The Iron Heel
Part 4 out of 6
"I wish we could get some of it for the propaganda," Ernest said
wistfully. "It would do immense good."
"Do you think so?" the Bishop said. "I do not have much faith in
politics. In fact, I am afraid I do not understand politics."
Ernest was delicate in such matters. He did not repeat his
suggestion, though he knew only too well the sore straits the
Socialist Party was in through lack of money.
"I sleep in cheap lodging houses," the Bishop went on. "But I am
afraid, and never stay long in one place. Also, I rent two rooms
in workingmen's houses in different quarters of the city. It is a
great extravagance, I know, but it is necessary. I make up for it
in part by doing my own cooking, though sometimes I get something
to eat in cheap coffee-houses. And I have made a discovery.
Tamales* are very good when the air grows chilly late at night.
Only they are so expensive. But I have discovered a place where I
can get three for ten cents. They are not so good as the others,
but they are very warming.
* A Mexican dish, referred to occasionally in the literature of the
times. It is supposed that it was warmly seasoned. No recipe of
it has come down to us.
"And so I have at last found my work in the world, thanks to you,
young man. It is the Master's work." He looked at me, and his
eyes twinkled. "You caught me feeding his lambs, you know. And of
course you will all keep my secret."
He spoke carelessly enough, but there was real fear behind the
speech. He promised to call upon us again. But a week later we
read in the newspaper of the sad case of Bishop Morehouse, who had
been committed to the Napa Asylum and for whom there were still
hopes held out. In vain we tried to see him, to have his case
reconsidered or investigated. Nor could we learn anything about
him except the reiterated statements that slight hopes were still
held for his recovery.
"Christ told the rich young man to sell all he had," Ernest said
bitterly. "The Bishop obeyed Christ's injunction and got locked up
in a madhouse. Times have changed since Christ's day. A rich man
to-day who gives all he has to the poor is crazy. There is no
discussion. Society has spoken."
THE GENERAL STRIKE
Of course Ernest was elected to Congress in the great socialist
landslide that took place in the fall of 1912. One great factor
that helped to swell the socialist vote was the destruction of
Hearst.* This the Plutocracy found an easy task. It cost Hearst
eighteen million dollars a year to run his various papers, and this
sum, and more, he got back from the middle class in payment for
advertising. The source of his financial strength lay wholly in
the middle class. The trusts did not advertise.** To destroy
Hearst, all that was necessary was to take away from him his
* William Randolph Hearst--a young California millionaire who
became the most powerful newspaper owner in the country. His
newspapers were published in all the large cities, and they
appealed to the perishing middle class and to the proletariat. So
large was his following that he managed to take possession of the
empty shell of the old Democratic Party. He occupied an anomalous
position, preaching an emasculated socialism combined with a
nondescript sort of petty bourgeois capitalism. It was oil and
water, and there was no hope for him, though for a short period he
was a source of serious apprehension to the Plutocrats.
** The cost of advertising was amazing in those helter-skelter
times. Only the small capitalists competed, and therefore they did
the advertising. There being no competition where there was a
trust, there was no need for the trusts to advertise.
The whole middle class had not yet been exterminated. The sturdy
skeleton of it remained; but it was without power. The small
manufacturers and small business men who still survived were at the
complete mercy of the Plutocracy. They had no economic nor
political souls of their own. When the fiat of the Plutocracy went
forth, they withdrew their advertisements from the Hearst papers.
Hearst made a gallant fight. He brought his papers out at a loss
of a million and a half each month. He continued to publish the
advertisements for which he no longer received pay. Again the fiat
of the Plutocracy went forth, and the small business men and
manufacturers swamped him with a flood of notices that he must
discontinue running their old advertisements. Hearst persisted.
Injunctions were served on him. Still he persisted. He received
six months' imprisonment for contempt of court in disobeying the
injunctions, while he was bankrupted by countless damage suits. He
had no chance. The Plutocracy had passed sentence on him. The
courts were in the hands of the Plutocracy to carry the sentence
out. And with Hearst crashed also to destruction the Democratic
Party that he had so recently captured.
With the destruction of Hearst and the Democratic Party, there were
only two paths for his following to take. One was into the
Socialist Party; the other was into the Republican Party. Then it
was that we socialists reaped the fruit of Hearst's pseudo-
socialistic preaching; for the great Majority of his followers came
over to us.
The expropriation of the farmers that took place at this time would
also have swelled our vote had it not been for the brief and futile
rise of the Grange Party. Ernest and the socialist leaders fought
fiercely to capture the farmers; but the destruction of the
socialist press and publishing houses constituted too great a
handicap, while the mouth-to-mouth propaganda had not yet been
perfected. So it was that politicians like Mr. Calvin, who were
themselves farmers long since expropriated, captured the farmers
and threw their political strength away in a vain campaign.
"The poor farmers," Ernest once laughed savagely; "the trusts have
them both coming and going."
And that was really the situation. The seven great trusts, working
together, had pooled their enormous surpluses and made a farm
trust. The railroads, controlling rates, and the bankers and stock
exchange gamesters, controlling prices, had long since bled the
farmers into indebtedness. The bankers, and all the trusts for
that matter, had likewise long since loaned colossal amounts of
money to the farmers. The farmers were in the net. All that
remained to be done was the drawing in of the net. This the farm
trust proceeded to do.
The hard times of 1912 had already caused a frightful slump in the
farm markets. Prices were now deliberately pressed down to
bankruptcy, while the railroads, with extortionate rates, broke the
back of the farmer-camel. Thus the farmers were compelled to
borrow more and more, while they were prevented from paying back
old loans. Then ensued the great foreclosing of mortgages and
enforced collection of notes. The farmers simply surrendered the
land to the farm trust. There was nothing else for them to do.
And having surrendered the land, the farmers next went to work for
the farm trust, becoming managers, superintendents, foremen, and
common laborers. They worked for wages. They became villeins, in
short--serfs bound to the soil by a living wage. They could not
leave their masters, for their masters composed the Plutocracy.
They could not go to the cities, for there, also, the Plutocracy
was in control. They had but one alternative,--to leave the soil
and become vagrants, in brief, to starve. And even there they were
frustrated, for stringent vagrancy laws were passed and rigidly
Of course, here and there, farmers, and even whole communities of
farmers, escaped expropriation by virtue of exceptional conditions.
But they were merely strays and did not count, and they were
gathered in anyway during the following year.*
* The destruction of the Roman yeomanry proceeded far less rapidly
than the destruction of the American farmers and small capitalists.
There was momentum in the twentieth century, while there was
practically none in ancient Rome.
Numbers of the farmers, impelled by an insane lust for the soil,
and willing to show what beasts they could become, tried to escape
expropriation by withdrawing from any and all market-dealing. They
sold nothing. They bought nothing. Among themselves a primitive
barter began to spring up. Their privation and hardships were
terrible, but they persisted. It became quite a movement, in fact.
The manner in which they were beaten was unique and logical and
simple. The Plutocracy, by virtue of its possession of the
government, raised their taxes. It was the weak joint in their
armor. Neither buying nor selling, they had no money, and in the
end their land was sold to pay the taxes.
Thus it was that in the fall of 1912 the socialist leaders, with
the exception of Ernest, decided that the end of capitalism had
come. What of the hard times and the consequent vast army of the
unemployed; what of the destruction of the farmers and the middle
class; and what of the decisive defeat administered all along the
line to the labor unions; the socialists were really justified in
believing that the end of capitalism had come and in themselves
throwing down the gauntlet to the Plutocracy.
Alas, how we underestimated the strength of the enemy! Everywhere
the socialists proclaimed their coming victory at the ballot-box,
while, in unmistakable terms, they stated the situation. The
Plutocracy accepted the challenge. It was the Plutocracy, weighing
and balancing, that defeated us by dividing our strength. It was
the Plutocracy, through its secret agents, that raised the cry that
socialism was sacrilegious and atheistic; it was the Plutocracy
that whipped the churches, and especially the Catholic Church, into
line, and robbed us of a portion of the labor vote. And it was the
Plutocracy, through its secret agents of course, that encouraged
the Grange Party and even spread it to the cities into the ranks of
the dying middle class.
Nevertheless the socialist landslide occurred. But, instead of a
sweeping victory with chief executive officers and majorities in
all legislative bodies, we found ourselves in the minority. It is
true, we elected fifty Congressmen; but when they took their seats
in the spring of 1913, they found themselves without power of any
sort. Yet they were more fortunate than the Grangers, who captured
a dozen state governments, and who, in the spring, were not
permitted to take possession of the captured offices. The
incumbents refused to retire, and the courts were in the hands of
the Oligarchy. But this is too far in advance of events. I have
yet to tell of the stirring times of the winter of 1912.
The hard times at home had caused an immense decrease in
consumption. Labor, out of work, had no wages with which to buy.
The result was that the Plutocracy found a greater surplus than
ever on its hands. This surplus it was compelled to dispose of
abroad, and, what of its colossal plans, it needed money. Because
of its strenuous efforts to dispose of the surplus in the world
market, the Plutocracy clashed with Germany. Economic clashes were
usually succeeded by wars, and this particular clash was no
exception. The great German war-lord prepared, and so did the
United States prepare.
The war-cloud hovered dark and ominous. The stage was set for a
world-catastrophe, for in all the world were hard times, labor
troubles, perishing middle classes, armies of unemployed, clashes
of economic interests in the world-market, and mutterings and
rumblings of the socialist revolution.*
* For a long time these mutterings and rumblings had been heard.
As far back as 1906 A.D., Lord Avebury, an Englishman, uttered the
following in the House of Lords: "The unrest in Europe, the spread
of socialism, and the ominous rise of Anarchism, are warnings to
the governments and the ruling classes that the condition of the
working classes in Europe is becoming intolerable, and that if a
revolution is to be avoided some steps must be taken to increase
wages, reduce the hours of labor, and lower the prices of the
necessaries of life." The Wall Street Journal, a stock gamesters'
publication, in commenting upon Lord Avebury's speech, said: "These
words were spoken by an aristocrat and a member of the most
conservative body in all Europe. That gives them all the more
significance. They contain more valuable political economy than is
to be found in most of the books. They sound a note of warning.
Take heed, gentlemen of the war and navy departments!"
At the same time, Sydney Brooks, writing in America, in Harper's
Weekly, said: "You will not hear the socialists mentioned in
Washington. Why should you? The politicians are always the last
people in this country to see what is going on under their noses.
They will jeer at me when I prophesy, and prophesy with the utmost
confidence, that at the next presidential election the socialists
will poll over a million votes."
The Oligarchy wanted the war with Germany. And it wanted the war
for a dozen reasons. In the juggling of events such a war would
cause, in the reshuffling of the international cards and the making
of new treaties and alliances, the Oligarchy had much to gain.
And, furthermore, the war would consume many national surpluses,
reduce the armies of unemployed that menaced all countries, and
give the Oligarchy a breathing space in which to perfect its plans
and carry them out. Such a war would virtually put the Oligarchy
in possession of the world-market. Also, such a war would create a
large standing army that need never be disbanded, while in the
minds of the people would be substituted the issue, "America versus
Germany," in place of "Socialism versus Oligarchy."
And truly the war would have done all these things had it not been
for the socialists. A secret meeting of the Western leaders was
held in our four tiny rooms in Pell Street. Here was first
considered the stand the socialists were to take. It was not the
first time we had put our foot down upon war,* but it was the first
time we had done so in the United States. After our secret meeting
we got in touch with the national organization, and soon our code
cables were passing back and forth across the Atlantic between us
and the International Bureau.
* It was at the very beginning of the twentieth century A.D., that
the international organization of the socialists finally formulated
their long-maturing policy on war. Epitomized their doctrine was:
"Why should the workingmen of one country fight with the workingmen
of another country for the benefit of their capitalist masters?"
On May 21, 1905 A.D., when war threatened between Austria and
Italy, the socialists of Italy, Austria, and Hungary held a
conference at Trieste, and threatened a general strike of the
workingmen of both countries in case war was declared. This was
repeated the following year, when the "Morocco Affair" threatened
to involve France, Germany, and England.
The German socialists were ready to act with us. There were over
five million of them, many of them in the standing army, and, in
addition, they were on friendly terms with the labor unions. In
both countries the socialists came out in bold declaration against
the war and threatened the general strike. And in the meantime
they made preparation for the general strike. Furthermore, the
revolutionary parties in all countries gave public utterance to the
socialist principle of international peace that must be preserved
at all hazards, even to the extent of revolt and revolution at
The general strike was the one great victory we American socialists
won. On the 4th of December the American minister was withdrawn
from the German capital. That night a German fleet made a dash on
Honolulu, sinking three American cruisers and a revenue cutter, and
bombarding the city. Next day both Germany and the United States
declared war, and within an hour the socialists called the general
strike in both countries.
For the first time the German war-lord faced the men of his empire
who made his empire go. Without them he could not run his empire.
The novelty of the situation lay in that their revolt was passive.
They did not fight. They did nothing. And by doing nothing they
tied their war-lord's hands. He would have asked for nothing
better than an opportunity to loose his war-dogs on his rebellious
proletariat. But this was denied him. He could not loose his war-
dogs. Neither could he mobilize his army to go forth to war, nor
could he punish his recalcitrant subjects. Not a wheel moved in
his empire. Not a train ran, not a telegraphic message went over
the wires, for the telegraphers and railroad men had ceased work
along with the rest of the population.
And as it was in Germany, so it was in the United States. At last
organized labor had learned its lesson. Beaten decisively on its
own chosen field, it had abandoned that field and come over to the
political field of the socialists; for the general strike was a
political strike. Besides, organized labor had been so badly
beaten that it did not care. It joined in the general strike out
of sheer desperation. The workers threw down their tools and left
their tasks by the millions. Especially notable were the
machinists. Their heads were bloody, their organization had
apparently been destroyed, yet out they came, along with their
allies in the metal-working trades.
Even the common laborers and all unorganized labor ceased work.
The strike had tied everything up so that nobody could work.
Besides, the women proved to be the strongest promoters of the
strike. They set their faces against the war. They did not want
their men to go forth to die. Then, also, the idea of the general
strike caught the mood of the people. It struck their sense of
humor. The idea was infectious. The children struck in all the
schools, and such teachers as came, went home again from deserted
class rooms. The general strike took the form of a great national
picnic. And the idea of the solidarity of labor, so evidenced,
appealed to the imagination of all. And, finally, there was no
danger to be incurred by the colossal frolic. When everybody was
guilty, how was anybody to be punished?
The United States was paralyzed. No one knew what was happening.
There were no newspapers, no letters, no despatches. Every
community was as completely isolated as though ten thousand miles
of primeval wilderness stretched between it and the rest of the
world. For that matter, the world had ceased to exist. And for a
week this state of affairs was maintained.
In San Francisco we did not know what was happening even across the
bay in Oakland or Berkeley. The effect on one's sensibilities was
weird, depressing. It seemed as though some great cosmic thing lay
dead. The pulse of the land had ceased to beat. Of a truth the
nation had died. There were no wagons rumbling on the streets, no
factory whistles, no hum of electricity in the air, no passing of
street cars, no cries of news-boys--nothing but persons who at rare
intervals went by like furtive ghosts, themselves oppressed and
made unreal by the silence.
And during that week of silence the Oligarchy was taught its
lesson. And well it learned the lesson. The general strike was a
warning. It should never occur again. The Oligarchy would see to
At the end of the week, as had been prearranged, the telegraphers
of Germany and the United States returned to their posts. Through
them the socialist leaders of both countries presented their
ultimatum to the rulers. The war should be called off, or the
general strike would continue. It did not take long to come to an
understanding. The war was declared off, and the populations of
both countries returned to their tasks.
It was this renewal of peace that brought about the alliance
between Germany and the United States. In reality, this was an
alliance between the Emperor and the Oligarchy, for the purpose of
meeting their common foe, the revolutionary proletariat of both
countries. And it was this alliance that the Oligarchy afterward
so treacherously broke when the German socialists rose and drove
the war-lord from his throne. It was the very thing the Oligarchy
had played for--the destruction of its great rival in the world-
market. With the German Emperor out of the way, Germany would have
no surplus to sell abroad. By the very nature of the socialist
state, the German population would consume all that it produced.
Of course, it would trade abroad certain things it produced for
things it did not produce; but this would be quite different from
an unconsumable surplus.
"I'll wager the Oligarchy finds justification," Ernest said, when
its treachery to the German Emperor became known. "As usual, the
Oligarchy will believe it has done right."
And sure enough. The Oligarchy's public defence for the act was
that it had done it for the sake of the American people whose
interests it was looking out for. It had flung its hated rival out
of the world-market and enabled us to dispose of our surplus in
"And the howling folly of it is that we are so helpless that such
idiots really are managing our interests," was Ernest's comment.
"They have enabled us to sell more abroad, which means that we'll
be compelled to consume less at home."
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
As early as January, 1913, Ernest saw the true trend of affairs,
but he could not get his brother leaders to see the vision of the
Iron Heel that had arisen in his brain. They were too confident.
Events were rushing too rapidly to culmination. A crisis had come
in world affairs. The American Oligarchy was practically in
possession of the world-market, and scores of countries were flung
out of that market with unconsumable and unsalable surpluses on
their hands. For such countries nothing remained but
reorganization. They could not continue their method of producing
surpluses. The capitalistic system, so far as they were concerned,
had hopelessly broken down.
The reorganization of these countries took the form of revolution.
It was a time of confusion and violence. Everywhere institutions
and governments were crashing. Everywhere, with the exception of
two or three countries, the erstwhile capitalist masters fought
bitterly for their possessions. But the governments were taken
away from them by the militant proletariat. At last was being
realized Karl Marx's classic: "The knell of private capitalist
property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated." And as fast
as capitalistic governments crashed, cooperative commonwealths
arose in their place.
"Why does the United States lag behind?"; "Get busy, you American
revolutionists!"; "What's the matter with America?"--were the
messages sent to us by our successful comrades in other lands. But
we could not keep up. The Oligarchy stood in the way. Its bulk,
like that of some huge monster, blocked our path.
"Wait till we take office in the spring," we answered. "Then
Behind this lay our secret. We had won over the Grangers, and in
the spring a dozen states would pass into their hands by virtue of
the elections of the preceding fall. At once would be instituted a
dozen cooperative commonwealth states. After that, the rest would
"But what if the Grangers fail to get possession?" Ernest demanded.
And his comrades called him a calamity howler.
But this failure to get possession was not the chief danger that
Ernest had in mind. What he foresaw was the defection of the great
labor unions and the rise of the castes.
"Ghent has taught the oligarchs how to do it," Ernest said. "I'll
wager they've made a text-book out of his 'Benevolent Feudalism.'"*
* "Our Benevolent Feudalism," a book published in 1902 A.D., by W.
J. Ghent. It has always been insisted that Ghent put the idea of
the Oligarchy into the minds of the great capitalists. This belief
persists throughout the literature of the three centuries of the
Iron Heel, and even in the literature of the first century of the
Brotherhood of Man. To-day we know better, but our knowledge does
not overcome the fact that Ghent remains the most abused innocent
man in all history.
Never shall I forget the night when, after a hot discussion with
half a dozen labor leaders, Ernest turned to me and said quietly:
"That settles it. The Iron Heel has won. The end is in sight."
This little conference in our home was unofficial; but Ernest, like
the rest of his comrades, was working for assurances from the labor
leaders that they would call out their men in the next general
strike. O'Connor, the president of the Association of Machinists,
had been foremost of the six leaders present in refusing to give
"You have seen that you were beaten soundly at your old tactics of
strike and boycott," Ernest urged.
O'Connor and the others nodded their heads.
"And you saw what a general strike would do," Ernest went on. "We
stopped the war with Germany. Never was there so fine a display of
the solidarity and the power of labor. Labor can and will rule the
world. If you continue to stand with us, we'll put an end to the
reign of capitalism. It is your only hope. And what is more, you
know it. There is no other way out. No matter what you do under
your old tactics, you are doomed to defeat, if for no other reason
because the masters control the courts."*
* As a sample of the decisions of the courts adverse to labor, the
following instances are given. In the coal-mining regions the
employment of children was notorious. In 1905 A.D., labor
succeeded in getting a law passed in Pennsylvania providing that
proof of the age of the child and of certain educational
qualifications must accompany the oath of the parent. This was
promptly declared unconstitutional by the Luzerne County Court, on
the ground that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment in that it
discriminated between individuals of the same class--namely,
children above fourteen years of age and children below. The state
court sustained the decision. The New York Court of Special
Sessions, in 1905 A.D., declared unconstitutional the law
prohibiting minors and women from working in factories after nine
o'clock at night, the ground taken being that such a law was "class
legislation." Again, the bakers of that time were terribly
overworked. The New York Legislature passed a law restricting work
in bakeries to ten hours a day. In 1906 A.D., the Supreme Court of
the United States declared this law to be unconstitutional. In
part the decision read: "There is no reasonable ground for
interfering with the liberty of persons or the right of free
contract by determining the hours of labor in the occupation of a
"You run ahead too fast," O'Connor answered. "You don't know all
the ways out. There is another way out. We know what we're about.
We're sick of strikes. They've got us beaten that way to a
frazzle. But I don't think we'll ever need to call our men out
"What is your way out?" Ernest demanded bluntly.
O'Connor laughed and shook his head. "I can tell you this much:
We've not been asleep. And we're not dreaming now."
"There's nothing to be afraid of, or ashamed of, I hope," Ernest
"I guess we know our business best," was the retort.
"It's a dark business, from the way you hide it," Ernest said with
"We've paid for our experience in sweat and blood, and we've earned
all that's coming to us," was the reply. "Charity begins at home."
"If you're afraid to tell me your way out, I'll tell it to you."
Ernest's blood was up. "You're going in for grab-sharing. You've
made terms with the enemy, that's what you've done. You've sold
out the cause of labor, of all labor. You are leaving the battle-
field like cowards."
"I'm not saying anything," O'Connor answered sullenly. "Only I
guess we know what's best for us a little bit better than you do."
"And you don't care a cent for what is best for the rest of labor.
You kick it into the ditch."
"I'm not saying anything," O'Connor replied, "except that I'm
president of the Machinists' Association, and it's my business to
consider the interests of the men I represent, that's all."
And then, when the labor leaders had left, Ernest, with the
calmness of defeat, outlined to me the course of events to come.
"The socialists used to foretell with joy," he said, "the coming of
the day when organized labor, defeated on the industrial field,
would come over on to the political field. Well, the Iron Heel has
defeated the labor unions on the industrial field and driven them
over to the political field; and instead of this being joyful for
us, it will be a source of grief. The Iron Heel learned its
lesson. We showed it our power in the general strike. It has
taken steps to prevent another general strike."
"But how?" I asked.
"Simply by subsidizing the great unions. They won't join in the
next general strike. Therefore it won't be a general strike."
"But the Iron Heel can't maintain so costly a programme forever," I
"Oh, it hasn't subsidized all of the unions. That's not necessary.
Here is what is going to happen. Wages are going to be advanced
and hours shortened in the railroad unions, the iron and steel
workers unions, and the engineer and machinist unions. In these
unions more favorable conditions will continue to prevail.
Membership in these unions will become like seats in Paradise."
"Still I don't see," I objected. "What is to become of the other
unions? There are far more unions outside of this combination than
"The other unions will be ground out of existence--all of them.
For, don't you see, the railway men, machinists and engineers, iron
and steel workers, do all of the vitally essential work in our
machine civilization. Assured of their faithfulness, the Iron Heel
can snap its fingers at all the rest of labor. Iron, steel, coal,
machinery, and transportation constitute the backbone of the whole
"But coal?" I queried. "There are nearly a million coal miners."
They are practically unskilled labor. They will not count. Their
wages will go down and their hours will increase. They will be
slaves like all the rest of us, and they will become about the most
bestial of all of us. They will be compelled to work, just as the
farmers are compelled to work now for the masters who robbed them
of their land. And the same with all the other unions outside the
combination. Watch them wobble and go to pieces, and their members
become slaves driven to toil by empty stomachs and the law of the
"Do you know what will happen to Farley* and his strike-breakers?
I'll tell you. Strike-breaking as an occupation will cease. There
won't be any more strikes. In place of strikes will be slave
revolts. Farley and his gang will be promoted to slave-driving.
Oh, it won't be called that; it will be called enforcing the law of
the land that compels the laborers to work. It simply prolongs the
fight, this treachery of the big unions. Heaven only knows now
where and when the Revolution will triumph."
* James Farley--a notorious strike-breaker of the period. A man
more courageous than ethical, and of undeniable ability. He rose
high under the rule of the Iron Heel and finally was translated
into the oligarch class. He was assassinated in 1932 by Sarah
Jenkins, whose husband, thirty years before, had been killed by
"But with such a powerful combination as the Oligarchy and the big
unions, is there any reason to believe that the Revolution will
ever triumph?" I queried. "May not the combination endure
He shook his head. "One of our generalizations is that every
system founded upon class and caste contains within itself the
germs of its own decay. When a system is founded upon class, how
can caste be prevented? The Iron Heel will not be able to prevent
it, and in the end caste will destroy the Iron Heel. The oligarchs
have already developed caste among themselves; but wait until the
favored unions develop caste. The Iron Heel will use all its power
to prevent it, but it will fail.
"In the favored unions are the flower of the American workingmen.
They are strong, efficient men. They have become members of those
unions through competition for place. Every fit workman in the
United States will be possessed by the ambition to become a member
of the favored unions. The Oligarchy will encourage such ambition
and the consequent competition. Thus will the strong men, who
might else be revolutionists, be won away and their strength used
to bolster the Oligarchy.
"On the other hand, the labor castes, the members of the favored
unions, will strive to make their organizations into close
corporations. And they will succeed. Membership in the labor
castes will become hereditary. Sons will succeed fathers, and
there will be no inflow of new strength from that eternal reservoir
of strength, the common people. This will mean deterioration of
the labor castes, and in the end they will become weaker and
weaker. At the same time, as an institution, they will become
temporarily all-powerful. They will be like the guards of the
palace in old Rome, and there will be palace revolutions whereby
the labor castes will seize the reins of power. And there will be
counter-palace revolutions of the oligarchs, and sometimes the one,
and sometimes the other, will be in power. And through it all the
inevitable caste-weakening will go on, so that in the end the
common people will come into their own."
This foreshadowing of a slow social evolution was made when Ernest
was first depressed by the defection of the great unions. I never
agreed with him in it, and I disagree now, as I write these lines,
more heartily than ever; for even now, though Ernest is gone, we
are on the verge of the revolt that will sweep all oligarchies
away. Yet I have here given Ernest's prophecy because it was his
prophecy. In spite of his belief in it, he worked like a giant
against it, and he, more than any man, has made possible the revolt
that even now waits the signal to burst forth.*
* Everhard's social foresight was remarkable. As clearly as in the
light of past events, he saw the defection of the favored unions,
the rise and the slow decay of the labor castes, and the struggle
between the decaying oligarchs and labor castes for control of the
great governmental machine.
"But if the Oligarchy persists," I asked him that evening, "what
will become of the great surpluses that will fall to its share
"The surpluses will have to be expended somehow," he answered; "and
trust the oligarchs to find a way. Magnificent roads will be
built. There will be great achievements in science, and especially
in art. When the oligarchs have completely mastered the people,
they will have time to spare for other things. They will become
worshippers of beauty. They will become art-lovers. And under
their direction and generously rewarded, will toil the artists.
The result will be great art; for no longer, as up to yesterday,
will the artists pander to the bourgeois taste of the middle class.
It will be great art, I tell you, and wonder cities will arise that
will make tawdry and cheap the cities of old time. And in these
cities will the oligarchs dwell and worship beauty.*
* We cannot but marvel at Everhard's foresight. Before ever the
thought of wonder cities like Ardis and Asgard entered the minds of
the oligarchs, Everhard saw those cities and the inevitable
necessity for their creation.
"Thus will the surplus be constantly expended while labor does the
work. The building of these great works and cities will give a
starvation ration to millions of common laborers, for the enormous
bulk of the surplus will compel an equally enormous expenditure,
and the oligarchs will build for a thousand years--ay, for ten
thousand years. They will build as the Egyptians and the
Babylonians never dreamed of building; and when the oligarchs have
passed away, their great roads and their wonder cities will remain
for the brotherhood of labor to tread upon and dwell within.*
* And since that day of prophecy, have passed away the three
centuries of the Iron Heel and the four centuries of the
Brotherhood of Man, and to-day we tread the roads and dwell in the
cities that the oligarchs built. It is true, we are even now
building still more wonderful wonder cities, but the wonder cities
of the oligarchs endure, and I write these lines in Ardis, one of
the most wonderful of them all.
"These things the oligarchs will do because they cannot help doing
them. These great works will be the form their expenditure of the
surplus will take, and in the same way that the ruling classes of
Egypt of long ago expended the surplus they robbed from the people
by the building of temples and pyramids. Under the oligarchs will
flourish, not a priest class, but an artist class. And in place of
the merchant class of bourgeoisie will be the labor castes. And
beneath will be the abyss, wherein will fester and starve and rot,
and ever renew itself, the common people, the great bulk of the
population. And in the end, who knows in what day, the common
people will rise up out of the abyss; the labor castes and the
Oligarchy will crumble away; and then, at last, after the travail
of the centuries, will it be the day of the common man. I had
thought to see that day; but now I know that I shall never see it."
He paused and looked at me, and added:
"Social evolution is exasperatingly slow, isn't it, sweetheart?"
My arms were about him, and his head was on my breast.
"Sing me to sleep," he murmured whimsically. "I have had a
visioning, and I wish to forget."
It was near the end of January, 1913, that the changed attitude of
the Oligarchy toward the favored unions was made public. The
newspapers published information of an unprecedented rise in wages
and shortening of hours for the railroad employees, the iron and
steel workers, and the engineers and machinists. But the whole
truth was not told. The oligarchs did not dare permit the telling
of the whole truth. In reality, the wages had been raised much
higher, and the privileges were correspondingly greater. All this
was secret, but secrets will out. Members of the favored unions
told their wives, and the wives gossiped, and soon all the labor
world knew what had happened.
It was merely the logical development of what in the nineteenth
century had been known as grab-sharing. In the industrial warfare
of that time, profit-sharing had been tried. That is, the
capitalists had striven to placate the workers by interesting them
financially in their work. But profit-sharing, as a system, was
ridiculous and impossible. Profit-sharing could be successful only
in isolated cases in the midst of a system of industrial strife;
for if all labor and all capital shared profits, the same
conditions would obtain as did obtain when there was no profit-
So, out of the unpractical idea of profit-sharing, arose the
practical idea of grab-sharing. "Give us more pay and charge it to
the public," was the slogan of the strong unions.* And here and
there this selfish policy worked successfully. In charging it to
the public, it was charged to the great mass of unorganized labor
and of weakly organized labor. These workers actually paid the
increased wages of their stronger brothers who were members of
unions that were labor monopolies. This idea, as I say, was merely
carried to its logical conclusion, on a large scale, by the
combination of the oligarchs and the favored unions.
* All the railroad unions entered into this combination with the
oligarchs, and it is of interest to note that the first definite
application of the policy of profit-grabbing was made by a railroad
union in the nineteenth century A.D., namely, the Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers. P. M. Arthur was for twenty years Grand
Chief of the Brotherhood. After the strike on the Pennsylvania
Railroad in 1877, he broached a scheme to have the Locomotive
Engineers make terms with the railroads and to "go it alone" so far
as the rest of the labor unions were concerned. This scheme was
eminently successful. It was as successful as it was selfish, and
out of it was coined the word "arthurization," to denote grab-
sharing on the part of labor unions. This word "arthurization" has
long puzzled the etymologists, but its derivation, I hope, is now
As soon as the secret of the defection of the favored unions leaked
out, there were rumblings and mutterings in the labor world. Next,
the favored unions withdrew from the international organizations
and broke off all affiliations. Then came trouble and violence.
The members of the favored unions were branded as traitors, and in
saloons and brothels, on the streets and at work, and, in fact,
everywhere, they were assaulted by the comrades they had so
Countless heads were broken, and there were many killed. No member
of the favored unions was safe. They gathered together in bands in
order to go to work or to return from work. They walked always in
the middle of the street. On the sidewalk they were liable to have
their skulls crushed by bricks and cobblestones thrown from windows
and house-tops. They were permitted to carry weapons, and the
authorities aided them in every way. Their persecutors were
sentenced to long terms in prison, where they were harshly treated;
while no man, not a member of the favored unions, was permitted to
carry weapons. Violation of this law was made a high misdemeanor
and punished accordingly.
Outraged labor continued to wreak vengeance on the traitors. Caste
lines formed automatically. The children of the traitors were
persecuted by the children of the workers who had been betrayed,
until it was impossible for the former to play on the streets or to
attend the public schools. Also, the wives and families of the
traitors were ostracized, while the corner groceryman who sold
provisions to them was boycotted.
As a result, driven back upon themselves from every side, the
traitors and their families became clannish. Finding it impossible
to dwell in safety in the midst of the betrayed proletariat, they
moved into new localities inhabited by themselves alone. In this
they were favored by the oligarchs. Good dwellings, modern and
sanitary, were built for them, surrounded by spacious yards, and
separated here and there by parks and playgrounds. Their children
attended schools especially built for them, and in these schools
manual training and applied science were specialized upon. Thus,
and unavoidably, at the very beginning, out of this segregation
arose caste. The members of the favored unions became the
aristocracy of labor. They were set apart from the rest of labor.
They were better housed, better clothed, better fed, better
treated. They were grab-sharing with a vengeance.
In the meantime, the rest of the working class was more harshly
treated. Many little privileges were taken away from it, while its
wages and its standard of living steadily sank down. Incidentally,
its public schools deteriorated, and education slowly ceased to be
compulsory. The increase in the younger generation of children who
could not read nor write was perilous.
The capture of the world-market by the United States had disrupted
the rest of the world. Institutions and governments were
everywhere crashing or transforming. Germany, Italy, France,
Australia, and New Zealand were busy forming cooperative
commonwealths. The British Empire was falling apart. England's
hands were full. In India revolt was in full swing. The cry in
all Asia was, "Asia for the Asiatics!" And behind this cry was
Japan, ever urging and aiding the yellow and brown races against
the white. And while Japan dreamed of continental empire and
strove to realize the dream, she suppressed her own proletarian
revolution. It was a simple war of the castes, Coolie versus
Samurai, and the coolie socialists were executed by tens of
thousands. Forty thousand were killed in the street-fighting of
Tokio and in the futile assault on the Mikado's palace. Kobe was a
shambles; the slaughter of the cotton operatives by machine-guns
became classic as the most terrific execution ever achieved by
modern war machines. Most savage of all was the Japanese Oligarchy
that arose. Japan dominated the East, and took to herself the
whole Asiatic portion of the world-market, with the exception of
England managed to crush her own proletarian revolution and to hold
on to India, though she was brought to the verge of exhaustion.
Also, she was compelled to let her great colonies slip away from
her. So it was that the socialists succeeded in making Australia
and New Zealand into cooperative commonwealths. And it was for the
same reason that Canada was lost to the mother country. But Canada
crushed her own socialist revolution, being aided in this by the
Iron Heel. At the same time, the Iron Heel helped Mexico and Cuba
to put down revolt. The result was that the Iron Heel was firmly
established in the New World. It had welded into one compact
political mass the whole of North America from the Panama Canal to
the Arctic Ocean.
And England, at the sacrifice of her great colonies, had succeeded
only in retaining India. But this was no more than temporary. The
struggle with Japan and the rest of Asia for India was merely
delayed. England was destined shortly to lose India, while behind
that event loomed the struggle between a united Asia and the world.
And while all the world was torn with conflict, we of the United
States were not placid and peaceful. The defection of the great
unions had prevented our proletarian revolt, but violence was
everywhere. In addition to the labor troubles, and the discontent
of the farmers and of the remnant of the middle class, a religious
revival had blazed up. An offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists
sprang into sudden prominence, proclaiming the end of the world.
"Confusion thrice confounded!" Ernest cried. "How can we hope for
solidarity with all these cross purposes and conflicts?"
And truly the religious revival assumed formidable proportions.
The people, what of their wretchedness, and of their disappointment
in all things earthly, were ripe and eager for a heaven where
industrial tyrants entered no more than camels passed through
needle-eyes. Wild-eyed itinerant preachers swarmed over the land;
and despite the prohibition of the civil authorities, and the
persecution for disobedience, the flames of religious frenzy were
fanned by countless camp-meetings.
It was the last days, they claimed, the beginning of the end of the
world. The four winds had been loosed. God had stirred the
nations to strife. It was a time of visions and miracles, while
seers and prophetesses were legion. The people ceased work by
hundreds of thousands and fled to the mountains, there to await the
imminent coming of God and the rising of the hundred and forty and
four thousand to heaven. But in the meantime God did not come, and
they starved to death in great numbers. In their desperation they
ravaged the farms for food, and the consequent tumult and anarchy
in the country districts but increased the woes of the poor
Also, the farms and warehouses were the property of the Iron Heel.
Armies of troops were put into the field, and the fanatics were
herded back at the bayonet point to their tasks in the cities.
There they broke out in ever recurring mobs and riots. Their
leaders were executed for sedition or confined in madhouses. Those
who were executed went to their deaths with all the gladness of
martyrs. It was a time of madness. The unrest spread. In the
swamps and deserts and waste places, from Florida to Alaska, the
small groups of Indians that survived were dancing ghost dances and
waiting the coming of a Messiah of their own.
And through it all, with a serenity and certitude that was
terrifying, continued to rise the form of that monster of the ages,
the Oligarchy. With iron hand and iron heel it mastered the
surging millions, out of confusion brought order, out of the very
chaos wrought its own foundation and structure.
"Just wait till we get in," the Grangers said--Calvin said it to us
in our Pell Street quarters. "Look at the states we've captured.
With you socialists to back us, we'll make them sing another song
when we take office."
"The millions of the discontented and the impoverished are ours,"
the socialists said. "The Grangers have come over to us, the
farmers, the middle class, and the laborers. The capitalist system
will fall to pieces. In another month we send fifty men to
Congress. Two years hence every office will be ours, from the
President down to the local dog-catcher."
To all of which Ernest would shake his head and say:
"How many rifles have you got? Do you know where you can get
plenty of lead? When it comes to powder, chemical mixtures are
better than mechanical mixtures, you take my word."
When it came time for Ernest and me to go to Washington, father did
not accompany us. He had become enamoured of proletarian life. He
looked upon our slum neighborhood as a great sociological
laboratory, and he had embarked upon an apparently endless orgy of
investigation. He chummed with the laborers, and was an intimate
in scores of homes. Also, he worked at odd jobs, and the work was
play as well as learned investigation, for he delighted in it and
was always returning home with copious notes and bubbling over with
new adventures. He was the perfect scientist.
There was no need for his working at all, because Ernest managed to
earn enough from his translating to take care of the three of us.
But father insisted on pursuing his favorite phantom, and a protean
phantom it was, judging from the jobs he worked at. I shall never
forget the evening he brought home his street pedler's outfit of
shoe-laces and suspenders, nor the time I went into the little
corner grocery to make some purchase and had him wait on me. After
that I was not surprised when he tended bar for a week in the
saloon across the street. He worked as a night watchman, hawked
potatoes on the street, pasted labels in a cannery warehouse, was
utility man in a paper-box factory, and water-carrier for a street
railway construction gang, and even joined the Dishwashers' Union
just before it fell to pieces.
I think the Bishop's example, so far as wearing apparel was
concerned, must have fascinated father, for he wore the cheap
cotton shirt of the laborer and the overalls with the narrow strap
about the hips. Yet one habit remained to him from the old life;
he always dressed for dinner, or supper, rather.
I could be happy anywhere with Ernest; and father's happiness in
our changed circumstances rounded out my own happiness.
"When I was a boy," father said, "I was very curious. I wanted to
know why things were and how they came to pass. That was why I
became a physicist. The life in me to-day is just as curious as it
was in my boyhood, and it's the being curious that makes life worth
Sometimes he ventured north of Market Street into the shopping and
theatre district, where he sold papers, ran errands, and opened
cabs. There, one day, closing a cab, he encountered Mr. Wickson.
In high glee father described the incident to us that evening.
"Wickson looked at me sharply when I closed the door on him, and
muttered, "Well, I'll be damned." Just like that he said it,
"Well, I'll be damned." His face turned red and he was so confused
that he forgot to tip me. But he must have recovered himself
quickly, for the cab hadn't gone fifty feet before it turned around
and came back. He leaned out of the door.
"'Look here, Professor,' he said, 'this is too much. What can I do
"'I closed the cab door for you,' I answered. 'According to common
custom you might give me a dime.'
"'Bother that!' he snorted. 'I mean something substantial.'
"He was certainly serious--a twinge of ossified conscience or
something; and so I considered with grave deliberation for a
"His face was quite expectant when I began my answer, but you
should have seen it when I finished.
"'You might give me back my home,' I said, 'and my stock in the
"What did he say?" I questioned eagerly.
"What could he say? He said nothing. But I said. 'I hope you are
happy.' He looked at me curiously. 'Tell me, are you happy?'" I
"He ordered the cabman to drive on, and went away swearing
horribly. And he didn't give me the dime, much less the home and
stock; so you see, my dear, your father's street-arab career is
beset with disappointments."
And so it was that father kept on at our Pell Street quarters,
while Ernest and I went to Washington. Except for the final
consummation, the old order had passed away, and the final
consummation was nearer than I dreamed. Contrary to our
expectation, no obstacles were raised to prevent the socialist
Congressmen from taking their seats. Everything went smoothly, and
I laughed at Ernest when he looked upon the very smoothness as
We found our socialist comrades confident, optimistic of their
strength and of the things they would accomplish. A few Grangers
who had been elected to Congress increased our strength, and an
elaborate programme of what was to be done was prepared by the
united forces. In all of which Ernest joined loyally and
energetically, though he could not forbear, now and again, from
saying, apropos of nothing in particular, "When it comes to powder,
chemical mixtures are better than mechanical mixtures, you take my
The trouble arose first with the Grangers in the various states
they had captured at the last election. There were a dozen of
these states, but the Grangers who had been elected were not
permitted to take office. The incumbents refused to get out. It
was very simple. They merely charged illegality in the elections
and wrapped up the whole situation in the interminable red tape of
the law. The Grangers were powerless. The courts were in the
hands of their enemies.
This was the moment of danger. If the cheated Grangers became
violent, all was lost. How we socialists worked to hold them back!
There were days and nights when Ernest never closed his eyes in
sleep. The big leaders of the Grangers saw the peril and were with
us to a man. But it was all of no avail. The Oligarchy wanted
violence, and it set its agents-provocateurs to work. Without
discussion, it was the agents-provocateurs who caused the Peasant
In a dozen states the revolt flared up. The expropriated farmers
took forcible possession of the state governments. Of course this
was unconstitutional, and of course the United States put its
soldiers into the field. Everywhere the agents-provocateurs urged
the people on. These emissaries of the Iron Heel disguised
themselves as artisans, farmers, and farm laborers. In Sacramento,
the capital of California, the Grangers had succeeded in
maintaining order. Thousands of secret agents were rushed to the
devoted city. In mobs composed wholly of themselves, they fired
and looted buildings and factories. They worked the people up
until they joined them in the pillage. Liquor in large quantities
was distributed among the slum classes further to inflame their
minds. And then, when all was ready, appeared upon the scene the
soldiers of the United States, who were, in reality, the soldiers
of the Iron Heel. Eleven thousand men, women, and children were
shot down on the streets of Sacramento or murdered in their houses.
The national government took possession of the state government,
and all was over for California.
And as with California, so elsewhere. Every Granger state was
ravaged with violence and washed in blood. First, disorder was
precipitated by the secret agents and the Black Hundreds, then the
troops were called out. Rioting and mob-rule reigned throughout
the rural districts. Day and night the smoke of burning farms,
warehouses, villages, and cities filled the sky. Dynamite
appeared. Railroad bridges and tunnels were blown up and trains
were wrecked. The poor farmers were shot and hanged in great
numbers. Reprisals were bitter, and many plutocrats and army
officers were murdered. Blood and vengeance were in men's hearts.
The regular troops fought the farmers as savagely as had they been
Indians. And the regular troops had cause. Twenty-eight hundred
of them had been annihilated in a tremendous series of dynamite
explosions in Oregon, and in a similar manner, a number of train
loads, at different times and places, had been destroyed. So it
was that the regular troops fought for their lives as well as did
As for the militia, the militia law of 1903 was put into effect,
and the workers of one state were compelled, under pain of death,
to shoot down their comrade-workers in other states. Of course,
the militia law did not work smoothly at first. Many militia
officers were murdered, and many militiamen were executed by
drumhead court martial. Ernest's prophecy was strikingly fulfilled
in the cases of Mr. Kowalt and Mr. Asmunsen. Both were eligible
for the militia, and both were drafted to serve in the punitive
expedition that was despatched from California against the farmers
of Missouri. Mr. Kowalt and Mr. Asmunsen refused to serve. They
were given short shrift. Drumhead court martial was their portion,
and military execution their end. They were shot with their backs
to the firing squad.
Many young men fled into the mountains to escape serving in the
militia. There they became outlaws, and it was not until more
peaceful times that they received their punishment. It was
drastic. The government issued a proclamation for all law-abiding
citizens to come in from the mountains for a period of three
months. When the proclaimed date arrived, half a million soldiers
were sent into the mountainous districts everywhere. There was no
investigation, no trial. Wherever a man was encountered, he was
shot down on the spot. The troops operated on the basis that no
man not an outlaw remained in the mountains. Some bands, in strong
positions, fought gallantly, but in the end every deserter from the
militia met death.
A more immediate lesson, however, was impressed on the minds of the
people by the punishment meted out to the Kansas militia. The
great Kansas Mutiny occurred at the very beginning of military
operations against the Grangers. Six thousand of the militia
mutinied. They had been for several weeks very turbulent and
sullen, and for that reason had been kept in camp. Their open
mutiny, however, was without doubt precipitated by the agents-
On the night of the 22d of April they arose and murdered their
officers, only a small remnant of the latter escaping. This was
beyond the scheme of the Iron Heel, for the agents-provocateurs had
done their work too well. But everything was grist to the Iron
Heel. It had prepared for the outbreak, and the killing of so many
officers gave it justification for what followed. As by magic,
forty thousand soldiers of the regular army surrounded the
malcontents. It was a trap. The wretched militiamen found that
their machine-guns had been tampered with, and that the cartridges
from the captured magazines did not fit their rifles. They hoisted
the white flag of surrender, but it was ignored. There were no
survivors. The entire six thousand were annihilated. Common shell
and shrapnel were thrown in upon them from a distance, and, when,
in their desperation, they charged the encircling lines, they were
mowed down by the machine-guns. I talked with an eye-witness, and
he said that the nearest any militiaman approached the machine-guns
was a hundred and fifty yards. The earth was carpeted with the
slain, and a final charge of cavalry, with trampling of horses'
hoofs, revolvers, and sabres, crushed the wounded into the ground.
Simultaneously with the destruction of the Grangers came the revolt
of the coal miners. It was the expiring effort of organized labor.
Three-quarters of a million of miners went out on strike. But they
were too widely scattered over the country to advantage from their
own strength. They were segregated in their own districts and
beaten into submission. This was the first great slave-drive.
Pocock* won his spurs as a slave-driver and earned the undying
hatred of the proletariat. Countless attempts were made upon his
life, but he seemed to bear a charmed existence. It was he who was
responsible for the introduction of the Russian passport system
among the miners, and the denial of their right of removal from one
part of the country to another.
* Albert Pocock, another of the notorious strike-breakers of
earlier years, who, to the day of his death, successfully held all
the coal-miners of the country to their task. He was succeeded by
his son, Lewis Pocock, and for five generations this remarkable
line of slave-drivers handled the coal mines. The elder Pocock,
known as Pocock I., has been described as follows: "A long, lean
head, semicircled by a fringe of brown and gray hair, with big
cheek-bones and a heavy chin, . . . a pale face, lustreless gray
eyes, a metallic voice, and a languid manner." He was born of
humble parents, and began his career as a bartender. He next
became a private detective for a street railway corporation, and by
successive steps developed into a professional strikebreaker.
Pocock V., the last of the line, was blown up in a pump-house by a
bomb during a petty revolt of the miners in the Indian Territory.
This occurred in 2073 A.D.
In the meantime, the socialists held firm. While the Grangers
expired in flame and blood, and organized labor was disrupted, the
socialists held their peace and perfected their secret
organization. In vain the Grangers pleaded with us. We rightly
contended that any revolt on our part was virtually suicide for the
whole Revolution. The Iron Heel, at first dubious about dealing
with the entire proletariat at one time, had found the work easier
than it had expected, and would have asked nothing better than an
uprising on our part. But we avoided the issue, in spite of the
fact that agents-provocateurs swarmed in our midst. In those early
days, the agents of the Iron Heel were clumsy in their methods.
They had much to learn and in the meantime our Fighting Groups
weeded them out. It was bitter, bloody work, but we were fighting
for life and for the Revolution, and we had to fight the enemy with
its own weapons. Yet we were fair. No agent of the Iron Heel was
executed without a trial. We may have made mistakes, but if so,
very rarely. The bravest, and the most combative and self-
sacrificing of our comrades went into the Fighting Groups. Once,
after ten years had passed, Ernest made a calculation from figures
furnished by the chiefs of the Fighting Groups, and his conclusion
was that the average life of a man or woman after becoming a member
was five years. The comrades of the Fighting Groups were heroes
all, and the peculiar thing about it was that they were opposed to
the taking of life. They violated their own natures, yet they
loved liberty and knew of no sacrifice too great to make for the
* These Fighting groups were modelled somewhat after the Fighting
Organization of the Russian Revolution, and, despite the unceasing
efforts of the Iron Heel, these groups persisted throughout the
three centuries of its existence. Composed of men and women
actuated by lofty purpose and unafraid to die, the Fighting Groups
exercised tremendous influence and tempered the savage brutality of
the rulers. Not alone was their work confined to unseen warfare
with the secret agents of the Oligarchy. The oligarchs themselves
were compelled to listen to the decrees of the Groups, and often,
when they disobeyed, were punished by death--and likewise with the
subordinates of the oligarchs, with the officers of the army and
the leaders of the labor castes.
Stern justice was meted out by these organized avengers, but most
remarkable was their passionless and judicial procedure. There
were no snap judgments. When a man was captured he was given fair
trial and opportunity for defence. Of necessity, many men were
tried and condemned by proxy, as in the case of General Lampton.
This occurred in 2138 A.D. Possibly the most bloodthirsty and
malignant of all the mercenaries that ever served the Iron Heel, he
was informed by the Fighting Groups that they had tried him, found
him guilty, and condemned him to death--and this, after three
warnings for him to cease from his ferocious treatment of the
proletariat. After his condemnation he surrounded himself with a
myriad protective devices. Years passed, and in vain the Fighting
Groups strove to execute their decree. Comrade after comrade, men
and women, failed in their attempts, and were cruelly executed by
the Oligarchy. It was the case of General Lampton that revived
crucifixion as a legal method of execution. But in the end the
condemned man found his executioner in the form of a slender girl
of seventeen, Madeline Provence, who, to accomplish her purpose,
served two years in his palace as a seamstress to the household.
She died in solitary confinement after horrible and prolonged
torture; but to-day she stands in imperishable bronze in the
Pantheon of Brotherhood in the wonder city of Serles.
We, who by personal experience know nothing of bloodshed, must not
judge harshly the heroes of the Fighting Groups. They gave up
their lives for humanity, no sacrifice was too great for them to
accomplish, while inexorable necessity compelled them to bloody
expression in an age of blood. The Fighting Groups constituted the
one thorn in the side of the Iron Heel that the Iron Heel could
never remove. Everhard was the father of this curious army, and
its accomplishments and successful persistence for three hundred
years bear witness to the wisdom with which he organized and the
solid foundation he laid for the succeeding generations to build
upon. In some respects, despite his great economic and
sociological contributions, and his work as a general leader in the
Revolution, his organization of the Fighting Groups must be
regarded as his greatest achievement.
The task we set ourselves was threefold. First, the weeding out
from our circles of the secret agents of the Oligarchy. Second,
the organizing of the Fighting Groups, and outside of them, of the
general secret organization of the Revolution. And third, the
introduction of our own secret agents into every branch of the
Oligarchy--into the labor castes and especially among the
telegraphers and secretaries and clerks, into the army, the agents-
provocateurs, and the slave-drivers. It was slow work, and
perilous, and often were our efforts rewarded with costly failures.
The Iron Heel had triumphed in open warfare, but we held our own in
the new warfare, strange and awful and subterranean, that we
instituted. All was unseen, much was unguessed; the blind fought
the blind; and yet through it all was order, purpose, control. We
permeated the entire organization of the Iron Heel with our agents,
while our own organization was permeated with the agents of the
Iron Heel. It was warfare dark and devious, replete with intrigue
and conspiracy, plot and counterplot. And behind all, ever
menacing, was death, violent and terrible. Men and women
disappeared, our nearest and dearest comrades. We saw them to-day.
To-morrow they were gone; we never saw them again, and we knew that
they had died.
There was no trust, no confidence anywhere. The man who plotted
beside us, for all we knew, might be an agent of the Iron Heel. We
mined the organization of the Iron Heel with our secret agents, and
the Iron Heel countermined with its secret agents inside its own
organization. And it was the same with our organization. And
despite the absence of confidence and trust we were compelled to
base our every effort on confidence and trust. Often were we
betrayed. Men were weak. The Iron Heel could offer money,
leisure, the joys and pleasures that waited in the repose of the
wonder cities. We could offer nothing but the satisfaction of
being faithful to a noble ideal. As for the rest, the wages of
those who were loyal were unceasing peril, torture, and death.
Men were weak, I say, and because of their weakness we were
compelled to make the only other reward that was within our power.
It was the reward of death. Out of necessity we had to punish our
traitors. For every man who betrayed us, from one to a dozen
faithful avengers were loosed upon his heels. We might fail to
carry out our decrees against our enemies, such as the Pococks, for
instance; but the one thing we could not afford to fail in was the
punishment of our own traitors. Comrades turned traitor by
permission, in order to win to the wonder cities and there execute
our sentences on the real traitors. In fact, so terrible did we
make ourselves, that it became a greater peril to betray us than to
remain loyal to us.
The Revolution took on largely the character of religion. We
worshipped at the shrine of the Revolution, which was the shrine of
liberty. It was the divine flashing through us. Men and women
devoted their lives to the Cause, and new-born babes were sealed to
it as of old they had been sealed to the service of God. We were
lovers of Humanity.
THE SCARLET LIVERY
With the destruction of the Granger states, the Grangers in
Congress disappeared. They were being tried for high treason, and
their places were taken by the creatures of the Iron Heel. The
socialists were in a pitiful minority, and they knew that their end
was near. Congress and the Senate were empty pretences, farces.
Public questions were gravely debated and passed upon according to
the old forms, while in reality all that was done was to give the
stamp of constitutional procedure to the mandates of the Oligarchy.
Ernest was in the thick of the fight when the end came. It was in
the debate on the bill to assist the unemployed. The hard times of
the preceding year had thrust great masses of the proletariat
beneath the starvation line, and the continued and wide-reaching
disorder had but sunk them deeper. Millions of people were
starving, while the oligarchs and their supporters were surfeiting
on the surplus.* We called these wretched people the people of the
abyss,** and it was to alleviate their awful suffering that the
socialists had introduced the unemployed bill. But this was not to
the fancy of the Iron Heel. In its own way it was preparing to set
these millions to work, but the way was not our way, wherefore it
had issued its orders that our bill should be voted down. Ernest
and his fellows knew that their effort was futile, but they were
tired of the suspense. They wanted something to happen. They were
accomplishing nothing, and the best they hoped for was the putting
of an end to the legislative farce in which they were unwilling
players. They knew not what end would come, but they never
anticipated a more disastrous end than the one that did come.
* The same conditions obtained in the nineteenth century A.D.
under British rule in India. The natives died of starvation by the
million, while their rulers robbed them of the fruits of their toil
and expended it on magnificent pageants and mumbo-jumbo fooleries.
Perforce, in this enlightened age, we have much to blush for in the
acts of our ancestors. Our only consolation is philosophic. We
must accept the capitalistic stage in social evolution as about on
a par with the earlier monkey stage. The human had to pass through
those stages in its rise from the mire and slime of low organic
life. It was inevitable that much of the mire and slime should
cling and be not easily shaken off.
** The people of the abyss--this phrase was struck out by the
genius of H. G. Wells in the late nineteenth century A.D. Wells
was a sociological seer, sane and normal as well as warm human.
Many fragments of his work have come down to us, while two of his
greatest achievements, "Anticipations" and "Mankind in the Making,"
have come down intact. Before the oligarchs, and before Everhard,
Wells speculated upon the building of the wonder cities, though in
his writings they are referred to as "pleasure cities."
I sat in the gallery that day. We all knew that something terrible
was imminent. It was in the air, and its presence was made visible
by the armed soldiers drawn up in lines in the corridors, and by
the officers grouped in the entrances to the House itself. The
Oligarchy was about to strike. Ernest was speaking. He was
describing the sufferings of the unemployed, as if with the wild
idea of in some way touching their hearts and consciences; but the
Republican and Democratic members sneered and jeered at him, and
there was uproar and confusion. Ernest abruptly changed front.
"I know nothing that I may say can influence you," he said. "You
have no souls to be influenced. You are spineless, flaccid things.
You pompously call yourselves Republicans and Democrats. There is
no Republican Party. There is no Democratic Party. There are no
Republicans nor Democrats in this House. You are lick-spittlers
and panderers, the creatures of the Plutocracy. You talk verbosely
in antiquated terminology of your love of liberty, and all the
while you wear the scarlet livery of the Iron Heel."
Here the shouting and the cries of "Order! order!" drowned his
voice, and he stood disdainfully till the din had somewhat
subsided. He waved his hand to include all of them, turned to his
own comrades, and said:
"Listen to the bellowing of the well-fed beasts."
Pandemonium broke out again. The Speaker rapped for order and
glanced expectantly at the officers in the doorways. There were
cries of "Sedition!" and a great, rotund New York member began
shouting "Anarchist!" at Ernest. And Ernest was not pleasant to
look at. Every fighting fibre of him was quivering, and his face
was the face of a fighting animal, withal he was cool and
"Remember," he said, in a voice that made itself heard above the
din, "that as you show mercy now to the proletariat, some day will
that same proletariat show mercy to you."
The cries of "Sedition!" and "Anarchist!" redoubled.
"I know that you will not vote for this bill," Ernest went on.
"You have received the command from your masters to vote against
it. And yet you call me anarchist. You, who have destroyed the
government of the people, and who shamelessly flaunt your scarlet
shame in public places, call me anarchist. I do not believe in
hell-fire and brimstone; but in moments like this I regret my
unbelief. Nay, in moments like this I almost do believe. Surely
there must be a hell, for in no less place could it be possible for
you to receive punishment adequate to your crimes. So long as you
exist, there is a vital need for hell-fire in the Cosmos."
There was movement in the doorways. Ernest, the Speaker, all the
members turned to see.
"Why do you not call your soldiers in, Mr. Speaker, and bid them do
their work?" Ernest demanded. "They should carry out your plan
"There are other plans afoot," was the retort. "That is why the
soldiers are present."
"Our plans, I suppose," Ernest sneered. "Assassination or
But at the word "assassination" the uproar broke out again. Ernest
could not make himself heard, but he remained on his feet waiting
for a lull. And then it happened. From my place in the gallery I
saw nothing except the flash of the explosion. The roar of it
filled my ears and I saw Ernest reeling and falling in a swirl of
smoke, and the soldiers rushing up all the aisles. His comrades
were on their feet, wild with anger, capable of any violence. But
Ernest steadied himself for a moment, and waved his arms for
"It is a plot!" his voice rang out in warning to his comrades. "Do
nothing, or you will be destroyed."
Then he slowly sank down, and the soldiers reached him. The next
moment soldiers were clearing the galleries and I saw no more.
Though he was my husband, I was not permitted to get to him. When
I announced who I was, I was promptly placed under arrest. And at
the same time were arrested all socialist Congressmen in
Washington, including the unfortunate Simpson, who lay ill with
typhoid fever in his hotel.
The trial was prompt and brief. The men were foredoomed. The
wonder was that Ernest was not executed. This was a blunder on the
part of the Oligarchy, and a costly one. But the Oligarchy was too
confident in those days. It was drunk with success, and little did
it dream that that small handful of heroes had within them the
power to rock it to its foundations. To-morrow, when the Great
Revolt breaks out and all the world resounds with the tramp, tramp
of the millions, the Oligarchy, will realize, and too late, how
mightily that band of heroes has grown.*
* Avis Everhard took for granted that her narrative would be read
in her own day, and so omits to mention the outcome of the trial
for high treason. Many other similar disconcerting omissions will
be noticed in the Manuscript. Fifty-two socialist Congressmen were
tried, and all were found guilty. Strange to relate, not one
received the death sentence. Everhard and eleven others, among
whom were Theodore Donnelson and Matthew Kent, received life
imprisonment. The remaining forty received sentences varying from
thirty to forty-five years; while Arthur Simpson, referred to in
the Manuscript as being ill of typhoid fever at the time of the
explosion, received only fifteen years. It is the tradition that
he died of starvation in solitary confinement, and this harsh
treatment is explained as having been caused by his uncompromising
stubbornness and his fiery and tactless hatred for all men that
served the despotism. He died in Cabanas in Cuba, where three of
his comrades were also confined. The fifty-two socialist
Congressmen were confined in military fortresses scattered all over
the United States. Thus, Du Bois and Woods were held in Porto
Rico, while Everhard and Merryweather were placed in Alcatraz, an
island in San Francisco Bay that had already seen long service as a
As a revolutionist myself, as one on the inside who knew the hopes
and fears and secret plans of the revolutionists, I am fitted to
answer, as very few are, the charge that they were guilty of
exploding the bomb in Congress. And I can say flatly, without
qualification or doubt of any sort, that the socialists, in
Congress and out, had no hand in the affair. Who threw the bomb we
do not know, but the one thing we are absolutely sure of is that we
did not throw it.
On the other hand, there is evidence to show that the Iron Heel was
responsible for the act. Of course, we cannot prove this. Our
conclusion is merely presumptive. But here are such facts as we do
know. It had been reported to the Speaker of the House, by secret-
service agents of the government, that the Socialist Congressmen
were about to resort to terroristic tactics, and that they had
decided upon the day when their tactics would go into effect. This
day was the very day of the explosion. Wherefore the Capitol had
been packed with troops in anticipation. Since we knew nothing
about the bomb, and since a bomb actually was exploded, and since
the authorities had prepared in advance for the explosion, it is
only fair to conclude that the Iron Heel did know. Furthermore, we
charge that the Iron Heel was guilty of the outrage, and that the
Iron Heel planned and perpetrated the outrage for the purpose of
foisting the guilt on our shoulders and so bringing about our
From the Speaker the warning leaked out to all the creatures in the
House that wore the scarlet livery. They knew, while Ernest was
speaking, that some violent act was to be committed. And to do
them justice, they honestly believed that the act was to be
committed by the socialists. At the trial, and still with honest
belief, several testified to having seen Ernest prepare to throw
the bomb, and that it exploded prematurely. Of course they saw
nothing of the sort. In the fevered imagination of fear they
thought they saw, that was all.
As Ernest said at the trial: "Does it stand to reason, if I were
going to throw a bomb, that I should elect to throw a feeble little
squib like the one that was thrown? There wasn't enough powder in
it. It made a lot of smoke, but hurt no one except me. It
exploded right at my feet, and yet it did not kill me. Believe me,
when I get to throwing bombs, I'll do damage. There'll be more
than smoke in my petards."
In return it was argued by the prosecution that the weakness of the
bomb was a blunder on the part of the socialists, just as its
premature explosion, caused by Ernest's losing his nerve and
dropping it, was a blunder. And to clinch the argument, there were
the several Congressmen who testified to having seen Ernest fumble
and drop the bomb.
As for ourselves, not one of us knew how the bomb was thrown.
Ernest told me that the fraction of an instant before it exploded
he both heard and saw it strike at his feet. He testified to this
at the trial, but no one believed him. Besides, the whole thing,
in popular slang, was "cooked up." The Iron Heel had made up its
mind to destroy us, and there was no withstanding it.
There is a saying that truth will out. I have come to doubt that
saying. Nineteen years have elapsed, and despite our untiring
efforts, we have failed to find the man who really did throw the
bomb. Undoubtedly he was some emissary of the Iron Heel, but he
has escaped detection. We have never got the slightest clew to his
identity. And now, at this late date, nothing remains but for the
affair to take its place among the mysteries of history.*
* Avis Everhard would have had to live for many generations ere she
could have seen the clearing up of this particular mystery. A
little less than a hundred years ago, and a little more than six
hundred years after the death, the confession of Pervaise was
discovered in the secret archives of the Vatican. It is perhaps
well to tell a little something about this obscure document, which,
in the main, is of interest to the historian only.
Pervaise was an American, of French descent, who in 1913 A.D., was
lying in the Tombs Prison, New York City, awaiting trial for
murder. From his confession we learn that he was not a criminal.
He was warm-blooded, passionate, emotional. In an insane fit of
jealousy he killed his wife--a very common act in those times.
Pervaise was mastered by the fear of death, all of which is
recounted at length in his confession. To escape death he would
have done anything, and the police agents prepared him by assuring
him that he could not possibly escape conviction of murder in the
first degree when his trial came off. In those days, murder in the
first degree was a capital offense. The guilty man or woman was
placed in a specially constructed death-chair, and, under the
supervision of competent physicians, was destroyed by a current of
electricity. This was called electrocution, and it was very
popular during that period. Anaesthesia, as a mode of compulsory
death, was not introduced until later.
This man, good at heart but with a ferocious animalism close at the
surface of his being, lying in jail and expectant of nothing less
than death, was prevailed upon by the agents of the Iron Heel to
throw the bomb in the House of Representatives. In his confession
he states explicitly that he was informed that the bomb was to be a
feeble thing and that no lives would be lost. This is directly in
line with the fact that the bomb was lightly charged, and that its
explosion at Everhard's feet was not deadly.
Pervaise was smuggled into one of the galleries ostensibly closed
for repairs. He was to select the moment for the throwing of the
bomb, and he naively confesses that in his interest in Everhard's
tirade and the general commotion raised thereby, he nearly forgot
Not only was he released from prison in reward for his deed, but he
was granted an income for life. This he did not long enjoy. In
1914 A.D., in September, he was stricken with rheumatism of the
heart and lived for three days. It was then that he sent for the
Catholic priest, Father Peter Durban, and to him made confession.
So important did it seem to the priest, that he had the confession
taken down in writing and sworn to. What happened after this we
can only surmise. The document was certainly important enough to
find its way to Rome. Powerful influences must have been brought
to bear, hence its suppression. For centuries no hint of its
existence reached the world. It was not until in the last century
that Lorbia, the brilliant Italian scholar, stumbled upon it quite
by chance during his researches in the Vatican.
There is to-day no doubt whatever that the Iron Heel was
responsible for the bomb that exploded in the House of
Representatives in 1913 A.D. Even though the Pervaise confession
had never come to light, no reasonable doubt could obtain; for the
act in question, that sent fifty-two Congressmen to prison, was on
a par with countless other acts committed by the oligarchs, and,
before them, by the capitalists.
There is the classic instance of the ferocious and wanton judicial
murder of the innocent and so-called Haymarket Anarchists in
Chicago in the penultimate decade of the nineteenth century A.D.
In a category by itself is the deliberate burning and destruction
of capitalist property by the capitalists themselves. For such
destruction of property innocent men were frequently punished--
"railroaded" in the parlance of the times.
In the labor troubles of the first decade of the twentieth century
A.D., between the capitalists and the Western Federation of Miners,
similar but more bloody tactics were employed. The railroad
station at Independence was blown up by the agents of the
capitalists. Thirteen men were killed, and many more were wounded.
And then the capitalists, controlling the legislative and judicial
machinery of the state of Colorado, charged the miners with the
crime and came very near to convicting them. Romaines, one of the
tools in this affair, like Pervaise, was lying in jail in another
state, Kansas, awaiting trial, when he was approached by the agents
of the capitalists. But, unlike Pervaise the confession of
Romaines was made public in his own time.
Then, during this same period, there was the case of Moyer and
Haywood, two strong, fearless leaders of labor. One was president
and the other was secretary of the Western Federation of Miners.
The ex-governor of Idaho had been mysteriously murdered. The
crime, at the time, was openly charged to the mine owners by the
socialists and miners. Nevertheless, in violation of the national
and state constitutions, and by means of conspiracy on the parts of
the governors of Idaho and Colorado, Moyer and Haywood were
kidnapped, thrown into jail, and charged with the murder. It was
this instance that provoked from Eugene V. Debs, national leader of
the American socialists at the time, the following words: "The
labor leaders that cannot be bribed nor bullied, must be ambushed
and murdered. The only crime of Moyer and Haywood is that they
have been unswervingly true to the working class. The capitalists
have stolen our country, debauched our politics, defiled our
judiciary, and ridden over us rough-shod, and now they propose to
murder those who will not abjectly surrender to their brutal
dominion. The governors of Colorado and Idaho are but executing
the mandates of their masters, the Plutocracy. The issue is the
Workers versus the Plutocracy. If they strike the first violent
blow, we will strike the last."
IN THE SHADOW OF SONOMA
Of myself, during this period, there is not much to say. For six
months I was kept in prison, though charged with no crime. I was a
suspect--a word of fear that all revolutionists were soon to come
to know. But our own nascent secret service was beginning to work.
By the end of my second month in prison, one of the jailers made
himself known as a revolutionist in touch with the organization.
Several weeks later, Joseph Parkhurst, the prison doctor who had
just been appointed, proved himself to be a member of one of the
Thus, throughout the organization of the Oligarchy, our own
organization, weblike and spidery, was insinuating itself. And so
I was kept in touch with all that was happening in the world
without. And furthermore, every one of our imprisoned leaders was
in contact with brave comrades who masqueraded in the livery of the
Iron Heel. Though Ernest lay in prison three thousand miles away,
on the Pacific Coast, I was in unbroken communication with him, and
our letters passed regularly back and forth.
The leaders, in prison and out, were able to discuss and direct the
campaign. It would have been possible, within a few months, to
have effected the escape of some of them; but since imprisonment
proved no bar to our activities, it was decided to avoid anything
premature. Fifty-two Congressmen were in prison, and fully three
hundred more of our leaders. It was planned that they should be
delivered simultaneously. If part of them escaped, the vigilance
of the oligarchs might be aroused so as to prevent the escape of
the remainder. On the other hand, it was held that a simultaneous
jail-delivery all over the land would have immense psychological
influence on the proletariat. It would show our strength and give
So it was arranged, when I was released at the end of six months,
that I was to disappear and prepare a secure hiding-place for
Ernest. To disappear was in itself no easy thing. No sooner did I
get my freedom than my footsteps began to be dogged by the spies of
the Iron Heel. It was necessary that they should be thrown off the
track, and that I should win to California. It is laughable, the
way this was accomplished.
Already the passport system, modelled on the Russian, was
developing. I dared not cross the continent in my own character.
It was necessary that I should be completely lost if ever I was to
see Ernest again, for by trailing me after he escaped, he would be
caught once more. Again, I could not disguise myself as a
proletarian and travel. There remained the disguise of a member of
the Oligarchy. While the arch-oligarchs were no more than a
handful, there were myriads of lesser ones of the type, say, of Mr.
Wickson--men, worth a few millions, who were adherents of the arch-
oligarchs. The wives and daughters of these lesser oligarchs were
legion, and it was decided that I should assume the disguise of
such a one. A few years later this would have been impossible,
because the passport system was to become so perfect that no man,
woman, nor child in all the land was unregistered and unaccounted
for in his or her movements.
When the time was ripe, the spies were thrown off my track. An
hour later Avis Everhard was no more. At that time one Felice Van
Verdighan, accompanied by two maids and a lap-dog, with another
maid for the lap-dog,* entered a drawing-room on a Pullman,** and a
few minutes later was speeding west.
* This ridiculous picture well illustrates the heartless conduct of
the masters. While people starved, lap-dogs were waited upon by
maids. This was a serious masquerade on the part of Avis Everhard.
Life and death and the Cause were in the issue; therefore the
picture must be accepted as a true picture. It affords a striking
commentary of the times.
** Pullman--the designation of the more luxurious railway cars of
the period and so named from the inventor.
The three maids who accompanied me were revolutionists. Two were
members of the Fighting Groups, and the third, Grace Holbrook,
entered a group the following year, and six months later was
executed by the Iron Heel. She it was who waited upon the dog. Of
the other two, Bertha Stole disappeared twelve years later, while
Anna Roylston still lives and plays an increasingly important part
in the Revolution.*
* Despite continual and almost inconceivable hazards, Anna Roylston
lived to the royal age of ninety-one. As the Pococks defied the
executioners of the Fighting Groups, so she defied the executioners
of the Iron Heel. She bore a charmed life and prospered amid
dangers and alarms. She herself was an executioner for the
Fighting Groups, and, known as the Red Virgin, she became one of
the inspired figures of the Revolution. When she was an old woman
of sixty-nine she shot "Bloody" Halcliffe down in the midst of his
armed escort and got away unscathed. In the end she died peaceably
of old age in a secret refuge of the revolutionists in the Ozark
Without adventure we crossed the United States to California. When
the train stopped at Sixteenth Street Station, in Oakland, we
alighted, and there Felice Van Verdighan, with her two maids, her
lap-dog, and her lap-dog's maid, disappeared forever. The maids,
guided by trusty comrades, were led away. Other comrades took
charge of me. Within half an hour after leaving the train I was on
board a small fishing boat and out on the waters of San Francisco
Bay. The winds baffled, and we drifted aimlessly the greater part
of the night. But I saw the lights of Alcatraz where Ernest lay,
and found comfort in the thought of nearness to him. By dawn, what
with the rowing of the fishermen, we made the Marin Islands. Here
we lay in hiding all day, and on the following night, swept on by a
flood tide and a fresh wind, we crossed San Pablo Bay in two hours
and ran up Petaluma Creek.
Here horses were ready and another comrade, and without delay we
were away through the starlight. To the north I could see the loom
of Sonoma Mountain, toward which we rode. We left the old town of
Sonoma to the right and rode up a canyon that lay between outlying
buttresses of the mountain. The wagon-road became a wood-road, the
wood-road became a cow-path, and the cow-path dwindled away and
ceased among the upland pastures. Straight over Sonoma Mountain we
rode. It was the safest route. There was no one to mark our
Dawn caught us on the northern brow, and in the gray light we
dropped down through chaparral into redwood canyons deep and warm
with the breath of passing summer. It was old country to me that I
knew and loved, and soon I became the guide. The hiding-place was
mine. I had selected it. We let down the bars and crossed an
upland meadow. Next, we went over a low, oak-covered ridge and
descended into a smaller meadow. Again we climbed a ridge, this
time riding under red-limbed madronos and manzanitas of deeper red.
The first rays of the sun streamed upon our backs as we climbed. A
flight of quail thrummed off through the thickets. A big
jackrabbit crossed our path, leaping swiftly and silently like a
deer. And then a deer, a many-pronged buck, the sun flashing red-
gold from neck and shoulders, cleared the crest of the ridge before
us and was gone.
We followed in his wake a space, then dropped down a zigzag trail
that he disdained into a group of noble redwoods that stood about a
pool of water murky with minerals from the mountain side. I knew
every inch of the way. Once a writer friend of mine had owned the
ranch; but he, too, had become a revolutionist, though more
disastrously than I, for he was already dead and gone, and none
knew where nor how. He alone, in the days he had lived, knew the
secret of the hiding-place for which I was bound. He had bought
the ranch for beauty, and paid a round price for it, much to the
disgust of the local farmers. He used to tell with great glee how
they were wont to shake their heads mournfully at the price, to
accomplish ponderously a bit of mental arithmetic, and then to say,
"But you can't make six per cent on it."
But he was dead now, nor did the ranch descend to his children. Of
all men, it was now the property of Mr. Wickson, who owned the
whole eastern and northern slopes of Sonoma Mountain, running from
the Spreckels estate to the divide of Bennett Valley. Out of it he
had made a magnificent deer-park, where, over thousands of acres of
sweet slopes and glades and canyons, the deer ran almost in
primitive wildness. The people who had owned the soil had been
driven away. A state home for the feeble-minded had also been
demolished to make room for the deer.
To cap it all, Wickson's hunting lodge was a quarter of a mile from
my hiding-place. This, instead of being a danger, was an added
security. We were sheltered under the very aegis of one of the
minor oligarchs. Suspicion, by the nature of the situation, was
turned aside. The last place in the world the spies of the Iron
Heel would dream of looking for me, and for Ernest when he joined
me, was Wickson's deer-park.
We tied our horses among the redwoods at the pool. From a cache
behind a hollow rotting log my companion brought out a variety of
things,--a fifty-pound sack of flour, tinned foods of all sorts,
cooking utensils, blankets, a canvas tarpaulin, books and writing
material, a great bundle of letters, a five-gallon can of kerosene,
an oil stove, and, last and most important, a large coil of stout
rope. So large was the supply of things that a number of trips
would be necessary to carry them to the refuge.
But the refuge was very near. Taking the rope and leading the way,
I passed through a glade of tangled vines and bushes that ran
between two wooded knolls. The glade ended abruptly at the steep
bank of a stream. It was a little stream, rising from springs, and
the hottest summer never dried it up. On every hand were tall
wooded knolls, a group of them, with all the seeming of having been
flung there from some careless Titan's hand. There was no bed-rock
in them. They rose from their bases hundreds of feet, and they
were composed of red volcanic earth, the famous wine-soil of
Sonoma. Through these the tiny stream had cut its deep and
It was quite a scramble down to the stream bed, and, once on the
bed, we went down stream perhaps for a hundred feet. And then we
came to the great hole. There was no warning of the existence of
the hole, nor was it a hole in the common sense of the word. One
crawled through tight-locked briers and branches, and found oneself
on the very edge, peering out and down through a green screen. A
couple of hundred feet in length and width, it was half of that in
depth. Possibly because of some fault that had occurred when the
knolls were flung together, and certainly helped by freakish
erosion, the hole had been scooped out in the course of centuries
by the wash of water. Nowhere did the raw earth appear. All was
garmented by vegetation, from tiny maiden-hair and gold-back ferns
to mighty redwood and Douglas spruces. These great trees even
sprang out from the walls of the hole. Some leaned over at angles
as great as forty-five degrees, though the majority towered
straight up from the soft and almost perpendicular earth walls.
It was a perfect hiding-place. No one ever came there, not even
the village boys of Glen Ellen. Had this hole existed in the bed
of a canyon a mile long, or several miles long, it would have been
well known. But this was no canyon. From beginning to end the
length of the stream was no more than five hundred yards. Three
hundred yards above the hole the stream took its rise in a spring
at the foot of a flat meadow. A hundred yards below the hole the
stream ran out into open country, joining the main stream and
flowing across rolling and grass-covered land.
My companion took a turn of the rope around a tree, and with me
fast on the other end lowered away. In no time I was on the
bottom. And in but a short while he had carried all the articles
from the cache and lowered them down to me. He hauled the rope up
and hid it, and before he went away called down to me a cheerful
Before I go on I want to say a word for this comrade, John Carlson,
a humble figure of the Revolution, one of the countless faithful
ones in the ranks. He worked for Wickson, in the stables near the
hunting lodge. In fact, it was on Wickson's horses that we had
ridden over Sonoma Mountain. For nearly twenty years now John
Carlson has been custodian of the refuge. No thought of
disloyalty, I am sure, has ever entered his mind during all that
time. To betray his trust would have been in his mind a thing
undreamed. He was phlegmatic, stolid to such a degree that one
could not but wonder how the Revolution had any meaning to him at
all. And yet love of freedom glowed sombrely and steadily in his
dim soul. In ways it was indeed good that he was not flighty and
imaginative. He never lost his head. He could obey orders, and he
was neither curious nor garrulous. Once I asked how it was that he
was a revolutionist.
"When I was a young man I was a soldier," was his answer. "It was
in Germany. There all young men must be in the army. So I was in
the army. There was another soldier there, a young man, too. His
father was what you call an agitator, and his father was in jail
for lese majesty--what you call speaking the truth about the
Emperor. And the young man, the son, talked with me much about
people, and work, and the robbery of the people by the capitalists.
He made me see things in new ways, and I became a socialist. His
talk was very true and good, and I have never forgotten. When I
came to the United States I hunted up the socialists. I became a
member of a section--that was in the day of the S. L. P. Then
later, when the split came, I joined the local of the S. P. I was
working in a livery stable in San Francisco then. That was before
the Earthquake. I have paid my dues for twenty-two years. I am
yet a member, and I yet pay my dues, though it is very secret now.
I will always pay my dues, and when the cooperative commonwealth
comes, I will be glad."
Left to myself, I proceeded to cook breakfast on the oil stove and
to prepare my home. Often, in the early morning, or in the evening
after dark, Carlson would steal down to the refuge and work for a
couple of hours. At first my home was the tarpaulin. Later, a
small tent was put up. And still later, when we became assured of
the perfect security of the place, a small house was erected. This
house was completely hidden from any chance eye that might peer
down from the edge of the hole. The lush vegetation of that
sheltered spot make a natural shield. Also, the house was built
against the perpendicular wall; and in the wall itself, shored by
strong timbers, well drained and ventilated, we excavated two small
rooms. Oh, believe me, we had many comforts. When Biedenbach, the
German terrorist, hid with us some time later, he installed a
smoke-consuming device that enabled us to sit by crackling wood
fires on winter nights.
And here I must say a word for that gentle-souled terrorist, than
whom there is no comrade in the Revolution more fearfully
misunderstood. Comrade Biedenbach did not betray the Cause. Nor
was he executed by the comrades as is commonly supposed. This
canard was circulated by the creatures of the Oligarchy. Comrade
Biedenbach was absent-minded, forgetful. He was shot by one of our
lookouts at the cave-refuge at Carmel, through failure on his part
to remember the secret signals. It was all a sad mistake. And
that he betrayed his Fighting Group is an absolute lie. No truer,
more loyal man ever labored for the Cause.*
Back to Full Books