Showing posts with label Andrew Carnegie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrew Carnegie. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2013

The passing of a brain-sucker

From the September 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 12th of August the death of Andrew Carnegie was reported, and all the capitalist newspapers united to diffuse an odour of sanctity around the man whose fortune—like all other great fortunes—was built up by the sucking of other men's brains.

It was on the shoulders of others that Carnegie climbed to affluence. Unscrupulous, alike in his dealings with his fellow capitalists and his workmen, he crushed out all who stood in his path, until he came up against a more powerful combination than his own, then he stepped quietly down and out of business, leaving Morgan, Rockefeller & Co. a clear field.

Carnegie came at the first flush of the era of speculation and "high finance" in America, and the tide swept him along with it. The keystone of his success was his ability in appropriating the product of other men's brains (as well, of course, as the product of their hands), or, as he himself repeatedly expressed it in relation to his managers, finding better men to look after his interests.

The man who is set up as a model of "self-help" was helped by others all his life. The only direction in which he exercised self-help was in helping himself to the the product of the work of others.

A quotation from the full-page effusion on Carnegie's life in the "Daily Telegraph" (Aug. 12th) gives in a nutshell the story of his life and the cause of his success.
“He began the world without a penny. He retired from business sixty years after one of the richest men in the world—to put it no higher—with a fortune of some 90,000,000 . . . It was won by a man who had no training for his life-work. The greatest of iron masters knew nothing of metallurgy."(Italics mine.) No money—no knowledge of iron—yet the greatest iron master! How did he do it?
“To the progress of the industrial revolution, to the stupendous development of mechanical and scientific methods in manufacture, Andrew Carnegie owed his millions."

Here we have it. Carnegie's wealth was built up by the ingenious brains and hands of working men. In other words, the departed saint stole the product of others' toil. And what of the workers and thinkers whose discoveries brought about the industrial revolution? The main figures in it—Crompton, Cartwright, Stephenson, Kay, Jacquard, Harrington, Lavoisier, Koening, Roberts, Trevithick, Gutenburg, Cart, Bourseul, and a host of others, either died in poverty after lives of struggle against starvation, or—in the case of a very few—gained a niggardly recognition when they were on the brink of the grave.

Now let us see where the self-help came in. Carnegie's first "start" in life was due to another person. To quote again from the "Daily Telegraph":
“And now came the tide in Carnegie's life which, taken at the flood, led on to fortune . . . It was Col. Scott who first taught the youth how to make money earn more money . . . His mother mortgaged their house, into which had gone all the family savings. With the $600 thus raised Andrew bought Adams Express Stock, on his astute employer's advice."
Of course the stock paid well: Scott was in the "swim."

Carnegie's next step was to introduce to the Pennsylvania Railroad, through the agency of Scott (who was president of the company) T. T. Woodruff's invention of a sleeping berth (the forerunner of the Pullman car). He borrowed the money for his shares, and was "let in on the ground floor," "but the cars afterwards paid handsome dividends!" "Thus," he wrote, "did I get my foot on fortune's ladder. It was easy to climb after that."

Thus did he vindicate the glorious principle of self help! I may add that I find no record of Woodruff's name as one of those who got their feet on fortune's ladder. No doubt he went the usual way of inventors.

During the Civil War Carnegie's pal Scott (now Assistant Secretary for War) found him a lucrative job in the service of the Northern wage slave owners, and at the conclusion of the war he utilised the wealth he had acquired to go in for oil and "struck it rich."

Like Mr. Rockefeller, he was in at the start. In 1862, with several associates, he purchase the Storey Farm, on Oil Creek, Pennsylvania for $40,000. It proved what prospectors call a bonanza, and in one year paid $1,000,000 in cash dividends.

Having gained the early plums of the oil trade, the "self-made man" in the making turned his attention to steel. On a visit to England he saw the steel rails that were the result of the new Bessemer process (a process discovered by one of Bessemer's workmen whose name even is  not known!) introduced them into America, and another chunk was added to his fortune.

The process of the Trust in which Carnegie had the preponderating influence was largely due to the valuable patents which they controlled. The men who were responsible for the subjects of these patents, however, were but pawns in the hands of the financiers.

Working men have proverbially short memories, yet the name "Homestead" should suffice to recall to the mind the bludgeoning and shooting of working men that took place at Carnegie's works during the "Homestead" strike, when Pinkerton and his gunmen were called in. Though daily waxing richer Andrew the philanthropist (!) was not satisfied, and laid plans to increase the working hours. The men organised to resist the project, so he retaliated by refusing to employ any but non-union workers. According to the "Telegraph" "the strike was soon the crux of one of the ugliest scenes in all the bloodstained history of American labour quarrels." The military (to the number of some 8,000 soldiers) were eventually sent to the vampire's assistance "to restore order"! And such was the man who professed to be the ardent anti-militarist and apostle of peace, and who presented to the world the "Palaces of Peace." Like others of his kidney, he did not want war when it interfered with his accumulation of wealth, but when it suited his purse (as when he took part in the Civil War) his objections vanished.

By the irony of circumstance, the same day the papers were applauding the incarnation of self-help and genius in the shape of Carnegie, they devoted a few lines to recording the tragic death of poor Blakelocke, the American landscape painter. His life "was the story of genius doomed to poverty," says the "Evening News" (13.8.19). His greatest works were sold by him for a few paltry pounds to keep his wife and family from starvation. The same works were afterwards sold for hundreds of pounds. The same paper further states: "Worry and the hard struggle for existence eventually produced a break-down, and he was removed to an asylum."

Blakelocke is now looked upon as one of the greatest landscape painters of America, but his genius only brought him poverty and the lunatic asylum.

What a contrast! The unscrupulous and slimy Carnegie dies in the midst of vast riches, while the fine artist dies in the asylum! Self-help, forsooth!

After officially stepping out of business (although still drawing his dividends), Carnegie set out to make a name for himself in a new direction. He made arrangements to distribute libraries in various places to assist in the education of working men. It appears strange that one who was such a determined antagonist of his employees should suddenly blossom forth as their benefactor. The strangeness, however, disappears as soon as we look below the surface. Carnegie and his class require workpeople who have sharp brains and a good technical knowledge, as these make the most efficient wage-slaves—hence the library stunt.

Since 1901 Carnegie has been throwing millions away and doing his damnedest to spend his money, but all to no purpose: he dies worth nearly as much as in 1901! What a power of wealth this one man must have robbed the workers of, and yet they try to kid us that we do not produce enough!

Away with dreams and delusions; let us wake up and produce for ourselves. Perish the parasites and vampires.


To Socialist Courier, this sounds all too familiar.

Steve Jobs said of Bill Gates “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

See here for more on Carnegie

Friday, November 30, 2012

Crimes of Carnegie

In the land of his birth Andrew Carnegie is commemorated by statues and grand buildings named in his honour. In Dunfermline, where he was born, there is a museum to remember him. This article expresses a different view of the Scottish "benefactor".

Condoning Crime in the Name of Philanthropy

Many thousands of misguided people are applauding the alleged philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie and of these by far the larger number are
workingmen. Manifestly they have forgotten, or they have never heard of the horrors of Homestead — or perhaps they are too ignorant to understand or too cowardly to profit by the bloody lesson.

The reckless prodigality of Carnegie with the plunder of his victims brings into boldest prominencethe crimes he committed when they protested
against his monstrous rapacity. Then what? An army of 300 Pinkerton mercenaries were hired by this bloody benefactor to kill the men whose
labor had made him a millionaire. He did not have the courage to execute his own murderous designs so he commissioned another monster, Frick, by name, with bloodless veins and a heart of steel, to commit the crimes while he went to Europe and held high carnival with the titled snobs there until the ghastly work was done. It was one of the foulest conspiracies ever concocted against the working class and the very though of its atrocities, after nearly 10 years, fires the blood and crimsons the cheek with righteous indignation. Not only were the Pinkerton murderers hired by Carnegie to kill his employees, but he had his steel works surrounded by wires charged with deadly electric currents and by pipes filled with boiling water so that in the event of a strike or lockout he could shock the life out of their wretched bodies or scald the flesh from their miserable bones.

And this is the man who proposes to erect libraries for the benefit of the working class — and incidentally for the glory of Carnegie.

Will the workingmen of this country accept any gift from the hands of Andrew Carnegie, red with the blood of their slain comrades? That some of them have already done so is to their everlasting shame. The employees who a few days ago received, with expressions of gratitude, the bonded booty, to be held in trust for them until they become paupers, have debased themselves beyond expression. They may have to work for Carnegie, but they are not compelled to recognize as a gift the pennies he throws them in return for the dollars he stole from them, and when they do they are guilty of treason to their murdered brothers, and are better described as spineless poltroons than as self-respecting workingmen.

Some years ago, when Carnegie endowed the first library for the alleged benefit of workingmen, I objected. And I object now with increased

Such a library is monumental of the degeneracy of the working class. It is a lasting rebuke to their intelligence and their integrity.

 The workingmen of New Castle have led the revolt. Let their splendid example be followed wherever a Carnegie library is suggested. Let mass
meetings of workingmen be held and let the horrifying scenes of the Homestead massacre be sented to stir them to a sense of indignation at
the vulgar and insulting display of the spoil exploited from their class.

 Let honest workingmen everywhere protest against the acceptance of a gift which condones crime in the name of philanthropy. Let them put themselves upon record in terms that appeal to the honor of their class and the respect of all mankind.

 We want libraries and we will have them in glorious abundance when capitalism is abolished and the workingmen are no longer robbed by the philanthropic pirates of the Carnegie class.

Then the library will be as it should be, a noble temple dedicated to culture and symbolizing the virtues of the people.

Eugene Debs.

March 30, 1901. 
Taken from here 

For more on Carnegie see an earlier post on Socialist Courier

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Charity of Carnegie

Owner of the Carnegie Steel Works, Andrew Carnegie was called the "Richest Man in the World." Carnegie's hundreds of millions accounted for about 0.60% of America's GDP and when adjusted into to-days value, he was worth anywhere from $75 billion to $297.8 billion. All over Scotland towns possess libraries thanks to endowments and the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie. However,  he did not show the same charity to his workforce. Carnegie holding to the widely held theory of "Social Darwinism" declared that direct charitable 'handouts' would interfere with humans' competition for survival and impede the progress of the race.

Andrew Carnegies family were effectively exiled out of Scotland by the rich ruling classes because both his father and his uncle were active and strong leaders of the Chartist movement. The Chartists were demanding that the working class people were given the vote and the right to stand for election so they could take political power from the rich and lead to a far fairer society. His father was a weaver dependent on employment in the big textile factories was sacked by the rich owners for his political views and word got round that he was a “troublemaker” and effectively unemployable. With no social benefits to support the family they were had no choice but to sell up every stick of furniture they owned and move to the USA in 1848. Like many of his contemporaries, Carnegie hired someone less fortunate substitute and serve in his place in the Union army during the Civil War. Too much money was to be made from Army Department contracts to personally risk life and limb.

After the Civil War the industrial revolution in the United States really began to accelerate and led to dramatic changes in labour. Traditionally, Americans owned small proprietorships. With the introduction of automated machinery and the specialisation of tasks, workers found their economic position declining. Employers hired unskilled labourers for many of the positions and increasingly demanded longer and longer hours at a lower wage from their workers. The rise of labour unions led to an increase in demands on the part of the workers for shorter hours, better pay, and safer working conditions. Employers realised that any concessions to labour would ultimately reduce profits, so negotiations usually proved futile to the labour unions. By the 1880s strikes began to occur with some frequency, often resulting in violence and bloodshed.

Carnegie started by building iron bridges for the railroads, then cashed in with steel and by acquiring competitors grew and became, US Steel,  the largest steel company in the States. Carnegie bought up coalfields to feed his furnaces and expanded into railroads as large users of steel he could then ensure they only bought his steel for trucks and rolling stock etc. His power and greed to become even richer however created clashes with the growing union movement right across his industrial empire. He was ruthless enough to do anything to retain his financial empire no matter what the cost to others. Carnegie expressed support of the right to unionise such as when he wrote "The right of the working-men to combine and to form trades-unions is no less sacred than the right of the manufacturer to enter into associations and conferences with his fellows" , but something did not ring true about his words when it came to strikes in his own factories. His quest to make his steel cheap and affordable, thus the key to making profits, adversely affected Carnegie's workers. Cheaper steel invariably meant lower wages and more dangerous working conditions, as efficiency trumped safety in Carnegie's mills. Further, Andrew Carnegie's quest to reduce labour costs by investing in mechanization put people's jobs in jeopardy. Under Carnegie, workers within the steel company routinely worked seven days a week, twelve hours a day. Carnegie gave his laborers but one holiday off a year, July 4. Working conditions were dangerous and sometimes deadly, many workers laboured with no breaks, and the average pay in for the common unskilled laborer in the Carnegie Steel Company was just above $500 a year, averaging $10 a day, often just 14 cents an hour.  And because Carnegie was heavily anti-union, the job security of his labourers was always at great risk. He was an industrialist who was willing to employ both strike breakers from out of state and armed guards to defeat strikers using whatever means was necessary including bombing and shooting of strike leaders. Les Standiford’s account  of Carnegie and relationship with his iron-fisted business partner and trusted company manager, Henry Clay Frick reveals a hypocrite who prided himself on being a friend of the working man, while at the same time planning and executing what turned out to be one of the bloodiest labour lock-outs in U.S. history, the Homestead Strike.  Andrew Carnegie was to become not just a union basher but gave the orders which would lead to strikers at his Homestead steel factory in July 1892 being physically beaten up and shot dead.

At Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Mill, after an unsuccessful campaign to rid the Homestead mill of the militant Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, Andrew Carnegie went off to his Scottish Highland estate on vacation but  just before he left, Carnegie instructed the head of the  plant  Henry Clay Frick to  reduce wages by 25 percent and end union recognition. Frick  handed the committee representing the company union (to which only about 800 of the 3,800 workers belonged) the new contract "proposal," with no explanation. The union, of course, rejected the proposal. With negotiations between Frick and the unionised steelworkers now concluded without a contract, Frick locked out the workers, fenced off the mill and called in the Pinkertons, the private police force so vicious its activities were outlawed in 11 states. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had been started Allan Pinkerton, born in the Gorbals, an ex-Chartist and a slavery abolitionist activist yet by 1872, Pinkertons were being hired by the Spanish Government to help suppress a revolution in Cuba which intended to end slavery and give citizens the right to vote. The Pinkertons was becoming very active in smashing strikes. Some dozen or so Irish miners had been sent to gallows thanks to Pinkerton agents who infiltrated the Molly Maguires. The Pinkertons were a private army contracted to protect factories when strikes were looming. Pinkerton’s would send in hundreds of men all issued with Winchester rifles with instructions to use them if lives or property belonging to factory owners were threatened. Their people were involved in shootings of strike leaders and had even used a bomb to attack a union headquarters in Chicago a couple years earlier. That reputation was known to everyone involved including Carnegie!

Carnegie was not holding back from any confrontation with his strikers. Frick had a hard line reputation for ruthlessness against unions and strikers. Frick had previously employed Pinkerton’s Agency to break up strikes on several occasions for example, in 1884 to protect Hungarians and Slavs employed as strike-breakers to work in his coal fields, in 1891 to protect Italian strike-breakers, when the above Hungarians and Slavs went on strike.  Full scale violence erupted when Frick hired out of state workers to continue operating the factory during the strike. Pinkerton’s bought in 300 men fully armed and ready to use whatever force was necessary to win the fight against strikers. Local strike leaders were attacked and  shot by Pinkerton’s men as an example to other strikers. The strikers were then supplied with guns by local community members and retaliated. The Pinkerton men were surrounded and pinned down behind hastily erected barricades. People were dying from wounds and no help could be given by either side as they lay there caught in the cross fire. Pinkerton’s men tried to surrender three times waving a white flag on a stick but each time sharpshooters broke the stick in two with bullets. They were later allowed to leave the area but only after severe retribution was given leaving many agency men with broken bones and severe injuries. It was effectively a civil war with revenge being extracted by the winners. Over 8,000  state militia to occupied Homestead and protect the strikebreakers who would be put to work at the mill. The strike and sympathy strikes at other Carnegie plants continued until November, but practically speaking it was all over once the militia marched into town.

Pinkerton’s had a history of using violence to break up strikes. Their people were involved in shootings of strike leaders and had even used a bomb to attack a union headquarters in Chicago a couple years earlier. That reputation was known to everyone involved including Carnegie! Ten men were killed during the clashes at Homestead seven of them were strikers and three Pinkerton’s men. Previous strikes at his businesses also resulted in deaths of strikers. It was during the Homestead strike that the anarcho-communist Alexander Berkman to avenge the workers shot Frick in an attempted assassination and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

 Although Carnegie was out of the country at the time and although he may not personally have pulled the trigger, cables he sent to Frick clearly show he supported the move to employ strike-breakers and gave instructions to Frick do whatever was necessary to win the battle against the strikers. Carnegie was fully complicit in how the Homestead incident was handled  and he himself wrote: "The handling of this case on the part of the company has my full approval and sanction."  Carnegie and Frick broke the strike. After the union surrendered and called off the strike the Carnegie owned steel mill slashed wages even further, imposed a longer work day and blacklisted over 500 men who would never again work in the mills again. The union lost virtually its entire treasury supporting strikers and successfully defending them against attempts by Carnegie to have them convicted of murder and other crimes.Trade unionism was effectively crushed at Homestead. As a result, unionism would die in steel plants throughout the country. By 1900, not a single steel plant in Pennsylvania remained union. By 1910, the union had no members at all. Unionism had been eradicated from the entire steel industry, and though the output of steel mills had doubled and the number of working hours had increased from 10hrs to 12hrs a day,  pay barely increased. In many mills, it actually decreased. Workers would have virtually no say in their conditions or wages, and while the company's profits soared, the common labourer was reduced to a state of semi-slavery.

Inevitably, Carnegie  and Frick fell out and nearly thirty years after the Homestead debacle, Carnegie dispatched a servant bearing a letter begging his old partner to let bygones be bygones “You can tell Carnegie I’ll meet him. Tell him I’ll see him in Hell, where we both are going.” Frick was obviously labouring under no illusions about the moral stands he and Carnegie had taken in clawing their way to the top. Perhaps by giving away his money it was an attempt by Carnegie  to justify what he had done to get that money - and paying penance and buying absolution for his sins. It was the poverty wages of the great majority of his workers, on whose backs that Carnegie had earned his fortune. The bloody struggles of 1892, the hired assassins, the hired thugs, demonstrated to working people the ruthlessness of the many-times-over  millionaire Andrew Carnegie. In Dunfermline, his birth-place, there is a museum in his honour but he is a man all Scottish workers should  villify rather than respect.

Sing ho, for we know you, Carnegie;
God help us and save us, we know you too well;
You're crushing our wives and you're starving our babies;
In our homes you have driven the shadow of hell.
Then bow, bow down to Carnegie,
Ye men who are slaves to his veriest whim;
If he lowers your wages cheer, vassals, then cheer.
Ye are nothing but chattels and slaves under him.

 "A Man Named Carnegie"

See more on the Homestead Strike here

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Charity and Philanthropy

The cash-for-honours affair and Tom Hunter's philanthropy merely prove the rich call the shots in an unequal society, says Joan Smith in the Independent

Peter Mandelson remarked nine years ago that Labour ministers were "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich"

During Blair's premiership the wealth of Britain's top 1,000 quadrupled.

The Scottish self-made retail billionaire Sir Tom Hunter, promised to give away at least £1bn to good causes before he dies. Hunter has joined an elite club of people who have made so much money that they are able to give away sums that most of us cannot even visualise ...Hunter is usually mentioned in the same breath as the hedge fund investor Chris Hohn, who has promised £230m to a children's charity run by his wife, and the financial trader Peter Cruddas, who is giving £100m to good causes which include The Prince's Trust and Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

Such donations are usually regarded as non-political, a harmless exercise in what's called "soft" power;...Yet a moment's consideration is enough to demonstrate the lack of democratic oversight at most private foundations, and while wealthy people may choose to support causes of which we all approve,.. they may just as easily make decisions which appear capricious or downright perverse. Some wealthy evangelical businessmen withhold money from organisations that support gay and women's rights...Despite the generosity of men such as Hunter, there is a widespread sense that there is something wrong with a society in which growing numbers of wealthy people are able to use their money to fund pet causes – or keep it for themselves... the fact remains that for every billionaire who decides to do something to combat Aids or malaria, there is another who prefers to buy yachts, wives or football clubs.

...there is compelling evidence not just that we are entering a new age of oligarchy, reminiscent of the US in the 19th century, but that it is corroding public trust in the political process. The names of the men who literally built America – Carnegie, Frick, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller – are familiar to this day; in a striking parallel with contemporary Britain, some of these tycoons had a highly developed sense of social responsibility and gave most of their money away. The Scottish-American steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who was originally from Dunfermline, gave away the equivalent of $4.3bn in his lifetime... There could hardly be a greater contrast than the railroad pioneer Cornelius Vanderbilt, who has been described as the second wealthiest person in American history, with a fortune estimated at the time of his death in 1877 at more than $100m (a staggering $143bn in today's money)... His son William got the bulk of his fortune, with next to nothing going to good causes.

The moral is that wealthy men are no more likely to be generous than poor ones; even such contemporary philanthropists as the Irish rock band U2, whose lead singer Bono never misses an opportunity to lecture political leaders about increasing aid to Africa, were revealed last year to have moved their financial affairs to the Netherlands in order to halve their tax bill. Private philanthropy is unreliable, in other words, and our increasing reliance on wealthy entrepreneurs to fund everything from clean water in the developing world to British political parties is a symptom of profound malaise.