Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Most Dangerous Woman in America.

"How can I adopt a creed [i.e. Marxism] which, preferring the mud [i.e. you and yours] to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement?" (J.M. Keynes, "A Short View of Russia", 1925. My emphasis.)

Mary (Mother) Harris Jones is but one example of those the "bourgeois and the intelligentsia" so despise, hate, and fear.

Mother Jones. [A]


How did a lonely migrant woman, with little wealth or education, become "the most dangerous woman in America", as the West Virginia district attorney, Reese Blizzard, called her in 1902?

I cannot speak for Blizzard, but one thing is for sure: her fearsome reputation didn't come from being the sinister conspirator of bourgeois nightmare. Nobody, not even her opponents, ever claimed she had anything to do with the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, reptilian aliens, or other night frights of rich people's feverish imagination.

Reading Lance Selfa I came with an answer. Trotsky -- whom Selfa quotes -- compares Jones with another American left-wing icon, Emma Goldman:
"Lying in the open air, I looked through a collection of articles by the anarchist Emma Goldman with a short accompanying biography, and am now reading the autobiography of 'Mother Jones.' They both came from the ranks of American working women. But what a difference! Goldman is an individualist, with a small 'heroic' philosophy concocted from the ideas of Kropotkin, Nietzsche and Ibsen. Jones is a heroic American proletarian, without doubts or rhetoric, but also without a philosophy. Goldman sets herself revolutionary aims, but tries to achieve them by completely unrevolutionary means. Mother Jones always sets herself the most moderate aims: more pay and less hours, and tries to achieve them both by bold and revolutionary means. They both reflect America, each in her own way: Goldman by her primitive rationalism, Jones by her no less primitive empiricism. But Jones represents a splendid landmark in the history of her class, while Goldman signifies a departure from her class into individualistic non-existence. I could not stomach the Goldman articles: lifeless moralizing which smacks of rhetoric, despite all its sincerity. I am reading the Jones autobiography with delight." (My emphasis. See here)
Mother Jones' didn't call for revolution, violent or otherwise, or the abolition of the property of the means of production. That's not why she was "dangerous". What she did do was equally outrageous and unforgivable, from the point of view of the powerful: she sided, not in words only, but in actions, with the "mud", the miners and seamstresses, her adopted children. She gave them voice and made them visible.

To side with the "boorish proletariat" is more than enough to make of you a dangerous person to be ridiculed, whose ideas must be opposed out of hand, if not deliberately misrepresented. And if you are "the bourgeois and the intelligentsia" why wouldn't you do that? Isn't the right to humiliate, oppress, deceive, and exploit your natural right?

Image Credits:
[A] "Mother Jones, American labour activist (04/11/1902)". Author: Bertha Howell. This media file is in the public domain. Source: Wikipedia.

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