Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER II

WHEN WORKINGMEN SEEK TO BET

TER THEIR CONDITION

THE American newspaper press is the most enterprising in the world.

In the reporting of wars it has no equal. Its avish expenditures and dazzling achievements in obtaining all the news of the slightest maneuvers in any war have become historic.

In the Spanish-American War the American press spent millions of dollars to describe for its readers every event, no matter how trivial. When war breaks out between Japan and Russia or between Italy and Turkey or between Bulgaria and Greece, the American press has its own correspondents on the battlefields and follows the movements of each army.

In regard to all such matters the American public is remarkably well-informed. It knows all about battles in Albania and massacres in Mexico almost as soon as these have happened.

But it is an astounding fact that whereas this public would know all about a war in Europe or Mexico, wars exist and are prosecuted in our own country and this same public knows nothing or next to nothing about them.

I mean not theoretical or paper wars but actual, bloody warfare, with sieges, battles, marchings and countermarchings.

I mean that an event can happen in Bosnia and be fully reported in our press, and the same event can happen in a remote part of the United States and the vast majority of the American people never hear of it.

It is the same about law and order. While comfortable, well-to-do people sit at ease, serene in the belief that all is well with the nation and even talking confidently of the reign of peace and the Constitution, elsewhere civil war may be raging, all law and all constituted authority may be abolished, battles may be fought and deeds of almost unparalleled atrocity be done, and yet these complacent souls be in total ignorance of all these terrifying convulsions.

Three times in the last two years exactly this has happened. Three regions successively have been torn with war as undisguised as the war in the Balkans and still more ferocious and cruel. Yet comparatively few persons have known of these facts, the peace societies have never said a word about them, the Carnegie organization has never protested, the pulpit has never complained, the editorial writers have never objected.

An enlightened public opinion is supposed to be the basis of our government and the safeguard of the citizen's rights.

How can we have an enlightened public opinion when the public is not allowed to know what is going on in this country?

Suppose we have a condition in which a large part of the community is deprived of all the protection of the Constitution and of the laws and of the courts of justice, and still the public at large has no knowledge of this usurpation and can have none. What would you expect to happen under such circumstances ?

Suppose that in a New England town of 1,000 inhabitants all the merchants, professional men, bankers and editors were seized by armed and unauthorized bands, thrust into jail without warrant, guns held at their heads, their families dispossessed, their right to a trial and a writ of habeas corpus denied, every protection abolished, and yet the press of the country were to be silenced about such things and the courts to refuse to interfere, what do you think would be the attitude of American citizens subjected to such treatment?

And yet it is the simple truth that exactly such things can happen and do happen, not to merchants and professional men but to workingmen that have incurred the ill-will of powerful interests. Such things can happen and do hap pen and either the press will not report them at all or it will give of them distorted and perverted accounts creating the impression that the victims of these outrages were themselves the law-breakers.

No doubt, to any American that has not been familiar with the actual conditions in his country these remarks will seem extravagant and unfounded. It is natural that we should take for granted the supremacy of law and order, particularly when daily we hear it asserted and have no reason to question it. I will, therefore, cite three instances from the records, and with them illuminate the situation of labor as it really is in America under the secret rule of accumulated wealth, the greatest power in the world.

In the latter part of 1912 the coal miners of the Paint and Cabin Creek regions in West Virginia went on strike against the impositions that they asserted were practiced upon them by their employers.

The mining companies were rich and very powerful; they belonged to one of the two groups of capitalists that exercise irresistible influence over government.

The companies filled the region with armed guards, being gunmen and gangsters imported chiefly from the East Side of New York and known to be utterly reckless of human life. These attempted to overawe the strikers and break the strike. Battles were fought between the gunmen and the miners, and the entire region was for weeks in a state of utter chaos. When it was apparent that the gunmen were ineffective in bringing the strike to an end, the coal companies induced the governor to call out the militia. The officers of the militia proclaimed martial law, abolished the constitutions of the state and of the United States, arrested men without warrant, condemned them at farcical sessions of a drumhead court martial, and locked them up in the penitentiary on long sentences on trivial accusations. Among them were men seized outside the region where martial law had been declared and charged with offenses over which no court martial could

possibly have any jurisdiction.

All these facts were subsequently established by an investigation of a committee of the United States Senate. Yet of these most ex

« ForrigeFortsett »