Monday, December 29, 2014

Child miners in the US. Capitalism's brutal, violent history.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

We must always remind ourselves that these conditions didn't change to the extent that they did here in the US because the coal bosses and their political representatives in the Democratic and Republican parties saw the error of their ways.

The United Mineworkers of America was one of the very first industrial unions in the US and it was unionization and great organizers like Mother Jones that helped change things to a great degree.  Working class history is filled with great moments of sacrifice on the part of ordinary working people as they struggled against capital for a better life for them and their families, whether the women in the textile mills, the men in coal, the black workers, immigrant workers and all oppressed people. Contrary to the ads we see on TV Merryll Lynch never built America.

I just posted a short BBC clip on this blog's Facebook page. It contains illegal and secret video shot in one of the factories in China that produces I Phones; the people in that factory, or more accurately, their labor power, is the source of the wealth characters like Steve Jobs accumulated.  They are not gods these people, the Gates' Buffets Lakshmi Mittal and others, no more than the kings that sat atop the feudal regimes long past. They are the big bourgeois and behind their so-called success you will always find money and connections and their social position and the system they defend is kept in place through violence and coercion.   The so called "great" men (and they're almost always men) that are portrayed in history as the heroes we should all look up to did not like work. They would still employ children if we let them and still do in some parts of the US and throughout the world as they shift capital to places where human beings and children live in a Dickensian world of poverty, hunger and violence. Young children like these work in mines in the former colonial world today.

The so-called "great" heroes like Jobs, Larry Ellison and other billionaires know where their wealth comes from, they know it is from children and older workers like those in this video, whether in Vietnam or China, Cambodia or elsewhere.  They also know that brutal oppressive regimes are a precondition for such lucrative profit making ventures. The big corporate chiefs and the US government that represents their interests have no qualms about supporting undemocratic oppressive regimes, as long as capital os free to exploit as it sees fit.

Thanks to Robert Forant for sharing this video on Labor History and for the commentary below:
"Lewis Hine took numerous photos of ‘Breaker Boys’. A breaker boy was a coal-mine worker in the US and UK whose job was to separate impurities- such as rock, slate, wood, sulfur, ash, clay, or soil - from coal by hand in a coal breaker. Nearly all coal breaking facilities were labor-intensive, with breaker boys between the ages of 8 and 12. Although breaker boys were primarily children, elderly coal miners who could no longer work in the mines because of age, disease, or accident were also employed this way.

Breaker boys worked without gloves so that they could better handle the slick coal. The slate was sharp, and breaker boys often left work with their fingers cut and bleeding. Breaker boys also lost fingers from the rapidly moving conveyor belts. Others lost feet, hands, arms, and legs as they moved among the machinery and became caught under conveyor belts or in gears. Many were crushed to death, their bodies retrieved from the gears of the machinery by supervisors only at the end of the work day.

Image is a view of Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Co. Hine noted, “The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrates the utmost recesses of the boy's lungs. A kind of slave driver sometimes stands over the boys, prodding or kicking them into obedience.” South Pittston, PA. January 1911. "

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