Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Even a blind woman could see the truth

Helen Keller in 1901
Most of us have seen the film The Miracle Worker.  It's the story of the teaching of young Helen Keller who was born deaf and blind but is eventually reached through the herculean efforts of her teacher and friend Annie Sullivan.  But did you know that Helen Keller was also a radical revolutionary? Once she learned how to read braille and then to write, she turned her significant intellectual powers to the question of the rights of working people, people with disabilities, and women's rights.  She was a suffragette and a trenchant critic of Woodrow Wilson.  Helen Keller was a Red.  Who knew?

Keller joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1912.  In an interview from 1916 she describes why she became a member of the IWW.

"What are you committed to--education or revolution?" 
"Revolution." She answered decisively. "We can't have education without
revolution. We have tried peace education for 1,900 years and it has
failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now
"I am not for peace at all hazards. I regret this war, but I have never
regretted the blood of the thousands spilled during the French
Revolution. And the workers are learning how to stand alone. They are
learning a lesson they will apply to their own good out in the trenches.
Generals testify to the splendid initiative the workers in the trenches
take. if they can do that for their masters you can be sure they will do
that for themselves when they have taken matters into their own hands.

"And don't forget workers are getting their discipline in the trenches,"
Miss Keller continued. "They are acquiring the will to combat.
"My cause will emerge from the trenches stronger than it ever was. Under
the obvious battle waging there, there is an invisible battle for the
freedom of man."

In 1918, Keller penned a short article for The Liberator magazine where, in defense of the IWW, she wrote

The IWW is pitted against the whole profit-making system. It insists
that there can be no compromise so long as the majority of the working
class live in want, while the master class lives in luxury.
According to
its statement, “there can be no peace until the workers organize as a
class, take possession of the resources of the earth and the machinery
of production and distribution, and abolish the wage-system.” In other
words, the workers in their collectivity must own and operate all the
essential industrial institutions and secure to each laborer the full
value of his produce. I think it is for this declaration of democratic
purpose, and not for any wish to betray their country, that the IWW
members are being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned and murdered. 
Surely the demands of the IWW are just. It is right that the creators of
wealth should own what they create. When shall we learn that we are
related one to the other; that we are members of one body; that injury
to one is injury to all?
Until the spirit of love for our
fellow-workers, regardless of race, color, creed or sex, shall fill the
world, until the great mass of the people shall be filled with a sense
of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice cannot be
attained, and there can never be lasting peace upon earth.

Keller died in her sleep on June 1st, 1968 and in 2003 was featured on the Alabama state quarter.  Do you think the people in Alabama know that every time they use their state's quarter, they're handling an image of a died-in-the-wool socialist?  Color me skeptical.

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