In December 1920 (back when The Progressive was La Follette's Magazine), our founder, Fighting Bob La Follette, wrote this haunting description of what is currently taking place in Gov. Scott Walker's Wisconsin and other "right-to-work" states. La Follette wrote:
"The labor organizations of the country are to be smashed. The decree has been entered. The orders have been issued. The drive is on. The railroad corporations, the street car companies, and other public utilities; the big industrial corporations, the coal, copper, and oil combinations, the affiliated commercial and financial groups—the merchants and manufactures' associations, the chambers of commerce, boards of trade, bankers' associations, and in fact all large interrelated organizations representing capital are mobilizing for a war of extermination on all labor organizations in the United States.
The object is two-fold. First of all, organized capital would destroy organized labor because of its growing political power. The activity of the sixteen railroad organizations and their alliance with associations of farmers in the late campaigns is a real menace to the political control of Big Business in the near future. Second, organized capital would destroy organized labor in order to deprive the wage earner of the collective bargaining strength which he derives from his organization. This would leave him in a position where as one of the representatives of a large business concern recently declared—
“The employee would have to eat out of every employer’s hand.”
La Follette ends his essay—
Let the war by Organized Capital go on if it must be. It will entail great suffering. But out of it will come a common understanding for the common good against the common enemy. Organized labor, organized farmers, and organized consumers will survive. Each will maintain its own independent organization to serve its own needs. But out of this war by Organzed Captial will come an alliance of these defensive organizations for the preservation of the inherent right of people to "SECURITY TO LIFE, LIBERTY, and THE ENJOYMENT BY THE PEOPLE OF THE GAINS of THEIR OWN INDUSTRY."
The full essay is below: