC, collecting information and taking testimony from all the principals, including John D. Rockefeller, Sr. He testified that, even after knowing that guards in his pay had committed atrocities against the strikers, he “would have taken no action” to prevent his hirelings from attacking them. The commission’s report suggested many reforms sought by the unions, and provided support for bills establishing a national eight-hour workday and a ban on child labor.

In 1916, the United Mine Workers of America bought the site of the Ludlow tent colony. Two years later, they erected the Ludlow Monument to commemorate those who had died during the strike. The monument was damaged in May 2003 by unknown vandals. The repaired monument was unveiled on June 5, 2005, with slightly altered faces on the statues. On January 16, 2009, the Ludlow tent colony site was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The citation describes the Ludlow Massacre as “a pivotal event in American history” and notes that its site is the first of its kind to be investigated by archeologists.

The last survivor of the Ludlow Massacre, Ermenia “Marie” Padilla Daley, was 3 months old during the event. She celebrated her 104th birthday on January 13, 2018. Her father was a miner and she was born in the camp. Her mother took her and her siblings away as violence escalated they traveled by train to Trinidad, Colorado. The evacuation resulted in the family having to split up afterward. Daley was cared for by various families, and also was placed for a time in orphanages in Pueblo and Denver. She worked as a housekeeper, then married a consultant whose work allowed them to travel the world. Even with a difficult start, she kept a positive attitude about life. She sang happily at her 104th birthday party.

On April 19, 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order to create the Ludlow Centennial Commemoration Commission. The group worked to develop programming in the state, such as lectures and exhibits, to commemorate the Ludlow workers’ struggle and raise awareness of the massacre. It worked with Colorado museums, historical societies, churches and art galleries, and supplied programming in 2014.

In 1996, the 1913–1914 Colorado Coalfield War Project began under the leadership of Randall H. McGuire of Binghamton University, Dean Saitta of University of Denver, and Philip Duke of Fort Lewis College, who later formed the Ludlow Collective. Their team conducted excavations of the territory of the former tent colony and surrounding areas.


The Ludlow Massacre

This article is the third in a series of counter-bicentennial pieces dealing with the more sordid and less-acknowledged incidents in America’s 200-year-old history.

The era from 1865 to 1919 signaled an important, pivotal development in America’s economy. It was a period in which the dominance of individual, agrarian-based capitalism, often characterized as “rugged individualism,” was overthrown by the organized forces of corporate monopoly capitalism, bringing about irrevocable economic and social transformations in the lives of millions of people.

It was an epoch in which corporate consolidation created massive industrial empires linking the major industrial processes of production and manufacturing with primary business functions, all within the same organizational confines. By 1900 the giant corporation had become the dominant force in American industry. By 1919, corporations employed 86% of all workers and produced 87.7% of the total value of all products.

Among the business giants of the time there were two overpowering financial groups or “supertrusts,” as they were called. The smaller of the two was the J. P. Morgan group, which controlled such huge enterprises as the steel and shipping trusts, the electrical supply trusts, the rubber trust and many smaller trusts.

The larger of the supertrusts, recognized as “the real fathers of the Trust idea in this nation” was the Rockefeller group headed up by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The controller of the most successful trust of all, the Standard Oil Company, the Rockefeller group totally dominated the oil industry, national and international, as well as gaining control over the copper and smelter’s trusts and identifying closely with the steel, tobacco and national services.

Out of the formation of corporate capitalism also came the advent of the mass strike. The American worker, sick to death of being mistreated and ignored as a wage slave, began to fight back with the most readily accessible weapon at hand–the strike.

Although strikes were nothing new in American labor history, the enormity and violence of the mass strike was. Beginning with the “Great Upheaval of 1877” against the nation’s railroads, the American industrial wage earner–a new breed of worker possessing no business interest of his own–began to revolt by every means available, including the localized strike, the nation-wide general strike, seizure of industry, sabotage and urban guerrilla warfare.

One of the most violent, bitter and bloody strikes in American labor history, one which coincidentally involved John D. Rockefeller Jr., was the Ludlow Mine Camp Massacre of 1914. It originated in the coalfields located in the foothills east of the Rockies in a region surrounding Trinidad, Colorado–an area geographically isolated from the social and industrial life of the rest of the state.

Developed in Southern Colorado in the 1880s through 1890s, the coal industry became the state’s major source of revenue. Companies which included the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CFI–the Rockefeller interest), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company and the Victor-American Fuel Company among others hired workers primarily of Greek, Italian, Slavic and Mexican descent and constructed towns near the coalfields for them.

Naturally the companies assumed all the functions of civil government and regulated the workers’ social activities to boot.

Dissatisfaction with the political, economic and social autocracy of the coal companies led to strikes by the miners in 1883, 1893 and 1903, but all were quickly put down by a combination of armed guards, expulsion of strikers and importation of strike breakers. None of the three attempts had been as much a struggle for material gains as for workers’ rights.

The strike against the Colorado coal companies from 1913 through 1914 was another matter entirely. Aside from its coal field interests, the CFI alone owned twelve towns in the region–lock, stock and worker. For the miner, life in these towns was next to intolerable. No land or building could be occupied without the permission of the Company.

All food, clothing and supply shops were owned by the Company, as well as the local saloon. The houses were Company-owned also–shabby, small, ugly and disease-infested. Even the school and church were Company property and teachers and ministers were supervised and selected by the Company much the same as everyone else.

Only the threat of discharge kept the worker under the Company’s thumb. Through the use of spies, the Company kept close watch on its employees. Rights of free speech, free press and free assembly were suppressed. An army of deputy sheriffs maintained the Company policy. The miners had absolutely no one to appeal to as even the civil authorities were under the control of the Company.

Political control by the coal companies allowed them to virtually ignore state laws intended to safeguard the interests of the workers. It also prevented unfavorable legislation by the state or county and controlled the coroners and judges, thus preventing injured workmen from collecting damages.

Although the death rate of workers in Colorado was twice that of the rest of the United States, few victims ever received compensation. Out of 98 verdicts involving 109 deaths, only one held that the company was at fault and 85 charged the victim with “negligence and carelessness.”

The two principal grievances in the strike in 1913 through 1914, a strike which lasted fifteen months, were the ignorance and lack of responsibility of the coal companies and their denial of the miners’ right to organize. Discontent reached its peak in the summer of 1913 and the United Mine Workers (UMW) sent in organizers of its own in hopes of gaining a foothold.

As the tension grew, the UMW requested Governor Ammons to attempt to set up a conference with the mine operators, but the companies outright refused. Anticipating a strike, the operators flooded the area with armed guards and detectives. One union organizer had already been ambushed and killed and the union feared that widespread bloodshed was close at hand.

Fed up, the miners held their own convention in Trinidad on September 15, 1913 and compiled a list of seven demands.

The demands were: the recognition of the union a 10% increase in tonnage rates and a day scale corresponding with Wyoming an eight-hour day payment for all narrow and dead work the election of check-weighmen without company interference the right of the workers to trade at any store they pleased as well as choosing their own doctors and boarding houses and the enforcement of mining laws of the state and the abolition of the Company guard system. Were their demands not recognized, the miners called for a strike on September 23.

On September 23, 9,000 miners struck (from 40 to 100% in various camps), making good their threat. Tent colonies were established, the Ludlow camp among them, and benefits were received from the UMW strike fund as much as possible.

The companies refused to be a part of any collective bargaining with the workers. It was to be an open shop or nothing. John D. Rockefeller Jr., who owned 40% of Colorado Fuel and Iron’s stocks and bonds and dictated policies of practice to all the coal companies in Southern Colorado, especially came out against any collective bargaining, and he had influential backers.

General Superintendent L.M. Bowers of the U.S. Commission of Labor Relations agreed with Rockefeller. Bowers wrote that he felt the workers’ demands were “numerous requirements that practically take away the mines from the control of the owners and operators and place them in the hands of these, in many cases, disreputable agitators, socialists and anarchists.”

Bowers also wrote Rockefeller that he was “fighting a good fight, which is not only in the interest of your own company, but of the other companies in Colorado and of the business interests of the entire country and of the laboring classes quite as much.”

On September 23, the day the strike began, the bloodshed began as well. First a marshal attempting to arrest four miners was shot. Then, on October 7, detectives exchanged gunfire at the Ludlow camp. On October 9, the Ludlow camp was attacked and one worker was killed. On October 17, the “Death Special,” a machine gun mounted on an armored car, was brought in and yet another worker was killed. Finally, on October 28, Governor Ammons called out the state militia to protect the mining properties and the men who were willing to return to work.

A proposed conference arranged by Secretary Wilson of the Department of Labor fell through due to the coal companies’ refusal to negotiate and General John Chase, the head of the militia, assumed absolute command of the strike zone, issuing a general order which suspended all civil law. Strikers were arrested and held, incommunicado, without bail. The situation was akin to martial law.

While the militia was on guard, quartered and fed by the coal companies, its conduct became so questionable that eventually an investigative committee was formed at the request of the Colorado State Federation of Labor.

In its investigation, the committee found that the militia cooperated fully with Company guards, threatened strikers and denied them their rights, refused to allow strike breakers to leave, insulted town women and stole from its citizens. Governor Ammons refused to listen or act upon any of the committee’s recommendations.

After a quiet February and March, the majority of the militia was recalled, leaving only Company B and Cavalry Troop A at the Ludlow camp. Then, on April 20, without warning, the militia occupied the hill overlooking the camp, mounted its machine gun and exploded two dynamite charges (later explained away as having been a signal from Company B to Troop A).

Remembering a similar situation at a neighboring camp, the Ludlow strikers seized their rifles and took up their own position. A shot was fired (from which side no one knew) and bullets rained down upon the camp for the next twelve hours, killing one boy and three men.

On orders, militiamen doused coal oil over the strikers’ tents and set them afire. In one pit eleven children and two women were suffocated or burned to death. The militiamen took three prisoners and shot them dead while unarmed and under guard.

As the news of the massacre spread, strikers from surrounding districts armed themselves and marched to avenge the deaths. There was open warfare against all civil authority–militia, guards and operators– and armed strikers surged into mine after mine setting fire to company buildings.

By April 22, the strikers had occupied the field between Ludlow and Trinidad. Workers from all over volunteered their services.

Governor Ammons wired President Wilson for federal troops to put down the workers’ uprising and on April 30 six troops of cavalry stormed in and ended the fighting. Thirty were dead, both strikers and militiamen, aside from the twenty-one who died at Ludlow.

Mother Jones and the children of Ludlow

After the massacre, Rockefeller became the chief target of critics for his failure to negotiate with the strikers before the bloodshed began (six decades later Nelson Rockefeller recalled the past as he turned his back on prisoners at Attica).

Upton Sinclair, one of the leading social critics of the day, called upon the Socialist Party to join the picket movement against all Rockefeller properties, but they refused.

Angered at all the public criticism, Rockefeller issued a statement that the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company had already voluntarily granted concessions demanded by the strikers and only the obstinacy of the strikers had produced the violence at Ludlow. When that didn’t work, he hired Ivy L. Lee, a publicity agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad, to “educate” the public. He wanted it known that “well-paid” union agitators, not mine guards and the militia, were responsible for the bloodshed.

In another attempt at a whitewash, authorities in Southern Colorado instituted legal proceedings against those strikers who fought against the militia. In August, 1914 in Trinidad, a grand jury hand-picked by the sheriff of Las Animas County was opened.

The jury returned 163 indictments, mostly for murder, against 124 strikers and union officials. No indictments were handed down against deputy sheriffs. Militia officers brought up on court martial charges were all acquitted except for one, who received a slight demotion.

Disturbed by the Southern Colorado uprisings, President Wilson set up a commission to arrange plans for a settlement. The plan formulated called for a three year truce in which there would be enforcement of the Colorado mining and labor laws. The plan also called for a three year outlawing of strikes. A convention of strikers at Trinidad accepted the plan, but the companies rejected it as an interference in their right to manage.

Rockefeller, meanwhile, hired W.L. Mackenzie King, the former Canadian Minister of Labor, to conduct through the Rockefeller Foundation an inquiry through which “closer personal contact” and “more friendly cooperation between capital and labor” could supposedly be developed.

The solution, which came to be known as the Industrial Representation Plan, allowed for the election of two men to represent the miners at each mine enabled coal camps to be organized into five districts set up joint committees to discuss health, sanitation, mine safety, recreation and education and agreed upon periodic tours by company representatives to insure the maintenance of harmony.

The U.S. Labor Commission saw King’s role as devising “specious substitutions for trade unions that will deceive, mollify and soothe public opinion while bulwarking the employers arbitrary control.”

Unfortunately, while these various schemes were bantered around, the strike was steadily being crushed and finally, on December 10, 1914, the Policy Commission of strikers called off the fifteen-month-old strike altogether.

On January 19, 1915 a convention of employees and management in Denver cast their votes in favor of the Rockefeller Plan. The company union was now a reality and the spirit of independent labor had been dealt a severe blow.

Aside from somewhat restoring Rockefeller’s public image and disemboweling the Colorado labor movement, the Industrial Representation Plan set the stage for unionization.

In 1933 the CFI negotiated the first genuine collective bargaining agreement with the United Mine Workers and in 1935 the Wagner Act outlawed the company unions. The counter-revolutionary union movement had now begun in earnest.

As for Ludlow and Southern Colorado, nothing changed. The mining strikes continued and the workers continued to be ground underfoot by their corporate capitalist oppressors.

Suggested Supplementary Readings

The Capitalist Revolution by John Tipple, Pegasus Books, 1970

Strike! by Jeremy Brecher, Fawcett Premier, 1972

American Labor Struggles by Samuel Yellen, S.A. Russell Publishers, 1956

The Great Coal Field War by George S. McGovern and Leonard F. Guttridge, Houghton Mifflin, 1972.


Remembering Ludlow 100 Years Later

Credit Jodene Parlapiano A deceased John Bartolotti, who died at Ludlow

This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most deadly days in labor history -- the Ludlow Massacre. Southern Colorado coal miners went on strike for safer working conditions in September of 1913. It ultimately led to violent conflict between the miners and the companies they worked for. On that day in April a century ago, 21 people died - including women and children.

Credit Mary Elaine Petrucci Lucy, Joe, Bernard, and Frank Petrucci. Bernard was six years old when he fell ill and died at Ludlow.

Thomas and Mary Petrucci and their four children were among the families evicted from company owned homes. They moved to tent colonies set up by the union. During what turned into one of the harshest winters on record, the couple’s oldest son, six-year-old Bernard fell ill.

"The company officials wouldn’t allow her to take the train," said Mary Elaine Petrucci, Mary's granddaughter. "He died at Ludlow."

Credit Mary Rose/Mary Elaine Petrucci Mary Elaine and Frank Petrucci

Tensions grew all winter. The strikers were well armed and often harassed men who showed up to work at the mines, according to Bill Convery, Colorado State Historian. The mine operators, says Convery, hired private guards who built an armored vehicle called the Death Special.

"They mounted a machine gun on the back of it and they would drive by the tent camps in the middle of the night firing randomly into the camp to strike terror and fear into the hearts of the miners."

As the conflict grew, the Colorado National Guard was sent in to keep the peace. Over the long winter months, many were replaced by militia men on the mine company payroll.

Bartolo and Maria Andreatta had a ranch nearby. Bartolo had worked in the mines, so he wanted to help the strikers, says their great-granddaughter, Beverly Musso. According to Musso, the Andreattas hid miners in their home and barn and kept watch from a hill above their ranch.

"They always had lookouts and when they saw somebody coming that they were pretty sure wasn’t family or something, they would send a signal and the miners would go and hide in the trees in the mountains."

The militia also tried to confiscate the strikers’ firearms. Musso says they’d use sticks to stir up bins of flour, coffee and sugar to see if weapons were hidden there. So her great grandmother got creative.

"They hid ammunition in her beehives in the yard, and [sewed] them in the hems of her skirts. She had a gun nailed up under the floorboards in the kitchen."

On April 20, 1914, the situation at Ludlow exploded. A gun battle erupted between the two sides.

"My mother and her younger brothers hid in a barn when this was going on," says Jodene Parlapiano. "Then the others, they hid in a well."

Parlapiano's mother, Josephine Bartolotti, was just nine years old when the family’s coal miner father, John, died in the gunfire.

Credit Jodene Parlapiano John and Virginia Bartolotti John died at Ludlow

Families in the camp took cover anywhere they could find.

Mary Petrucci, three other women, and 11 children huddled in a pit beneath one of the tents. The militia drove the miners from camp and set fire to the tents. Those 11 children and two of the women suffocated while the tent encampment burned around them.

"Apparently a mattress had fallen over the opening of the pit," Petrucci's granddaughter, Mary Elaine, said. "My grandmother and another woman were the only two people who walked out of that pit alive."

These women and children were among the victims of the Ludlow Massacre, but the violence continued for days, and dozens more died. State historian Bill Convery says federal troops were sent in to disarm both sides.

"Because of the massacre," Convery said, "the national media, Congress, the President of the United States, all began paying attention to what had been going on in Southern Colorado. And a number of investigations began, launched by congress or federal agencies, to get at the roots of what was going on."

Just one month after the burning of the Ludlow colony, Mary Elaine Petrucci’s grandmother, Mary, traveled east with a group of other strikers wives to raise awareness of the situation in Colorado. While there, Mary spoke to a reporter.

"I can't have my babies back. But perhaps when everybody knows about them, something will be done to make the world a better place for all babies."

"But you are not to think we could do any differently another time," said Petrucci. "We are working people my husband and I and we’re stronger for the union than before the strike. I can’t have my babies back. But perhaps when everybody knows about them, something will be done to make the world a better place for all babies."

Initially, not much changed for the miners. But the events of Ludlow set in motion small changes that decades later helped lead to broad labor reforms concerning fair wages, reasonable work hours and workplace safety that are still in effect today.


Ludlow Massacre in Colorado

What was the Colorado Coalfield War?

In a nutshell, the Colorado Coalfield War was an uprising of mineworkers from September 1913 to April 1914 that ended in what some have called “the Colorado civil war.” The United Mine Workers of America began a strike after many years of poor work conditions. The strike was marred by targeted attacks from the inside out, and it only escalated from there. The final 10 days of April were marked by bloody fighting, but the unthinkable happened on April 20th, when the Colorado National Guard attacked the miners’ encampment. From Trinidad to Louisville, fighting broke out, and up to 200 people were dead by the time it was over.

What are some interesting facts about Colorado history?

Colorado is an interesting place with a colorful history! For example, the cheeseburger was first “invented”, so to speak, in Denver. We hosted the first-ever deer rodeo in Deer Trail back in 1869. Gonzo journalist and psychedelic connoisseur Hunter S. Thompson once ran for sheriff of Pitkin County (and almost won). Check this article out for more intriguing Colorado history and facts!

What is the history of coal mining in Colorado?

The earliest known mining in Colorado began in 1859, and it was a rather rocky (pun not intended) choice of career for many. It was dangerous and brutal work. For example, in 1917, 121 miners were killed in a massive cave explosion. In 1927 and 1928, the Columbine Mine Massacre stunned the state when up to 200 miners were killed by the Colorado National Guard following weeks of unrest. The miners were striking for better work conditions, among other things. Today, there are just 11 active coal mines in western Colorado. At its peak, Colorado was home to over 100.


'Recall the Ludlow, Colorado massacre of 1914 - 21 were killed by gun fire of the state militia, Rockefeller’s hired guns. workers were armed by the United Mine Workers, and to the bosses’ horror for ten days some 1,000 strikers fought back bullet for bullet'

It’s really not news that guns were invented to kill people. And in this class-divided society, it has more than occasionally been necessary for “law-abiding” citizens to defend themselves with violence, even against the so-called legally constituted authorities. Are memories really so short? Recall the bloody Ludlow, Colorado massacre of 1914 in which 21 men, women and children, families of striking miners, were killed by the machine gun fire of the state militia, who were really Rockefeller’s hired guns. But the workers were armed by the United Mine Workers, and to the bosses’ horror for ten days some 1,000 strikers fought back bullet for bullet.

Recall as well the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre at Republic Steel in South Chicago. On May 30 of that year, in the midst of a national strike against the “little” steel companies (i.e., all the companies except the giant United States Steel Corporation), 1,500 protesters, mostly strikers and their families, marched in a holiday mood toward the Republic Mill. They were met by a solid line of 200 cops and a sudden volley of tear gas shells. As the marchers broke and ran, the cops charged with blazing guns and swinging clubs. Ten workers were shot dead, and another 40 were wounded—all of them shot in the back. An additional 101 protesters, including an eight-year-old child, were injured by clubs. In this case the strikers had been politically disarmed by their union misleaders with the line that the cops, sent to keep order by the Democratic “friends” of labor, should be “welcomed.”

We also remember the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, in which five leftist civil rights workers and labor organizers were gunned down in cold blood by a Klan/Nazi group. An FBI informer led the fascists to the murder site, and an agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms showed them how to use and transport the semiautomatic weapons. Or in the Philadelphia of black mayor Wilson Goode, where the cops in 1985 raked the MOVE commune with 10,000 rounds in 90 minutes, using fully automatic M-16s and M-60 machine guns, and incinerated eleven black people, including five children, in a fire ignited by C-4 plastic explosive provided by the FBI. But of course none of the “concerned” anti-gun lobbyists are advocating taking away guns from the cops.

White middle-class liberals preach total pacifism from the relative safety of their condos and suburban ranch houses—they don’t expect the cops to come bursting into their homes. But the ruling class does not believe in pacifism and has carefully armed its state to the teeth. The whole issue of gun control revolves around the question: do you trust this state to have a monopoly of arms? And the answer is refracted through the deepening class and racial polarization of this society. The core of the state, after all, is “special bodies of armed men,” as Lenin explained in his 1917 pamphlet The State and Revolution, commenting on the writings of Marx and Engels. And this is not our state, but the capitalists’ they assert the state’s monopoly of armed force in order to maintain their class rule.

The whole history of gun control is the story of the ruling class trying to disarm the population, particularly in periods of social struggle. The ban on automatic weapons is usually linked to gangsters like Al Capone, but it never stopped them from getting their hands on Thompson submachine guns, just as the mob today has its Uzis. More to the point, the 1934 ban on automatic weapons came in the Great Depression when the spectre of working-class revolution haunted Washington (in fact, that year saw three citywide general strikes led by ostensible communists). The federal gun control act of 1968 came at the peak of black ghetto upheavals. And the perennial push to ban the cheap handguns known as “Saturday Night Specials” is just an attempt to make guns more expensive and hence less accessible to the poorer classes.

In Europe and America it was the struggle against absolutist, reactionary tyrannies which produced the revolutionary principle of the “right to keep and bear arms.” One of the first acts of the French Revolution was to seize weapons and ammunition from the arsenals. And every subsequent revolutionary upsurge has been accompanied by similar actions. The right to bear arms was codified by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. What’s going on today is a calculated counterrevolutionary attack by a decaying ruling class on these constitutional guarantees.

The Second Amendment’s Revolutionary History

The clear intent of the Second Amendment (ratified in 1791), as expressed in its language, was not sport or hobby but a people’s militia:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The constitutional right is not about hunting or target practice the American colonial revolutionaries wanted the whole people armed, centering on military arms—in today’s terms something like the AK-47—in order to be able to kill British soldiers, and to forestall the threat of any standing army, which they rightly regarded as the bane of liberty and the basis of tyranny. Indeed, what triggered the American Revolution were attempts by the British army, in particular General Thomas Gage, to force colonialists to surrender their arms. As noted in a recent article by Stephen P. Halbrook:

“The Revolutionary War was sparked when militiamen exercising at Lexington refused to give up their arms. The widely published American account of April 19, 1775, began with the order shouted by a British officer:

“‘Disperse you Rebels—Damn you, throw down your Arms and disperse’.”

—American Rifleman, March 1989

There is a continuum between the English Civil War, the American Revolution and the American Civil War. The question of the standing army and the king’s attempts to raise taxes to finance it against the opposition of Parliament and the emergent bourgeoisie was central to the outbreak of the English bourgeois revolution. Oliver Cromwell beheaded the king in 1649 and the revolution gave birth to democratic principles, codified decades later in the English Bill of Rights of 1689 when the revolution was already ebbing and after a renewed drive to absolutist reaction under James II. As a guarantee against the Catholic/royalist threat, the English Bill of Rights listed “true, ancient and indubitable rights,” including:

“6. That the raising or keeping a standing Army within the Kingdom in Time of Peace, unless it be with Consent of Parliament, is against Law.

“7. That the Subjects which are Protestants, may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Condition, and as are allowed by Law.”

—quoted in Stephen P. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed (1984)

This principle was reiterated in the 18th-century Blackstone’s Commentaries, still regarded as a definitive bourgeois statement on the English Common Law. The 1689 Scottish Claim of Right reiterated an identical point about the right to bear arms. In Scotland this assertion was underpinned by a widely accepted custom of bearing arms. This reflected among other things the recognition that the ability to mobilize forces of equipped and experienced fighters at short notice had often been the margin between independence and English invasion and conquest. In addition the Scottish Reformation had faced the challenge of attempts to impose French-backed Catholic absolutism.

Carrying forward the English tradition, the American revolutionaries expanded on this right, in light of their own experience in struggle against the British king, when they drew up the Constitution in 1787. In the state conventions which ratified it, a “militia” was understood to mean the armed people, not a “select” militia like the present-day National Guard (which can be federalized and keeps its arms stored in armories controlled by the government). The right to “keep and bear arms” was universally recognized as an individual right. As Patrick Henry summed it up, “The great object is, that every man be armed.”

As in any class society, there were some big, categorical exceptions to these “universal” rights. The Second Amendment assumed it was English-speaking white Protestants that had the guns, to be used against Indians, black slaves, Spanish, Dutch and French invaders and, needless to say, the British former colonial masters who continued to threaten the young republic. Thus in South Africa today the white population is individually heavily armed as one of the means to maintain their status over the black majority. Similarly in the English Revolution the right to bear arms was directed against Catholics as perceived and frequently real representatives of reaction. Applied in Ireland this was an instrument of exploitation and terrible oppression. In Ireland after 1688, among other anti-Catholic measures, no Catholic could serve in the army or possess arms. In the later 18th century armed militias were raised in Ireland and Britain. In Ireland these mainly Protestant “Volunteers” took up the struggle for reforms. Then an “Arms and Gunpowder Bill” was passed requiring the Volunteers to turn in their arms. The radical wing, inspired by the American and French Revolutions, and led by Wolfe Tone, took up the call for universal suffrage and the removal of all laws against the Catholics. The United Irishmen uprising of 1798 was Ireland’s failed bourgeois revolution.

Despite these limitations on the concept of “universal rights,” the American War of Independence released a world-shaking democratic spirit, reflected in the military sphere by the arming of masses of civilians who could be trusted, out of ideological conviction, to fight for their government in loosely controlled guerrilla-type units. As was noted by Friedrich Engels, who was no mean soldier himself (being a heroic and able officer on the revolutionary side in 1848):

“While the soldiers of European armies, held together by compulsion and severe treatment, could not be trusted to fight in extended order, in America they had to contend with a population which, untrained to the regular drill of line soldiers, were good shots and well acquainted with the rifle. The nature of the ground favored them instead of attempting manoeuvres of which at first they were incapable, they unconsciously fell into skirmishing. Thus, the engagement of Lexington and Concord marks an epoch in the history of infantry.”

—“Infantry,” an article for The New American Cyclopaedia (1859)

Abolition of Slavery by Arming the Slaves

But the Americans’ so-called democracy accepted slavery, written into the Constitution itself. It was generally recognized that if the slaves got guns it would mean the end of slavery, so they were denied this legal right through the device, juridically approved by the Supreme Court in the infamous Dred Scott case in 1857, of claiming that “the people” meant only “citizens,” and “citizens” did not include black slaves. Chief Justice Taney noted with horror that if blacks were citizens they would be entitled to a long list of rights, including the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.”

John Brown was among a small vanguard in the 1850s who saw that only force of arms would put an end to slavery, and he became a prophetic martyr for leading the famous raid on a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Meanwhile, ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a close friend of Brown, openly defended a man’s “right of self-defense” when fugitive slaves were being hunted by agents of the slaveholders, even if this meant “shooting down his pursuers,” as occasionally happened. “Slavery is a system of brute force,” he said. “It must be met with its own weapons.”

Thus when the Civil War came, and the Northern bourgeoisie became so militarily desperate in 1862-63 to crush the slaveholders’ rebellion against the Union that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and agreed to the forming of black regiments, Douglass seized on this historic opportunity. “Men of Color, To Arms!” was his slogan as he campaigned for black volunteers for such famous regiments as the 54th Massachusetts. And it wasn’t only in the army that blacks fought—during the racist anti-draft riots in New York in 1863, according to one black newspaper of the time:

“The colored men who had manhood in them armed themselves, and threw out their pickets every day and night, determined to die defending their homes. Most of the colored men in Brooklyn who remained in the city were armed daily for self-defense.”

—quoted in James M. McPherson, The Negro’s Civil War (1965)

In the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, the central struggle in the South was between the newly emancipated blacks seeking to exercise political power and the remnants of the slaveholders’ government seeking to put the former slaves back “in their place.” This struggle pivoted on black people’s possession of arms. Hence the reactionary “black codes” passed in various Southern states tried to outlaw possession of firearms by blacks. An 1865 Florida statute, for instance, made it unlawful for “any Negro” to possess “firearms or ammunition of any kind,” the penalty for violation being the pillory and the whip. In response, the federal government’s Freedmen’s Bureau widely distributed circulars which read in part, “All men, without distinction of color, have the right to keep and bear arms to defend their homes, families or themselves.” But the question would be decided by military power: the racist white state militias, aided by the private Ku Klux Klan, were already disarming blacks, whose only defense was their own arms and/or the occupying Union Army. What was going on in the South was graphically described in one letter cited in Congressional hearings in 1871:

“Then the Ku Klux fired on them through the window one of the bullets striking a colored woman. and wounding her through the knee badly. The colored men then fired on the Ku Klux, and killed their leader or captain right there on the steps of the colored men’s house. ”

In this case, as in many others, the Klan leader turned out to be “a constable and deputy sheriff.”

While Congress adopted all sorts of paper measures protecting blacks, including the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees “equal protection of the laws,” it betrayed the promise of black liberation in the Compromise of 1877, when Union troops were withdrawn from the South. Because they could not defend their rights by force of arms, black people were denied all their rights. It took a long and often bloody struggle for the civil rights movement 80 years later to restore some of the blacks’ rights won in the “Second American Revolution” which was the Civil War.

In the 19th century Karl Marx had expressed the hope that America would be one of the few countries where working people could take power more or less peacefully because the ruling class had virtually no standing army but relied on militias. Yet by the turn of the century the U.S. had entered the imperialist club and quickly developed a standing army. And over the years Second Amendment rights, supposedly inviolate, have been increasingly constricted by layer upon layer of laws which made gun-owning and armed self-defense more and more of a class privilege.

The most notorious example is New York State’s Sullivan Law, which makes it illegal to carry a pistol for self-defense, unless you’re one of a handful of well-connected people who can get a license to “carry” from the police department, people like real estate mogul Donald Trump and New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger (“Businessmen Opt to Pack a Gun,” New York City Business, 11 March 1985). The law was passed back in 1911 after a man who felt he had been unjustly fired from his city job as night watchman shot the mayor with a revolver. Hizzoner survived, but the incident was seized upon by “prominent” citizens such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (the same one responsible for the Ludlow massacre) to launch a campaign for gun control. And the New York Times led the pack.

As the call for a people’s militia was adopted by the rising proletarian movement, the bourgeoisie abandoned its own slogan that “every man be armed.” As noted by Friedrich Engels, the workers’ demands for social equality contained “a threat to the existing order of society”:

“. the workers who put it forward were still armed therefore, the disarming of the workers was the first commandment for the bourgeois, who were at the helm of the state. Hence, after every revolution won by the workers, a new struggle, ending with the defeat of the workers.

“This happened for the first time in 1848.”

—Engels’ 1891 introduction to Marx’s The Civil War in France

With the appearance of the proletariat as an independent actor on the scene, “the armed people” became archaic as the population was polarized along class lines. 1848 marked the beginning of the modern world in which we still live, and the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat remains historically unresolved to this day.

The defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Europe was followed by a bloodbath revealing the “insane cruelties” of which the bourgeoisie is capable, wrote Engels. “And yet 1848 was only child’s play compared with the frenzy of the bourgeoisie in 1871,” when the workers of Paris rose up and formed the Commune. One of the Commune’s key decisions came on 30 March 1871, when it “abolished conscription and the standing army, and declared the sole armed force to be the National Guard, in which all citizens capable of bearing arms were to be enrolled.” When the Commune fell in May 1871 before the troops of the French government, behind whom stood the more substantial forces of the Prussian army, the disarming of the working class was followed by a massacre of defenseless men, women and children in which some 30,000 died.

Legislation against the possession of arms and for gun control precisely correlates with the social situation. Besides the seminal events of 1848 and 1871, the whole history of France since 1789 demonstrates the way in which the ruling class has resorted to firearms control in accord with the felt threats to its position. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1816, Louis XVIII sought to disarm the population by ordering all arms turned in. Louis Philippe in 1834 and Napoleon III in 1858 passed laws to restrict access to arms. A 1939 emergency decree of the Daladier government remains the basis for all subsequent French gun control laws, and new restrictions were imposed in 1958, 1960 and 1961, during the crisis surrounding the Algerian war for independence. However, the memory of the armed insurrection of the Communards remains alive in the French working class. And the Resistance during WW II, despite the Communist Party’s nationalist, class-collaborationist role, did not exactly leave a pacifist anti-gun legacy.

It was an armed working class which made the Bolshevik Revolution, in accordance with Lenin’s call:

“Following the path indicated by the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Revolution of 1905, the proletariat must organise and arm all the poor, exploited sections of the population in order that they themselves should take the organs of state power directly into their own hands, in order that they themselves should constitute these organs of state power.”

—“Letters from Afar, Third Letter Concerning a Proletarian Militia” (March 1917)

The Soviet Red Guard workers militias fought the first battles of the ensuing civil war. Like all militias, the Red Guards were not much good at first, but in war one’s strength is always relative to the enemy’s, and the Whites suffered from low morale. Militiamen can become professional fighters if they survive long enough to gain experience. As the founder of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky, commented in December 1921, “In the initial stages we learnt manoeuvring from them [the Whites].” And the Soviets eventually triumphed over the combined strength of 14 imperialist/Allied expeditionary forces and the tsarist White Guards.

Though the Bolsheviks advocated a socialist militia “in connection with the abolition of classes,” they were forced by the fight against counterrevolution to build a standing army. Trotsky explained in the foreword to the fifth volume of his military writings (How the Revolution Armed, 1921-23 [1981]) that the problem was rooted in the poverty and backwardness of Russia, wherein “the Red barracks constitutes an incomparably higher cultural setting than that to which the Red Army man is used at home.” But when Stalin usurped political power at the head of a conservative bureaucracy, he made the standing army into a fetish, going so far as to mimic the Western capitalist armies’ ranks and privileges. Trotsky denounced this:

“No army. can be more democratic than the regime which nourishes it. The source of bureaucratism with its routine and swank is not the special needs of military affairs, but the political needs of the ruling stratum.”

—The Revolution Betrayed (1936)

Having restored the officer caste 18 years after its revolutionary abolition, Stalin then beheaded the Red Army on the eve of Hitler’s invasion.

In the shadow of the oncoming world war, Trotsky’s Fourth International insisted in its 1938 Transitional Program: “The only disarmament which can avert or end war is the disarmament of the bourgeoisie by the workers. But to disarm the bourgeoisie the workers must arm themselves.” Its program for revolutionary struggle against imperialism and war included the call for: “Substitution for the standing army of a people’s militia, indissolubly linked up with factories, mines, farms, etc.” Its demands for military training and arming of workers and peasants under the control of workers’ and peasants’ committees were coupled with the demand for “complete independence of workers’ organizations from military-police control.”.

Having guns is no magic talisman, but an unarmed population faces merciless slaughter at the hands of this vicious ruling class whose state is armed to the teeth. For as Karl Marx summed it up in Capital (1867), “Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with the new.”


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