Tom Mann, 1922

Preface to Americanism, A World Menace

Source: The Labour Publishing Co, 6 Tavistock Square, London
First published: August 1922
Transcription and markup: Steve Painter

The economic demoralisation that prevails throughout Europe is far more serious than anything of the kind in previous experience. To make the world safe for capitalism the World War was precipitated. The result has come nigh unto universal destruction. Those whose mental outlook enables them to see the forces cohering declare, with the author of this book, that the struggle from now on is, and must be, between the forces making for what America stands for on the one side and what Russia stands for on the other — between industrial serfdom and communism.

Thirty years ago, when socialist propaganda was in its infancy in this country, and the propagandists declared that the only cure for our industrial and social troubles would be found in socialism, many workmen hesitated to accept this. They felt convinced that America was flourishing, and was likely to continue to flourish, not by changing the economic system of society, but by — as they thought — affording free scope for all, minus dukes, lords and kings.

W.T. Colyer, the writer of this book, has rendered an invaluable service to the workers of the Old World by his masterly description, explanation and exposure of American institutions up to date. As regards nearly all that is given in his pages I can personally declare I know it to be so.

At twenty-seven years of age, in 1883, when working as an engineer in London, nothing would satisfy me till I had sampled the New World for myself. So I gave up my work here and made for the United States:

To the West, to the West,

To the land of the free.

In this country I had never worked on Saturday afternoons; in the United States, like the rest, I had to work every Saturday afternoon. Nothing very wonderful, perhaps, but significant of much.

More recently I have been through the States from Boston to San Francisco, and observed and noted conditions, and I felt the necessity for some one doing what the author of this book has done.

I paid especial attention to the conditions prevailing in the steel industry. I knew that trade organisation was not good. It proved to be scarcely existent, and, to my astonishment, I found that a large percentage of the labourers in this industry worked regularly seven days a week for twelve hours a day. The town of Gary, named after the president of the Steel Trust, is run under conditions that are almost unbelievable by those without knowledge of the methods of this giant trust.

Successful capitalism brings about these unbearable conditions as a direct consequence of its success and as a condition of its development. The worker who is only too conscious of the terrible limitations to real freedom and well-being in England, and who seeks the supposed greater freedom of America, gets speedily disillusioned. There is no earthly hope for the cure of economic and social troubles by following in the wake of America. And yet — and herein is the great lesson of this book — if we refuse to travel towards Communism, the only alternative is to become Americanised, with all that this involves.

In 1913 I enjoyed the companionship of one who had been a fellow-member of the Amalgamated Engineers in this country, a well-read, well-balanced, clever workman and a capable organiser, Sam Scarlett by name, hailing originally from Glasgow. He organised a very successful meeting for me, under the auspices of the Industrial Workers of the World, in Salt Lake City. Five years later, by deliberate falsification, pressure was put on the authorities to round up all who were, or had been, actively connected with the IWW. This was done, and those arrested were kept in jail, without even being charged, for many months. Among them were Sam Scarlett and a number of other Britishers. Big Bill Haywood, with the rest of the staff of the IWW, was arrested in his office in Chicago.

When the trial ultimately took place it proved to be utterly farcical. No notice was taken of rebutting evidence, and, in spite of overwhelming testimony, favourable to many of those in the dock, in a wholesale way they were sentenced: Bill Haywood and others to twenty years; Sam Scarlett, Charles Ashleigh (also an old friend and comrade and an ex-member of the Independent Labour Party) and others to ten years. Altogether the sentences of about ninety persons exceeded eight hundred years.

And these official outrages were going on concurrently with President Wilson posing as a heaven-sent adviser to stricken humanity. All this time that fine old battler, Eugene Debs, was in prison for merely making a moderately phrased speech that went counter to the dominant capitalism. All this time also, Tom Mooney and Warren K. Billings were, and are still, in prison. The essential facts of the Mooney case, and a number of other cases, are given in Chapter VIII of this book.

As the author points out, the American workers are connected neither with the Amsterdam International nor the Red International. Surely ere long the at present small minority in the States who are declaring in favour of the Red International of Labour Unions will witness the results of their labours, and hosts of American workers, clearly visualising the true objective, will throw aside all obstacles and march forward to the goal of the emancipation of all workers from the capitalist system. That they have nothing to hope for from capitalism is plainly shown by this book.