Endless Beatings

My recent study of labor relations in the US, during “the golden age” (AKA “when the robber barons ruled”) leaves me with a memory of beatings. Endless beatings. It seems as though the establishment’s first resort when confronted is to grab a stout stick, and beat on someone. If that doesn’t work, they beat that person’s wife and kids.

The current battles in Portland, Seattle, Kenosha, etc., are not strictly classified as labor strife, but it’s hard to escape the fact that they are about the downstream effects of a system of oppression that was established in order to create a pool of cheap labor for the new colonies. What’s happening in Portland and Kenosha is what happens when the tools of that system take on a life of their own; i.e.: the Pinkertons and the Baldwin Felts’ begin to demand respect in themselves, and not merely their masters. They’re like the ventriloquist’s dummy that thinks they are the star attraction. If the history of riots in the US teaches us anything, it’s that gestures like sending in the Trumpenproletariat or federal police are going to just get more of those fine people killed. No matter how you slice it, it’s a few hundred goons against 500,000+ Portlanders. They’re like Chelmsford attacking Isandlhwana: “we have them surrounded from the inside.”*

Tucker Carlson and his ilk, who are defending the police, are just the pathetic end of a long line of “law and order” advocates, who are basically claiming that the police are right always because something. Usually that “something” is that there was a law passed to make protesting in a certain way illegal, so that the beatings could begin. This is a long, long, trend. Though, sometimes, to be fair, the police don’t bother having the law on their side – they just lie. In the long past, the lack of cameras served the police interest well, since they could fob off eyewitness reports as “hearsay.”

hey are those guys your friends? they don’t look friendly.

This description draws heavily on [wik]:

The UAW had planned a leaflet campaign entitled, “Unionism, Not Fordism”, at the pedestrian overpass over Miller Road at Gate 4 of the River Rouge Plant complex. Demanding an $8 (equivalent to $142 today) six-hour day for workers, in contrast to the $6 (equivalent to $107 today) eight-hour day then in place, the campaign was planned for shift change time, with an expected 9,000 workers both entering and leaving the plant.

At approximately 2 p.m., several of the leading UAW union organizers, including Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen, were asked by a Detroit News photographer, James R. (Scotty) Kilpatrick, to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. While they were posing, men from Ford’s Service Department, an internal security force under the direction of Harry Bennett, came from behind and began to beat them. The number of attackers is disputed, but may have been as many as forty.


Given that, through the 1900s-1920s, whenever labor called for involvement from the federal government, the government came down on the side of the police and corporations, it’s not unreasonable that a bunch of strike-breaker thugs felt that they could deliver a beating to labor activists on camera.

Frankensteen had his jacket pulled over his head and was kicked and punched. Reuther described some of the treatment he received:

Seven times they raised me off the concrete and slammed me down on it. They pinned my arms … and I was punched and kicked and dragged by my feet to the stairway, thrown down the first flight of steps, picked up, slammed down on the platform and kicked down the second flight. On the ground they beat and kicked me some more…

One union organizer, Richard Merriweather, suffered a broken back as the result of the beating he received.

The security forces attempted to seize the photographers’ plates, but he fooled them with the oldest trick in the book – he gave them other plates that had been stored in his car. [Remember: if you ever cross a border, swap the memory card of your device and de-key your cryptographic partitions.]

President Trump is no scratch on Ford’s Security director [Bennett] who insinuated:

In spite of the photographs, and many witnesses who had heard his men specifically seek out Frankensteen and Reuther, security director Bennett claimed – “The affair was deliberately provoked by union officials…”

Ha, ha, ha, you guys broke your own back? Seriously. These people are all the same, nothing changes.

* I know he didn’t say that. My memory tells me it’s a 70’s movie reference.


  1. Owlmirror says

    I wasn’t the only one getting “Error 504 – Gateway time-out” when trying to connect to freethoughtblogs, from about yesterday morning until just a few minutes ago, was I?

  2. says

    @Owlmirror, you were not. The server was down.

    One of my former American colleagues has wondered why the workers in the corporation’s German division were so quick (i.e. after only a few years of blatant abuse) to unionize and organize a strike when even with the abuse they still got it so much better than their counterparts in other countries (especially in the USA and Mexico)
    The fitting answer to that is, of course, that workers in German divisions had it so much better than their counterparts in other countries exactly because they were so quick to uniíonize and organize a strike.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Demanding an $8 (equivalent to $142 today) six-hour day for workers, in contrast to the $6 (equivalent to $107 today) eight-hour day then in place

    Never challenge the oligarch.
    The interesting thing is tat it might have increase productivity.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Totally off topic but has anyone, mentioned what utterly vile shits Trump and associates are, today?

    On Monday, the US Gov’t sanctioned the Russian Defense Ministry’s 48th Central Research Institute, which has worked with other non-military medical centers to develop and test the Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik 5.

    I believe the major part of the work has been done at the Health Ministry’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology but this seems to effectively scupper international testing.

    Human drug/vaccine testing goes through 3 phases. Phases 1 & 2 require small numbers of participants and can be carried out in an institutional or hospital setting. Phase 3 is the test in the real world and needs a cast of thousands.

    The Gamaleya Research Institute announced, about two or three weeks ago that Phase 1 & 2 had been successful and that they were planning to start rolling out Phase 3 starting on the week of 24 August. The plans were 40,000 participants in Russia and unspecified numbers in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and possibly India or Brazil. India may have bought in last week and there were unverified reports that Cuba and Mexico were interested.

    Essentially by sanctioning the 48th Central Research Institute, the US Gov’t is threatening those countries with fire and brimstone if they participate. Given who those countries are, I have a real problem thinking that any will defy the USA. Just when you think that even Trump cannot sink lower….

    There is no guarantee that Sputnik 5 will pass Phase 3 but things must look good to commit that level of resources and the Gamaleya Research Institute has an established track record having developed a successful Ebola vaccine a couple of years ago using the same methodology.

    So we have sabotage on a grand scale, possibly so Trump may get a boost before the election? FDA might approve coronavirus vaccines before Phase 3 trials are done

  5. says

    Totally off topic but has anyone, mentioned what utterly vile shits Trump and associates are, today

    I don’t think anyone explicitly mentioned it, until you did the necessary service.

    It’s sadism: they get off on doing the wrong thing. I’m not sure what a stupid form of sadism would look like (get off on doing the dumb thing) but there’s a strain of that, too.

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