Friday, May 24, 2019
American Industrialization And Immigration
This song, written for the Yiddish theatre around 1900 by Hyman Prizit and Abe Schwarz, is a fairly good summation of the essay The Uprooted, written ab place 50 years later by Oscar Handlin. The second great wave of immigrants during the last half of the nineteenth century consisted of peasant farmers from Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Scandinavia, forced off of lands that had sustained them for generations, no longer able to extract a living from it, or fleeing persecutions and repressive, quasi-feudal g overnments.The had heard of Amerika, where the streets were paved with halcyon and land was there for the taking. Often spending all they had, those who survived the crossing arrived and found the streets paved not with capital, but with the blood, sweat and toil of those who were exploited to create gold for elite ruling classes that were a great deal more oppressive than those they had fled. The difference was in the nature of the exploitation and oppression. Whereas in the Old Country, physical violence had most a great deal been the tool of oppression Cossacks, private police, etc. in the industrial-capitalistic U. S. , the oppression was economic. Those who controlled the means of production, then as now, though exactly of maximizing and internalizing profits while minimizing and externalizing costs. benignant life meant nought to the industrial capitalist overlords. Had not the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, they would have happily enslaved the newcomers in order to keep themselves in luxury. A a few(prenominal) of the immigrants were able to escape the cities, and even fewer managed to acquire land and establish farms.Most however found themselves trapped in a system that not only cut them off from the land, entrapping them in a virtual jungle of concrete, brick and stone, but found their very lives subject to economic cycles, manipulations and machinations they could n both understand nor control. When employment was available, the demands of the bodily leeches robbed the immigrant laborers of the comforts of family, culture and even religious faith, since workers were often required to work seven days a week.In Ethnic Enclaves and the Workers Saloon, Roy Rosenzweig describes how the workers of one city were able to flummox back some power from their corporate overlords, and how the unique character of this city do it even possible. Worcester Massachusetts was unusual in a number of ways. Unlike many industrial towns, it was not located near a navigable river nor a source of raw materials. Additionally, during the wave of corporate mergers and encyclopedism that took place during the firstly Robber Baron era around the turn of the 20th century, most of the factories in Worcester managed to remain under local control.Control was the artist word, here the families who started Worcesters industries virtually controlled the community. As in large port cities such as Baltimore, New York and Boston, the immi grant workforce was a mixed lot who often could not see beyond their own ethnic and religious differences to realize that as workers, they shared many of the same problems. In addition, the control of city government activity by the industrial capitalists made it difficult for working-class people to get involved in the system in any sort of active way. This, feature with the carrot of paternalism (i. e., faith-based initiatives, charity organizations, educational programs) and the stick of repression (threat of firings if workers were suspected of union activity, tracking of personal information and the use of company spies) helped the elite classes maintain control over the workforce (88). As the ethnic landscape grew more diverse, the individual ethnic communities began to circle the wagons, metaphorically speaking the results were an interweaving of church, fraternal lodge and family that allowed built a fight down system for the various communities who were, often as not, a t odds with each other.This in combination with the more structured, disciplinarian and authoritarian structure in the piece of work that inhibited socialization, gave rise to the saloons literal drinking establishments as the working class began to have more leisure time. Whereas in earlier times, drinking and socializing on the job (primarily in artisan and agricultural industries) was permissible, in the more mechanized industrial workplace, it was not (more because the bosses wanted more control over their workers rather than out of any real concern for their safety, one suspects).This also had the effect of separating the male from home and family to a greater degree (89). U. S. history appears to run in cycles, with a pendulum that swings from an egalitarian, socialistic economic model in which the economy serves the people, to a quasi-feudal, hyper-capitalistic, laissez-faire system in which a few ruthless individuals claw their way to the treetop of the socio-economic ladd er and become economic leeches, literally feeding off of the blood and sweat of honest laborers while contributing little, if anything to the betterment of society (cases in charge up the Walton (Wal-Mart) family, Paris Hilton and the Bush dynasty).Like today, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a period of capitalism run amuck, justified by a sick, twisted perversion of Christianity preached by a murderous sociopath over four hundred years before in Geneva, Switzerland. Like the medieval Catholicism, Calvinism has been used to justify totalism dominance by a patriarchal, self-appointed aristocracy, whose only interests are in the accumulation of wealth and power over society.Human needs and even lives mean nothing to these predators (although their Congressional lap-dogs and lickspittles are not above moralizing about a culture of life as long as it involves people who are either still in the womb, are vegetative, or anyone else for whom they themselves dont need to take any direct responsibility). The tragedy is that the concept of the sweatshop and worker exploitation has never completely disappeared, despite the efforts of the saloons and the union movements that ultimately grew from them.In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt literally saved capitalism from itself with the New Deal that among other things, strengthened worker protections and the right to form a union. For about four decades, these policies resulted in the establishment of a solid middle class corresponding to the yeomanry that Thomas Jefferson himself said was the bedrock of a democracy. Like the first middle class of the U. S. , which existed between 1790 and 1840, this middle class was politically savvy and involved.When this activism forced an end to their highly profitable war in Vietnam, the politicians and their corporate backers in the war industries responded with a new brand of conservatism which was really the same kind of predatory, robber baron economics tha t FDR had tried to end. The ultimate goal of todays neo-conservatism is to end democracy and replace it with feudalism by destroying the middle and working classes something Reagan and his three successors have been doing quite effectively.Since the labor laws that would have permitted a beget to child labor, sweatshops and twelve-hour, seven-day-a-week work schedules would be hard to overcome, this labor was simply shipped overseas to nations where such things were permitted. This not only allowed corporate capitalists to maximize profits to obscene levels on the backs of these workers, it also robbed American workers of their livelihoods, and has put much of the middle class in such economic insecurity, they have little time or inclination for activism.This was made possible by a number of things Reagans intentional failure to enforce the Sherman Act, and the elimination of the tariffs that financed a great deal of the federal government for two hundred years. This was followed by Free Trade agreements that are in fact free for large corporate interests, but exact a heavy price on everyone else, and the transfer of the commons that which the citizens of a nation hold in ownership collectively to private, predatory, profit-driven corporations.The results are clear, if not generally spoken of my a bought-and-paid-for corporate media 46 million U. S. citizens with no access to health care, the destruction and continuing neglect of a major port city, the rape of a foreign country on behalf of private corporate oil interests ( be protected in large part by a private, well-paid mercenary army while U. S. ground troops go without the most basic necessities), the deterioration of public education, the sell-out of U. S.industry and infrastructure to foreign interests, the near-destruction of the middle class as wealth is stolen through regressive taxes and transferred to economic parasites such as the Walton family. Handlin paints an accurate picture of a time t hat not only was, but is in great danger of returning. The only hope for the U. S. is suggested by Rosenzweig, which is actually being seen today on the Internet. Todays Progressive on-line blogs and chatrooms are the new Saloons, where the issues outlined above long ignored or misunderstood by a citizenry lulled by the panen et circensem of today are finally being discussed.While the majority of Republicrats and Demopublicans in Congress continue to thumb their noses at the citizens they claim to make up as they continue to enable a dysfunctional, sociopathic, twice-unelected president and his fascist-leaning cohorts, todays technology has made it impossible to hide the corruption and decay completely. History runs in cycles. Just as the last quarter-century has seen the return of exploitive Robber Baron capitalism, so has the Internet provided Saloons where the working class can once again take back what is rightfully theirs and create an economy that serves people not the oth er way around.