In the 1910s, Colorado, a booming mining area of the USA, competed for the top position in its league with 1700 deaths in 27 years, but had not quite made it yet. The Coal and Iron Police gave no respite to the workers, who represented 25 different nations.

Workers who didn't speak each others’ tongue were put on the same shift, but divided according to origin with lodging. For a dollar paid to the state, companies could add gunmen to the armed forces of the free market.

Workers had to live in company lodgings. The rent was deducted from their pay. They had to shop from the company store. Purchases were deducted from their salaries. In practice, the company never gave them any cash. Instead of being paid real money, they used tokens only valid at the company store.

rockefeller1John D. Rockefeller.
He owned so many companies in so many lines of business that it was inevitable that workers would frequently cross paths with him. “God gave me my money,” he once said. The relationship with God of people who make fortunes off the back of others has always been an interesting topic. God, for some reason, has given them this right. All he asks of them is to “let the poor have a sniff every now and then.” Is this the way the cookie crumbles?

Lamont W. Bowers, regional boss of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company of Rockefeller, was a fine fellow, who expressed his opinion thus: “The solution is to send union organizers to jail, and reformist industrialists to the looney bin.”

Despite all this the union organized in the area and the miners went on strike.

Rockefeller’s company kicked the workers out of their lodgings. So they set up campsites with union tents and went on strike.

Their demands were indicative of their condition. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they mined. What they did to get to the coal and ensure their safety wasn't reimbursed. The union not only fought this, but also demanded an eight-hour working day. The miners called for a representative to control the scales since the company also undercut their wages with rigged weighing. Workers insisted on their own doctors and accommodations; they rejected the company store monopoly.

The bosses thought this emerging picture didn't suit the free market world, and developed persuasive methods to get the miners back to work: Flooding the camps with giant spotlights at night and raking the tents with intermittent gun fire.

Now in the 20th century, the age of specialization, private detectives from the Baldwin-Felts company, adept at hunting down organizers and workers and breaking strikes were brought in.


Humanity invented the wheel, and left the Iron Age long behind. Guardians of the free market built a custom armoured vehicle with machine-gun slots. They called it the “Death Special”… We could not have expected them to call it “Greased Lightning”, could we?.. Wonder what the ad for this car would be like?!deathspecial

The free market couldn't be sustained by fear alone, so the mayor called in the national guard.

General Chase, their commander, was an experienced strike breaker. He declared martial law, arrested the workers en masse, tortured them, unleashed the cavalry on protesting women. He arrested Mother Jones.

chaseGeneral Chase, who was sent to the region to suppress the miners and led the National Guard during the Ludlow Massacre, was also appointed head of the investigation committee formed by the mayor in its aftermath. The free market gave the world the concept of law. Those who commit crimes in the name of the state and the bosses investigate their own crimes, and duly state that “it was their fault.” Well, a uniformed officer and armed miners are not considered equal in the eyes of the law.

The guard forcibly dismantled Forbes tent city. Worker families couldn't resist. Obviously not the same Forbes as the business magazine that publishes stuff like the ‘wealthiest 500' list.

Woody Guthrie's inspiration for the song now playing came from the attack on the 200-tent strong Ludlow camp, where 1200 mostly Greek miners and their families were raked with machine gun fire and then their tents set ablaze on 20 April 1914.

Two women and 11 children perished as a result of smoke asphyxiation while hiding in the pits below, dug for protection from gunfire. 20 workers died.

Karl Linderfeldt, a National Guard commander, detained Greek labour leader Louis Tikas and two miners, and probably, in a barn, knocked them down and shot them in the back.

10günsavas“The 10-Day War” gave the free market a real scare. Workers had erected military training camps, got armed and embarked upon a fearless battle. This was truly the battle of those who had nothing to lose but their chains. For a valuable source (in English) on the Ludlow Massacre, the 10-Day War and other events that took place in Southern Colorado during those years, click here.

The survivors took refuge in the nearby town of Trinidad and buried Tikas and his companions there.

The workers, far from giving up, took up arms and moved into action. For 10 days, they destroyed mines and fought the milita. Federal troops quelled the clashes but the strike kept on for another seven months.


The Ludlow massacre caused a national outcry. Newspapers highlighted the incident for days. Even The Wall Street Journal criticized it.

Big boss John D. Rockefeller became a hate figure.

This monument is what remains today from the Ludlow massacre. On the web site where I found its picture, the photographer had added: “About an event not included in our history books…”

This stone lies just outside Ludlow. It too commemorates something not included in the history books. A memorial to the 121 victims of an explosion at the Hastings mine in April 1917.

Let us now hear it from The Nighthawks: Sixteen Tons

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nimrodWorkmanIn this section, we listen to a magnificent “miner’s blues”, sadly mostly in the background: Nimrod Workman (1895-1994) sings “The Coal Black Mining Blues.” Workman is an amazing man. He was named after his Cherokee Indian grandfather. He entered the pits at the age of 14, and worked as a miner for 42 years. A militant trade unionist, he was an organizer of the United Mine Workers of America in West Kentucky. He retired due to black lung and a slipped disc. One day in 1952, he collapsed in the mine, and his friends carried him home on what became his last workday. However, he received no compensation until 1971. He raised 11 children in dire conditions (two of his children died young). Despite struggling with health problems, he lived to the age of 99, becoming known as a folk-singer later in life. Phyllis Workman Boyens, his daughter, is also a folk-singer. In 1982, Mike Seeger, brother of protest-music legend Pete Seeger, visited Nimrod Workman at his home and made a capella recordings of his songs. These recordings were brought together on the album “I Want To Go Where Things Are Beautiful.”

And the legendary Woody Guthrie! This section features the song he wrote in memory of the Ludlow Massacre. Guthrie is one of the “fathers” of protest music in the 20th century. Many musicians call him their “mentor”. He performed with Pete Seeger. His guitar featured the slogan, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”


During the 28 years from 1884 to 1912, 42,898 miners died in mining accidents in the US. In Huerfano County, Colorado, where 1,708 miners died, juries elected by Sheriff Jefferson Farr adjudged that the mine owner was at fault in only one of the 95 accidents. You won’t come across sheriffs elected by mine bosses, or juries elected by those sheriffs, or armed men assembled with money paid by the bosses in free market theories. But you came across them almost everywhere in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States.

baldwinFelts“Freedom of enterprise” was an expression generations in Turkey that reached their 40s in the 2000s, or older, heard very frequently from politicians. This expression is an “integral part” of the “free market”. William Gibboney Baldwin (right) and Thomas Lafayette Felts were businessmen who understood the importance of “freedom of enterprise” very well. In the 1890s, they became aware of the gap in the market for defending bosses against workers organizing and seeking their rights, and they founded the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. The professional murderers they employed terrorized workers. Baldwin-Felts detectives turned up wherever there was dissidence, insurrection, strikes or resistance. They were “in charge” during the Ludlow Massacre as well. When Baldwin died in 1936, and Felts a year later, the agency folded. Probably to protect the industrialists that had formed partnerships with the agency, all its documents were burned.

In May 1920, T.L. Felts’s two brothers, Albert and Lee, went to Matewan to evict striking miners from company lodgings, where they were shot and killed by town sheriff Sid Hatfield who had taken side with the miners. The pitcher will go to the well once too often, as they say… Five other professional killers died in the shootout. A miner, and a young bystander also died. The incident went down in history as the “Battle of Matewan”, or the “Matewan Massacre”.

sidHatfieldTown Sheriff Sid Hatfield became a hero in the eyes of miners across the nation after shooting the Baldwin-Felts detectives, but the agency took revenge by shooting and killing him on the Courthouse steps 15 months later. This led to a tremendous backlash from the miners. They took up arms and clashed with guards for three days, and then marched on to Logan County. They were joined by doctors and nurses. They went to the mines in the region, growing in numbers as they progressed.

Please listen to this fine song by "cathead77" (Alan) written many, many years later for Sid Hatfield, accompanied by old photographs.

donChafinSheriff Don Chafin was the bosses’ man in Logan County, and he had begun to organize armed militia against the miners. The miners wore red bandanas around their necks, and Chafin’s men wore white armbands to distinguish themselves. The militia held Blair Mountain, and the miners could not pass. Eventually, martial law was declared, federal troops arrived, and the miners surrendered their weapons. Union organization declined in the region in the aftermath of the “Battle of Blair Mountain”. Three years later, Sheriff Don Chafin was imprisoned for moonshining. After his release, he became a leading Democrat politician in West Virginia. Naturally, he was a lobbyist for the bosses of the coal industry.

matewanAfisDirector John Sayles shot “Matewan” in 1987. In the film, union organizer Joe Kennehan who comes to Matewan tells white workers who do not want to allow a black worker into the union: “You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker!.. They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in the world –them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy!"
tikasTyranny often prevails, but certain events and certain people are not forgotten. Louis Tikas, a labor union organizer of Greek origin, lives on in hearts and minds, although his name may no longer be in circulation because of the free market that cancels out conscience. (The name of his murderer lives on alongside his, as the name of a murderer.) You can read a eulogy written for Tikas in 1915 here, and the lyrics of a song praising him as the “Knight of Humanity, you were / More than American or Greek” here. You can listen to the song written for Tikas by Frank Manning (Menning değil) and entered into the 2002 Woody Guthrie Song Contest here.
nighthawks70s NHLogo

Formed in 1972, The Nighthawks were a typical rock’n’roll-band in the beginning. After performing with blues masters like Muddy Waters, they came to be known as a blues band. They have been together for almost 40 years. Check them out here.