Labor Will Unmask the Kaiser
Agnes C. Laut
Who wrote “The Canadian Commonwealth,” "Lords of the North,” etc.
EDITOR’S Note.-—In the course of the articles she has been doing recently for MAC LE AX’S, Miss Laut has shown the importance that labor conditions have assumed in relation to the winning of the war. In fact, she has demonstrated that the war can be won only by the most intelligent co-ordination of the labor-power of the Allied countries. In the accompanying article it is shown that many of the difficulties which have arisen in the United States are being smoothed away and that the organization of man-power, for the production of food and the building of ships, is proceeding along more efficient and cordial lines. Conditions in Canada are closely related to those in the United States and the article relates very closely therefore to what is happenings, or must happen, in Canada—a way to win is indicated.
WE are all of us pretty heartily cursing shirt-sleeve diplomacy of the Trotzky - Bolsheviki brand, which betrayed an ignorant Russian peasantry into a sham peace and gave a tigerish conqueror free entrance through an unarmed door to an undefended land; but there is more in the Bolsheviki propaganda both here and in Russia than diplomats are shouting through a megaphone from house tops. Bolshevikism is the most dangerous double-edged weapon that diplomacy ever took into its crafty skil-
ful hands. The Kaiser has played it as his ace in Russia; but is President Wilson planning to trump that ace? I am aware I have mixed three metaphors in one paragraph; but President Wilson will have mixed more than metaphors. He will have mixed the Kaiser’s plots to utter rout and confusion, if he uses Bolshevikism for the ends to which his friends say he is aiming. He will have undermined and defeated the most cunning state-craft of all history with a prescience almost clairvoyant. Personally,
I think the doctrine too dangerous a weapon t o be used. I think it may wound the hand that wields it, as it has given Russia almost a death wound, as it is endeavoring under cover of pacifism to wound and hamper this country in every step of the war; but what you think, or I think, does not matter in this war. Facts are all that count; and if Wilson defeats Germany with Bolsheviki agents, our hats may not be off to the I.W.W.’s—the name by which we know the strange cult in this country—but our hats will be off to Wilson diplomacy as the deepest and wisest in the history of the world.
I first met the Bolshevist doctrine, or the I.W.W. propaganda, during a strike on the Canadian Northern in Fraser River Canyon. The men were young. They were amazingly young. They were
90% foreign and they were 100% fanatically sincere in their aims; and their aims were not graft.
What staggered me—it was a new thing in the labor world — these men were not striking for higher wages and shorter hours. They were not a labor union in any sense of the word. They were as hostile to the labor unions as the labor unions were to them. They were “the shovel stiffs,” the scum, the rag-tag and bob-tail, the dregs of the labor world; and they prided themselves on it; and they shouted their pride to the very mountain peaks. “As the marble edifice stands on a foundation of stone, and the stone rests on muck and mud and hard pan below, so we are the scum of the earth beneath
society’s foundations; and by-,you are
going to wake up some morning and find your fine edifice called ‘civilization’ has toppled down because the scum has slipped out from under,” said one of the leaders to me.
And that is exactly what has happened in Russia.
THE speaker was a boy not more than twenty-four years of age. He believed what he was saying — passionately believed; and what is more, it was true. I saw that boy, for whom the detectives of British Columbia were hunting, three days later slip under their noses up at Yale and escape East.
“We are not striking for shorter hours and higher pay,” screamed a soap-box orator in Vancouver to an unwashed mob. “When we get eight hours we’ll demand six. When we get six, we’ll demand four.
We’re demanding .$3 a day now; but when we get $3, we’ll demand $4; and when we get $4 a day, we’ll demand $4 an hour for a two-hour day. We’ll stop every industrial wheel on earth going round; and when all industry stops, we’ll go in and take. We're not fighting for the right to work.
We’re fighting to take from those who have, and hand it over to those who haven’t."
And that is exactly what happened in Mexico.
Later in their private office, when I asked this orator if he realized that when he passed a certain dead-line of “take,” there wouldn’t be any capital left, or industry either, he burst into a joyous laugh—“Of course, we realize. That’s what we are aiming at. To demand such wages and hours we’ll peacefully expropriate all possessions”; and he pointed to a mutilated text on the walls—
“The earth and the fulness thereof shall be ours.”
But when I drew his attention to the fact that “the earth and the fulness thereof” were not worth one continental jim-jam to fill a hungry stomach unless somebody went out and with persistent elbow grease spaded and delved for food, his doctrine grew vague, just as food is growing vaguer and vaguer to-day in Russia, and will grow vaguer and vaguer with us unless we counteract these drugged and poisonous doctrines.
“More — more — more — men !
Keep in mind that thought of always demanding more,” shouted a
longshoreman organizer here in the East at a labor convention not six months ago.
The natural result of the doctrine Canada has experienced in a road, whose costs so far exceeded estimates that the people of Canada have had to take the road over and pay the costs of dancing to the piping of this “I-Won’t-Work” boy.
Skip ahead now six years ! The I.W.W. doctrine, which was a ripple on the wave of a freak Pacific Coast agitation, has gathered impetus and rolled across the corn and wheat fields of the Middle West. It has percolated through the factories of the East. It has taught men how to put sand in the wheels of fine machines, how “to cook explosives” so they won’t go off, or go off at the wrong time. It has asked farm hands what is the good
of working so hard? Finally, it trickled down into the gutters of New York’s foreign-born East Side, where a young Russian soap-box orator without a penny in the world, without, in fact, much soap or water, but a certain greasy passionate fluency, rides the current of a movement that has now become a world tidal wave. The East Side New York orator’s name is Trotzky. Skip ahead now, not six years, but six months! The East Side New York agitator has just fled for his life from Petrograd because the German army is advancing and his own people are awakening with sullen fury ready to tear him limb from limb because he has betrayed his nation with a Judas kiss of peace to a crucifying conqueror. This time the scene is shifted to Moscow. I quote snatches of dispatches, which beggar the description of the French Revolution :
“Here are many ruined landowners who escaped from their plundered and pillaged estates. Here are officers in hundreds driven from the front by their soldiers. Here is a very miscellaneous throng of men and women who have found the results of slow labor of years crumble away in their hands, who have lost their occupations, who have now no use for their talents. ... I walk down the street and listen to cries of the news vendors and see a young officer without shoulder straps shamefacedly offering for sale a cheap evening paper. There are scores of such officers now selling papers in the streets of Moscow. . . ,
This suffering would be a minor thing if the prosperity of the working classes were secured, but with the factories gradually closing down, unemployment is steadily increasing. . . . Never have bribery and corruption attained such colossal dimensions as now, and there are all kinds of fantastic ways of making money . . . Moscow is a city of refuge, but life is continually haunted by vague and monstrous fears. Is there any security or hope anywhere in Russia? ‘Whither shall I flee from the wrath and the terror?’ is the cry of the helpless and distracted. . . Refuge there is none. The process of destruction must work itself out. This strange anarchy is sweeping from end to end of Russia, overthrowing all temporary barriers, all halting opportunist attempts at reconstruction, wrecking theories, traditions, and habits, and creating a wilderness. ... I find that most thinking men in Moscow have thrown aside all illusions and are indisposed even to attempt palliative measures. They say the masses must learn through bitter experience what Bolshevist Socialism means. They must drink the cup to the dregs."
Can any good come out of such an accursed doctrine? Germany has used such agents to bedevil American shipyards, to hamper the lumber mills, to delay aeroplanes and ships. Can the United States use^uch agencies to undermine the Hohenzollern throne? Personally, to use an expression of childhood, I do not believe you ever gain much by whipping the devil round a stump. Sooner or later, you must meet the gentle-
man and down him, or be downed by him; and while the I.W.W. may be an agency by which the Kaiser works out his own ruin, the I.W.W. are only a small fraction of the working world—the world of willing hands that must raise 1 crops and dig mines and build ships for the fighters; and the workman has to-day entered into the diplomacy of the war in a deeper and subtler sense.
We may as well dig out the fact and look squarely at it; for it presages a change in the status of labor for all time to come in the history of the world. It presages the first crack in the ground beneath the security of autocracy’s throne. It may presage that Brotherhood of Man, which prophets foretold in a millennium, and which modern poets have sung as a far-off Utopia in a golden future. And we are all going to be a little criss-crossed and provoked as we dig down to the fact. You don’t have to be much of a miner to know that you often have to spade through muck before you reach the yellow metal. It is the same on the entry of labor in the arena of world diplomacy as the final arbiter of the war.
As I said at the beginning of this article we have all prettyheartily cursed the radical Russian reds.' We have demanded why with the radical reds looting American banks over there, why in the name of common sense, recognize their foolgovernment of pacifists and anarchists? And first the American State Department declared it would not recognize such a government; and then it reversed itself and said it would. And first the Allied Council declared no more credits should be advanced to a nation repudiating its honor and its debts; and then the Allied Council turned itself inside out and weakly conceded it might continue to advance such support.
I think it was at this stage that most of us reached the point where all the high explosives in us went off loud and hard in the direction of Wilson and Lansing and Lloyd George. Wilson and Lansing and Lloyd George couldn’t explain. To paraphrase Nietzsche, they kept repeating—“No peace without a victory”; but all the same they kept giving the glad hand, where we would have them give a lifting kick, to those Russian radical reds, who were holding a love-feast with a royal house of criminals.
In old tragedies, the heavier and deadlier the progress of the ultimate fate, the more old dramatists used to keep a fool or clown skipping in and out of the wings; and the grotesque clown, nine times out of ten, could utter truths the courtiers couldn’t; and, nine times out of ten, he would blunder into the solution of the tragedy which the wise wits on the stage could not right. The Russian radical reds have played the part of the clown on the modern war stage. It will be recalled in the progress of their peace parleys they demanded, first—no annexation of conquered territory, and, second—direct communication with the socialists of Ger-
many. Now, if there is one season more than another why the royal house of Germany forced this war, it was to crush the rising tidal wave of socialism. If there is one way more than another that the royal house has held the loyalty of German socialists it is by the pious oft-repeated blasphemy that Germany is not fighting for conquest but to save her existence; and if there is one way more than another that the royal house has stifled and throttled the mad cry for peace it is by the pious mendacity that the blood guilt rested on the other nations, who would not grant peace.
A N D here were the Russian reds—the clowns of diplomacy — dingle-dangling peace under the nose of the German socialists, offering it, proffering it, urging it! No denying—here was peace offered on a plate! The Emperor William must have cursed those boors for stripping his most plausible lie naked by a clown’s blunder. Then, great cats! That fool demand to get out of the conquered Baltic provinces! (You see, Germany had been fighting for her existence, not for conquest.)
As for opening direct communication with the socialists of Germany, do you see Emperor William deliberately sitting down on a keg of high explosives? Why, he refused to permit freed German prisoners to come back to the Fatherland with any taint of the accursed doctrine. The fools had not only stripped his pious lies and blasphemies naked, they had stripped him naked. They had shown a royal hand—though wilted and palsied— shedding German blood in rivers and bluffing off peace purely for conquest; and it may be said right here that the reaction on the morale of German socialism has opened a wider chasm in the Emperor’s plans than all the defeats and victories of the firing line. The red flag dreaded by him above all thing is rising Phoenix fashion from the fires in which he thought he had burned it. The Emperor for the first time is forming alliance with his leading
socialists. Germany knows she can never win a complete victory, however long she may stall the Western line. She knows her industry and her commerce are in total ruins for a hundred years. Once South America is alienated, she knows— and every commercial expert in her bounds knows—she will not have a market left in the whole world; and her people are longing desperately for peace; and here are the Russian reds saying: “Here is peace! Take it! Why don’t you?” Why not, indeed? The chnvn among world diplomats has come nearer knocking off Emperor William’s crown than all the bloodshed, or all the heavy guns.
Do you see now why, though Wilson and Lloyd George keep on repeating “no peace without victory,” they also keep the glad hand out to the Russian reds? Do you see why they first said they would not extend more credits, and then reversed themselves and said they would? Do you recall what first broke Napoleon? It was a great inchoate mass of Slavs in rabble retreat round Moscow. Moscow cracked Napoleon’s morale, just as the Russian reds are cracking the German socialists’ morale; and the clown is skipping in and out of the wings as the tragedy nears the inevitable.
Germany is counting on food from Russia. How much surplus food do you think Russia will raise this year, with the peasants glutting themselves in plunder— passionately believing and practising the doctrines of the “I-Won’t-Works?” And though Russia presents little resistance to a conqueror, Germany’s fighting line has been lengthened one thousand miles by the necessity to invade the Old Empire. When Napoleon was asked about Moscow he used to answer that two things defeated him—one was the climate; the other was the distance.
Also, though nothing is being said of it in the press, if you will recall the names of American socialists and labor leaders of international fame, you will find every single one is very busily employed just now on official business down in the State Department. Mrs. Norman Whitehouse, the suffrage leader, on her way to Switzerland for Creel’s Bureau of Information, is very favorably known to suffrage leaders in Germany. Wilson.has been blamed for calling federal prosecutions off the striking miners in Arizona. Some of these strike leaders are now on their way across Siberia to Russia and Germany — Germany undoubtedly financed much of the I.W.W. propaganda here; but a back fire has started up, which is headed for Germany.
These things explain the new' policy of the Wilson Administration to take over the operation of everything that can affect the increased cost of living. Listen to one of the Government’s first officials speaking as early as last September. I regret I must not give his name. You can guess it. “I tell you we are on the verge of a precipice. The world is on the verge of a precipice. The Allies must have such supplies of coal and food from us that if we don’t send them they will collapse; and if w'e do send them w'e shall deprive ourselves and have riots and anarchy. If we have a cold spell, or if w'e have such w'eather that crops are poor for 1918, we have either got to assume government control of distribution of all food and fuel supplies, or face defeat through anarchy. If the war continues, we will simply have to take
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t the operation of coal mines. If the ps are poor for 1918 and the cost of ijr continues to mount, we cannot Ird to have the cost of living: press on , ir. We shall simply have to take over ¡ 'orms of the distribution of food and [ the consumer his supplies at the low! : figure possible, and Rive the profr the highest prices possible in order fitimulate production. Hit and miss
Ïiods are gone for ever. Whether we it or not, Government transportation distribution will be universal by
«iis is the true significance of the Govjfient’s first step towards the socializlof all distribution; and though the! f.ble cold forced the step to avert want p riots, the war was forcing the step tionths before the drop of the mercury. aí not a socialist; but I confess I am lone of millions of non-socialists who »•ome the step. We must either inese and increase yet again wages to vr the increased cost of living, and e see the cost of living increase to vr the increased cost of wages, till our imid collapses—which it did in the sof coal—there was not coal in New 8: for the hospitals for another twentyQ hours—we must either see our pyraCcollapse or change our system; and jaking over of rail and mine and food itibution is the beginning of the change íe system. It is fighting fire with fire, clefeating Bolsheviki doctrines by aniiting demands with government :n.
I quote the vice-president of one of : great shipyards: “The flag has
iped. The race is on. The race best autocracy and democracy, slavery freedom, the race between the Ameritvorkman and the German submarine, ewe build the bridge to victory fast iirh ? Can we save the freedom of the
> condition will be tolerated that will l.-mine labor, or foment strikes; for ii ultimate analysis, the winning of /ar is going to depend on American i; and American labor is locking a not only with the Russian reds, kith the German socialists in an intional brotherhood. The war has !dy passed into the hands of labor; it looks as if kid-glove diplomacy j also passing into the hands of the great brotherhood. Because I set I things down as a narrative of passacts, I have no opinions nor proís to offer. I see the danger of the lan red doctrine; but that is going each its own remedy before many er moons have passed. Six months .ts reefed in from hunger will send a back to field and plow; and I do îlieve we are going to repeat those follies, though the propaganda is trong among us. Also, if an interíal brotherhood of labor cracks the ations beneath the Hohenzollern î, I do not believe that brotherhood or will ever again consent to interlal wars; and I should like to take it off and wave it in the face of a rising like the dawn.