Sunday, May 13, 2012

A History Lesson; the Great Strike of 1877

   The Great Strike of 1877 in the U.S. is a useful piece of history for Occupy Wall Street.  In a short time it reached across the United States. It had no leadership.  It utilized the latest communication technology, the telegraph.  But also, in the end it failed. 
   This was a time when the big corporations of rail, steel, coal, and others not only had few rules to follow but also paid little taxes.  In fact, at times it could be said that the corporations ran the country more than the government.
   An economic depression began in 1873. By 1877 roughly 27 percent of the population was unemployed.  Corporations were cutting wages and hours.  the strike began with rail workers in Baltimore, and word quickly spread up and down the rail line.  Word also spread from a new technology that allowed instant communication, the telegraph.  The rail lines ground to a halt.
   Uneasy corporate bosses and governors called for federal troops, who came.  Firefights happened in some places and people on both sides were killed.  In other places there was no violence.  But still the strike spread, reaching St. Louis, Chicago, and most everywhere east.  Each locality organized and went on strike spontaneously, with no leadership or organization coming to persuade them nor control them.
   In the end, it was the guns that won out.  The protesters were certainly in the right, being starved by their masters for no reason other than greed.  But the corporations had the iron fist of the government on their side.
   So what is the significance of this today?  OWS is a movement grown from the corporations sucking the money out of the 99% for simple greed.  OWS utilizes that newfangled communication technology, the Internet.  They are leaderless.  But hopefully, we are not in a time when our government only listens to the corporations.

Further Reading:
American Colossus, by H.W. Brands

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