Mining History Written in Blood
Publisher: Counter Punch
Date Written: 05/01/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Domestic coal mining history above and below ground lives on the pages of Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction edited by Wess Harris (PM Press, 2017). The anthology unpacks the industry, people and communities of a coal-rich region, amplifying relevant class and gender issues over a century.
The coal industry and its allies used it to smother working class voices. Mine owners and their allies in the academy and press in part appealed to American patriotism to make their case, subject matter that Alex Carey writes about in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty (1995).
Then and now, capital, e.g., mine operators and owners, also tried to divide and separate coal workers along ethnic and linguistic lines, according to Joy Lynn, in an interview with Michael and Carrie Kline. Sow division and strengthen social power is the name of this ruling tune.
The Klines also interview a retired federal mine inspector, who describes how the coal companies ignore safety in the pursuit of profitability. His accounts of corporate malfeasance are revealing; its purchase of political power system operates to the harm of working families.
The coal company store was a site of gender oppression. The power and control of capital over labor involved "forced sexual servitude" under the Esau scrip system that Harris and other contributors detail.
As a matter of policy, coal management males practiced sexual misconduct against miners' daughters and wives in places such as the Whipple Company Store. This history does not make for easy reading.
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