Robbers Barons and Rebels
To begin with, it should be mentioned that Chapter 11 of Zinns book has a quite intriguing title and makes the reader interested in the content even before getting the main idea. However, being the last chapter of the first part of the book, it will more likely cover the events that distinguished the end of the nineteenth century in America. Among such events, the rise of the railroads and banks, their transformation into the dominant national institutions, the rise of corruption and a number of movements against it were the most distinguishing.
From the very beginning, the author sums up the further material. He tells the readers that the chapter is going to focus on the events that took place after 1877. Racism, sexism and suppression of the white strikes led the society to live according to the specific pyramid of wealth with the elite on the top and the black Americans and other immigrants at the bottom. However, it was not the only important factor that marked this period. After the civil war, the industrialization of almost all spheres took place. A great amount of new inventions and different machines caused a large flow of the immigrants cheap force to all industries. All these facts became a great advantage for the members of the elite, who could get many profits in the existing situation. In such a way, the corporations were developed. However, greed and corruption were the characteristics that accompanied it. With the development of different industries, the railroads and banks rose greatly. The governmental position can be characterized as oriented to the business-friendly policies. Zinn describes how such well-known businessmen as John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie launched their business, bought and sold stocks and bonds and earned great money. The government benefited much from the industries, too. Though it pretended to be neutral and independent, in reality, it served the interests of the rich. The interesting fact is that at the elections of 1877, the Democrats and Republicans were so obviously interested only in supporting the upper class that their platforms were similar. As a result, the gossips and personal lives became the central interest for the journalists. Actually, this tendency seems to be relevant till nowadays. Although much time has passed, personal life of politics interests people not less than their election campaign. Among numerous examples of the politicians orientation, one can find Clevelands bill aimed to aid farmers, Harrisons Sherman Anti-Trust Act and other. It is important to mark out the role of the Supreme Court in such country development. It appeared to be the guardian of a dollar and simultaneously of the banks, railroads and industrial development.
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At this period of the upper class ruling and cheap labor of immigrants and black workers, the control over population and limitations of strikes had to be held not only with the help of laws. The uncontended population that was concentrated in the cities and became the basis for the wealth pyramid could rebel. Therefore, education became the new force that would keep them working. The public education system created at that time was aimed to teach the labor class that their position in the society was right and fair. Creation of the obedient working class was the main aim of the public education. Another aim of the educational system in America was to unify the ethnic groups in the society as their existence contributed to the working class fragmentation. The superiority of the rich was imposed to the poor by means of popular literature, schools, church, etc. At the same time, it was widely known that being poor is a personal failure, not the fault of the government or laws that support the upper classes. Therefore, a well-known American Dream was originated in the end of the 19th century and taught people that everyone had a possibility to become rich if they put more efforts. In reality, the education should have better taught people how to become successful in a system that was aimed to keep them on the lower level and unsuccessful. To some extent, the modern schools follow the same purposes. They teach children to be obedient to the authority by raising hand, knowing their seats, not stand out on the background of other students. The standardized tests are also evidence of how the development of creativity and talents is suppressed. The rich saw that education provided the opportunity to control people. Donations to build Vanderbilt, Stanford Cornell or Duke were not the goodwill gesture, but the way to reinforce the mentality and preserve their rich position.
Nevertheless, the self-educated working class people rose against this system. The literature of protest and dissent began to appear more and more often. Among the most famous writers, who supported the idea to fight against the class injustice, poverty and achieve equality for all Americans, was Henry George. It is important to emphasize the idea that he presented in his Progress and Poverty that monopolization of the land is one of the biggest problems of inequality. Consequently, the tax on land would solve the class problem and equalize the national wealth. The number of strikes all over the country was great. People united into groups and resisted the system in different ways regardless their failures to win. The rise of the rebelling spirit of the nation was marked out in 1877 with the appearance of the Socialist Labor Party. At that time, more revolutionary writers and thinkers have appeared. A sizable strike took place in Carnegie Steel Plant in 1982. In 1883, in Pittsburg, the anarchist congress took place. Afterwards, in May of 1886, a nationwide strike was organized. The gathering of workers on the Haymarket Square that took place on May, 4, was finished with the victims of both sides the policemen and protesters. In addition, people were arrested without any evidences of their guilt, and in a year, four of them were hanged. The cruelty and injustice were unbelievable for a civilized society. Although the radical movement was suppressed for some time, the anger of people increased and was kept in the young generation and manifested later.
The year of 1893 in America is strongly associated with the beginning of the great economic crisis. Sixteen thousand businesses and 642 banks were closed as a result of the previous events. Mass demonstrations took place all over the country. A nationwide strike held by railroad workers started the Pullman Company in 1894 made the name of a socialist Eugene Debs. In 1894, he actively participated in forming the American Railway Union that was one of the biggest at that time. That union was the central in organizing the strike in Chicago. Pullman Company was a great producer of cars including trains that were used nationwide. As a result, the strike of the railroad workers led to the immobilization of all the rail traffic. Burning cars, crushing, fighting, and killing were held in great ranges. Although the strike was crushed, it has inspired the further fight for equality. After all, Eugene Debs became well-known for his activism and unification of workers into the Industrial Worker of the World Group. His words that people should resist not to become the slaves of the system pushed people to defend their rights long after that strike.
The strikes of workers became more and more organized with each year. Among the agrarian unions, the Farmers Alliance (Populist Movement) has appeared. The main reasons for its organization were the raise of population that demanded more food and industrialization of the agricultural sphere that did not call for the decent wages to workers. The loans that farmers took in the banks made the difficult living even worse. A number of ideas offered by Charles Macune, Lawrence Goodwin and some governmental policies have finally led to a great amount of manipulations and hatred between the races. The Populist Party appeared to be the defender of the farmers rights, the Democratic Party was the one that advocated racism and the Republican Party appeared to be the party of the black farmers. In the current situation, the society was obviously fragmented, manipulated and easily deceived.
To sum it up, the two key movements that existed in the American society of the end of the nineteenth century were Alliance Farmers Movement and the Radical Labor Movement. The aims that they should have persecuted were cooperation, respect and equality between all members of the society. However, the racial segregation can be regarded as one of the main factors that split them apart.