Some Labor Rhetoric

The Rhetoric of Business

"This is an age of concentration. Everywhere there is concentration and combination of capital and of those factors which today rule the world . . . The world gives only when it is obliged to, and respects only those who compel its respect. . . . Let all men of America who toil with their hands once stand together and no more complaints will be heard about unfair treatment."

Governor Altgeld of Illinois, quoted in Milton Meltzer, Bread and Roses:The Struggle of American Labor (New York: Knopf, 1967), p. 149.

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The Rhetoric of Socialism and Anarchism

"Reared amid the hardships and dangers of a new continent -- separated from the 'parent government' by a great ocean -- thrown upon their own resources, they learned lessons of self-reliance and ideas of self-government that served them well when the struggle for independence came, and for the change in civil government about to take place. It was left for them to present to the world, for the first time, civil equality,a nd common privileges, and whose end was to be the general prosperity, virtue, and happiness of the people. Independence gained, it was natural that joy and satisfaction should be inspired, upon having escaped some of the oppressions of European systems, without feeling much curiosity to ascertain whether the new government was actually so founded as to secure the happiness of the many, instead of ministering to the benefit of the few. This could only be learned after a considerable experience, and after that class, out of which came bankers, brokers, bondholders, usurers, and other plunderers of labor, had time to find out and take advantage of the weak places in our system of government.

"This point was soon reached, and then began that scramble for wealth and power that has resulted in creating among us a monied aristocracy that is fast sapping the foundation of our government and destroying the liberties of the people."

William H. Sylvis (1869), from R. Lawrence Moore, ed. The Emergence of An American Left: Civil War to World War I (New York: Wiley, 1973), p. 15.

Manifesto of the International Workingmen's Association

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