Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night

Joe Hill’s Last Will

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide,
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan-
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will,
Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill

Joe Hill was an IWW man. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was, and is a radical union dedicated to abolishing the wage system and replacing it with a democratic system of workplace organization.

Joe Hill was a migrant laborer to the US from Sweden, a poet, musician and union radical. The term “pie in the sky” is believed to come from his satirical song, “The Preacher and the Slave”.

Hill was framed for murder and executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19, 1915. His last words were, “Fire!”

Just before his death he wrote to fellow IWW organizer Big Bill Haywood a letter which included the famous words, “Don’t mourn, Organize”.

The poem above was his will. It was set to music and became the basis of a song by Ethel Raim called “Joe Hill’s Last Will”.

A praise poem by Alfred Hayes became the lyrics of the best-known song about Joe Hill, written in 1936 by Earl Robinson. This was sung so beautifully by Joan Baez at Woodstock in 1969:

Joe Hill

words by Alfred Hayes
music by Earl Robinson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”

“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe “What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize”

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it’s there you find Joe Hill,
it’s there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

Written in reply to America, Tiger Lilies & and Politics: A Response to “America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad”

see also: America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad

Joe Hill (wikipedia)
Joe Hill mp3’s at emusic.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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4 February, 2007 Posted by | anarchism, audio, Big Bill Haywood, courage, history, IWW, Joan Baez, Joe Hill, labor, media, mp3, music, nonviolence, peace, poetry, politics, protest, radical, repression, revolution, scanlyze, socialism, strikes, Sverige, Sweden, unions | 4 Comments

The Corporation: Benevolent Giant or Pathological Monster?

The Corporation
Benevolent Giant or Pathological Monster?

by Henry Edward Hardy


Ubiquitous and powerful and yet strangely invisible in our society, the modern corporation is inescapable. We eat, drink, sleep, bathe in, wear and drive corporate products. Their influence is everywhere, but we seldom stop to observe their effects.

Enter filmmakers Jennifer Abbot and Mark Achbar. Their film, The Corporation (2003) is based on University of British Columbia Professor Joel Bakan’s book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. The film is a neo-Marxist thesis padded with entertaining clips from archival material such as old corporate training films and cleverly edited cuts from recent news coverage.Weighing in at a hefty two-and-a-half hours, the film, like Fahrenheit 9/11, mimics the documentary style, but exploits it to present carefully edited interviews and video clips to promote a single, if somewhat incoherent, pre-determined view. These are the movie counterparts of editorial cartoons rather than the journalism per se of more traditional and balanced (and ultimately one might argue, more interesting) documentaries, such as Control Room.

The Corporation asserts that 150 years ago, corporations did not play a major role in everyday life in the United States. Without having seen the film, Professor Noel Tichy of the University of Michigan Business School, and editor of book, The Ethical Challenge: How to Lead with Unyielding Integrity, asks skeptically, “Where do they think people were getting their goods?”

Katherine Dodds is director of corporate communications for Big Picture Media, the Canadian for-profit corporation formed for the purposes of financing the film. She explains that The Corporation is really aimed at large, publicly held corporations. Dodds says 150 years ago, corporations had not yet gained their modern scope and powers granted through limited liability and the legal fiction of the “Corporate Individual.” Yet she recognizes the inherent irony that Bakan and Achbar first needed to set up a corporation in order to benefit from exactly those ubiquitous features of the modern corporation — such as limited liability — they identify as part of the problem.

The point they make, she says, is the change in the legal definition of the corporation. “One hundred years ago, the corporation was not a legal person. It did not require people to put profit above everything else.” The Corporation is effective in presenting this thesis through archival footage and talking-head interviews of left-wing pundits, reformed and semi-reformed capitalists, disillusioned journalists and whistle-blowers.

According to Dodds, the project was first edited to be three one-hour TV episodes before the removal of 20 minutes for the theatrical release. Left more or less intact, one still feels the missing commercial breaks in the choppy presentation. Perhaps this snappy and very visual presentation will better capture the minds of the attention-deficient and quasi-literate MTV generations.

The film initially presents a coherent narrative, before breaking up into disparate “case studies” which attempt to prove that if corporations are to be compared to individuals, then these companies, according the World Health Organization standard DSM-IV, should be classified as psychopaths.

Dodds accepts the fact that people are likely to have different reactions to the film. “There could be those who are like, ‘Dude, tear down the corporation, down with all of capitalism all over.’ You can have differing views on whether corporations should exist at all, but I think where we come down is saying, ‘They should not have this kind of power.'”

While maintaining that corporations are “the wealth producing-instrument in society,” Tichy endorses Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s view that strong democratic institutions, both governmental and private, are needed as part of the necessary checks and balances on strong corporations. In the words of the 1998 edition of the UN Human Development Report, “Strong institutions, free from corruption, are needed to enforce regulations in such areas as rights to land, security of tenure in housing and accurate information on consumer goods to protect the interests of poor people.”

However, the movie compares the modern corporation to the Catholic Church or Communist Party of other times and places. Tichy challenges this notion, saying “Those were monopolies,” noting that corporations do not form a monolithic block in society. Subject to regulation, public pressure and competition, corporations are born and die, or are absorbed, regularly. He says even the very great, such as Microsoft, will be brought down by a combination of consumer preference, competition and regulation in the public interest.

Using as examples AT&T, IBM, Digital Equipment and Compaq, Tichy says the market and the structure of a democratic society will by nature break up unhealthy monopolies and concentrations of political power and wealth.

Tichy also wryly notes that public confidence in corporations as institutions and in businessmen as individuals of good character and public trust is at an all-time low, rivaling the (un)popularity of politicians and journalists.

Resulting from scandals, such as Imclone, Enron and recent cases involving defense contractors, public confidence in business institutions is “terrible,” Tichy says, and that corporations viewing their relationship with the public as “damaged” are “desperate to demonstrate and rebuild trust.”

Dodds warns of companies desperate for that quick fix may use a tactic she calls “greenwashing,” in which a few cosmetic changes are trumpeted and magnified by media manipulation into looking like a whole-hearted reversal of irresponsibility.

Such an example in the film is the designer firm Liz Claiborne, which advertises that proceeds from the sale of a $127 coat go to children’s charities. What the company doesn’t reveal, as the film claims, is that the jacket was produced by women and girls as young as 14, who were each paid approximately eight cents per jacket.

The film does champion some elites, such as reformed capitalist Ray Anderson of Interface Carpet. Having gone through some kind of epiphany after reading Paul Hawkins’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, Anderson cheerfully condemns himself and his fellows as “plunderers” who are destroying the earth. His interview has a queer aura to it, as if filmed for a 1970s-era post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller — a sort of Battle for the Planet of Soylent Green, perhaps. Yet one must wonder exactly how sincere he is since he hasn’t given up the business, and has found such an articulate way of deflecting opprobrium with studied and apparently sincere self-criticism.

While the film is quirky, self-referential, humorous and informative, Dodds says a proscriptive solution isn’t offered because many of the people appearing in the film each have their own disparate ideas and ideologies. Michael Moore, she says, is urging people to get involved in the electoral system, while Noam Chomsky is a “Chomskian anarchist.” She also says the movie is intended as a lead-in to the Web site (www.thecorporation.tv), where specific multimedia presentations from varying perspectives suggest how viewers can “get involved.”

Had it remained a three-part TV series, The Corporation would have been better. As a movie, it is at once both over-long and maddeningly incomplete, yet still eminently deserving of further examination. Without the blistering white-hot sarcasm of Fahrenheit 9/11 and lacking the balanced view of Control Room, The Corporation still has many virtues that make it worth watching. The sound and video editing are very well done, and Abbott and her crew have done yeoman work in assembling and splicing together various archival and historical clips in a way which is both humorous and engaging, and relevant and informative. While the talking heads are tendentious — and heavily edited — there are worse heads than Howard Zinn, Moore and Chomsky to see talking.

The Corporation (IMDB)
The Corporation (Rotten Tomatoes)
The Corporation (wikipedia)

A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on Electric Current.

Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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24 January, 2007 Posted by | Ann Arbor, books, capitalism, corporations, Jennifer Abbot, Joel Bakan, law, Mark Achbar, media, movies, Noel Tichy, politics, reviews, scanlyze, television, UBC, unions, University of Michigan | 1 Comment

‘I was a Racketeer for Capitalism’ — Maj. General Smedley Butler, USMC (1935)

‘I was a racketeer for capitalism’

Maj. General Smedley Butler, USMC (1935)


Major General Smedley Butler was a two-time winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor and (once) of the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. In 1935 the following excerpt from his speeches was published in the magazine Common Sense:

America’s Armed Forces: In Time of Peace

…In the past two years large National Guard forces have seen active service in 20 strikes in as many different states, from the Pacific Coast to New England, from Minnesota to Georgia. They have used gas, bullets, and tanks — the most lethal weapons of modern war — against striking workers. Casualty lists have been impressive. In one instance they erected barbed wire concentration camps in Georgia to “co-ordinate” striking workers with all the efficiency of the fascist repressive technique.There isn’t a trick In the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” (to point out enemies), its “muscle men” (to destroy enemies), its “brain guys,” (to plan war preparations) and a “Big Boss,” (super-nationalistic capitalism).

I Was a “Racketeer”

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical of everyone in the military service.

Thus I, helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

Smedley Butler (wikipedia)
Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (Marine Corps History Division)

Some discussion of this piece at commongroundcommonsense.org: Insights of a Marine General, Published in a magazine called “Common Sense”

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 January, 2007 Posted by | Al capone, archives, books, Brevet Medal, Brown Brothers, capitalism, China, Congressional Medal of Honor, covert operations, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, marines, Mexico, military, National City Bank, repression, scanlyze, Smedley Butler, speeches, Standard Oil, strikes, unions, war | 2 Comments