Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Police attack IWW pickets at Insomnia Cookies

Police attack IWW pickets at Insomnia Cookies

American police are famous the world over for there motto "To protect and serve" -I have no idea what my local police motto is or even if they have one- and its absolutely true police the world over exist to protect property and serve the established order. This why police are militarised and have there powers expanded whenever the status quo is threatened. Though there are some groups that due to there existence will always face aggressive policing, ethnic minorities, political oppositionists and of course Labour organisers. Especially Syndicalists like the IWW since there structure and aims make it difficult for government and industry to co-opt and incorporate it like they occasionally do with big company unions.

In the past Wobblies or strikes and demonstrations believed to be organised by the Wobblies were often met with live ammunition and fatalities. Today police repression continues but thankfully no shoot outs or bodies.

 From Boston IWW

Last night the Cambridge Police swarmed a totally legal picket of Insomnia Cookies, demanded we shut down our PA (which we did), then attacked, punched, bloodied, threw on the trunk of a car, threw on the ground and dragged away IWW member Jason Freedman who has been charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assaulting a cop. Jason sustained injuries to his back and arm. This was a completely unjustified attack on Jason, on civil liberties, labor rights and free speech. It was provoked (and lent legitimacy in the eyes of the cops) by a false report from the company that picketers were obstructing the sidewalk in front of the store. Feel free to register protests with Henrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge, at

In response the Boston IWW organised even more pickets to promote the ongoing strike and protest the intervention by the police.

 This weekend the IWW held two separate actions in Harvard Square to protest the Cambridge Police’s 11/14/13 attack on our legal picket at Insomnia Cookies, where the union is conducting an organizing drive. Cambridge cops swarmed our picket, assaulted and then arrested a Wobbly — supposedly for assaulting them! Our Fellow Worker was punched, thrown on a car trunk and then the ground, and pinned partially under a car before being dragged away. This was a totally unprovoked attack on a legal picket on a public sidewalk. IWW members and allies protested in Harvard Square on Friday 11/15, and returned on Saturday 11/16, making the streets of Cambridge ring with our chants (“Cambridge PD / Stop the brutality!”), and letting community members know what local cops have been doing to suppress labor rights, civil liberties and free speech.

1) Feel free to register your protests over the police attack with Cambridge
Mayor Henrietta Davis at or by calling 617-349-4321.
2) To reach Insomnia Cookies' CEO Seth Berkowitz, and let him know how you
feel about his company's apparent complicity in police violence and attacks
on free speech, please call 877 632-6654.
3) For more information about the Insomnia Cookies campaign, find us Online:


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Jewish Flag not Gay

 Russia has banned a tribute to gay victims of Nazi Germany.

You may remember that Russia has passed a law banning what it calls "Gay Propaganda" and what that actually means wasn't clearly defined. The first person to be fined by this law was Anna Annenkov for holding a Rainbow flag.

At the time I explained that not only is this a deplorable violation the rights LGBT Russians but could potentially lead to the arrest and finning of others who had nothing to do with sexuality. I forgot one group that's part of the Russian Federation and that's people from the Jewish Autonomous Region which despite the name has a minority population of Russian Jews.

This should be familiar

 This was causing the Russian authorities a number of headaches, do they make the JAR change its flag and cause a bit of a rift between Moscow and another border territory or drop the Rainbow Flag from the banned objects lists? Well aparently they took a third option, a team of "flag experts" examined the flag and declared it not Gay. No I'm not joking or exaggerating that's precisely what happened

“Obviously, the above described flag, the flag of the Jewish Autonomous Region, whose foundation is a white cloth, has nothing to do with that,” he wrote.
“This flag does not contradict the current law of the Russian Federation and so there is no basis to cancel or change it,” Vilinbakhov wrote.

your tax roubles at work comrades.

See the difference is that the JAR  uses an"extra" light blue stripe whereas apparently the "Gay Flag" only uses six. I don't know where they came up with this I have seen several variations of Rainbow flags with more then six stripes,but aside from being really strange all this does is provide LGBT Russians a nice loophole to the ban. Simply switched flags they look similar enough to apparently warrant an examination by experts so how's a cop on the beat supposed to know without careful examination.

Besides the Gays have already co-opted the peace flag AKA the original six stripe Rainbow flag. Still credit where credits due the expert does know that a Rainbow is supposed to have seven spectrum colours not six, which means he's as qualified as British nursery school child. Though I guess the the rhyme is a little different in Russia.

UK                                                                                                              Russian Federation
Richard                                                                                                                   Russian
Of                                                                                                                           Oligarchy
York                                                                                                                        Yelps 
Gave                                                                                                                        Gays
Battle                                                                                                                       Break
In                                                                                                                             Internal
Vain                                                                                                                         Victory

So the Rainbow flag isn't Gay, but Elton John is (shocker)

The reason for this campaign is the singer has publicly stated his intention to hold a protest in support of sexual minorities, as well as oppose Russian law,’ the band of parents have said.
  Let that sink in for a moment, this group is advocating a ban on Elton John, not because they don't like his music but because he wishes to support Sexual Minorities. You know Western bigots get a lot of stick for their comments about LGBT people and rightfully so but most of them usually cloak there disdain by focussing on supposed acts that are deplorable, their campaigns against "homosexual propaganda" revolve around often false claims that such and such a person's acts constitute explicit imagery or something.

Oh and in addition to the parents group Elton John faces opposition from the Communist Party if he fails to were Cossack garb. Now I agree that performers and models can wear some very strange and frankly crap costumes on occasion but arguing that clothing can be classified as Gay Propaganda, or propaganda of any sort is absurd. And doesn't the Communist Party have more important things to worry about like the economic situation, the rise of Far Right groups, Putin's autocratic government.
 Nah, clearly Eltons wardrobe takes priority.
Apparently Condemning the the Holocaust and providing a tribute to its victims is also Gay by Russian standards.

The intention of the tribute was to also spread the message about not repeating past mistakes and ensuring something like the Holocaust never happens again.
But the authorities rejected the application, saying paying tribute to gay victims of Nazi Germany could potentially ‘influence’ children on homosexuality.
I don't know about you but seeing Schindlers List doesn't put me in the mood for sex of any kind with anyone. Russian Authorities had a choice here, either side with common decency and say forced exterminations of people is wrong (why should be irrelevant to the fact it happened) or the Nazi's. And they chose to side with the Nazi's.  Also bear in mind that in some parts of Europe and Asia like Russia Nazi like groups are not uncommon so the "it was all in the past" argument doesn't apply.

Well since the Russian government won't condemn the Holocaust in this instance I will.

The mortality rate for homosexuals incarcerated by the Nazis was, it appears, relatively higher, in the camps, then that of other persecuted groups. Researchers learned that the gays, marked by pink triangles, were a relatively small  minority in the camps but had a proportionately higher mortality rate than, for example, the more numerous political prisoners, who wore red patches.
 Rudolf Hoess, a high Nazi official, in his Kommandant in Auschwitz(1959), elaborately recounted how he attempted to "re-educate" decadent homosexuals by assigning them them to the toughest work details and by forcing them to visit prostitutes.
 Between 1933 to 1944 at between 50,000 and 63,000.
From  The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

1927: Colorado miners strike and Columbine mine massacre

Columbine Colorado seems to be one of those places that'll be forever tied to tragedy and bloodshed in the popular culture. I'm sure the words Columbine and Massacre got you thinking about the 1999 tragedy at the Columbine  High school when two students carried out a mass shooting killing over a dozen. But this is an account of another dark chapter in Columbine's history, this time set at the local mine. Those familiar with Labour history will know the gist of this story.

A dispute leads the mine workers to work with Industrial Workers of the World to call a general strike throughout Colorado. Scab labour kept some mines around Columbine open so it became the front line of the struggle. The mine owners relies on the police and the state militia to try breaking the strike physically.  Confrontations escalated until the miners were fired upon with Tear Gas and live ammunition resulting in fatalities.

1927: Colorado miners strike and Columbine mine massacre


Short history of a strike by miners in Colorado in 1927 and the massacre of strikers at the Columbine mine by the state militia. The strike lead to an almost complete shut down of the mining industry in the state.
For the fifty years prior to 1927, the struggles in the Colorado mines had been a flashpoint for labour relations throughout the mining industry and had been marked by many strikes, aborted uprisings and confrontations between miners and mine owners, and the state militia.
The presence of the state militia in many strikes of course made the coal mine disputes not only memorable because of the heroic actions of the miners, but also because confrontations, more often than not, led to the spilling of worker's blood.

One of the most well-known strikes of this nature was the Ludlow strike of 1914, where 17 workers and members of their families were murdered by the militia. The subsequent actions of workers across the state after the attack at Ludlow had created one of the largest uprisings by workers in American labour history, with whole towns being occupied by armed miners. However, although this history of labour unrest in the Colorado mines had brought about some gains for workers, the severe repression the miners faced had enabled their employers to, on the whole, ignore the miners' demands, so under these circumstances, conditions and wages had not changed considerably.
Another of the most well remembered strikes of the time was the mine strike of 1927, and the subsequent massacre of workers by the militia at the Columbine mine.

As they had remained since the late 1800s, conditions in the mines were deplorable, and large accidents often leading to scores of deaths were common. In 1917, 121 miners had been killed in an accident at a mine in Hastings, two years later 31 miners were killed in explosions at the Oakdale and Empire mines and in 1922 and 1923, 27 were killed in mines in Sopris and Southwestern. Individual accidents resulting in deaths were almost daily occurrences. Conditions of pay weren't any better, with many miners often being paid in scrip, money which was only redeemable at company owned stores in mining towns. Workers had to pay for their own tools, blasting powder and were not paid for "dead work", which was work that was not directly mining for coal, but important to the mine nonetheless, such as timbering supports to keep the mine safe.

Miners in Colorado had observed a general strike called by the revolutionary syndicalist union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1927 in support of the arrested anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, who were executed in August of that year and later in the year, taking notice of the continuing discontent amongst the miners, the IWW called a strike of all mine workers on October 18.

The striking miners shut down every one of the coal mines in northern Colorado except the Columbine mine, situated just north of Denver in a small town called Serene, which was being kept running (albeit with a very slow rate of production) by 150 scabs who had been brought in on the promise of a fifty cents a day increase in pay. The imported scabs were housed in Serene, which had been turned into something resembling a fortress, with barbed wire on the fences and armed guards at the gates.

All in all, 113 mines across the state had been closed, with 13 still running. The majority of miners in the state were on strike, about 8,400. As in Columbine, the 1,750 scabs who were keeping the 13 remaining mines open were lured away from the strike by promises of increased pay and other such incentives. However, frequent mass gatherings on the coalfields in the south of the state brought more and more of the miners still at work out to join the strike. Picket lines were almost constantly harassed by the police, and arrests were frequent. Union halls were closed, often violently, and arrested strikers were moved from one jail to another to prevent access by IWW lawyers, while many were just driven to the state line and left there.

The imprisoned IWW members however, did not stay silent in the jails. A number of them participated in demonstrations from inside jails and on one occasion, workers from the Lafayette mine refused to leave a jail they had been placed in because, as they anticipated, that on their leaving they would just be replaced by more arrested miners. Since they had grown acclimatised to the cells, they thought it best to stay so as there would be no room for other strikers to be locked up. Another group of jailed miners even managed to convince their jailers to form a deputies' union to obtain better wages and conditions.

The local press launched frequent attacks on the IWW and the strikers from their pages, often using the diverse nationalities of miners involved in the strike to stir up racial tension. The IWW leaders were also often smeared, being described by one paper as "tramps with their pants pressed". By and large these attempts to discredit the strike failed, and the communities local to strike centres mostly ignored them.

In the south of the state, the company that owned most of the local mines, Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF+I), had been at the 'bargaining' table with the company controlled 'union' that had been in place since the Ludlow strike. The company union was granted a 68 cent a day increase and a resolution was unanimously passed by the 'workers representatives' to fire any IWW members on the payroll. These actions played a large part in breaking the strike in the south. The Columbine mine, still the only mine in northern Colorado remaining in operation became a focal point of attempts by the company that owned it, the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, to break the strike in the north. After five weeks of strike action and economic stagnation for the mine owners, they became increasingly desperate to find a way to end the strike quickly, and many more police and National Guardsmen were drafted into Serene, bringing with them weapons including several machine guns.

Mass rallies had been held by workers outside the Columbine mine in Serene for several weeks and on the morning of November 21, about 500 miners and their families marched towards the north gate of the town. On their arrival, they were met by plainclothed militiamen with rifles, blocking the entrance to the gate, backed up by mine guards inside the town also armed with rifles and tear gas grenades. Upon being refused entry into the town and after a short discussion, the miners asserted their wish to enter, telling the militiamen that many of them had children in Serene's school, that they needed access to a public post office in the town and that they still had a right to hold rallies.
With the militiamen still refusing the open the gate, Adam Bell, a strike leader, approached the gate and was struck on the head with a baton. As he fell to the floor, the miners surged forward to protect him as he lay unconscious. Tear gas canisters were fired by the militia, and many were thrown back by the rushing miners. The strikers began to scale the gate and a battle soon ensued, with police beating the miners back and seriously injuring several people, including a mother of sixteen, while the miners fought back with rocks.

The militiamen and police sustained minor injuries, the general consensus of the day amongst the IWW men had been to leave their weapons at the union hall or at home. Eventually, the miners forced their way through the gate, and many began to scale the fences around the gates. The police retreated about a hundred yards inside the town, and fired into the mass of surging strikers with their rifles and at least two machine guns. The miners quickly scattered, but at least six people had been killed and more than sixty injured by the hail of bullets, several seriously. The miners also later claimed that not only were they fired upon by the retreated police line, but also from another machine gun positioned at the mine tipple on their flank, which would have created a devastating crossfire.
The massacre at Columbine was not the last instance of violence against miners during the strike, with two strikers being killed in Walsenburg two weeks later, as well as numerous attacks on pickets and union halls.

The owner of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, Josephine Roche (a liberal, who recognised the need for a union, so long as said union wasn't the IWW), brought an end to the strike several weeks after the incident at Columbine, declaring that the company union was to be affiliated with the American Federation of Labour, as well as eventually recognising the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

The UMWA, whose members had responded to the massacre at Ludlow thirteen years previously with such a stunning show of aggression against the Colorado mine owners and authorities, collaborated with the owners at the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company for token improvements in pay and conditions for years proceeding the end of the strike.

However, the backbone of IWW support in the Colorado mines had been broken by the companies, and the union would never return to such prominence in the industry again. Rather unsurprisingly, no militia or policemen were ever held accountable for the massacre at the Columbine mine, the only physical reminder of the attack being a small monument at the site of the shootings. However, the striking miners and the victims of the militia's bullets will always be remembered as the manifestation of decades of struggle in the Colorado coal pits, which, while having limited actual accomplishments, was one of the finest examples of mass working class action in American labour history.
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