||3. The Era of Industrial Warfare||Page 6|
The strike wave of 1877 transformed internal military intervention in the USA into industrial warfare. It began with a railroad strike in West Virginia, which spread throughout the industrial states. Before it was over, 45,000 militia had been called into action, along with 2,000 federal troops on active duty and practically the entire US Army on alert (Riker, 1957, pp. 47-48). To realize the scope of this mobilization, one needs to know that according to Riker there were only 47,000 militia used during the entire Civil War, and the size of the entire US Army around 1877 was 25,000 (p. 41). From 1877 to 1900, the US Army was used extensively in labor disputes and a shared interest developed between the officer corps and US industrialists (Cooper, 1980).
The 1877 intervention gave birth to the modern National Guard. This point is agreed upon by the principal histories of the Guard (Derthick, 1965; Mahon, 1983; and Riker, 1957). As Riker documents in detail, not only did all of the states establish their National Guard at that time, but also the appropriations of the new Guard were almost perfectly correlated with the number of strikers in that state. He concludes that 'in short it is reasonable to infer that the primary motive for the revival of the militia was a felt need for an industrial police' (p. 55).
There was no reluctance in those days to call it a 'class war'. As Riker (1957, p. 48) describes the strike of 1877:
This strike developed class consciousness in the hitherto fairly docile American workingman and served as the prelude to the endemic strikes of the next decade. What is less seldom realized, however , is that the strike developed class consciousness in the owners and managers of corporations as well. ...Thomas A. Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad described the strike as an 'insurrection' and, even after the strike was well broken, seriously likened it to the beginning of the Civil War. When economic relations are discussed by businessmen in terms such as these, then the captain of industry cannot well avoid becoming, at least indirectly, a captain of armies also.
Derthick, Mahon and Riker all describe the close relationship between these 'captains of industry' and the National Guard. Businessmen were not only officers in the Guard and in the National Guard Association, but also provided much of its financing.
A debate ensued as to whether the National Guard or the US Army should get the task of being the industrial police. In 1877, the Secretary of War asked Congress for increased appropriations for the Army on the basis of its role as a strike-breaking force (Riker, 1957, p. 49). While General McClellan argued that 'state troops ought to fight the battles of the industrial war', the foremost military strategist, General Upton, urged that the regular army was the 'proper component to wage strike wars' (Mahon, 1983, p. 121).
(continued on next page)