South Carolina Historical Perspectives

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Newt’s SuperPAC is in the process of creating a video about Bain Capital.  The Pink Flamingo thinks Bain Capital is fair game. If it were part of another candidate’s past, it would be.  You cannot understand the impact of such a video until you know a little background of labor difficulties in South Carolina.

There is a possibility that, if the video is aired in certain parts of South Carolina, it will have a serious impact on Mitt Romney’s campaign.   Unless you have met the people who had their lives destroyed by “Yankee” mill owners, you can’t possibly understand the impact of the video.  I have.  The counties were the mills were the most entrenched are the most GOP of the state.

To The Pink Flamingo this is neither a liberal or conservative issue.  It is about very real people, I have met.  I have gone to school with their grandchildren.  My parents were friends with their children.  I have heard their stories.  Please, don’t dismiss them as “union” verses “capitalism”.  It has nothing to do with that.  It is about a system that virtually enslaved the men and women who worked in it.  When they tried to better their lives, they were terrorized.  Some were shot on the spot, others were hunted down and murdered.

To truly understand the South Carolina textile-labor tale, one must get to know Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Shoeless Joe Jackson played in the Textile Leagues of South Carolina, as a virtual indentured person.  He spent much of his textile league time in Anderson, South Carolina.  He did not know how to read or write.  By the time he was six years old, he was working twelve hour shifts in the mills, getting script, instead of cash.   In fact, his name “Shoeless” was given to him while playing a game in Anderson. He made $2.50 for Saturday games.

His impoverished family were known as “lintheads”.  They could live in the company town, go to the company church, shop in the company store, and play for the company baseball team.  As late as the early 1970s, my mother was telling me she saw women she knew, refuse to allow their little darlings attend a birthday party because “lint-heads” were in attendance.   It was a life of virtual indenture.  If one protested, they were terrorized as in 1934.

“…Mill owners across the South responded to the strike by combining “armed self-defense with calls for military intervention.” (p. 332) The governor of South Carolina mobilized the National Guard, as did the governors of North Carolina and Georgia. Manufacturers also tried to undercut millhands’ unity by paying employees to cross the picket lines. At the national level, Franklin Roosevelt and his administration were slow to lend support to Southern workers. The President depended on the votes of conservative Southern Democrats in Congress to pass important New Deal legislation, and he could not afford to alienate them by confronting the textile manufacturers, many of whom were leaders of the Democratic party in the South.

Millhands and the United Textile Workers union were no match for those odds. After three weeks, workers began returning to the mills, forced to give up the strike by force and financial necessity. On September 22, the UTW called off the protest. Workers who had participated in the strike were often fired and evicted from mill villages after the General Strike ended. Many found themselves blacklisted and unable to find factory employment anywhere in the region.

“The General Strike, whatever else it may have been, was a moment in history that laid bare longings and antagonisms ordinarily silenced, distorted, or repressed. Cotton mill people in the 1930s may not have subscribed to an abstract, universalistic notion of class solidarity. If nothing else, deep racial divisions militated against such perceptions. But mill folk did see themselves as a people apart, exploited by men with interests opposed to their own and denied opportunities for progress that had seemed within their grasp. Their militancy sprang in part from a defense of traditional values and in part from a desire to exert control over their changing place in a new, more expansive world — and it must be understood on its own terms and in its own historical moment.” (p. 353)…”

Shoeless Joe, once he made it to the Majors, was always cognizant of the poverty of his family and their status as less than acceptable, socially.  When he was offered approximately $5000 he took it.  When Ted Williams, who was utterly against allowing Shoeless Joe into the Hall of Fame, watched the film about how people in the textile mills were treated, and the uprising of 1934, he became Shoeless Joe’s greatest advocate, spending the remainder of his life lobbying to get Shoeless Joe admitted to the Hall of Fame.

My mother had a friend in South Carolina named Margaret.  Her father worked in Seneca, at the mill there, the same one John Edwards father managed.  To understand why John Edwards was treated with derision in his home town one needs to understand the “Mill Hill” caste system.  His father was a manager.  He lived in a very nice house (I can show you exactly where it was).  He was not treated like the kids who went to “Utica U”, the school near the textile mill.

“Utica U”, even in the mid-1960s was a derogatory term, designed by kids who attended Northside and Southside (I went to Northside) to make fun of the “Mill Hill” kids who went to Utica.  The kids who had lived in Seneca all their lives treated the kids from Utica like dirt, absolute dirt.  They made fun of their parents.  They made fun of their jobs.  They learned to do so from their parents.

My mother’s friend Margaret’s father decided to organize one of the mills into a union. The day of the union vote, Margaret went to work with him.  She was so proud of her father, and the fact that he would be paid a decent wage.  The factory owner’s hired goons met them at the gates.  Her father was beaten to the point where he nearly died.  He was then taken across the road and put onto a train and told to leave Oconee County and South Carolina. (This would be during the late 1930s).  Maybe seven years old, Margaret cared for him until they reached Toccoa, Georgia.  She helped him off the train, and found family members to help him.

That day, he went into a shack there in Toccoa, where family members hid him.  He spent the next twenty-five years of his life inside that house, terrified to leave.  His sister would buy a few things in Seneca, then go to Westminster to get a few more things, not to arouse suspicion of the factory supervisor.  She would take them to Toccoa to keep the family from starving.

I met Margaret’s mother.  I heard the stories.  I heard Margaret tell how her father was in Honea Path the day the governor ordered the cops to open fire on the union organizers, murdering a number of them.  She suffered her entire life, from the stigma of what her father had tried to do.

In South Carolina, the film Newt’s SuperPAC is doing is going to be absolutely devastating to Mitt Romney.

“...Governor Blackwood of South Carolina took up this theme, announcing that he would deputize the state’s “mayors, sheriffs, peace officers and every good citizen” to maintain order, then called out the National Guard with orders to shoot to kill any picketers who tried to enter the mills. Governor Ehringhaus of North Carolina followed suit on September 5.

Millowners persuaded local authorities throughout the Piedmont to augment their forces by swearing in special deputies, often their own employees or local residents opposed to the strike; in other cases they simply hired private guards to police the areas around the plant. Violence between guards and picketers broke out almost immediately: in Trion, Georgia, a picketer and mill guard died in a shootout and guards killed two picketers in Augusta, Georgia on September 2. Six picketers were shot to death and more than twenty other picketers wounded, most shot in the back as they were fleeing the picketline, in Honea Path, South Carolina on September 6…”

If you don’t know South Carolina and the history of textile mills, union battles, Shoeless Joe, and the battles workers in these plants fought to be paid decently. In 1934 there was an uprising of textile workers in South Carolina. I know people who had parents whose lives were destroyed over this. You tap into this sentiment, the way Rick Perry was doing on Monday in Anderson, and it will be devastating to a Yankee Carpetbagger who cut over 200 jobs in Gaffney.

AMDOC

“…A pro-Gingrich Super PAC released a trailer late last night for a project former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney cannot be pleased about: a half-hour documentary about Romney’s time running Bain Capital, a venture company that bankrupted nearly a quarter of the businesses it bought-up.

Produced by a former top Romney strategist, the film “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” focuses on people turned out of their jobs at four of the many companies Bain Capital essentially looted, tapping into the popular discontentment with Wall Street to label Romney a “corporate raider.”

The pro-Gingrich PAC Winning Our Future placed a top-dollar bid on the 27-minute film after pro-Romney PACs essentially destroyed Gingrich’s chances in Iowa with a flood of negative advertising that blanketed the airwaves…”

If conservatives were on their game, they would begin asking why the liberal press is so darn in love with Mitt. I think I know the answer. The Dems think they have the perfect candidate.

“…Lost in the weekend’s back-to-back debates in New Hampshire was this illuminating remark by Democratic strategist Donna Brazile after Saturday night’s soporific contest in Manchester: “Mitt Romney won tonight because no one touched him. And for Democrats, you know what? It was good news for us . . . because we believe that the weakest candidate is the candidate that the Republicans are not attacking. And that’s Mitt Romney.”

The remark drew guffaws from some of the other assembled party faithful and media commentators, but Brazile spoke the truth. Democrats do believe that Romney is eminently beatable, the perfect foil for President Obama, in fact….”

The Dems are already sharpening their game plan against Romney. It centers around Bain.

Think Progress

From 1942 – Greenville:

“...I am writing you for my benefits of work I am working at Judson Mill Spinning Room I am laying up roping for the spinning room the job has stretched me out until I cant hardly make it to save my life it is awful the way we have to work in this spinning room and I work on saturday and I am sent out one day through the week to keep me from getting six days or 48 hours and time and half time for eight hours I have been working like this for over a year and I don’t think it is right and I would like to know what to do about it I need the job for I have to work to make a living I only had 104 frames to lay up roping on and they put in 30 more frames up in the old spinning room and have got 24 of them running now and I have to take roping up there for the 24 frames and the 104 frames downstairs is more than a job.

More than a year or two when C. M. was Boss Spinner some of us boys was sent out for two or 4 hours each day and had to go back in and finish working until stopping time to keep down the expense we was running our job in 4 and 6 hours which we should have had 8 hours for the job and this was not right so I hope you can till me what to do.

If you will send some one to my house I can tell you more than I can write but I don’t want my name mentioned to any of the mill officials for I would not have any job at all if they even knew I wrote to you but I guess others have wrote you many letters nor does Judson Mill pay the wages that the other mills pay for the same job but I know it is my privilege to go to another mill but I don’t want to change jobs because I might have to take another shift I go to work at 4 o’clock and quit at twelve at night.

It is hard for this mill to keep hands here for the way they treat them. I think it is awful and I have to work for I am poor. Of course some people would not tell you anything about this now way if you send a man to my house I will give him all the information he wants about the spinning room at Judson Mill some of the other hands would tell you if they was not afraid to talk see the hands and talk to them for they are afraid to say much but I am not afraid to tell you if you came to me about my work but I don’t want my name mentioned to them…”

Please, try to spin this with libertarian opportunism.

The real problem here is that conservatives are talking a good game.  They’re all for capitalism. So am I.  BUT, I also happen to be a Christian.  I cannot stomach this sort of capitalism.  It hurts everyone.  In fact, on May 15, 1891, Pope Leo XIII wrote that unbridled capitalism without principle, without the employer or “wealthy” owner treating those who work for him decently, will lead to the rise of socialism.

“…Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss.

The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character.

They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers – that is truly shameful and inhuman.

Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind.

Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings.

Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age.

His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just.

Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine.

To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”.

Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred.

Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?…”

This evening, at dinner, I was discussing this with my parents.  My father zoned in and out – it was that time of day when the Alzheimer’s kicks in.  My mother reminded me of the story of her friend Margaret.  Just discussing the story made her quite angry.  Like she said, what went on in South Carolina was not capitalism, it was more akin to modern, government sanctioned slavery.

In South Carolina, the town of Gaffney was the victim of Mitt Romney’s venture capital.  By the the time it was all over nearly 12,000 people in Gaffney were effected by the pursuit of pure capitalism.   Not only that, but Bain Capital basically rooked Cherokee County out of about $5 million in industrial bonds.

 

Gazette Net

Within several years of its closing, the operation had been moved to Mexico, where the employees are paid so little, their family members are required to venture across the border, illegally, in order to make enough money to supplement their income back in Mexico.

Burns of Boston

It looks like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital wasn’t so smart after all. (Company Documents)  Phillip Klein attempts to defend this by calling anyone who doesn’t approve of Mitt Romney’s version of capitalism – marxist.  Good luck that.  It is rather obvious, when exploring the history of this one company, after Bain Capital, that it did thrive, and is still thriving.  Perhaps Bain Capital was the problem – and their potential mismanagement.

“...Romney’s rivals are engaging in the type of Marxist rhetoric that we’re used to hearing from Occupy Wall Street protesters, promoting an imaginary view of capitalism that exists only in Hollywood.

In reality, capitalism is the most moral economic system ever conceived of, because it’s the only one that’s consistent with personal freedom. Investors such as Romney pump money into businesses, and often have to cut jobs in an attempt to make them more efficient and profitable. And sometimes they fail despite their best efforts. But by cutting their losses, they have more money to invest in other businesses, and hopefully the gains outweigh the losses. In Romney’s case, he was tremendously successful overall, helping to grow businesses such as Domino’s and Staples that now employ tens of thousands of workers. In the process, he produced huge returns for his investors, who in turn had more money to invest elsewhere. However tragic the displacement of some workers was, on a net basis, companies like Bain help fuel economic growth. And there’s also no reason to believe that jobs that were lost – in steel investments, for instance – would have survived anyway. None of his rivals are accusing Romney of doing anything illegal or fraudulent in his business dealings, so it’s purely an attack on capitalism. It’s sad to see them go this route.

For more on this, check out James Pethokoukis, Joe Lawler, Avik Roy and Michelle Malkin, who points out that Santorum declined to launch this kind of attack on Romney when offered the chance. Good for him, and shame on the rest of the Republican field. They’ve managed to accomplish what nothing else has in the past five years, and that’s make conservatives unite around defending Mitt Romney….”

 

 

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4 thoughts on “South Carolina Historical Perspectives

  1. > what went on in South Carolina was not capitalism,
    > it was more akin to modern, government sanctioned slavery.

    <blockquote cite="http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html&quot; the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself. — Rerum Novarum, paragraph 3

    The only thing better about it is that there may be some small choice of masters. Things have not changed much, and to the extent they are better, we owe a great deal to labor unions and the legislation they managed to get passed.

    But let’s move on to the subject of Capitalism — “what went on in South Carolina was not capitalism”.

    The term “Capitalism” is ambiguous. Every pope since Leo XIII has written on these topics; let’s see what Pope John Paul had to say in Centesimus Annus, written to mark the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.

    In one place, JPII was talking about “struggle” in the Marxist understanding, but he gives us one definition.

    it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work. In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied. — Centesimus Annus paragraph 35

    An utter rejection of laissez faire and the view of business as finance.

    In another place we find:

    Is [capitalism] the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?
    The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative. — Centesimus Annus paragraph 42

    The trouble with trying to “popularize” papal encyclicals is that they must not be read glibly. Every word in here has a constellation of quite specific meanings which JPII hints at when he amplifies the term “human freedom” with “in its totality”. Here is a great paper by Thomas Storck which you may find helpful.

    I don’t think it is useful to talk about “forms of Capitalism”. Let’s take the Austrian’s definition and leave it at that. Capitalism is what Bain Capital did and what Ron Paul applauds.

    I don’t think it useful to talk about an -ism at all, but rather but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation within a strong juridical framework which protects human freedom in its totality. Now, I realize that none of this is any more specific that terms like “capitalism” but then I don’t pretend to be. Life is tacky — we have to deal with it.

  2. I found the encyclical absolutely fascinating, perhaps one of the great modern commentaries on the morality of the “system”. Thank you for pointing it out. The wisdom in it is quite astounding, even today. If we would follow Leo’s advice, we would have a much better world. If Mitt Romney had followed it, he would not be open to as much criticism. I think a person who is in business could use it as a template for their entire philosophy.

    SJR

  3. One way you can distinguish wit from wisdom is that wisdom purdures.

    For 120 years, the popes have been calling on us to remake the social order along these lines. If the Democrat Party would give up on gays, guns, and abortion at least at the national level, I think they’d win every time — the Catholics would come back. There is still other work to do though: neither major party really understands the concept of subsidiarity, for example. In some ways the Republicans are closer than the Dems, but still. The problem is the electorate is ignorant of these things, which leaves them easy prey.

  4. It occurs to me that the Republicans are probably going to propose as a candidate for President a man of the same mindset that gave us the financial mess we’re in. Wow.

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