Page images

A Group of Thirty-six




Every working man and woman will find this group of speeches of unusual interest and value. They intimately touch the daily life and struggle we feel and know. They touch every phase of the industrial conflict, the struggle of humans for a better life. They deal not only with the practical questions of tactics on the field of battle, but with larger objectives; not only with relations between workman and employer, but with relations between man and man; with daily problems of labor officials; and finally with those questions of life and conduct which all men face as human beings. It seems to me they give character to this volume.-M. H. H.

Radicals and Patriots


H. H. Broach

From an address given before a public
mass meeting.

I fully expected that kind of an attack, for to be a representative of labor and oppose a condition of wage slavery and want, of destitution and misery, and insist upon improved conditions and a higher social order, is always to be branded a radical, a labor agitator, a demagogue, an enemy to peace and prosperity, and a traitor to the nation and its flag. It's always the lazy, guilty man's way of fighting an opponent; and if we are to believe some of our soft thinking gentlemen, if we are to believe some of our public men of “eminence" who are down on their knees to the respectable forces of greed and reaction, then everybody would be happily employed, suspicion and distrust would be replaced by confidence and love, and the high and low would fondly embrace each other on sight, and the world would live in peace and contentment—if it were not for a "few radical, unpatriotic labor leaders" who force great masses of workers to do their bidding.

But being branded a radical, an unpatriotic and pestilent demagogue, is nothing new. All men and women in all ages of history who have fought for worth-while principles, who refused to betray their fellows-all of them have been bitterly denounced as radicals, criminals, outlaws and disloyalists—every one of them. It is a penalty that all have had to pay who have hammered against the walls of corruption, prejudice, absolutism and special privilege. It was paid by the founders of Christianity; by the founders of science; by those who fought witchcraft; by the poor fellow who was put into a cell and poked with sticks until he took back his statement that the world was round and that the sun revolved around the earth. The penalty was paid by Socrates, who was forced to drink from the fatal hemlock when he dared speak out the truth and tried to break the chains of the down-trodden.

Every lover of truth and freedom, every hater of sham and pretense, every despiser of hypocrisy and greed, every man who hates poverty and loves his fellows; every one of them must expect to be branded cowardly names, shunned by certain "good people" and blacklisted by “respectable” newspapers. George Washington, who is now revered as the father of his country, was bitterly denounced as a disloyalist; Samuel Adams, who is known to us as the father of the American Revolution, was condemned as a dangerous incendiary; and Patrick Henry, who aroused the colonists, was branded a traitor. William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, Garrett Smith, Armstrong and Lincoln, and all the others who led the movement against chattel slavery, paid the same penalty. Each of them was condemned as being a menace to law and order, and each was maligned and despised as much as Christ, who, after He had aroused the ill-will and hatred of the money changers and profiteers, was spiked to a cross outside the gates of Jerusalem.

And time has not changed, and probably never will change, the source of the opposition to those who fight for a better day. As today we see certain groups forming citizens' alliances and chambers of commerce to oppose the advance of labor, so in 1833, as Charles Edward Russell has pointed out, the same groups formed associations to suppress any agitation against chattel slavery. As today we see these groups condemn the heads of labor unions and have them slugged and shot, so in 1833 and later, the same elements formed the greater part of the mobs that broke up anti-slavery meetings and beat and tarred and feathered anti-slavery speakers. As today every person who agitates the labor issue is blacklisted and shunned by most of society, so in 1833 and later, all those who objected to slavery found the same elements branding them monsters of depravity. And as today practically the whole force of commerce with its paid agents, is arrayed in defense of profits and reaction, so in 1833 and later, the same forces were determined there should be no attacks upon chattel slavery.

And don't forget that in its day chattel slavery was a very respectable and powerful institution—so much so that at one time it controlled the President, the courts and Congress, and a large part of the college presidents and the pulpit. The churches of England, her sacred judges and her leading Christian gentlemen all owned stock in slaveships and luxuriated on the profits of piracy and murder. Those who dared speak out against it were as much hated as are the present day representatives of labor. And while chattel slavery has disappeared, another form of slavery—wage and industrial-has been established while the people of America have been asleep. It is in this mighty agitation for its abolition that the labor unions and their representatives are disloyal—disloyal to the rent hogs and the gougers, the dollar hoarders and coupon lovers, the corporation lawyers and property-worshipping judges, and all the scoundrels who are looting the government and bleeding the people white.

And doesn't it seem strange to you that not one of them can attack a labor union or its officials without ringing in patriotism? Why they seem to have a corner on all of it, and the correct and only brand, too. But have we not learned by this time that the worst and most despicable thieves, the lowest hypocrites, cheats and traitors, are those who prate the loudest and most about patriotism and loyalty?

Old Dr. Johnson said that patriotism is always the last refuge of a scoundrel, but it isn't. He was wrong. It is the very first refuge. Always the cheat, the scoundrel and the politician hide behind patriotism and religion at the very first opportunity. Always it's the tyrant or deceiver who shouts about loyalty and freedom while standing with the folds of our national emblem wrapped about him; always it has been the scoundrel who wrapped himself in a cloak of righteousness, religion, and patriotism; always they have been able to make patriotism mean anything they wanted it to mean, to suit any purpose they wanted it to suit; and always it has been easy to shout 100 per cent patriotism on 100 per cent dividends.

For myself let me say this: I believe in patriotism; I would defend the flag against any invader, but I refuse to swallow the brass-buttoned bunk that is being fed the people today; I refuse to listen to the silly, flag-flapping appeals intended to create another brain-storm; I take no pride in any hollow victory of arms; and I shall reserve the right to criticise this government whenever I think it is wrong and deserves to be criticised. When it is right I am for it, and when it is wrong I am against it; and I refuse to accept the kind of patriotism that is used as a cloak for the wrong doings of scoundrels; I refuse to accept the kind that allows our flag to be used as a refuge for highwaymen, pickpockets and sneak thieves; I refuse to accept the kind that creates a state of insanity and ends at the mental condition where Germany found itself in 1914—the state for the state's sake, a chip on my shoulder, and my hand on my knife and gun every hour.

But the kind of patriotism I do accept, the kind that I stand for, the kind that the labor unions stand for, is the kind that regards the nation and the government as agencies for the greatest good of the greatest number; the kind that recognizes that this government can and does do wrong; the kind that is willing to live and let live, and the kind that stands for a nation's cleaning up the corruption in its own land and setting its own house in order before it carps at some other nation, or leads a solemn, selfrighteous crusade to reform some other land.

« PreviousContinue »