19 June 2016

"Nothing for Other People": Class War in the United States

By Noam Chomsky, Metropolitan Books | Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Noam Chomsky's new book, Who Rules the World?

Norman Ware's classic study of the industrial worker appeared ninety years ago, the first of its kind. It has lost none of its significance. The lessons Ware draws from his close investigation of the impact of the emerging industrial revolution on the lives of working people, and on society in general, are just as pertinent today as when he wrote, if not more so, in the light of the striking parallels between the 1920s and today.

It is important to remember the condition of working people when Ware wrote. The powerful and influential American labor movement that arose during the nineteenth century was being subjected to brutal attack, culminating in Woodrow Wilson's Red Scare after World War I. By the 1920s, the movement had largely been decimated; a classic study by the eminent labor historian David Montgomery is entitled The Fall of the House of Labor. The fall occurred in the 1920s. By the end of the decade, he writes, "corporate mastery of American life seemed secure.... Rationalization of business could then proceed with indispensable government support," with government largely in the hands of the corporate sector. It was far from a peaceful process; American labor history is unusually violent. One scholarly study concludes that "the United States had more deaths at the end of the nineteenth century due to labor violence -- in absolute terms and in proportion to population size -- than any other country except Czarist Russia." The term "labor violence" is a polite way of referring to violence by state and private security forces targeting working people. That continued into the late 1930s; I can remember such scenes from my childhood.


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