Progresssive mind in Texas, a survey of journalistic response to labor radicalism, violence, and socialism, 1900-1916

Date

1973

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Abstract

The Progressive era encompassed some of the most diverse energies of any period in American history from fly catching to good roads to prohibition. But, especially on the national level, progressivism was an attempt to establish a new set of criteria to deal with the massive industrialization and its various ills that had overtaken the United States. In establishing this new set of criteria many advanced the cause of labor as part of their program. This thesis then is an attempt to test local support of labor. Instances of labor radicalism and violence were chosen as examples to better test the authenticity of the support of labor. On the local level the response to violence at home tended to be more conservative than the general response of the period. Most of the newspapers reporting the streetcar strikes of 1903-1904 and the Grabow massacre devoted much more space to attacking the violence that was infesting their city than a just recognition of the position of labor. A few papers, however, like the Beaumont Daily Journal and Houston Chronicle did point out the position of labor and acknowledged the errors of management. Texas papers responded in an extremely diverse fashion to the Cripple Creek wars of 1903-1904 and the Ludlow massacre of 1914. A few reactionary papers tolerated the violations of the constitution by the state authorities and the attacks on the miners by the mine owners as necessary to preserve order. On the other side a few papers ignored labor's violence and solely attacked the mine owners and the state government. Most papers, however, reported that both labor and capital were at fault. A diverse response again emerged in relation to the McNamaras. While several papers used the McNamaras as an excuse to attack organized labor, other papers warned the public not to take this as an indication of all organized labor. A few papers even asked their readers to question what could cause laboring men to turn to such violent methods to obtain results. The response to the Lawrence incident was the most progressive of the entire period. Almost without exception Texas papers attacked the tariff-supported wool industry of Lawrence and endorsed the workers in their cause. This response, however, was not typical of the general attitude expressed toward the IWW. Most papers tolerated any legal or extralegal attack on an organization that they considered the greatest threat to American security. Texas editors generally acknowledged the growth of socialism as a result of the abuses of the capitalistic system. Few papers were willing to dismiss Eugene V. Debs as a passing fad and most predicted a greater growth for the Socialist party. These papers proposed that the only way to deal with socialism, which they believed was an impractical theory, was to correct the abuses of the industrial system.

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Keywords

History, Texas, Labor movement, Press, Twentieth century

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