H.M. Hyndman

Further Reminiscences

Chapter XIV
Socialism in the United States

IF WE had kept silent the stones would have cried out. Children were being slain, women worked to death, men killed inch by inch, and these crimes are never punished by law. The great principle underlying the present system is unpaid labour. Those who amass fortunes, build palaces, and live in luxury are doing that by virtue of unpaid labour. Being directly or indirectly in possession of all the land and machinery they dictate their terms to the working man. He is compelled to sell his labour cheap or to starve. The price paid him is always far below its real value. He acts under compulsion and they call it free contract. This state of affairs keeps him poor and ignorant, an easy prey for exploitation. I know what life has in store for the masses. I was one of them. I slept in their garrets and lived in their cellars. I saw them work and die. I worked with girls in the same factory – prostitutes they were, because they could not earn wages enough to live. I saw females sick from overwork, sick in body and mind on account of the lives they were forced to lead. I saw girls from ten to fourteen years of age working for a mere pittance. I heard how their morals were killed by the foul and vile language and the bad example of their ignorant fellow-workers, leading them on to the same road of misery. I saw families starving and ablebodied men worked to death. That was in Europe.

When I came to the United States, I found that there were classes of working men who were better paid than the European workmen, but I perceived that the state of things in a great number of industries was even worse, and that the so-called better-paid skilled labourers were being rapidly degraded into mere automatic appendages to the machinery. I found that the proletariat of the great industrial cities was in a condition that could not be worse. Thousands of labourers in the city of Chicago live in rooms without sufficient protection from the weather, without proper ventilation, where never a stream of sunlight flows in. There are hovels where two, three, and four families live in one room. How these conditions influence the health and morals of these unfortunate sufferers it is needless to say. And how do they live? From the ash-barrels they gather half-rotten vegetables, in the butchers’ shops they buy offal for a few cents, and these precious morsels they carry home to make their meals from. The dilapidated tenements in which labourers of this class live need repairs very badly, but the greedy landlord waits in most cases till he is compelled by the city to have them done. Is it any wonder that diseases of all kinds kill men, women, and children in such places by wholesale, especially children? Is not this horrible in a socalled civilised country, where there is plenty of food and wealth?

Some years ago a committee of the Citizens’ Association or League made an investigation into these matters, and I was one of the reporters who went with them. What these common labourers are today, the skilled labourers will be tomorrow. Improved machinery, which ought to be a blessing for the working man, becomes a curse for him. Machinery multiplies the army of unskilled labourers and makes the labourer himself more and more dependent upon the class who own the land and the machines. And that is the reason why Socialism and Communism have got a foothold in this country. The outcry that Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism are the creed of foreigners is a great mistake. There are more Socialists of American birth in the United States than foreigners, and that is much when we consider that nearly half of all the industrial working men are not native Americans. There are Socialist papers in a great many States written and edited by Americans for Americans. Socialism, as we understand it, means that land and machinery shall be held in common by the people. The production of goods shall be carried on by co-operative groups of producers who will supply the needs of all the people. Under such a system every human being would have the opportunity for doing useful work, and no doubt would do such useful work. A few hours’ work every day would suffice to produce all that is needed for a full and enjoyable existence. Statistics establish that. Ample time would be left for all to cultivate the mind and to foster science and art. That is what Socialists propose.

Some say it is un-American. Is it then American to let people starve and die in their ignorance? Is exploitation of the labourer and robbery of the poor American? What have the great political parties done for the poor? Promised much: done nothing except corrupt them by buying their votes on the day of election. A poverty-stricken man has no interest in the welfare of the community. It is but natural that in a society where women sell their honour men should sell their votes ... I have not the slightest idea who threw the bomb on the Haymarket, and had no knowledge of any conspiracy to use violence on that or any other night.

That is an extract from the speech of Schwab when about to be condemned to death for participation in bomb-throwing in Chicago six-and-twenty years ago. This trial and the execution of the “Anarchists,” after twelve months of respite, is now generally admitted to have been nothing more nor less than a police plot, carried out to gratify the hatred of the dominant class in Chicago, and throughout the United States, against those who preached and agitated for the overthrow of capitalism. Spies, Parsons, Fischer, Engel, and Lingg, who were hanged, and Fielden and Schwab, who were imprisoned for fifteen years, were as much the victims of an atrocious system of government as the members of the first Russian Duma who have been done to death in Russia for no crime whatever. But the whole thing, like the massacres after the Commune of Paris, is no more than an incident in the long and desperate class war in which the killed and wounded are all on one side.

The mistake made by Fischer, Engel and Lingg, and, to a much less extent by Spies and Parsons, was in talking big about their power to do this, that, and the other by main force, when they could have had no hope of success by this means. From talking of bombs as weapons to using bombs to kill is no long step, and people at large are not quick to discriminate between Anarchists and Social-Democrats; though their theories are directly antagonistic, and leading Anarchists are never weary of abusing and misrepresenting Social-Democrats. At any rate, we English Social-Democrats did all we possibly could to save the accused and condemned men, and a petition to the Governor of Illinois which we drew up was signed by some of the most distinguished people in Great Britain. Public meetings of protest were also held. All to no purpose.

The main point in relation to the speech of Schwab, as well as with regard to the death orations of his fellow-prisoners, is that there is practically no change for the better in the conditions of the workers of Chicago since 1886; as is proved conclusively by official evidence in America, and by investigations conducted on the spot by Mr. Adolphe Smith, the Special Commissioner of the Lancet. Things move so slowly indeed that the following analysis of American social and political affairs which I wrote more than a quarter of a century ago is absolutely correct today.

Men have come and gone, but the domination of capitalism remains what it was. All our efforts on this side to save the Anarchists of Chicago from the scaffold were renewed but the other day on behalf of Haywood and his two fellow Trade Unionists, and may be called for again tomorrow in order to help to ensure the safety of Ettor and Giovanetti, the leaders of the foreign workers of Lawrence against unendurable oppression. In spite of Socialist energy and Mr. Roosevelt’s seesaw political dodgery things still move slowly in the United States, as they do in Great Britain; though, as I point out below, the people have advantages which are lacking in England, and the American Socialist leaders I have met during the past thirty years have been by no means wanting in persistence and self-sacrifice. These advantages may still be fairly put as follows:

  1. The workers are on the whole better educated than the European wage-earners outside Germany. They study more and keep themselves better informed as to what is going on among their class and take a more active interest in social matters. They go to lectures and public meetings to a greater extent than ours do, and act more quickly on what they learn.
  2. The facts and figures relating to the trades and industries of the United States are more accurate, better arranged, and more accessible to the people than elsewhere. The artisans and labourers in any branch of production can see clearly what proportion of the total value goes to the labourers, and how much is taken by capitalists and landlords. The question whether wages are or are not rising relatively to the cost of living is easily determined. The workers can see for themselves how they are faring with their employers more clearly than they can here.
  3. The standard of life is generally higher in America, but not so high as used to be claimed by any means, and the similarity of the conditions of the lower strata to those which obtain in Europe is generally observed.
  4. It is more and more difficult for a man to rise out of the wage-earning class.
  5. The personal relation between employer and employed is less even than it is in Europe. Tramps are frequently treated with frightful cruelty. The police are far more brutal and corrupt in the great cities than they are on this side of the Atlantic.
  6. The capitalists are harsher in their dealings and more obviously a separate class than elsewhere. They are not absorbed into an old class whose wealth is hereditary, nor is there even yet a large easy class not directly engaged in business to show off the increasing antagonism. The feeling against the growing Trusts and monopolies is very keen.
  7. The contrast between the nominal social and political equality and the real disparity which exist between the rich man and the poor man – the utter helplessness of the latter, though he is told he is allpowerful when he sees himself juggled out of any real influence – increases the bitterness in times of pressure. There is a growing appreciation of the irony of the situation when the gulf between the extremely wealthy and the wretchedly poor is widening every day. What is the use, a man asks himself, of being a free and independent citizen of the great Republic when I can barely keep body and soul together in good times and am thrown out starving on the streets in bad, while Trusts, Companies, and private employers control the whole machine? The tone of American political literature, from the Declaration of Independence onwards, is one continuous satire upon the economic and social conditions of today. Formerly, when “the frontier” still lay open to the hardy and adventurous, and all felt they had a chance, this contrast between the word and the fact was not so much noticed: now it is felt and commented upon daily.
  8. The political issues are really played out. These used to serve, in the United States as in older countries, to obscure the actual conflict of class interest which underlies them all. That is now almost at an end. There is little to choose between Republicans and Democrats. Even the Free Trade and Protection issue rouses lukewarm interest. Mere grabbing for place, thinly veneered over by a pretence of patriotism, has become too clearly the object of both factions. This among a people so intensely political as the Americans is a serious matter. That the labouring classes are still almost wholly unrepresented or grossly misrepresented in the political arena by no means lessens the significance of this point.
  9. Americans are much more ready to resort to the use of arms than are Europeans. The capitalist class is better prepared for an armed struggle than is perhaps generally recognised, and at any moment such deliberate outrages upon justice and freedom as have occurred in Colorado and recently in San Diego may force on a direct conflict.
  10. The widespread corruption not only in the political circles of the Capital but in the State Legislatures and Municipalities, and the utter hopelessness as matters stand of getting any proposals seriously considered which affect the welfare of great masses of men but which conflict with the views of the great monopolists, are, unfortunately as I think, driving many workers to the conclusion that “direct action” outside politics, even without long and careful preparation, is their only hope. Confidence has been shaken in the whole machinery of government.
  11. The Constitution of the United States is built up upon the abstract eighteenth-century principles of individual liberty for all citizens and so on, and it is to these principles that reference is made in case of difficulty. As I wrote so long ago as 1880, with special reference to America: “Full individual freedom leads, under present economic conditions, to monopoly; that monopoly speedily develops into oppression and tyranny; and then the common sense of society, as a whole, has to step in to correct the mischief which has been allowed to grow up.” There is no constitutional provision for this in America.

This, I admit, is all rather general reflection than particular reminiscence. But the course of events in America is worthy of more attention than we in Great Britain are in the habit of giving to it. Very much depends, of course, upon the point of view taken. Quite recently, for instance, my friend Professor Herron, who drafted the manifesto eight years ago upon which the combination of the Socialist Party was based, and has since been compelled by exigencies of health to watch the development of the working-class movement in the United States from the charming vantage-post of Florence, revisited America. He felt much disappointed at what he saw. This perhaps was natural. Herron, thoroughgoing Socialist as he is, has certain drawbacks, which, I think, all of us “intellectuals” more or less suffer from.

We see the horrors of the existing system so clearly and present to ourselves the beauties of the coming Co-operative Commonwealth in such attractive guise that we are apt not to make sufficient allowance for the time element in such a tremendous social transformation as that which we believe to be inevitable. Though the conscious human element may, when conditions are ready, precipitate a catastrophe, in such wise as to make it appear to be the sudden outburst of unexpected forces, the essential, unconscious, automatic development takes a long period to reach that stage, even after capable lookers-on think the moment for the complete change has come. The education of the public mind to any new conceptions is a wearisome business, calling for an amount of slow, persistent, unseen effort which makes no show and the effect of which only manifests itself at intervals, except in countries where education and organisation are exceptionally good and industrialism has simultaneously advanced to a high point. Moreover, it is in the nature of the case that as ideas spread the presentation of them becomes more commonplace. The average of intelligence rises, but leaders no longer stand out ahead of and almost apart from the general body, focusing in their writings, speeches, and even persons the inspiring ideals of the coming time.

In discussing Socialist affairs at home and abroad, I have often expressed my own disappointment that, as the recruiting-ground expands, the standard of the voluntary conscripts seems to be lowered, and the fine idealism of the earlier days, with its clearcut practical programme of immediate change, promulgated by men and women who had all the vehement enthusiasm of religious fanatics, is submerged under a flood of inconsequent and provoking practicality, or is obscured by still more irritating upheavals for purposes of no great moment. Yet this, after all, is mere unscientific impatience and educated intolerance of what the intellectual person regards as commonplace.

The great work of the world in all directions is commonplace. And the fact that Socialism is entering into everyday life and is being discussed, accepted, and adopted by ordinary everyday people is of very much more importance than whether this or that speech or lecture is perfect in form, or whether such a pamphlet or book is distinguished in style. The important point is whether the standard of intelligence and appreciation taken over the whole community has risen. First-rate oratory and admirable style will always be exceptional. But the most serious departments of human thought and attainment are destitute of both the one and the other. There is no eloquence in the multiplication table or the differential calculus, and the finest style in all history would not save a second-rate chemist from failure. The truth is, we Socialists have passed out of the period of high theoretical and even practical idealism, and have not yet reached the era of constructive idealism.

Meanwhile, mankind, more and more influenced every day by collectivist and Socialist opinion, is plodding its way through all sorts of provoking blunders to the point where it will have learnt by experience what to do. And all that those who see, or think they see, farther along the road ahead than the most of their fellows, can achieve in the way of rendering help, is to keep on teaching unceasingly the basic truths of the Socialist faith. That is, in the main, the answer I make to my friend Herron’s temporary pessimism about progress in America. For in no country in the world is it more true that the average of the Socialist army has improved in height, girth, depth, and stature than it is in America.

I have met at one time or another most of the most active men and women Socialists in the United States, with the exception of Eugene Debs, and in my opinion, quite irrespective of their antagonisms, recriminations, and mutual depreciations, – “conscious as we are of one another’s shortcomings,” American Socialists might say, as the late Lord Justice Bowen suggested for the preamble to a formal letter of congratulation by the English judges to Queen Victoria, – they have a number of speakers and writers quite equal on the average to those who are to be found in any other country.

Debs stands out as the prominent figure, and is worthy of the position, for assuredly no man anywhere has worked harder for the cause, has run greater risks, or has used his extraordinary energy and impressive oratory to better account. People are apt to forget in the Debs who has been three times the Socialist candidate for the Presidency, and the active speaker and writer all over the Union, that he fought as a simple worker one of the very hardest and most dangerous fights for the railway men that have ever been carried on, went to gaol for his opinions, and might easily have fallen a victim to the hatred of the capitalist class.

His position now, though he is a much younger man, is not very different from that of August Bebel. He is accepted, that is to say, as the most prominent and most trusted man of the whole Socialist party, and this is the more remarkable because he, like his forerunner in Germany, has never trimmed his sails in order to court support in any way, but has remained throughout the thoroughgoing champion of out-and-out Socialism; maintaining that no matter what small advantages might be gained in the meantime, only the complete destruction of the wages system can be of any advantage to the mass of mankind.

So little is known in Europe of the American movement, that a leading French journal classed Eugene Debs with John Burns and Millerand as a man who had abandoned the class for which he had striven. I at once wrote to defend Debs from this disgraceful imputation, and sent him a copy of the correspondence. He was naturally angry enough that he should be thus traduced, and thanked me warmly for having set forth the truth. I am told that the impression Debs produces upon his audiences is much greater than that made by any other American speaker, and that his “personal magnetism” is amazing. He was invited a little while ago to deliver a series of addresses in England in conjunction with the British Socialist Party, and after the Presidential Election is over it is more than probable he will come.

But though Debs is a remarkable personality and his popularity is unbounded, he is still, as he himself takes a delight in telling the people, only one of the crowd. But that crowd is really a remarkable crowd. Among them may be counted (without thinking) a whole series of writers who have made a name on both sides of the Atlantic, and who are active workers in the Socialist ranks. Markham, Jack London, English Walling, Spargo, Upton Sinclair, Robert Hunter, La Monte, Mrs. Charlotte Gilman Stetson, Simons, and others would do credit to any party. This is a very different state of things from the time when almost the only organised Socialists in the United States were Germans, who kept very much to themselves and spoke only their own language; when Schevitch, whose sad tragedy with Countess Hatzfeldt has recently attracted so much attention, was the only really vigorous orator whom they could rely upon for debate in English; and when, to the great majority even of educated Americans, Socialism and Anarchism were convertible terms. Schevitch was one of the handsomest men as well as one of the ablest orators who ever stood upon a platform, and I have never understood why he left New York just when the long uphill work of himself and others was beginning to have a serious effect, and the party for which he had striven was manifestly destined to have a great influence upon American affairs.

Of speakers there is almost a glut. From one end of the country to the other, not only the large cities, towns, but even the smaller industrial centres are constantly visited by Socialist speakers; north, south, east, and west being organised in groups under a most effective central control. It is doubtful whether this department of Socialist propaganda.’ is so well arranged anywhere else, while even daily papers in English are being kept up in New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

It was at the time when Schevitch was active that Gaylord Wilshire, who has since earned for himself a widespread unpopularity among American Socialists by inducing them to embark in unfortunate mines, and has now “gone Syndicalist” – equivalent to “going Fanti” – did really wonderful work in Los Angeles and California with his Challenge and his candidatures, the results of which are seen today in the extraordinarily heavy Socialist vote for Job Harriman as municipal candidate. Harriman polled two-fifths of the entire vote of the great city of Los Angeles last year, in spite of the terrible exposure of the Anarchist methods of the brothers Macnamara, which was made just at that time, and unquestionably deprived him of a very fair chance of winning right out. At Beverley, a University town, with an exceptionally well-to-do population, Socialism swept the decks.

Whole districts, where Wilshire and his friends had taken up an apparently hopeless task, and had sown the seed more than twenty years before, blossomed out into a most encouraging harvest. It was at this period of the early nineties also, that Wilshire, foreseeing the futility of attempting to limit the gigantic monopolies which were growing up inevitably, and, from the economic point of view, advantageously, out of unrestricted competition and the development of capital in its higher stages, raised the cry for the first time of “Let the Nation own the Trusts.” It was a plain, simple proposal, which became the easier to comprehend and take up the more closely it was looked into. Of course, it was derided when originally formulated; but there is probably no single phrase which has had so great a share in stirring up Americans to the appreciation of collectivism and Socialism as this. “Let the Nation own the Trusts.” Let the educated democracy of the United States use their power in their own interest: let them absorb the absorbers, and organise the organisers for the mass of the people instead of against them. Surely a more telling “cry” today than ever, when at least 55 to 60 per cent of all American industry is under the absolute control of the Trusts, and their ruthless power pervades the entire country.

We have plenty of Trusts in Great Britain, if we would only look at facts instead of names; but the iron-and-steel trustifiers, the coal trustifiers, the cotton trustifiers, the railway trustifiers, the shipping trustifiers, etc., have lain low, and the silly Liberal, Tory, and Labourist workers and their leaders perpetually tell us there can be no Trusts, with their ruthless economic repression and wholesale corruption, in this freedom-loving, honest country. Lobbying is unknown in Old England, the House of Commons is beyond reproach, the Municipal Councils never have anything to conceal, the Public Departments, in particular the Board of Trade and the War Office, do not know what the word bribery means.

In short, we are all so just that the Standard Oil Company is dumping its low-flash oil on poor English people out of sheer charity, and obtains special rights of bargetransport up the Thames for its oil without paying a farthing for the privilege! It is a great thing to live in a community where hypocrisy covers such a multitude of virtues. In the United States they are less fortunate.

It is to Wilshire’s credit that he saw the truth about the Trusts, not only theoretically but practically, long before others, and that first in the West, and then in the East, he never wearied of pushing his demand, “Let the Nation own the Trusts,” on the platform and in the press. His comments, too, for many years, on the everyday business of life, in the Challenge, and afterwards in his magazine, from the point of view of the ordinary business man were very useful as written by a Socialist. More of this sort of plain, convincing criticism ought to be forthcoming; and by this and by his debates, such as that with Professor Seligmann, he did admirable service. I take pleasure in recalling these facts now, when in America much of his work is obscured entirely by his own fault, and he has abandoned Socialism for a hopeless farrago of incompatibilities, which he declares to be “Syndicalism” – whatever that may mean.

Having known him intimately for a long time, I attribute this and other aberrations to the curious tricks he plays with his inner man. There is quite a large class of Americans who make not a god but an experiment-chamber of their belly. They give the poor thing no chance. Their science of nutrition appears to consist in the careful manufacture of chronic indigestion by confused feeding of a muddled sort, and then they parade the planet with patent foods, quack medicines and stomach pumps, seeking with marvellous ineptitude what not to devour. Joe Pullitzer, of the New York World, was one of these curious and rather laughable specimens of the man with an abraded mucous membrane and an oesophagus run to seed. How he kept his brain going with that unnourished body I never could make out. He put me in mind of a famous English judge, whose attractive luncheon used to consist of sugarless tapioca pudding and a pint of camomile tea. But Pullitzer, not content with having destroyed his own powers of assimilation, set to work to impair seriously those of others.

His relations to my friend, Thomas Davidson, the philosopher, recalled to me Walter Besant’s story of the old epicure, who, having arrived at the Wilshire stage of hopelessly imperfect deglutition, bought a healthy young man’s digestive organs in order to accommodate his exquisite French dinners and delicious old wines. Davidson, though not young, was, when he took up with Pullitzer, undoubtedly a very healthy man. He had, I believe, been living, and possibly enjoying, the simple life and the complex thought, somewhere in the still unreclaimed backwoods of the Adirondack mountains. Unadulterated Aristotle and exiguous provender kept mind and body quite fit. The voyage across had still further invigorated him. So he looked.

Thus physically equipped he set out to sample the best flesh-pots of Europe and the finest crus of Southern France. He, as I say, accompanied Pullitzer, who would, or rather could, enjoy none of these things. The philosopher had entered upon some pernicious bargain to supplement the proprietor’s incapacity – of that I am convinced – and it killed him. The dyspeptiac immolated the thinker by repletion, and himself lived undigesting on for many a long year. As to Wilshire, the last I heard of him was that he had fasted for three whole days and was then engaged in drinking some “wholesome” potation in quantity, which outdoes for sheer nastiness the “Kava” of Fiji many times over. I can answer for it he has tried every other cure ever invented, and has experimented in not a few of them on his friends. May his own private brand of Syndicalism flourish on such fare!

But in America, as here in Europe, it is not those who are most heard of who do the bulk of the spade work. I saw a portrait in the International Socialist Review the other day of the splendid old French propagandist, Sanials, with the remark below that he is too well known to need any comment. That is not the case, I think. For ten thousand who have heard of the successful moderates, Berger or Hilquit, not one has been made acquainted with the fine, unadvertised career of the unwavering revolutionary agitator, Sanials. Possibly, also, the fact that he was closely associated with de Leon for many years, and shared and used his inexhaustible vocabulary of abuse for all Socialists who differed from his opinions, scarcely helped to keep his name to the front.

But for many a year Sanials did street-corner preaching and steady dissemination of Socialist literature under every sort of discouragement, and not unfrequently in dangerous circumstances. It was this unrecorded, unseen toil of the self-sacrificing enthusiast, who had no object in view but the ultimate success of a cause of which he could not expect himself to see the triumph, that has built up the Socialist Party in the United States as elsewhere. Sanials, in fact, in New York, like Jack Williams in London, represents a type. Some accident of popularity or persecution may bring such a man’s name temporarily before the world; but, in the great majority of cases, he gets little or no credit for his unceasing and exhausting propaganda.

Sanials never changed his teachings, though he naturally enough found it necessary to vary his methods. From first to last he has told the workers and all who chose to listen to him, that until capitalism and production for profit, with the attendant wage-paying by one class to another and the appropriation of the product of unpaid labour by the owners of the means of making wealth, are entirely transformed into a co-operative industrial community, the wage-earners, as a class, could gain no permanent advantage. Then all classes would cease to be, and human beings would at last lead a rational and enjoyable life. Education, agitation, and organisation of the whole people towards this end, and the acceptance of such changes as tended in that direction in the meanwhile, were the only effective methods of attaining the desired result, and politics or armed force or well-prepared and disciplined strikes were all to be used as reasonable opportunity might offer. All this Sanials hammered on at year after year, with uncommonly little to show for his pains. When Sanials visited London nearly twenty years ago, he was still in the camp of the economically sound but singularly vituperative section who followed the lead of de Leon; but it was quite clear from his conversation and his speeches that he was more concerned about the spread of Socialism than for the aggrandisement of any faction. He has had the gratification of seeing an influential party grow up in his day in his adopted country.

But it must be put to the credit of Socialists in the United States, as in other countries, that they have not only effectively criticised the economic and social and political conditions around them to such an extent as to compel even ambitious politicians to swing round on to the side of social reform – Roosevelt’s agitation would have been quite impossible but for the long work of Socialists, though undoubtedly it is intended to check their advance – but a beginning has been made in the direction of dealing with the entire history of North America, aside from Mexico, from the point of view of the producing class. This is a very much more important matter than appears at first sight.

Even such works as those of de Tocqueville and Bryce do little more than record the progress of political forms and the development of political struggles from the point of view of the pseudo-democracy of the economically dominant class. It is rather astonishing to any one who has not read de Tocqueville’s book for many years to discover, on a reperusal, how much out of date all his admirably arranged and ably written survey is, as applied to the conditions of today. It is only valuable as illustrating a phase of cultured European thought at a particular epoch. Bryce’s history, which, of course, is less philosophic, is not quite so much a “back number”; but the whole conception is that of the day before yesterday, in so far as it deals with the problems of the people and is not merely a record of occurrences, which, however significant they may be for the middle classes, have no special interest for the vast proletariat that has grown up in the Great Republic.

Yet these two books are on the whole the best foreign works on America. The domestic histories and carefully compiled annals for use in the schools, universities, and other places where they teach of the glories of the Stars and Stripes are, of course, intensely patriotic and by no means critical. Consequently, young men and young women coming out of American schools and colleges, though, as already said, better educated on the whole than the youth of any other nation except Germany, have nevertheless a whole mass of superincumbent ignorance, inherited from the past, to get rid of, before they can apprehend correctly how existing social conditions have developed to their present unstable and threatening stage. Generalities about the material conception of history and the inevitable horrors of the class war are mostly imported from Europe, and though very directly applicable to American affairs, necessarily fail to draw their illustrations, where given, from the facts of American development. Read down the list of the educational and agitatory literature now so widely distributed at such cheap rates throughout the States, and it will be found that nearly the whole of it is either directly drawn from Europe, or is based upon the ideas, and even largely uses the phrases, thence derived.

The drawbacks to this state of things are obvious. Though native-born Americans at present constitute the overwhelming majority of the Socialist Party there has been lacking until lately any connected analysis in a compendious shape of the growth of the power which, from the very earliest days of the Colonies and the Republic, has overshadowed the nominal democracy upon which American citizens have prided themselves, and now, to use an Irishism, is overshadowing itself.

It is not enough in any nation that the leaders and advocates of the new social polity should denounce and expose the mischiefs of the present state of things, or even that they should prove that the coming transformation is inevitable, and point out the new forms which such changes must almost certainly bring with them. All this induction and hypothesis to be really sound, and to impress the thinking portion of the community, must be rooted in the past life of the particular country in which the movement is going forward. And nowhere is this more essential than in the United States, where the complications are quite phenomenal. Nothing like it has ever been seen before. Moreover, the extraordinary rapidity of the development in the last two generations cannot be paralleled outside Japan.

For these reasons I attached very great importance to The American Farmer by my friend A.M. Simons, when it first appeared some years ago. The book was too small, it was by no means well written – why the style of our Socialist friends on the other side of the Atlantic should, as a rule, be so bad I cannot understand – it was clumsily printed and roughly got up. But it contained the root of the matter, and the general investigation of the agricultural development of the United States from the early days of colonisation onwards was, so far as I know, the first attempt made in this field to establish a consecutive record, with a guiding idea all through.

It threw a new light upon the whole story of American agriculture and the men who took part in it; put the slave-tilled and free-tilled areas in right relations to one another; proved that the most scandalous system of “land-grabbing” ever denounced in the Old Country found more than its equal under thoroughly democratic institutions; exposed the dealings of some of the most respected “fathers of the people,” Franklin and Washington included, in these flagitious transactions; traced the free and independent American farmer out from the hard, ungrateful soil of the Northern States to the great rich tracts of the West, with the lengthening chain of capitalist advances and mortgages ever trailing after him; showed how the railways and the trusts dealt with the freedom of the freeholder, and the manner in which competition in agriculture told at the next stage in favour of monopoly; and furnished a useful introduction to the application of machinery to tillage (now being employed through the agency of motor-ploughs, motorseeding machines, and motor harrows to introduce the earliest stages of agriculture into the arena of factory production for the first time); and in general brought the whole system of American farming within the scope and purview of modern scientific Socialism. I wrote what I thought about the book at the time of its publication and expressed the hope, as well in reviewing it as afterwards to Simons personally, when we met in Europe, that he would devote himself to giving a still more thorough account of agriculture in the United States, and its influence on the world at large upon a much more extended scale.

Unfortunately, as so often happens in connection with Socialism, circumstances were such that Simons was obliged to give up work he could do admirably for other work he did less well. An able student and expositor, he became only a fairly good editor and organiser; leaving a department where he could have made, as I believe, a great and permanent impression for one in which his special qualities of research and comparison were almost valueless. Something similar has occurred with Professor Ettore Ciccotti, who after having given to the world a really fine monograph in Il Tramonto della Schiavitu, “The Downfall of Slavery,” certainly the best historical study in ancient socio-economics of the past quarter of a century, went off in like manner to the less enduring daily task of Socialist propaganda and criticism. There was a time in the history of what has been well called the “Struggle for Emancipation of the Fourth Estate” when this sort of personal sacrifice was unavoidable: there was no one else to carry on the work. But it is so no longer, and when effort is better organised, men and women of exceptional capacity will be able to find suitable outlets for their faculties.

In the meantime, Mr. Simons has brought out another book entitled Social Forces in American History, which, though lacking the freshness of his earlier work, is nevertheless a worthy contribution to the annals of North American development. By far the most valuable part of the work, which is somewhat lopsided and ends much too abruptly, is that portion of it which shows clearly that the Civil War arose neither from any general aversion from negro slavery as an institution, nor in the first instance from any devoted adhesion to the Union, as is still commonly believed on this side of the Atlantic. The struggle resulted from direct conflict of economic interests and came when the stage of development had been reached, both in the North and in the South, which made surrender or war by the latter inevitable: then and not a moment before.

Just as the total abolition of slavery in Massachusetts was due not to the godliness and humanity of New Englanders but to the revolt of white wage-earners against negro competition; so and in like manner the Civil War arose from a direct antagonism of interest, due to the overwhelming preponderance which the North, with its rapidly developing capitalism and great immigration, was obtaining in the Union.

Mr. Simons, rather cruellyfor the sentimentalists, quotes Lincoln’s debate with Douglas, in which he declared that “we have no right to disturb slavery in the States where it exists, and we profess that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to do it.” In his inaugural address he declared that he proposed to “save the Union” with or without slavery. In short, Abraham Lincoln was a “politician,” who, as Mr. Simons says, owed his fame largely to “the triumphs he had gained” in his debates with Douglas before his election, in which very debates he accepted negro slavery as a portion of the American Constitution. Both Houses of Congress were of the same opinion as Lincoln. The fact that Lincoln himself was a fine character and represented the best of the Western men only makes his conduct the more conclusive evidence that even the ablest and most honest American statesmen of the time did not appreciate the real economic and social seriousness of the issue.

In Europe as well as in North America the white wage-earners were more clear-sighted. They understood that belated chattel slavery stood in the way of progress, bad as the wages system was in itself. It was not accidental, therefore, that in Great Britain the upper classes nearly all took the side of the South and the workers held fast by the North. Successful capitalism, they saw, was an advance upon slaveholding. Of course it is easy to see now that when war was once entered upon the South never had the ghost of a chance. The industrial and economic superiority of the North determined the result of the conflict from the start. The details of the struggle are still interesting.

But the main truth that the American Civil War, like the war of the Colonies against the Mother Country, was in the ultimate issue waged for interests and not for principles, sweeps away a lot of false sentiment and leads directly up to the American class war of our day. Upon this last Simons touches but lightly. “Labour,” however, being forced to fight as an organised whole, “is certain of victory in this last struggle.” The workers have hitherto been “persuaded, bribed or terrorised” into fighting for their masters. “Now that the working-class is fighting its own battles there is no possibility of defeat.” The antagonism is as obvious as any in history, and all history shows us that though a religious movement may be set back by repression and persecution no power on earth can restrain social and economic development when the time is ripe for a crucial change. Hence the value of such a study as this of Simons’s.

I suppose The Man with the Hoe of Mr. Markham has been more widely quoted by Socialists than any piece of verse in English; but with the exception of this writer and Mrs. Stetson it cannot, I think, be said that Americans have done much in this department. Unfortunately, Mrs. Stetson has written nothing of late years on the same plane as Similar Cases, which I consider the most telling piece of semi-scientific satire ever written. The stanzas on the Anthropoidal Ape developing into Man have always seemed to me specially witty.

When Bronterre O’Brien declared against the formation of skilled Trade Unions, as the creation of an aristocracy of labour, which could scarcely fail to constitute a buffer on the side of the capitalists, so soon as wage-earners as a class began to move in earnest against the owners of the means of production, he saw a very great deal farther than most of his Chartist associates. It seemed almost impossible that this could be the result of what appeared at the time to be a genuine fighting combination of the skilled workers to obtain better conditions for all.

Marx and Engels and their friends regarded the earlier Trade Union Congresses as irrefragable evidence that the working-class of Great Britain, then economically by far the most advanced country in the world, would, by reason of these very same Unions, which O’Brien distrusted, lead on to the social revolution. Yet nobody can now honestly dispute that O’Brien, the Irish Catholic and soft money man, who completely anticipated Marx in the theory of the class war, understood what was going on around him very much better than the great theorist who laid the foundations of modern scientific Socialism. What Marx could not, or at any rate did not, apprehend in 1847 is quite unmistakable for us now. During two full generations the Trade Unions of Great Britain played precisely the part which O’Brien foresaw and predicted they would. Divided from the main body of the proletariat, fighting almost exclusively for high wages and advantages for themselves, they were opposed to the employers as a section of privileged wage-earners and not as the champions of their class as a whole. They either stood outside politics altogether or made themselves the political tools of the Liberals – as indeed in the main they are still – who, to all who really understand the situation, are the worst enemies of the wage-earners, whether they pose as free-traders and laissez-faire men, or as burden-shifting bureaucrats of the modern unscrupulous type.

I thought of all this as I walked about at Townley Park, Burnley, with William Haywood, the American agitator, and Tom Mann, nearly two years ago. For America and Australia, not to speak of the continent of Europe, were suffering in precisely the same way. The highly paid craftsmen had, as a rule, little or no sympathy for the unskilled men, and indeed, where these acted as subordinates to the skilled craftsmen, treated such labourers worse than the employers themselves would have ventured to treat any of them. This is a matter of common knowledge among workmen, and I have frequently observed it myself.

Now the counter-blow was coming, and coming, as is so often the case in social matters, without much regard to what had gone before. The great Chartist agitator and his friends were right when they counselled the workers as a class to beware of the influence of an aristocracy of labour, however strongly it might appear to speak of a classconscious class war at first. But those unions, once formed, had to be considered and dealt with, and this was no easy matter. Unless both skilled and unskilled workers could be brigaded as one force no solid industrial protest by the wage-earners as a whole was possible. It was sad that in this country the mass of ill-paid workers should still be unorganised and undisciplined; but it was impossible to neglect the organised minority above, nor was it safe to imagine that they would consent to sink themselves in an undisciplined mass of toilers, merely because they had not succeeded to the extent they anticipated. The strike, I argued with my two friends, was a weapon of class conflict, and consolidated effort in the shape of a general strike, if properly prepared for, was infinitely better than mere sectional risings. But when wage-earners were sufficiently organised and had made adequate arrangements for a general strike, national or international, they were also in a position to carry out a social revolution, and this called not only for fighting class-consciousness but also for the knowledge of how to take up and apply political methods and adapt industrial means to the demands of the new period. Impatience, I further contended, is not a good guide in class warfare any more than in other warfare; nor did I believe that strikes were in themselves necessarily educative.

William Haywood, one of the strollers and talkers in our conversation in the fine old house and grounds of the Townley family, which now belong to the people of Burnley, is, I think, the most thoroughgoing and one of the most determined working-class leaders I have ever met, and I have come across a good many. He genuinely hates the men in possession in all countries. An extremely powerful figure with a clear-cut, clean-shaven face, the loss of one eye gives him almost a sinister appearance. In private discussion he is cool, friendly, and urbane; as a platform speaker he is not, as a rule, vehement or eloquent, but when he gets on a topic that really stirs his feelings it is easy to see that he is not one of those who, at a critical period, would allow any fear of consequences, or even the opinion of those around him, to deter him from taking the course which he felt was necessary to ensure success. Haywood, like the more urbane but not less determined Debs, is a member of the working-class, and, also like the Socialist candidate for the Presidency, came to the front, or it may almost be said was pushed to the front, in a great strike or lock-out.

This was the fight of the Western Federation of Miners against the mine-owners in Colorado. It was a terrific business, and the treatment of the miners by the authorities, who were in league with the mine-owners, seems almost incredible. In fact, unless the details of the atrocities committed had been officially recorded and sworn to, nobody would believe today that such things took place. Hardworking men of good character and conduct, guilty of no offence beyond resistance to the capitalists in the struggle for better conditions of life, were attacked by the armed forces of the State and, on the authority of the Governor of Colorado, Mr. Steunenberg, were rounded up into so-called bullpens by the hundred, where they were kept stockaded in, without any shelter, comfort, or convenience of any sort, for days and even weeks. Others were batoned and tortured in prison for no other reason than that they had revolted against the employing class.

Then fury naturally enough broke loose. Dynamite was undoubtedly resorted to. In the opinion of a friend of mine, who was in Cripple Creek at the time, who was not a Socialist and who had shares in the mines, explosives were resorted to on both sides. When things get really hot in a struggle of this sort the coolest leader in the world cannot keep control of the extremists. There is no need to go through the whole story again. Suffice it to say that Haywood, who had been throughout the most active leader of the miners, of whom he was one, having been seized outside of Colorado, with his fellow-officials of the Union, Holleborne and Pettifer, was arraigned for the murder of Governor Steunenberg. It was believed by the workers throughout the States that, however innocent they might be, it was the intention of the capitalists to use all their influence to get them hanged on the evidence of an informer named Orchard, whose testimony was at least “suspect.” The excitement consequently everywhere was very great, and became more intense as the trial approached.

At that time I did not know either of the accused men, but I was well acquainted with Clarence Darrow of Chicago, the leading counsel for the defence, who had stayed with us for a few days at Brasted a year or two before. A more earnest, not to say perfervid, advocate of the men’s case it would have been impossible to find, but I am bound to say I doubted whether his industry and prudence were equal to his unquestionable eloquence. However, he had associated with him a man of quite a different character, and between them, with the help of the Appeal to Reason and other Socialist papers before and during the trial, they worked up a first-rate defence against what proved to be a very formidable indictment, and, unlike the Chicago Anarchists on much more slender evidence, the accused were acquitted.

From being unknown outside his own district, Haywood at once became a national figure. It takes a man of great vigour and force of character to be a leader of those Western miners. I know them well. I have lived among them, I have employed them, and a finer set of men as a whole do not exist. There are rogues and ruffians among them, of course, but the most capable and vigorous stock of the working-class is to be found out there among the miners of the West. That they are not slow to fight, either in their own cause or in that of anybody whom they like and trust, cannot be disputed. I had the greatest difficulty myself on one occasion, when there was a dispute below ground as to whether the adjacent mine was not working in our ore, in preventing our miners from having a pitched battle with the enemy, working miners like themselves, who were just as ready to uphold the rights of the other side. Our fellows did not seem to understand my view of the case at all, namely that the two properties together were not worth a single life. There is no doubt, however, that their eagerness to decide the matter by the genial discrimination of rifle and revolver materially aided the equitable settlement which was eventually arrived at.

I congratulated myself warmly at the time upon having been instrumental in averting several cases of sudden death; but it is my profound conviction to this day that I was regarded by the men themselves as a bit of a milksop and spoilsport because I had allowed my well-known love of peace to interfere with what would certainly have been a very desperate affray. Perhaps my own personal desire to go up the shaft again with as few holes through me as possible made me more earnest in my pacific efforts than I should otherwise have been. But you become pretty well acquainted with the people you have around you under circumstances of this kind, and I never had the slightest doubt in my own mind as to which side was in the right and which in the wrong in this serious Colorado difficulty, quite apart from any Socialist theories. It is not safe to try to cheat or bully Western miners. If the East is the East, the West is unquestionably the West. And of that West Haywood is a fine specimen.

This has been made very clear again of late in the matter of the strike at Lawrence in Massachusetts, which Haywood took in hand, after some long tours of agitation through the United States, his appearance as delegate at the International Socialist Congress at Copenhagen, and his visit to England, where he held some very successful meetings. It is impossible to imagine a greater contrast between any two sets of working people than that offered between the splendid, vigorous miners of Colorado and the polyglot inhabitants of the factory town of Lawrence. And of all these people in a centre whose population had doubled from 45,000 to 90,000 in twenty years, the Italians were the poorest and most despised of a by no means physically imposing set. It is admitted by impartial observers there was no sign of the slightest trouble in the place until within a few hours of the outbreak. It was regarded as quite a show industrial centre. The shareholders in the woollen and cotton mills, as well as their local directors and managers, came of the “first families in Boston,” the great majority of whom, of course, had never visited Lawrence in their lives. They got their excellent dividends paid regularly, and how the workers lived who provided them was a matter of no importance. Foreign immigrants of the sort to be found in Lawrence performed their duty in that state of life into which it had pleased poverty to call them, when they worked steadily on, year in and year out, for at most their bare keep.

That was the view taken by the well-to-do throughout New England, and that this mere pecuniary, impersonal relation between investors and wage-earners was to the full as immoral, more degrading, and possibly quite as dangerous as the old chattel-slavery which existed prior to the war, never occurred to the God-fearing persons of good estate who read in their newspapers of the fine buildings and admirable machinery which were their property at Lawrence. All of a sudden the producers themselves put themselves in evidence after a very effective fashion. An attempt was made to reduce wages, already too low to provide a decent standard of life, and thereupon first the Italians and then practically the whole of the workers in the town came out on strike. Italians, Belgians, Jews, Russians, Poles, Letts, many of whom could not understand one another’s language, all made common cause against the employers; and the employers on their side, backed by the Municipal and State authorities, made common cause against the wage-earners, and brought pressure to bear upon them with the police and militia, and the perpetration of wholesale illegalities, which made things much worse than they were before.

The following calm summary might have been written by a Socialist:

“When the great mills were built in the young city of Lawrence (in 1847 and 1853), the workers were either of American or English stock – intelligent English-speaking people. They were not organised, and although the hours were desperately long, and the conditions probably worse than they are today, there was always a chance of escape – always a chance for the young man to go west and grow up with the country, or to go to the city and rise with the opportunities there presented. He could even start a little mill of his own; some of the successful millowners of today, indeed, got their start in that way. But that condition of individual opportunity and freedom has been rapidly changing in Lawrence as in all America. Our cheap western lands are gone; there is even now a back tide from West to East. Easy opportunities of enterprise are getting scarcer, our cities are filling up, and finally, the centralisation of great corporations has made it less and less possible for enterprising young men to make a start in business for themselves.”

Yet probably not one in a thousand of the foreigners in Lawrence took the slightest account of these important truths. They were for the most part ignorant and helpless. But they saw what they were “up against,” and, led by Ettor and Giovanetti to start with, and then by Haywood and other revolutionary Socialists, supported also by funds from all parts of the country, they stood together most bravely and held together, these thirty different nationalities, as sturdily as any American or English wage-earners have ever done. This was the more remarkable, inasmuch as the managers had previously made it their practice to play off one nationality against another. What likewise was extraordinary was the revolutionary character of the demand made, which was nothing less than for the abolition of the entire wages system. That touch in the matter was due to Haywood, who took up the cry of our own revolutionary Chartists, from 1838 to 1847, as the programme of the “Industrial Workers of the World.”

But the greatest surprise of all was that, after a tremendous struggle, the Lawrence strikers won, and gained an advance instead of a reduction not only of their own wages but for all the workers engaged in the cotton and wool industry. This gave a great impetus to the anti-political side of the Socialist movement, an impetus which has been intensified by the indictment, arrest, and imprisonment of the two Italian leaders, Ettor and Giovanetti, on a trumped-up charge of murder; because a woman striker was shot in the disturbances, when they were at a considerable distance from the spot where the fatality occurred. Some indeed write and talk as if this revolt of the foreigners at Lawrence had brought a new revolutionary element into the field in American social and political life, and had proved that strikes were the only means whereby complete victory for the workers would be speedily achieved. But the increase of a percentage on little better than starvation wages is no great triumph after all, and what has been gained in comparatively good times may more easily be lost in bad.

The labour unrest throughout the United States, like the labour unrest in Europe, is only just beginning to crystallise into serious attack upon monopoly in all its forms. The actual industrial workers in America also constitute but a minority of the population, and such a revolution as the abolition of the wages system involves cannot be brought about by spasmodic attacks, which inflict more suffering by far upon the workers as a class than upon capitalists as a class. Even Haywood himself, who was the most active personality in the recent American Socialist Congress on the advanced side, cannot afford to neglect the political element in the struggle as represented by Debs’s candidature for the Presidency; while it is quite certain that those who advocate political action chiefly will be compelled to take account of the increasing disposition of the workers themselves to force on conflicts, not caring greatly, as matters stand, whether they win or lose, so long as they stir up strife. The antagonisms in the American Socialist Party itself likewise cannot, in my opinion, long continue. The action of the “Politicians” will force solidarity upon those who are working for Socialism, and will drive off the minority towards anarchy in one direction and mere reform politics in the other.

Meanwhile, the increasing power of the great Trusts and Corporations prepares the way steadily not only for overthrow but for reconstruction. It must be no light pressure of events which impels a man like Mr. Cory, the head of the great Steel Trust, to declare that such operations as those which he controls must eventually be handled by the community. On the other hand, the determined demand of the people for more direct control over their own political business for social ends, and the increasing vehemence of the denunciation of corruption in politics, even by “politicians” such as Mr. Roosevelt, Senator La Follette, and others, betoken a revolt in another direction against political as well as industrial “bosses.”

It was a very jolly party that dined every evening during one of the meetings of the International Socialist Bureau at Brussels in the courtyard of the old Hôtel du Grand Miroir, now swept away. The cookery was good, the wine excellent, and the cognac, I am credibly told, superb. Not the least jolly of the little gathering of strangers who revolutionised the ideas of the “patron” and his household as to the invariable staidness and solemnity of modern English-speaking visitors – he bewailed to me privately the fact that most English and Americans now drank tea (his lip curled), and spoke contemptuously of travellers who despised the great crus of Burgundy, nowhere to be found to greater perfection than in Belgium – not the least jovial of us, I say, on this pleasing occasion was Mr. George Frederick Williams, barrister-at-law, of Boston, a Democrat in politics, on his way towards Socialism, I hoped, but anyway, notwithstanding his opinions and profession, a very charming convive.

This is the Mr. Williams who has virtually established the right of the Referendum in the United States by victory on appeal to the Supreme Court from Oregon on this issue. Thus the possibility of dealing with existing social difficulties, and of overcoming very threatening social dangers by direct reference to the democracy, is admitted.

Mr. Williams was kind enough to send me the case as submitted by himself, and it was difficult to see how, upon the facts and arguments as he marshalled them, any other decision could have been given. It seems to me that with the great complications existing and the not trifling conflicts of interest arising in the various parts of the Great Republic, the only hope for a pacific transformation lies in the direct influence of the people, freed from the corrupt manipulation of bosses and politicians generally. Mr. Williams, in a letter to me, takes the rather sanguine view that in this way a peaceful solution of the class struggle may be brought about. I am afraid he underrates the power of resistance and obstinacy of the capitalists. In my opinion they will never give way without a fight.

Mr. Roosevelt’s campaign has been a “politician’s” campaign. He may be anxious to raise the tone of public life ; he may see as Mr. Cory sees, and as was foreseen and predicted long before the Steel Trust was organised, or even the Standard Oil Trust became a power, national and international, that competition must find its logical term in monopoly; some of those who honestly backed him as the best man in the field may believe that he has a genuine wish to reorganise society in the interest of the whole community ; he may succeed in getting a proportion of the Socialist vote in the next Presidential Election owing to this idea having spread among the less thoughtful of the party. But, when it comes to an attack upon the wages system, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt will be found where he rightly belongs, on the side of those who will keep the mass of the people down by force on the plea of the danger to individual liberty. That is why the third Presidential candidature of Eugene Debs as an out-and-out revolutionary Socialist is so significant and so important.