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Following like thunder claps upon the Business Men's dinner, occurred
event after event of terrifying moment; and I, little I, who had lived so
placidly all my days in the quiet university town, found myself and my
personal affairs drawn into the vortex of the great world-affairs. Whether
it was my love for Ernest, or the clear sight he had given me of the
society in which I lived, that made me a revolutionist, I know not; but a
revolutionist I became, and I was plunged into a whirl of happenings that
would have been inconceivable three short months before.
The crisis in my own fortunes came simultaneously with great crises in
society. First of all, father was discharged from the university. Oh, he
was not technically discharged. His resignation was demanded, that was
all. This, in itself, did not amount to much. Father, in fact, was
delighted. He was especially delighted because his discharge had been
precipitated by the publication of his book, "Economics and Education." It
clinched his argument, he contended. What better evidence could be
advanced to prove that education was dominated by the capitalist class?
But this proof never got anywhere. Nobody knew he had been forced to
resign from the university. He was so eminent a scientist that such an
announcement, coupled with the reason for his enforced resignation, would
have created somewhat of a furor all over the world. The newspapers
showered him with praise and honor, and commended him for having given up
the drudgery of the lecture room in order to devote his whole time to
At first father laughed. Then he became angry—tonic angry. Then came
the suppression of his book. This suppression was performed secretly, so
secretly that at first we could not comprehend. The publication of the
book had immediately caused a bit of excitement in the country. Father had
been politely abused in the capitalist press, the tone of the abuse being
to the effect that it was a pity so great a scientist should leave his
field and invade the realm of sociology, about which he knew nothing and
wherein he had promptly become lost. This lasted for a week, while father
chuckled and said the book had touched a sore spot on capitalism. And
then, abruptly, the newspapers and the critical magazines ceased saying
anything about the book at all. Also, and with equal suddenness, the book
disappeared from the market. Not a copy was obtainable from any
bookseller. Father wrote to the publishers and was informed that the
plates had been accidentally injured. An unsatisfactory correspondence
followed. Driven finally to an unequivocal stand, the publishers stated
that they could not see their way to putting the book into type again, but
that they were willing to relinquish their rights in it.
"And you won't find another publishing house in the country to touch it,"
Ernest said. "And if I were you, I'd hunt cover right now. You've merely
got a foretaste of the Iron Heel."
But father was nothing if not a scientist. He never believed in jumping to
conclusions. A laboratory experiment was no experiment if it were not
carried through in all its details. So he patiently went the round of the
publishing houses. They gave a multitude of excuses, but not one house
would consider the book.
When father became convinced that the book had actually been suppressed,
he tried to get the fact into the newspapers; but his communications were
ignored. At a political meeting of the socialists, where many reporters
were present, father saw his chance. He arose and related the history of
the suppression of the book. He laughed next day when he read the
newspapers, and then he grew angry to a degree that eliminated all tonic
qualities. The papers made no mention of the book, but they misreported
him beautifully. They twisted his words and phrases away from the context,
and turned his subdued and controlled remarks into a howling anarchistic
speech. It was done artfully. One instance, in particular, I remember. He
had used the phrase "social revolution." The reporter merely dropped out
"social." This was sent out all over the country in an Associated Press
despatch, and from all over the country arose a cry of alarm. Father was
branded as a nihilist and an anarchist, and in one cartoon that was copied
widely he was portrayed waving a red flag at the head of a mob of
long-haired, wild-eyed men who bore in their hands torches, knives, and
He was assailed terribly in the press, in long and abusive editorials, for
his anarchy, and hints were made of mental breakdown on his part. This
behavior, on the part of the capitalist press, was nothing new, Ernest
told us. It was the custom, he said, to send reporters to all the
socialist meetings for the express purpose of misreporting and distorting
what was said, in order to frighten the middle class away from any
possible affiliation with the proletariat. And repeatedly Ernest warned
father to cease fighting and to take to cover.
The socialist press of the country took up the fight, however, and
throughout the reading portion of the working class it was known that the
book had been suppressed. But this knowledge stopped with the working
class. Next, the "Appeal to Reason," a big socialist publishing house,
arranged with father to bring out the book. Father was jubilant, but
Ernest was alarmed.
"I tell you we are on the verge of the unknown," he insisted. "Big things
are happening secretly all around us. We can feel them. We do not know
what they are, but they are there. The whole fabric of society is
a-tremble with them. Don't ask me. I don't know myself. But out of this
flux of society something is about to crystallize. It is crystallizing
now. The suppression of the book is a precipitation. How many books have
been suppressed? We haven't the least idea. We are in the dark. We have no
way of learning. Watch out next for the suppression of the socialist press
and socialist publishing houses. I'm afraid it's coming. We are going to
Ernest had his hand on the pulse of events even more closely than the rest
of the socialists, and within two days the first blow was struck. The
Appeal to Reason was a weekly, and its regular circulation amongst the
proletariat was seven hundred and fifty thousand. Also, it very frequently
got out special editions of from two to five millions. These great
editions were paid for and distributed by the small army of voluntary
workers who had marshalled around the Appeal. The first blow was aimed at
these special editions, and it was a crushing one. By an arbitrary ruling
of the Post Office, these editions were decided to be not the regular
circulation of the paper, and for that reason were denied admission to the
A week later the Post Office Department ruled that the paper was
seditious, and barred it entirely from the mails. This was a fearful blow
to the socialist propaganda. The Appeal was desperate. It devised a plan
of reaching its subscribers through the express companies, but they
declined to handle it. This was the end of the Appeal. But not quite. It
prepared to go on with its book publishing. Twenty thousand copies of
father's book were in the bindery, and the presses were turning off more.
And then, without warning, a mob arose one night, and, under a waving
American flag, singing patriotic songs, set fire to the great plant of the
Appeal and totally destroyed it.
Now Girard, Kansas, was a quiet, peaceable town. There had never been any
labor troubles there. The Appeal paid union wages; and, in fact, was the
backbone of the town, giving employment to hundreds of men and women. It
was not the citizens of Girard that composed the mob. This mob had risen
up out of the earth apparently, and to all intents and purposes, its work
done, it had gone back into the earth. Ernest saw in the affair the most
"The Black Hundreds* are being organized in the United States," he said.
"This is the beginning. There will be more of it. The Iron Heel is getting
* The Black Hundreds were reactionary mobs organized by the
perishing Autocracy in the Russian Revolution. These
reactionary groups attacked the revolutionary groups, and
also, at needed moments, rioted and destroyed property so as
to afford the Autocracy the pretext of calling out the
And so perished father's book. We were to see much of the Black Hundreds
as the days went by. Week by week more of the socialist papers were barred
from the mails, and in a number of instances the Black Hundreds destroyed
the socialist presses. Of course, the newspapers of the land lived up to
the reactionary policy of the ruling class, and the destroyed socialist
press was misrepresented and vilified, while the Black Hundreds were
represented as true patriots and saviours of society. So convincing was
all this misrepresentation that even sincere ministers in the pulpit
praised the Black Hundreds while regretting the necessity of violence.
History was making fast. The fall elections were soon to occur, and Ernest
was nominated by the socialist party to run for Congress. His chance for
election was most favorable. The street-car strike in San Francisco had
been broken. And following upon it the teamsters' strike had been broken.
These two defeats had been very disastrous to organized labor. The whole
Water Front Federation, along with its allies in the structural trades,
had backed up the teamsters, and all had smashed down ingloriously. It had
been a bloody strike. The police had broken countless heads with their
riot clubs; and the death list had been augmented by the turning loose of
a machine-gun on the strikers from the barns of the Marsden Special
In consequence, the men were sullen and vindictive. They wanted blood, and
revenge. Beaten on their chosen field, they were ripe to seek revenge by
means of political action. They still maintained their labor organization,
and this gave them strength in the political struggle that was on.
Ernest's chance for election grew stronger and stronger. Day by day unions
and more unions voted their support to the socialists, until even Ernest
laughed when the Undertakers' Assistants and the Chicken Pickers fell into
line. Labor became mulish. While it packed the socialist meetings with mad
enthusiasm, it was impervious to the wiles of the old-party politicians.
The old-party orators were usually greeted with empty halls, though
occasionally they encountered full halls where they were so roughly
handled that more than once it was necessary to call out the police
History was making fast. The air was vibrant with things happening and
impending. The country was on the verge of hard times,* caused by a series
of prosperous years wherein the difficulty of disposing abroad of the
unconsumed surplus had become increasingly difficult. Industries were
working short time; many great factories were standing idle against the
time when the surplus should be gone; and wages were being cut right and
* Under the capitalist regime these periods of hard times
were as inevitable as they were absurd. Prosperity always
brought calamity. This, of course, was due to the excess of
unconsumed profits that was piled up.
Also, the great machinist strike had been broken. Two hundred thousand
machinists, along with their five hundred thousand allies in the
metalworking trades, had been defeated in as bloody a strike as had ever
marred the United States. Pitched battles had been fought with the small
armies of armed strike-breakers* put in the field by the employers'
associations; the Black Hundreds, appearing in scores of wide-scattered
places, had destroyed property; and, in consequence, a hundred thousand
regular soldiers of the United States has been called out to put a
frightful end to the whole affair. A number of the labor leaders had been
executed; many others had been sentenced to prison, while thousands of the
rank and file of the strikers had been herded into bull-pens** and
abominably treated by the soldiers.
* Strike-breakers—these were, in purpose and practice and
everything except name, the private soldiers of the
capitalists. They were thoroughly organized and well armed,
and they were held in readiness to be hurled in special
trains to any part of the country where labor went on strike
or was locked out by the employers. Only those curious
times could have given rise to the amazing spectacle of one,
Farley, a notorious commander of strike-breakers, who, in
1906, swept across the United States in special trains from
New York to San Francisco with an army of twenty-five
hundred men, fully armed and equipped, to break a strike of
the San Francisco street-car men. Such an act was in direct
violation of the laws of the land. The fact that this act,
and thousands of similar acts, went unpunished, goes to show
how completely the judiciary was the creature of the
** Bull-pen—in a miners' strike in Idaho, in the latter
part of the nineteenth century, it happened that many of the
strikers were confined in a bull-pen by the troops. The
practice and the name continued in the twentieth century.
The years of prosperity were now to be paid for. All markets were glutted;
all markets were falling; and amidst the general crumble of prices the
price of labor crumbled fastest of all. The land was convulsed with
industrial dissensions. Labor was striking here, there, and everywhere;
and where it was not striking, it was being turned out by the capitalists.
The papers were filled with tales of violence and blood. And through it
all the Black Hundreds played their part. Riot, arson, and wanton
destruction of property was their function, and well they performed it.
The whole regular army was in the field, called there by the actions of
the Black Hundreds.* All cities and towns were like armed camps, and
laborers were shot down like dogs. Out of the vast army of the unemployed
the strike-breakers were recruited; and when the strike-breakers were
worsted by the labor unions, the troops always appeared and crushed the
unions. Then there was the militia. As yet, it was not necessary to have
recourse to the secret militia law. Only the regularly organized militia
was out, and it was out everywhere. And in this time of terror, the
regular army was increased an additional hundred thousand by the
* The name only, and not the idea, was imported from Russia.
The Black Hundreds were a development out of the secret
agents of the capitalists, and their use arose in the labor
struggles of the nineteenth century. There is no discussion
of this. No less an authority of the times than Carroll D.
Wright, United States Commissioner of Labor, is responsible
for the statement. From his book, entitled "The Battles of
Labor," is quoted the declaration that "in some of the great
historic strikes the employers themselves have instigated
acts of violence;" that manufacturers have deliberately
provoked strikes in order to get rid of surplus stock; and
that freight cars have been burned by employers' agents
during railroad strikes in order to increase disorder. It
was out of these secret agents of the employers that the
Black Hundreds arose; and it was they, in turn, that later
became that terrible weapon of the Oligarchy, the agents-
Never had labor received such an all-around beating. The great captains of
industry, the oligarchs, had for the first time thrown their full weight
into the breach the struggling employers' associations had made. These
associations were practically middle-class affairs, and now, compelled by
hard times and crashing markets, and aided by the great captains of
industry, they gave organized labor an awful and decisive defeat. It was
an all-powerful alliance, but it was an alliance of the lion and the lamb,
as the middle class was soon to learn.
Labor was bloody and sullen, but crushed. Yet its defeat did not put an
end to the hard times. The banks, themselves constituting one of the most
important forces of the Oligarchy, continued to call in credits. The Wall
Street* group turned the stock market into a maelstrom where the values of
all the land crumbled away almost to nothingness. And out of all the rack
and ruin rose the form of the nascent Oligarchy, imperturbable,
indifferent, and sure. Its serenity and certitude was terrifying. Not only
did it use its own vast power, but it used all the power of the United
States Treasury to carry out its plans.
* Wall Street—so named from a street in ancient New York,
where was situated the stock exchange, and where the
irrational organization of society permitted underhanded
manipulation of all the industries of the country.
The captains of industry had turned upon the middle class. The employers'
associations, that had helped the captains of industry to tear and rend
labor, were now torn and rent by their quondam allies. Amidst the crashing
of the middle men, the small business men and manufacturers, the trusts
stood firm. Nay, the trusts did more than stand firm. They were active.
They sowed wind, and wind, and ever more wind; for they alone knew how to
reap the whirlwind and make a profit out of it. And such profits! Colossal
profits! Strong enough themselves to weather the storm that was largely
their own brewing, they turned loose and plundered the wrecks that floated
about them. Values were pitifully and inconceivably shrunken, and the
trusts added hugely to their holdings, even extending their enterprises
into many new fields—and always at the expense of the middle class.
Thus the summer of 1912 witnessed the virtual death-thrust to the middle
class. Even Ernest was astounded at the quickness with which it had been
done. He shook his head ominously and looked forward without hope to the
"It's no use," he said. "We are beaten. The Iron Heel is here. I had hoped
for a peaceable victory at the ballot-box. I was wrong. Wickson was right.
We shall be robbed of our few remaining liberties; the Iron Heel will walk
upon our faces; nothing remains but a bloody revolution of the working
class. Of course we will win, but I shudder to think of it."
And from then on Ernest pinned his faith in revolution. In this he was in
advance of his party. His fellow-socialists could not agree with him. They
still insisted that victory could be gained through the elections. It was
not that they were stunned. They were too cool-headed and courageous for
that. They were merely incredulous, that was all. Ernest could not get
them seriously to fear the coming of the Oligarchy. They were stirred by
him, but they were too sure of their own strength. There was no room in
their theoretical social evolution for an oligarchy, therefore the
Oligarchy could not be.
"We'll send you to Congress and it will be all right," they told him at
one of our secret meetings.
"And when they take me out of Congress," Ernest replied coldly, "and put
me against a wall, and blow my brains out—what then?"
"Then we'll rise in our might," a dozen voices answered at once.
"Then you'll welter in your gore," was his retort. "I've heard that song
sung by the middle class, and where is it now in its might?"