Sunday, March 29, 2015

Book Review: Kyle G. Wilkison, (2008). Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists: Plan Folk Protest in Texas, 1870-1914.

Book Review

Kyle G. Wilkison, (2008). Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialists: Plan Folk Protest in Texas, 1870-1914. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN-13: 978-1-60344-065-3. 297 pages with appendices, notes, bibliography and index.

Review by James Wheat


In this book, Collin College history professor Kyle G. Wilkison examines the effects of changing economies on the rural poor of East and Central Texas and their responses to these changes. During this forty-five-year period, the rural population went from majority farm-owners practicing subsistence farming to majority tenant-farmers primarily producing cotton. The culture of interconnected, but fiercely independent yeoman farmers gave way to the disconnected and alienating culture of cotton-based capitalism.

Wilkison presents analyses of both quantitative data and first-hand accounts of life in turn-of-the-century Texas, providing a historical picture that is easily accessible. This book is of great interest to socialists in general, but is especially critical for modern Texas socialists. The author illustrates that socialism was able to address the concerns of rural Texans, and that socialist candidates received the support of large portions of the population. Understanding how we achieved this in the past is an important step to finding success for modern socialists.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter one is an introduction, and is not included in this summary. Chapter eight is Wilkison's own conclusion, which better summarizes this work.

Chapter two uses data from the decennial censuses to illustrate the quantitative changes that occurred in this period. Wilkison compares the changes in East and Central Texas, and uses Hunt County as a small-scale sample representative of both regions. Using data such as the number of hogs and milk cows per farm, the percentages of improved farmland, and the production of cotton, Wilkison effectively demonstrates the link between cotton and tenancy.

Chapter three looks at the distribution and composition of wealth, and the social characteristics of households in Hunt County. In the four-decade period, not only did the wealthy become wealthier and the poor poorer, but the percentage of totally impoverished persons also increased. Between 1870 and 1910, the bottom 70 percent of the population experienced decreases in their share of household wealth, while the top 30 percent gained.

Chapter four uses interviews to illustrate the culture of the yeoman farmers. Through these interviews, we are able to see how this culture valued independence (privileging farm ownership), hard work (with prescribed gender divisions), and egalitarianism (one interviewee relates how a newly-arrived snobby neighbor who, rather than inviting all of her neighbors, picked guests for her party found her geese plucked of feathers the next morning).

Chapter five continues to use interviews, but shifts focus to look at the effects of class and race. Farming families frequently looked out for each other, sharing crops when they were abundant and caring for the crops of others when they were sick. Despite this sense of community, African Americans were routinely and violently excluded, and white supremacy was widely enforced.

Chapter six focuses on the rural church. Although most Texans belonged to mainstream Protestant denominations, the responses of the various churches to the changing economic realities varied wildly. Some churches, especially those courting more middle-class and townfolk congregations defended the right to private property and capital accumulation. Other churches condemned this consolidation of wealth and land as a sin. It is in this chapter that socialists begin to appear. This chapter also details how religion was a source of conflict for these socialists, with orthodox socialists opposing religious socialists who used Biblical scripture to support socialist arguments.


Chapter seven analyzes political resistance to the changes that rural Texans faced in this period. This chapter features Greenbackers, Populists, and the Farmers' Alliance. However, it is socialists who feature most prominently. This chapter details how the Texas Socialist Party adapted to one individual condition of Texas, shifting from a hardline, collectivist position on land ownership to a policy of ownership based on occupancy and usage. Following this change, socialists received 1 in 6 votes in Hunt County, and over 30 percent in some rural voting districts. However, the chapter also details how the Texas Socialist Party was unable to overcome the belief in white supremacy. This, combined with Democratic demagoguery and the reduction in the electorate due to the poll tax, prevented greater support for the socialist position.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Walmart's Wage Increases

On Walmart's Wage Increases

Last week, Walmart announced that it would be raising wages for it employees to $9.00 an hour in April, with an increase to $10.00 an hour in 2016.[i]

Although this is an improvement over current wages, it will continue to leave Walmart workers in poverty. Even at $9 an hour, a full-time employee working 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year will receive only $18,000 before taxes. The Department of Health and Human Services has established that the Federal poverty guideline for a family of four in 2015 is $24,250.[ii] In 2016, that employee would receive $20,000 before taxes – still well below the poverty line.

The efforts of wage campaigns such as Fight for $15 and OUR Walmart have not only put pressure on employers, but have also raised awareness of the workers' struggles among the public, doubtlessly contributing to Walmart's decision to raise wages. However, we must not let up in our demands. Walmart estimates that it will cost $1 billion to implement the wage increases, and to invest training, hiring, scheduling, and store management[iii] With an annual net income of $16 billion[iv], Walmart's profits will be largely unaffected by these wage increases. In fact, Walmart will likely recoup a portion of these expenses through improved staff retention. Thus, we must see these wage increases for what they are: miserly attempts to undercut demands for $15 an hour.

As socialists, we call for the abolition of the wage system in its entirety. But we also recognize that there will be transitional demands. First, let us demand that none of our fellow workers be left in poverty. Do not let Walmart's wage increases dissuade you – the owners and stockholders will continue to gorge themselves on the fruits of labor while our fellow workers continue to languish. Stand with our fellow workers to demand $15 an hour!

James Wheat, 2-27-2015



[i]
        O'Connor, C. (19 February 2015). Walmart to give 40% of workers pay rise to $9 per hour. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/02/19/walmart-to-give-40-of-workers-pay-rise-to-9-per-hour/
[ii]      United States Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). 2015 poverty guidelines. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm
[iii]     O'Connor, C. (19 February 2015). Walmart to give 40% of workers pay rise to $9 per hour. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/02/19/walmart-to-give-40-of-workers-pay-rise-to-9-per-hour/
[iv]    Annual financials for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Market Watch. Retrieved from http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/wmt/financials

March Calendar

Sun. Mar. 1 @ 3 pm: Strategic Campaigns Table Educational Forum
Sponsored by Dallas AFL-CIO
All candidates for Dallas city council and DISD school board are invited
AFL-CIO HQ 1408 N. Washington Av. Dallas 75204 (Old E. Dallas)

Sun. Mar. 1 @ 3 pm: Current status of the "Nuclear Zero" lawsuits, lecture by Rick Wayman
Sponsored by the Dallas Peace Center
First Community Church 9120 Ferguson Rd. Dallas 75228 (E. Dallas)

Mon. Mar. 2: Environmental lobby day at the state legislature.
Buses departing from Denton, Ft. Worth, & elsewhere in the state
Register at the following URL (seats are filling fast):
Sponsored by Earthworks
Cost: $15

Mon. Mar. 2 @ 3 pm: Blackland Prairie Rising Tide wkly. mtg. (climate justice)
Big Mike's coffee shop 1308 W. Hickory Denton

Mon. Mar. 2 @ 7 pm: SHADOWS OF LIBERTY documentary screening about media consolidation, censorship, and bias.
Sponsored by KNON 89.3 FM (community radio)
$10 admission, benefits the radio station
Texas Theatre 231 W. Jefferson Dallas 75208 (Oak Cliff)

Mon. Mar. 2 @ 7 pm: Queer Bomb Dallas wkly. mtg.
Cafe Brazil 3847 Cedar Springs Blvd. Dallas 75219 (sexual & gender minority district)


Tue. Mar. 3 @ 7 pm: "An Injury to One Is an Injury to All"
Panel discussion on immigration
Sponsored by N. Texas Jobs with Justice
Dallas AFL-CIO HQ 1408 N. Washington Av. Dallas 75204 (Old E. Dallas)

Tue. Mar. 3 @ 7 pm: Videos from Selma & the Edmund Pettus Bridge
First Tuesday Social Justice Film Festival
Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. Dallas (Oak Cliff)

Tue. Mar. 3 @ 7 pm: Workers' Defense Project wkly. mtg.
4202 S. Lancaster Rd. Dallas 75216 (S. Dallas)

Tue. Mar. 3 @ 7:30 pm: Demanding Justice for Ruben Garcia, shot & killed by Grapevine police
Another unarmed victim of police genocide (bilingual event)
Sponsored by Next Generation Action Network
Grapevine City Hall Grapevine 76051

Wed. Mar. 4 @ 12:30 pm: Dallas chapter of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans monthly mtg.
APWU hall 2010 Postal Way Dallas 75212 (W. Dallas)

Wed. Mar. 4 @ 4 pm: From Ferguson to Palestine antiracist panel discussion
Sponsored by UTA Students for a Democratic Society
UTA University Hall Rm. 108
Park at fast food restaurants (no more than 2 hr)

Fri. Mar. 6 @ 12:30 pm: Antinuclear committee of the Dallas Peace Center monthly mtg.
Cafe Express 5307 E. Mockingbird Ln. Ste. 150 Dallas (M'bird Station)

Fri. Mar. 6 @ 5 pm: Vigil & Prayer service for Juan May, unarmed victim of police genocide, on what would've been his birthday
Sponsored by his family & endorsed by Mothers against Police Brutality
True Vine Missionary Baptist Church 3732 Miller Av. Ft. Worth 76119

Sat. Mar. 7 @ 12:30 pm: "Continuing the Legacy Walk Remembering Selma"
Sponsored by Dallas NAACP & Next Generation Action Network
Continental Bridge, beginning at Trinity Groves

Sat. Mar. 7 @ 3 pm: Prometheus Project, Dallas affiliate of the Institute for Responsible Technology monthly anti GMO mtg.
Park Cities Yoga 5934 Royal Lane Dallas 75230 (Preston Hollow)

Sat. Mar. 7 @ 5 pm: The People's Conference: A Radical Talk on Dallas Poverty
Sponsored by The People
Pan African Connection 828 Fourth Av. Dallas 75226 (S. Dallas)
(Rescheduled from last month because of inclement weather)

Sun. Mar. 8 @ 2 pm: Candidate screening for Dallas city council
First Community Church 9120 Ferguson Rd. Dallas 75228 (E. Dallas)


Sun. Mar. 8 @ 3 pm: Radical Mental Wellness, support group for activists
Josiah Warren Library 1921 S. Hemphill Ft. Worth

Mon. Mar. 9 @ 3 pm: Blackland Prairie Rising Tide wkly. mtg.
Big Mike's coffee shop 1308 W. Hickory Denton

Mon. Mar. 9 @ 7 pm: Queer Bomb Dallas wkly. mtg.
Cafe Brazil 3847 Cedar Springs Blvd. Dallas 75219 (sexual & gender minority district)

Tue. Mar. 10: March in memory of Clinton Allen, unarmed victim of Dallas police genocide
Location TBA
Sponsored by Mothers against Police Brutality

Tue. Mar. 10 @ 6:30 pm: Dallas Sierra Club monthly mtg.
Brookhaven College Bldg. H

Tue. Mar. 10 @ 7 pm: Workers' Defense Project wkly. mtg.
4202 S. Lancaster Rd. Dallas 75216 (S. Dallas)

Wed. Mar. 11 @ 7 pm: N. Texas Jobs with Justice monthly mtg.
Guest: United We Dream
AFL-CIO HQ 1408 N. Washington Av. Dallas 75204 (Old E. Dallas)

Th. Mar. 12 @ 7 pm: Mideast committee of the Dallas Peace Center monthly mtg.
La Madeleine 3072 Mockingbird Ln. Dallas 75205 (near SMU, next door to its bookstore)

Mon. Mar. 16 @ 3 pm: Blackland Prairie Rising Tide wkly. mtg.
Big Mike's coffee shop 1308 W. Hickory Denton

Mon. Mar. 16 @ 7 pm: Queer Bomb Dallas wkly. mtg.
Cafe Brazil 3847 Cedar Springs Blvd. Dallas 75219 (sexual & gender minority district)

Tue. Mar. 17 @ 7 pm: Workers' Defense Project wkly. mtg.
4202 S. Lancaster Rd. Dallas 75216 (S. Dallas)

Mon. Mar. 23 @ 3 pm: Blackland Prairie Rising Tide wkly. mtg.
Big Mike's coffee shop 1308 W. Hickory Denton

Mon. Mar. 23 @ 7 pm: Queer Bomb Dallas wkly. mtg.
Cafe Brazil 3847 Cedar Springs Blvd. Dallas 75219 (sexual & gender minority district)

Tue. Mar. 24 @ 7 pm: Workers' Defense Project wkly. mtg.
4202 S. Lancaster Rd. Dallas 75216 (S. Dallas)

Th. Mar. 26 @ 6:30 pm: Environmental health meetup w/ Rita Beving
Picasso's pizza 12300 Inwood Rd. Dallas

Fri. Mar. 27 thru Sun. Mar. 29: Dallas Conference for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine
Starts at 6 pm on Fri.
Sponsored by ODS-One Democratic State and Mideast committee of the Dallas Peace Center

Trinity Presbyterian Church 2200 N. Bell Av. Denton 76209