Dienstag, 15. Februar 2011

Against War And For International Solidarity.

Jimmie Higgins
Upton Sinclair describes the life of a simple but poltically organized Us worker. The story begins in times shortly before WW1. Sinclair lets us accompany our buddy Jimmie. We experience Union meetings, daily working and family life.WE learn about his sorrows and angers and also about his feelings for the beginning War in Europe. Together with him we get confused and unsure about our position by speeches of different political agitators. Almost a hundred years it´s a shame to realise that nothing changed.
In this text passage Jimmie is back on the rails and Sinclair describes the events in a "jungle".

Click here for text in english language.

To Jimmie, living the obscure and comparatively peaceful life of a Socialist propagandist, the question of "sabotage, violence and crime" had been a more or less academic one, about which the comrades debated acrimoniously, and against which they voted by a large majority. But now Jimmie was out among the "wobblies", the "blanket-stiffs"—the unskilled workers who had literally nothing but their muscle-power to sell; here he was in the front-line trenches of the class war. These men wandered about from one job to another, at the mercy of the seasons and the fluctuations of industry. They were deprived of votes, and therefore of their status as citizens; they were deprived of a chance to organize, and therefore of their status as human beings. They were lodged in filthy bunk-houses, fed upon rotten food, and beaten or jailed at the least word of revolt. So they fought their oppressors with any and every weapon they could lay hands on.

In the turpentine-country, in a forest, Jimmie and his pal came to a "jungle", a place where the "wobblies" congregated, living off the country. Here around the camp-fires Jimmie met the guerillas of the class-struggle, and learned the songs of revolt which they sang—some of them parodies on Christian hymns which would have caused the orthodox and respectable to faint with horror. Here they rested up, and exchanged data on the progress of their fight, and argued over tactics, and cussed the Socialists and the other "politicians" and "labour-fakirs", and sang the praises of the "one big union", and the "mass strike", and "direct action" against the masters of industry. They told stories of their sufferings and their exploits, and Jimmie sat and listened. Sometimes his eyes were wide with consternation, for he had never met men so desperate as these.

For example, "Strawberry" Curran—named for his red hair and innumerable freckles—an Irish boy with the face of a choir-singer, and eyes that must have been taken straight out of the blue vault of Heaven. This lad told about a "free speech fight" in a far Western city, and how the chief of police had led the clubbing, and how they had got back at him. "We bumped him off all right," said "Strawberry"; it was a favourite phrase of his—whenever anybody got in his way, he "bumped him off". And then "Flathead Joe", who came from the Indian country, was moved to emulation, and told how he had put dynamite under the supports of a mine-breaker, and the whole works had slid down a slope into a canyon a mile below. And then a lame fellow, "Chuck" Peterson, told about the imprisonment of two strike-leaders in the hop-country of California, and of the epidemic of fires and destruction that had plagued that region for several years since.

All such things these men talked about quite casually, as soldiers would talk about the events of the last campaign. This class-war had been going on for ages, and had its own ethics and its own traditions; those who took part in it had their heroisms and sublimities, precisely like any other soldiers. They would have been glad to come into the open and fight, but the other side had all the guns. Every time the "wobblies" succeeded in organizing the workers and calling a big strike, all the agencies of capitalist repression were called in—they were beaten by capitalist policemen, shot by capitalist sheriffs, starved and frozen in capitalist jails, and so their strike was crushed and their forces scattered. After many such experiences, it was inevitable that the hot-headed ones should take to secret vengeance, should become conspirators against capitalist society. And society, forgetting all the provocations it had given, called the "wobblies" criminals, and let it go at that. But they were a strange kind of criminal, serving a far-off dream. They had their humours and their humanities, their literature and music and art. Among them were men of education, graduates of universities both in America and abroad; you might hear one of the group about these camp-fires telling about slave-revolts in ancient Egypt and Greece; or quoting Strindberg and Stirner, or reciting a scene from Synge, or narrating how he had astounded the family of some lonely farm-house by playing Rachmaninoff's "Prelude" on a badly out-of-tune piano.

Also you met among them men who had kept their gentleness, their sweetness of soul, men of marvellous patience, whose dream of human brotherhood no persecution, no outrage had been able to turn sour. They clung to their vision of a world redeemed, made over by the outcast and lowly; a vision that was brought to the world by a certain Jewish Carpenter, and has haunted mankind for nineteen hundred years. The difference was that these men knew precisely how they meant to do it; they had a definite philosophy, a definite programme, which they carried as a gospel to the wage-slaves of the world. And they knew that this glad message would never die—not all the jails and clubs and machine-guns in the country could kill it, not obloquy and ridicule, not hunger and cold and disease. No! for the workers were hearing and understanding, they were learning the all-precious lesson of Solidarity. They were forming the "one big union", preparing the time when they would take over industry and administer it through their own workers' councils, instead of through the medium of parliaments and legislatures. That was the great idea upon which the Industrial Workers of the World was based; it was this they meant by "direct action", not the sinister thing which the capitalist newspapers made out of the phrase.

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