Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Life – An Attempt at an Autobiography






By Leon Trotsky
Dover Publications Inc.

A review

By Steve Halpern

My Life by Leon Trotsky is one of my favorite books of all time. Why? I’ve read many books about the history of the world. Most of those books are written by liberals, who worked to give their spin on the events of the past. Then, there are the books written by radicals, who give a more plausible explanation of history. My problem in reading these books, comes from the fact that I usually need to read between the lines to gain my own perspective.

Reading Trotsky is a completely different experience. Trotsky dedicated his entire life to the liberation of working people and farmers throughout the world. He was a central leader of the Russian Revolution. Lastly, he was an excellent, powerful, and inspiring writer.

In reading his autobiography, we see that Trotsky didn’t want to spend a good part of his life writing excellent books. He would have rather continued being a leader of the Soviet Union. However, because of a combination of events, this became impossible. So, we are left with Trotsky’s life example, as well as a full library of his writings. His history of the Russian Revolution is, no doubt, one of the most important books written in the twentieth century.

The early life of Leon Trotsky and Fidel Castro

When we look at the early lives of both Leon Trotsky and Fidel Castro, there are many similarities. Both Trotsky and Fidel were raised on farms in agricultural areas. Their fathers were middle class farmers who had enough resources to hire many farm laborers. They were both appalled at the way those farm laborers were treated by the authorities.

In Czarist Russia, Trotsky saw how peasants could be brutally whipped using the Russian knout. Landowners had the right to murder peasants, without trial. In Cuba Fidel witnessed similar conditions experienced by farm workers.   

Trotsky and Fidel were both leaders of revolutionary uprisings that the authorities defeated. Trotsky was the leader of the Petrograd Soviet during the failed 1905 uprising. Fidel Castro led the raid on the Moncada military garrison on July 26, 1953. The authorities defeated both those uprisings and many lost their lives as a result.

Both Fidel Castro and Leon Trotsky served time in prison as a result of those defeats. Trotsky and Fidel gave outstanding speeches at their trials. Fidel’s speech in known as: History Will Absolve Me. Trotsky had this to say at his trial in 1905”

“The government has long ago drifted away from the nation to its military-police-Black Hundred apparatus. What we have is not a national power but an automation of mass murder. I can not define in any other way a government machine which is hacking to pieces the living body of our country.”

Responding to that reality Trotsky acknowledged that, “we armed immediately and directly against the form of government of the Russian empire.”  

Both Trotsky and Fidel became obsessed with learning the politics of the world, and both became two of the most astute leaders of their generation. Clearly Trotsky recognized that Vladimir Illyich Lenin was the most important leader of the Russian Revolution.

The title of the autobiographies of both these leaders happens to be My Life. So, at this point we can begin to see how the life of Leon Trotsky was unique.

From the eastern arctic regions of Russia to the United States

Czarist Russia had the reputation of being one of the most repressive nations in the world. That nation was the largest in the world because there were numerous nationalities that experienced routine victimizations.

The Jewish people of Russia invented the Yiddish word pogrom. This word was about the terrorist raids on the Russian Jewish community where thousands of people were murdered. These raids were similar to the raids on the Black community in this country by the Ku Klux Klan.

The monarch known as the Czar, who ruled Russia, openly supported the terrorist organizations known as the Black Hundreds. The Czar also had the power to close down the Russian parliament known as the Duma.

The police had absolute power in this environment. Workers who organized meetings needed to speak in a code language. They understood that secret agents of the Okhrana attended those meetings. Anyone who made statements critical of the Czar could be arrested and sent to prison. 

During the uprising of 1905 huge demonstrations erupted in St, Petersburg. They asked the Czar to hear their grievances. The armed forces of Russia mobilized to murder thousands of those protesters. This was the atmosphere in Russia at the time when Leon Trotsky was arrested for being a leader of the 1905 uprising.

Before the 1905 uprising, Vladimir Illyich Lenin felt that the organizational structure for revolutionaries needed to change. Up to that point, revolutionaries with different ideas and different tactics operated as they felt it was appropriate. Lenin felt that a national organization needed to coordinate politics and tactics. At national conventions the politics of the organization would be discussed and debated. After decisions were made, the leadership would carry out the decisions made at those conventions. These ideas of Lenin prompted a split between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks.

Although Trotsky agreed with Lenin on most issues, he didn’t agree with splitting the revolutionary movement. Looking back, we might think that this was a mistake by Trotsky. However, Trotsky argued that at this point in his life he wasn’t ready to join Lenin. Later in his life, when he joined the Bolsheviks, he understood that their program was necessary. Many others who joined the Bolsheviks earlier would adapt to the counter-revolutionary program of Joseph Stalin. 

In those days, the Czar chose to send prisoners to the far-east rather than housing them in prisons. Trotsky and his wife were sent to the arctic regions of eastern Russia. Vladimir Illyich Lenin was also sent to eastern Russia after he was arrested.

Because the weather in this area was so cold and the roads appeared to be nonexistent, the authorities didn’t feel that many guards were necessary. Trotsky managed to escape and travelled vast distances bundled up in the back of a sled. He then managed to travel to Germany, where he joined with other revolutionaries. Many other Russian revolutionaries had similar experiences in those years.

The secret police of Czarist Russia operated throughout Europe. Those police agents had connections with the governments of those nations. At that time, the First World War erupted and things became more difficult for Trotsky. Seeking refuge, he was forced to travel from Germany, to Britain, to France, to Spain, and then to the United States.

Then, after he was living in the United States for only a few months, he learned that a revolution had erupted in Russia. Trotsky immediately made plans to return to his homeland.

On his return to Russia, his ship stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the authorities arrested Trotsky. He was held in a concentration camp with German prisoners of the First World War. The German prisoners had been divided into groups of officers and rank and file soldiers. Trotsky spoke to the rank and file soldiers about their problems as workers. This enabled Trotsky to have good relations with those soldiers.

A leader of the Revolution and the Red Army became a political outcast

After his release, Trotsky returned to Russia and became the leader of the Petrograd Soviet. At this time Trotsky understood the importance of joining the Bolshevik Party that was headed by Lenin. In the past, the Bolsheviks argued that Russia was a monarchy and needed to go through years of capitalism, before a socialist revolution would be possible.

After learning of the revolution in Russia, both Trotsky and Lenin argued that working people would need to take power. Failing to do this would be a horrendous defeat for workers and farmers.

At the time of the revolution, Russia was loosing the war against Germany. Millions of Russian soldiers would die because of that war. While Russia was an extremely productive agricultural area, the war caused severe shortages of food.

So, the Bolsheviks responded to those conditions with the demands of Peace, Bread, and Land. Peace being an end to the war. Bread meaning a guaranteed allotment of food for everyone. And Land meaning a land reform, so all those who worked the land would have ownership of that land.

The pro-capitalist government that had taken power after the first Russian Revolution argued that the demand for peace was an act of treason. That government decided to continue the war in spite of the fact that millions had been killed and there was no chance of a Russian victory.

So, in that environment the government arrested Trotsky and issued an arrest warrant for Lenin. However, after nine months of the pro-capitalist Russian government, the Russian people began to understand that this government wasn’t going to make any of the basic changes the people were demanding. So, the Bolshevik demand of Peace, Bread, and Land became overwhelmingly popular.

For those reasons, another revolution erupted in Russian in October of 1917. On the eve of the revolution, Lenin drafted a proclamation that gave land to the peasants who worked that land.

Trotsky represented the new government of the Soviet Union at the Best-Litovsk peace conference. He invited all the governments who had armed forces in the First World War to participate in that conference. Should they decline that offer, he asked them to explain in plain language why they choose to continue that international slaughter.

Since the allied powers refused to accept this offer, Trotsky appealed to the workers of those nations:

“The workers and soldiers must wrest the business of war and peace from the criminal hands of the bourgeoisie and take it into their own hands. We have the right to demand this from you because this is what we have done in our own country.”

In order to obtain a peace agreement with Germany, the new Soviet Union had to give up vast areas of land. However, the Russian army was in no way prepared to continue the war, and the Bolsheviks had promised peace. After the German defeat in the war, the Soviet forces took back most of the land that had been conceded to Germany.

Then, after the war the Bolsheviks took extraordinary measures to ensure that everyone had a basic allotment of food. During those same years fourteen different nations in the world joined with the counter-revolutionary forces of Russia in an attempt to overthrow the Soviet government.

Lenin asked Trotsky to become the commissar of the Red Army charged with defending the country. Trotsky argued that he had no military experience and didn’t believe he was qualified to carry out that task. Lenin then asked, who else would do this decisively important job? After Trotsky thought about that question, he accepted his new position as commissar of the Red Army.

During the next two and one-half years Trotsky travelled by train across the vast Soviet frontier to every battlefield in the civil war. His train travelled the equivalent of perhaps two times around the world.

We might think about the fact that the Bolsheviks needed to organize an armed force to defend the country after Russia had been decisively defeated by Germany in the First World War. Trotsky was the person who organized that task. This is what Vladimir Illyich Lenin had to say about Trotsky’s leadership in the Civil War:

“Show me another man able to organize almost a model army within a single year and win the respect of military authorities. . . “We have such a man. We have everything. And we shall work wonders.”

Trotsky won the respect of the soldiers, not just by bringing them needed supplies. He explained in clear language what the war was about. He told them how all the millions of lives that had been lost in the First World War only benefitted the capitalists. The Russian Revolution changed all of that, and for the first time in the history of the world there was a government of workers who held power. Armed with that information, and a determined effort by the soldiers, the Red Army succeeded in defeating an invasion of the Soviet Union aided by 14 of the most powerful nations of the world.

After the Soviet victory in the Civil War, Lenin had a stroke that sidelined him from his leadership role. Trotsky also suffered from an illness that kept him bedridden.

At that time, Joseph Stalin became the General Secretary of the Communist Party. As history has shown, Stalin cared more for his personal advancement, rather than the goals of the Russian Revolution.

During those years there were many Russians from the middle class who wanted to maintain the privileges they had before the revolution. Stalin allowed many of those people to join the Communist Party, if they followed his dictates. So, membership in the Communist Party was no longer a means of advancing the interests of workers and farmers. Now, that membership was about gaining privileges that most of the population didn’t have.

During Lenin’s illness, he saw these changes in the Communist Party and argued that this trend in the Party needed to be reversed. Trotsky was in full agreement with that perspective. However, both Lenin and Trotsky were too ill to advance that perspective.

After Lenin’s death, Stalin’s efforts to isolate Trotsky intensified. Trotsky was able to fight back, and thousands of Russians supported his efforts to continue advancing the goals of the Russian Revolution. Those efforts prompted Stalin to exile Trotsky to the Russian border with China at Alma Ata.

At this point it is natural for readers of Trotsky’s life to ask a basic question: How did a central leader of the Russian Revolution loose so much influence within the Communist Party? Trotsky answered that question in several ways.

He argued that when the Revolution was in its ascendancy, a genius of the caliber of Lenin attracted the imagination of the masses. However, after World War One, the Civil War, the destruction of the economy, and the isolation of the Soviet Union in the world, the Revolution was no longer in its ascendancy. In this period the Russian workers became attracted to the mediocre political orientation of Joseph Stalin.

Many of Trotsky’s supporters felt that there might be some strategy that might have returned Trotsky to his leadership position in the party. Trotsky opposed that point of view and argued that victory for a revolutionary perspective would take time, and there would be no immediate overturn of the Stalinist regime.

Stalin advanced his theory of Socialism in One Country. This meant that the revolution of the world would be subjugated to the interests of Stalin’s regime. For this reason, Stalin asked the Chinese communists to follow the orders of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai Shek.

Trotsky understood that Chiang made alliances with imperialist interests. He argued that if Chinese communists followed Chiang’s orders, the result would be a disaster. Then, in the year 1927 there was a revolution in China. Because the Chinese communists were disarmed by Chiang, they were helpless in defending themselves. As a result, thousands of communists were murdered by Chiang’s Guomindang.

Trotsky’s supporters in the Soviet Union felt that this defeat of the Chinese communists would show the correctness of his politics. Trotsky argued that only successful revolutions would strengthen the working class and not defeats as the class suffered in China.

From his isolated location in Alma Ata, Trotsky continued to keep up his limited contact with revolutionaries throughout the world. Stalin found those contacts to be intolerable and ordered him to be deported from the Soviet Union to Turkey. Stalin would eventually be responsible for the murders of the entire leadership of the Russian Revolution.

At this point Trotsky needed medical attention as well as a visa that would allow him to live in a nation outside the Soviet Union. Trotsky explained that the right to asylum is a basic democratic right that had been respected even in feudal societies. In those societies, all that was required was for anyone to enter a Church and asylum was granted.

With the advent of capitalism, governments argued that they believed in democratic rights. However, in the most advanced capitalist nations governments refused to give Trotsky asylum.

In the United States President Harding argued that because the people had the right to go fishing, there was a democracy. But Harding refused to respect Trotsky’s basic democratic right to asylum. Trotsky argued that his denial of asylum was just one example that the capitalist claim of “democracy” was a complete sham.

Trotsky's legacy

Eventually the Mexican government gave Trotsky asylum. From there he gained supporters from around the world. In the United States his supporters organized the Socialist Workers Party and distributed their newspaper The Militant.

Members of the SWP played an invaluable role in the history of this country. They advanced a political course arguing that mass movements were the primary way that workers can advance our interests.

Armed with that perspective, members of the SWP became leaders in both the labor and anti-war movements. Members of the SWP gave assistance to the Montgomery Bus Boycott that launched the Civil Rights Movement. The members of the SWP also organized Pathfinder Press that continues to publish the speeches of Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, W.E.B. DuBois, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs, Fidel Castro, and Ernesto Che Guevara.

Today we see a profound crisis is erupting in the world capitalist system. The United Nation estimates that about 29,000 children die of preventable diseases every day. About forty percent of the world’s population lives on $2 per day or less. Capitalist politicians, in effect, give us an ironclad guarantee that as long as they will hold power, there will be war, poverty, destruction of the environment, discrimination, as well as alienation.

The life of Leon Trotsky is an important part of the revolutionary heritage of working people throughout the world. Reading his life story gives us a unique insight into how revolutionaries can begin to transform the world, so that human needs will be seen as more important than corporate profits.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The West - A review of the PBS documentary series




Released: 1996

Executive Producer: Ken Burns
Directed by Stephen Ives

Recently I viewed the eight-part, twelve-hour Ken Burns documentary of The West. Like all Burns’ documentaries, this series has severe problems. However, I believe that the issues raised in The West deserve to be studied.

We can begin to look at a view of The West with a quotation from the pro-capitalist historian Frederick Jackson Turner: “westward expansion was the most important single process in American history.” “This at least is clear: American democracy is fundamentally the outcome of the experiences of the American people dealing with the West.”

Viewing the twelve hours of this Burns’ documentary, we can conclude that the expansion of the United States into the West was in no way “democratic.” In this series we see the genocide against Native Americans, the theft of land from Mexican Americans, the horrendous treatment of Chinese laborers who built the railroads, the gross exploitation of workers and settlers in the West, and finally the destruction of much of Western environment. One commentator of this process labeled it as “complicated.”

Another commentator on this documentary was Ann Richards who was the former governor of Texas. She acknowledged that there were many horrendous problems in the western expansion of this country. However, she identified with the struggles of the settlers of this region. Richards didn’t explain why she didn’t identify with the struggles of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, or Chinese laborers.

Another problem with this series is that it ignored the reasons for the initial United States expansion of The West.

After Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of an army of former slaves in Haiti, he needed money to finance his further ambitions. He received over fifteen million dollars from the United States government in the Louisiana Purchase. This sale doubled the size of the United States.

The cotton producing land in the eastern states had been over-harvested. As a result, this land was no longer suitable for growing the highly profitable crop of cotton. New Orleans became the second most important city in this country. The principal so-called business of New Orleans was the sale of human beings known as slaves.

So, the initial westward expansion of this country had nothing to do with “democracy.” This westward expansion was centered around the expansion of the slave trade. Matthew Desmond gave the history of how slavery was the foundation of the capitalist system in this country in the August 18, 2019 edition of the New York Times Magazine.

At the time of the westward expansion of the United States, the working class was not developed enough to overturn capitalism and to establish a workers government. This was the core reason why this expansion had horrendous consequences. We can begin to look at this largely horrendous history from the point of view of the First Nations who lived in that part of the world.

Native Americans

There were about 500 Native American nations in what is now the United States. Their cultures adopted to diverse environments in this country. The regions where they lived included: the Northeast, Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, California, the North West coast, and the rest of the North West. The indigenous people who lived in each of these regions had similar cultures.

Today about half of the food we eat comes from crops that Native Americans developed. These include: corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, and peppers. Europeans learned to grow these crops, but they used their own methods and didn’t think to learn the Native American techniques.

So, while there were potato blights in Ireland, the Incas used different farming techniques, and they never had those kinds of blights. This is just one example of how the settlers in the West could have learned valuable information from the indigenous people of this area.

The film The West showed how the city of San Francisco, California experienced huge growth because of the gold rush. During those years this documentary reported that about 100,000 California Indians lost their lives.

For the indigenous people, gold was merely a glittering rock. But for those who had been raised in the capitalist system, the possession of gold meant the possibility of freedom from a life of drudgery. So, while Native Americans worked to insure they had the means to live, thousands of workers became obsessed with obtaining a glittering rock.

The film The West also gave a history of the conflict in the plains states, like South Dakota. These conflicts accounted for one chapter in the over one-hundred years of war between Native Americans and the United States Army. This included the defeat of General George Armstrong Custer at the battle of  the Little Big Horn, or Greasy Grass.

We see how Custer didn’t feel that the Native people were capable of defeating the soldiers under his command. He paid for this mistake with his life.

Anyone who is familiar with the history of the war against Vietnam can see that the United States government never learned anything from the defeat of George Armstrong Custer. In this so-called war, the United States mobilized literally millions of soldiers, and felt that victory was inevitable. After several years of an all out war, and massive anti-war demonstrations around the world, the United States had to admit total defeat, and the U.S. armed forces left Vietnam.         

Mexican Americans

The entire Southwest of the United States once belonged to Mexico. The United States took that land through military conquest. However, there were many people of Mexican descent who continued to live in this vast area. The film The West showed how Mexican people, who’s ancestors had lived in that area for centuries, saw land stolen by the new settlers.

We might also think about the fact that the Mexican people are overwhelmingly of Native American decent. The Aztecs were one of many indigenous nations who lived in this region.

The Aztec capital was Tenochtitlan and was located on a lake. The indigenous people used boats to travel from one place to another. There were floating gardens and a highly advanced agricultural system.

The Aztecs also used sophisticated medical procedures. They actually performed brain surgery using a sterile field. The Spanish understood that the Aztec doctors were more advanced than the doctors from Spain. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that medicine in the United States began to use some of the Aztec procedures.

However, the United States government wasn’t interested in any of this. They were only interested in gold and in using the land in the west to obtain profits for the affluent.

Chinese

The Chinese came to this country because of the instability of their homeland. During the 1800s, China was ruled by a monarchy of the Manchus who were a minority nationality. The Manchu Emperor understood that the British imports of opium had a horrendous effect on the country. He responded by outlawing opium imports. The British responded to this law by doubling their shipments of opium to China.

The Chinese enforced the law prohibiting opium imports by commandeering a British ship, and throwing the opium shipment overboard. The British responded to this act by conducting three Opium Wars against the Chinese.

We might consider that before the revolution that created the United States, colonists commandeered a British ship and threw the tea overboard in an event known as the Boston Tea Party. Britain never asked the United States to pay for that tea.

The Manchu monarchy was more interested in maintaining their power, rather than mobilizing the nation to defeat the British. As a result the Manchu monarchy agreed to the British demands. These included: payment for the destroyed opium, payment for the cost of the war, and the British annexation of Hong Kong.

This agreement had disastrous consequences in China. As a result the Taiping Rebellion erupted. Women supported the Taipings and fought in the war along with the men. Millions of Chinese lost their lives or left the country as a result of this civil war. The Manchus were able to maintain their power because of British support.

We might also consider that the Chinese constructed their 1,500 mile Grand Canal. This canal connected the north of the country with the south. So, in times of drought, food was transported to areas in need.

The British were only interested in Chinese exports and allowed the Grand Canal to deteriorate. Because of this, when there was a drought in Northern China, tens of millions of Chinese starved to death.  

Chinese immigration

Most Chinese came to this country in search of gold. Because of the racism of those days, the government prohibited Chinese from mining the most productive areas. In spite of this, the Chinese worked diligently to find gold in these least productive areas.

Then, an immigration tax was levied on the Chinese. Revenue from this tax accounted for half of the income of the government of California.

The film The West also documented how Chinese labor was indispensable to the construction of the railroads in this country. Tunnels needed to be created through the mountains. Roadways needed to be constructed on the steep cliffs of these mountains. Many Chinese lost their lives because of the extremely dangerous conditions of this work.

We might also consider that the workers who were born in this country in those days had a very limited diet. With their paltry salary, Chinese workers actually imported food from their homeland. This diversified the diet in this country.

During the 1800s the health care system in this country was poor. Doctors had a very basic education, and patients oftentimes didn’t see improvements with medical care.

The Chinese studied medicine for hundreds of years. This study enabled Chinese doctors to proscribe effective treatments for many ailments. So, the Chinese doctors who came here became popular in many communities.

The United States government responded to this reality with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. This law was the only one in U.S. history that prevented citizens of a specific nation from immigrating to the United States. Opening up Chinese restaurants became the only work that was available to the Chinese who lived here.  

Settlers

When I was a child, I became addicted to television. I was especially fascinated by the shows known as “Westerns.” These shows portrayed settlers who experienced difficult conditions on the plains of the West.

One feature of these shows, that was repeated over, and over again, was the conflicts between Native Americans and these settlers. I can’t remember ever viewing a single episode where Native Americans were portrayed as human beings.

However, there was a scene that was repeated many times. This was of a circled wagon train, with Indians riding on horseback around it. Settlers would then shoot down Indians as if they were target practice.

In James Loewen’s book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” he argued that of the 200,000 settlers that travelled west, about 350 settlers and 450 Native Americans died in these conflicts. So, all those television shows that I watched as a child were a gross distortion of reality.

The film The West gave evidence that most of the settlers who died on their way to the west, died from illnesses like cholera. They also died from exposure to the harsh winter conditions. The question is: What was the real cause of all these deaths of settlers?

The documentary The West argues that settlers went to the west seeking a better life. There were few opportunities in the east and they were led to believe that the opportunities in the West were unlimited.

These settlers discovered that life was extremely difficult in the West, and they had little or no support from the government or the moneyed interests of those days. Those who managed to survive in this harsh environment usually were barely able to make a living. But as in all capitalist societies, a small percentage gouged out most of the wealth.

In the Westerns that I viewed as a child there was always a “lawman.” As we see in the series The West, the murder of Native Americans was perfectly legal. The theft of the wealth of the settlers by the affluent was normal, and continues to be routine in the world today. So, we can conclude that the primary responsibility of these so-called “lawmen” was to defend the interests of the affluent.    

Workers

Part of this documentary reported on the conditions of copper miners who toiled for the corporation known as Anaconda. While these workers experienced horrendous conditions underground, they also provided the necessary materials for the electrification of this country. Their compensation was meager. However, the work they did was essential for all the corporate profits in the history of the United States.

William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood was born in 1868 in Salt Lake City in the Utah Territory before Utah became a state. Haywood worked as a miner and a cowboy and became a leader of the Western Federation of Miners. He also became a leader in the labor federation known as the International Workers of the World. In 1912 he led a successful strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts of textile workers.

The government responded to Haywood’s efforts to improve the lives of workers by placing him on trial twice. The first trial was for murder and the jury made a clear decision that this was nothing but a frame-up. Haywood was found not guilty of those charges.

Then, the government placed Haywood and many others on trial. This was for interfering with the government effort to draft workers into their holocaust known as the First World War.

Alice Paul also severed time in prison for participating in a demonstration. She argued that it was wrong to claim the WWI was a war for democracy, while women didn’t have the right to vote. Gene Debs served three years in prison for giving a speech in Canton, Ohio in opposition to the war. While Haywood was out on bail awaiting his appeal, he fled the country and lived the rest of his life in the Soviet Union.

Then, in 1983 there was a copper miners strike against the Phelps Dodge Corporation in Arizona. The strike lasted three years.

So, this story gives clear evidence that the statement by Frederick Jackson Turner reflected more fantasy than reality. The facts are that many who struggled to achieve some democracy in The West found themselves placed in prison, murdered, or worked so the fruits of their labor went to the affluent. However, this struggle continues.

The Environment

Some of the biggest copper mines were in Montana and Arizona. The film The West showed how the area around Butte, Montana was completely destroyed because of copper mining. This documentary also showed how areas throughout the West also became victims of the drive to maximize profits.

The first city planners of Los Angeles, California understood that there wasn’t a sufficient amount of water to sustain the city. Two-hundred miles away, there was a flourishing agricultural area where water was plentiful. This area was protected by federal legislation.

The problem was that the power brokers of Los Angeles had more influence in Washington than the farmers who relied on this water. So, those power brokers went to Washington and convinced legislators to allow Los Angeles to have access to water that was two-hundred miles away.

As a result, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the history of this country became a reality. Water was transported two-hundred miles to Los Angeles, and the once prosperous agricultural land was ruined.  

Legacy

The foundations of inequality in The West continued with the wars against the Black community in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921, and in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917. The National Guard was called in to suppress a rebellion in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts in 1966.

Recently, the state of California has been the sight of uncontrollable wildfires. While much of the food we eat comes from that state, the water needed to grow this food is becoming more and more difficult to find.

I believe that this state of affairs is reaching a tipping point. Sooner or later the deteriorating conditions of capitalism will force working people to develop a new way of thinking.

When this happens, perhaps we will begin to learn some of the lessons of the first inhabitants of this land. The lives of every single human being is important. An injury to one is an injury to all. We live on land that provides us with both sustenance, and the beauty of the environment. When we learn these lessons, then I believe working people will begin to have the dignity that we deserve.