How the Capitalists Solve
the Problem of the Unemployed

(May 1914)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 14. No. 11, May 1914, pp. 648–650.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DURING the latter part of March two thousand unemployed men went to Sacramento, asking for a right to live. The Southern Pacific, with the consent of the city authorities, located. them upon their sand lot and then every highbrow and rich man in Sacramento and public politician set to work to find a “solution of the problem.” Each day a new set of plans was exploited in the newspapers. All agreed that “something must be done.”

For a day or two the city fed these hungry men and women. Then it resolved to starve them, all the time keeping a cordon of police surrounding them. Then about forty, who were called “dangerous” probably because they criticized a system of society that permitted men and women to starve in idleness when they begged for work, were arrested. The charge against the men sent to jail was “vagrancy.”

Then the “wisest” lawyers were consulted and it was found impractical to arrest any more.

Finally, by common consent of the Powers That Be it was decided that Five us Wise Men of the City (wise and RICH men) should go into a secret session and “solve the problem.” Finally, these Five Wise (?) Men and the Southern Pacific Company’s chief detective put their wisdom together and when they adjourned, they announced that they had “solved the problem of the unemployed in Sacramento.”

They decreed that the hungry army must MOVE, and the city, county and state were to do the job. They ordered the City Commission to bring out its police and the sheriff to bring out his thugs and the governor to bring out his men trained in the art of MURDER.

Accordingly, the police came out in full force. The sheriff combed the slums for sluggers and decorated them with stars and bludgeons and the governor had in readiness his trained cut-throats anxious to spill the blood of the desperate “vagrants.”

With the Progressive (?) governor’s soldiers in the background, armed to the teeth, the sheriff gave the order to his men.

“Get the hell with you!” he cried. And he proceeded to make hell for the starving. It was the devil presiding. Even the imps of the evil one hesitated to beat innocent men, so the most vicious in the evil band of brutes were given charge of the fire hose. They gleefully turned a fierce stream on them.

When the minutes passed and some of the men lay prone on the ground, having been knocked down by the pressure of the hose, the Evil One and his imps fell to with a devilish will and laid their picks and clubs right heartily over the heads of the unconscious men.

Before the greatest aggregation of official anarchists that Sacramento has ever seen, the dispossessed, out-of-work, hungry workers were driven from the city. Their heads and worn garments were covered with blood and the police followed them up with jeers and hoots, while the loyal Hungry Band delayed to carry their injured comrades to a place of safety. It is reported that three men were killed.

This is the way the Progressive governor of California solves the problem of those who cannot get work. This is the way the Republican officials reply to the cry of Hunger. Capt. Kelley, leader of the “Army of Unemployed,” was sentenced to serve six months in the county jail.

In New York, where a Reform Administration promised to do great things for the working class, Frank Tanenbaum, a member of the I.W.W., who was out of work and led a crowd of 200 unemployed men to ask aid of the Catholic church, has just been sentenced to a fine of $500 and a year’s imprisonment-this in spite of the sworn testimony of a dozen newspaper reporters who have written us that there was no disorder in the church.

When Helen Keller, who was billed to lecture in Sacramento, heard of the barbarous ill-treatment of the Unemployed, she declared that she would speak in their behalf from the platform. The authorities sent word that if she dared to do this, she would be hauled down and carried from the city in a cart. As a result, Helen Keller devoted a good portion of her lecture to a discussion of the Unemployed and the Socialists, who are the only people who can really solve the problem of unemployment. “I hope they will arrest me,” she said. But they didn’t. The story of such an outrage would kindle a flame of anger in too many breasts. Helen Keller would have too many defenders. The cowards of Sacramento are only brave when they have guns, numbers, public officials and the public press on their side.

A Little Sequel to the Tale

The Rich Men and the Wise (?) Men and the Public Officials thought they had gained a great victory over the starving multitude in Sacramento when they drove them from the city. But there is a little sequel to the story.

The Unemployed Army put over a huge joke on Sacramento. The whole country is laughing, the police are dumbfounded and the district attorneys are working overtime to find a way to recover their prestige and power. In the meantime, several hundred Unemployed are hanging out their socks and shirts on the limbs of trees in one and one-half acres of ground “all their own” in the most exclusive circle of Oakridge acres, outside the limits of the city, where millionaires live.

As the men were all penniless, somebody must have proved a friend in need, for they hold the contract for the ground and swarmed there like ants a day or two after the sheriff’s famous coup.

All their neighbors, including famous old-never-did-any-work-families of the elite, watched the army march into the exclusive district with arms full of blankets packed with pots and pans.

Then came wagons of tents and cooking utensils and piles of wood. When the army started to spread these, the rich awoke to fume and cuss, and call up the sheriff, district attorneys, the police, etc.

A particularly shining social light, through whose real estate company the lot was sold to the army, was the first to call for the police.

“The army is here on my ground, and when I ordered them to move off, they told me to go to hell.”

Now, Mr. Brooks is a very great man in Sacramento, or rather Mr. Brooks WAS a very great man, and Sheriff Ahrens flew to. the scene with four deputies.

“We don’t have to get off!” yelled the army. “This is our lot!” And they produced the perfectly legal contract.

Sheriff Ahren started back to his office, but was taken ill with heart trouble on the way. He was conveyed to his home in a taxicab and immediately ordered to bed by his attending physician.

Nobody seems to know who bought the land for the Unemployed in Sacramento. Anyway, nobody is going to TELL. Some people say the land is to be held perpetually for men or women who can’t secure work in Sacramento. Others add that this may reduce the value of the real estate in the exclusive residence district.

Some stories in real life do have a happy ending after all.

Top of the page

Last updated on 31 May 2022