Harlan County, U.S.A.

This is the only thing I can think of that can even begin to put what we’re seeing on the ground into context:

Obviously, we’re not seeing people pulling guns out of bras or activists like Lawrence Jones killed, but the central lesson applies, namely that corporations and their defenders have always used violence when they fear a social reform enough. There are differences in severity, of course–the tea party organizers are putting together hecklers who they should damn well know will turn violent, whereas Duke Energy used straight-up hired gunmen–but if the stakes are high enough, people will start carrying.

But in any case, I know what I’m raiding Videostop for this weekend.

5 thoughts on “Harlan County, U.S.A.

  1. Actually, the insurance companies are behind the more mainstream bills:
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_33/b4143034820260.htm?chan=magazine+channel_top+stories
    What’s happening on the ground is populist in origin and not that unusual, TPM notwithstanding. In fact, much of the out-and-out violence is being caused by those how oppose the Tea Party protests.
    http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=23257
    Yeah, that’s right. A black guy got called racial slurs and assaulted just for handing out “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. Who are the real brownshirts here?

  2. I never said the right had a monopoly on violence. A few Harlan miners packed heat as well. But there isn’t a organized spree of riots akin to what’s happening on the right.
    As for insurance companies, they’re certainly on the ground opposing the tricommittee bill as it currently stands, a bill which seems quite “mainstream” to me.

  3. This movie is AMAZING. Princeton for Workers Rights held a screening in the spring, and the professor I work for as a research assistant, who does labor history, did an intro/Q&A about it. It was all around awesome.

  4. There is something distinctly different about the “riots” at town hall meetings and the violence that occurs on a coal picket line.
    It’d be almost as vulgar to compare either of the two to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGWyocWrdBo
    The main differences are spatial. The joining of a union in America is an intensely local thing. One workplace at a time is unionized. In contrast, the health care clashes are federal in character and the involved parties must have a much broader imagination of solidarity in order for violence of any magnitude to erupt. Most of that imagination on the part of the town hall protestors comes directly from television.
    Also, there is a temporal distance between the two. On the ever increasing slope of bourgeois/suburban architectural hegemony as a measure of cultural sophistication, Appalachian coalfields did and still do lag far behind the rest of the nation (but that certainly changing: see efforts to build strip malls on former mountaintop removal mines and see also “up the ridge” documentary at http://appalshop.org/h2h/film/) Contrast the architecture of the coal shanty with the entirely suburban architecture of the two videos you posted and then imagine the current architecture of coal fields (coal shanties with fancy vinyl siding) and perhaps you’ll see what I mean.
    I don’t mean to pick bones, but the idea that the miners would feel some sort of solidarity for Obama’s health plan just because they were in a specific locus of the capital vs. labor battle is presumptive at best and probably more along the lines of fantastical.
    Not to mention the important distinction between the possibility of agency on the part of hired gunmen, specifically national guardsmen who were deployed to wva coalfields in the twenties in relation to the relatively liberal agency on the part of the contemporary town hall protestors.
    which makes me think much more along the lines of fascism than liberal statist repression, particularly since the class interests in the harlan case (and in many other coal labor conflicts) are something like: unionizing miners vs. state structure subordinated to industry interests; whereas in the contemporary case you have something more like: bourgeois reformist state representative allied with poor and desolate vs. middle class populists somewhat inspired by corporate interests but in no way subjugated to them.

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