Palikari – Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre!

Louis Tikas

Louis Tikas

Palikari………..Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre! Louis Tikas was a good friend of Mother Jones and they worked alongside each other in Colorado in the final months of 1913 when the Colorado miners went on strike. Louis Tikas was born in Crete in 1886 as Elias Anastasios Spantidakis and later emigrated from Greece to the USA. He did a variety of jobs and later went to the coal mines. However he was not happy with the conditions of the Greek miners and others, led a strike and then joined the United Mineworkers of Union (UMWA).  Due to the immense respect he had gained among the miners, the United Mineworkers Union appointed him as a union organiser in Trinidad, Colorado. He was to the forefront in organising the camps for the miners and their families as due to the strike they could no longer live in the mining company shacks.

He played a leading role in the strike and it remained solid among the Greeks and other nationalities, so he had effectively become a marked man. On the morning of 20th April 1914, Tikas ensured that many miners and their families were able to escape from the Ludlow camp to the nearby hills following the ongoing attacks from the militia and the hired gunmen employed by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company owned by John D Rockefeller, Jr. Later in the day he and two others were captured by the militia and were assassinated by Captain Linderfelt and left by the side of the railway tracks at Ludlow. Tikas and his comrades were buried at Trinidad few days later at a huge funeral attended by thousands of miners. He was just 28 years old. Similar to the way Mother Jones was largely forgotten after her death, a similar fate befell Louis Tikas. Now Lamprini C Thoma, producer and Nichos Ventouras, director in their splendid new documentary “Palikari – Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” have brought Tikas and the events at Ludlow back to his homeland in Greece and Europe.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is very proud to announce that their film “Palikari – Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” will receive its first showing outside of Greece at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at Shandon near where Mary Harris was born. The film will be shown on Thursday evening 31st July at the Firkin Crane Centre and we hope to have Lamprini and Nichos present to introduce this amazing documentary. It should not be missed by those interested in the history of America and the role played by brave and courageous union organisers like Louis Tikas and Mother Jones.

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The grave of Louis Tikas

The film will be followed later by lectures on the legacy of Ludlow from Professor Jim Green and Rosemary Feurer. “Then came Ludlow and the nation heard” from Mother Jones Autobiography.

The Cork Harbour Soviet

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to welcome local historian Luke Dineen back to the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2014. Luke is 24 years old and is presently working on a PhD Thesis in UCC on the labour movement in Cork and Derry from 1917 to 1923. Luke gave a presentation on the 1909 Cork Lockout, a precursor of the Dublin Lockout, at the 2013 festival which stimulated some very interesting debate. In his presentation at the 2014 festival and summer school Luke will relate the story of the Cork Harbour Soviet of 1921.

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Robert Day (1885-1949). Photo from oireachtas.ie

In March 1920 at the height of the War of Independence in Cork, a Cork Corporation Cost of Living Commission was established by Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Curtáin to determine a proper living wage for Cork’s workers. In late September 1920 it reported that this wage was 70 shillings a week, rather more than most workers in the city received at this time. On 12 February 1921 it reiterated this.

Four days later, the Cork Harbour Board received a letter from the local ITGWU branch asking that the 70 shillings rate be put into effect by the Board. The Cork Harbour Board resisted implementing the wage for months and finally rejected the idea in June 1921.

Two months later, it rejected the claim again and a strike of the Board’s employees was declared. The Harbour Board, however, failed to realise that its refusal to grant this wage would lead to its workers seizing control of the Cork Custom House, where a red flag was flown and a soviet declared, in early September 1921.

The Harbour Board, traditionally a home of the city’s commercial elite, had a recent addition to its ranks – Bob Day, a trade union militant and the secretary of Cork’s ITGWU branch. Day, together with his close comrade William Kenneally, led the harbour workers in an endeavour that was reported as far away as New York.

The ‘Cork Harbour Soviet’ of 1921 of the 7th September existed for a very short time and is largely forgotten. Nevertheless, it revealed the place and militancy of workers in early 20th century Cork, the future position of the labour movement in Independent Ireland and, ultimately, the nature of the 1919-1923 Irish revolution itself.

The Cork Harbour Soviet of 7th September 1921 presentation by Luke will take place at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday 30th July.

Mother Jones is back in Colorado!

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Mother Jones impersonator Kaiulani Lee begins a tour of Colorado next week.  Kaiulani, who wowed Cork audiences at the inaugural Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2012 is touring under the auspices of the United Mine Workers’ of America with her play “Can’t Scare Me, the story of Mother Jones”.  We wish her all the best and hope she can return to Cork soon.

For more on Kaiulani and her show visit her website at www.kaiulanilee.com or view her Facebook page.

Centenary of Ludlow Massacre

The Ludlow Massacre, April 20th 1914.

To commemorate the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre Professor Jim Green of Massachusetts University will discuss the implications of this watershed event in American history at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place at the Firkin Crane on Thursday evening 31st July.

Professor Green is the author of “Crime against Memory at Ludlow”, Labor: Studies of Working Class History in the Americas Vol 1 No 1 (Spring 2004). 

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their "Death Special" armoured car

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their “Death Special” armoured car

During the infamous and bitter Colorado mining strikes of 1913/14, Mother Jones had been imprisoned several times on the orders of General John Chase and Governor Elias Ammons. She had repeatedly entered the State to support the striking miners and had been imprisoned without trial or charge for almost three months. Mother Jones had become a lightning rod of agitation in Southern Colorado and following the threat of an order of habeas corpus order being made to Colorado’s Supreme Court, she was finally released in mid-April 1914. So weakened was this 76 year old woman after languishing in the rat infested Walsenburg Courthouse Jail that she left the State to recover.

The strike which was about union recognition, safety issues and wages continued and the miners’ camp at Ludlow, some 20km north west of Trinidad, which had been surrounded for several weeks by the Colorado National Guard and a private army of mine company hired thugs, began to fear the worst. With Mother Jones gone for the moment and with her the media presence, the mine owners felt they had a licence to sort out the miners.

As the miners had been evicted from their company houses at the beginning of the strike and lived in union tent camps many of them had dug caves underneath the tents to try and protect their families from the incoming bullets fired by these thugs who operated with impunity.

On Sunday April 19th the miners and their families gathered to celebrate Easter and the festivities continued all day. The following morning bullets began to pour into the camp and while the miners fought back they soon ran out of ammunition due to the prolonged nature of the attack. Many families fled to the pits to escape. Later that evening the guards and hired thugs invaded the camp itself and set fire to many tents and wrecked the community facilities. The courageous miners’ leader Louis Tikas was murdered by a Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt, whose later punishment was a mild reprimand.

The following morning, the full extent of the massacre unfolded, in one pit, the bodies of two woman and eleven children were uncovered, in all a total of 19 miners and their families lay dead.

The miners across southern Colorado revolted and as guerrilla warfare erupted, dozens died in what was the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson ordered in the US Army to restore an uneasy peace.

Easter Sunday 2014 is the centenary of the infamous Ludlow Massacre, whose very name and slogan “Remember Ludlow” still resonates across the history of labour and union struggles. The original Ludlow monument erected in 1916 which included a man, a woman and a child representing a mining family was badly damaged in 2003 by anti-union vandals, it has since been repaired. The site of the original Tent Colony is now a US National Historic Landmark.

“I thank God for the Mine Workers Union and then I hung my head and cried”

Woody Guthrie from his 1941 ballad, “Ludlow Massacre”.

Mother Jones inducted into Irish American Hall of Fame

Induction of Mother Jones to the Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee which organises the annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in the Irish city of the birthplace of Mary Harris, I wish to congratulate the Irish American Heritage Center on selecting Mother Jones for induction to Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Mary Harris was born in this city of Cork in 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral on 1st August in that year. As a young girl she witnessed and experienced appalling scenes of poverty hunger and disease in the streets and lanes of Cork city culminating in the deaths of many thousands in the Great Hunger of the Irish Famine from 1846 to 1848.

Like millions of other Irish, she and her family emigrated from Ireland to find a new and better life in the New World. In spite of the tragedy of losing her entire family in Memphis and later her business in the Chicago fire, she began again her new life working to protect the poor and oppressed, to oppose child labour and to defend American workers’ rights at an age when many people simply opt for a quiet life.

Her indomitable courage, her resilience, her fiery oratory and her rage against the prevailing system and working conditions which left millions of miners and other workers living in poverty and exploitation encapsulate all that is good, admired and valued in community and society.

Her robust defense of workers and their families, many of whom were Irish immigrants who had already fled similar living conditions in Ireland represents the true rebel spirit of the Irish Nation and Diaspora.

Mary Harris Jones was a truly inspirational figure, as an elderly woman operating in a male working world she stood out as an extraordinary woman, revered as a “Mother” by countless thousands of miners and marked out as “the most dangerous woman in America” by others, her legacy as a hell raiser remains as a source of pride to many.

In her native city of “Rebel Cork”, the growing reputation of Mary Harris is a source of immense hope and solidarity for Cork people. This is especially relevant now as our young people are again emigrating and working families are struggling for decent lives in Ireland.

Real figures from history such as Mary Harris, who sought a “grander civilisation” demonstrate that we too must now embrace the incredible compassionate and activist spirit of Mother Jones to build our country based on the principles of fairness, justice, freedom and equality as espoused by this courageous woman.

For too long Mother Jones has remained in the margins of consciousness, a victim of the lesser explored recesses of history. She is at last emerging from these shadows in both Ireland and America as new generations of young people seek her relevance and wonder at her powerful message to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee salutes the Irish American Heritage Society for your splendid foresight in selecting this proud Cork woman for inclusion in the Irish American Hall of Fame.

We take immense pleasure that you have chosen to honour Mary Harris Jones in this magnificent manner and we trust that her unique fighting spirit will once again take its rightful place and permanent place as a symbol of human courage in adversity and as a practical reminder of the solid American and Irish bonds which exist among working people.

Sincerely yours in solidarity,

Gerard O’Mahony,
Coordinator, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,
Cork Mother Jones Committee.

Dave Hopper and the Durham Miner’s Gala

 

photo DaveHopper

Dave Hopper

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is proud to welcome Dave Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, and Secretary of the National Union of Miners (North East Area), which he represents on the National Executive Committee of the NUM.

Dave has been involved all his life in mining, he began as a coal miner before becoming active in the union. He played an active role in the Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 and witnessed the events at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.

He will speak about the impact of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike and explain the significance of the Durham Miners Gala.

The Durham Gala.

The first Gala was held on 12th August 1871 and was organised by the Durham Miners. It is the largest annual organised gathering of workers in Europe. Miners from various National Mineworkers Union branches march behind their lodge or village banners and their colliery brass bands. Over 100, 000 can take part in the event, it has survived the virtual demise of the coal industry and goes from strength to strength.

The focal point is at the County Hotel at Old Elvet in Durham, where various processions of workers converge before heading to the Racecourse for speeches and a festival for all the family.

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Women Against Pit Closures banner – one of many colourful banners at Durham Miner’s Gala

The Gala is a festive, colourful expression of union, socialist and working class traditions and takes place each year on the second Saturday of July in Durham. The Durham Gala at its core is about the expression of identity of mining communities, its resplendent and unique banners represent and display the heart and soul of the nobility of union membership and social and community solidarity.

Although the mines may be almost silent now and the traditions deemed old fashioned, the proud spirit and history of the mining communities remain and in the Durham Gala are displayed in all their resilient and powerful glory as a beacon of hope and belief in a fairer and equal and just society for all.

Dave Hopper will speak during “Miners Day” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday 31st July at the Firkin Crane in Shandon.

Visit http://www.durhamminers.org