William D. Haywood


Solidarity in Prison

(June 1910)


Source: From International Socialist Review, Vol. 10 No. 12, June 1910, pp. 1065–1068.
Transcription: Matthew Siegfried.
HTML mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists Internet Archive (2019).
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


ACTIVITY in the socialist movement presents some complex situations, some unusual rewards.

There are socialists in jail in New Castle. There are socialists in office at Milwaukee.

If the opportunity of the individuals concerned could be reversed, it is certain that Comrade Emil Seidel, mayor of Milwaukee, and his colleagues, would bear with fortitude the gloomy ignominy of the cells in Lawrence County Jail. It is likewise true that comrades McCarty, Stirton, Williams, Jacobs, Fix and Moore, the manager and editorial staff of Solidarity, could administer the affairs of a municipality with honor to the party and credit to themselves. But those who know the boys in jail, know that neither would voluntarily change places. All are filling their present positions, in upholstered, revolving office chairs or hard rough benches for the same great cause.

The imprisonment of our fellow-workers in New Castle is an incident in the strike against the American Sheet and Tin Plate Co., which has been on since last July.

This branch of the U.S. Steel trust declared for an open shop, thin precipitating a strike among a comparatively few men who were members of the Amalgamated Association.

Invention and the introduction of modern machinery had reduced thousands of men to a common level of labor, below the standard of eligibility required in a pure and simple trade union. These men were organized by the Industrial Workers of the World.

The Free Press, published by the socialist locals of Lawrence County, took up the fight of the striking workers and was the only medium through which their side of questions involved could be presented to the public. Every Sunday morning the paper went as a C.H. McCarty messenger of truth into the homes of the workers conveying a word of hope and cheer such as had never been heard in pulpits or read in the capitalist press. It was the voice of the strikers to the strikers. They were loyal to themselves.

The fight was on. The U.S. Steel trust resorted to methods and tactics that are old in the battle against labor. Police, deputies, the state constabulary and court injunctions were their instruments of war fare. Strike breakers were shipped in and the mills resumed operations in a crippled condition.

The Free Press kept up a vigorous political agitation resulting in the election of Charles H. McKeever, manager of the paper, as City Councilman.

It was about this time that Comrade A.M. Stirton, who had for some years previously edited the Wage Slave in Michigan, a paper well and favorably known throughout the country as an advocate of industrial unionism, went to New Castle, where Solidarity was started to help in the battles of the workers in the iron and steel district. C.H. McCarty became manager of the paper and Comrade Stirton editor.

The paper adopted a policy comprehensive, constructive and international in scope. It grew rapidly in circulation and influence and is much feared by the employing class in the coal and iron district, of Pennsylvania, speaking as it does for the unemployed, the unskilled, and the despised of labor for whom no voice had ever been raised. Since the Carnegie massacre at Homestead in 1892, no efforts had been made to organize these men.

The Free Press and Solidarity were issued every week. The employers were furious. Members of the Business Men’s Exchange grew hydrophobic. Detectives were hired and set on the trail of the papers and finally the editorial staffs of both The Free Press and Solidarity were arrested, charged with an alleged violation of the Pennsylvania publishing law (enacted in 1907 and never called into use except on one occasion, as a matter of spite).

This law is being violated daily and weekly by many publications in Pennsylvania at the present time.

The editors of Solidarity and the Free Press were hauled into court and with them the editor of the New Castle Herald, a capitalist sheet. All three were convicted, but the leniency of the court, resulted in the capitalist editor being released on payment of costs while the others were fined $100 and costs.

The Free Press appealed their case while the members of Solidarity refused to pay the fines and were sentenced to jail, declining to accept Judge Porter’s proffered offer of ten days in which to look for money to pay them. Knowing that the workers alone would be the ones to contribute, they preferred to go to jail.

It was there I met them. Lawrence county jail is a disgrace to any civilized community. It is dark, dingy, loathsome and damp, absolutely unfit for habitation. But the crowded cells and rusty bars are not in harmony with the spirits of the imprisoned men. They are bright. All were feeling well and in accord with the sentiments expressed by George Fix, when he said, “This is only the beginning.”

These men are imprisoned: humiliations are heaped upon their wives and children, because they dared to organize and to teach organization, because they worked for the abolition of wage slavery.

They ask nothing for themselves. When I asked what message they had for the workers on the outside, in one voice they replied,

“If the workers would help us, let them build up Solidarity.”

The minions of the capitalist courts have invaded the jail and served process of injunction against the imprisoned men. They are prohibited from molesting or persuading the employees of the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company. And the persecution does not end here.

In the June docket, Charles McCarty, F.M. Hartman, Charles McKeever, Evan Evans and William J. White are charged with seditious libel and must appear to defend themselves. This is a further effort to strangle the press of the working class in New Castle.

Money will be needed in this fight and it will have to come from the workers. Do not neglect this matter, as this case is of vital interest to you.

Defense Fund is in charge of Joseph Booth, Box 644, New Castle, Pa.

Last updated on 10 June 2022