Sunday, October 23, 2011

1911 vs 2011 - What a Difference a100 Years Make

In 1911 Soapbox Militants, the “Wobblies,” engaged in free speech campaigning against corruption.

In 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and by extension Occupy Redding engages in free speech campaigning against corruption.

Both were nonhierarchical, egalitarian, consensus-driven process. The purest kind of democracy exercised in free speech. Both organizations envisioned a better world for all, not just a few.

They are one hundred years apart, but here is how close they are in their thinking and planning.

On their freedom march 112 men, called Wobblies of the International Workers of the World, started in Seattle, WA., were determined to participate in the Fresno Free Speech Campaign on Feb. 13, 1911. Towns could prevent free speech and the right to peaceably asemble during this time. The Wobblies were standing together to claim these basic human rights. They organized themselves, had a secretary of treasure, a committee to find out the times they could hop trains, a cook with assistants, a policing system and, most importantly, a medical corps.

The railroad dumped them in Ashland, OR. Organized from there, the Wobblies walked in winter 244-miles in in 3-foot of snow over the Siskiyou Mountains at 4,000 elevation. In Weed, CA., they were picked up by a theatrical company and supplied with coffee and sandwiches. In Redding, May Roberts, owner of the theatrical team, donated $15 to their “Jungle Fund,” which was the money and supplies given to the men. “Hobo Jungles” were camping sites known to workers-on-the-move where they could sleep, cook, and find hidden cooking utensils in Redding. They also met a “mother hostess,” Mrs. Clime Schmidt of the Temple Hotel, who fed them all five meals and furnished most with a room for two nights. The Wobblies gained sympathy and further assistance from the citizens of Redding, who donated clothing and food to help them on their journey.

Once their march got them to Red Bluff, the men were met with hostility, less than 40 miles from Redding. What a difference a short distance makes. They marched on to Chico, but on March 5 the men learned the Fresno conference had won their fight and disbanded.

Now, let’s look at what the 2011 99ers are doing and how they are organized. They have a defacto-decision making body, who set up food, medical, planning, policing, sanitation, and media. They are now a worldwide movement with attorneys to handle their run-ins with the authorities. In our apathy during the past years, our free speech and right to peaceably assemble has come under attack, and OWS is here to regain it.

Looks like the old days to me: citizens wanting change and to help their fellow citizens.

Redding was visited by the 99ers a 100 years ago and the citizens of our town, especially, Mrs. Clime Schmidt of the Temple Hotel, treated the old 99ers, called the Wobblies then, with respect and assistance. So, can we expect the same kind of respect and treatment today, a 100 years later, for Occupy Redding? I hope so for all 99ers, because aside from a few, we’re all 99ers, whether you recognize it or not.