Austin Lewis

The Day After

(December 1911)


Source: From International Socialist Review, Vol. 12 No. 6, December 1911, pp. 357–359.
Transcription: Matthew Siegfried.
HTML mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists Internet Archive (2022).
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.


THE California capitalist press was galvanized into something like a show of interest on the morrow of the Primary Election of September 26th, for on that day the nominee of the Union Labor Party had been routed horse, foot and artillery and the largest majority ever obtained in San Francisco placed behind James Rolph Jr., the candidate of the respectable.

P.H. McCarthy was driven from the political field; some say, finally. It is a long road, however, that has no turning, and the vicissitudes of politics are notorious. Still, the fact remains that a most disastrous and, probably, fatal blow was inflicted upon the Union Labor Party. The late candidate for Mayor indeed declares that it was not he who was beaten, but the Union Labor Party.

This bluff though strong is not by any means convincing, for if ever anyone was beaten it was McCarthy, beaten on his record as Mayor, absolutely buried in the con tempt of the electorate. As McDevitt, the Socialist candidate, very forcibly and truly says: “When McCarthy won in 1909, he came out promptly to tell the world that the People won, when McCarthy loses in 1911, he tells us all that Labor has lost. To that modern myth, THE PEOPLE, went all the glory of the winning. to that very definite class, the workers, befalls all the burden of the loss.” But McCarthy retires with the following in his Statement to the Public made subsequent to the election:

“The real thinkers of the hour, and the sanguine labor leaders, will discern a triumph in the outcome of this election, for the simple reason that, in working out its results, the election is destined to bring home to labor many a stern lesson that can never be forgotten. No great cause ever yet flourished without receiving its full quota of setbacks. In that way the good is sifted from the evil, and the truth is extracted from a bewildering maze of untruths. Like a confiding child, labor is still prone to yield to the blandishments of its rich and powerful enemy.”

The comparison of labor with a confiding child for not voting the McCarthy ticket is funny beyond all explanation.

To trace the history of the Union Labor Party is painful and discouraging. Brought into existence as a scheme of a clever politician, Abe Ruef, who is now gathering the rent of ability in San Quentin, it has always been such a medley of the honest and the corrupt as to be at times almost incomprehensible. There is a nucleus of actual bona fide working men, who have a well-developed political class consciousness, and a diabolically vile education. They have never risen above the A.F. of L. craft conception of the working class, and all that is implied therein. The result is that for a great party supposed to represent labor and in control of the government of a metropolis, the Union Labor Party has had perhaps the worst prepared body of leaders in the world. A few minutes’ talk would be convincing of the ignorance with which they undertook their task.

But it must be understood. and this is important, that they never shouldered it with any idea of its actual significance. As conceived by Ruef, the Union Labor Party was an instrument by which labor might have the police and the politicians might have the town. Hence the incomprehensibility of the Union Labor Party from the beginning. hence the fact that it has appeared as a very disjointed monster, shaking a solemn official head in the offices of the Labor Councils. and flirting a bedraggled tail in the purlieus of the tenderloin.

Called into being by Ruef, the extinguishment of the latter temporarily retired the Union Labor Party. Until the exigencies of Pat Calhoun the railroad magnate called it to power again and gave McCarthy the mayoralty. Now, again, the needs of the dominant bourgeois have required the abolition of McCarthy, and he is abolished. He is abolished moreover by the votes of the laboring class itself, and by and through the efforts of Messrs. McArthur and Furuseth who have rallied to the support of Rolph and respectability.

These two last were implacable in their virtue. They were specially called to rebuke the wickedness of McCarthy. and a letter from J.J. McNamara who asked that the efforts of McArthur and Furuseth against McCarthy be at least temporarily restrained was treated almost with disdain. The most that Furuseth would say was that he approved of the candidature of Harriman in Los Angeles, otherwise he would support Rolph, and this statement as far as Harriman is concerned is being exploited by his campaign committee in Los Angeles! Could anything more really ludicrous find a place outside of comic opera?

As for the general results and the prospects for the immediate future of the working class, they are frankly not bright. In fact, the whole industrial situation has been thrown into the political melting pot and actual material advantages have been sacrificed for the illusions of political power. If politics is the reflex of industrial power, it is not hard to see why McCarthy and the Union Labor Party have been unable to achieve politically. At no time has the Union Labor Party had the political power. It has not even had the control of the police power, for directly it occurred to the real rulers to show that they were the masters of the police they speedily hustled McCarthy out of even a pretense of power. The tenderloin alliance was of no avail in helping to keep the illusion of power. The votes were delivered not to McCarthy but to Calhoun last time, and Calhoun, that is “big business,” got the use and benefit of them. Talk about nemesis; for a few wobbly moments it almost makes one believe in “absolute justice.”

Industrial control has been thrown into the melting pot, we repeat. The unions have been sacrificed. To keep up the illusion of industrial peace wages have been cut, an editorial in REVOLT says on this: “The political maneuvering of P. H. McCarthy, his service to the masters in insisting that the members of the building trades accept employment at wages far below the scale (in many cases 40 per cent below). for the sake of maintaining industrial peace. as a political asset for ‘P.H.’ have contributed in considerable measure to the startling and significant vote for Open Shop Tread well.” This last was a candidate who ran solely on the “Open Shop” plank and received a vote of about ten thousand.

In other words the supposed Union Labor Party was conducted by big business for the political and industrial advantage of big business. When it ceased to serve that purpose it was killed. In fact the whole arrangement was a big business arrangement and McCarthy knew it, and, seemingly, always has known it, as appears from the following extract from his Statement to the Public already quoted:

“Far from being discouraged or down cast by this election the sponsors for labor’s cause can discern in the future a more distinct victory than ever. When Big Business defeats Labor, Big Business merely postpones the day of universal enlightenment and a consequent reckoning for itself.”

The result of the election therefore as breaking up the kind of combination which the Union Labor Party represented is a matter of congratulation.

The Socialists of the proletarian stripe have every reason to be proud of the result. The votes shows a gain of two hundred per cent over any previous campaign; the general average is over three hundred per cent higher according to REVOLT. The totals range from 3,800 to 7,000, and in the case of the city attorney the combined vote of the S.P. and S.L.P. reached 9,000.

McDevitt’s remarks on this point are most pertinent and should be kept in mind whenever political conditions in San Francisco are discussed. He says:

“When all parties here are for municipal ownership and the initiative and referendum and kindred ‘progressive reforms,’ labeled in some very notorious cities as ‘Socialism,’ one may readily see why the NOMINAL or apparent Socialist vote is so small; but the fact remains that this election proves, what I have often affirmed, that San Francisco is the most advanced city, politically, in this country. And when Mayor McCarthy in his hour of defeat penned (or probably signed), the notable manifesto to which I referred above, and which is a more radical class platform than any Socialist Mayor (not excepting Seidel), was ELECTED upon, he realized that a new political era had dawned, the era of the real LABOR POLITICS, the politics of the MILITANT working class, the era of defiant proletarian politics, the era of a STALWART SOCIALIST PARTY.”

If it were not Socialist “bad form” to indulge in praise or to single out persons for special mention in the great fight, the revolutionary element and some of its personnel should be more fully discussed and the really marvelous results which they have received with shamefully slender resources shown for the benefit of the proletariat at large. The fight has been most bitter; it has required tremendous sacrifices in time and energy, and the writer is all the more open in saying this in that he has had no personal share in it. It would not have been carried through without REVOLT, that wonderful little paper, which, springing out of nothing (“from the gutter,” say its enemies), and with no visible means of support, yet contrives to pay its weekly bills and to spread the revolutionary doctrine in the state. To Revolt and the little group behind it is due the San Francisco result.

To the opportunists in the movement no thanks are to be given. They stood behind McDevitt, knife in hand, ready to stab him as soon as they could effectually do so. They were not clever enough to conceal their intentions. They only masked their hatred under a guise of indifference. Slighted by comrades who were pledged to support him in the fight, covertly (not so covertly, either), sneered at by speakers who suggested that union men had better vote for McCarthy, with every obstacle placed in his way which design could manufacture, and everything left undone which criminal neglect could omit, he stood out the strong man of the whole campaign, the standard-bearer who had led the proletarian hosts in the hardest and in some respects the dirtiest fight in which they had ever engaged.

The evil devices of the opportunists were, however, not allowed a chance of success, as the complete defeat of McCarthy at the primary prevented the consummation of that treason, of which the International Socialist Review gave warning last spring.

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