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Bay Area for Bernie @BayArea4Bernie
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On #ArmisticeDay100, a brief thread on the connections between labor, war and free speech.
The left (broadly speaking) opposed America’s entry into Word War I because they viewed war as a capitalists’ game, a war to profiteer off the misery of the working class.
This received its most famous articulation in Eugene Debs’s Canton, Ohio speech: ‘The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.’…
That dynamic was also in the background of Montana’s sedition law, which would become a model for the national Sedition Act passed in 1918. A mining company pushed the law in order to squash radical unions.…
But maybe most the best example is the prosecution of the International Workers of the World in 1917, when federal agents raided union offices around the country and arrested hundreds of union members.…
The IWW, one of the more radical unions, was accused of endangering national security by continuing to strike in industries critical to the war effort.
The IWW’s response was, essentially, ‘Well then, give us better working conditions.’ They turned the eventual trial into a spectacle of workers’ grievances, placing the entire capitalist system on trial.
The strategy didn’t work — 100 Wobblies were eventually convicted and sentenced to decades in prison. And on appeal, where they raised a First Amendment challenge, the judges didn’t even bother to respond to their free speech claims.
When we lefties talk about war these days, we use the language of empathy and humanity, and that’s all to the good. But maybe we should also rediscover the language of class war, of anti-capitalist anti-imperialism.
And of course I have a fucking typo.
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