History From Those Who Lived It
By Bruce Tompkins
The History of Crumm Mountain, is long and often misunderstood. As a result, few historians have been able to produce a satisfying account of the lifespan of this unique city. Fewer still, have done so without trying to hide the radical political elements that undergird the cities political and ideological foundation. This account, proceeds in a decidedly contrary manner. In this account we shall focus primarily on the radical political thinking that helped to make the history of this city so unique.
Cassandra Karas writing in Hotbed Magazine of the conditions that lead to the creation of the Council of Industrial Workers.
"Workers at The Manchester Mills, and Wyckoffs Feed Company plants, including children, and the elderly, are regularly expected to labor 12-14 hour shifts, without repose, and are paid the barest of possible wages. Supervisors regularly withold wages on the flimsiest of pretenses. And Managers exhibit a sadistic cruelty in disciplining workers for the smallest of possible infractions, such as absence due to illness, talking to other laborers, not meeting productivity quotas, and even excessive use of sanitary facilities. Despite persistant pleas from a variety of groups and individuals, Harold Manchester, the new owner of these manufacturies, who recently inherited them from his Father, has publicly dismissed reports of the conditions in facilities, as external meddling, and told the meddlers to "leave his workers alone". However, as an employee of Wyckoffs Feed Company for three years, I can hardly be called an external meddler.
Upon inheritance of his fathers enterprises, Harold Manchester had taken up residence here in Crumm Mountain. And, soon after, he had taken up a lot more than that. He acquired The Bank of Crumm Mountain, and the local newspaper. And made principle investments in the development of a residential community for him and his well to do ilk. Up in the west hills on the outskirts of town, a long swath of land overlooking the city, and the working class quarters. Here homes would be built for the families of bankers, factory managers, bureaucrats working for city government, newspaper editors, and other investor-realtor-speculator-capitalist types. With these developments, resentment among the workers sharpened. Here they were sweating and toiling, breaking their backs to meet productivity quotas, while the bosses and bureaucrats were living it up, on the other side of town, slowly and quitely stuffing their own coffers as the Manchester-owned bank foreclosed on home after home, when poor workers couldn't afford to pay back usurious loans.
There was constant talk among the workers of looting and vandalizing wealthy homes, and trashing the banks, all fine ideas. But it was George Podpadic, the child of Russian and Polish immigrants, who suggested that instead, they organize and strike for immediate rectification of their grievances. Now this wasn't new to the workers of Crumm Mountain, they had flirted with union representation before, and recieved a prompt and violent reprimand from company union-busting thugs. But George Podpadic, wasn't interested in forming a union, he wasn't interested in entering into a contract with the capitalists, he wanted to tear the capitalists throat out. Well-versed in the writings of Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin, Podpadic considered himself an anarcho-syndicalist and advocated the destruction of capitalism and the power structure that created the injustices and suffering experienced by not only Crumm Mountain workers, but workers the world over."
In 1884, Podpadic and several like-minded individuals, myself included, founded the Council of Industrial Workers. An organization that would hold meetings, disseminate literature, and generally foment proletarian revolution. The original cast of characters, was doctrinally varied, including myself, a scrupulous documenter of labor atrocities in Crumm Mountain. George Podpadic of course, with his vitriolic anti-capitalist rhetoric, and his oratorical eloquence and charisma, made him without question the de facto chairman of the council. Podpadic, spurned politics, and felt that the working class, would only be weakened by involvement in politics. So naturally, he pulled the CIW towards direct action as opposed to electoral action.
Luther Winegard, E.W. Winzler, and James Harroway with their progressive reformist tendencies, felt that, the working class could only make progress incrementally, and therefore by working within the system, and were always a little skeptical of Podpadic's Direct Action Towards A Perfect Society . Herman Szary, always a people-pleaser, aimed to accomodate both views, insisting that both electoral action and direct action are needed to emancipate the working class. We were the original Council of Industrial Workers.
After a few years of coordination, we had developed a strategy. Our goal was to overthrow existing management at local industrial facilities, replacing it with autonomous, self-managed, workers cooperatives, comprised of each and every worker. But wait! You must be thinking, that would be anarchy! And you would be right.
In 1835, the state of New York officially granted village status to an assortment of settlements, on a hillside in Central Leatherstocking's Schoharie County. The settlers, called the newly formed village Crumm Mountain, after the settlements foremost elder and founder Thomas Crumm. Nearly thirty years later in 1870, the village became The City of Crumm Mountain. As the tidal wave of industrialization swept the US and Europe, Crumm Mountain too began to industrialize and urbanize. By the 1860's, Schenectady-based banking and agribusiness magnate Raymond Manchester had openned up two major factories in the city. Manchester Mills, and Wyckoffs Feed Company, both specializing in the large-scale production of agricultural products. These developments were a double-edged sword. On the one side they helped the city expand and grow, however Ray Manchester was a cruel, and calculating man, who cared little for the welfare of his workers. Extremely low wages, long hours, and severe restrictions on both on the job and off the job activities began to take there toll on the workers. By the 1870's, the jobs created by the factories had caused Crumm Mountain's population to swell. Many of the city's new residents had come from farms looking for better work. Many of these people were dispoointed to find out that they would be working longer hours for less pay in factories. It was this discontentment among workers that chiefly aided the campaign of George Podpadic and the Council of Industrial Workers, in organizing Crumm Mountain's workers. Formed in 1882, the Council of Industrial Workers was to be first, a method of organizing laborers, then it was to serve as as a decision-making entity, isocratically representing each and every worker, once they had revolted and overthrown their capitalist bosses. Podpadic and his cohorts had spent some time fomenting this revolutionary fervor among the ranks of Crumm Mountain's workers. But it was to pay off. In the Spring of 1889, after a long hard Winter, the workers at both plants called a general strike, and for eleven days, occupied the plants and refused to work. After the eleven days, the workers had succesfully expelled all plant managers and had decided to go back to work. But not for Manchester. For themselves. The workers, through the Council of Industrial Workers had decided that they would continue producing the same goods as before, but only now they would sell them to buyers themselves, and the profits would go directly to the workers instead of Manchester and other parasitic capitalist fatcats. Unfortunuately, this arrangement lasted for only a short time, as in a year the Governor of New York, had deployed the National Guard to forcibly reinstate Harold Manchester as owner of the facility.
and paid his workers a bare minimum of wages, forced them to work severely long hours, and restricted their activities while on the job and off. It was these poor working conditions that would lead to the tumultous events of 1889. What happened during that year was a culmination of radical activity that had been going on for some time. A movement began to arise calling for a strike to end the injustices taking place at the Manchester Mills, and Wyckoffs Feed Company plants. George Podpadic, unquestionably the leader of this movement, had lived in Crumm Mountain since his migrating there from Russia as a child. The mistreatment of workers in Crumm Mountain and in industry in general, caused Podpadic to question capitalism and to think about alternatives. These questions led him to the literature of Karl Marx, and Russian anarchists MIkhail Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin. In 1884 George Podpadic, along with James Harroway, Cassandra Karas, Herman Szary, and Luther Winegard, all factory workers, founded the Council of Industrial Workers. After several years of fomenting proletarian revolution, it actually happened. In 1893 the workers at Manchester Mills and Wyckoffs Feed Company stopped working indefinately. As a result of the strike, the workers gained control over the companies, despite widespread police intimidation. Melvin Blunk, Crumm Mountains Mayor had no idea what to do, beyond calling and asking the governor to send in troops. Troops came but to no avail, the workers were far to committed to be squashed by the jackboot of the state. Podpadic, Szary, Karas and Winegard were all anarcho-syndicalists and believed that politics was silly, trivial, and unnescessary. Eventually they thought, with workers in control of their own destiny, that government would simply wither away. It is this underestimation of the power of politics that historians credit with bringing about the collapse of Podpadic's anarcho-syndicalism. In 1907, Harold Manchester was able to have himself elected Mayor and build up the police, strengthen local banks, and eventually reinstall a system whereby wealthy capitalists could exploit the working class, once again. By any standards Podpadic's revolution was successful. For fifteen years Crumm Mountain flourished as an anarchist enclave. They had their own clubs, their own newspapers like The Agitator and Hotbed. And workers were prospering unbelievably. In addition to being politically and economically radical, Podpadic and his followers were also sexually and morally ahead of their times. And according to some reports, they were ahead of our times too. According to Harold Manchester, "the anarchists would curse and copulate in the streets like feral beasts. They had no decency at tall." Illegitimacy and disease were rampant. He claimed. In fact Manchester sarcastically suggested changing the name of the city to Chlymidia Mountain, after hearing reports of sickly women washing themselves out in the mountain springs. The anarchists quickly seized on this and began referring to their city as Chlymidia Mountain, eventually it stuck. By 1915, the anarchists realized that they had to do something about Harold Manchester and capitalist cronies ruining their enclave. With much hesitation James Harroway ran for mayor, but lost. Manchester's thugs controlled the board of elections, so his victory came as little of a surprise. The Anarchists knew something more drastic had to be done. Some of them considered assasinating Manchester, but ultimately decided against it. They decided instead on a coup against the government of Harold Manchester. It was George Podpadic's son, Sylvester Podpadic who led the coup, and in 1916, Manchesters government was overthrown, his banks razed, his office buildings levelled. After news of the coup had spread, anarchists from all over the country flocked to Crumm Mountain, or Chlymidia Mountain as it was now referred to as. By this time divisions had begun to arise among Chlymidia Mountain's leading intellectuals. The leading dispute, being over the question of property. George Podpadic, Herman Szary, and Luther Winegard, were firm collectivists and believed that private ownership as a concept was tantamount to theft, and was antithetical to anarchist beliefs. Conversely James Harroway thought that private ownership was integral to anarchist beliefs. If individuals were to be truly free, Harroway argued, they must have control over their posessions, including land, homes, and even monies. Now it's not to say that Harroway believed in capitalism, of course not, he was a socialist, he believed that the goal of revolution should not be to abolish private ownership of resources, but to democratize it. To disperse it in such a fashion, that all could benefit and prosper. Cassandra Karas, never actually aligning herself with James Harroway, indicated that she leaned more towards his philosophy than that of Podpadic and Szary. It is important to understand how this conflict related to the People of Chlymidia Mountain at this point in time. By the mid teen years, Chlymidia Mountain was a city of approximately ten-thousand. with about 23 percent being employed by local industry, 19 percent employed by local merchants, and another 34 percent employed by the government. To the 23 percent working in industry, private control of the means of production was seen as an instrument of their oppression. For they never considered the prospect that they themselves might own anything of value. It was Podpadic, Szary, and Winegard who identified with this mentality, having worked in industry the majority of their lives. Karas, and Harroway, both the offspring of middle class merchants, saw the issue of private ownership, as something that the lower classes should struggle to obtain. These divergant views regarding the concept of property, also surfaced when it came to the role of government. Harroway of course, believeing, that governments should be set up to protect the interests of working people, making him more of a progressive or a reformer, rather than a communist or socialist. Whereas Podpadic and Szary were adamantly opposed to this. The State could never be an agent of revolution. For the state represented entrenched power, and the state was seen as unaccountable. Whats more, according to Podpadic, the idea of the state existing to protecting the proletariat was not only morally repulsive, but simply not worthwhile. For Podpadic believed that the only chance that people had to rise up and overthrow the system under which they were exploited was themselves. For his beliefs, and his considerable talents for articulating them, Podpadic was widely renown, and his presence at any number of meetings and gatherings around the country was highly ordered. For this and his role in the Manchester Mills Strike and Wyckoffs Feed Company strikes of 1893, Podpadic was seen as the de facto leader of the anarchists. Or atleast the intellectual leader. Throughout his life, he wrote widely and published many pamphlets and even books. He expounded eloquently on Lenin and the Bolshevik's, the collapse of the First International, and he devoured social and cultural issues as well. A great many of his writings were on the moral and sexual values of his time. In fact he wrote a book on the subject. Modern More's: To Understand and Undermine. In which he called for the abolition of marriage, the rejection of the prospect of monogamous relationships. He called for miscegenation of the races. He also defended such taboos as homosexuality and bestiality. And predicted with a sense of hope that one day, society would become so latitudinarian that not only would homosexuality be widely accepted, but it's critics would be widely shunned. He did not predict the same fate for bestiality however, admitting himself, that the practice probably wouldn't ever become accepted. For the unaqcuainted, I would recommend "Anarchy, Syndicalism, and the Revolutionary Proletariat" By far the most essential collection of Podpadic written work. These ideas, expressed so clearly and strongly earned Podpadic a mass following.
Essential reading for those interested in the intellectual development of Crumm Mountian communism
Available through Commie Propaganda Press, 843 Podpadic Commercial Corridor, Chlymidia Mountain, NY 12149
-Turning the Off Button On: All the news that wasn't fit to print (2001)
-Welfare State Of Mind
-Big Government Is Your Friend
-Property and Piety: The Irreconcilability of The Republican Party's Service of God and Mammon
-That Would Be Anarchy
-Communist Communities: The Past, Present, and Future of Chlymidia Mountain Radicalism (1967)
-Eleven Days That Shook Crumm Mountain, NY: The Manchester Mills and Wyckoffs Feed Company Strikes Revisited (1968)
-Modern Mores Defined and Defiled (1895)
-Essays on Anarchy, Anarcho-syndicalism, the State, and the Revolutionary Proletariat
-Direct Action Towards A Perfect Society (1886)
Poltrovic, Heather Ann
-Sodom and Gomorrha Rolled Into One: Chlymidia Mountain in the 1920's (1995)
Pratt, Leonard/Pet, Steve
-Capitalism in Crisis
-Appearance of Impropriety (A novel) (2001)
-To Arms: No Better Time For Revolutionary Action (1998)
-Praying To The Porcelain God:
-George Podpadic and the Revolutionary Proletariat: A look at the life and times of George Podpadic (1991)
-The General Strike
-The Death of a Nation
-A Fascist America
-McCarthyism: An American Disgrace
The Original Cast of Characters
George Podpadic: Anarcho-syndicalist
Favored direct action, on the job sabotage, and worker control of the means of production. Virulently opposed to political action, viewed politics as mere triviality.
James Harroway: Socialist
Favored political action, and union organization. Didn't really believe that proletarian revolution was possible.
Szary, Herman: Anarcho-syndicalist
Favored both direct action and political action.
E.W. Winzler: Communist
It really all began in 1884. That was the year George Podpadic and his followers chose The City of White Birch, in upstate NY to be the home of them and there movement. There was nothing particularly significant about White Birch. Nothing to distinguish it from any of the other lightly industrialized urban centers sprouting up in NY states vast countryside. Utica, Binghamton, Rome, Little Falls, Amsterdam, Schenectady, Oneonta. White Birch was really no different from these cities. And it was precisely it's insignificance that appealed to Podpadic and his ilk.
George Podpadic, was part of a growing movement in Europe and America, mostly in Europe though. Podpadic was an anarchist. His family migrated from Poland in the 1870's. They lived in New York City, Baltimore, and Schenectady. Before coming to America Podpadic had become possessed by a strong sense that the prevailing economic and political systems of the world were failing the working class. Class struggle in his native Poland awakened him to the writings of Karl Marx, which fundamentally altered his life. Subsequently Podpadic went on a binge consuming radical literature, becoming electrified by the likes of Bakunin and Kropotkin, Podpadic became obsessed with radical programs. Collectivism, Anarchism, Syndicalism, Communism, he became involved with all of it. Attending meetings, publishing pamphlets, organizing workers, it became his life. Much to the annoyance of family members, who had a different reaction to the class struggles in industrialized Europe. They wanted to go to America, for a better way of life. George Podpadic didn't really have an interest in moving to the United States, so he would dismiss the dreams of his wife and children. But only for so long. In 1870 George Podpadic agreed to leave Poland and move to the United States. Upon their arrival to New York City, George Podpadic was thrilled to learn that small pockets of radicals did exist, and were well versed in the ideas and concepts that George Podpadic had devoted so much of his life to. Right away Podpadic began making a name for himself in radical circles. His powerful oratorical abilities, his commanding knowledge of cutting edge radical ideas, and his devotion to expanding the acceptance of anarchism, quickly caused him to rise, and attract followers. Here George Podpadic helped build up the Communist Party, later he and his family moved to Baltimore to establish a Communist party there. While living in NY, Podpadic had become entranced by the beauty of Upstate NY. The Catskill Mountains, The Hudson River, The Adirondacks, but most of all the rolling, frolicking hills of the Central Leatherstocking region. And so after setting up a local in Baltimore, Podpadic and his family moved to Schenectady, NY. A small city, which would later become the home of GE's turbine plant. After a less then warm reception in Schenectady, Podpadic moved to another small upstate NY city. It was around this time, that Podpadic was experiencing difficulties with his family. His wife had grown tired of his radical politics. She became angry that her husband would rather distribute pamphlets and speak at meetings then be with her. And so when George Podpadic left Schenectady, he left his family behind as well. Except for his son Sylvester, who was 18 at the time. He also was a radical, who wanted to topple the capitalist world order.
After much deciding, Podpadic and the boy decided to settle in The City of White Birch, a small industrial city, home to two factories, a railroad station. The city was located about 40 miles west of Schenectady, and about 25 miles south of the Mohawk River.