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The largest working class uprising in US history (and you’ve probably never even heard of it)

Saturday I received an email fundraising letter from former and hopefully future member of Congress, Alan Grayson of Florida. As readers of this blog know, I absolutely despise Republicans and about the best I can say about the Democrats is that I don’t hate them—I have almost no feelings about them whatsoever, although I always vote a straight Democratic ticket. But Alan Grayson is different and I like and admire him very much. He’s pretty much only slightly more of a Democrat than Vermont’s Bernie Sanders is (Sanders is an Independent/Socialist), and this is probably why I like him so much. Grayson’s about as far to the left as you can get and still be considered a Democrat.

In any case, in this weekend’s fundraising letter, reproduced here in full, Grayson tells the story of the “Battle of Blair Mountain,” the largest armed confrontation in the US since the Civil War. I was astonished to read about this. For one, I’d never even heard of it. Two, this happened in West Virginia, the state where I was born and raised. Every 8th grader—at least when I was in school, but I would imagine that this would still be the case—has to take a full year of “West Virginia History.” How was something like this basically erased from the history books, even on a local level like that?

What we are taught is “American history” is BUNK when things like the Battle of Blair Mountain are left out!

From Alan Grayson’s email:

This weekend marks the anniversary of the most brutal confrontation in the history of the American labor movement, the Battle of Blair Mountain. For one week during 1921, armed, striking coal miners battled scabs, a private militia, police officers and the US Army. 100 people died, 1,000 were arrested, and one million shots were fired. It was the largest armed rebellion in America since the Civil War.

This is how it happened. In the Twenties, West Virginia coal miners lived in “company towns.” The mining companies owned all the property. They literally ran union organizers out of town - or killed them.

In 1912, in a strike at Paint Creek, the mining company forced the striking miners and their families out of their homes, to live in tents. Then they sent armed goons into that tent city, and opened fire on men, women and children there with a machine gun.

By 1920, the United Mine Workers had organized the northern mines in West Virginia, but they were barred from the southern mines. When southern miners tried to join the union, they were fired and evicted. To show who was boss, one mining company tried to place machine guns on the roofs of buildings in town.

In Matewan, when the coal company goons came to town to take it upon themselves to enforce eviction notices, the mayor and the sheriff asked them to leave. The goons refused. Incredibly, the goons tried to arrest the sheriff, Sheriff Hatfield. Shots were fired, and the mayor and nine others were killed. But the company goons had to flee.

The government sided with the coal companies, and put Sheriff Hatfield on trial for murder. The jury acquitted him. Then they put the sheriff on trial for supposedly dynamiting a non-union mine. As the sheriff walked up the courthouse steps to stand trial again, unarmed, company goons shot him in cold blood. In front of his wife.

This led to open confrontations between miners on one hand, and police and company goons on the other. 13,000 armed miners assembled, and marched on the southern mines in Logan and Mingo Counties. They confronted a private militia of 2,000, hired by the coal companies.

President Harding was informed. He threatened to send in troops and even bombers to break the union. Many miners turned back, but then company goons started killing unarmed union men, and some armed miners pushed on. The militia attacked armed miners, and the coal companies hired airplanes to drop bombs on them. The US Army Air Force, as it was known then, observed the miners’ positions from overhead, and passed that information on to the coal companies.

The miners actually broke through the militia’s defensive perimeter, but after five days, the US Army intervened, and the miners stood down. By that time, 100 people were dead. Almost a thousand miners then were indicted for murder and treason. No one on the side of the coal companies was ever held accountable.

The Battle of Blair Mountain showed that the miners could not defeat the coal companies and the government in battle. But then something interesting happened: the miners defeated the coal companies and the government at the ballot box. In 1925, convicted miners were paroled. In 1932, Democrats won both the State House and the White House. In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act. Eleven years after the Battle of Blair Mountain, the United Mine Workers organized the southern coal fields in West Virginia.

The Battle of Blair Mountain did not have a happy ending for Sheriff Hatfield, or his wife, or the 100 men, women and children who died, or the hundreds who were injured, or the thousands who lost their jobs. But it did have a happy ending for the right to organize, and the middle class, and America.

Now let me ask you one thing: had you ever heard of this landmark event in American history, the Battle of Blair Mountain, before you read this? And if not, then why not? Think about that.


Alan Grayson

Makes you wonder what would Christian “historian” David Barton and the “Tea party patriot” set make of this? How would they even get their heads around it?

Donate to Alan Grayson’s political campaign here.

The Battle of Blair Mountain by Chris Hedges

The Battle of Blair Mountain, Round Two (Mother Jones)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The 99% for Dummies: The GOP must think its base are complete idiots

I posted about longtime Republican strategist Frank Luntz and the rhetorical tips he gave to GOP governors the other day (say “economic freedom” instead of “capitalism,” for instance) but until I heard Ed Schultz mocking it on his MSNBC program, it didn’t really jump out at me how incredibly offensive and insulting Luntz’s OWS talking points truly were… for Republicans!

It’s long been obvious that the GOP leadership in Washington has had a condescending attitude towards the loonier/lower IQ members of the party’s Fox News-watching base, but when you get right down to it, reading between the lines of what Luntz said, the Republican elite must hold them in utter contempt. The entire context of the remarks Frank Luntz made indicates strongly that there is an a priori assumption on the part of the GOP that their supporters fall into the category of “low information voters.” That’s breathtaking in its cynicism!

“Hey dumbshits!” they seem to be saying.“Vote for us!”

When will these people learn? Or are these tactics, once so effective, becoming too threadbare to matter much anymore?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Alan Grayson: A Democrat with guts is back in the race
01:59 pm

Current Events

Alan Grayson

Alan Grayson is running for the Florida congressional seat he lost and I’m thrilled. He’s one of the very few Democrats left who has the guts to really take it to the Republicans. I’ve always admired his fearlessness and plain spoken bluntness. Losing his last election doesn’t seem to have diminished his passion for confronting the lies and duplicity being spun by both parties.

For the 70% of all homeowners in Orlando who owe more than they own on their home, and the 25% nationwide who are “underwater,” and feel like they are drowning, I’m in. For the six million Americans who haven’t worked in six months and are seeing their benefits running out, for the eight million more who are unemployed, and for the eight million on top of that who can find only part-time work, I’m in. For the millions of parents who have absolutely no idea how to pay for a college education for their children, I’m in. And for everyone who is appalled by the prospect that we may cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as we spend more than $150 billion a year on three unnecessary wars and almost $100 billion a year on the Bush tax cuts for the rich, I’m in.

If for no other reason, I love Grayson because he’s an unfashionably idealistic peacenik at a time when no one seems willing to give peace a chance or even talk about it. He also wins points with me for quoting John Lennon.

Imagine if we had decided after 9/11 to wean ourselves off oil and other carbon-based fuels. We’d be ten years into that project by now.

Imagine if George W. Bush had somehow been able to summon the moral strength of Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, or Martin Luther King Jr, and committed the American people to the pursuit of a common goal of a transformed society, a society which meets our own human needs rather than declaring “war” on an emotion, or, as John Quincy Adams put it, going “abroad, in search of monsters to destroy”.


Imagine that we chose not to enslave ourselves to a massive military state whose stated goal is “stability” in countries that never have been “stable”, and never will be.


“Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”

You can contribute to his campaign here. I’m in.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Progressive hero Rep. Alan Grayson exits swinging at both parties
02:39 pm

Current Events

Alan Grayson

I must say how very, very sorry I am to see Alan Grayson leaving Congress. He’s a true progressive hero and I do hope we’ll still be seeing a lot of him in the future. Judging from the sentiments he offered The New York Times in this fiery “exit interview.” I don’t suspect Grayson’s planning to go quietly. Let’s hope not, this country needs more—many more—like him. It’s inspiring to read such clear-headed thoughts coming from a Democrat:

During the long conversation, Mr. Grayson, a 52-year-old father of five, faulted Democrats for failing to deliver for some of their most potent constituencies, among them labor unions and antiwar voters.

“What did the environmentalists see over the last two years?” he asked. “A proposed monumental increase in subsidies for nuclear power industry and offshore drilling.”

As for gay voters, he said: “What they got to see was a judge order that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ no longer be enforced and a Democratic president appeal that decision. That is what that constituency saw before Nov. 2.” (The law was repealed in the final hours of the 111th Congress.)

By Election Day, Democratic voters in many districts felt that they had no real choice, Mr. Grayson said.

“If you want people to support you, then you have to support them,” he said. “You have to think long about what you did for people who voted for you, made phone calls for you, who went door to door for you.”

Mr. Grayson, of course, finds much to like within the Democratic Party. He offered a glowing assessment of the departing speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi of California, giving her an A “without reservation.”

And he considers the political right to be intolerable. He called the Republicans “a hopeless sellout party that will never do anything constructive for ordinary people in this country.”

“I don’t have to speculate about it anymore,” he said. “I worked with them for two years.”

If the execs at CNN have a brain cell amongst them, they will sign Grayson up for his own talk show before MSNBC does!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Alan Grayson explains why tax cuts for the rich are so IMPORTANT to right-wing pundits on FOX News
09:55 pm


Alan Grayson

I’ll be so sad to see Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) go, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of him. Grayson is one of the few Democrats to show any kind of a spine against the GOP. He’s practically the only Democrat to say the worlds “class war” because he’s not a pussy and he doesn’t mince words. This clip, of Grayson comically flaying the millionaires on Fox News shilling for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts, is Grayson at his straight-talking best. After all, if something saved you six or even seven figures in taxes, you’d probably be for it, too…

They want tax cuts for the rich because they want a tax cut for themselves. What do I mean by that? Let’s take a look at the people who are really in charge, the ones who actually run the Republican party.

Let’s start with this gentleman here, the man with the cigar, Rush Limbaugh. Doesn’t he look happy? According according to Newsweek, he makes $58.7 million a year, and extending the tax cuts means he’ll have another $2.7 million. Mega dittos, Rush, and mega money. Let’s look at the next one.

Here’s Glenn Beck, according to Newsweek Glenn Beck makes $33 million a year as a pundit and extending the Bush Tax Cuts means a cool $1.5 million for Glenn bBeck’s ongoing imitation of Howard Beale from Network. Now let’s look at the next one.

Sean Hannity. Newsweek says that Sean Hannity, this man of the people makes $22 million a year from his act on Fox. And that means the Bush Tax cuts mean an extra $1 million. $1 million for Sean Hannity. Maybe he can afford some anger management classes. Let’s take a look at the next one.

Bill O’Reilly. He makes a modest $20 million a year from his gig on Fox. That means that the Bush tax cuts give him not quite seven figures, nearly $914,000 of extra cash. It’s easy to see why Bill O’Reilly wants to see the Bush tax cuts extended. And I have to say, he’s no pinhead when it comes to that.

And Now, Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin has made $14 million this year from cashing in on her fame. In fact, she’s done a better job of turning fame into cash than anyone in American history. $14 million. So she wants the Bush tax cuts extended so she can make an extra cool $638,000. As she was—as she would gesture (shoulder shrug.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Representative Alan Grayson Blasts The Supreme Court

Calling yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized the corporate bribery of politicians its most irresponsible since Dred Scott, Florida Representative Alan Grayson vented yesterday with Keith Olbermann (see below).

President Obama’s response was no less critical, calling it ?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
No Apologies for the Truth: Rep. Alan Grayson Cedes No Ground to the Republicans
03:45 pm


Alan Grayson

I love this guy! Keep it up Congressman Grayson!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment