anarchy archives

An Online Research Center on the History and Theory of Anarchism



About Us

Contact Us

Other Links

Critics Corner


The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War

This work appears in Anarchy Archives with permission of International Publishers Co. 239 W 23rd Street - New York, NY and located on the web at:

Labor agitator: The story of Albert R. Parsons

Alan Calmer

New York, International publishers, 1937.



Under this flamboyant slogan, which was now the guiding principle of their party, the Socialists moved from one success at the polls to another. The slogan was probably the creation of John McIntosh, labor bard, who now edited the party newspaper. Besides contributing a topical poem to almost every issue of the National Socialist, he often embroidered the aims of the party in ornate prose.

"We desire to inflict upon men a Promethean agony," he declared, in an editorial note, "chaining them to a sense of misery, feeling the vulture of harrowing, harassing discontent forever preying upon their peace. We want them to be victims of a fierce, gnawing, intolerable conviction of a personal injury -- a withering sense of infernal outrage, so utterly absorbing as to stop up all avenues to enjoyment cultivating a thirsting, savage longing for relief -- but, remember, through the ballot box. No murder, no arson, no violence of any kind; unless insisted on by combining bosses -- then up and at it like a whirlwind."

Parsons' trade union work tended to draw him away from the National Socialist. The paper was edited from Cincinnati under the supervision of Van Fatten, who now lived there and who had steered the Socialists in their present political direction. The unionists in the party favored the Labor Standard, and there was a feud between the two papers. Because he was immersed in trade union organization, Parsons found the Labor Standard more receptive to his interests; he acted as reporter for it and even became its Chicago agent. He also began to develop differences with the National Socialist, and was denounced in its pages.

However, the National Socialist was running into financial trouble; factional struggles had almost completely destroyed the Cincinnati section of the Socialistic Labor party and the newspaper could get no local support. Meanwhile, the Chicago section was proceeding with plans for an English paper of its own. In view of these circumstances, Van Fatten made several trips to Chicago and, after threshing the whole matter out with Morgan, Parsons and others, he patched up the split and effected a plan whereby the new local paper, to be called the Socialist, would become the national English organ of the party. Parsons was appointed assistant editor.

In preparation for the coming state elections, the new paper was launched early in the fall of '78. September and October were busy months for the Chicagoans. Their campaign apparatus had been improved a great deal. They held a convention late in September and nominated a complete state ticket.

One of the high spots of the campaign was their election rally songs, composed by their "untamed troubadour," W. B. Creech. He had a new tune for almost every occasion. At large meetings the crowd would usually listen to the pyrotechnics of John McAuliffe, who was running for Congress. "Let us yank, and thunder, and roar, and storm, and charge, at the ballot box," he would declaim, "and having thus peaceably, yet boldly, won the victory, we will enjoy it, or know the reason why....Fellow workers," he would end, "be true to yourselves, desert the enemy, and the morn following election, Labor's sun will rise radiant with glory!" Then the crowd would yell for Creech; he would step sprily to the platform and in his strong, clear voice, sing:

Then raise your voices, workingmen,
Against such cowardly hirelings, 0!
Go to the polls and slaughter them,
With ballots, instead of bullets, 0!

Or, after a less fiery address, he would chant:

Let us rally once again;
We must work with might and main;
Bear a hand, Old Politics to throw away;
Stand for Socialistic light,
And each man demand his right--
Shorter hours to work and for us better pay.

His lyrics were printed on the front page of the Socialist and were sung wherever the workers assembled. At an election rally held during a Sunday afternoon on the corner of Larrabee and Crosby streets, Parsons opened the meeting by singing Creech's "Socialist Wagon":

...So come, my friends, and join us,
And you'll never rue the day,
For we'll change this present system
To the Socialistic way.

He read the local platform and urged the spectators not to vote for the old parties because they were "simply the agencies by which the possessory class would mislead, divide and then plunder the worker of the fruits of his labor." A little later he introduced McIntosh, who had come to Chicago; and the "poet laureate" of the Socialistic Labor party helped out by reciting some new verses, which were boisterously applauded.

The last weeks before election, meetings multiplied. Torchlight parades, brass bands, calcium-lighted platforms for the speakers-were nightly events. On vacant lots, in the open street, with a wagon or beer barrels for a speaking stand -- wherever a spot could be found, Parsons and his comrades electioneered.

November 5 was bright and clear. Men standing on wagons and waving the Union and the red flags, drove through the streets. VOTERS, DO NOT VOTE AS HERETOFORE FOR CORRUPTIVE POLITICIANS AND OFFICE SEEKERS -- read one of their banners. Socialist voting was heavy in working-class sections, in the fifteenth and sixteenth wards, especially in the evening when the laborers came from the shops to cast their ballots. In spite of all sorts of tricks and interference, the party elected three representatives and one senator to the state legislature.

The evening after election, the Socialists celebrated at their headquarters, which was lighted up brilliantly, the entrance illuminated with Chinese lanterns. What a contrast it presented to the office of their rivals, the Greenbackers, for the latter had made a very poor showing. "Notwithstanding the Greenback party sought to bargain with everybody willing to sell out to the highest bidder," the Socialist declared gleefully, "the Socialists, who stood firm and unwavering, have by far outnumbered them in votes."

Celebrations lasted for more than a week and culminated in a large mass meeting where the elected representatives spoke. In the center of the stage stood a life-size portrait of a prominent European Socialist, guarded by pictures of Lincoln and Washington, and surrounded by a sea of emblems and red flags. From the gallery were suspended the trade union banners, and pyramids of Stacked guns were in the background. Creech was ready with a stirring song, and everybody joined in the chorus:

Raise aloft the crimson banner,
Emblem of the free,
Mighty tyrants now are trembling,
Here and o'er the sea.


This page has been accessed times since June 6, 2006.


[Home]               [Search]               [About Us]               [Contact Us]               [Other Links]               [Critics Corner]