Monday, August 3, 2009

History in Photos: Class War in Michigan

Michigan, U.S. state in the northern Midwest, is full of class struggle history. There is hardly a battle in the class struggle which did not rage in Michigan’s countryside or industrial cities.

Michigan is the birthplace of the Automobile, and the home of Henry Ford. In the 1920s, the slogan “Ford has Refuted Marx” was raised, claiming that Henry Fords assembly lines and industrial methods made Marxist theories about the decline of capitalism obsolete. However, Michigan soon became the center of the battle between the workers and the capitalists who employ them that Marx spoke of.

In 1932, unemployed workers were gunned down by Henry Ford’s private security when they protested outside his Mansion.

In 1936-37 sit down strikes raged across the state and eventually the country, where workers occupied their place of employment in order to demand union recognition, higher wages, and better conditions. The strikes were largely successful, and the right to organize the United Auto Workers was won.

In opposition to the movements for change, the capitalists of Detroit such as Henry Ford formed groups of thugs to attack workers and organizers. One such gang was called the Black Legion. Among their victims were Communists, People of Color, Feminists, Trade Union Organizers, and the Father of Malcolm X.

Charles E. Coughlin a catholic priest who gave pro-Nazi and anti-communist sermons on the radio was also based in Michigan.

During World War Two, many people of color moved to Detroit and other parts of Michigan to be employed. In 1943, a fight broke out over whether or not Blacks were allowed to be visit Belle Isle, a public park in Detroit. This became known as the “Detroit Race Riot of 1943.”

In 1967, in response to the massive racism, poverty, and discrimination felt by many Black People, a rebellion erupted. The government soon sent in the national guard, which put the rebellion down, and executed several black men are Algiers Motel outside of Detroit.

The Ku Klux Klan was driven out of Detroit when it attempted to hold an anti-busing march in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, many black auto-workers felt that the Union discriminated against them, so they formed the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and eventually the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

In the 1980s, autoplants began to close. In response, protests led under the slogan “A Job Is A Right” were held across the state. Film-maker Michael Moore launched his career with a documentary “Roger and Me” which skewered the owners of General Motors for their betrayal of the residents of Flint.

In 1995 workers at the Detroit Free Press went on strike and fought the police as they prevented the Sunday edition of the newspaper from being distributed.

Currently, Michigan is the center of the struggle to halt foreclosures and evictions as the “Moratorium Now!” coalition protests around this demand.

A mass economic organization called the “People's Summit” has been formed to fight for economic justice. It is centered in Detroit, Michigan.

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