Maoriland Worker, Volume 3, Issue 53, 15 March 1912, Page 9
By R. S. ROSS
A Story of the General Strike.
HOW ORGANISED LABOR TURNED THE TABLES ON THE CAPITALISTS.
"il was worse than a war." Tin's is the outstanding comment of a grim rc■ital of the general strike in actual practice. It is extracted from Jack London's terse talo entitled "The Dream of Debs." It is a story with a moral: a story as simple in its motif as ia its tolling: a story for every worker to digest and then shout as one whose mind has been, suddenly liborated, "My God, I see the light!" Tlio General Strike has been much in the air of late, nnd the topic has been a storm centiv of heated argument. But no speech, hmvever brilliant, will do for Industrial Unionism what London's story will do. I mean that no oral advocacy will convey so clearly as ''The Dream of Debs" just how simple a proposition the General Strike is; nor how reconstructive or cataclysmic that mighty weapon of organised labor might provo. It is immaterial, I take it, whether you call the purpose of the I.L.W. general strike or general lockout. Obviously London's story is sugk<'s tod by the plan and propaganda of the Industrial Workers of tho World. And logically that plan and propaganda is bbth strike and lock-out. It is to be the strike of tho working-class against further exploitation; it is to b« the lock-out of the capitalist class from further exploitation. How is it done —for tho story creates for us that future in which it is don© —"Tho Dream of Debs" unfolds with pregnant plainness and conviction. I. San Francisco was strangely silent on that epochal morning. Mr. Corf lay in his bed and marvelled at tho ghastly quietness. ll© had boon used to the roar and crash of a big city in the throes of activity, inexhaustible activity. And on this morning the hum of the groat live city was strangely absent. No trams passed beneath tho window; no vehicles galloped or lumbered on their ways. Then tho male servant entered with tho tray and morning paper, a startled, approhenhivo light in his eyes. There was no cream on the tray. Woquoto: '■The creamery did not deliver this morning," ho explained. "Nor did tho bakery. . . . Nothing was delivered this morning, sir." ''The paper?" ''Yes, sir, it was delivered, but itwas the only thing, and it is the last time, too. There won't bo any paper to-morrow. Tho paper says so. . ." Tho headlines explained everything—explained too much, in fact, for the lengths of pessimism to which tho journal went were ridi-. culous. A general strike, it said, had boen called all over the "United States, and most foreboding anxieties were expressed concerning the provisioning of the great cities. "I read on hastily (Mr. Corf is tho narrator of the events) skimming much and remembering much of labor troubles in the past. For a generation the general strike had boen tho dream of organised labor, which dream had arisen originally in tho mind of Debs, ono of the great labor leaders of thirty years before. I recollected that in my young collcgo days I had even written an article on tho subject for one of the magazines, and. that I had entitled it 'The Dream of Debs.' And 1 must confess that I hud treated the idea very cfivst!i< ily and acaduniculiy as a dream, and nothing nioro. Time and tho world .htid rolled on. Oompcrs was gone, the American Federation of Labor was gone, and gone was Debs, with ail his wild revolutionary ideas; but tho dream had persisted, and hr-re it was at Jast realised in fact. IJiifc I la'ighed as I read at tho journals gloomy outlouk. I iinew utiler. !■ had yeou org-ttiised iii'ior worsted in too many coeiliVts. It wi.-'.;!u bo a laatix-x' <j;ily of days v,lien L-lio thing wo;ild be sottied. This wn-3 a- national strike, and it v>-iuii'l!i't. t'lk'i (no (.io'/c-niiiso'if, Ion?; i<: b:>a!c it."'
11. Mr. Ccrf soon changed his tune. At first the i)uvelt}M>i' the situation rather entertained tho capitalist class and its satellites. It was interesting, so interostiiig, you know, ''to be out in the streets of -San Francisco when not a wheel was turning, and the whole city was taking au enforced vacation." Before he gob into the streets, however, Mr. Cerf found he had no provisions, and the delivery drivers were on strike. The electricity was shut off; the big shops were closed, and the clerks also were out. Even the chauffeurs were on strike- Mr. Cerf decides to run his motor himself, and goos in quest ot provisions. With others, he manages to buy candles and some necessaries from the small shops kept going by the-ir owners. "It was," he says, ''a beautiful first of May. Tho streets were crowded, but quiet. The working-class, dressed in its Sunday best, was out taking the air and observing the effects of the strike. The remarkable thing of the first day of the strike was that no ono really apprehended anything serious. The announcement of organised labor in the morning papers that it was prepared to stay out a month or three months was laughed ay. And yet that very first day we might have guessed as much from the fact that the working-class took practically no part in the great rush to buy provisions. Of course not. For weeks and months, craftily and secretly, the whole working-class had been laying in private stocks of provisions. That was why we were permitted to go down and buy out the little groceries in the workingclass neighborhoods."
Bead that paragraph again and again, my fellow wage-slaves, and tell mo likest not them tho sound and the sense thereof? It was at the club in the afternoon that tho wealthy began. to feel alarm. Everything waa ill oonfusion. No waiters, few delicacies. Tho men of t-he club wero angry, and a general was lamenting because, although the soldiers we're guarding the mint and so forth, there was no disorder whatever. Tho strikers wero keeping the poaeo perfectly. One plutocrat called the strike sedition, and another cnllfd it revolt and revolution, and still another called it anarchy. Hut outside perfect order reigned. Of all that was said and suggested within tho club space will not permit recounting, ii was —or should 1 say IS —signi- conversation, with a thousand lessons to tho reader with eyes to see and brains to think. Tho talk on labor's methods and history of tho past is illuminating. We'll take leave of the club with the sun sinking down upon the birth of humanity's groatost tragedy —the tragedy of tho Social Revolution. Yet the climax of that Tragedy wa.« to bo the Socialist Commonwealth, civilisation's crowning glory. On that memorable evening the capitalists were in a funk. Ho re is an incident in which history repeated itself, only that history aforetime had always pictured tho workers' and hero the tables wero turned. "Say, Cerf," Atkinson bustled up to mc, "is your machine running ?" "Yes," I answered, "but what's tho matter with your own?" ''Broken down, and tho garages aro all closed. And my wife's sontowhen; around Tniekee, I. think, stalled on ..h.< •overland. Can't g< v l a wire to her ior love or money. Sho should have arrived this evening. Sho may bo starving. Lend, mo your machine." ''Can't get it ncross flu- bay," ;i*lst-ciid Mi)..'ie up. "The ferries aren't running. But 1 tell you wh.it you can do. There's Kollinson-oh, i!ollin.Mi:), eomo here a moment. Atkinson wants to get a muehiue across tho bay. Tlis wife is stuck on the overland at Truckco. Ccui't you bring tbo Turlelto ai-rota from Tibtiroji and cany tlio niachin.o over for him?" Xiio Tiirloi'to was a 200-ton oceangoing schooner yacht.. Uoliinsmt shook his lavu]. "You can'l get a luiigshorwi'.aJi to load tho nirtcSiiiio on board, ovea if 1 could get tiio Tin let to over, winch I can't, for the rroiv aro nieuiLws of the Coast £-.-'r,:H'-Jz U;iion, and they'to on st<rTi;o along with tho res!.." ".liiit my vii'o may be stars ;;i<.%" 7 c.'.;!'.l. l:<-..r iraiKi)-, j? I
111. The next day there was no paper, no comniimitation whatever with the outside world. An attempt had boea made to place army telegraphers in the offices, hut tho wires had been cut in ovory direction. This was Labor'e first "unlawful 1 ' art. A millioaim fiiend riMiiarks t-o C'cif: "It's a great stroke, this general striko. It's a stnasliiuy; body blotr. Labor caught us napping, and struck at our weakest place, tlie stomanb. I'm going to get out of San Francisco, Gcrf. Tako my advice and get out, too. Jlc:id for tho country, anywhere. You'll have more chance. Buy up a stock of supplies and get into a tent or cabin somewhere. Soon there'll be nothing but starvation ia this city i'or such as we." The days came and went, and Mr. Corf stayed on. Stayed on becaflw now people couldn't leave. Beside* there was reason to fear the same state of affairs everywhere. In San Francisco tlie I.L.W.—the promoting bod/ of tho general .strike —issued proclamations from time to time. These h&4 been printed months before, and evidenced how thoroughly the I.L.W. had prepared the strike. Every detail ha 4 been worked out Ion;* in advance. Then came suffering—acute suffering in the homes of iho rich, and acute suffering in the slums. Only the organised workers had supplies. Next came breadlines made up of capitalists! Violence followed upon some shooting. Law atui order was only apparent in the rank* of organised labor. Says the narrator: "Organised labor still maintained perfect order. It could well afford to —it had plenty to eat." (3 sapient narrator 1 Mr. Cerf and his friends bogaa to foel the pangs of starvation. Out to the outskirts of the city they went with knives, and slaughtered a cow, bungling the job frightfully. The/ didn't get their capture, but instead a boating from tho savage slum-dwellers. It was the last of the cow-stealing, for the soldiers confiscated all tbe cows. Panic was added to hunger, ami wealthy classes and slum people stampeded out of tho city, 200,000 of them, most of whom never lived to tell the story of the dreadful flight. Horace and mules and dogs became soaroe, eaten by the populace. Meanwhile the I.L.W. proclamations read:
"Wβ have maintained an orderly. strike, and we shall maintain order t» the end. The end will come when oar demands are satisfied, and our demands will bo satisfied when we have starved our employers into subraiesion, as we <nirselves in the past haro often boon starved into submission.
. . . When wo think our employers are roady to submit we shall open tip tho telegraphs and place the employers' association of the. United States in communication. Hut only message* relating to peace shall he permitted, over the wires." IV. Ami, naturally the end is now in sight. 1 skip the- harrowing details of the days of even keener distress than I have indiViH.'.'l. Uut the story ia finely told. Jack London oxcol* ia realism, and his grim naturality ia ac marked in t-h« of this yarn aa in his Niituro books. One, too, experiences -at tiiiM'a a huge dnight- in discovering how cleverly the capitalists are- hoisi with tlu-ir own pi.'turd. Verily, it is fine-; it is grand! The -'.Dix-am of Debs" is calculated to teach the working-class lots of horse-sense. They'll read it where they won't--many of them—read the smallest leaflet of their own ol;i>ss-stiuggl< This story lias aH tiio excitement' of an. adr-'-iituro romance-. r J'Jio strike mds wlut, the oorpsas strew the- hisjuv.'t.vs ontsido the city. Mr. fort linnlly trii-a to pm'*}l" irom Hun I'iancisco, but fail-;.- Mc i.'e-tsi no iun-lioi- i;!;!ll .SoUili -;.:!) Ho in an onUnuse, shivering wii.li '■old, yet hiii-iiiiig v.-iih h".-»v. Aiter thrnis days viihiMii; !''».'d ho somehow tollers iiUo lh.> .•i'-y—ivelit;:: and v'hly iviu si-pp:!! , ; in.: ii.':-..v .1 ■.'.[>■>!! i , .;: v<u-m--piirisi'vl ciui''.il. Ni;j;i:l:i:;»re and xorinent were hi-i ii'H'U'.ii u::A l.« iamtu at tiio J;i('-h'n <!.. -v ■■'" a m'orUmaJi's ] u) n:o. Cμ:,;;- t", be !:r.-:is bis faoe wot wiih v.-->t ■.■:■, .<:■•! !:;■• iK'A- w«A with w!ii-;!;;.-. lie Kα st;methiiij; to oak. iiul iho ;i:-,-.i.i,'ivi:e inti-rrupts hi in. " 'Why, Viiu p.T.ir man, , sl:e said, 'Haven't you heardr . The ;;tnk.-> waa called oil this Of courso, we'll give, you soiiiel-i'in;;, in fv'it. , "Slk> bustl..-d ai'.:!!'!-:, <>:>< ning si tin of break last, ba-'osi ..i;.i lo fry it. '• M'.ot. UK! iiivv r,-i:iL.> n> •■. I tu:-l 1 a->- i;..- r:uv biicoii (111 a siiv-l 'li bl'Vcl, wi;;!; , lior llilSband oxi-i];Lii.'.'d ti::iL '.!:■!■ :! ■!'i:;':(!s of t'iO I.F.V. h.i.j b. ■•■!!. ; v:;.■!'. ■■!• . .'' A:■'..]. i!:,!l: .'■■;<> i'■•-• >--.v' oi' ii.- ;,fi;ora.l sLiike