Populist Reader

Max Sawicky sawicky at epinet.org
Wed Dec 30 11:23:26 PST 1998

> Regardless, I'd like to read the PR. What's the pulisher info Max, or
> anyone? Thanks.

Editor was George B. Tindall. Exact title is "A Populist Reader: Selections from the Works of American Populist Leaders." Harper Torchbooks, The University Library, Harper & Row, New York, 1966.

Here's a tidbit from the "The Negro Question in the South" by Tom Watson of Georgia, circa 1892:

" . . . You might beseech a Southern white tenant (farmer -- mbs) to listen to you upon questions of finance, taxation, and transportation; you might demonstrate with mathematical precision that herein lay his way out of poverty into comfort; you might have him 'almost persuaded' to the truth, but if the merchant who furnished his farm supplied (at tremendous usury) or the town politician (who never spoke to him excepting at election times) came along and cried 'Negro rule!' the entire fabric of reason and common sense which you had patiently constructed would fall, and the poor tenant would joyously hug the chains of an actual wretchedness rather than do any experimenting on a question of mere sentiment.

"Thus the Northern Democrats have ruled the South with a rod of iron for twenty years. . . . Let the South ask relief from Wall Street; let it plead for mercy against crushing taxation, and Northern Democracy, with all its coldness, cruelty and subtlety of Mephistopheles, would hint 'Negro rule!' and the white farmer and laborer of the South had to choke down his grievance and march under Tammany's orders.

"Reverse the statement, and we have the method by which the black man was managed by the Republicans. . . .

"Now consider: here were two distinct races dwelling together, with political equality established between them by law. They lived in the same section; won their livelihood by the same pursuits; cultivated adjoining fields on the same terms; enjoyed together the bounties of a generous climate; suffered together the rigors of cruelly unjust laws; spoke the same language; bought and sold in the same markets; classified themselves into churches under the same denominational teachings; neither race antagonizing the other in any branch of industry; each absolutely dependent on the other in all the avenues of labor and employment; and yet, instead of being allies, as every dictate of reason said they should be, they were kept apart, in dangerous hostility, that the sordid aims of partisan politics might be served!"

It would be hard to find a better dissection of race and class in the post-bellum South than the Watson selection. Years later Watson did a 180-degree change and became a racist, anti-papist, and anti- semite.

Class rhetoric is ubiquitous in the selections, though the capitalist class is characterized as either idle rich who produce nothing, or as an assortment of monopolists and thieves. A special sort of monopolist was a usorious financier who, in effect, restricted the availability of credit and, more broadly, the money supply.

The other class was everyone else, those seen as both productive and at risk of pauperization in the volatile, deflationary economic times. Farmers (owners) and tenants (sharecroppers) were rural labor, as opposed to 'civic' labor, in one industrial system. At the same time, laborers broadly defined were understood as business persons. One author, James Weaver, speaks of 'industrial emancipation,' belying charges of rural romanticism or Luddism sometimes brought to bear against populists.

There's much more on the critique of finance, private ownership of arguably public utilities (e.g., railroads), etc. Also interesting discussions of labor and use value as first principles that appear to reflect the influence of Marx.

Judy Butler, pfeh.


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