Posts Tagged ‘The Chartists’

Coal, Capitalism, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the massacre of Two hundred Miners, Women and Children.
Today is the 101st Anniversary of America’s own “Chartist” type atrocity – The LUDLOW MASSACRE.

Woodie Guthrie – The Ludlow Massacre


http://www.upworthy.com/have-you-ever-heard-of-the-ludlow-massacre-you-might-be-shocked-when-you-see-what-happened?c=ufb3

The early 1900s were a time of great social upheaval in our country. During the years leading up to the Ludlow Massacre, miners all around the country looking to make a better life for themselves and their families set up picket lines, organized massive parades and rallies, and even took up arms. Some died.

Coal Country, Colorado

100 years ago, the Rocky Mountains were the source of a vast supply of coal. At its peak, it employed 16,000 people and accounted for 10% of all employed workers in the state of Colorado. It was dangerous work; in just 1913 alone, the mines claimed the lives of over 100 people. There were laws in place that were supposed to protect workers, but largely, management ignored those, which led to Colorado having double the on-the-job fatality rate of any other mining state.

It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn’t even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn’t. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.

Union Parade, Trinidad, Colorado, 1913

The Union

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been organizing for many years in the area, and this particular company, Colorado Fuel and Iron, was one of the biggest in the West — and was owned by the Rockefeller family, notoriously anti-union.

Put all this together, and it was a powder keg.

The Ludlow Colony before the massacre, 1914

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914

Strike!

When a strike was called in 1913, the coal company evicted all the miners from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages on leased land set up by the UMWA. Company-hired guards (aka “goons”) and members of the Colorado National Guard would drive by the tent villages and randomly shoot into the tents, leading the strikers to dig holes under their tents and the wooden beams that supported them.

Why did the union call for a strike? The workers wanted:

  1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent,
  2. An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase),
  3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day,
  4. Payment for “dead work” that usually wasn’t compensated, such as laying coal car tracks,
  5. The job known as “Weight-checkmen” to be elected by workers. This was to keep company weightmen honest so the workers got paid for their true work,
  6. The right to use any store rather than just the company store, and choose their own houses and doctors,
  7. Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws, especially mine safety laws.

The “Death Special,” an improvised armored car (with machine gun) built by the coal company’s private security

Cavalry charge on striker women in nearby Trinidad

Militia and private detectives or mine guards, Ludlow

The Powder Keg Explodes

The attacks from the goons continued, as did the battles between scabs (strikebreakers) and the miners. It culminated in an attack on April 20, 1914, by company goons and Colorado National Guard soldiers who kidnapped and later killed the main camp leader and some of his fellow miners, and then set the tents in the main camp ablaze with kerosene. As they were engulfed, people inside the tents tried to flee the inferno; many were shot down as they tried to escape. Some also died in the dugouts below the burning tents. In the first photograph below, two women and 11 children died in the fire directly above them. A day that started off with Orthodox Easter celebrations for the families became known as the Ludlow Massacre.

The “Death Pit”

Rear view of ruins of tent colony

Funeral procession for Louis Tikas, leader of Greek strikers

The 10-Day War

The miners, fresh off the murders of their friends and family members, tried to get President Woodrow Wilson to put a stop to the madness, but he deferred to the governor, who was pretty much in the pocket of the mine companies.

So the miners and those at other tent colonies quickly armed themselves, knowing that many other confrontations were coming. And they went to the mines that were being operated by scabs and forced many of them to close, sometimes setting fire to the buildings. After 10 days of pitched battle and at least 50 dead, the president finally sent in the National Guard, which promptly disarmed both sides.

Union Victory

While close to 200 people died over the course of about 18 months before and after the battles at Ludlow and the union ultimately lost the election, the Ludlow Massacre brought a congressional investigation that led to the beginnings of child-labor laws and an eight-hour workday, among other things.

But it also brought national attention to the plight of these miners and their families, and it showed the resilience and strength that union people could display when they remained united, even in the face of extreme corporate and government violence. Historian Howard Zinn called it “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.” And the primary mine owner, John D. Rockefeller Jr., received a lot of negative attention and blame for what happened here.

The UMWA is still a solid union today, and there is a monument in Colorado to those who died in the Ludlow Massacre.


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* Update!

here’s the footage which show the segment of our United Valleys Action Group meeting; it’s my voice asking “Is this being shown to GCHQ” that gets everyone laughing! (Luckily I was off camera as the stage fright is terrifying!)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0547tsj the episode will be shown again on iPlayer.

* p.p.s another Update

Here is the Grahame Davies poem quoted at the end of Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion programme (it’s still on iPlayer until end of this month)
http://www.grahamedavies.com/newbridge.shtml

“We do not ask you to remember us:
you have your lives to live as we had ours,
and ours we spent on life, not memory.
We only ask you this – that you live well,
here, in the places that our labour built,
here, beneath the sky we seldom saw,
here, on the green earth whose black vein we mined,
and feel the freedom that we could not find.”

– Grahame Davies


 

Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking programme about the history of The Chartist movement from 175 year ago to contemporary times and the disillusionment with politics and lack of democratic representation.

More importantly,  none of the old stereotypical tropes of “thu Vaaaalleees” that usually grip my sh*t!

As UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP and our previous incarnation of COVANTA INCINERATOR ACTION GROUP has taught us. We are on our own and what we do we have to do for ourselves.

poster-design-stop-nant-llesg-opencast

Politics and dealing with these politicians and greedy, exploitative capitalists requires subjective invention, imagination and endurance, not to mention tenacity and cunning.
The disappointments are crushing. It’s really bloody challenging.

10996651_10206237357435864_490946084016394316_nCampaigning needs the will of the people around you to grab their chances and make change.
Because no bugger else will!

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Please support our meetings and our cause!

This is dirty, detailed, local, practical and largely unthrilling work.
It is time we all made a start to change this situation – And Get The Representation We Absolutely Deserve!

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This political discussion program What’s Wrong with Democracy?  was shown directly after Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion programme.

The United Valleys Action Group, which I am a part of, is featured in this Walesonline newspaper article. We are all very pleased with the write up and how our group’s activities have been presented.

Michael’s television programme will be on at 9pm Tuesday 24th Feb BBC2 Wales.

Michael Sheen’s Valley Rebellion BBC TWO WALES 9pm 24th February

Hollywood star Michael Sheen gets really, REALLY serious

Better known for blockbusters than soapboxes, Michael Sheen’s new BBC Two Wales programme is a study of the hard-won democracy of Wales. He tells Kirstie McCrum why voting is imperative, why he treasures the NHS – and why we should all listen to a wealthy Hollywood actor

 

 

(l-r) James Dean Bradfield and Michael Sheen in BBC Two Wales’ Valley Rebellion

Michael Sheen is angry.

He’s not spitting and swearing, no – not angry in a Roy Keane kind of angry, or with me. But angry nonetheless.

It’s happened as we’re discussing the NHS.

Sheen, dialing in from New York city, is chatting to me about a BBC Two Wales programme which airs this week, Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion.

As measured as the actor’s comments are, delivered in his recognisable and melodious Port Talbot rumble, there’s an intensity which comes through as we talk about the state that our National Health Service currently finds itself in, alluding to political parties left versus right.

“The struggle between certain political ideologies is one between trying to break down the organisation of the labour force, to get rid of unions, to break apart the welfare state and the NHS.

“I think it’s important to realise that there is very much on the one hand an attempt to dismantle, and has been for a long time, things that have been fought for so long, that have had such huge impacts on our culture and society and the way we think.”

What the Chartists did

The Chartist Mural in Newport before demolition
The Chartist Mural in Newport before demolition

Sheen, perhaps better known for appearing in Hollywood blockbusters such as Underworld, the Twilight films and The Queen, got on board to make the programme to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Newport Rising, but although the actions of the Chartists who marched on the Westgate Hotel to demand parliamentary and social change may seem a world away, he insists that what they fought for – and 22 of them died – is not unrelated to our own modern drive for a democracy that engages with its people.

“The Chartists were something I didn’t know too much about until I heard about the mural [contractors working for Newport Council demolished a commemorative Chartists mural on October 3, 2013].

“I’d seen it in Newport – it’s something that I had grown up having an awareness of without really knowing the whole story, and then once I started to hear about it with the mural, I got drawn into the whole thing more and more, and that was it.”

In fact, he became so involved that, on October 18 that year, he published a full-page open letter in a local newspaper in which he described how the “irony of something that was created to celebrate those who risked much for the good of all, being wiped out without consulting the people themselves, and under the auspices of a Labour-led City Council serving the needs of profit above all else, is both absurd as well as tragic”.

Strong words indeed from a man who’s made his living acting, but he insists that he’s just as politicised as anyone else who has been brought up in Wales at the same time as he was.

“Growing up you just accept that things are the way they are and you don’t really question it – and then at a certain point I guess you do start to question it.

“As I talked to a lot of people on the programme, it became clear that the Miners’ Strike was a pivotal moment for a lot of people of a certain age growing up and developing a sense of a political conscience, because it was such a powerful thing for so many people, certainly in Wales.

“I think that was probably something that I shared with a lot of people, that started to politicise a whole generation.”

A long way from Hollywood

Michael Sheen as Aro in Twilight (2011)
Michael Sheen as Aro in Twilight (2011)

Sheen’s on-screen journey takes him from the Heads of the Valleys, through Blaina and Tredegar and Rhymney, meeting with Manic Street Preachers singer James Dean Bradfield from Blackwood and socialist campaigner and journalist Owen Jones, trying to work out why the voting turnouts in these areas have dropped while social issues like poverty and unemployment are still such a large factor in daily lives.

It’s a subject he feels very strongly about, even though, as he acknowledges, his life and career have taken him far away from these streets.

“My background – where I come from, where my family comes from – is not a million miles away from the towns and villages that I was going through in the programme, so there are certainly points of connection.

“Obviously the circumstances of my life now are very different to the circumstances of a lot of people who I met making the programme, but I don’t think that means that you can’t have an interest in what’s going on, and a desire to try and do whatever you can to help in whatever way you can – even if it’s just to create a platform for people to air their opinions and concerns.

The film and television roles of Michael Sheen

“You can still have an interest in the same values and a shared desire to create change for the better.”

The beliefs which were instilled in him by growing up in Wales, I suggest.

“I think the tradition of a rebellious political conscience is probably one that’s shared between Wales, Ireland and Scotland, because of historically what happened with their relationship to England, so there’d always been a sense of rebellion there.

“But I think it’s more to do with the labour movement, the rise of that from the Chartists up to Nye Bevan and the creation of the Labour party and then onto what Nye Bevan spearheaded with the NHS and the welfare states.

“The labour movement and the Chartist movement were national, if not international, so I don’t think it was peculiar to Wales.”

Communities working together for change

Michael Sheen at a meeting of the United Valleys Action Group
Michael Sheen at a meeting of the United Valleys Action Group

The programme introduces Sheen to many people who feel powerless and frustrated with the political system, including the United Valleys Action Group in the Rhymney Valley.

He says groups like theirs fill him with hope about the system.

“The group members represent a larger group of people, and it’s an organisation that they have created. They have definite issues that they’re trying to address that have a direct impact on their community and they organise themselves and come up with direct strategies as to what they can do.

“That seems like a very healthy and vibrant reaction. They’re not going against the law, they’re not doing anything illegal, but they’re also not aligned to a political group, so it’s not strictly speaking a conventional political way of doing things, it’s more a community-based one.”

The organisation of groups like this one are what will help drive social change forward, Sheen believes.

“The Chartists were a huge amount of people all over the country with a lot of different agendas, but through organising, through having an open channel of communication, they were able to do something.

“The whole history of the labour movement is also one of organising people – the people in power who owned the industry were very organised, and they rely on the workers to not be organised in order to do whatever they want to exploit them.

“So it’s when the labour movement is organised, and the workers are organised, that they have some power.”

Protecting the NHS

Michael Sheen is concerned that the NHS is being dismantled
Michael Sheen is concerned that the NHS is being dismantled

This is when he becomes more agitated about the NHS, but it seems to be more of a passion than a rage, a desire to help everyone see what they might be missing – that these precious parts of our country are at risk.

“I’ve been spending a lot of my time in America where they haven’t had a national health system or welfare state like ours and you realise that the way people think over here is very different because of that.

“There’s a kind of mistrust of that sort of system, the whole Obamacare [a US reform package to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans] thing. They think it’s extraordinary and a betrayal of the American people.

“It makes me realise that our way of perceiving our culture and communities has been very affected by having something like that. That doesn’t mean to say that things have to stay the same all the time – obviously things have to change and adapt.

“But we have to be very careful not to lose something that is of immense value to us, not just in terms of the service it provides, but also in the kind of culture we want to be, the way we want to relate to ourselves and other people.

“I think any culture is judged on how it regards its most vulnerable, and the NHS has always been a symbol of that.

“A healthy NHS is what we should work towards rather than getting rid of it. That’s my own personal opinion.”

With the countdown to the general election underway, and voter turnout at a low, Sheen was keen to investigate whether there is something wrong with democracy.

“What I heard a lot was people talking about how they feel politicians have become professional politicians and they tend to feel like they’re not being represented.

“I think there’s a general suspicion that a lot of politicians are looking out for corporate interests rather than the people’s interest and therefore people start to feel disengaged.

“But just before we did the programme was the Scottish referendum where there was such huge engagement, so clearly it’s not about apathy, it’s that the means of engagement seem to be not working for people. And something needs to change.”

Despite all the intensity of the arguments for the UK experiencing current times with relationships between the people and our elected representatives seemingly at an all-time low, Sheen insists there is hope.

“We can always pull things back because it’s always in our hands. The democratic system is based upon the fact that if the people want something then they are able to affect change.

“The difficulty is when our political system becomes obfuscated and difficult to engage with, and also when people aren’t aware of what it is that’s going on – then it becomes problematic. But there is always the possibility of changing it, because we just have to say what we want.

“There are so many access points for getting information about what’s going on that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, but I think that’s better than having one or two sources which can be easily manipulated.

“The first responsibility is for people to find out exactly what’s going on and then work out what they want. It’s certainly never too late.”

What Michael really thinks of Russell Brand

PA WireRussell Brand, now an activist and campaigner who has encouraged the British electorate not to vote
Russell Brand, now an activist and campaigner who has encouraged the British electorate not to vote

With the countdown to the general election underway, there’s a lot of talk about voter turnout. With comedian and self-styled political activist Russell Brand telling young people not to vote because our political system is flawed, I ask if Sheen feels agitated about that message going out on such a vast platform.

“I think what Russell Brand has been doing is fantastic, because anyone who is getting people to think about what they’re doing and putting forward arguments is great for people who are engaging with it and listening to it, whether they agree with it or not.

“That’s the whole point – we should have discussions about it, rather than sitting watching rubbish on the TV. Let’s have this argument, let’s talk about it, let’s say, ‘Yes, I think he’s amazing, I think he’s absolutely right’, or, ‘No, I think he’s an idiot and what he’s saying is wrong’.

“I’m never concerned about whether someone with a loud voice who is getting heard is going to overly influence people because everyone should have their own opinion. But it does make you think about what you think or feel about what they’re saying as well, and that’s the important thing.”

With the lineage we’ve discussed, from the Chartists and more, can he and will he be expressing his own feelings come May 7?

“I do get a vote in the UK, and I certainly will be using it this election,” he assures me.

Michael Sheen’s Valleys Rebellion is on Tuesday on BBC Two Wales at 9pm

Michael Sheen’s Valley’s Rebellion

Michael Sheen’s Valley’s REBELLION http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0547tsj

Actor Michael Sheen goes on a personal journey to find out why there is so much political disillusionment in Wales today.

Walking in the footsteps of the Chartists, who 175 years ago gave their lives for democracy, he asks why do ordinary people and politicians seem so far apart?

A nice way to celebrate my 400th post | Michael Sheen TV program that featured UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP will be shown on Tuesday 24th Feb.

 

https://discordion.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/actor-michael-sheen-visited-our-united-valleys-action-group-meeting-at-pontlottyn-blast-furnace-inn/

Just had some news in from UVAG’s “beloved Leader” Terry, exciting!!!

“Hi Everyone

The programme that Michael Sheen made last year about
the Chartists, where Michael and the BBC called to Rhymney
and our UVAG meeting to do some recording for the programme,
will on next Tuesday night 24th February 9.00 – 10.00pm BBC 2 Wales.

Cheers
Terry”

I shall be tuning in to see some familiar faces!

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This my photo of Michael and David that Michael’s PA requested.

 

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Michael, UVAG Chair Terry, and F.o.E Cymru’s Alyson Austin.

 

Ian Pritchard with Michael Sheen (Large)

UVAG Blast Michael Sheen (Large)

 


 

http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11798397.Newport_s_Hollywood_star_Michael_Sheen_retraces_Chartists__steps/

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
– Victor Hugo.

Tomorrow is the 175th Anniversary of the Newport Chartist march.
https://www.facebook.com/events/762181590514727/?unit_ref=related_events Newport Chartist 175th Anniversary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_Rising 

A brief history of the THE PEOPLE’s CHARTER and The Six Points:

The Charter was launched in Glasgow in May 1838, at a meeting attended by an estimated 150,000 people. Presented as a popular-style Magna Carta, it rapidly gained support across the country and its supporters became known as the Chartists. A petition, populated at Chartist meetings across Britain, was brought to London in May 1839, for Thomas Attwood to present to Parliament. It boasted 1,280,958 signatures, yet Parliament voted not to consider it. However, the Chartists continued to campaign for the six points of the Charter for many years to come, and produced two more petitions to Parliament. http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/struggle/chartists1/historicalsources/source4/peoplescharter.html

 

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The six points of the People’s Charter:

1. A VOTE for every man twenty one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
2. THE BALLOT.—To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3. NO PROPERTY QUALIFICATION for members of Parliament—thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
4. PAYMENT OF MEMBERS, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
5. EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors,–instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones.
6. ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

Actor Michael Sheen came to our Action Group meeting on 22nd September

Michael Sheen @michaelsheen came to our UVAG meeting last night. We knew we were having a guest speaker but It was a complete surprise, only known about by our Treasurer, his wife and a select few others.

Michael asked some very pithy and poignant questions and really got stuck in.
Why was he there?
He’s doing a documentary about the Chartists and he was interested in our campaign to get our voice heard – and is drawing modern day parallels and all that…
I’m hoping the documentary will screen on the November 4th anniversary of the slaughter at John Frost Sq, Newport in 1839.

We had a good, lively discussion on the subjects of “democracy”, or more correctly, the lack of it!
He was on the money and he could also see where we (United Valleys Action Group) had been let down by the bureaucratic quagmire in the planning appeal process in Wales and also what we are trying to achieve. Michael also asked “what one change would we like to see to the political system”. It’s not every day I get to talk about the philosophical principles of Demarchy/Lotterocracy with a Hollywood superstar! But I take my chances where I get them – Demarchy is the rule by the randomly selected.
I made the point that our curse is the “career politician”, in a demarchy, politicians are randomly selected and limited to one term of 4 or 5 years, then can never stand for the same office again. Ever.

Michael Sheen has most recently been one of the main advocates for ‪#‎TheWalesWeWant‬ the Welsh government’s “conversation”, supposedly feeding into their Future Generations Bill?
There is a call for a mass day of action in Cardiff on October 11th in support of Frack Free Wales and like minded organisations.

We (UVAG) have been asked to join. It will be a great networking opportunity.

 

me with Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen with Me! Lol