Cowboy, Homesteader, Miner, and Socialist
"Big Bill" Haywood
Many of the gold mineworkers of Amador County were not simply interested in better wages and the eight-hour day. They dreamed of a movement that could break above the surface of their subterranean world and unite all working people. But socialism wasn't confined to the fantasies of a few dreamers, in fact, the socialist movement in the first decades of the 20th century was inexorably bound to organized labor. The Western Federation of Miners, under which all of Amador County’s hard-rock mineworkers organized, officially aligned itself with the Socialist Party in 1900, and the union’s leadership tended to be active members in the party.
Folk musician, poet, and photojournalist Larry Towell and audio journalist and author Sandy Tolan visited Tuolumne County, one of several "mother lode" counties that run along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to document the increasing rural poverty that haunts the elderly in these parts. The resulting multimedia essay is necessary viewing for all American citizens:
Mike Israel, second to last on the left. (Photo from Paul Burke)
Two of the 19 activists arrested in the first hours of Friday were foothill residents involved in Mother Lode Progressives. Twenty-two year old Mike Israel, who cofounded the group with me, and Sac State professor Paul Burke, one of the chairs for the Progressive Alliance, a group based out of Sacramento with which we are affiliated.