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It was near the end of January, 1913, that the changed attitude of the
Oligarchy toward the favored unions was made public. The newspapers
published information of an unprecedented rise in wages and shortening of
hours for the railroad employees, the iron and steel workers, and the
engineers and machinists. But the whole truth was not told. The oligarchs
did not dare permit the telling of the whole truth. In reality, the wages
had been raised much higher, and the privileges were correspondingly
greater. All this was secret, but secrets will out. Members of the favored
unions told their wives, and the wives gossiped, and soon all the labor
world knew what had happened.
It was merely the logical development of what in the nineteenth century
had been known as grab-sharing. In the industrial warfare of that time,
profit-sharing had been tried. That is, the capitalists had striven to
placate the workers by interesting them financially in their work. But
profit-sharing, as a system, was ridiculous and impossible. Profit-sharing
could be successful only in isolated cases in the midst of a system of
industrial strife; for if all labor and all capital shared profits, the
same conditions would obtain as did obtain when there was no
So, out of the unpractical idea of profit-sharing, arose the practical
idea of grab-sharing. "Give us more pay and charge it to the public," was
the slogan of the strong unions.* And here and there this selfish policy
worked successfully. In charging it to the public, it was charged to the
great mass of unorganized labor and of weakly organized labor. These
workers actually paid the increased wages of their stronger brothers who
were members of unions that were labor monopolies. This idea, as I say,
was merely carried to its logical conclusion, on a large scale, by the
combination of the oligarchs and the favored unions.
* All the railroad unions entered into this combination with
the oligarchs, and it is of interest to note that the first
definite application of the policy of profit-grabbing was
made by a railroad union in the nineteenth century A.D.,
namely, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. P. M.
Arthur was for twenty years Grand Chief of the Brotherhood.
After the strike on the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1877, he
broached a scheme to have the Locomotive Engineers make
terms with the railroads and to "go it alone" so far as the
rest of the labor unions were concerned. This scheme was
eminently successful. It was as successful as it was
selfish, and out of it was coined the word "arthurization,"
to denote grab-sharing on the part of labor unions. This
word "arthurization" has long puzzled the etymologists, but
its derivation, I hope, is now made clear.
As soon as the secret of the defection of the favored unions leaked out,
there were rumblings and mutterings in the labor world. Next, the favored
unions withdrew from the international organizations and broke off all
affiliations. Then came trouble and violence. The members of the favored
unions were branded as traitors, and in saloons and brothels, on the
streets and at work, and, in fact, everywhere, they were assaulted by the
comrades they had so treacherously deserted.
Countless heads were broken, and there were many killed. No member of the
favored unions was safe. They gathered together in bands in order to go to
work or to return from work. They walked always in the middle of the
street. On the sidewalk they were liable to have their skulls crushed by
bricks and cobblestones thrown from windows and house-tops. They were
permitted to carry weapons, and the authorities aided them in every way.
Their persecutors were sentenced to long terms in prison, where they were
harshly treated; while no man, not a member of the favored unions, was
permitted to carry weapons. Violation of this law was made a high
misdemeanor and punished accordingly.
Outraged labor continued to wreak vengeance on the traitors. Caste lines
formed automatically. The children of the traitors were persecuted by the
children of the workers who had been betrayed, until it was impossible for
the former to play on the streets or to attend the public schools. Also,
the wives and families of the traitors were ostracized, while the corner
groceryman who sold provisions to them was boycotted.
As a result, driven back upon themselves from every side, the traitors and
their families became clannish. Finding it impossible to dwell in safety
in the midst of the betrayed proletariat, they moved into new localities
inhabited by themselves alone. In this they were favored by the oligarchs.
Good dwellings, modern and sanitary, were built for them, surrounded by
spacious yards, and separated here and there by parks and playgrounds.
Their children attended schools especially built for them, and in these
schools manual training and applied science were specialized upon. Thus,
and unavoidably, at the very beginning, out of this segregation arose
caste. The members of the favored unions became the aristocracy of labor.
They were set apart from the rest of labor. They were better housed,
better clothed, better fed, better treated. They were grab-sharing with a
In the meantime, the rest of the working class was more harshly treated.
Many little privileges were taken away from it, while its wages and its
standard of living steadily sank down. Incidentally, its public schools
deteriorated, and education slowly ceased to be compulsory. The increase
in the younger generation of children who could not read nor write was
The capture of the world-market by the United States had disrupted the
rest of the world. Institutions and governments were everywhere crashing
or transforming. Germany, Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand were
busy forming cooperative commonwealths. The British Empire was falling
apart. England's hands were full. In India revolt was in full swing. The
cry in all Asia was, "Asia for the Asiatics!" And behind this cry was
Japan, ever urging and aiding the yellow and brown races against the
white. And while Japan dreamed of continental empire and strove to realize
the dream, she suppressed her own proletarian revolution. It was a simple
war of the castes, Coolie versus Samurai, and the coolie socialists were
executed by tens of thousands. Forty thousand were killed in the
street-fighting of Tokio and in the futile assault on the Mikado's palace.
Kobe was a shambles; the slaughter of the cotton operatives by
machine-guns became classic as the most terrific execution ever achieved
by modern war machines. Most savage of all was the Japanese Oligarchy that
arose. Japan dominated the East, and took to herself the whole Asiatic
portion of the world-market, with the exception of India.
England managed to crush her own proletarian revolution and to hold on to
India, though she was brought to the verge of exhaustion. Also, she was
compelled to let her great colonies slip away from her. So it was that the
socialists succeeded in making Australia and New Zealand into cooperative
commonwealths. And it was for the same reason that Canada was lost to the
mother country. But Canada crushed her own socialist revolution, being
aided in this by the Iron Heel. At the same time, the Iron Heel helped
Mexico and Cuba to put down revolt. The result was that the Iron Heel was
firmly established in the New World. It had welded into one compact
political mass the whole of North America from the Panama Canal to the
And England, at the sacrifice of her great colonies, had succeeded only in
retaining India. But this was no more than temporary. The struggle with
Japan and the rest of Asia for India was merely delayed. England was
destined shortly to lose India, while behind that event loomed the
struggle between a united Asia and the world.
And while all the world was torn with conflict, we of the United States
were not placid and peaceful. The defection of the great unions had
prevented our proletarian revolt, but violence was everywhere. In addition
to the labor troubles, and the discontent of the farmers and of the
remnant of the middle class, a religious revival had blazed up. An
offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists sprang into sudden prominence,
proclaiming the end of the world.
"Confusion thrice confounded!" Ernest cried. "How can we hope for
solidarity with all these cross purposes and conflicts?"
And truly the religious revival assumed formidable proportions. The
people, what of their wretchedness, and of their disappointment in all
things earthly, were ripe and eager for a heaven where industrial tyrants
entered no more than camels passed through needle-eyes. Wild-eyed
itinerant preachers swarmed over the land; and despite the prohibition of
the civil authorities, and the persecution for disobedience, the flames of
religious frenzy were fanned by countless camp-meetings.
It was the last days, they claimed, the beginning of the end of the world.
The four winds had been loosed. God had stirred the nations to strife. It
was a time of visions and miracles, while seers and prophetesses were
legion. The people ceased work by hundreds of thousands and fled to the
mountains, there to await the imminent coming of God and the rising of the
hundred and forty and four thousand to heaven. But in the meantime God did
not come, and they starved to death in great numbers. In their desperation
they ravaged the farms for food, and the consequent tumult and anarchy in
the country districts but increased the woes of the poor expropriated
Also, the farms and warehouses were the property of the Iron Heel. Armies
of troops were put into the field, and the fanatics were herded back at
the bayonet point to their tasks in the cities. There they broke out in
ever recurring mobs and riots. Their leaders were executed for sedition or
confined in madhouses. Those who were executed went to their deaths with
all the gladness of martyrs. It was a time of madness. The unrest spread.
In the swamps and deserts and waste places, from Florida to Alaska, the
small groups of Indians that survived were dancing ghost dances and
waiting the coming of a Messiah of their own.
And through it all, with a serenity and certitude that was terrifying,
continued to rise the form of that monster of the ages, the Oligarchy.
With iron hand and iron heel it mastered the surging millions, out of
confusion brought order, out of the very chaos wrought its own foundation
"Just wait till we get in," the Grangers said—Calvin said it to us
in our Pell Street quarters. "Look at the states we've captured. With you
socialists to back us, we'll make them sing another song when we take
"The millions of the discontented and the impoverished are ours," the
socialists said. "The Grangers have come over to us, the farmers, the
middle class, and the laborers. The capitalist system will fall to pieces.
In another month we send fifty men to Congress. Two years hence every
office will be ours, from the President down to the local dog-catcher."
To all of which Ernest would shake his head and say:
"How many rifles have you got? Do you know where you can get plenty of
lead? When it comes to powder, chemical mixtures are better than
mechanical mixtures, you take my word."