The Battle of Blair Mountain: Lessons to be Learned

As another history lesson that I want us in our movement to learn from to help in our own activism, I want to bring up an excellent example of activism done right and something that both myself and others advocate for in terms of tactics. In this case I wish to bring up the Coal Wars from a century ago, specifically bringing up The Battle of Blair Mountain and what we can learn from it for ourselves.

Giving a basic summary (I’ll be sure to include a full video below if you want to learn more as I’m mostly just going to cover tactics rather than the full history) areas like Appalachia had issues struggling with leftist union organizers battling it out with mining corporations, mostly through violence on both sides, what I’ll be mainly focusing on is how leftist union organizers got so big and influential in the first place in these regions. Specifically in this case Appalachia Coal Country, how they did this wasn’t through armed marches and telling everyone in these small rural areas to read Bakunin and show off their cool guns to the press.

Instead what organizations like the American Federation of Labor, Knights of Labor, United Mine Workers and other more radical organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World did was mostly offer social services and spread propaganda to radicalize these disaffected and alienated populations towards the idea of revolt against the corporations that ran the mines and towns. Which of course scared the hell out of these corporations who in turn hired mercenaries like the Pinkertons and Baldwin-Felts to break up strikes, assassinate union leaders and shoot at members or these corporations using the state to get the National Guard to come in and use force instead, which of course lead to a snowball effect of radicalization with members of these communities arming themselves and shooting back.

These leftist organizers, rather than tell everyone how “AFTER THE REVOLUTION COMES, WE’LL BUILD OUR IDEAL SOCIETY THEN!”, instead they built their ideal society right there and then. Besides providing social services such as food banks, soup kitchens, thrift stores, community centers, pubs/bars, media sources and publications, they also took over local governments too. Things such as after gaining a foothold in a community, taking over things such as mayoral positions, city council, county positions, sheriffs and more, this in turn only increased their influence over these communities and radicalized these communities further while also in cases such as the IWW and others shunning national politics citing their belief that the Federal Government and the system at large being illegitimate and taking a seat in Congress only legitimizing that system, while taking positions such as a town’s mayor or sheriff only legitimizing yourself as you use that position to discredit the federal government and the system at large, only serving the local population strictly and not the system in Washington D.C.

This was absolutely brilliant as in order for the Federal Government and the Coal Corporations to crackdown on these people, they had to rely on private firms and the national military whom had no local ties which only further alienated the population towards revolt. This finally came to a head in Logan County, West Virginia where the area became so radicalized that there were no neutrals, you either sided with the union or the mining corporations, no in between. Similar to what James Mason brings up in Siege in “The Long Road We’ve Traveled” in which basically when stuff goes down, you’re either with the system or you’re with the radicals, no in between and no neutrals/non-combatants. Even the music of the union at the time even sung explicitly “Which Side Are You On?” and if you’re not with the union then you’re with the system.

The Battle of Blair Mountain itself is itself pretty easy to summarize, there had been decades of leftist union organizing in the region and the seeds planted by people such as IWW co-founder Mother Jones were through revolutionary agitation, social services and alike were finally beginning to bare fruit. So in response the coal corporations decided to simply just terminate every one of their workers who became radicalized through these efforts. Which since the coal corporations owned workers homes through company towns meant these workers being evicted from their homes, which these coal corporations in turn sent mercenaries to forcibly evict since the local city governments were taken over by pro-union activists and refused to aid in the evictions.

Many of the workers seeing women and children ripped out of their homes to punish the activists at gunpoint were taken to a breaking point and got the local police chief Sid Hatfield and the mayor Cabell Testerman (whom were both leftist activists who took those positions) and local workers given weapons as backup to attempt an arrest on the mercenaries. In response the mercenaries got into an argument and a gun battle erupted leaving the mayor and 2 coal miners dead as well as 7 of the mercenaries including the heads of the Baldwin-Felts organization dead. This leading to people of these communities realizing that the system they’re fighting against isn’t invincible and they can be beaten, which scared the living hell out of the coal corporations in response. This only lead to more revolts and more violence against the coal corporations and mercenaries, leading to the State Police being called in to stop it only for the State Police to be fired upon. The situation in Appalachia becoming more and more volatile by the day. The State of West Virginia declared Martial Law and attempted to do mass arrests but this only made the situation worse as coal miners became insurgents.

This came to a head when two union organizers including the Sheriff Sid Hatfield were criminally charged with blowing up a mine with dynamite and as they walked to court, a group of mercenaries assassinated them in public. This just brought things to near explosive proportions as coal miners formed fully organized militias out of anger and the government of West Virginia shat their pants in fear and organized a conference with union leaders to hear their demands and get them to disarm, to which the West Virginian Governor refused their demands and the union leaders returned to their militias to organize a march on the counties that are not yet under their control to grow their numbers and run the mercenaries and state police out.

To skimp on some small details and get to the battle, this build up of over 13,000 miners turned insurgents caused the Federal Government and the US President to take notice in absolute pants shitting fear and ordered the US Army and Bomber Planes to go to West Virginia to do a build up in case they need to put the revolt down. This military build up had convinced the union leaders to order their men to attempt to go home to avoid a slaughter, of course this didn’t fully happen since the Logan County Sheriff who was staunchly anti-union and pro-corporation in his own words also wanted a battle as he hated the union with a burning passion himself. So naturally he and members of West Virginia State Police attempted to arrest union leaders after they made the order for their men to go home and this resulted in a shootout which resulted in a snowball effect where all those armed workers who were just about to go home saw the shooting and decided to join in. The US Military and West Virginia National Guard/State Police also piled in to fight the armed insurgents who began to dig themselves into the mountain to fight them.

As a response, the US Military began using bomber planes to drop bombs on the miners to flush them out as heavy clashes between the miners and US military and State Police grew more and more brutal. As the tide of battle turned in the government’s favor and ammunition became short, the leadership ordered the miners to abandon the fight and hide their guns to avoid disarmament and total destruction, which resulted in most of the miners avoiding arrest and those who were arrested including leadership being acquitted or receiving short sentences due to fear of another uprising and revolt since the government couldn’t get all of them in one swoop like they wanted.

In the end, the Battle of Blair Mountain still remains the largest revolt in US History since the end of the Civil War and for someone like myself, a model to be looked at for our own cause. I bring up this entire battle for a reason, for us to learn from on how an actual attempt at revolution is done properly. Not by recording ourselves shooting off guns in the woods or telling everyone how we want to kill the president, no, we do it through social services and revolutionary agitation, actual revolutionary tactics, no LARPing as this is how every successful revolution has been done.

What boggles my mind is how just unwilling the movement truly is to look at things like this, it’s mostly just acts of narcissism over everything else. Bothering people on the streets in major cities with fliers that’ll just end up in the garbage, marching around the US Capitol chanting how you’ll definitely take over the US someday and more, it’s all one big circlejerk and a waste of time. We’ve been given an absolute golden opportunity from God himself in our struggle against this system and we fucking waste it on our own ego building schemes. Our people are not in the cities nor the suburbs, they’re in the rural heartlands and forests. These people already oppose this system and are desperate for someone for them to follow, yet the only person to ever take advantage of this has been Donald Trump and that’s it. Leftists nowadays rather focus on organizing in major cities among crackheads, queers and niggers and our own movement seems to want to follow them in opposition, why? Who the fuck cares if Antifa wants to organize in some major metropolitan area. You do realize that these urban shitheaps absolutely rely on rural areas for food and other things correct? So if you want to win the cities, just win rural areas then starve out the cities into compliance. This is just so ass backwards that it is beyond me to even try to understand it.

As a movement and to win, we must recognize that we must become serious in our convictions and activism. We’re not going to win by going around Washington D.C. and bothering random white urbanites who hate us and begging them to join our cause, why not spend the money, manpower and resources on focusing on alienated and marginalized white people in rural areas in need? The only response I’ve gotten was “WELL WE MAKE OUR PRESENCE KNOWN TO ANTIFA AND WE GET NEWS ARTICLES WRITTEN ABOUT US!” and my response to this simply is who cares? That’s just arrogant narcissism, you don’t care about actually changing anything for the better, you just want a cool group of friends to hang out with and jerking off to the news articles, that’s it and all you care about if this is you.

For those who wish to continue with this behavior, go on ahead, you won’t change anything. Myself and others however will struggle to do proper praxis and put our ideas into action since as I see it, we’ve been given a gift from God to see our ideas come to fruition and we’re not going to squander it any longer.

Hail Victory!

Full Video on the Coal Wars if you want to learn more about it: