The White Flag Agreement

(April 1913)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 13 No. 10, April 1913, pp. 760–762.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

There are a few politicians in the Socialist Party who are always bearing the white flag of truce to the capitalist class. Generally, these are professional office holders who compromise to hold the vote of the middle class. Sometimes they are office seekers who want to please everybody.

Again, they are trade union officials who tie up the workers with agreements that guarantee to the employers a period of industrial peace and docile slaves. These union officials and these politicians are always eager to settle the workers affairs for them by arbitration or agreement, and the workers find that they have been bound, hand and foot, by their so-called friends; that they have no way left to fight against shop conditions that are always changing, except by violence and the ballot.

There are many who say the New York garment workers have been betrayed in this very way. They have been forced into trade DIVISIONS. Their officials, assisted by “Socialist” lawyers, tied them up with long-time agreements that have filled the bosses with extreme satisfaction. A group of strikers who saw through the danger to the workers, rushed into the office of the Jewish Forward, New York, and declared that they had been betrayed by the “Socialists” and union officials. The New York Call reports that they did much damage to the Forward office furniture.

During the long months of the Reign of Terror in West Virginia and the brave and bloody fight being waged by our miner comrades there, we have been holding our breath for the words of wisdom to come from the lips of the White Flag Agreement Brigade.

Why has the fluent stream of advice from Comrade Adolph Germer suddenly gone dry? Comrade Germer knows the class struggle and the bitter fight of the miners. Why is his pen, usually so prolific in giving advice, suddenly stilled when it comes to telling these miners how to win their strike?

Money will not win this strike, Comrade Germer, and you know it. The coal barons can put up a thousand dollars to every cent the workers are able to raise. Money can be a great help, but it can never win a strike, alone.

This is no time to think of the truce the United Mine Workers’ Association officials have signed with the class that is SHOOTING DOWN the West Virginia boys. We know the mine operators collect the dues from the miners that pay their salary. But this is a time when they must forget to keep peace with the exploiters of labor and take their stand with the rank and file.

They must come out and show the boys how to win without ANY MORE BLOODSHED! Or is this method the one they advocate and approve as well as make necessary, today?

The rank and file of the United Mine Workers have proved themselves ready to shoulder their rifles and to die, if need be, to show their solidarity with their struggling brothers in the Kanawha district.

What we want to know from you, Comrade Germer, and from the other pure-and-simplers in the Socialist Party, is –

IS IT NECESSARY that these brave men and women shall continue to shoulder guns, to fight and, perhaps, to die, in order to win this strike?

Why is the White Flag Brigade silent while our brothers and sisters are being killed or forced to kill to protect themselves?

How will YOU stop the flow of blood in West Virginia TODAY?

What do YOU advise these miners to do, RIGHT NOW, in order to stop this murderous warfare and win the strike? You are sending them money and we are sending them money to keep on fighting.

But you know, and we know, there is a better, a safer, a more effective way to fight – a way that spells Victory. Even the bravest band of miners cannot stand up forever against the machine guns of the capitalist class.

It is time the Socialist Party should consider this situation and take a stand upon it.

The White Flag Agreement Brigade has no message to the striking miners. And it is this White Flag group that has TIED THE HANDS OF THE MINERS BY AGREEMENTS with the MINE OWNERS so that the ONLY WEAPON LEFT FOR THEM TO FIGHT WITH TODAY IS GUNS!

Is it possible that Comrade Germer proposes to expel Mother Jones, John Brown and these men and women from the Socialist Party because they have bravely fought in the only way he and his kind have left them? Is it possible that he intends to join the capitalist jackals and help railroad our comrades to the penitentiary?

The Review and the Industrialists in the Party are with the striking miners to the bitter end of the fight.

We are proud to lend our small efforts toward helping them to victory. We are going to help teach them the way to victory. We want to help them out of the ambush the Agreement Brigade has forced them into.

The English coal miners brought the powerful English government to its knees through a general coal strike. All England was thrown into idleness because there was no COAL being dug by the miners to run trains and bring soldiers, or to turn any of the wheels of industry. So powerful did the strikers become that members of the House of Parliament called the strike committee “The Parliament on Tower Hill.”

This is what the miners can do in West Virginia or all over the United States, if necessary. This is what they are ready to do. Already they voted to strip their treasury bare in Illinois to help with funds. But it is almost impossible for a small band of miners to win a strike while the boys in other mines are forced (by the union officials) to supply their bosses with coal.

A general strike in the coal industry for two weeks would bring the whole nation to the feet of the miners. What we need is fewer strikes, but GENERAL strikes when we have them.

Comrade Germer, why are you so silent about the general coal strike? Is it not true that the U.M.W. Association officials, have signed agreements with the coal operators promising to FINE every union miner who is “guilty of throwing a mine idle or materially reducing the output by failure to continue at work ... $10.00?”

Is it not true that they have gone so far in this agreement as to promise to pay the Illinois Coal Operators’ Association ONE-HALF of such fines collected from the MINERS?

We would like very much to know WHY they have guaranteed to pay to the MINE OPERATORS, the VERY enemies of the miners, HALF of these FINES.

Do you not know that by tying the hands of the miners by agreements, they are forcing the men who remain at work to SCAB while their brothers are on strike?

The Agreement Brigade has left the West Virginia boys today, with no fighting weapon but their rifles. They voted right last election, but that don’t help NOW. The rank and file of the U.M.W. want a general strike in the coal fields. A general strike would mean a speedy victory for the men, and the everlasting enmity of the mine owners. No man can serve the mine owners and the working class at the same time.

A general strike and class solidarity is always more effective than the rifle.

This is the answer of the Industrial Socialists to the truce-proclaiming, agreement-signing, hand-tying White Flag Brigade. This is our message to our comrades in the strike field and in the coal mines.

It is the craft union officials and the pure-and-simple political actionists who force situations like the one in West Virginia.

They refuse to work for class UNIONISM on the industrial field. They divide us into crafts or tie us up in little scattered groups with agreements, so that we can never fight TOGETHER, but always in small bands that the capitalists find it easy to beat. Paste this motto in your hat:

DOWN with agreements between employers and the workers!

They can mean nothing but the ultimate shedding of blood, nothing but scabbery and defeat to the working class. Beware of the official or “friend” who signs an agreement with your employer. He is a traitor to the very class he pretends to serve!

Through all the turmoil of the strike, Comrade Robert Hunter, serenely oblivious to the class struggle raging around us, continues to employ oceans of ink in opposing the General Strike.

Whenever he is brought to mind, we recall the general who lagged so far behind the army that, in all his majesty, he walked alone. Day by day the army made its slow way forward. But be- cause his face was turned backward, he imagined, ever, that he was in the lead!

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