The Dragonfly and Raven

The Dragonfly and Raven

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Edric Maddock's Speech at Lincoln Castle to the TUC (1910)"

This is an essay that I wrote for my PS 386 class on the differences between the British and American Labour movements.

"Thank you President Haslam! What a great introduction! I think that you were talking about some other guy, because you definately weren't talking about me." Laughs.

"Greetings, comrades! Before I begin, I would like to thank Her Majesty's Government for allowing us to use this space, and the staff of Lincoln Castle for being so excellent and accomidating. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Ederic Maddock. I am a member of Northern Counties Amalgamated Association of Weavers, and I have come here to speak to you today about my assignment to the United States of America, by President Shackelton, to investigate why the labour movement, which looked like it was going to be as successful in the United States as it was here in Britain, back thirty years ago, in 1880, has since failed.

"Thirty years ago, the labour movements of both Britain and the United States looked very much alike. Both of these fine countries had labour working with, and in, politics. In the United States, this was primarily with the Knights of Labor, and here in Britain, there is our great union, and the Labour Party, a bit later on. In both countries, the people sought to have better and safer working conditions, rights for children, and shorter working days. In short, in both of countries, there was a push toward policies that would not only help those organized in labour seeking to pass them, but rather policies that would benefit all workers. Here in Britain, I would say that this quest has been successful, with the passing of the Golden Formula and the Trade Disputes Bill1. We have achieved our goals. We, the workers, the proletariat, have risen, and have made the world more equitable and just. In the United States, however, it has only gotten worse for labour since the 1880s. Labour has stopped federating, and seeking universalist policies altogether, instead opting for policies that benefit individual unions more2. Further, labour has withdrawn almost entirely from politics, as the leaders of the AFL (known rather ironically as the American Federation of Labor) have taken the position that working through politics is a waste of time3.

"This is why I was given my assignment by President Shackelton, well over a year ago now. He wanted to know why the labour movement in the United States failed so utterly, when here in Britian it has succeeded. So, I hopped on a boat, and sailed across the Atlantic, finding myself in New York City. There, I talked with an old union organizer who was associated with the Knights of Labor, an early American federation of unions, named Daniel Blackstone. Mr. Blackstone told me about the history of the Knights, and how they brought together both skilled and unskilled workers to help each other with strikes and boycotts, but then, additionally, to form labour parties in different states to help pass pro-labour legislation4. However, the judiciary in the United States, along with President Taft, worked together to strike down any and all reforms that the Knights were able to pass, eventually leading people to turn to the aforementioned poorly named American Federation of Labor, which focuses on craft labourers, and works with the existing political system instead of trying to change it fundamentally5. This, I was told by an AFL member named George Chapman.

"A momement ago, I mentioned that the judiciary in the United States struck down the legislation and reforms that the Knights and Labour passed. I understand if this is a confusing idea, as here in Britain, the Parliment is the most powerful part of government. However, in the United States, it is the judiciary that holds the reigns of power. Due to how the American Constitution is set up, the judiciary can rule laws to be valid or not based off of if they act in accordance with the Constitution. They call it judicial review. A helpful process, perhaps, but as I learned through my discussion of the matter with former federal judge Tristan Adams, it was used tyrannically in the United States against labour. Working off of common law, and the Constitution, Adams told me, that both he and most of his compatriots, saw the legislation being passed by the Knights and Labour and affiliated groups and persons, to be part of a conspiracy to deprive business of their capital6—just as happened here, in Britain. However, here in Britain, Parliment has the power7. This is why, we, the workers, were able to organize and pass our reforms and legislation—because we have a system that allows us to do so. At first, we aligned ourselves with the Liberals8, and we had the Golden Formula passed. Eventually, we created our own party, and passed the Trade Disputes Bill, something that would not have been possible in the United States9.

"I have been rather hard on the American Federation of Labor today, and I think that it was a tad unjust of me to do so. After all, the reason that they are not working to seek political gains is because the only political gains that they can make are really within the legislatures of both state and federal government. And, to be frank, that is simply not enough in the United States. In order to truly see political reform in that country, labour will need to replace the judiciary with sympathetic candidates. This means that our brother and sister workers across the pond will have to play the long game, continuing to elect pro-labour candidates, and hopefully presidents, until judicial positions become vacant, and then they can be filled by pro-labour judges. This is what they should do. However, comrades, I do not think that this is going to least not any time soon.

"I talked with a printer in Washington, a Mr. Horace Vlain, who told me about how it was working as a skilled worker in the United States. Being a craftsman, Mr. Vlain knew that he could not be unceramoniously replaced by any random John on the street. However, unskilled workers could be. This is why Mr. Vlain and his union joined the American Federation of Labor, which focuses on craft workers. Because of the job security granted to them by their education and training, they could work together to gain benefits for their unions and members in a way that was much more efficient, and plausible, than if they had worked with unskilled union workers. This was good for Mr. Vlain, and for many like him. But it also left many in the dust, like Mr. Thomas Wozniak, a Polish immigrant who works in the steel mills, who has had no improvement to his work life with the dominance of the American Federation of Labor's "Voluntarism."

"That, comrades, is what I learned in my assignment to the United States to study her labour movement. While both her and Britian started with a strong mindset for change through politics and for policies that would benefit workers everywhere, the fundamentally different governmental structures in the two countries led to oppossing outcomes. Here, in Britain, Parliment is the most powerful part of government, and being democratic, we were able to use it to pass our legislation and reforms, and thus solidly root social democracy in the hearts and minds of our country. In the United States, however, the judiciary is able to overturn laws that it deems to be "unconstitutional." This, paired with a conservative judiciary, has led to all of the laws and reforms that American labour has passed to be shot down, which then has led to the abandonment of politics by labour, and a fragmented movement, and the rise of the American Federation of Labor and their particularist polcies and tactics. Awful as it is, it does make sense.

"Again, I would like to thank Presient Haslam for having me to speak to you all today, Her Majesty's Government, for allowing us to use Lincoln Castle—is it not a beautiful place?—, the Lincoln Castle staff, and of course, I would like to thank all of you for listening to me. I hope that in the future, American Labour will be able to suceed, like we have, here in Britain."

1Forbath, "Law and the Shaping of Labor Politics," 215.
2Ibid, 210
6Ibid, 212.
7Ibid, 214.
8Ibid, 214-15.

9Ibid, 219.

The Southern Civil Rights and Black Power Movements

Race has always been a problem in the United States. The fledgling republic nearly committed genocide against the various Native Americans. Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants were treated with disdain. Chinese immigrants who helped build the West were openly discriminated against, as were Japanese Americans during the WWII. Today, the Republican Party and President Trump actively work to injure and remove Hispanic and Muslim Americans and immigrants. However, none of this compares to the treatment of Blacks in the United States. Since its founding, the United States has built its progress and growth on the broken backs of black bodies. Slavery was a fundamental component of the Southern economy, taking a civil war to remove the de jure slavery from the United States—however this did nothing to combat the de facto slavery that existed for Blacks in the United States that stemmed from segregation laws and the complete lack of economic and political power after their emancipation. In response to this state of inequality (both racially and economically), two disparate, yet interconnected, movements rose in an attempt to improve the lives of Blacks in the United States. There were the Integrationists (also known more broadly as the Southern Civil Rights Movement or the Civil Rights Movement) and the Black Power Movement. Both movements viewed the then-present condition of the United States and race relations differently. Both had different goals, politically and socially, and different ways of achieving those goals. However, these discordant movements did influence each other, and their leaders did have a dialogue.

The Integrationist and Black Power movements were born out off the mass-suburbanization of whites in the US and the mass urbanization of blacks post-WWII with the collapse of the sharecropping system, and the advent of the GI Bill (Hall 1239). The Integrationist Movement sprung out of the Black Churches that grew to incredible prominence, both politically and socially, with the massive influx of blacks from rural America (Morris 4). The Church served as a social nexus for blacks in America, allowing for political organization that would otherwise be impossible for impoverished individuals (as almost all blacks were) to undertake. The NAACP was also created around this time, with a goal to end of the de jure segregation that was so prominent in the country at the time. While the Integrationist Movement was large, and had many leaders, the most well-known of the movement's leaders is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He saw the United States as a nation that was segregated—a nation divided culturally. This divide, to Dr. King, prevents Americans from seeing the promise of freedom and human rights that is promised to all both in the foundations of the American Democracy, and then also with the common Hebraic-Christian heritage that is shared by many in the nation (Washington 118-119). It is this belief that Dr. King and others in the the Integrationist Movement held that led to their use of nonviolent demonstrations in the form of civil disobedience, boycotting, sit-ins, and freedom-riding that still hold a striking image in the national psyche of the era—for it was the goal of the Integrationists to first desegregate, and then integrate both Black and White America. However, not everyone saw the United States in such a positive light.

While the Integrationist Movement was rising the in the South, the Black Power Movement was rising in the North, Midwest, and the West. Unlike the Integrationist Movement, the Black Power Movement did not think that integration was the answer. Instead, the Black Power Movement advocated for self-determination and racial solidarity (Joseph 22), as well as proper representation within government (Marable and Mullings 445). The Black Power Movement saw the US since its inception as being flawed—having been built on the backs of black slaves—comparing the US to a colonizer, and blacks as the colonized (Ibid.). Integration is also, in the mind of Stokely Carmichael, a further subversion of the black vis-a-vis the white—as integration is not a marriage of black and white cultures, but rather black culture being consumed and destroyed by white culture (Ibid. 445-446). Thus, Black Power is a type of self-defense against White America and Supremacy (Ibid. 444) This view of the world does not lend itself to the idea of nonviolent protest. If the problem is not one of ethics, but one of power, then arguments to morality will not be sufficient in the alleviation of the plight of blacks. Rather, it will take direct action, through the accumulation of economic and political power by blacks in order to force positive social change—which, at its core, was the goal of the Movement.

As mentioned above, the Integrationist and Black Power Movements utilized different tactics to work toward their goals. The Integrationist Movement, seeking to bring Black and White America together, implemented tactics that aimed to change the hearts and minds of White America. Their choice of tactics was heavily influenced by those used by Mahatma Gandhi to win independence from the British (Washington 124). The Integrationist Movement used boycotts (cf. the Montgomery Bus Boycott), sit-ins (cf. Greensboro) (Black Southern Student 748), speeches, and rallies (cf. March on Washington). The Black Power Movement worked towards its goals by first gaining control of black organizations (cf. SNCC) from the top-down, allowing for self-determination (Marable and Mullings 445), along with attempts to take over majority-black districts in the South, and the appointment of sympathetic individuals into county-level positions of power (Ibid. 454), the creation of a third political party in the Black Panthers (Joseph 28), and the accumulation of capital by blacks to increase their economic positions (Marable and Mullings 445).

These two movements were quite different, in terms of worldview, goals, and the ways in which they sought to accomplish those goals. However, they did influence each other greatly. Perhaps the best example of this comes with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC was founded around the same time as the NAACP, and was an instrumental part of the early Integrationalist Movement that would eventually be taken over by Stokely Carmichael, and shift its allegiance to the Black Power, it did retain its political activism and engagement. Furthermore, Dr. King's “Beyond Vietnam” speech spoke of and with the same anti-colonial conviction that Black Power utilized for many years prior.

With the mass suburbanization of whites and the mass urbanization of blacks in the United States, two disparate yet interconnected movements came into existence—those being the Integrationist Movement and the Black Power Movement. The Integrationist Movement saw the United States as being divided, and overlooking its bonds and obligations both to the fundamental nature of the democracy, and of the shared Hebraic-Christian heritage. The goal of the Movement was integration of blacks and whites in society. To do this, the Movement utilized boycotts, sit-ins, and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience, in an argument to the morality of White America, hoping to change its antiquated beliefs. Meanwhile, the Black Power Movement viewed America as a flawed state—one built on the exploitation of black bodies—a colonizer. Seeing the condition of blacks as being resultant of economics and power dynamics, the Black Power Movement believed that it would only be through these approaches that Black America would be able to achieve their ultimate goals—self-determination and racial solidarity. This involved complete control of black organizations, as well as actively seeking to consolidate political power in majority-black districts and capital through control of county political positions, among other methods. Lastly, both movements, while different, influenced each other, as is proven with Dr. King's “Beyond Vietnam” speech. Thus is how both the Integrationist and Black Power Movements had similar goals which they then approached differently.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Primeval Elements and the French Revolution as Portrayed by Dickens

Earth. Fire. Water. Air. These were the four original elements recognized by European scientific thought. These powerful, primal elements, exist both as the mundane (cf. drinking water and a campfire) and as the extraordinary (cf. a rising tide and a great blaze)—able to exert a massive and terrible force upon those unfortunate enough to be in their paths. They are overwhelming. They are unstoppable. They are inevitable. The rising tide of the sea cares not if one is a king or a peasant—they will be swallowed just the same. In Chapter 21 through 23 of A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses the imagery of the primal elemental forces in his description of the French Revolution and the actions that the revolutionaries take. This is meant to give the Revolution the feeling of being an overwhelming, unstoppable, and inevitable force—which it does quite well. However, this is a disingenuous invocation on the part of Dickens, as the Revolution was by no means unstoppable, nor inevitable. Further, with this feeling of inevitability comes a feeling of disorganization and chaos—which is also untrue in the Revolution in its insurgent state; though it is an appropriate analogy of the Revolution after it switches from being a revolt to a “government.”

Dickens invokes primal elemental imagery at every level of the three chapters dealing with the storming of the Bastille, and the period of time immediately thereafter. Chapter 22 is titled “The Sea Still Rises,” and Chapter 23 is titled “Fire Rises.” Now, “Fire Rises” is a quite literal title, as fire does indeed rise throughout France, as many homes of nobility are razed (Dickens 242). However, it does carry the double meaning of the the Revolution being this fire, rising and ruining the old social order by utterly destroying it. In order to understand the title of Chapter 22, one must first go back to Chapter 21, where the water analogies first appear. Dickens begins his water analogies with his description of the action around the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge, comparing it to a whirlpool of boiling water, and telling of how it consumed the blood of the fallen, fueling it further (223). Here, Dickens establishes the idea that the Revolution is all-encompassing, and that it brings all that is around it into its influence. This is true, in the sense of the power of the influence in the immediate vicinity of Paris, but then also France as a whole. It is not true, however, when looking at the larger picture, many states did not spring into democratic uprising—and many still have not.

In the storming of the Bastille, Dickens refers to the revolutionary forces as “the raging sea,” “the living sea,” “the raging storm,” and “the ocean” (224). Dickens uses these analogies to describe the way in which the revolutionaries fight against the defenders of the Bastille. By invoking the imagery of the sea and storm, Dickens evokes a feeling of an overpowering, unrelenting, unavoidable—and mindless—force in the Revolution. This is problematic for a few reasons. First, there is the unstoppable feeling that the Revolution gains with this imagery. By no means was the Revolution unstoppable. Democratic uprisings have occurred several times throughout history prior to the French Revolution, and many times since then. From Athens to many of the South American States and Eastern European States, republics and democracy fails fairly consistently. With the proper organization and response, it is entirely feasible that the Revolution could have been destroyed with the storming of the Bastille, instead of succeeding. Second, there is the mindlessness that accompanies with the sea and storms. These are primeval powers, which are not selective nor exclusive about what they do to other persons or things, they simply exist as they are. They consume all that stands in their way, and ignore any blows against them, as they are completely ineffectual. This is not the case with the Revolution—at least not in the case of the storming of the Bastille. This calamitous event had a tremendous amount of planning and organization behind it, with Defarge and several of the Jacques giving orders—both to strike against the Bastille (223), and then later the tactical positioning for the assault of the accursed place (224).

This, in turn, shows the third problem with the sea and storm analogies: the seeming inevitability that exists with these two forces. Many proponents of ideologies, if not all, believe that the adoption of their ideology is inevitable. This is the case with Marx, and with many today in regards to globalization, capitalism, and the free market economy—and this is the case with democracy, especially as described by Dickens. With Marx, and Communism, the world has seen it attempt to emerge, and fail, at several points in time, namely with the USSR and Mao's China. The same can be said in regards to free market capitalism, which several key states actively resisting it (viz. China). Looking at democracy and republicanism, neither is inevitable, for if it was, would democracy and republics not be the default form of government? And further, why would democracy fail so often, if they were the inevitable trend of humanity? No, democracy and republicanism are by no means inevitable. The other aspect of inevitability is  the implication that what is inevitable should happen on its own. However, that is not what happens with the Revolution. It takes years upon years of planning and preparation by Defarge, and others, to commence the revolution. If it was not for the actions of organizers, like those aforementioned above, the Revolution would not have happened. Thus, the sea and storm analogies are disingenuous.

At the same time, however, the mindlessness that is evoked by these analogies is incredibly apt in describing the behavior and the actions of the fledgling democracy that emerges from the Revolution. Full of executions, and without any real course of appeal, the First French Republic is a shining example of the chaos of democracy, and the tyrannical nature of a government controlled by the majority. With the united power of the majority of the population against the ruling minority, the majority is able to dethrone the minority, and institute their equally as tyrannical rule of law—rather it simply targets a different group of people. Given this newfound power, and a spiteful, vengeance-fueled collective mindset, the First French Republic acts with the same destructive, mindless, and overwhelming power that a true storm would1. And, save for the minority having some sort of weapon or other device (physical or incorporeal) that can “even the odds” between them and the majority, or some other third-party's interference, the actions of the majority, once in power, are truly unstoppable.

Originally, the fundamental forces of our world were earth, fire, water, and air. While they are no longer seen as the basis of all things that exist in our world, these elements still hold an important, and powerful, position in our collective consciousness. Great typhoons and tsunamis, earthquakes and forest fires all evoke feelings of helplessness for those thinking of them from their overwhelming, unstoppable, chaotic, and inevitable nature. To invoke these awesome primal forces in writing is to evoke these same feelings in the mind of the reader, thus associating the object described with this language to that which describes it. In the case of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the use of primal elemental invocation is utilized with the description of the French Revolution, and in particular, the storming of the Bastille. This invocation is disingenuous, as the Revolution is not at all unstoppable, nor is it inevitable or even chaotic. Democracy and republicanism is also misrepresented by the purposeful use of this imagery. It is only after the Revolution has concluded, and the First French Republic takes its place, that such imagery begins to fit that which Dickens is describing.