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Ludlow Massacre

Woody Guthrie


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The Ludlow Massacre
From en.wikipedia

National Guard posing in destroyed camp colony.
National Guard posing in destroyed camp colony.
The Ludlow massacre pertains to the violent deaths of 20 people during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado in the U.S. on April 20, 1914. These deaths occurred after a day-long fight between strikers and the Guard. Two women, twelve children, six miners and union officials and one National Guardsman were killed. In response, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard.

This was the bloodiest event in the 14-month 1913-1914 southern Colorado Coal Strike. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three biggest mining companies were the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF). Ludlow, located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Trinidad, Colorado, is now a ghost town. The massacre site is owned by the UMWA, which erected a granite monument, in memory of the striking miners and their families who died that day.

Background

Mining firms had long been able to attract low-skill labor, in spite of modest wages and stiff cost-cutting policies designed to maintain profits in a competitive industry. This made conditions in the mines difficult and often dangerous for the workers, and the sector became a ripe target for union organizers. Colorado miners had attempted to periodically unionize since the state's first strike in 1883.

Armored car, known to the strikers as "Death Special"
Armored car, known to the strikers as "Death Special"
The Western Federation of Miners organized primarily hardrock miners in the gold and silver camps during the 1890s. Beginning in 1900, the UMWA began organizing coal miners in the western states, including southern Colorado. The UMWA decided to focus on the CF&I because of the company's harsh management tactics under the conservative and distant Rockefellers and other investors. As part of their campaign to break or prevent strikes, the coal companies had lured immigrants, mainly from southern and Eastern Europe and Mexico. CF&I's management purposely mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines to discourage communication that might lead to organization.

As was typical in the industry of that day, miners were paid by tons of coal mined and not reimbursed for "dead work," such as laying rails, timbering, and shoring the mines to make them operable. Given the intense pressure to produce, mine safety was often given short shrift. More than 1,700 miners died in Colorado from 1884 to 1912, a rate that was between 2 and 3.5 times the national average during those years. Furthermore, the miners felt they were being short-changed on the weight of the coal they mined, arguing that the scales used for paying them were different from those used for coal customers. Miners challenging the weights risked being dismissed.

Most miners also lived in "company towns," where homes, schools, doctors, clergy, and law enforcement were provided by the company, as well as stores offering a full range of goods that could be paid for in company currency, scrip. However, this became an oppressive environment in which law focused on enforcement of increasing prohibitions on speech or assembly by the miners to discourage union-building activity. Also, under pressure to maintain profitability, the mining companies steadily reduced their investment in the town and its amenities while increasing prices at the company store so that miners and their families experienced worsening conditions and higher costs. Colorado's legislature had passed laws to improve the condition of the mines and towns, including the outlawing of the use of scrip, but these laws were poorly enforced.

The mine strike

Cover from the monthly publication The Masses, June of 1914, fancifully drawn by John French Sloan. The artwork illustrated a Ludlow Massacre article by Max Eastman entitled "Class War In Colorado."
Cover from the monthly publication The Masses, June of 1914, fancifully drawn by John French Sloan. The artwork illustrated a Ludlow Massacre article by Max Eastman entitled "Class War In Colorado."
Despite attempts to suppress union activity, secret organizing continued by the UMWA in the years leading up to 1913. Once everything had been laid out according to their plan, the UMWA presented, on behalf of coal miners, a list of seven demands:

1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent
2. An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase)
3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day law
4. Payment for "dead work" (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)
5. Weight-checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)
6. The right to use any store, and choose their boarding houses and doctors
7. Strict enforcement of Colorado's laws (such as mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the dreaded company guard system

The major coal companies rejected the demands and in September 1913, the UMWA called a strike. Those who went on strike were promptly evicted from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages prepared by the UMWA, with tents built on wood platforms and furnished with cast iron stoves on land leased by the union in preparation for a strike.

In leasing the tent village sites, the union had strategically selected locations near the mouths of the canyons, which led to the coal camps for the purpose of monitoring traffic and harassing replacement workers.[citation needed] Confrontations between striking miners and replacement workers, referred to as "scabs" by the union, often got out of control, resulting in deaths. The company hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to help break the strike by protecting the replacement workers and otherwise making life difficult for the strikers.

Baldwin-Felts had a reputation for aggressive strike breaking. Agents shone searchlights on the tent villages at night and randomly fired into the tents, occasionally killing and maiming people. They used an improvised armored car, mounted with a machine gun that the union called the "Death Special," to patrol the camp's perimeters. The steel-covered car was built in the CF&I plant in Pueblo from the chassis of a large touring sedan. Because of frequent sniping on the tent colonies, miners dug protective pits beneath the tents where they and their families could seek shelter.

On October 28, as strike-related violence mounted, Colorado governor Elias M. Ammons, called in the Colorado National Guard. At first, the guard's appearance calmed the situation. But the sympathies of the militia leaders were quickly seen by the strikers to lie with company management. Guard Adjutant General John Chase had served during the violent Cripple Creek strike 10 years earlier, and imposed a harsh regime in Ludlow. On March 10, 1914, the body of a replacement worker was found on the railroad tracks near Forbes. The National Guard believed that the man had been murdered by the strikers. Chase ordered the Forbes tent colony destroyed in retaliation. The attack was carried out while the Forbes colony inhabitants were attending a funeral of infants who had died a few days earlier. The attack was witnessed by a young photographer, Lou Dold, whose images of the destruction appear often in accounts of the strike.

The strikers persevered until the spring of 1914. By then, the state had run out of money to maintain the guard, and was forced to recall them. The governor and the mining companies, fearing a breakdown in order, left two guard units in southern Colorado and allowed the coal companies to finance a residual militia, which consisted largely of CF&I camp guards in National Guard uniforms.

The massacre

Cellar hole where women and children were trapped to death during the fire
Cellar hole where women and children were trapped to death during the fire
On the morning of April 20, the day after Easter was celebrated by the many Greek immigrants at Ludlow, three Guardsmen appeared at the camp ordering the release of a man they claimed was being held against his will. This request prompted the camp leader, Louis Tikas, to meet with a local militia commander at the train station in Ludlow village, a half mile (0.8 km) from the colony. While this meeting was progressing, two companies of militia installed a machine gun on a ridge near the camp and took a position along a rail route about half a mile south of Ludlow. Anticipating trouble, Tikas ran back to the camp. The miners, fearing for the safety of their families, set out to flank the militia positions. A firefight soon broke out.

The fighting raged for the entire day. The militia was reinforced by non-uniformed mine guards later in the afternoon. At dusk, a passing freight train stopped on the tracks in front of the Guards' machine gun placements, allowing many of the miners and their families to escape to an outcrop of hills to the east called the "Black Hills." By 7:00 p.m., the camp was in flames, and the militia descended on it and began to search and loot the camp. Louis Tikas, the Ludlow camp's main organizer, had remained in the camp the entire day and was still there when the fire started. Tikas and two other men were captured by the militia. Tikas and Lt. Karl Linderfelt, commander of one of two Guard companies, had confronted each other several times in the previous months. While two militiamen held Tikas, Linderfelt broke a rifle butt over his head. Tikas and the other two captured miners were later found shot dead. Their bodies lay along the Colorado and Southern tracks for three days in full view of passing trains. The militia officers refused to allow them to be moved until a local of a railway union demanded the bodies be taken away for burial.

During the battle, four women and eleven children had been hiding in a pit beneath one tent, where they were trapped when the tent above them was set on fire. Two of the women and all of the children suffocated. These deaths became a rallying cry for the UMWA, who called the incident the "Ludlow Massacre."

In addition to the fire victims, Louis Tikas and the other men who were shot to death, three company guards and one militiaman were also killed in that day's fighting.

Aftermath

In response to the Ludlow massacre, the leaders of organized labor in Colorado issued a call to arms, urging union members to acquire "all the arms and ammunition legally available," and a large-scale guerrilla war ensued, lasting ten days. In Trinidad, Colorado, UMW officials openly distributed arms and ammunition to strikers at union headquarters. Believing their women and children to have been "wantonly slaughtered" by the militia, 700 to 1,000 inflamed strikers "attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to the buildings." At least fifty people, including those at Ludlow, were killed in ten days of fighting against mine guards and hundreds of militia reinforcements rushed back into the strike zone. The fighting ended only when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops.

This conflict, called the Colorado Coalfield War, was the most violent labor conflict in U.S. history; the reported death toll ranged from 69 in the Colorado government report, to 199 in the investigation ordered by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Governor Ammons sent a plea to President Wilson, who dispatched federal troops to restore order. They disarmed both sides (displacing, and often arresting, the militia in the process) and reported directly to Washington.

The UMWA finally ran out of money, and called off the strike on December 10, 1914.

In the end, the strikers failed to obtain their demands, the union did not obtain recognition, and many striking workers were replaced by new workers. Over 400 strikers were arrested, 332 of whom were indicted for murder. Only one man, John Lawson, leader of the strike, was convicted of murder, and that verdict was eventually overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court. Twenty-two National Guardsmen, including 10 officers, were court-martialed. All were acquitted, except Lt. Linderfelt, who was found guilty of assault for his attack on Louis Tikas. However, he was given only a light reprimand.

Legacy

Coffins are marched through Trinidad, Colorado, at the funeral for victims of the Ludlow massacre.
Coffins are marched through Trinidad, Colorado, at the funeral for victims of the Ludlow massacre.
Although the UMWA failed to win recognition by the company, the strike had a lasting impact both on conditions at the Colorado mines and on labor relations nationally. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. engaged labor relations experts, and future Canadian Prime Minister, W. L. Mackenzie King to help him develop reforms for the mines and towns, which included paved roads and recreational facilities, as well as worker representation on committees dealing with working conditions, safety, health, and recreation. There was to be no discrimination of workers who had belonged to unions, and the establishment of a company union. The Rockefeller plan was accepted by the miners in a vote.

A United States Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR), headed by labor lawyer and Democratic activist Frank Walsh, conducted hearings in Washington, collecting information and taking testimony from all the principals, including Rockefeller. The commission's 1,200 page report suggested many reforms sought by the unions, and provided support for bills establishing a national eight-hour work day and a ban on child labor.

The UMWA eventually bought the site of the Ludlow tent colony in 1916. Two years later, they erected the Ludlow Monument to commemorate those who had died during the strike. The monument was damaged in May 2003 by unknown vandals. The repaired monument was unveiled on June 5, 2005 with slightly altered faces on the statues.

Popular American folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote the song "Ludlow Massacre" about the events. The incident is also mentioned by name in the song "Bread and Roses" by folk singer Jon Sirkis, from his album, "Songs for Kelly".

The last survivor of the Ludlow Massacre, Mary Benich-McCleary, died of a stroke at the age of 94 on June 28, 2007. She was 18 months old when the massacre occurred. McCleary's parents and her two brothers narrowly escaped death when the conductor of the train that brought the militia to the tent colony stopped the train to shield the family and others trying to flee. But Mary had been left behind. A 16-year-old boy heard Mary Benich's screams and gathered her up into his coat and then ran into the woods. Mary and the boy were found several days later, still hiding. McCleary's daughter said family members didn't speak of the massacre.

Victims of the massacre

The following individuals died in the massacre and are listed on the Ludlow Monument:

* John Bartolotti. Age: 45 Yrs.
* Charlie Costa. Age: 31 Yrs.
* Fedelina Costa. Age: 27 Yrs.
* Lucy Costa. Age: 4 Yrs.
* Onafrio Costa. Age: 6 Yrs.
* James Fyler. Age: 43 Yrs.
* Cloriva Pedregone. Age: 4 Yrs.
* Rodgerlo Pedregone. Age: 6 Yrs.
* Frank Petrucci. Age: 4 Mo.
* Joe Petrucci. Age: 4½ Yrs.
* Lucy Petrucci. Age: 2½ Yrs.
* Frank Rubino. Age: 23 Yrs.
* William Snyder Jr.. Age: 11 Yrs.
* Louis Tikas. Age: 30 Yrs.
* Eulala Valdez. Age: 8 Yrs.
* Elvira Valdez. Age: 3 Mo.
* Mary Valdez. Age: 7 Yrs.
* Patria Valdez. Age: 37 Yrs.
It was early springtime when the strike was on,
They drove us miners out of doors,
Out from the houses that the Company owned,
We moved into tents up at old Ludlow.

I was worried bad about my children,
Soldiers guarding the railroad bridge,
Every once in a while a bullet would fly,
Kick up gravel under my feet.

We were so afraid you would kill our children,
We dug us a cave that was seven foot deep,
Carried our young ones and pregnant women
Down inside the cave to sleep.

That very night your soldiers waited,
Until all us miners were asleep,
You snuck around our little tent town,
Soaked our tents with your kerosene.

You struck a match and in the blaze that started,
You pulled the triggers of your gatling guns,
I made a run for the children but the fire wall stopped me
Thirteen children died from your guns.

I carried my blanket to a wire fence corner,
Watched the fire till the blaze died down,
I helped some people drag their belongings,
While your bullets killed us all around.

I never will forget the look on the faces
Of the men and women that awful day,
When we stood around to preach their funerals,
And lay the corpses of the dead away.

We told the Colorado Governor to call the President,
Tell him to call off his National Guard,
But the National Guard belonged to the Governor,
So he didn't try so very hard.

Our women from Trinidad they hauled some potatoes,
Up to Walsenburg in a little cart,
They sold their potatoes and brought some guns back,
And they put a gun in every hand.

The state soldiers jumped us in a wire fence corners,
They did not know we had these guns,
And the Red-neck Miners mowed down these troopers,
You should have seen those poor boys run.

We took some cement and walled that cave up,
Where you killed these thirteen children inside,
I said, "God bless the Mine Workers' Union"
And then I hung my head and cried.

inviata da Marcia Rosati - 5/10/2007 - 18:33



Lingua: Italiano

Versione italiana di Riccardo Venturi
10 ottobre 2007
Con alcuni interventi di Franco Senia

Il massacro di Ludlow
Da it.wikipedia

Il Massacro di Ludlow (Colorado) avvenne il 20 aprile 1914, a seguito della feroce repressione degli scioperi dei minatori da parte delle guardie private dei proprietari delle miniere, guidati dalla Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (della famiglia Rockefeller). Furono uccise almeno venti persone, fra cui dodici fra donne e bambini. Esso fu il momento più tragico della lotta dei minatori, che coinvolse fino a dodicimila lavoratori e durò dall'autunno del 1913 fino al dicembre 1914.

Le condizioni dei lavoratori nelle miniere del Colorado

La lotta dei minatori del Colorado del 1913-1914 si inserisce nel più ampio constesto delle lotte operaie degli Stati Uniti di inizio '900, una potenza in impetuosa crescita economica che attirava forza lavoro da tutto il mondo.

Il tasso di incidenti mortali nelle miniere del Colorado era circa il doppio della media nazionale; i minatori protestavano anche per il fatto che i muli della compagnia era trattati di gran lunga meglio dei lavoratori. Un aneddotto significativo riportava le prime parole di uno degli operatori delle miniere quando una di queste crollò: «I muli ne sono usciti?».

Lo sciopero

In conseguenza dello sciopero, le famiglie dei lavoratori erano state sloggiate dalle case dove abitavano, di proprietà delle compagnie minerarie, ed avevano messo su un accampamento su un terreno pubblico. I lavoratori in sciopero erano per la maggior parte greci, italiani, slavi e messicani.

In un attacco che parve freddamente preparato, le guardie private spararono sull'accampamento e poi gli diedero fuoco, uccidendo venti persone, di cui una dozzina fra donne e bambini. Indagini successive dimostrarono l'uso del kerosene per appiccare gli incendi. Sette delle vittime avevano meno di sei anni.

Il compito assegnato alla Baldwin Felts Detective Agency era stato specificatamente quello di sopprimere i minatori in sciopero. Allo scopo venne anche utilizzata un'automobile con su montata una migliagliatrice, chiamata la Death Special.

Il giorno del massacro, i minatori stavano celebrando la Pasqua greco-ortodossa. Alle dieci del mattino la milizia, guidata dal comandante Karl E. Lindenfelter, circondò il campo ed iniziò a sparare sulle tende.

Alcuni dei leader dello sciopero furono arrestati nei giorni successivi e giustiziati dalle guardie dei padroni delle miniere. Nessuno dei responsabili del massacro fu mai punito.

Il giornalista John Reed, inviato del Metropolitan Magazine, giunse in Colorado pochi giorni dopo il massacro. Di questa strage e dell'eco che suscitò fra i lavoratori e la popolazione Reed scrisse in un suo famoso articolo, La guerra del Colorado (1914).

Un monumento, eretto dalla UMWA (United Mine Workers of America), è oggi presente a Ludlow, Colorado, per ricordare le vittime di quel massacro.
LA STRAGE DI LUDLOW

Lo sciopero era in corso all'inizio della primavera,
noi minatori eravamo stati cacciati via
fuori dalle case di proprietà della Compagnia
e ce ne andammo nelle tende su alla vecchia Ludlow.

Ero preoccupato per i miei figli,
i soldati sorvegliavano il ponte della ferrovia.
Ogni tanto, all'improvviso volava una pallottola
e faceva schizzare la ghiaia sotto i piedi.

Avevamo così paura che uccideste i nostri figli
che scavammo una galleria profonda sette piedi,
ci portammo i bambini e le donne incinte
in quella galleria, per farli dormire.

Quella stessa notte i vostri soldati aspettarono
che tutti noi minatori fossimo addormentati,
vi infiltraste di soppiatto attorno alla nostra piccola tendopoli
e ci inzuppaste le tende col vostro kerosene

Accendeste un fiammifero, e al momento della fiammata
premeste il grilletto delle vostre mitragliatrici,
corsi per andare dai miei figli ma la muraglia di fuoco mi fermò,
tredici bambini morirono sotto il fuoco delle vostre armi.

Presi la mia coperta e andai in un angolo della recinzione
a guardare il fuoco finché le fiamme non si estinsero.
Aiutai della gente a portar via quel poco che avevano
mentre le vostre pallottole ci ammazzavano tutt'intorno.

Non dimenticherò mai lo sguardo sui volti
degli uomini e delle donne, quel giorno tremendo
in cui eravamo là a celebrare i loro funerali
e a seppellire i cadaveri di quelli che erano morti.

Chedemmo al governatore del Colorado di chiamare il Presidente
e di dirgli di ritirare la sua Guardia Nazionale,
ma la Guardia Nazionale apparteneva al Governatore
e così non ci provò nemmeno per finta.

Le nostre donne di Trinidad portatono delle patate
fino a Walsenburg su un carretto,
le vendettero e riportarono delle armi,
e misero un'arma in ogni mano.

I soldati dello stato ci spinsero in un angolo della recinzione,
non sapevano che avevamo quelle armi,
e i minatori del Colorado abbatterono quei soldati,
li avreste dovuti vedere come correvano quei poveri ragazzi.

Prendemmo del cemento e murammo quel sotterraneo
dove avete ammazzato quei tredici bambini.
Dissi: "Dio benedica l'Unione dei Minatori"
e poi chinai la testa e piansi.

10/10/2007 - 12:47


Di mestiere faccio il traduttore. Nulla di letterario o di artistico: traduco testi tecnici, legali e commerciali per una grande azienda che produce turbine, compressori e altri macchinari utilizzati nella produzione di energia elettrica e nell'industria petroliera e mineraria. Un operaio della traduzione, come qualcuno mi ha giustamente definito. Così, proprio ieri sera, mi è capitato di terminare la traduzione in inglese di alcune procedure di manutenzione per i compressori assiali in uso nelle miniere di Trinidad. Noiosissimi, come sempre; ma è il pane.

Quando si traducono testi ripetitivi e tediosi, è necessario far volare un po' la testa. Fissarsi su un particolare e sognare qualcosa; quella che può sembrare distrazione, aiuta invece a concentrarsi. Così mi vedevo Trinidad, immaginando che fosse l'isola caraibica che forma uno stato con Tobago. Mi vedevo palmizi, belle spiagge e magari anche belle ragazze atletiche. Tutto questo fino all'ultima parola; ma una volta spedito il lavoro, mi è preso un leggero dubbio. Ma dove diavolo sono le miniere, a Trinidad e Tobago? E dove lo avevo sentito già questo nome?

Trinidad. "Trinità". Non era per nulla un'isola caraibica. E', invece, una cittadina nello stato del Colorado. Non mi ero nemmeno accorto che nell'intestazione delle pagine da tradurre lo si diceva chiaramente: Trinidad Coal Plant, Colorado. Miniere. Ecco dove avevo sentito quel nome. Trinidad è a poche miglia da Ludlow. Altro che spiagge e belle ragazze. Stavo traducendo della roba per le miniere del massacro di Ludlow.

Riccardo Venturi - 10/10/2007 - 12:53



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