Alexander Berkman has been released from the Tombs Prison without bail. On November 10th, the second thirty-day extradition period had expired. Again our friend had to go through the farce of signing himself back into the Tombs. It was even a more painful procedure than last month, in view of the fact that the motion for bail had been denied.
The group of faithful friends who had gathered in the court room on the morning of the 10th and who were given a chance to visit Alexander Berkman, with heavy hearts saw him go back to jail. Our gloom increased when we were told two days later that there was no legal ground for bail and that we had better make up our minds that Berkman must remain in the Tombs until he is sent back to Atlanta Prison.
Then on Tuesday, November 13th, came the marvelous news which was conveyed to our Attorney, Harry Weinberger, by the District Attorney of Albany representing California; District Attorney Fickert temporarily withdrew the request for the extradition of Alexander Berkman until the appeal in the anti-draft case is decided. Harry Weinberger immediately got on the job to get A.B. released. But the red tape of the law robbed our friend of another day. Finally, Wednesday, November 14th, at noon, Alexander Berkman walked out a free man.
What caused the miracle? Did District Attorney Fickert have a change of heart? Did he wake up to the realization that for the last eighteen months he had been engaged in a black crime against innocent human beings? Did he wish to make good by letting Berkman go free, to be followed by the release of the others? That would have indeed been a miracle of the kind that never happens.
No, Fickert is still on the job holding on to his victims who had the misfortune to fall into his clutches. But there is the Federal Commission looking into his crooked cards. There, too, is his recall staring him in the face. There is the big movement which sprung up into being to save Alexander Berkman from the fate of Mooney and the others.
Last, but not least, there is the fact that as a Federal prisoner, A.B. would not have been turned over to San Francisco so easily. Anyway, District Attorney Fickert after a heart-breaking struggle decided not to insist for the present on the extradition of his sixth victim.
Well, our Comrade is free -free to go about, free to visit his friends, free to enjoy the glorious weather we are having in New York now. But let no one be deceived as to the safety of Alexander Berkman. So long as Billings is languishing in Folsom prison with his last chance of a new trial denied, so long as the gallows is awaiting Mooney, and Rena is still in jail, so long as Weinberg is being put through the same hideous farce of a trial, and Nolan is to come next, A.B. is not safe. Our work, then, must not stop for one single moment. There is too much danger ahead.
The loud little handful -as usual -will shout for the war. The pulpit will -wearily and cautiously -object -at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing, the speakers stoned from the platforms, and the free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -as earlier -but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -pulpit and all -will take up the war-cry and shout itself hoarse and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception." -Mark Twain, in "The Mysterious Stranger."
Some day the finger of history will point out the truth concerning the Boylsheviki of Russia and the tremendous significance of that movement. Nor need the time be long postponed, for the essential features of the Maximalist Revolution stand out in bold relief on the darkened horizon of Russia, all wilful and malicious press disfigurement notwithstanding.
A brief synopsis of recent Russian events may clear the view.
The dethronement of the Tsar and his clique came over night, and almost bloodlessly. The most powerful and feared autocrat of the world passed like a shadow, leaving hardly a trace of his existence. The régime of brutality and slavery had thoroughly undermined its own foundation, and the intensive revolutionary propaganda finally swept away the tottering pillars. A puff, and the whole structure was gone.
But the Constitutional Democrats, risen to power, had absolutely nothing to offer to the people. Representing the upper end middle business classes -the Russian bourgeoisie -the only raison d'être the cadets had, politically, was the protection of the interests of the landowners and commercial elements. Aside of paper constitutions and hollow "reforms" they could afford no relief to long-suffering Russia. But the people, the great proletariat of field and factory, was clamoring for the fruit of the Tsar's fall. It demanded Land and Well-being. The Cadets could not serve two masters, as no one can. The political representatives of Russian capitalism, they could not satisfy the need of the masses. The Cadets had to go.
The Kerensky government realized the situation. It knew that the people must have something more concrete than "Liberty" blazoned from the Winter Palace. Kerensky, the social revolutionist, began with a drastic measure -the famous Military Order No. 1, proclaiming the equality of soldiers and officers as common tovarishchi (comrades) of the Revolution. Differences in rank were virtually abolished, the soldier was not required to salute his officers, and the rank and file organized their own committees which chose officers for command. This endeared Kerensky to the army. It was the outward symbol of real Liberty to come, the first significant gesture of the Social Revolution. And Kerensky felt safe in the saddle.
But "gestures" alone, however revolutionary and unique, could not long still the passionate hunger for Land and Well-being. Nor could the most eloquent speeches of Kerensky and Co. The soldier-peasant took him at his word, literally, with the peasant's splendid naivity. He had real liberty this time, he was told. Liberty meant to him Land, and by the hundred thousand soldiers dropped their guns, and went back, peaceful and happy peasants, to the land, their land at last.
"Why, indeed, continue to fight," the soldier-peasant argued. "It's the Tsar's war, and now we're rid of him and his brood. Let's go home, then."
He did, almost two millions of them.
Kerensky faced a profound dilemma. The people -the city workers and the peasants -demanded the immediate solution of most vital problems: the redistribution of the land, the confiscation of royal, ducal, church, etc., property, and the arrangement of economic and industrial life according to the program of the Social Revolutionary Party, the program propagated by Kerensky for many years.
Gigantic as the task was, it was neither impossible nor impracticable. The bulk of the country expected it; nay, demanded it. The people were ready for it. It was a job for a strong man. But Kerensky, the Hamlet nature, vaccillated between the Social Revolution and the middle classes. He sought to compromise with the latter by inviting Cadets into his Cabinet, and ended by compromising the Revolution.
The Boylsheviki alone have the faith and the strength of actually putting the program of the Social Revolution into operation. All the revolutionary parties of Russia have preached it -the Social Democrats and the Social Revolutionists, the Bundists, Anarchists, Syndicalists and Internationalists. The Boylsheviki are of all these parties, though mainly of the Social Revolutionists and Social Democrats. Their practical program has been repeatedly stated in the writings and speeches of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and other Maximalists. They are clearly formulated in a pamphlet by Lenin, published some time ago, under the title "Political Parties and the Problem of the Proletariat."
Were the American correspondents in Russia not so densely ignorant of Russian conditions, not so superficial and bourgeois minded, the American press would not teem with the infamous lies and downright forgeries masquerading as "Petrograd news." There could be no more insidious poisoning of the public mind, and conscious falsification of history, than the persistent insinuation and even direct charge that Lenin is an agent of Prussia and the Boylsheviki movement the result of German propaganda. The "special correspondents," male and female, that set afloat and propagate these poison gases will be branded by true history as the usual type of mental prostitutes so prevalent in capitalist journalism.
In the work of Lenin referred to, the demands of the Maximalists -properly the Social Democratic Labor Party, were clearly set forth. They comprised:
(a) A democratic Republic managed by the Sovieti (Councils) of workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies.
(b) Convocation of the Constitutional assembly at the earliest possible time.
(c) Opposition to all wars waged in the interests of international commerce and exploitation.
(d) Speedy general peace. No indemnities and no annexation. Abolition of all secret treaties. The peoples themselves, through chosen representatives, to hold conferences and make inter-nation agreements.
(e) Return of the land to the peasant population, according to need and actual working ability.
(f) Control of industries by the proletariat.
(g) The formation of an International in all countries for the complete abolition of all monarchies and capitallism, and the establishment of international brotherhood.
The Boylsheviki are now in power in Russia. It is to be expected, of course, that all the conservative and reactionary elements will combine against them. For the program and the will to do of the Boylsheviki threaten every vested interest, every established and prosperous wrong.
Whatever the immediate outcome of the Boylsheviki revolution, the raising of the Maximalist banner is itself the greatest and grandest event of these eventful days. The unbiased and clear-sighted future historian will hail it as the most significant phase of the Russian Revolution, the most inspiring moment of our whole civilization. It is rich with the promise of a true Social Revolution, the first joyous glimpse of which shall nevermore permit the people of Russia to bow to autocracy and capitalism.
Truly has Trotsky said that the Russian Revolution is continuous, permanent, till Liberty, Land and Well-being are in fact the heritage of the people.
The New York Public recently published a very thoughtful essay by David Starr Jordan, on "The Scheme of Pan-Germany." The Pan-German League, made up of the Junker land-holding nobility, iron manufacturers, military leaders, some intellectuals, etc., Professor Jordan correctly characterizes as the chief promoter of the World War and the chief obstacle to World Peace. In the course of the article we meet this significant passage: "The current of feeling against these 'murderers of the state' (to use the words of a German editor) rises higher and higher in Germany as throughout the civilized world. But only the Germans themselves can suppress Pan-Germanism." (Italics are ours).
Ever since the war started, we -the Anarchist internationalists -have been arguing that democracy cannot be shot into people with bullets. We are glad that Professor Jordan, and many others with him, no doubt, have at last realized this. But only if the Germans themselves can suppress Pan-Germanism, Junkerism and autocracy, where, then, is the sense of continuing the war?
They say that war means misery and pauperization, heartaches and death. But certain statistics do not seem to substantiate this notion.
For instance, in the year preceding the beginning of the war, the Steel Trust had a clear profit of the comfortable sum of about $85,000,000. But that is a mere bagatelle compared with present "earnings." The first nine months of 1917 have netted the Steel Trust, over and above all expenditures, just $380,000,000.
The Steel Trust is only e pluribus unum. And surely no one but a maniac would expect the profiteers to kill the goose that lays such golden eggs. No, indeed; they are too good patriots to stand for such treasonable talk.
As we go to press, the news comes of the indictment against the Masses group. It was to be expected that the growing reaction would not stop with the mere suppression of radical publications, but that it will also reach out for the men and women who speak through the published medium. Were it not for this fact, we should feel deeply sorry to have been a contributory cause to the trouble of the Masses.
To speak a sympathetic work for Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman is now considered a crime. But, then, almost anything that shows independent thinking and kindly feeling is criminal in our days.
Frank Little, a crippled strike leader, taken out of bed in the dead of night and lynched by corporation gunmen in Utah, U.S.A.
President Wilson a few days later proclaims that America must crush barbarism in Prussia.
Dr. Bigelow kidnapped and whipped by vigilantes in Kentucky, U.S.A., for a speech he was about to deliver.
The President issues his Thanksgiving Proclamation, calling upon the people of America to be thankful for the privileges and liberties they enjoy.
Seventeen men -some of them members of the I.W.W. -beaten, tarred and feathered in Tulsa, Okla., and driven half-naked and bleeding into the brush.
Will Washington now issue another proclamation to carry the blessings of American civilization into Germany?
Two prisoners in the cell adjoining mine were having a heated argument.
"Bloody well you know," the Britisher was shouting, "there are things about England much superior to your country."
"T' hell you say!" the Bowery boy retorted.
"You see," the Britisher persisted, "Britain is a monarchy, and you can shame the king into decency, but a democracy has no king and no one to shame."
"Whatcher mean, you pudd'nhead?"
"You see, there is that hunger striker, Alice Paul, in jail in Washington. We in the monarchy didn't let them die. We turned them loose, and, guilty of arson, too, they were. But you people will let her croak, for nothing, too; just carried a banner. Get the point, m'boy?"
There was no reply. We could hear distinctly the muffled steps of the approaching guard.
Why does the superstition persist that we are ruled by majority will, in spite of all the facts to the contrary? To take an illustration of recent events:
Judge Hylan has been elected Mayor of New York City by about 250,000 voters. The population of the city is over five millions, but they will be ruled by a man who is the choice of only one-twentieth part of the inhabitants of New York. Is that majority rule?
Even if we consider only the voting population, then we will also find that the next mayor is not the choice of the majority. The total of ballots cast for Hillquit, Mitchel and Bennett was far greater than the vote in favor of Hylan.
Where, then, does "majority rule" come in? It is a myth.
Samuel Gompers knows that a concerted attack is to be made upon his "policies" at the Buffalo Convention of the American Federation of Labor. He knows and evidently fears it. His betrayal of the workers will be exposed, and his throne might be rudely shaken. But Sammy has learned something by his association with the military men on the War Board. Camouflage is a useful thing on the field of battle -why not also in the A.F. of L. Convention?
Saving thought! Let's get the President of the United States to address the delegates and furnish a fresh luster on the tarnished Labor Czar.
Whoever hesitates to utter that which he thinks the highest truth, lest it should be too much in advance of the time, may reassure himself by looking at his acts from an impersonal point of view.
Let him duly realize the fact that opinion is the agency through which character adapts external arrangements to itself -that his opinion rightly forms part of this agency -is a trait of force, constituting, with other such units, the general power which works out social changes, and he will perceive that he may properly give full utterance to his innermost conviction, leaving it to produce what effect it may.
It is not for nothing that he has in him these sympathies with some principles and repugnance to others. He, with all his capacities and aspirations and beliefs, is not an accident but a product of the time. He must remember that while he is a descendant of the past he is a parent of the future, and that his thoughts are as children born to him, which he may not carelesxsly let die. Not as adventitiousness, therefore, will the wise man regard the faith which is in him. The highest truth he sees he will fearlessly utter.
Knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world, knowing that if he can effect the change he aims at -well; if not -well also; though not so well. -Herbert Spencer.
Read this short chapter on two tragic events in the American labor movement, and then consider whether there is any reason to maintain that real justice has made any headway in this country. Do this in memory of August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolf Fischer, George Engel, who died like heroes on the gallows on the 11th of November, 1887; and of Louis Lingg, who committed suicide in his cell shortly before he was to be led to his death. Also do not forget Tom Mooney, now in prison, under sentence of death, and Warren K. Billings, condemned to life imprisonment. The same sinister forces that demanded the blood of Parsons and his comrades are now at work also in San Francisco, demanding the blood of Tom and Rena Mooney, Weinberg, Billings, Nolan, and Berkman.
On May 4th, 1886, a meeting took place at the Haymarket in Chicago for the purpose of protesting against brutal police assaults upon striking workingmen and their meetings. The assembly was peaceful, and Mayor Harrison, after listening to several speakers, told Police Captain Bonfield to order his reserves to go home. Towards the close of the meeting, when Fielden was speaking, a force of about 180 policemen appeared on the scene in quick step and fighting formation. They made ready for attack, when suddenly a fiery something flew through the air, alighted amongst the police, and exploded. One policeman, E.J. Degan, was killed outright, seven died later, and about fifty received injuries. The few hundred people remaining on the square fled in all directions, pursued by the firing police.
The speakers of the meeting were arrested, except Albert Parsons, who had left Chicago. He presented himself to the court later, when the trial started and danger was near. A reign of white terror began. Labor papers were suppressed, printing plants demolished, spokesmen of the toilers imprisoned for no other reason than that they helped the workingmen to better their conditions. The big daily papers convicted the prisoners on the charge of murder before the trial had even begun.
Who threw the bomb no one knows to this day. The authorities of Chicago did not bother much about that. What they were after was the seizure, conviction and hanging of those labor agitators whom Big Business considered dangerous to its exploitation privileges. The Grand Jury on May 17th indicted August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert Parsons, Louis Lingg, Adolph Fischer, Geo. Engel, Neebe, Schnaubelt, and Seliger for murder. Schnaubelt could not be found and Seliger turned informer against his former comrades. About 1,000 persons were examined for the jury, of which number not half a dozen belonged to the working class. Most of the prospective jurors declared they had a prejudice against anarchists, communists, and socialists; but according to Judge Gary, who presided, that was no cause to exclude them from the jury.
Later, in an affidavit included in a motion for a new trial, it was sworn that the official bailiff, Henry Rice, had said to well-known men in Chicago that "he was managing the case and that he knew what he was about; that those fellows should hang as sure as hell, and that he was only summoning such men as jurors as would not be acceptable to the defendants."
The most important witnesses for the State were Waller, Schrader and Seliger, all former comrades of the prisoners, now turned informers from fear of the gallows or hope of gain promised them by the police. The testimony of this trio was highly suspicious and very flimsy. The police had in some cases to admit payments of moneys to the witnesses. They contradicted each other in a compromising way, and disappointed even the prosecution by their hesitation and confusion. It was clear the State could not prove that the accused had instigated or advised or even known of the bomb throwing. But they had committed a crime that was in the eyes of the rich and influential people worse than bomb throwing. They had written and spoken against the tyranny of capital and State against exploitation and suppression. That was the real issue.
On the 20th of August the eight accused men were condemned, seven of them to die on the gallows, and Oscar Neebe to be sent to the penitentiary for fifteen years. The sentence against Schwab and Fielden was commuted to life imprisonment.
In the name of the law, murder had been committed. A few years after the crime had been consummated, the Chicago Herald, after investigation, published some interesting data. About three hundred leading American capitalists had met secretly to plan the destruction of Anarchy. They formed themselves into The Citizens' Association, and subscribed $100,000 in a short time. A like sum, it was stated, was guaranteed to the police and their agents every year, but some years later, about 1892, the payments stopped.
The wrongs and legal lynchings committed in this infamous trial against the Chicago Anarchists, the Governor of Illinois, John P. Altgelt, summed up and set forth when he made public his reasons for setting free Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe in the year 1893. In this document the mask was torn off the face of capitalistic justice, showing how pliable it is in the hands of those classes of society that accumulate power and wealth out of the labor and the misery of the masses.
If one changed the names, dates, and location one might just as well use the foregoing short account of the corrupt methods used in the Haymarket trial for the characterization of the shameful proceedings that have been carried on in the Preparedness Parade bomb case. But now the rich and influential people are better organized. Their organization in San Francisco is called the Chamber of Commerce. They did not start out with a measly $100,000 to lure on graft, bribery, and perjury. They were ready to sacrifice a whole $1,000,000 for that noble purpose. Also it may be said that the prosecution in the San Francisco cases excels the Grinnels and Bonfields of Chicago in the fine art of lying and conspiring to murder innocent workers. But these are only external dissimilarities. In principle both cases are alike. A bomb explosion, the perpetrator of which is not known, is made the excuse for murder charges against labor agitators obnoxious to Big Business, by using every form of deception and dastardly scheme to have them hanged.
But in Chicago these murderous schemes became known too late. The victims of a prostituted justice lay buried in their graves for years. It is different in San Francisco. There deception and corruption stare in the face of everyone who cares to look. The whole construction of the frame-up crumbles piece by piece, and Labor is aroused to the terrible conspiracy. The hope may be expressed that Tom and Rena Mooney, Billings and Weinberg, Nolan and Berkman may yet be torn out of the cluches of the legal murderers, to live and work with us for many years to come.