(Barry Butler)(Video) (recitation by Barb)

People's History: Great Depression and Its Aftermath, 1919-1940 (Chap 15)

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Paul Robeson, 1925
Empty Bed Blues, Bessie Smith, 1920s
Stormy Weather, Bea Wain, 1941
Brother Can You Spare a Dime, Charley Pilloy, 1930s

The workers battled for their rights, but bosses tore
them down. The Crash of '29 would underscore
inequities. With FDR the common man
made gains, but business honed its anti-Labor plan.

The war was over, unions were dismantled, but the fights
grew more intense, as wages fell but children's appetites
remained. A hundred thousand rallied in Seattle's strike,
and eastern steel and textile stoppages were much alike;
police in Boston; in Chicago, strikes like never seen
before. The same response each time: police would intervene
with clubs and fists and guns, and raid the union offices,
and government deported aliens, as promises
of liberty were cast away. They called them dangerous,
these strikers, overthrowing bastions of the prosperous -
for this they must be punished. Management regained control
in post-war years, the roaring twenties serving to console
the public with a Babbitt-like illusion of a spread
of riches. But the "Mellon Plan" addressed the underfed
with tax cuts for the rich. And then the Crash of Twenty-Nine,
as speculation and the income gap would undermine
the business class. Production fell by half, the unemployed
approaching half the working force, and Henry Ford, annoyed
with those refusing work in times of plenty, soon announced
a massive cut in jobs, though Mister Hoover had pronounced
the nation's poverty diminished (as the "Hoovervilles
sprang up in garbage dumps, with joblessness and unpaid bills
and homelessness and "grapes of wrath" for hungry families,
as men with guns patrolled the orchards and ignored the pleas
of children picking fruit to be discarded if the price
was low). A people dispossessed within a paradise
for just a special few. And Steinbeck called them "dangerous,"
for they were desperate. With little hope for serious
reform, self-help and barter groups began, with Communist
assistance. Vets of World War 1 began an activist
campaign (the "Bonus Army") to redeem certificates
they earned in war. They camped in cardboard, seeking benefits
for basic needs, and they were met with tanks and guns and gas
and men like Patton and MacArthur, as the lowest class
of people fought a "war between the Wars." And FDR -
a man of grit and tools, not gold; of soup, not caviar -
beat Hoover, thanks to this. His National Recovery,
New Deal, and TVA provided jobs. A policy
of humanism now prevailed, though lacking benefit
to blacks, and somewhat fanciful, as business would permit
a little for the poor, not much. And now in '34,
a million workers striking, the response would underscore
the bosses' tactics: first, the breakers of the strike - police
or troops or needy blacks (no jobs except to keep the peace);
and second, organized and institutional control -
like National Industrial Relations - to extol
the benefits to Labor while the legal victories
deferred to management. It seemed the only guarantees
for workers followed less from efforts to negotiate
and more from sit-down strikes and bold attempts to agitate.
The CIO succeeded for awhile, and unions grew
and strikes were many in the Forties, but the whole milieu
of war would introduce a patriotic zeal and give
the people jobs, and make the unions less imperative.

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