An account of the historic struggles of U.S. coal miners, from the mine wars of the early 20th century to the A.T. Massey and Pittston strikes of the 1980s. Names and events indelibly etched in the traditions of the American working class—Sid Hatfield, “bloody” Mingo County, Paint Creek, the armed march on Logan—are brought to life. This is gripping reading.
In 1990, A. T. Massey thugs gunned down John McCoy, a 42-year-old miner from West Virginia and the father of two children, while he picketed a nonunion mine near Welch, West Virginia. Through interviews with relatives, friends and co-workers of John McCoy, this 68-page illustrated book provides valuable background information.
At the time, the United Mine Workers (UMW), joined with the media and state authorities in whitewashing the killing. As a consequence, no one was ever prosecuted for the murder. The response to McCoy’s shooting of then UMW President Richard Trumka, later AFL-CIO head, enraged miners. It highlighted the degree to which the UMW had evolved into little more than an appendage of the coal operators and the state.
White points out the limitations of the militant traditions of the miners—above all, the failure of the American working class to break politically from the capitalist two-party system and advance a socialist alternative to the profit system. At the time of the writing of this pamphlet, the Workers League, forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, called on miners to drive out the UMW bureaucracy and revive the union on the basis of a socialist and internationalist strategy and the fight for a Labor Party.
Given the degeneration of the unions and their transformation into direct tools of corporate management it has become necessary for the working class to build new organizations of industrial and political struggle. For this fight the historical lessons contained in this pamphlet retain their full force today.