Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Fall of Industrial Democracy--and the Rise of Consumer Culture

I)                   Industrial Democracy

A)     Definition – actually, there is no one definition of industrial democracy—it meant different things to different people.  To workers, it meant that they would have a say in how a factory or other kind of business would be run.  To owners of the factories and businesses, it meant that for the duration of the war they would tolerate government interference in the running of their business, in return for guaranteed profits—but only to the end of the war.

B)     Different views of Industrial democracy

1)      Americanization programs – largely under the control of the capitalist class, intended to make workers think and act like “Americans.”

(a)    Banishment of German language newspapers – distribution of German language material through the mail was banished in 1917, which effectively ended the large German press in the United States.

(b)   Company-sponsored programs

(i)                  Ford Motor Company – in the period just before the war, Ford introduced his famous “Five Dollars a Day” program, which he proposed to pay workers in his factories five dollars a day (about twice the then going rate for factory workers).  To qualify, workers had to pass inspection from the Ford Social Department, who ensured that workers were living frugally and would not dissipate the salary that they were to receive.  Immigrant workers, in addition to this, were also required to attend language classes if they did not speak English, and were lectured on work habits, personal hygiene, and table manners; they were also encouraged to move out of ethnic neighborhoods, and not to take in borders.

(c)    Loyalty organizations – groups like the American Protective League were formed by natives born to enforce their vision of Americanization upon the foreign born, as well as other natives who did not fit their vision of proper conduct.

(d)   Restrictions on immigration – although the numbers of immigrants was not restricted by law until 1924, and the effect of that law did not come into effect until 1929 (when, due to the world-wide depression, immigration would have fallen off, anyway), restrictions were placed upon immigration before that time period.

(i)                  Literacy test – immigrants had to prove that they could read and write in their native language—a law the AFL staunchly supported.  The law was passed by Congress over President Wilson’s veto

(e)    Eighteenth Amendment – the amendment abolishing the manufacture (except for personal consumption), distribution, and sale of any alcoholic beverage.   This concept had long been an aim of moralists in the country; what may have finally pushed the issue over the top was a backlash against the German American brewery owners who dominated the industry.

(f)     Nineteenth Amendment – giving women the right to vote; this was another long political struggle that reached fruition by the end of hostilities in Europe.  While this gave women the right to vote, most men who worked for passage did not expect this to change the political balance in the country, and it did not—the mostly middle class women who benefited most from this amendment voted in much the same way as the middle class men did.  Leading women who worked for passage of this amendment went immediately to work on passage of an Equal Rights Amendment, meant to remove the remaining inequalities between women and men; most were not around to see Congress finally approve it in 1972, and practically none around to see its failure to pass muster among the states.

2)      Industrial democracy for working people.

(a)    Labor as a partner in society – the symbolic importance of the positions that AFL president Samuel Gompers held should not be discounted in importance; this gave the working people that he represented (the single largest group, and growing during this time period) the impression that they finally had some influence in government.

(b)   Success of labor actions – with sympathetic members sitting on the War Labor Board, which was charged with adjudicating labor disputes, labor unions increasingly won recognition from companies, and modest wage increases for the workers they represented (which companies could afford to grant because many of them operated with “cost-plus” contracts from the Federal Government—which meant that the companies were guaranteed a certain level of profit).

II)                 Reaction to Industrial Democracy – after the signing of the Armistice, companies in the United States moved to rescind many of the agreements that had been reached during the war years.

A)    1919 Strike wave

1)      Seattle General Strike – a strike instigated by the International Associations of Machinists, who represented shipbuilding workers in the city.  Eventually, most workers in the city joined the machinists on strike, and a workers’ strike committee ended up running the city for three days—providing law enforcement, food distribution, and other essential services.

2)      Rossford Ford Plate Glass strike – led by the IWW, began the same time as the Willys-Overland strike; strike leaders were swiftly arrested, and carted off to Wood County county seat Bowling Green (with the assistance of a number of volunteer deputies recruited from the normal college there), where they were held largely incommunicado.  Catholic school children were told that there parents would be excommunicated from church if they attended a strike rally in Toledo; management in the factory armed and deputized by county; after several weeks, with the assistance of strikebreakers, strike defeated.

3)      Willys-Overland strike – Willys attempted to unilaterally impose a wage cut on workers; offered a profit-sharing scheme to workers, which was rejected.   When wage cut imposed anyway (in the form of a longer work day with no increase in wage), many workers walk off job at normal quitting time; workers are fired, and strike called.  Workers from Lagrange Street area board west-bound streetcars on Central, all workers who cannot produce a Chevrolet work badge are made to get off the streetcar.  Strikebreakers are hired, and housed within the company compound; strikers surround compound.  Sweeping injunction granted after North Carolina auto dealer claims business adversely effected.

4)      Steel strike – AFL made concerted attempt to organize steel workers during the war, and this attempt continued during period just after the war.  Most success occurred in the area around Chicago, and result encouraged attempts to organize workers in the Pittsburgh area.  Leadership of this drive was given to former Wobbly William Z. Foster, who had headed up a similar drive on the behalf of the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchers to organize packinghouse workers in Chicago area.  Steel companies refused to negotiate; used Foster’s syndicalist past to discredit him, and eventually crush the strike.

5)      Boston Police Strike – walkout of the Boston Police force led to widespread looting and general lawlessness; Governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge orders the firing of the entire police force, and mobilizes the state militia to police the city.  This strike, perhaps more than any of the other of the hundreds that occurred, scared those in power most.

B)     Reaction of governing elite

1)      Red Scare – led by US Attorney General (and Presidential wannabee) A. Mitchell Palmer, a nationwide coordinated attack against known and suspected radicals took place in early January 1920, when hundreds were arrested, with a suspension of the rights of habeous corpus; some of those arrested are deported on minor violations; some of those who were American citizens—like Big Bill Haywood—jumped bail and left the country (Haywood fled to the Soviet Union, and is buried in the wall of the Kremlin).

2)      Institution of the “American Plan” – this plan was part carrot, and part stick.  While unions were unwanted in the workplace, in many factories the indiscriminate powers of the foreman were curtailed, and powers to hire and fire were given instead to newly instituted personnel departments.

(a)    Power of foremen curtailed
(b)   Institution of personnel departments
(c)    Grievance procedures
(d)   Profit-sharing and stock options plans
(e)    No collective bargaining, however

I)                   Mass Culture

A)    Radio – for the first time, a mass audience could experience an event at the same time.  Although this was used as a technique to keep alive ethnic cultures (polka stations, foreign language programs, etc.), it also allowed others outside that culture to experience it; business side led to mass entertainment to sell products—which in turn contributed to the homogenization of culture

B)     Phonograph records – a way to maintain ethnic ties as well; but once a record was distributed, there was no way to limit who would consume it, which meant that there was a great deal of interaction between cultures, which in turn created a new culture (Caruso, Sophie Tucker “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” the Austin High Gang of ethnics who frequented the jazz clubs of Chicago’s South Side and helped to create the swing music of the 1930s, particularly one Benny Goodman)

C)    Movies – 1920s were a boom time of the downtown movie palaces, which were paeans to consumer culture; as the star system became more refined, these actors became more and more used to sell products (cigarettes, automobiles, etc.)

D)    Automobiles – by 1929, 50% of American families owned an automobile, and the industry directly employed 375,000 people—with millions more indirectly employed because of it.

1)      Fordism – Ford’s contribution to the automotive industry was his drive to reduce the cost of the automobile, so that it would become more widely accessible to the general public; Ford accomplished this by increasing the number of specialized machines used to create parts for the automobile.  This had two advantages: it decreased his reliance upon skilled workers, who could demand higher wages; and it allowed him to set a specific pace of manufacturing, rather than letting the workers set their own pace

(a)    Model T – extremely limited choice (it came with no options, and in one color—black), but this allowed Ford to perfect its manufacture—which in turn allowed Ford to drop the price of the automobile from $950 when it was introduced in 1909 to $290 at the height of its popularity in 1924

(b)   $5 a Day – the famous $5/day wage, instituted in 1914, was approached by few workers, but it helped limit the turnover of 300%; the higher overall wage also allowed workers to purchase the product that they were manufacturing (analogy to Bush directives for Americans to do their “patriotic duty” and purchase stuff in reaction to Sept. 11)

(c)    Increased mobility – ownership of an automobile allowed many more people to move to the suburbs (or “into the country’); also created a greater demand for recreation—along with more workers employed in routinized labor.

2)      Sloanism – named after the President of the General Motors Corporation, Alfred P. Sloan.  Sloanism is in many ways the perfection of Fordism; automobiles were provided in a variety of styles (kind of), and a variety of price ranges

(a)    Creation of the General Motors Acceptance Corporation – GMAC created in order to provide financing for potential automobile purchasers who could not pay cash for an automobile.

(b)   Triumph of Sloanism – by 1927, falling sales of the Model T forces Ford to shut down production, and re-tool for the production of the Model A.  In 1924, Ford had commanded 55% of the new car market.

(c)    Increased importance of advertising – used to help people differentiate between largely undifferentiated products; advertising allowed companies to manufacture desires in their customers.

E) Sports--the 1920s were the "golden age" of sports.

1. Baseball--Babe Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season, and became an everyday player instead of one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball. The manufacture of the baseball itself was refined and made easier to hit fan-pleasing home runs--deemed a necessity after the so-called Black Sox Scandal, where members of the Chicago White Sox team were accused of "throwing" the World Series to make money for gamblers--to make up for the shortfall many players felt because they felt the owner of their team was less than generous with them.

2. College football--dominate teams developed in the Midwest during the 1920s, with the play of Harold "Red" Grange at Illinois and Bronko Nagurski at Minnesota joining the still formidable teams at Michigan and the University of Chicago.

3. Boxing--the "Roaring 20s" got their start here in Toledo in 1919, with the Jess Willard/Jack Dempsey prize fight that took place in Bay View Park. Willard defeated the champion Jack Johnson--the first African American to hold the heavyweight title—in 1915. Willard fought a series of white stiffs before being viciously pummeled by Dempsey and defeated in Toledo.

II)                 African American Culture and Political Development in the North – the vitality and creativeness of African American culture first gets widespread recognition as more African Americans move north, and more white northerners come into contact with it.

A)    Jazz – first comes north in the early 1920s—moved up the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis, and then from St. Louis to Chicago; Louis Armstrong moved to Chicago from New Orleans, first with his Hot Five (which eventually grew into his Hot Seven).

1)      Southside Chicago – the area around 43rd and State was the heart of the African American community in Chicago, the so-called Black Metropolis.  It was here that a group of second generation ethnics from the west side Austin High School came to listen to the jazz bands that played the venues here, and by the late 1930s had transformed the sound into what we know as swing.

2)      New York – NYC quickly became a Mecca for African American jazz players, who found gigs in the burgeoning African American neighborhood in the city known as Harlem.

(a)    “Black and Tan Clubs” – clubs where “slumming” whites could come and listen to and dance to black combos, without having to be alarmed with having to mingle with too many African Americans, unless it was the wait staff or the musicians.  The Cotton Club became the most famous of the clubs.

3)      “Sweet” music and “hot” music – white dance bands toured the hinterlands playing “sweetened” versions of new “hot” jazz hits.  Bands like the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, who would hire a few “hot” players (most notably Bix Biederbecke), but played mainly toned down versions of jazz music.
III)              Reaction to Mass Culture

A)    Prohibition – outlawed the manufacture, and legal drinking; led to the flowering of organized crime.  By outlawing what had been acceptable, it grouped this behavior with other behavior that was looked down upon as well (secular music, dance, homosexuality) that then became tolerated in this developing underground society—and then more laws were passed to outlaw this behavior.

B)     Rise of Fundamentalist Religion – reaction to increased urbanization, increased social contact with Catholics and Jews in urban settings.  White southerners moving north also contributed to this.  Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson

C)    Rebirth of the KKK – became particularly active in northern cities (as well as much of the state government in Indiana); Catholics and Jews became as much a target of intimidation in the North as African Americans during this time. 

 D) Scopes “Monkey Trial” – in Dayton, TN, ACLU convinced a teacher named John Scopes to violate recently passed creationist law; Clarence Darrow was the lawyer for the defense, and William Jennings Bryan was on prosecution team; Darrow called Bryan as an expert witness, and got him to admit to numerous embarrassing literal interpretations of the Bible—Bryan died soon afterward.

No comments:

Post a Comment