Mary Marcy

A Month of Lawlessness

(September 1917)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 18 No. 3, September 1917, pp. 154–157.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

NO matter what newspapers you may have read during the past month, it must have been borne in upon your mind that the capitalist class of these United States has entered upon a reign of terror and lawlessness the like of which we have not seen since the days of the Haywood-Pettibone kidnapping.

As the Review went to press last month word came that over 2,000 members of the I.W.W. Metal Workers’ Industrial Union and sympathizers had been illegally rounded up by the hired gunmen of the Bisbee copper kings, loaded into freight cars so closely that they were unable to sit down and rushed south across the desert without food or water for thirty-six hours, where they have since been detained at Columbus, New Mexico, and fed by the US Army. An utterly arbitrary and illegal censorship was laid upon the telegraph office by the mine owners and only such news of this lawless deportation permitted to reach the outside world as had been approved by the copper-grabbing mine owners.

Since that time the Metal Workers and their friends, nearly all whom had some kind of a ‘home” and some few belongings in Bisbee, have been forcibly detained under the “protection” of the army, while their wives and families have been left to get along at home as best they may. At this writing we want you to know that nothing has been done to send these miners back to their homes or to permit them to return to their families in spite of the fact that President Wilson so far disapproved of the lawless methods of the mine owners – that he telegraphed his apprehension of their acts. Now comes word from San Francisco that Prosecuting Attorney Cunha, of that ill-famed city, has declared that even should it be proved that every one of his witnesses against Tom and Rena Mooney and the boys charged with conspiracy in the bomb-explosion case, had committed perjury, he would not lift a finger to save the defendants, but would hang them if he could. Of this case, which has become notorious over the hemisphere, the New York Globe says editorially:

“The acquittal of Mrs. Rena Mooney, on trial on a charge of murder for alleged participation in the San Francisco explosion of last year, is a result most gratifying to every intelligent friend of law and order in this country and is a crushing defeat to elements, now active in one community and now in another, that have been undermining in a most anarchistic way the foundations of organized justice.

“All doubt is removed that the prosecuting authorities of San Francisco, responsive to Chamber of Commerce influences that are mad, have been engaged in a deliberate attempt to convict of the greatest crimes innocent persons. The whole case against Mrs. Mooney and her convicted husband, and presumptively against Billings, the defendant first convicted, is a frame-up.’ It was proved beyond peradventure, by photographs accidentally taken at the very time Mrs. Mooney was alleged to have been carrying to the place of the crime a suit case containing explosives, that she was more than a mile away peacefully watching the parade with her husband and a group of friends. In the first two trials the witnesses of the prosecution, persons of the lowest character, committed themselves definitely as to when they had observed Mrs. Mooney. On her trial, to meet the unchallengeable evidence of the photographs, they advanced the time so as to permit her to have returned home.

“Moreover, letters written by a witness named Oxman, who testified to seeing the defendants near the scene of the crime, showed he asked another witness to come to San Francisco to corroborate him, making the promise that his testimony would be paid for. The prosecuting attorney of San Francisco seems to have had a guilty knowledge of these infamous transactions. Throughout, in countless ways, the case reeks with perjury procured, by detective agencies hired by organizations of employers. No reasonable person can entertain doubt that a conspiracy to convict innocent men existed, that it was countenanced and aided by agents of the courts, and that it was so successful as to secure the conviction of one man and his sentencing to life imprisonment, and the conviction of an- other and his sentencing to death.

“In Paterson, in Colorado, in San Francisco, in various places, the idea prevails that it is permissible for public officials to become lawless and to stop at nothing in winning industrial disputes. The poisonous doctrine must be suppressed. It is born to the pit. It gives substance to the claim that the courts in this country are not just, are not the agents of all of us to punish evildoers equally, but the instruments of a selfish class. Every lover of law and order must see to it that the courts are free of this most dangerous anarchistic corruption. As bad as the I.W.W. are said to be are those business men and others who adopt their principles and imitate their practices.

“A way should be found to put in stripes public officers who do not play fair in class collisions. Things in. this country will not be clean and wholesome until some prosecuting attorney who suborns perjury is in the penitentiary and a record made that will lead other prosecuting attorneys to respect the law.”

At the same time a crisis has been reached among the coal miners in the United Mine Workers of America who are burning with indignation at the deportation of eighty members from Madrid to Gallup, New Mexico, because they were strong union men and warm advocates of unionism. Secretary William Green of the U.M.W. declares that a general strike of the coal miners will be called if the Government fails to protect the return of the eighty members. Frank Farrington, member of the Coal Production Committee, insists that Mr. Green expresses the view of the whole membership.

“We cannot allow any set of men to take the law into their hands, forcibly remove our men from where they are living and shuttle them back and forth across the country as these lawbreakers may see fit.

“When union men, law-abiding in every respect, are driven out of a town where they reside, on no pretext whatever except that some corporation wants to get rid of union men, then we are going to see that the law is obeyed by all parties if we can accomplish it.”

James Lord, President of the Mining Department of the A.F. of L., after receiving full information of the Bisbee lawlessness, said:

“This raid was simply a general attack by the Phelps-Dodge copper interests, acting largely through small business men and others whom they had whipped into line, against the entire labor movement. It is the first step in a big struggle for the right to organize the copper camps.

“The fight would not be so hard if the union men of Arizona would get together on one program. If the idea of solidarity could once take hold of them, no matter what the name of the union in which they all held membership, it would win a sweeping and permanent triumph. There is just one way to beat the bosses in the mining country and that is by solidarity of unionism.”

And now comes the crowning horror of this reign of terror, when thru the copper thieves’ greed for more millions, in their fight against the demands of the Butte copper miners for better living conditions, a gang of masked men awoke Frank Little, General Organizer of the I.W.W., from his sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning, dragged him, with his broken ankle still in a plaster cast, to a bridge outside of town, where they left his poor bruised body, mangled by the thugs of the capitalist class through long years of labor struggles, hanging at the end of a rope – done to death – because he taught the organization of the working class – his class – for the things they produce. And the “world’s greatest newspaper,” the infamous Chicago Tribune, gloats thus editorially at this latest exhibition of lawless profit-grabbing run mad:

“The howls of Industrial Workers of the World over the lynching of Little will find, we believe, no echo in any reasonable American’s heart. The wonder is that more of these agitators in the west have not been treated in the same way by outraged communities which have listened to their vicious threats.

“When men of this variety, who take cover behind a law and a respect for the law which they are trying to destroy, are handled illegally, they can hardly expect sympathy. The northwest and west must be heartily sick of them and certainly the time for their punishment is long overdue. It is a pity that punishment in the case of Little was administered by lynchers. It should have been given formally by constituted authority.

“And this brings us to the lesson of this episode. If the authorities will not act when the safety of society is concerned citizens will take it upon themselves. That is the paramount law of self-preservation and the best ordered community in the world will and must enforce that law. Of course, in the case of Little his associates say he is a martyr to capitalism. He is nothing but a victim of his own game, which was to counsel violence against the order which plain citizens respect. If mine owners hired his lynchers they only anticipated what the community would eventually be compelled to do if the law did not act. And the law must act with more power and promptness against such men. We have had too much of vague sentimentality and fuddled reasoning. The right of free speech does not cover licenses.”

We could mention a score of other debauches of lawlessness on the part of the robber class that have occurred in the United States of America during the past few weeks, but these are sufficient.

The laws of this country, and of every capitalist country existing today were made by and for the benefit of – the owners of the factories, shops, mills, the mines and the forests. But these owners of the means of production and distribution have made these laws to keep you from enjoying the products of your labor and to protect themselves in the enjoyment of the things the working class has made. They do not themselves obey these laws. Whenever their stolen profits are menaced they stoop to deportations, frame-ups, hangings, lynchings, dynamitings, the murder of non-combatant women and children – to the lowest depths of human degradation – to prevent the workers, who produce all their wealth, from gaining higher wages and cutting down their enormous dividends.

Organization is within the law; free speech and a free press are guaranteed by the Constitution. But the working class has no rights, no privileges, no law. The working class has only the strength, the power of its two strong hands, of its sober mind, of its class solidarity.

Labor feeds the world; it fetches and carries the food, the coal, the clothing. It turns all the wheels of industry. From its hand comes the food of the gunman, the clothes he wears, the roof that shelters him, the train that hauls him to the spot where he may lynch or shoot striking workers.

The Law will not help us in a reign of lawlessness. Street barricades will avail us nothing today. But organization and education in the basic industries, in all industries – class solidarity – these will help us to understand that TODAY all power lies in the very hollow of our Stands, because our hands control the economic destinies of every nation.

All power is based upon the use of economic power. Governments represent the class that is most strong economically. The German soldier is composed of one thousand meals a year; the most eminent Divine finds his most exalted inspiration in roast beef or a lamb chop purchased with Standard church donations – and chooses for his text something like “Blessed are the Meek,” or “Render Unto Caesar that Which is Caesar’s.” All social institutions existing today represent the interest of the owners of the economic forces of society.

The foundations of society were economic. And it is our hands that turn these economic wheels. Class solidarity, class organization on the economic field will enable us at last to abolish a system that rests upon robbery, and sloth, poverty and industry, murder and oppression!

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Last updated on 31 May 2022