This Week in People’s History, Apr 23–29
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The cover of the book, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists

Class Struggle by the Book

110 YEARS AGO, on April 23, 1914, an unusual and unforgettable novel and a great read, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists was published in London. Written by an unknown author and promoted almost entirely by word-of-mouth, many years passed before it became well-known and widely admired, particularly by progressives. It is the fascinating tale of the efforts of a house painter, who is also a prophet of the class struggle, to persuade his workmates to recognize how they are exploited and what they might do about it. Its hard-nosed immediacy is not surprising, because its author was a socialist house painter. If it is unfamiliar, I recommend this review, written nine years ago, which might well inspire a look at the novel itself. Or at least I hope so.…

The Global South Gets Organized

69 YEARS AGO, on April 24, 1955, the unprecedented Bandung Conference, a week-long meeting of representatives of 29 non-aligned governments, most of them former colonies that had only recently achieved independence, held its closing session in Bandung, Indonesia. The combined population of the conference participants –  including the People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines – was more than half of the world’s population. To the great consternation of the United States, the conference was a breakthrough in the effort to promote Afro-Asian economic and cooperation and to oppose colonialism and neocolonialism.…  

Portugal Says No More Fascism

50 YEARS AGO, on April 25, 1974, a coalition of leftist army officers peacefully overthrew Portugal’s fascist regime and established a democratic government. Almost immediately, the revolutionary government started the process to end wars against independence movements in Portuguese Guinea, Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola. Exactly a year after the revolution, Portugal held its first free election in more than 50 years.…;

Apartheid’s Last Gasp

30 YEARS AGO, on April 26, 1994, one of the last official vestiges of racist apartheid rule in South Africa vanished when South Africa held a national election in which all adult citizens could vote, marking the end of a 4-year process of eliminating apartheid. The African National Congress, a political party that had been outlawed by the apartheid government for more than 30 years, won an overwhelming majority in parliament. The ANC’s leader, Nelson Mandela, who was only able to run because he had been released from more than a quarter century’s imprisonment, also won by an enormous majority.…

Nixon on the Skids

50 YEARS AGO, on April 27, 1974, some ten thousand people joined a march in Washington, D.C., demanding the impeachment of Richard Nixon.  Smaller marches occurred in Chicago and Los Angeles. The events were organized by the National Campaign to Impeach Nixon. The campaign would have been a complete success, except Nixon resigned before Congress had time to impeach him. You can listen to Phil Ochs’ anthem on the subject here:

Pray for the Dead, Fight for the Living

35 YEARS AGO, on April 28, 1989, Workers’ Memorial Day was marked for the first time in the U.S. It is a day to remember workers who have been killed, injured or diseased on the job and to highlight actions needed to prevent such tragedies. April 28 was chosen because it was the day (in 1970) that the federal government enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It was also the day the Canadian Labour Congress organized a similar commemoration, marking the anniversary of Canada’s federal workers’ compensation law.

The first Workers’ Memorial Day was organized by the AFL-CIO to bring the magnitude of workplace injuries and disease to the public’s attention and to gain support for the labor movement’s efforts to improve workers’ safety and health.  

Workers’ Memorial Day is an annual reminder that much remains to be done to reduce the toll of injury death. In 2022, nearly 5500 U.S. workers were killed on the job, an average of one death every 96 minutes. 

A College With No Color Line 

170 YEARS AGO, on April 29, 1854, the Ashmun Institute, which was the first higher education facility in the U.S. for African-Americans, was founded in Hinsonville, Pennsylvania. Twelve years later, it changed its name to Lincoln University, to honor the memory of the recently martyred President. Lincoln University’s alumni include Thurgood Marshall, Langston Hughes and Kwame Nkrumah.…

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