Saturday, March 30, 2013

Guilds, Corporations & Let's Plan an Apocalypse For Later...

We'll get to these...promise!

Steve Jobs  No. How About Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker 
as the New Anti-Christ:

Okay, a little extreme perhaps...but not without a few cheerleaders in the cheap seats.  Perhaps it is why I have been musing lately about an...Apocalypse, or The Apocalypse, an Apocalyptic Event, the 2nd Coming (well, the first one didn't go too well), errant comets, asteroids...Mayan gods sacking downtown Los Angeles, dogs having sex with cats, people dressing up like characters out of get it.  Worse yet, seeming to revel in the notion of being sucked naked into a jet engine.  So I decided to put down my package of freeze-dried bananas, crawl out of my concrete-reinforced bunker, unload my 6 assault rifles, the three 9mm's and re-sheath the Bowie knife I made out of an old rasp.  And as my psychiatrist told me -- take three deep breaths before you pull the trigger. Then march outside and yell at the top of my lungs, "What's goin' on!!"

What's goin' on is technology.  And there is nothing new about technology overwhelming the senses and sensibilities of humans.  Much of human history is reactionary in nature -- often the conflict between accepted, though unfounded beliefs and the immutable laws of physics.  All would be fine and dandy, except that the humans that choose to live by the beliefs are guests on a planet that exists by the laws.  Kind of like a landlord-tenant dispute of global proportions.

The Laws of Physics...or more accurately, the laws of the physical world, is the stuff of daily life.  Your house, car, the butter on your toast or your left foot are merely a bunch of random atoms held together by...The Laws.  So basically, if you break the laws of the humans, you might go to hell.  Break the laws of physics and you will go to hell.  Because you definitely won't be living here anymore.  When these two principles come into conflict, the Believers tend to get a little frayed around the edges.  So thusly, given their own interpretation of their own beliefs, the only way out is an apocalyptic event -- which promises something better than the angst of relentless doubt -- I guess.  Personally, I rather enjoy chaos as long it shows up after my first cup of coffee. And that brings us to the Industrial Revolution -- a meandering event of three centuries that re-wrote the social and political playbook of mankind's Godly, yet uncomfortable world...forever.

The Industrial Revolution ran from approximately the mid-1400's to its awful climax in the unspeakable carnage wrought by World War I.  Following the great 'war to end all wars,' technology took to the forefront.  All the theories and socio-economic parameters of industrialization were in place, so now the game turned to efficiency, to limiting costs of reducing human simply removing the human from the process. 

Enter the Luddites.  By the 1800's, particularly in England, the march of the new industrialization had finally broken the social fabric of not only the working class, but the skilled artisans -- beginning in the textile arena and rapidly spreading to all other skilled crafts.  The factory business model was now based on mass production, conducted primarily by unskilled labor working off templates. This kept volume high, costs low and really...a captured labor force that had no power to negotiate wages or conditions...or the ability to break out of the socio-economic basement of society.  Dare to complain?  A hundred or more other men were already lined up for your job.  And in the background were the artisans -- now watching their livelihood and cultural station vanish...along with their self-worth.  And their only tool:  "collective bargaining by riot."  In effect, smashing the machines of production.  

"...a captured labor force that had no power to negotiate wages or conditions...or the ability to break out of the socio-economic basement of society."  Walker's plan for Wisconsin...and his vision of Amerika.

Yeah, blame it on the French...
However, let's back up for a minute and take a look at just what these artisans had at stake.  For that goes back even further -- to the 1200's and the early formation of The Guilds.  Quite surprisingly perhaps, the Guilds were an extremely sophisticated social and business apparatus -- a true case of modernity in the Medieval world.  They are described as:
"The earliest types of guild were formed as co-fraternities of workers.  They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society.  They often depended on grants of letters patent by a monarch or other authroity [SIC} to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials."

And, as an aside...the guild framework led to the emergence of the university system -- in Paris, London, Bologna, etc., as a way to ensure both the quality and expertise of future guild well as limiting the number entering the various fields.  Why?  To keep the skill level high and the prices even higher.  And virtually eliminate all outside competition.  Basically a monopoly set forth with a royal blessing. 

Even from medieval times, one of the basic premises (for textile workers, masons, glass workers, carpenters...blacksmiths & farriers), was secrecy...the so-called arts or mysteries of their craft.  This led to the apprenticeship system, a learning curve that was long, tedious and based to a great extent on loyalty.  An investment in this grueling process was of great mutual benefit to both master and apprentice -- a continuation of skilled help for the master's shop and a guarantee of a lucrative (and highly respected), station by any apprentice completing their training.  And all guaranteed by the king, prince, lord or Pope.  Because no matter who killed who, assassinated some body's cousin or de-poped a Pope (Please remember that for centuries Vatican City was a warring state), job security was virtually guaranteed by the possession of the trade's secrets.  

The Continental System:
Here come the French -- London
finally gets decent food and a fashion
This system was developed shortly after the Norman Conquest (those darn French!), around the 11th century, basically by incorporated merchants of each town holding exclusive rights to do business there. These societies of merchants and artisans (later, guilds), actually became the functioning city governments -- sort of like the the zoning commission, the tax assessor, building code enforcer and quality control inspector all rolled into one all-powerful agency.  And do remember that in this period of industrialization, no civil police existed --  courts were run by kings and bishops; thereby transferring enforcement to the military -- the folks controlled by these very kings, get it.  So basically, these early corporations were the city government.  And with feudalism firmly in place as a social stratification tool, complaints were...well, a really bad idea.  Oh...the word guild?  Derived from the gold deposits held in common  funds for...gee, lobbying, buying favor, Congressional junkets -- much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church, as generous tithing was falling on hard times. Seems a competition existed for campaign donations between those wanting a better life in the here and now...and those banking on redemption elsewhere. Needless to say, the guilds became extremely powerful, the church busily accusing them of a rather pagan idolatry -- money and a degree of earthly loyalty equal or above God.  Hmm...sounds like Monday morning on Wall Street.  And of course, the Normans exported this mercantile/corporatist system to each neighborhood they invaded -- including London.  
The Company's Livery
By the 14th century, over 350 guilds (corps de metiers), operated in Paris alone. Germany (circa 1300) sported many guild societies up until the 19th century, though many remain to this day. Even later to the game, Spain hosted so-called gremios -- most founded in Valencia and Toledo between 1332 and 1426.  And of course London today: The Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers AND The Worshipful Company of Farriers.  See, we are headed somewhere with this story.  [The term Worshipful, no doubt a hat-tip to the Church, maintaining God's blessing on commerce as the final authority.] 

[Note: The term "livery," derived from the French livree, meaning dispensed or handed over, is quite often misunderstood as having something to do with a horse. It is actually a symbol of recognition -- call it a business license if you like -- this dispensed normally by a royal decree. Hence, if you take a horse to a Livery Stable, that stable is in effect certified by the ruling entity. So in effect, The Worshipful Company of Farriers was thereby created by the Normans in 1356, the modern version by charter in 1674. However, the exact transition is difficult to determine due to the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed all city records.   However, it is noted that the Company was recorded by London City Aldermen as being in existence since 1356.  An example of a modern usage of the livery would be the medallion that adorns most city taxicabs.  A medal, or livery granted by the city.]

But of course, not all city economies were controlled by the guilds.  Some cities were 'free.'  However, where the guilds operated, they shaped labor, production and trade -- most importantly (as I referred to earlier as the 'university system'), they controlled 'instructional capital' -- the modern concept of a lifetime progression of apprentice to Craftsman, Journeyman and eventually to the widely recognized Master and Grand-master.  In order to become a Master, a Journeyman would have to go on a 3-year voyage called Journeyman Years.  This was also known as the Waltz and is the origin of the Australian song, Waltzing Matilda. 

Over time, the guilds became more and more specialized, falling into what could be called sub-guilds within an expanding industrial or technical structure.  And yes, rancor was common between these specialties because like today (say, vet/farrier disputes), skills, products or territory overlapped, producing these kind of jurisdictional conflicts.  And too, commerce and taxation had evolved to an economic system based on money -- not deemed worth, via an individuals personal (skilled) value to the execution of commerce.  The key word: efficiency.  The king's coffers got filled much faster by skipping the middleman.  And of course, this same economic philosophy gained great traction in the later industrial years, leading to a violent, reactionary movement:  our old friends, the Luddites.

Why?  Well, as outlined earlier, money.  The emergence of the capitalists in the 14th century -- (Oh, you were thinking that came later?) -- began to find the guilds a little too obstructionist when it came to raw profits; readily available as more and more people flocked to the cities.  Industrialization (even in its infancy), meant opportunities outside the socio-economic privation inherent in agricultural enterprises.  Of course, that quickly became a false hope as no laws existed relating to labor practices outside the guild system.  And the guilds themselves were now locked in an eternal conflict of their own -- the larger, more established (Arti maggiori) and the lesser (Arti minori) guilds. The lesser guilds primarily did piecework -- say, the blacksmith made the part, the Arti minori made the rivets.  The major guilds tended to be more conservative in their thinking -- smarter perhaps as well, for as the merchants gained more and more control of the means of production (capital), these larger guilds could see the writing on the wall: industrialization was creating a broad schism between the 'haves' and 'have-nots.'  The lesser guilds were left to fight for scraps on their own.  Mercantilism would prevail as the political economy of Europe and post-colonial America.

The Fall of the Guild System:

Lot of theories out there, but one exists that many of today's farriers can relate to quite well: the emergence of factory-made shoes; but with a couple of caveats.  One argument (Olgivie 2004), asserts "that guilds negatively affected quality, skills and innovation through what economists now call 'rent-seeking,' in that they imposed dead weight losses on the economy." The assertion being that guilds "generated no demonstrable positive externalities."  Whew...damn economists are as bad as lawyers. What's this mean?  Basically, that the guilds chief mantra was to be self-serving and self-profitable; not a team player in the capitalist game and literally, the enemy of innovation, technology transfer and thus, business development.  (Hold on to that last thought.)  However, the bigger issue seemed to be that "artisan" and "mass production" were mutually exclusive and since the guilds controlled the university system -- i.e., the secrets behind the skills, expansion in the production arena was stunted...grounded really.  
It finally came to a head in the late 18th century and well into the 19th, when the societal divisions and economic pressures between these "haves" and "have-nots" fractured the very foundation of society, not to mention the established political systems of entire nations.  But to be fair, the guilds were a minor target, their earlier affiliation with the merchant class the damning testimony at their own rather public undressing;  perhaps merely a prelude on the road to obsolescence in the modern age.
   Even so, the political ramifications -- later the economic elements, were forever shattered.  As we see today, particularly by American conservative republicans -- of the Reaganomics stripe, the tendency in Europe was to oppose government control over trades, via the guild system in favor of laissez-faire free market systems; finally to the point of infiltrating the political and legal systems. In France, the Le Chapelier Law of 1791 abolished the guilds.  And here, we see an antithesis to American labor unions -- relating here specifically to American farriers via the IUJH. (International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers) -- which for most intents and purposes, functioned under the guild model.  More on this later, but in this context, there is a viable connection between what could be called 'the behavior of arrogance,' or the slow complacency that develops over time -- though it should be noted loudly, that no system is completely immune from the anger felt by those in the greater society.  Particularly when they are denied economic mobility; not by their perceived level of skill, but under the guise of a closed shop, regardless of who the real gatekeeper may be.  From the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith:

"It is to prevent this reduction of price, and consequently of wages and profit, by restraining that free competition which would most certainly occasion it, that all corporations, and the greater part of corporate laws have been established...and when any particular class of artificers or traders thought proper to act as a corporation without a charter, such adulterine guilds, as they were called, were not always disfranchised upon that account, but obliged to fine annually to the king for permission to exercise their usurped privileges."  

Little background on macro-economics & politics: 

Basically, it meant that the guild charter, hence the corporation was now a politically appointed entity -- such privilege at the whim of the king. The same sort of relationship that exists today between a Congressional Appropriations Committee and say, a defense contractor.  Not the stuff that fertilizes an honest garden -- instead, more fuel for the political firestorms engulfing Europe at the close of the 19th century.  Even Karl Marx criticized (Communist Manifesto), the guild structure for "its rigid graduation of social rank and the relation of oppressor/oppressed entailed by this system."  And here we see the disdain for guilds advanced over time to the modern corporation -- that inability of people or government to control "their unruly behavior."  But of course Marx seemed to miss a critical point in his view of world communism -- that being the fundamental difference between feudal relationships in agricultural production (the commune model), and the ramifications of the Soviet 'model' of mass industrialization...the flawed premise of working for a faceless, common good -- the state. And too, he failed to notice that as a general rule, humans are ambitious AND pretty damn selfish. But perhaps the real rub was that socialist economics were designed to be inclusive of all trades; plus the rather naive notion of an egalitarian kind of proletariat, who managed (hence, profited as an entity), through decisions made and executed within the industrial enterprise. Instead, the workers simply became the tools of production for the Communist Party, who in turn created -- via central planning and micro-management, a fossilized industrial sector that actually celebrated a complete lack of initiative.

However, the Soviet model was more of an aberration within a greater system of thinking, other nations choosing the avenues of state socialism, syndicalism, corporatism (fascism) and the cheekier ambitions of anarcho-syndalicalism.  Even Americans, post-depression, found the tenets of socialism rather appealing, for a leaky social umbrella was viewed far more favorably than none at all.  Particularly in light of finally realizing that their blood and sweat shed in production had, in 1929, funded the very brigands responsible for turning the country into one giant soup kitchen.

Whew...don't we just love macro poli-economics!  Good thing the Russians
 had plenty of cheap Vodka.    
So following the French Revolution (you've all no doubt seen Les Miserables), and the emergence of so-called nation-states, which could of course issue patent and copyright protections -- often at the expense of old 'trade secrets,' the guilds were disbanded and replaced by free trade laws.  By this point, many artisan/craftsmen had been forced to seek employment in the rapidly emerging manufacturing industries -- using not highly guarded techniques, but standardized methods controlled by corporations.  And so the books closed on four centuries or more of these specialized cartels.  But not completely it seems...for while some guilds remained, more fraternal than political, the model morphed into what we see today as the corporation.  But lacking the brotherhood, the compassion, good will or charm; just the top to bottom control of all life's necessary a substantial profit.

 Part II:
Artisans Storm the Beach off Massachusetts... 

"Honey, we're here!!"
Well, let's just say that they were gun-toting Bible thumpers and since the Native Americans had already met the Vikings....

But, by the time these folks swiped Plymouth Rock and most everything else, the guild system was already is disarray -- at least in English North America.  The French in Quebec and elsewhere were still engaged in what could still be called a feudalist system -- across the border in what would become the US, the early stirrings of what would become the world's first capitalist society, or: "[how] dominant social groups appropriate surpluses created by working peoples in their transformation of nature."  Either way it is sanctioned thievery and the details are in how you spin the process to the suddenly disenfranchised workers.

However, in the lower colonies the guild system never really took hold, mostly due to the colonists themselves, who were both subject to the long reach of English law and really, outliers at heart. They had already rejected most European customs as restrictive to personal beliefs, so why not toss out most everything else. They did though, hang on to class (social) structure and the early settlers adhered to a sort of Marxist/socialist structure merely to survive.  As a system of villages and towns developed, it quickly evolved (depending on the colony), into a tiered system:  land owners, skilled artisans...those with small farms, servants and on down to indentured individuals....slaves.  So in effect, a kind of convoluted feudal system was operating on a purely social hierarchy -- the upper crust placed there through land grants and special favors from the King of England.  Loyalty bought and paid for in an effort to keep taxes and commodities flowing to the palace treasury -- most of which was spent fighting with the French, order to swipe more stuff around the planet.  Kind of a geographical Ponzi scheme. 

The key word here was 'colony.'  Certainly local autonomy in day to day affairs was prevalent up to a certain point, but while this experimental thing called democracy was gaining traction, the bottom line was still written in London.  Which meant that surplus production was subject to price fixing by the English for export markets (wholesale to retail), and what remained in local circulation was subject to taxation.  So more and more the object of discontent was centered more on labor than commodities and this bit of friction was exasperated greatly by the introduction of slavery, one of Britain's most profitable legs of an economic triad, for you see, empty ships don't make profits for the owners or taxes for the King.

This is how it worked:  English ships went to Africa from their colonial bases in North America; here they stole human beings -- sailed around the Horn of Africa, to India.  There they purchased vast quantities of tea....and opium.  Then, on to China, where they sold the opium, bought spices and headed back...first to sell the humans they stole, then the tea...then load up with under-priced American goods and zip back to England. 
Little like Wal-Mart without the specials on opium or humans.  Skilled artisans did mange to prosper -- albeit through different channels and an apprentice system did continue, though without the structure or enforcement granted by the guild authority.  In many ways, the old 'secrets' were impossible to covet and this kind of horizontal economics -- control of prices -- was negated by the Royal bean counters. the French, everybody got a little pissed and they had a revolution.  Without the need for a guillotine. 

England's model of colonial commerce.

Long and short of it:  we won, the British went home to sulk. 
The next 10 years or so was spent in acrimonious debate about what we wanted to be when we grew up, which was about ten-minutes after King George surrendered the place.  That's the trouble with revolutions, in that if you win, you have to become a bureaucrat and get a job.  Then there is the matter of opening your own Post Office, inventing some kind of money to pay the bills and figuring out how the hell you're going to keep the British from returning.  And, the horses needed shoeing.

But already (under the new capitalist system), the country was fracturing along definitive lines. The north was embracing manufacturing -- headed towards industrialization and the sticky wicket of labor relations; the south focused on agriculture, which was highly profitable with the Africans doing all the real work.  In some ways it was a reversion to feudalism, i.e., a new aristocracy in a new land, based on having a faux lord and many peons...though far more wicked in its application.  Slaves were chattel, and as such, had no control over life, death, marriage or family.  But we did have a new Constitution based on: 
"We the people...."
"the pursuit of happiness..."
   "All men are created equal..." 
No, I'm not tossing stones at the obvious hypocrisy contained in these documents...well, maybe a small one or two, but those folks that helped pen these marvels of liberal democratic thinking were America's aristocrats -- the land owners, the bankers, the manufacturers...excluded in this doctrine were of course, the slaves...and women, and Native Americans, and indentured servants, the poor and illiterate and just about everybody else that couldn't afford tights and a wig.  So we eventually had a protracted and bloody Civil War that merely abolished slavery, but solved little else on a long list.  So we continue to labor under the burden of 'states' rights' -- an expensive and redundant proposition.  For every time one federal law is passed, 50 arguments, adjustments and interpretations get dragged through the courts.  I we really need 50 different driver's licenses, 38 different 'rules of racing,' 50 different penalties for the same crime? Perhaps we should consider just changing the name of the country to:
 The Sometimes, But Not Always United Fiefdoms of America. 

But, let's move on to even more unpleasant stuff:  labor in the northern colonies/states. As pointed out earlier, the guild system was gone, replaced by a slowly evolving system of labor confederations, or unions.  The capitalist system relied heavily on both commodities and labor to produce a finished product.  Commodities were subject to the laws of supply and demand -- labor very similar, except that employees could think, speak and reason.  AND...unlike slaves, they had perceived rights under the grand document of the new Republic. 

Labor disputes actually occurred prior to the Revolution and not just against the British overseers. 1763 saw a strike by negro chimney sweeps in Charleston, NC, the Gazette noting that they "had the insolence, by combination among themselves, to raise the usual prices and to refuse doing their work."  And in Philadelphia and New York (1786), printers went on strike for higher wages...wanting $6.00 per week.  The strikers won in both these cases, probably more by a shock to established protocols than any presumption of fairness.  Even though the printers were considered artisans by stature and rank, without the old guild system, they were still little more than employees in the new capitalist system.

Knarly bunch...these farriers!
By the 1830's, as in England, violence was becoming the tool of choice for disgruntled workers. And leading the pack?  Horseshoers.  An early union warning in New York:  "We would caution all strangers and others who profess the art of horseshoeing, that if they go work for any employer under the above prices, they must abide by the consequences."  Hmm.  But then in the cities, farriers, wheelwrights, teamsters were primarily employees in larger liveries or shops (it is here where 'livery' changed to licensed), and only had negotiating power as a group.  But...they did hold a serious advantage:  they could cripple the transport of goods and other services.   

[Morgan Reynolds, from: [History of Labor Unions from Colonial Times to 2009]:

"Nearly everything was tried in some form or other during this era: socialism, syndicalism, anarchism. cooperatives, political unionism, and, the most seductive of all, the welding of everybody (barring bartenders and bankers) into one gigantic union.  Some were secret societies with names like The Knights of St. Crispin, the Molly Maguires, and the Knights of Labor. Yet the main adhesive of British and European unions -- easily aroused class antagonisms -- was absent in America, and Marxist-style sentiments about the plight of the working class never became the dominant mood, contrary to some historical accounts.  More often, American public opinion was horrified and disgusted by outbreaks of labor violence and union disruption of production, especially if the outbursts had revolutionary overtones."

Hmm.  First we have a revolution and then go all soft on radical ideals.  Almost sounds...well, un-American.  Except that America's new capitalistic society left no room for egalitarian economics.  Equality was left for the bankers to determine...a precept that seems to have traveled well over time.  So what emerged was the concept of 'business unionism' -- the notion that unions must pursue immediate, material gain for members within the free-enterprise system.  The underlying idea to accept the capitalist wage, price, and political system and achieve marginal gains for members within that system.  And meanwhile, the fledgling court systems in America were trying very hard (under the auspices of the Constitution), to determine the connection between civil law and that "pursuit of happiness" thing.

So...what about these radical farriers and the outcome of the experiment known as the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers (IUJH).  A story about juice, lost juice and maybe too much juice.

From the IUJH:  " was then [westward expansion of US] on September 12, 1873 that the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers of the United States and Canada was first organized in Denver, Colorado.  The following year, they were formally  chartered on April 22, 1874 in Philadelphia, PA.  The JHU was originally formed to represent horseshoers employed by large livery companies."  [As noted earlier in this post, the 'livery' concept had morphed into broader terms.]  "Their employers belonged to a group called the Master Horseshoers Association which went defunct in the early 20th century."

"During and after the Industrial Revolution, the horseshoeing trade reached its peak.  In the early 20th century the JHU was very closely associated with the Teamster union.  The friendship the JHU enjoyed with the Teamsters was far reaching.  So much in fact that no Teamster would drive any horse that did not bear the JHU logo on its shoe."

Well maybe...but the better statement might be "mutual advantage," more favorable to the horseshoers than the Teamsters in the longer tale.  See, once it became obvious that the transport horse was headed into obsolescence, the Teamsters moved to trucks while the shoers headed for the soup kitchen.  However, IUJH did find a niche on the country's race tracks...its authority re-asserted under the vague and somewhat arbitrary "rules of racing," which fluctuated widely from state to state. (As they still do...a legacy of what the Civil War failed to resolve through bloodshed.)  But racing itself came to a halt in the US around 1910, due to the inherent political corruption by uncontrolled gambling revenues derived through the 'poolroom' system of betting.

  [For a look at this rather unique bit of American culture and history, see:  "The Day the Horses Stopped Running," by Andy Juell, Thoroughbred Times, Vol. 15, Number 42, Oct. 16, 1999]

Racing did return, but without the benefit of gambling, which the courts had ruled illegal under the existing framework, though finally the ban was lifted after introduction of the Paris-mutuels system, the high court ruling that, "one man betting against another man was not illegal."  Ah...once again, the French to the rescue! 

The longer story was of course the horse itself, which other than military applications, ranching, agriculture and racing had fallen out of fashion, the re-born recreational animal not gaining traction until the 1960's.  That left the educational aspects of the trade to either the military shoeing schools (up until shortly after the close of World War II), or the apprenticeship system offered under the auspices of the IUJH -- through the various racing centers.

The business did thrive at the nation's tracks, though it actually operated under what could best be described as a guild system -- the king, prince, pope replaced by the various state racing commissions; fiefdoms really of their own little city-states.  As noted earlier, the 'rules of racing' required all participants to be 'qualified.'  This was a matter of perceived integrity within the sport, due to the issue of gambling revenues and state involvement in wagering.  Not knowing anything about farriery or even veterinary medicine, the commissions were more than happy to turn over the qualifying element to outside associations capable of making that determination for them.  And it is perhaps here where the IUJH finally went astray, for as the saying goes..."power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Many tracks became de facto closed shops, operating more and more on a system of cronyism -- conducting the same old archaic tests in the modern age.  Tests that many of the existing  farriers (platers) could no longer accomplish themselves.  The real solution for the union, to escape the coming legal storm was to streamline their own process and embrace a better ideal for inclusion in a rapidly changing work and social environment.  But they didn't.  And the legal challenge was never directed at the actions of the union itself, but rather the racing commissions who were in effect, guilty of restraint of trade via a government sanction.  The very thing that doomed the guild system in Europe three centuries earlier.
That said, it should be noted that many positives were created by the IUJH at America's race tracks.  The support of livable wages, mutual respect and cooperation in payment practices, access to benefits...respect.  Hard to find in those years outside the backstretch gate.  Today, the union is known as the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades.  It represents many individuals in the world of horses and elsewhere.  However, the age of the union in America, perhaps like our economy is on hard times...for the power of the corporation...the guild of today's commerce apparently holds ALL the cards in production, labor and the execution of large-scale commerce and the capital it produces.  And America's farriers?  Working happily on the outskirts of this new Metropolis.  

Oh, why pick on Governor Scott Walker?  Why not.  He's the noisiest and possibly the most destructive voice in the conservative camp. But the larger issue is that labor -- fully capable of abuses on its side -- has always represented the only organized resistance to capitalist (corporatist) forces over time.  Yet by most calculations, the era of unionism appears to be over...left to a few reactionary labor forces that are no longer able to muster a sustainable voice.  Walker just signed his pet legislation:  Wisconsin's 'Right-to-Work' Law.  Means the state now has the license to throw workers under the nearest bus.        


Friday, March 8, 2013

Credit Where Credit is Due...

Vice-Admiral Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov  1926-1998
The new book, The Littlest RaceHorse -- begins during the week of what was known as The Cuban Missile Crisis -- October 1962.  A week that almost brought down a genuine apocalyptic curtain on the future dreams of humanity.  One man, never recognized...perhaps forgotten...kept our play on life's perilous stage.  I figure I might owe him my life.  I certainly owe him this page. We all do. 

Author’s Note


     Many of the issues surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis will never be fully known.  Time passes, along with the participants, though the sensitivity about the internal machinations of diplomacy…or its failure, remain.  As such, the truth may never be fully known.
     However, in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, certain matters concerning those perilous days and hours were finally de-classified by the new Russian government and acknowledged by US counterparts.  Among them, the story of Admiral Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (pictured), Executive Officer (2nd in command), aboard the Foxtrot-class, nuclear-armed submarine, B-59 – parked off Cuba’s coast along with three other Soviet submarines.  At the height of the crisis, the US aircraft carrier, Randolph, with its escort of eleven destroyers had located the B-59 and began to drop test, or sounding depth-charges on the Soviet submarine in an effort to force it to the surface.
     Unbeknownst to the US ships on the surface, the B-59 had been out of contact with Moscow since entering the area around Cuba (though still within international waters), and was operating on ‘standing orders’ – ‘if fired upon, they were to return fire’ – with nuclear-tipped torpedoes.  The submarine had also lost its air-conditioning and was running low on air and battery power; the crew operating under incredible strain, not knowing if a state of war already existed above them.
     Seemingly under attack, an argument broke out on the B-59 between the submarine’s Captain, Valentin Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Maslennikov and Arkhipov, who was actually second-in-command on the B-59, but overall commander of the submarine fleet.  Arkhipov was the lone dissenter on returning fire and finally prevailed in the argument, primarily due to the wide respect he had garnered during the K-19 incident ( the so-called Widowmaker) debacle.  As such, he ordered the submarine to surface.  The end of this story is about what didn’t happen that day.  Just possibly the end of humanity on this planet.

     Arkhipov remained in the Soviet Navy, as a commander until his death in 1998, attributed in part to the radiation poisoning he incurred during the K-19 affair.  And of course, in the years to come, the great powers adopted the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction…or MAD as the acronym so poignantly states.  For in the nuclear age, the great antagonists could no longer square off over ideology, doctrine or the mantra of brute force.  For the real enemy was now…war itself.
     Vasili Arkhipov’s birthday is January 30th.  Perhaps we should all pause a moment on that day, take a deep breath and thank this man for his sense of humility and conscience.  Think about the man for a moment, because somehow in the escalating tumult of that dangerous week, he managed to think about us.

A. Allan Juell

Soviet-era Foxtrot Class -- Nuclear Armed Submarine [image:]