Plutocracy II: Solidarity Forever
Directed by Scott Noble (2016)
Plutocracy II (the sequel to Plutocracy) covers the resistance movements that arose in response to the brutal sweatshop conditions of US mines and factories in the late 19th century. Prior to the rise of the labor movement, most US workers earned starvation wages, as well as experiencing the highest rate of work place accidents and deaths in the developed world.
This documentary traces the rise of the Molly Maguires, the United Mine Workers, the Western Federation of Miners, the American Railway Workers Union (started by Eugene Debbs), the American Federation of Labor (which only represented white male skilled workers), the Peoples Party (aka the Populist Party), the Socialist Party, the International Workers of the World (IWW) and the progressive and anarchist movement.
Solidarity Forever also highlights the extreme violence used by industrialists and federal and state governments to suppress these movements. During this period, the Pinkerton’s guards (a private army hired by corporate elites), national guardsmen and even US troops openly shot and killed nonviolent strikers without fear of legal repercussions.
The parts of the film I found most interesting concerned the IWW and the anarchist movement. I was previously unaware of IWW’s strict code of nonviolence, despite the stark brutality they experienced at the hands of government authorities. I was also unaware of their role in empowering Mexicans, African Americans and women to assume lead organizing roles – nor that the IWW organized the highly successful (women’s) textile workers strike in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1912.
I was also intrigued to learn about a faction of the early anarchist movement that engaged in “Propaganda of the Deed,” planning and carrying out assassinations of industrialist, generals and politicians in the hope of inspiring mass insurrection.
I was previously unaware of the involvement of the early progressive movement (which had its origins in middle class Christianity) in the eugenics movement and Native American residential schools.