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This Week in People’s History, Nov 28-Dec 4

Tom Mooney Reprieved (in 1918), Oil Embargo Layoffs (1973), Vaccine for Millions (1803), "Unrestrained, Indiscriminate Police Violence" (1968), Monroe Doctrine is Too Old (1823), NYC Says 'No' to Lynch Law (1933), Slavery's Enemies Organize (1833)

Crowd packs NYC's Union Square protesting Tom Mooney's frame-up
New York City's Union Square crowded with supporters of frame-up victim Tom Mooney on March 9, 1918.,

Tom Mooney Reprieved, Sort Of

105 YEARS AGO, on November 28, 1918, the governor of California commuted the death sentence faced by Tom Mooney, the charismatic Socialist union organizer.

Mooney had been sentenced to die after a brazenly unfair trial in San Francisco. Of all the leftists who had ever been railroaded to jail or the executioner, Mooney stood out, because almost as soon as his trial ended, the "evidence" used to convict him was revealed unequivocally to have been such a tissue of lies that no unbiased person could have considered him to be anything but the victim of a kangaroo court..

The outrageousness of Mooney's conviction and sentence provoked an international outcry against his soon-to-occur execution, an outcry that even had the support of President Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General and many others like them who  were certainly no leftists. Huge, angry meetings demanding Mooney's freedom had taken place in all major west coast cities as well as Chicago, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and London. A nationwide general strike to support Mooney, scheduled to take place December 2, was called off when the governor acted.

But with his sentence commuted, Mooney, who was 25 at the time, now faced life in prison after having been convicted by infamously perjured testimony and doctored evidence.  He eventually received the full pardon he deserved and was released, but not until 1939, after 22 years in prison. He was a free man for only three years before dying.

This 1917 pamphlet makes clear why even Woodrow Wilson advocated clemency:…

1973 Oil Embargo Costs Auto Workers' Jobs

50 YEARS AGO, on November 29, 1973, six weeks after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) put a total embargo on U.S.-bound oil shipments, a critical shortage of gasoline in the U.S. began to cause real pain. The Chrysler Corporation was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to acknowledge the crisis. In the short time since the embargo began, sales of gas-guzzling Chrysler cars had fallen to near zero, so Chrysler announced that it was furloughing some 38,000 auto workers and closing one of its biggest assembly plants in order to convert the plant to compact-car production. It was a bitter pill for Chrysler workers to swallow at the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. It was also a harbinger of things to come as Chrysler started to tailspin toward near-bankruptcy.

Millions get Smallpox Vaccine in 1803. Really?

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220 YEARS AGO, on November 30, 1803, a truly heroic international public health initiative to prevent smallpox got started, with funds provided by King Charles IV of Spain. Over the course of the next ten years, the Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition successfully vaccinated millions of people in China, the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands -- and the territories that are now California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- against what was then the world's most deadly and feared infectious disease. It also established scores of vaccine clinics, which continued to administer vaccine for many years after the Expedition had departed. Its great success so long ago, performed at no cost to vaccine recipients, remains a source of wonder to this day.

"Unrestrained, Indiscriminate Police Violence" in Chicago

55 YEARS AGO, on December 1, 1968, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, which had been appointed by Lyndon Johnson after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy released a report that was tangential to the Commission's work, but caused a national sensation nevertheless. The 324-page report about the violence that had occurred during the National Democratic in August 1968 was titled Rights in Conflict.

No summary can do Rights in Conflict justice. Its first three paragraphs, quoted here verbatim, provide a sense of why it was page-1 news.

"During the week of the Democratic National Convention, the Chicago police were the targets of mounting provocation by both word and act. It took the form of obscene epithets, and of rocks, sticks, bathroom titles, and even human feces hurled at police by demonstrators. Some of these acts had been planned; others were spontaneous or were themselves provoked by police action. Furthermore, the police had been put on edge by widely published threats of attempts to disrupt both the city and the Convention.

"That was the nature of the provocation. The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night.

"That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring. Newsmen and photographers were singled out for assault, and their equipment deliberately damaged. Fundamental police training was ignored; and officers, when on the scene, were often unable to control their men. As on police officer put it: 'What happened didn't have anything to do with police work.'"

The link leads to complete text of Rights in Conflict

200 Years of the Monroe Doctrine is 200 Too Many

200 YEARS AGO, on December 2, 1823, U.S. President James Monroe articulated the policy that came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine.  According to Monroe, the United States rejected any European effort to establish a colony west of the Atlantic Ocean or to interfere with any independent government there. Monroe thereby set forth the U.S claim to a sphere of influence covering everything from Alaska to Patagonia, an area twice the size of the largest existing sphere of influence, claimed by the Russian Empire. Monroe's unspoken corollary was that the U.S. alone had the right to determine what was allowed in the same area. Two decades later the U.S, went to war against Mexico to enforce its claim that more than half of Mexico's territory -- what is now California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- belonged to the U.S. The list of similar enforcement actions is too long for this space; it includes the separation of Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898, the invention of Panama, (a good place for a canal), in 1903, the installation of a new, pro-U.S., Nicaraguan government in 1910, the eight-year U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic that ended in 1924 and the 19-year occupation of Haiti that ended in 1934, etc., etc., etc.

New Yorkers Say 'No' to Lynch Law

90 YEARS AGO, on December 3, 1933, more than 1500 people, the majority of whom were Black, filled the Great Hall at New York's City College to capacity to denounce a particularly infamous lynching, to demand enactment of a federal law against lynching, and to demand that the nine Black youths who had been convicted of rape in Scottsboro, Alabama, receive due process from appellate courts.

The recent lynching, which took place six days earlier in San Jose, Calif., had attracted a crowd of at least 5000 people, including scores of newspaper reporters and photographers, plus a radio reporter who described the event in a live broadcast. As a result, the lynching -- whose victims were two white men accused of kidnapping and murder -- was a major, multi-day news story all over the U.S. The result was an outpouring of protest throughout the U.S., largely because the lynching had the explicit approval of the Governor of California, who said that if a lynching took place, he "would pardon the lynchers." After the event, the governor said, "It is the best lesson California has ever given the country."…

Slavery's Enemies Get Organized

190 YEARS AGO, on December 4, 1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded at a 3-day convention in Philadelphia. Abolitionists of many stripes rallied to the new organization, which soon attracted 250,000 members in 1350 local chapters. Beginning almost immediately, the AASS and its supporters withstood wave after wave of racist violence, starting with a full week of deadly attacks in Manhattan. The Manhattan attack was just the beginning. During 25 years or organizing, AASS supporters were the targets of murderers and arsonists, including three days of unchecked racist rioting in Philadelphia in 1834, the 1837 murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy in Illinois, and the 1851 abduction of abolitionist minister Calvin Fairbank from Indiana by Kentucky racists who forced Fairbank to stand trial in Kentucky where he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Through it all, the AASS remained most effective anti-slavery organization in the U.S. until the founding of the explicitly anti-slavery Republican Party in 1854.