Friday, August 28, 2015

A Great New Mexican

I've written about New Mexico's Dennis Chavez, the first Democratic Hispanic US Senator, who voted for the legislation that created Social Security and wrote the legislation that created the Rural Electrification Administration, which literally transformed America and still provides electricity to millions of Americans in areas commercial power companies find too unprofitable because of the cost of running power lines to them.

Thomas J Hagerty
Thomas J Hagerty

Thomas J Hagerty was a Catholic priest who became radicalized after being posted to a parish in Las Vegas, NM in 1901 and seeing the conditions Mexican railway workers lived under. Not many years earlier Las Vegas was the center of the resistance to the US takeover of New Mexico, and its independent minded people may have had an influence on Hagerty, too. He became a Socialist and helped popularize the movement nationally with his writings in the Socialist press and for a time ran a leading Socialist newspaper. He later became a founding member of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, the iconic Anarchist union. His use of his office for politics and his use of the Bible to justify his Socialist beliefs enraged the conservative pro Capitalist church hierarchy and he was first relieved of his church duties and ultimately defrocked.

"The Ballot Box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation of the working class, and in my opinion it never will."

That was written by Hagerty. I've been expressing a similar sentiment lately, that no significant change can be brought about working within the political system (except as brought about by the forces that control that system, of course) but that it comes as a result of movements outside the system. I've cited the IWW's way of organizing as an example. They don't work to get contracts, but to be organized in a way that they can exert their power directly. They don't run candidates for office, as Socialists do. Socialists would take over government, Anarchists would eliminate government and run their work places and communities through direct democracy.

Hagerty wrote the stirring preamble to the IWW constitution, reproduced below, which is often reprinted by radicals and Leftists. I remember the first time I read it being floored by it. I probably shouted and lept to my feet with my fist in the air. I became even more enthralled with the IWW constitution itself, a remarkable document, written more than one hundred years ago, that lays out how to run a organization -- a union, a society, anything -- so that no one can accumulate power and that everyone has a voice. Everyone. It's a beautiful document.

I don't doubt there's a lot of Hagerty in it, being he was an IWW founder and a writer. Hagerty represents a vein in Catholicism that's hard to find in Protestantism, which I was raised under, by the way, that I think sees in Socialism the earthly manifestation of the best parts of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. It has less to do with God and more to do with how we relate to each other as human beings. We humans are a mixture of good and bad, to put it simply. We have strong impulses both to love and to fear. We can decide which of those we live by, which we try to work on, which are expressed in government and in our personal dealings.

Not that everyone is entirely consciously aware that they have that choice, but we can help each other be aware of it. That's what people like Hagerty did, or what Oscar Romero did. Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador, who was murdered in 1980 if not directly by the by CIA then by people who were part of the CIA's efforts to keep in power the Latin American dictators and butchers who kept imperialism's oligarchic allies in power, was one of the leading proponents of what's called Liberation Theology. It's called that because it encompasses the liberation of people from oppression, but it also finds support in the Bible for Socialism as the alternative to Capitalist Imperialism.

Hagerty was kicked out of the church by the same thing that killed Romero. Church leaders, Catholic and Protestant, who whether they are involved in conservative political movements directly or are only saying they are against Socialism or are only saying that politics have no place in the church and who go after people like Hagerty, are taking sides with Capitalism, which has survived as a system because it's been a successful way to manage our lesser natures, our greed, which emanates from our fear, and in supporting such a system all have chosen for whatever reason to live by their lesser natures. Not so Thomas Hagerty.

Note: Anarchists and Socialists share a Marxist analysis of Capitalism and Society -- the main difference between them is in how to organize society after Capitalism's overthrow. Their common Marxist analysis is evident in the IWW preamble that Hagerty wrote:

Preamble to the Industrial Workers of the World Constitution 

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

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