United States of America

1914: War in the US Coalfields

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This month marks the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre when US national guardsmen killed 20 striking miners and their families in Colorado. This is the story of one of the most violent episodes in American labour history.

On 20 April 1914 the US National Guard attacked a tent colony of striking miners at Ludlow in Southern Colorado. By the end of the day at least 20 strikers, their wives and children were dead. Thirteen had died in a pit dug underneath a tent where they were sheltering from the gunfire after the militiamen deliberately set fire to the tents.

US workers: from despair to victory

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After years of vicious repression, US workers rose in 1934 in a series of magnificent struggles, transforming the nation's industrial landscape.

John Newsinger reviews a new book about one of the most significant, that in Minneapolis.

In the aftermath of the First World War the US labour movement suffered a succession of crushing defeats that were to leave it on its knees throughout the 1920s. A countrywide "open shop" campaign saw union organisation broken, driven out of whole industries, and militants and activists sacked and blacklisted.

Thaddeus Stevens and the legacy of radical reconstruction

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Thaddeus Stevens may not be as famous as Abraham Lincoln, but he played a major role in defeating slavery in the US. Gary McFarlane tells the story of this radical Republican senator who pushed for a thoroughgoing transformation of the slave-owning south and for rights for ex-slaves

Not many people have heard of Thaddeus Stevens. If you've seen filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Lincoln you will be aware of his central role in the framing and passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banning slavery. Stevens has been played on film before, but as the villain.

Hagel faces up to contradictions in the US economy

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At the beginning of this month another major package of cuts was due to began taking its toll on the US economy.

Though it lacks some of the drama of the so-called "fiscal cliff" that caused so much Congressional chaos at the end of last year, this latest bout of fiscal tightening isn't lacking in severity. Unlike previous mandatory cuts packages, this "sequestration" of funds, originally put forward by President Obama in August 2011, is due to kick in gradually over the next ten years. This will involve budget cuts amounting to an eye-watering $1.2 trillion.

The legacy of Harvey Milk

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The story of gay activist Harvey Milk is one of the most inspiring episodes of in the fight for LGBT liberation

Although it is now over 35 years since Harvey Milk was elected as the first openly gay public official in the United States, winning a Supervisor (city council) seat in San Francisco, his life and politics still inspire many young LGBT people to come out and fight for equal rights.

Milk's early politics were certainly not that radical. He was an analyst at a high-powered financial institution, supported the Vietnam War and campaigned for the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 presidential election.

Why Obama won

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Obama won a second term as US president despite his record. Here US socialist Eric Fretz argues he benefitted from a shift to the left in US society. But what are the prospects for the growth of movements from below that challenge big business and the two-party system?

Four years ago Barack Obama won a historic victory during an economic downturn and widespread opposition to the Bush administration by running as the candidate of hope and change. This year Obama won re-election, in the face of a still bleak economy and widespread disappointment in his own administration, by not seeming as bad as his opponent. The Republicans wanted the election to be a referendum on Obama's first term. Noting the disappointment with "hope and change".

Proclaiming the end of slavery

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In September 1862 the conclusion of the Battle of Antietam led US president Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the end of slavery. On the 150th anniversary Camilla Royle looks back at this crucial turning point in the American Civil War

In 1864 Karl Marx wrote a letter on behalf of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln congratulating him on his re-election. In it he describes the American Civil War as initiating a new era of ascendancy for the working class. The Emancipation Proclamation issued on 22 September 1862 - in which Lincoln ordered the end of slavery - helped make this war one of the most significant periods of American history.

Is the American working class different?

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In this article from 1986, Duncan Hallas takes up the argument that the American working class has been historically immune to socialist ideas.

One of the most important developments over the last year has been the revival of radical movements in the US. The uprising in Wisconsin, the Occupy movement, the Oakland shutdown and now the protests over the killing of Trayvon Martin (see Jonathan Neale in this issue of Socialist Review) all point to a new mood. American workers have long presented an enigma for socialists.
Why has the most powerful working class in the world never been able to create even a mass Labour-type party (the Democratic Party has always been a purely capitalist party).

Hallas explains how the conditions of American capitalism initially acted to prevent the emergence of stable working class organisation and to limit the influence of socialist ideas, but argues this no longer applies.

The central question in discussing the American working class is why there is not, and has not been, a political labour movement of any significance in the United States. This is in spite of the fact that the US is today the major capitalist power in the world and has been, since the turn of the century, one of the two or three major capitalist powers.

There are a number of explanations put forward. The first set of arguments are what you might call the "sociological" arguments. They can all be found in letters which Engels wrote to various people in America in the 1880s.

Justice For Trayvon

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In late February George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. That much is not in dispute - Zimmerman and his lawyer admit it. It's a scandal, but not for the reasons most of the media are telling you.

Zimmerman is a neighbourhood watch "captain" in a gated community. Martin was a 17 year old African American wearing a hoodie and visiting relatives. Zimmerman thought maybe Trayvon Martin was a prowler. So he called 911 (the American 999) and followed Martin, talking to the 911 operative as he did so. On the tape of the call, Zimmerman says to the 911 dispatcher, "He looks [...pause...] black."

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