John Sayles' Matewan: Forming a Communist Society John Sayles' movie Matewan offers an alternative to the norm when thinking about the development of class and economic systems in the modern world. Upon first glance, it seems as though the coal miners in the town of Matewan were the subjects of a cruel feudal system, sentenced to spending their lives slaving away for a company who cared very little for them. A classic example of the type of economy Karl Marx spent his life opposing. However, it becomes apparent that this is not at all the case, for the people of Matewan eventually tired of having the fruits of their labor become more and more a burden on their shoulders. I would like to argue that in the process of unionizing their labor force, the coal miners actually managed to opt out of the feudalist system, skip the free labor market economy, and form a primitive communist system.
These large manufacturing enterprises, exploiting workers without regards to human cost, were ripe for National Union Organization. Jerry Borenstein states in his work, Unions In Transition, " They were often loosely organized associations, which were quite short-lived and likely to disappear under hostile pressure from employers and government." (15) The unions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were formed largely to protect basic human dignity in the work place. Unions addressed basic concerns regarding safety issues, length of work day and wage. They were largely unsuccessful due to the public perception of unions as Socialistic as well as anti American.
The SAPS responded to the violent strike and were attacked. What happened next brought back memories of apartheid violence when the SAPS killed 34 protesters and left 78 miners wounded. African National Congress Youth League former president, Julius Malema, addressed the miners and encouraged them to fight for their cause even if it would result in death. Workers eventually obtained an 11% wage increase and on 1 October the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the killings opens in Rustenburg (Forrest 2013). This travesty not only had a social impact but an economical one as well.
The National Labor... ... middle of paper ... ...rved to push customers into the arms of foreign competitors. The history of capitalism is replete with examples of the need for labor unions, however in industries where labor unions were powerful, they helped to cause the decline of U.S. dominance. While there may be a case for the continued existence of labor unions, measures should be taken to limit the power of labor unions in any single industry , to prevent them from becoming institutions that are harmful to the workers they seek to defend. Works Cited Hodson, R., & Sullivan, T. A. (2008).
A Comparison of a Coal Mining Company to an Autocracy A tragic event occurred on April 5, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners went underground on the morning of April 5, 2010, similar to every work day, except this morning was their last. Upper Big Branch Mine was owned and operated by Massey Energy Corporation, a company that never took other people’s lives and families into consideration. The disastrous explosion could have easily been prevented if Massey Energy Company followed the necessary safety measures that were invented to prevent deaths and accidents. The Massey Energy Company was responsible for “the most killed in a U.S. mine since a 1970 explosion killed 38 at Finley Coal Co., in Hyden, Ky.”Since 1988, three miners have died in the Upper Big Branch Mine.
Blinn College Library, Bryan, TX, 1 Nov. 2006. . Morgan, Elizabeth. “Crime and Punishment.” Christian Century. 25 May 2006: 30-33. Academic Search Premier.
The IWW accomplished certain goals and acquired a reputation in society during that time even though straight from the start, United States government was not on their side. Founded in 1905 by men with bitter experiences in the labor struggle, the Industrial Workers of the World held their headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were based solely on the fact that workers should be united within a single union and the wage system should be abolished as stated in the preamble to their constitution. "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Michael Paul 099 66 3949 History 316z Trade unionism, industrial unionism, and socialism were the main forms of organized labor in the late nineteenth century early twentieth century, yet rarely did these shifting currents flow in complementary ways that might appeal to the vast majority of struggling workers. The three most important formal organizations were the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Socialist Party of America. All three of these organizations had there own strengths but the many weaknesses and divisions combined with outside influences caused the retardation of their radical, left wing ideas. The American Federation of Labor was founded with the intention of building the class conscioussness and economic power of workers by organizing them on occupational lines. It pursued policies to win short term, concrete, economic gains (Cashman,206.)
History is taught so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and prevent them from happening again. The Industrial Revolution was a horrid period of time for people of the working class. The Industrial Revolution brought pain, suffering, and deaths to huge amounts of people, and yet, the economists off today have not learned the lesson. Sweatshops are the modern day versions of factories during the Industrial Revolution. Sweatshops and factories of the Industrial Revolution share many similarities in both the way they run and the owners who run them.
The ideal method for this achieving such autonomy was organization of a union. This idea of union struck a cord with the company, and the conflict between employer and employee soon escalated into a battle. The laborers began to realize, in certain terms, that the Stone Mountain Coal Company is not simply a corporation but a feudal power. These townspeople were living in a capitalist country, but they were controlled by a feudal enterprise in Matewan, West Virginia. The coal mining business built a town that was then forced to rely on that company through monopoly control, bondage contract, and the organization of their production.