By MIKE ALEWITZ
On Dec. 21, 1790, Samuel Slater’s thread-spinning factory goes into operation in Pawtucket, R.I. The factory was designed to be staffed by children no older than 12 years old. Slater is credited as being “The Father of the American Industrial Revolution.” By 1830, the majority of mill workers in Rhode Island were children, sweating away from dawn to dusk, many for less than $1 per week. His model was emulated throughout the country.
One of the factory’s features was a “Whipping Room.” Whipping of children, just as with slaves, was not an aberration, but an essential institution for maintaining discipline. Child laborers worked under brutal conditions during most of our history – along with the extermination of the indigenous people and chattel slavery, it was a cornerstone for creating the fortunes of America’s super-rich.
Is this horror something from our past? Not hardly…
Globally, over 150 million children are still at work. Their misery continues to be a source of enormous profits for the ruling class. Along with other imperialist powers, the massive US military is responsible for maintaining global inequality, including child labor.
Today, the bi-partisan austerity drive is attempting to reimpose similar conditions in the US. This, the true nature of corporate capitalism is swept under the rug by liberal politicians. It will not be a topic of discussion in Congress or the media. From newsboys to miners, children themselves have fought to be in school instead of at work. It remains for the working class, including our children, to free ourselves from this abhorrent oppression.
Image: CHILD LABOR. Detail from the panel: THE HELL OF EXPLOITATION. Mural: THE CITY AT THE CROSSROADS OF HISTORY, by Mike Alewitz / 2014
Mural Commissioned for the Puffin Gallery of Social Activism, Museum of the City of New York. Censored by the Museum of the City of New York and the Puffin Foundation. Read more about the cenroship by following the link here.