Part 7 out of 8
"Elzbieta is," said Marija, "when she can. I take care of them
most of the time--I'm making plenty of money now."
Jurgis was silent for a moment. "Do they know you live here--how
you live?" he asked.
"Elzbieta knows," answered Marija. "I couldn't lie to her. And
maybe the children have found out by this time. It's nothing to
be ashamed of--we can't help it."
"And Tamoszius?" he asked. "Does he know?"
Marija shrugged her shoulders. "How do I know?" she said.
"I haven't seen him for over a year. He got blood poisoning and
lost one finger, and couldn't play the violin any more; and then
he went away."
Marija was standing in front of the glass fastening her dress.
Jurgis sat staring at her. He could hardly believe that she was
the same woman he had known in the old days; she was so quiet--so
hard! It struck fear to his heart to watch her.
Then suddenly she gave a glance at him. "You look as if you had
been having a rough time of it yourself," she said.
"I have," he answered. "I haven't a cent in my pockets, and
nothing to do."
"Where have you been?"
"All over. I've been hoboing it. Then I went back to the
yards--just before the strike." He paused for a moment,
hesitating. "I asked for you," he added. "I found you had gone
away, no one knew where. Perhaps you think I did you a dirty
trick. running away as I did, Marija--"
"No," she answered, "I don't blame you. We never have--any of
us. You did your best--the job was too much for us." She paused
a moment, then added: "We were too ignorant--that was the
trouble. We didn't stand any chance. If I'd known what I know
now we'd have won out."
"You'd have come here?" said Jurgis.
"Yes," she answered; "but that's not what I meant. I meant
you--how differently you would have behaved--about Ona."
Jurgis was silent; he had never thought of that aspect of it.
"When people are starving," the other continued, "and they have
anything with a price, they ought to sell it, I say. I guess you
realize it now when it's too late. Ona could have taken care of
us all, in the beginning." Marija spoke without emotion, as one
who had come to regard things from the business point of view.
"I--yes, I guess so," Jurgis answered hesitatingly. He did not
add that he had paid three hundred dollars, and a foreman's job,
for the satisfaction of knocking down "Phil" Connor a second
The policeman came to the door again just then. "Come on, now,"
he said. "Lively!"
"All right," said Marija, reaching for her hat, which was big
enough to be a drum major's, and full of ostrich feathers.
She went out into the hall and Jurgis followed, the policeman
remaining to look under the bed and behind the door
"What's going to come of this?" Jurgis asked, as they started
down the steps.
"The raid, you mean? Oh, nothing--it happens to us every now and
then. The madame's having some sort of time with the police;
I don't know what it is, but maybe they'll come to terms before
morning. Anyhow, they won't do anything to you. They always let
the men off."
"Maybe so," he responded, "but not me--I'm afraid I'm in for it."
"How do you mean?"
"I'm wanted by the police," he said, lowering his voice, though
of course their conversation was in Lithuanian. "They'll send me
up for a year or two, I'm afraid."
"Hell!" said Marija. "That's too bad. I'll see if I can't get
Downstairs, where the greater part of the prisoners were now
massed, she sought out the stout personage with the diamond
earrings, and had a few whispered words with her. The latter
then approached the police sergeant who was in charge of the
raid. "Billy," she said, pointing to Jurgis, "there's a fellow
who came in to see his sister. He'd just got in the door when
you knocked. You aren't taking hoboes, are you?"
The sergeant laughed as he looked at Jurgis. "Sorry," he said,
"but the orders are every one but the servants."
So Jurgis slunk in among the rest of the men, who kept dodging
behind each other like sheep that have smelled a wolf. There
were old men and young men, college boys and gray-beards old
enough to be their grandfathers; some of them wore evening
dress--there was no one among them save Jurgis who showed any
signs of poverty.
When the roundup was completed, the doors were opened and the
party marched out. Three patrol wagons were drawn up at the
curb, and the whole neighborhood had turned out to see the sport;
there was much chaffing, and a universal craning of necks. The
women stared about them with defiant eyes, or laughed and joked,
while the men kept their heads bowed, and their hats pulled over
their faces. They were crowded into the patrol wagons as if into
streetcars, and then off they went amid a din of cheers. At the
station house Jurgis gave a Polish name and was put into a cell
with half a dozen others; and while these sat and talked in
whispers, he lay down in a corner and gave himself up to his
Jurgis had looked into the deepest reaches of the social pit,
and grown used to the sights in them. Yet when he had thought of all
humanity as vile and hideous, he had somehow always excepted his
own family. that he had loved; and now this sudden horrible
discovery--Marija a whore, and Elzbieta and the children living
off her shame! Jurgis might argue with himself all he chose,
that he had done worse, and was a fool for caring--but still he
could not get over the shock of that sudden unveiling, he could
not help being sunk in grief because of it. The depths of him
were troubled and shaken, memories were stirred in him that had
been sleeping so long he had counted them dead. Memories of the
old life--his old hopes and his old yearnings, his old dreams of
decency and independence! He saw Ona again, he heard her gentle
voice pleading with him. He saw little Antanas, whom he had
meant to make a man. He saw his trembling old father, who had
blessed them all with his wonderful love. He lived again through
that day of horror when he had discovered Ona's shame--God, how
he had suffered, what a madman he had been! How dreadful it had
all seemed to him; and now, today, he had sat and listened, and
half agreed when Marija told him he had been a fool! Yes--told
him that he ought to have sold his wife's honor and lived by
it!--And then there was Stanislovas and his awful fate--that
brief story which Marija had narrated so calmly, with such dull
indifference! The poor little fellow, with his frostbitten
fingers and his terror of the snow--his wailing voice rang in
Jurgis's ears, as he lay there in the darkness, until the sweat
started on his forehead. Now and then he would quiver with a
sudden spasm of horror, at the picture of little Stanislovas shut
up in the deserted building and fighting for his life with the
All these emotions had become strangers to the soul of Jurgis;
it was so long since they had troubled him that he had ceased to
think they might ever trouble him again. Helpless, trapped,
as he was, what good did they do him--why should he ever have
allowed them to torment him? It had been the task of his recent
life to fight them down, to crush them out of him, never in his
life would he have suffered from them again, save that they had
caught him unawares, and overwhelmed him before he could protect
himself. He heard the old voices of his soul, he saw its old
ghosts beckoning to him, stretching out their arms to him! But
they were far-off and shadowy, and the gulf between them was
black and bottomless; they would fade away into the mists of the
past once more. Their voices would die, and never again would he
hear them--and so the last faint spark of manhood in his soul
would flicker out.
After breakfast Jurgis was driven to the court, which was crowded
with the prisoners and those who had come out of curiosity or in
the hope of recognizing one of the men and getting a case for
blackmail. The men were called up first, and reprimanded in a
bunch, and then dismissed; but, Jurgis to his terror, was called
separately, as being a suspicious-looking case. It was in this
very same court that he had been tried, that time when his
sentence had been "suspended"; it was the same judge, and the
same clerk. The latter now stared at Jurgis, as if he half
thought that he knew him; but the judge had no suspicions--just
then his thoughts were upon a telephone message he was expecting
from a friend of the police captain of the district, telling what
disposition he should make of the case of "Polly" Simpson, as the
"madame" of the house was known. Meantime, he listened to the
story of how Jurgis had been looking for his sister, and advised
him dryly to keep his sister in a better place; then he let him
go, and proceeded to fine each of the girls five dollars, which
fines were paid in a bunch from a wad of bills which Madame Polly
extracted from her stocking.
Jurgis waited outside and walked home with Marija. The police
had left the house, and already there were a few visitors;
by evening the place would be running again, exactly as if nothing
had happened. Meantime, Marija took Jurgis upstairs to her room,
and they sat and talked. By daylight, Jurgis was able to observe
that the color on her cheeks was not the old natural one of
abounding health; her complexion was in reality a parchment
yellow, and there were black rings under her eyes.
"Have you been sick?" he asked.
"Sick?" she said. "Hell!" (Marija had learned to scatter her
conversation with as many oaths as a longshoreman or a mule
driver.) "How can I ever be anything but sick, at this life?"
She fell silent for a moment, staring ahead of her gloomily.
"It's morphine," she said, at last. "I seem to take more of it
"What's that for?" he asked.
"It's the way of it; I don't know why. If it isn't that, it's
drink. If the girls didn't booze they couldn't stand it any time
at all. And the madame always gives them dope when they first
come, and they learn to like it; or else they take it for
headaches and such things, and get the habit that way. I've got
it, I know; I've tried to quit, but I never will while I'm here."
"How long are you going to stay?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said. "Always, I guess. What else could I
"Don't you save any money?"
"Save!" said Marija. "Good Lord, no! I get enough, I suppose,
but it all goes. I get a half share, two dollars and a half for
each customer, and sometimes I make twenty-five or thirty dollars
a night, and you'd think I ought to save something out of that!
But then I am charged for my room and my meals--and such prices
as you never heard of; and then for extras, and drinks--for
everything I get, and some I don't. My laundry bill is nearly
twenty dollars each week alone--think of that! Yet what can I
do? I either have to stand it or quit, and it would be the same
anywhere else. It's all I can do to save the fifteen dollars I
give Elzbieta each week, so the children can go to school."
Marija sat brooding in silence for a while; then, seeing that
Jurgis was interested, she went on: "That's the way they keep the
girls--they let them run up debts, so they can't get away. A
young girl comes from abroad, and she doesn't know a word of
English, and she gets into a place like this, and when she wants
to go the madame shows her that she is a couple of hundred
dollars in debt, and takes all her clothes away, and threatens to
have her arrested if she doesn't stay and do as she's told. So
she stays, and the longer she stays, the more in debt she gets.
Often, too, they are girls that didn't know what they were coming
to, that had hired out for housework. Did you notice that little
French girl with the yellow hair, that stood next to me in the
Jurgis answered in the affirmative.
"Well, she came to America about a year ago. She was a store
clerk, and she hired herself to a man to be sent here to work in
a factory. There were six of them, all together, and they were
brought to a house just down the street from here, and this girl
was put into a room alone, and they gave her some dope in her
food, and when she came to she found that she had been ruined.
She cried, and screamed, and tore her hair, but she had nothing
but a wrapper, and couldn't get away, and they kept her half
insensible with drugs all the time, until she gave up. She never
got outside of that place for ten months, and then they sent her
away, because she didn't suit. I guess they'll put her out of
here, too--she's getting to have crazy fits, from drinking
absinthe. Only one of the girls that came out with her got away,
and she jumped out of a second-story window one night. There was
a great fuss about that--maybe you heard of it."
"I did," said Jurgis, "I heard of it afterward." (It had happened
in the place where he and Duane had taken refuge from their
"country customer." The girl had become insane, fortunately for
"There's lots of money in it," said Marija--"they get as much as
forty dollars a head for girls, and they bring them from all
over. There are seventeen in this place, and nine different
countries among them. In some places you might find even more.
We have half a dozen French girls--I suppose it's because the
madame speaks the language. French girls are bad, too, the worst
of all, except for the Japanese. There's a place next door
that's full of Japanese women, but I wouldn't live in the same
house with one of them."
Marija paused for a moment or two, and then she added: "Most of
the women here are pretty decent--you'd be surprised. I used to
think they did it because they liked to; but fancy a woman
selling herself to every kind of man that comes, old or young,
black or white--and doing it because she likes to!"
"Some of them say they do," said Jurgis.
"I know," said she; "they say anything. They're in, and they
know they can't get out. But they didn't like it when they
began--you'd find out--it's always misery! There's a little
Jewish girl here who used to run errands for a milliner, and got
sick and lost her place; and she was four days on the streets
without a mouthful of food, and then she went to a place just
around the corner and offered herself, and they made her give up
her clothes before they would give her a bite to eat!"
Marija sat for a minute or two, brooding somberly. "Tell me
about yourself, Jurgis," she said, suddenly. "Where have you
So he told her the long story of his adventures since his flight
from home; his life as a tramp, and his work in the freight
tunnels, and the accident; and then of Jack Duane, and of his
political career in the stockyards, and his downfall and
subsequent failures. Marija listened with sympathy; it was easy
to believe the tale of his late starvation, for his face showed
it all. "You found me just in the nick of time," she said.
"I'll stand by you--I'll help you till you can get some work."
"I don't like to let you--" he began.
"Why not? Because I'm here?"
"No, not that," he said. "But I went off and left you--"
"Nonsense!" said Marija. "Don't think about it. I don't blame
"You must be hungry," she said, after a minute or two. "You stay
here to lunch--I'll have something up in the room."
She pressed a button, and a colored woman came to the door and
took her order. "It's nice to have somebody to wait on you,"
she observed, with a laugh, as she lay back on the bed.
As the prison breakfast had not been liberal, Jurgis had a good
appetite, and they had a little feast together, talking meanwhile
of Elzbieta and the children and old times. Shortly before they
were through, there came another colored girl, with the message
that the "madame" wanted Marija--"Lithuanian Mary," as they
called her here.
"That means you have to go," she said to Jurgis.
So he got up, and she gave him the new address of the family, a
tenement over in the Ghetto district. "You go there," she said.
"They'll be glad to see you."
But Jurgis stood hesitating.
"I--I don't like to," he said. "Honest, Marija, why don't you
just give me a little money and let me look for work first?"
"How do you need money?" was her reply. "All you want is
something to eat and a place to sleep, isn't it?"
"Yes," he said; "but then I don't like to go there after I left
them--and while I have nothing to do, and while you--you--"
"Go on!" said Marija, giving him a push. "What are you
talking?--I won't give you money," she added, as she followed him
to the door, "because you'll drink it up, and do yourself harm.
Here's a quarter for you now, and go along, and they'll be so
glad to have you back, you won't have time to feel ashamed.
So Jurgis went out, and walked down the street to think it over.
He decided that he would first try to get work, and so he put in
the rest of the day wandering here and there among factories and
warehouses without success. Then, when it was nearly dark,
he concluded to go home, and set out; but he came to a restaurant,
and went in and spent his quarter for a meal; and when he came
out he changed his mind--the night was pleasant, and he would
sleep somewhere outside, and put in the morrow hunting, and so
have one more chance of a job. So he started away again, when
suddenly he chanced to look about him, and found that he was
walking down the same street and past the same hall where he had
listened to the political speech the night 'before. There was no
red fire and no band now, but there was a sign out, announcing a
meeting, and a stream of people pouring in through the entrance.
In a flash Jurgis had decided that he would chance it once more,
and sit down and rest while making up his mind what to do. There
was no one taking tickets, so it must be a free show again.
He entered. There were no decorations in the hall this time;
but there was quite a crowd upon the platform, and almost every seat
in the place was filled. He took one of the last, far in the
rear, and straightway forgot all about his surroundings. Would
Elzbieta think that he had come to sponge off her, or would she
understand that he meant to get to work again and do his share?
Would she be decent to him, or would she scold him? If only he
could get some sort of a job before he went--if that last boss
had only been willing to try him!
--Then suddenly Jurgis looked up. A tremendous roar had burst
from the throats of the crowd, which by this time had packed the
hall to the very doors. Men and women were standing up, waving
handkerchiefs, shouting, yelling. Evidently the speaker had
arrived, thought Jurgis; what fools they were making of
themselves! What were they expecting to get out of it
anyhow--what had they to do with elections, with governing the
country? Jurgis had been behind the scenes in politics.
He went back to his thoughts, but with one further fact to reckon
with--that he was caught here. The hall was now filled to the
doors; and after the meeting it would be too late for him to go
home, so he would have to make the best of it outside. Perhaps
it would be better to go home in the morning, anyway, for the
children would be at school, and he and Elzbieta could have a
quiet explanation. She always had been a reasonable person;
and he really did mean to do right. He would manage to persuade her
of it--and besides, Marija was willing, and Marija was furnishing
the money. If Elzbieta were ugly, he would tell her that in so
So Jurgis went on meditating; until finally, when he had been an
hour or two in the hall, there began to prepare itself a
repetition of the dismal catastrophe of the night before.
Speaking had been going on all the time, and the audience was
clapping its hands and shouting, thrilling with excitement;
and little by little the sounds were beginning to blur in Jurgis's
ears, and his thoughts were beginning to run together, and his
head to wobble and nod. He caught himself many times, as usual,
and made desperate resolutions; but the hall was hot and close,
and his long walk and is dinner were too much for him--in the end
his head sank forward and he went off again.
And then again someone nudged him, and he sat up with his old
terrified start! He had been snoring again, of course! And now
what? He fixed his eyes ahead of him, with painful intensity,
staring at the platform as if nothing else ever had interested
him, or ever could interest him, all his life. He imagined the
angry exclamations, the hostile glances; he imagined the
policeman striding toward him--reaching for his neck. Or was he
to have one more chance? Were they going to let him alone this
time? He sat trembling; waiting--
And then suddenly came a voice in his ear, a woman's voice,gentle
and sweet, "If you would try to listen, comrade, perhaps you
would be interested."
Jurgis was more startled by that than he would have been by the
touch of a policeman. He still kept his eyes fixed ahead, and
did not stir; but his heart gave a great leap. Comrade! Who was
it that called him "comrade"?
He waited long, long; and at last, when he was sure that he was
no longer watched, he stole a glance out of the corner of his
eyes at the woman who sat beside him. She was young and
beautiful; she wore fine clothes, and was what is called a
"lady." And she called him "comrade"!
He turned a little, carefully, so that he could see her better;
then he began to watch her, fascinated. She had apparently
forgotten all about him, and was looking toward the platform.
A man was speaking there--Jurgis heard his voice vaguely; but all
his thoughts were for this woman's face. A feeling of alarm
stole over him as he stared at her. It made his flesh creep.
What was the matter with her, what could be going on, to affect
any one like that? She sat as one turned to stone, her hands
clenched tightly in her lap, so tightly that he could see the
cords standing out in her wrists. There was a look of excitement
upon her face, of tense effort, as of one struggling mightily,
or witnessing a struggle. There was a faint quivering of her
nostrils; and now and then she would moisten her lips with
feverish haste. Her bosom rose and fell as she breathed, and her
excitement seemed to mount higher and higher, and then to sink
away again, like a boat tossing upon ocean surges. What was it?
What was the matter? It must be something that the man was
saying, up there on the platform. What sort of a man was he?
And what sort of thing was this, anyhow?"--So all at once it
occurred to Jurgis to look at the speaker.
It was like coming suddenly upon some wild sight of nature--a
mountain forest lashed by a tempest, a ship tossed about upon a
stormy sea. Jurgis had an unpleasant sensation, a sense of
confusion, of disorder, of wild and meaningless uproar. The man
was tall and gaunt, as haggard as his auditor himself; a thin
black beard covered half of his face, and one could see only two
black hollows where the eyes were. He was speaking rapidly, in
great excitement; he used many gestures--he spoke he moved here
and there upon the stage, reaching with his long arms as if to
seize each person in his audience. His voice was deep, like an
organ; it was some time, however, before Jurgis thought of the
voice--he was too much occupied with his eyes to think of what
the man was saying. But suddenly it seemed as if the speaker had
begun pointing straight at him, as if he had singled him out
particularly for his remarks; and so Jurgis became suddenly aware
of his voice, trembling, vibrant with emotion, with pain and
longing, with a burden of things unutterable, not to be compassed
by words. To hear it was to be suddenly arrested, to be gripped,
"You listen to these things," the man was saying, "and you say,
'Yes, they are true, but they have been that way always.' Or you
say, 'Maybe it will come, but not in my time--it will not help
me.' And so you return to your daily round of toil, you go back
to be ground up for profits in the world-wide mill of economic
might! To toil long hours for another's advantage; to live in
mean and squalid homes, to work in dangerous and unhealthful
places; to wrestle with the specters of hunger and privation,
to take your chances of accident, disease, and death. And each day
the struggle becomes fiercer, the pace more cruel; each day you
have to toil a little harder, and feel the iron hand of
circumstance close upon you a little tighter. Months pass, years
maybe--and then you come again; and again I am here to plead with
you, to know if want and misery have yet done their work with
you, if injustice and oppression have yet opened your eyes! I
shall still be waiting--there is nothing else that I can do.
There is no wilderness where I can hide from these things, there
is no haven where I can escape them; though I travel to the ends
of the earth, I find the same accursed system--I find that all
the fair and noble impulses of humanity, the dreams of poets and
the agonies of martyrs, are shackled and bound in the service of
organized and predatory Greed! And therefore I cannot rest, I
cannot be silent; therefore I cast aside comfort and happiness,
health and good repute--and go out into the world and cry out the
pain of my spirit! Therefore I am not to be silenced by poverty
and sickness, not by hatred and obloquy, by threats and
ridicule--not by prison and persecution, if they should come--not
by any power that is upon the earth or above the earth, that was,
or is, or ever can be created. If I fail tonight, I can only try
tomorrow; knowing that the fault must be mine--that if once the
vision of my soul were spoken upon earth, if once the anguish of
its defeat were uttered in human speech, it would break the
stoutest barriers of prejudice, it would shake the most sluggish
soul to action! It would abash the most cynical, it would
terrify the most selfish; and the voice of mockery would be
silenced, and fraud and falsehood would slink back into their
dens, and the truth would stand forth alone! For I speak with
the voice of the millions who are voiceless! Of them that are
oppressed and have no comforter! Of the disinherited of life,
for whom there is no respite and no deliverance, to whom the
world is a prison, a dungeon of torture, a tomb! With the voice
of the little child who toils tonight in a Southern cotton mill,
staggering with exhaustion, numb with agony, and knowing no hope
but the grave! Of the mother who sews by candlelight in her
tenement garret, weary and weeping, smitten with the mortal
hunger of her babes! Of the man who lies upon a bed of rags,
wrestling in his last sickness and leaving his loved ones to
perish! Of the young girl who, somewhere at this moment, is
walking the streets of this horrible city, beaten and starving,
and making her choice between the brothel and the lake! With the
voice of those, whoever and wherever they may be, who are caught
beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of Greed! With the voice of
humanity, calling for deliverance! Of the everlasting soul of
Man, arising from the dust; breaking its way out of its
prison--rending the bands of oppression and ignorance--groping
its way to the light!"
The speaker paused. There was an instant of silence, while men
caught their breaths, and then like a single sound there came a
cry from a thousand people. Through it all Jurgis sat still,
motionless and rigid, his eyes fixed upon the speaker; he was
trembling, smitten with wonder.
Suddenly the man raised his hands, and silence fell, and he began
"I plead with you," he said, "whoever you may be, provided that
you care about the truth; but most of all I plead with working-
man, with those to whom the evils I portray are not mere matters
of sentiment, to be dallied and toyed with, and then perhaps put
aside and forgotten--to whom they are the grim and relentless
realities of the daily grind, the chains upon their limbs, the
lash upon their backs, the iron in their souls. To you, working-
men! To you, the toilers, who have made this land, and have no
voice in its councils! To you, whose lot it is to sow that
others may reap, to labor and obey, and ask no more than the
wages of a beast of burden, the food and shelter to keep you
alive from day to day. It is to you that I come with my message
of salvation, it is to you that I appeal. I know how much it is
to ask of you--I know, for I have been in your place, I have
lived your life, and there is no man before me here tonight who
knows it better. I have known what it is to be a street-waif,
a bootblack, living upon a crust of bread and sleeping in cellar
stairways and under empty wagons. I have known what it is to
dare and to aspire, to dream mighty dreams and to see them
perish--to see all the fair flowers of my spirit trampled into
the mire by the wild-beast powers of my life. I know what is the
price that a working-man pays for knowledge--I have paid for it
with food and sleep, with agony of body and mind, with health,
almost with life itself; and so, when I come to you with a story
of hope and freedom, with the vision of a new earth to be
created, of a new labor to be dared, I am not surprised that I
find you sordid and material, sluggish and incredulous. That I
do not despair is because I know also the forces that are driving
behind you--because I know the raging lash of poverty, the sting
of contempt and mastership, 'the insolence of office and the
spurns.' Because I feel sure that in the crowd that has come to
me tonight, no matter how many may be dull and heedless, no
matter how many may have come out of idle curiosity, or in order
to ridicule--there will be some one man whom pain and suffering
have made desperate, whom some chance vision of wrong and horror
has startled and shocked into attention. And to him my words
will come like a sudden flash of lightning to one who travels in
darkness--revealing the way before him, the perils and the
obstacles--solving all problems, making all difficulties clear!
The scales will fall from his eyes, the shackles will be torn
from his limbs--he will leap up with a cry of thankfulness, he
will stride forth a free man at last! A man delivered from his
self-created slavery! A man who will never more be trapped--whom
no blandishments will cajole, whom no threats will frighten; who
from tonight on will move forward, and not backward, who will
study and understand, who will gird on his sword and take his
place in the army of his comrades and brothers. Who will carry
the good tidings to others, as I have carried them to
him--priceless gift of liberty and light that is neither mine nor
his, but is the heritage of the soul of man! Working-men,
working-men--comrades! open your eyes and look about you! You
have lived so long in the toil and heat that your senses are
dulled, your souls are numbed; but realize once in your lives
this world in which you dwell--tear off the rags of its customs
and conventions--behold it as it is, in all its hideous
nakedness! Realize it, realize it! Realize that out upon the
plains of Manchuria tonight two hostile armies are facing each
other--that now, while we are seated here, a million human beings
may be hurled at each other's throats, striving with the fury of
maniacs to tear each other to pieces! And this in the twentieth
century, nineteen hundred years since the Prince of Peace was
born on earth! Nineteen hundred years that his words have been
preached as divine, and here two armies of men are rending and
tearing each other like the wild beasts of the forest!
Philosophers have reasoned, prophets have denounced, poets have
wept and pleaded--and still this hideous Monster roams at large!
We have schools and colleges, newspapers and books; we have
searched the heavens and the earth, we have weighed and probed
and reasoned--and all to equip men to destroy each other! We
call it War, and pass it by--but do not put me off with
platitudes and conventions--come with me, come with me--realize
it! See the bodies of men pierced by bullets, blown into pieces
by bursting shells! Hear the crunching of the bayonet, plunged
into human flesh; hear the groans and shrieks of agony, see the
faces of men crazed by pain, turned into fiends by fury and hate!
Put your hand upon that piece of flesh--it is hot and
quivering--just now it was a part of a man! This blood is still
steaming--it was driven by a human heart! Almighty God! and
this goes on--it is systematic, organized, premeditated! And we
know it, and read of it, and take it for granted; our papers tell
of it, and the presses are not stopped--our churches know of it,
and do not close their doors--the people behold it, and do not
rise up in horror and revolution!
"Or perhaps Manchuria is too far away for you--come home with me
then, come here to Chicago. Here in this city to-night ten
thousand women are shut up in foul pens, and driven by hunger to
sell their bodies to live. And we know it, we make it a jest!
And these women are made in the image of your mothers, they may
be your sisters, your daughters; the child whom you left at home
tonight, whose laughing eyes will greet you in the morning--that
fate may be waiting for her! To-night in Chicago there are ten
thousand men, homeless and wretched, willing to work and begging
for a chance, yet starving, and fronting in terror the awful
winter cold! Tonight in Chicago there are a hundred thousand
children wearing out their strength and blasting their lives in
the effort to earn their bread! There are a hundred thousand
mothers who are living in misery and squalor, struggling to earn
enough to feed their little ones! There are a hundred thousand
old people, cast off and helpless, waiting for death to take them
from their torments! There are a million people, men and women
and children, who share the curse of the wage-slave; who toil
every hour they can stand and see, for just enough to keep them
alive; who are condemned till the end of their days to monotony
and weariness, to hunger and misery, to heat and cold, to dirt
and disease, to ignorance and drunkenness and vice! And then
turn over the page with me, and gaze upon the other side of the
picture. There are a thousand--ten thousand, maybe--who are the
masters of these slaves, who own their toil. They do nothing to
earn what they receive, they do not even have to ask for it--it
comes to them of itself, their only care is to dispose of it.
They live in palaces, they riot in luxury and extravagance--such
as no words can describe, as makes the imagination reel and
stagger, makes the soul grow sick and faint. They spend hundreds
of dollars for a pair of shoes, a handkerchief, a garter; they
spend millions for horses and automobiles and yachts, for palaces
and banquets, for little shiny stones with which to deck their
bodies. Their life is a contest among themselves for supremacy
in ostentation and recklessness, in the destroying of useful and
necessary things, in the wasting of the labor and the lives of
their fellow creatures, the toil and anguish of the nations,
the sweat and tears and blood of the human race! It is all
theirs--it comes to them; just as all the springs pour into
streamlets, and the streamlets into rivers, and the rivers into
the oceans--so, automatically and inevitably, all the wealth of
society comes to them. The farmer tills the soil, the miner digs
in the earth, the weaver tends the loom, the mason carves the
stone; the clever man invents, the shrewd man directs, the wise
man studies, the inspired man sings--and all the result, the
products of the labor of brain and muscle, are gathered into one
stupendous stream and poured into their laps! The whole of
society is in their grip, the whole labor of the world lies at
their mercy--and like fierce wolves they rend and destroy, like
ravening vultures they devour and tear! The whole power of
mankind belongs to them, forever and beyond recall--do what it
can, strive as it will, humanity lives for them and dies for
them! They own not merely the labor of society, they have bought
the governments; and everywhere they use their raped and stolen
power to intrench themselves in their privileges, to dig wider
and deeper the channels through which the river of profits flows
to them!--And you, workingmen, workingmen! You have been brought
up to it, you plod on like beasts of burden, thinking only of the
day and its pain--yet is there a man among you who can believe
that such a system will continue forever--is there a man here in
this audience tonight so hardened and debased that he dare rise
up before me and say that he believes it can continue forever;
that the product of the labor of society, the means of existence
of the human race, will always belong to idlers and parasites, to
be spent for the gratification of vanity and lust--to be spent
for any purpose whatever, to be at the disposal of any individual
will whatever--that somehow, somewhere, the labor of humanity
will not belong to humanity, to be used for the purposes of
humanity, to be controlled by the will of humanity? And if this
is ever to be, how is it to be--what power is there that will
bring it about? Will it be the task of your masters, do you
think--will they write the charter of your liberties? Will they
forge you the sword of your deliverance, will they marshal you
the army and lead it to the fray? Will their wealth be spent for
the purpose--will they build colleges and churches to teach you,
will they print papers to herald your progress, and organize
political parties to guide and carry on the struggle? Can you
not see that the task is your task--yours to dream, yours to
resolve, yours to execute? That if ever it is carried out, it
will be in the face of every obstacle that wealth and mastership
can oppose--in the face of ridicule and slander, of hatred and
persecution, of the bludgeon and the jail? That it will be by
the power of your naked bosoms, opposed to the rage of
oppression! By the grim and bitter teaching of blind and
merciless affliction! By the painful gropings of the untutored
mind, by the feeble stammerings of the uncultured voice! By the
sad and lonely hunger of the spirit; by seeking and striving and
yearning, by heartache and despairing, by agony and sweat of
blood! It will be by money paid for with hunger, by knowledge
stolen from sleep, by thoughts communicated under the shadow of
the gallows! It will be a movement beginning in the far-off
past, a thing obscure and unhonored, a thing easy to ridicule,
easy to despise; a thing unlovely, wearing the aspect of
vengeance and hate--but to you, the working-man, the wage-slave,
calling with a voice insistent, imperious--with a voice that you
cannot escape, wherever upon the earth you may be! With the
voice of all your wrongs, with the voice of all your desires;
with the voice of your duty and your hope--of everything in the
world that is worth while to you! The voice of the poor,
demanding that poverty shall cease! The voice of the oppressed,
pronouncing the doom of oppression! The voice of power, wrought
out of suffering--of resolution, crushed out of weakness--of joy
and courage, born in the bottomless pit of anguish and despair!
The voice of Labor, despised and outraged; a mighty giant, lying
prostrate--mountainous, colossal, but blinded, bound, and
ignorant of his strength. And now a dream of resistance haunts
him, hope battling with fear; until suddenly he stirs, and a
fetter snaps--and a thrill shoots through him, to the farthest
ends of his huge body, and in a flash the dream becomes an act!
He starts, he lifts himself; and the bands are shattered, the
burdens roll off him--he rises--towering, gigantic; he springs to
his feet, he shouts in his newborn exultation--"
And the speaker's voice broke suddenly, with the stress of his
feelings; he stood with his arms stretched out above him, and the
power of his vision seemed to lift him from the floor. The
audience came to its feet with a yell; men waved their arms,
laughing aloud in their excitement. And Jurgis was with them, he
was shouting to tear his throat; shouting because he could not
help it, because the stress of his feeling was more than he could
bear. It was not merely the man's words, the torrent of his
eloquence. It was his presence, it was his voice: a voice with
strange intonations that rang through the chambers of the soul
like the clanging of a bell--that gripped the listener like a
mighty hand about his body, that shook him and startled him with
sudden fright, with a sense of things not of earth, of mysteries
never spoken before, of presences of awe and terror! There was
an unfolding of vistas before him, a breaking of the ground
beneath him, an upheaving, a stirring, a trembling; he felt
himself suddenly a mere man no longer--there were powers within
him undreamed of, there were demon forces contending, agelong
wonders struggling to be born; and he sat oppressed with pain and
joy, while a tingling stole down into his finger tips, and his
breath came hard and fast. The sentences of this man were to
Jurgis like the crashing of thunder in his soul; a flood of
emotions surged up in him--all his old hopes and longings, his
old griefs and rages and despairs. All that he had ever felt in
his whole life seemed to come back to him at once, and with one
new emotion, hardly to be described. That he should have
suffered such oppressions and such horrors was bad enough;
but that he should have been crushed and beaten by them, that he
should have submitted, and forgotten, and lived in peace--ah,
truly that was a thing not to be put into words, a thing not to
be borne by a human creature, a thing of terror and madness!
"What," asks the prophet, "is the murder of them that kill the
body, to the murder of them that kill the soul?" And Jurgis was a
man whose soul had been murdered, who had ceased to hope and to
struggle--who had made terms with degradation and despair; and
now, suddenly, in one awful convulsion, the black and hideous
fact was made plain to him! There was a falling in of all the
pillars of his soul, the sky seemed to split above him--he stood
there, with his clenched hands upraised, his eyes bloodshot, and
the veins standing out purple in his face, roaring in the voice
of a wild beast, frantic, incoherent, maniacal. And when he
could shout no more he still stood there, gasping, and whispering
hoarsely to himself: "By God! By God! By God!"
The man had gone back to a seat upon the platform, and Jurgis
realized that his speech was over. The applause continued for
several minutes; and then some one started a song, and the crowd
took it up, and the place shook with it. Jurgis had never heard
it, and he could not make out the words, but the wild and
wonderful spirit of it seized upon him--it was the
"Marseillaise!" As stanza after stanza of it thundered forth, he
sat with his hands clasped, trembling in every nerve. He had
never been so stirred in his life--it was a miracle that had been
wrought in him. He could not think at all, he was stunned; yet
he knew that in the mighty upheaval that had taken place in his
soul, a new man had been born. He had been torn out of the jaws
of destruction, he had been delivered from the thraldom of
despair; the whole world had been changed for him--he was free,
he was free! Even if he were to suffer as he had before, even if
he were to beg and starve, nothing would be the same to him; he
would understand it, and bear it. He would no longer be the
sport of circumstances, he would be a man, with a will and a
purpose; he would have something to fight for, something to die
for, if need be! Here were men who would show him and help him;
and he would have friends and allies, he would dwell in the sight
of justice, and walk arm in arm with power.
The audience subsided again, and Jurgis sat back. The chairman
of the meeting came forward and began to speak. His voice
sounded thin and futile after the other's, and to Jurgis it
seemed a profanation. Why should any one else speak, after that
miraculous man--why should they not all sit in silence? The
chairman was explaining that a collection would now be taken up
to defray the expenses of the meeting, and for the benefit of the
campaign fund of the party. Jurgis heard; but he had not a penny
to give, and so his thoughts went elsewhere again.
He kept his eyes fixed on the orator, who sat in an armchair, his
head leaning on his hand and his attitude indicating exhaustion.
But suddenly he stood up again, and Jurgis heard the chairman of
the meeting saying that the speaker would now answer any
questions which the audience might care to put to him. The man
came forward, and some one--a woman--arose and asked about some
opinion the speaker had expressed concerning Tolstoy. Jurgis had
never heard of Tolstoy, and did not care anything about him. Why
should any one want to ask such questions, after an address like
that? The thing was not to talk, but to do; the thing was to get
bold of others and rouse them, to organize them and prepare for
the fight! But still the discussion went on, in ordinary
conversational tones, and it brought Jurgis back to the everyday
world. A few minutes ago he had felt like seizing the hand of
the beautiful lady by his side, and kissing it; he had felt like
flinging his arms about the neck of the man on the other side of
him. And now he began to realize again that he was a "hobo,"
that he was ragged and dirty, and smelled bad, and had no place
to sleep that night!
And so, at last, when the meeting broke up, and the audience
started to leave, poor Jurgis was in an agony of uncertainty.
He had not thought of leaving--he had thought that the vision must
last forever, that he had found comrades and brothers. But now
he would go out, and the thing would fade away, and he would
never be able to find it again! He sat in his seat, frightened
and wondering; but others in the same row wanted to get out, and
so he had to stand up and move along. As he was swept down the
aisle he looked from one person to another, wistfully; they were
all excitedly discussing the address--but there was nobody who
offered to discuss it with him. He was near enough to the door
to feel the night air, when desperation seized him. He knew
nothing at all about that speech he had heard, not even the name
of the orator; and he was to go away--no, no, it was
preposterous, he must speak to some one; he must find that man
himself and tell him. He would not despise him, tramp as he was!
So he stepped into an empty row of seats and watched, and when
the crowd had thinned out, he started toward the platform. The
speaker was gone; but there was a stage door that stood open,
with people passing in and out, and no one on guard. Jurgis
summoned up his courage and went in, and down a hallway, and to
the door of a room where many people were crowded. No one paid
any attention to him, and he pushed in, and in a corner he saw
the man he sought. The orator sat in a chair, with his shoulders
sunk together and his eyes half closed; his face was ghastly
pale, almost greenish in hue, and one arm lay limp at his side.
A big man with spectacles on stood near him, and kept pushing
back the crowd, saying, "Stand away a little, please; can't you
see the comrade is worn out?"
So Jurgis stood watching, while five or ten minutes passed. Now
and then the man would look up, and address a word or two to
those who were near him; and, at last, on one of these occasions,
his glance rested on Jurgis. There seemed to be a slight hint of
inquiry about it, and a sudden impulse seized the other. He
"I wanted to thank you, sir!" he began, in breathless haste. "I
could not go away without telling you how much--how glad I am I
heard you. I--I didn't know anything about it all--"
The big man with the spectacles, who had moved away, came back at
this moment. "The comrade is too tired to talk to any one--" he
began; but the other held up his hand.
"Wait," he said. "He has something to say to me." And then he
looked into Jurgis's face. "You want to know more about
Socialism?" he asked.
Jurgis started. "I--I--" he stammered. "Is it Socialism? I
didn't know. I want to know about what you spoke of--I want to
help. I have been through all that."
"Where do you live?" asked the other.
"I have no home," said Jurgis, "I am out of work."
"You are a foreigner, are you not?"
The man thought for a moment, and then turned to his friend.
"Who is there, Walters?" he asked. "There is Ostrinski--but he
is a Pole--"
"Ostrinski speaks Lithuanian," said the other. "All right, then;
would you mind seeing if he has gone yet?"
The other started away, and the speaker looked at Jurgis again.
He had deep, black eyes, and a face full of gentleness and pain.
"You must excuse me, comrade," he said. "I am just tired out--I
have spoken every day for the last month. I will introduce you
to some one who will be able to help you as well as I could--"
The messenger had had to go no further than the door, he came
back, followed by a man whom he introduced to Jurgis as "Comrade
Ostrinski." Comrade Ostrinski was a little man, scarcely up to
Jurgis's shoulder, wizened and wrinkled, very ugly, and slightly
lame. He had on a long-tailed black coat, worn green at the
seams and the buttonholes; his eyes must have been weak, for he
wore green spectacles that gave him a grotesque appearance.
But his handclasp was hearty, and he spoke in Lithuanian, which
warmed Jurgis to him.
"You want to know about Socialism?" he said. "Surely. Let us go
out and take a stroll, where we can be quiet and talk some."
And so Jurgis bade farewell to the master wizard, and went out.
Ostrinski asked where he lived, offering to walk in that
direction; and so he had to explain once more that he was without
a home. At the other's request he told his story; how he had
come to America, and what had happened to him in the stockyards,
and how his family had been broken up, and how he had become a
wanderer. So much the little man heard, and then he pressed
Jurgis's arm tightly. "You have been through the mill, comrade!"
he said. "We will make a fighter out of you!"
Then Ostrinski in turn explained his circumstances. He would
have asked Jurgis to his home--but he had only two rooms, and had
no bed to offer. He would have given up his own bed, but his
wife was ill. Later on, when he understood that otherwise Jurgis
would have to sleep in a hallway, he offered him his kitchen
floor, a chance which the other was only too glad to accept.
"Perhaps tomorrow we can do better," said Ostrinski. "We try not
to let a comrade starve."
Ostrinski's home was in the Ghetto district, where he had two
rooms in the basement of a tenement. There was a baby crying as
they entered, and he closed the door leading into the bedroom.
He had three young children, he explained, and a baby had just
come. He drew up two chairs near the kitchen stove, adding that
Jurgis must excuse the disorder of the place, since at such a
time one's domestic arrangements were upset. Half of the kitchen
was given up to a workbench, which was piled with clothing, and
Ostrinski explained that he was a "pants finisher." He brought
great bundles of clothing here to his home, where he and his wife
worked on them. He made a living at it, but it was getting
harder all the time, because his eyes were failing. What would
come when they gave out he could not tell; there had been no
saving anything--a man could barely keep alive by twelve or
fourteen hours' work a day. The finishing of pants did not take
much skill, and anybody could learn it, and so the pay was
forever getting less. That was the competitive wage system; and
if Jurgis wanted to understand what Socialism was, it was there
he had best begin. The workers were dependent upon a job to
exist from day to day, and so they bid against each other, and no
man could get more than the lowest man would consent to work for.
And thus the mass of the people were always in a life-and-death
struggle with poverty. That was "competition," so far as it
concerned the wage-earner, the man who had only his labor to
sell; to those on top, the exploiters, it appeared very
differently, of course--there were few of them, and they could
combine and dominate, and their power would be unbreakable. And
so all over the world two classes were forming, with an unbridged
chasm between them--the capitalist class, with its enormous
fortunes, and the proletariat, bound into slavery by unseen
chains. The latter were a thousand to one in numbers, but they
were ignorant and helpless, and they would remain at the mercy of
their exploiters until they were organized--until they had become
"class-conscious." It was a slow and weary process, but it would
go on--it was like the movement of a glacier, once it was started
it could never be stopped. Every Socialist did his share, and
lived upon the vision of the "good time coming,"--when the
working class should go to the polls and seize the powers of
government, and put an end to private property in the means of
production. No matter how poor a man was, or how much he
suffered, he could never be really unhappy while he knew of that
future; even if he did not live to see it himself, his children
would, and, to a Socialist, the victory of his class was his
victory. Also he had always the progress to encourage him;
here in Chicago, for instance, the movement was growing by leaps and
bounds. Chicago was the industrial center of the country, and
nowhere else were the unions so strong; but their organizations
did the workers little good, for the employers were organized,
also; and so the strikes generally failed, and as fast as the
unions were broken up the men were coming over to the Socialists.
Ostrinski explained the organization of the party, the machinery
by which the proletariat was educating itself. There were
"locals" in every big city and town, and they were being
organized rapidly in the smaller places; a local had anywhere
from six to a thousand members, and there were fourteen hundred
of them in all, with a total of about twenty-five thousand
members, who paid dues to support the organization. "Local Cook
County," as the city organization was called, had eighty branch
locals, and it alone was spending several thousand dollars in the
campaign. It published a weekly in English, and one each in
Bohemian and German; also there was a monthly published in
Chicago, and a cooperative publishing house, that issued a
million and a half of Socialist books and pamphlets every year.
All this was the growth of the last few years--there had been
almost nothing of it when Ostrinski first came to Chicago.
Ostrinski was a Pole, about fifty years of age. He had lived in
Silesia, a member of a despised and persecuted race, and had
taken part in the proletarian movement in the early seventies,
when Bismarck, having conquered France, had turned his policy of
blood and iron upon the "International." Ostrinski himself had
twice been in jail, but he had been young then, and had not
cared. He had had more of his share of the fight, though, for
just when Socialism had broken all its barriers and become the
great political force of the empire, he had come to America, and
begun all over again. In America every one had laughed at the
mere idea of Socialism then--in America all men were free. As if
political liberty made wage slavery any the more tolerable! said
The little tailor sat tilted back in his stiff kitchen chair,
with his feet stretched out upon the empty stove, and speaking in
low whispers, so as not to waken those in the next room. To
Jurgis he seemed a scarcely less wonderful person than the
speaker at the meeting; he was poor, the lowest of the low,
hunger-driven and miserable--and yet how much he knew, how much
he had dared and achieved, what a hero he had been! There were
others like him, too--thousands like him, and all of them
workingmen! That all this wonderful machinery of progress had
been created by his fellows--Jurgis could not believe it, it
seemed too good to be true.
That was always the way, said Ostrinski; when a man was first
converted to Socialism he was like a crazy person--he could not'
understand how others could fail to see it, and he expected to
convert all the world the first week. After a while he would
realize how hard a task it was; and then it would be fortunate
that other new hands kept coming, to save him from settling down
into a rut. Just now Jurgis would have plenty of chance to vent
his excitement, for a presidential campaign was on, and everybody
was talking politics. Ostrinski would take him to the next
meeting of the branch local, and introduce him, and he might join
the party. The dues were five cents a week, but any one who
could not afford this might be excused from paying. The
Socialist party was a really democratic political
organization--it was controlled absolutely by its own membership,
and had no bosses. All of these things Ostrinski explained, as
also the principles of the party. You might say that there was
really but one Socialist principle--that of "no compromise,"
which was the essence of the proletarian movement all over the
world. When a Socialist was elected to office he voted with old
party legislators for any measure that was likely to be of help
to the working class, but he never forgot that these concessions,
whatever they might be, were trifles compared with the great
purpose--the organizing of the working class for the revolution.
So far, the rule in America had been that one Socialist made
another Socialist once every two years; and if they should
maintain the same rate they would carry the country in
1912--though not all of them expected to succeed as quickly as
The Socialists were organized in every civilized nation; it was
an international political party, said Ostrinski, the greatest
the world had ever known. It numbered thirty million of
adherents, and it cast eight million votes. It had started its
first newspaper in Japan, and elected its first deputy in
Argentina; in France it named members of cabinets, and in Italy
and Australia it held the balance of power and turned out
ministries. In Germany, where its vote was more than a third of
the total vote of the empire, all other parties and powers had
united to fight it. It would not do, Ostrinski explained,
for the proletariat of one nation to achieve the victory, for that
nation would be crushed by the military power of the others;
and so the Socialist movement was a world movement, an organization
of all mankind to establish liberty and fraternity. It was the
new religion of humanity--or you might say it was the fulfillment
of the old religion, since it implied but the literal application
of all the teachings of Christ.
Until long after midnight Jurgis sat lost in the conversation of
his new acquaintance. It was a most wonderful experience to
him--an almost supernatural experience. It was like encountering
an inhabitant of the fourth dimension of space, a being who was
free from all one's own limitations. For four years, now, Jurgis
had been wondering and blundering in the depths of a wilderness;
and here, suddenly, a hand reached down and seized him, and
lifted him out of it, and set him upon a mountain-top, from which
he could survey it all--could see the paths from which he had
wandered, the morasses into which he had stumbled, the hiding
places of the beasts of prey that had fallen upon him. There
were his Packingtown experiences, for instance--what was there
about Packingtown that Ostrinski could not explain! To Jurgis
the packers had been equivalent to fate; Ostrinski showed him
that they were the Beef Trust. They were a gigantic combination
of capital, which had crushed all opposition, and overthrown the
laws of the land, and was preying upon the people. Jurgis
recollected how, when he had first come to Packingtown, he had
stood and watched the hog-killing, and thought how cruel and
savage it was, and come away congratulating himself that he was
not a hog; now his new acquaintance showed him that a hog was
just what he had been--one of the packers' hogs. What they
wanted from a hog was all the profits that could be got out of
him; and that was what they wanted from the workingman, and also
that was what they wanted from the public. What the hog thought
of it, and what he suffered, were not considered; and no more was
it with labor, and no more with the purchaser of meat. That was
true everywhere in the world, but it was especially true in
Packingtown; there seemed to be something about the work of
slaughtering that tended to ruthlessness and ferocity--it was
literally the fact that in the methods of the packers a hundred
human lives did not balance a penny of profit. When Jurgis had
made himself familiar with the Socialist literature, as he would
very quickly, he would get glimpses of the Beef Trust from all
sorts of aspects, and he would find it everywhere the same;
it was the incarnation of blind and insensate Greed. It was a
monster devouring with a thousand mouths, trampling with a
thousand hoofs; it was the Great Butcher--it was the spirit of
Capitalism made flesh. Upon the ocean of commerce it sailed as a
pirate ship; it had hoisted the black flag and declared war upon
civilization. Bribery and corruption were its everyday methods.
In Chicago the city government was simply one of its branch
offices; it stole billions of gallons of city water openly, it
dictated to the courts the sentences of disorderly strikers, it
forbade the mayor to enforce the building laws against it. In
the national capital it had power to prevent inspection of its
product, and to falsify government reports; it violated the
rebate laws, and when an investigation was threatened it burned
its books and sent its criminal agents out of the country.
In the commercial world it was a Juggernaut car; it wiped out
thousands of businesses every year, it drove men to madness and
suicide. It had forced the price of cattle so low as to destroy
the stock-raising industry, an occupation upon which whole states
existed; it had ruined thousands of butchers who had refused to
handle its products. It divided the country into districts, and
fixed the price of meat in all of them; and it owned all the
refrigerator cars, and levied an enormous tribute upon all
poultry and eggs and fruit and vegetables. With the millions of
dollars a week that poured in upon it, it was reaching out for
the control of other interests, railroads and trolley lines, gas
and electric light franchises--it already owned the leather and
the grain business of the country. The people were tremendously
stirred up over its encroachments, but nobody had any remedy to
suggest; it was the task of Socialists to teach and organize
them, and prepare them for the time when they were to seize the
huge machine called the Beef Trust, and use it to produce food
for human beings and not to heap up fortunes for a band of
pirates. It was long after midnight when Jurgis lay down upon
the floor of Ostrinski's kitchen; and yet it was an hour before
he could get to sleep, for the glory of that joyful vision of the
people of Packingtown marching in and taking possession of the
Jurgis had breakfast with Ostrinski and his family, and then he
went home to Elzbieta. He was no longer shy about it--when he
went in, instead of saying all the things he had been planning to
say, he started to tell Elzbieta about the revolution! At first
she thought he was out of his mind, and it was hours before she
could really feel certain that he was himself. When, however,
she had satisfied herself that he was sane upon all subjects
except politics, she troubled herself no further about it.
Jurgis was destined to find that Elzbieta's armor was absolutely
impervious to Socialism. Her soul had been baked hard in the
fire of adversity, and there was no altering it now; life to her
was the hunt for daily bread, and ideas existed for her only as
they bore upon that. All that interested her in regard to this
new frenzy which had seized hold of her son-in-law was whether or
not it had a tendency to make him sober and industrious; and when
she found he intended to look for work and to contribute his
share to the family fund, she gave him full rein to convince her
of anything. A wonderfully wise little woman was Elzbieta;
she could think as quickly as a hunted rabbit, and in half an hour
she had chosen her life-attitude to the Socialist movement. She
agreed in everything with Jurgis, except the need of his paying
his dues; and she would even go to a meeting with him now and
then, and sit and plan her next day's dinner amid the storm.
For a week after he became a convert Jurgis continued to wander
about all day, looking for work; until at last he met with a
strange fortune. He was passing one of Chicago's innumerable
small hotels, and after some hesitation he concluded to go in.
A man he took for the proprietor was standing in the lobby, and he
went up to him and tackled him for a job.
"What can you do?" the man asked.
"Anything, sir," said Jurgis, and added quickly: "I've been out
of work for a long time, sir. I'm an honest man, and I'm strong
The other was eying him narrowly. "Do you drink?" he asked.
"No, sir," said Jurgis.
"Well, I've been employing a man as a porter, and he drinks.
I've discharged him seven times now, and I've about made up my
mind that's enough. Would you be a porter?"
"It's hard work. You'll have to clean floors and wash spittoons
and fill lamps and handle trunks--"
"I'm willing, sir."
"All right. I'll pay you thirty a month and board, and you can
begin now, if you feel like it. You can put on the other
And so Jurgis fell to work, and toiled like a Trojan till night.
Then he went and told Elzbieta, and also, late as it was, he paid
a visit to Ostrinski to let him know of his good fortune. Here
he received a great surprise, for when he was describing the
location of the hotel Ostrinski interrupted suddenly, "Not
"Yes," said Jurgis, "that's the name."
To which the other replied, "Then you've got the best boss in
Chicago--he's a state organizer of our party, and one of our
So the next morning Jurgis went to his employer and told him;
and the man seized him by the hand and shook it. "By Jove!" he
cried, "that lets me out. I didn't sleep all last night because
I had discharged a good Socialist!"
So, after that, Jurgis was known to his "boss" as "Comrade
Jurgis," and in return he was expected to call him "Comrade
Hinds." "Tommy" Hinds, as he was known to his intimates, was a
squat little man, with broad shoulders and a florid face,
decorated with gray side whiskers. He was the kindest-hearted
man that ever lived, and the liveliest--inexhaustible in his
enthusiasm, and talking Socialism all day and all night. He was
a great fellow to jolly along a crowd, and would keep a meeting
in an uproar; when once he got really waked up, the torrent of
his eloquence could be compared with nothing save Niagara.
Tommy Hinds had begun life as a blacksmith's helper, and had run
away to join the Union army, where he had made his first
acquaintance with "graft," in the shape of rotten muskets and
shoddy blankets. To a musket that broke in a crisis he always
attributed the death of his only brother, and upon worthless
blankets he blamed all the agonies of his own old age. Whenever
it rained, the rheumatism would get into his joints, and then he
would screw up his face and mutter: "Capitalism, my boy,
capitalism! 'Ecrasez l'infame!'" He had one unfailing remedy
for all the evils of this world, and he preached it to every one;
no matter whether the person's trouble was failure in business,
or dyspepsia, or a quarrelsome mother-in-law, a twinkle would
come into his eyes and he would say, "You know what to do about
it--vote the Socialist ticket!"
Tommy Hinds had set out upon the trail of the Octopus as soon as
the war was over. He had gone into business, and found himself
in competition with the fortunes of those who had been stealing
while he had been fighting. The city government was in their
hands and the railroads were in league with them, and honest
business was driven to the wall; and so Hinds had put all his
savings into Chicago real estate, and set out singlehanded to dam
the river of graft. He had been a reform member of the city
council, he had been a Greenbacker, a Labor Unionist, a Populist,
a Bryanite--and after thirty years of fighting, the year 1896 had
served to convince him that the power of concentrated wealth
could never be controlled, but could only be destroyed. He had
published a pamphlet about it, and set out to organize a party of
his own, when a stray Socialist leaflet had revealed to him that
others had been ahead of him. Now for eight years he had been
fighting for the party, anywhere, everywhere--whether it was a
G.A.R. reunion, or a hotel-keepers' convention, or an
Afro-American businessmen's banquet, or a Bible society picnic,
Tommy Hinds would manage to get himself invited to explain the
relations of Socialism to the subject in hand. After that he
would start off upon a tour of his own, ending at some place
between New York and Oregon; and when he came back from there, he
would go out to organize new locals for the state committee; and
finally he would come home to rest--and talk Socialism in
Chicago. Hinds's hotel was a very hot-bed of the propaganda; all
the employees were party men, and if they were not when they
came, they were quite certain to be before they went away. The
proprietor would get into a discussion with some one in the
lobby, and as the conversation grew animated, others would gather
about to listen, until finally every one in the place would be
crowded into a group, and a regular debate would be under way.
This went on every night--when Tommy Hinds was not there to do
it, his clerk did it; and when his clerk was away campaigning,
the assistant attended to it, while Mrs. Hinds sat behind the
desk and did the work. The clerk was an old crony of the
proprietor's, an awkward, rawboned giant of a man, with a lean,
sallow face, a broad mouth, and whiskers under his chin, the very
type and body of a prairie farmer. He had been that all his
life--he had fought the railroads in Kansas for fifty years,
a Granger, a Farmers' Alliance man, a "middle-of-the-road"
Populist. Finally, Tommy Hinds had revealed to him the wonderful
idea of using the trusts instead of destroying them, and he had
sold his farm and come to Chicago.
That was Amos Struver; and then there was Harry Adams, the
assistant clerk, a pale, scholarly-looking man, who came from
Massachusetts, of Pilgrim stock. Adams had been a cotton
operative in Fall River, and the continued depression in the
industry had worn him and his family out, and he had emigrated to
South Carolina. In Massachusetts the percentage of white
illiteracy is eight-tenths of one per cent, while in South
Carolina it is thirteen and six-tenths per cent; also in South
Carolina there is a property qualification for voters--and for
these and other reasons child labor is the rule, and so the
cotton mills were driving those of Massachusetts out of the
business. Adams did not know this, he only knew that the
Southern mills were running; but when he got there he found that
if he was to live, all his family would have to work, and from
six o'clock at night to six o'clock in the morning. So he had
set to work to organize the mill hands, after the fashion in
Massachusetts, and had been discharged; but he had gotten other
work, and stuck at it, and at last there had been a strike for
shorter hours, and Harry Adams had attempted to address a street
meeting, which was the end of him. In the states of the far
South the labor of convicts is leased to contractors, and when
there are not convicts enough they have to be supplied. Harry
Adams was sent up by a judge who was a cousin of the mill owner
with whose business he had interfered; and though the life had
nearly killed him, he had been wise enough not to murmur, and at
the end of his term he and his family had left the state of South
Carolina--hell's back yard, as he called it. He had no money for
carfare, but it was harvesttime, and they walked one day and
worked the next; and so Adams got at last to Chicago, and joined
the Socialist party. He was a studious man, reserved, and
nothing of an orator; but he always had a pile of books under his
desk in the hotel, and articles from his pen were beginning to
attract attention in the party press.
Contrary to what one would have expected, all this radicalism did
not hurt the hotel business; the radicals flocked to it, and the
commercial travelers all found it diverting. Of late, also, the
hotel had become a favorite stopping place for Western cattlemen.
Now that the Beef Trust had adopted the trick of raising prices
to induce enormous shipments of cattle, and then dropping them
again and scooping in all they needed, a stock raiser was very
apt to find himself in Chicago without money enough to pay his
freight bill; and so he had to go to a cheap hotel, and it was no
drawback to him if there was an agitator talking in the lobby.
These Western fellows were just "meat" for Tommy Hinds--he would
get a dozen of them around him and paint little pictures of "the
System." Of course, it was not a week before he had heard
Jurgis's story, and after that he would not have let his new
porter go for the world. "See here," he would say, in the middle
of an argument, "I've got a fellow right here in my place who's
worked there and seen every bit of it!" And then Jurgis would
drop his work, whatever it was, and come, and the other would
say, "Comrade Jurgis, just tell these gentlemen what you saw on
the killing-beds." At first this request caused poor Jurgis the
most acute agony, and it was like pulling teeth to get him to
talk; but gradually he found out what was wanted, and in the end
he learned to stand up and speak his piece with enthusiasm. His
employer would sit by and encourage him with exclamations and
shakes of the head; when Jurgis would give the formula for
"potted ham," or tell about the condemned hogs that were dropped
into the "destructors" at the top and immediately taken out again
at the bottom, to be shipped into another state and made into
lard, Tommy Hinds would bang his knee and cry, "Do you think a
man could make up a thing like that out of his head?"
And then the hotel-keeper would go on to show how the Socialists
had the only real remedy for such evils, how they alone "meant
business" with the Beef Trust. And when, in answer to this, the
victim would say that the whole country was getting stirred up,
that the newspapers were full of denunciations of it, and the
government taking action against it, Tommy Hinds had a knock-out
blow all ready. "Yes," he would say, "all that is true--but what
do you suppose is the reason for it? Are you foolish enough to
believe that it's done for the public? There are other trusts in
the country just as illegal and extortionate as the Beef Trust:
there is the Coal Trust, that freezes the poor in winter--there
is the Steel Trust, that doubles the price of every nail in your
shoes--there is the Oil Trust, that keeps you from reading at
night--and why do you suppose it is that all the fury of the
press and the government is directed against the Beef Trust?" And
when to this the victim would reply that there was clamor enough
over the Oil Trust, the other would continue: "Ten years ago
Henry D. Lloyd told all the truth about the Standard Oil Company
in his Wealth versus Commonwealth; and the book was allowed to
die, and you hardly ever hear of it. And now, at last, two
magazines have the courage to tackle 'Standard Oil' again, and
what happens? The newspapers ridicule the authors, the churches
defend the criminals, and the government--does nothing. And now,
why is it all so different with the Beef Trust?"
Here the other would generally admit that he was "stuck"; and
Tommy Hinds would explain to him, and it was fun to see his eyes
open. "If you were a Socialist," the hotelkeeper would say, "you
would understand that the power which really governs the United
States today is the Railroad Trust. It is the Railroad Trust
that runs your state government, wherever you live, and that runs
the United States Senate. And all of the trusts that I have
named are railroad trusts--save only the Beef Trust! The Beef
Trust has defied the railroads--it is plundering them day by day
through the Private Car; and so the public is roused to fury, and
the papers clamor for action, and the government goes on the war-
path! And you poor common people watch and applaud the job, and
think it's all done for you, and never dream that it is really
the grand climax of the century-long battle of commercial
competition--the final death grapple between the chiefs of the
Beef Trust and 'Standard Oil,' for the prize of the mastery and
ownership of the United States of America!"
Such was the new home in which Jurgis lived and worked, and in
which his education was completed. Perhaps you would imagine
that he did not do much work there, but that would be a great
mistake. He would have cut off one hand for Tommy Hinds; and to
keep Hinds's hotel a thing of beauty was his joy in life. That
he had a score of Socialist arguments chasing through his brain
in the meantime did not interfere with this; on the contrary,
Jurgis scrubbed the spittoons and polished the banisters all the
more vehemently because at the same time he was wrestling
inwardly with an imaginary recalcitrant. It would be pleasant to
record that he swore off drinking immediately, and all the rest
of his bad habits with it; but that would hardly be exact. These
revolutionists were not angels; they were men, and men who had
come up from the social pit, and with the mire of it smeared over
them. Some of them drank, and some of them swore, and some of
them ate pie with their knives; there was only one difference
between them and all the rest of the populace--that they were men
with a hope, with a cause to fight for and suffer for. There
came times to Jurgis when the vision seemed far-off and pale, and
a glass of beer loomed large in comparison; but if the glass led
to another glass, and to too many glasses, he had something to
spur him to remorse and resolution on the morrow. It was so
evidently a wicked thing to spend one's pennies for drink, when
the working class was wandering in darkness, and waiting to be
delivered; the price of a glass of beer would buy fifty copies of
a leaflet, and one could hand these out to the unregenerate,
and then get drunk upon the thought of the good that was being
accomplished. That was the way the movement had been made, and
it was the only way it would progress; it availed nothing to know
of it, without fighting for it--it was a thing for all, not for a
few! A corollary of this proposition of course was, that any one
who refused to receive the new gospel was personally responsible
for keeping Jurgis from his heart's desire; and this, alas, made
him uncomfortable as an acquaintance. He met some neighbors with
whom Elzbieta had made friends in her neighborhood, and he set
out to make Socialists of them by wholesale, and several times he
all but got into a fight.
It was all so painfully obvious to Jurgis! It was so
incomprehensible how a man could fail to see it! Here were all
the opportunities of the country, the land, and the buildings
upon the land, the railroads, the mines, the factories, and the
stores, all in the hands of a few private individuals, called
capitalists, for whom the people were obliged to work for wages.
The whole balance of what the people produced went to heap up the
fortunes of these capitalists, to heap, and heap again, and yet
again--and that in spite of the fact that they, and every one
about them, lived in unthinkable luxury! And was it not plain
that if the people cut off the share of those who merely "owned,"
the share of those who worked would be much greater? That was as
plain as two and two makes four; and it was the whole of it,
absolutely the whole of it; and yet there were people who could
not see it, who would argue about everything else in the world.
They would tell you that governments could not manage things as
economically as private individuals; they would repeat and repeat
that, and think they were saying something! They could not see
that "economical" management by masters meant simply that they,
the people, were worked harder and ground closer and paid less!
They were wage-earners and servants, at the mercy of exploiters
whose one thought was to get as much out of them as possible;
and they were taking an interest in the process, were anxious lest
it should not be done thoroughly enough! Was it not honestly a
trial to listen to an argument such as that?
And yet there were things even worse. You would begin talking to
some poor devil who had worked in one shop for the last thirty
years, and had never been able to save a penny; who left home
every morning at six o'clock, to go and tend a machine, and come
back at night too tired to take his clothes off; who had never
had a week's vacation in his life, had never traveled, never had
an adventure, never learned anything, never hoped anything--and
when you started to tell him about Socialism he would sniff and
say, "I'm not interested in that--I'm an individualist!" And then
he would go on to tell you that Socialism was "paternalism," and
that if it ever had its way the world would stop progressing. It
was enough to make a mule laugh, to hear arguments like that; and
yet it was no laughing matter, as you found out--for how many
millions of such poor deluded wretches there were, whose lives
had been so stunted by capitalism that they no longer knew what
freedom was! And they really thought that it was "individualism"
for tens of thousands of them to herd together and obey the
orders of a steel magnate, and produce hundreds of millions of
dollars of wealth for him, and then let him give them libraries;
while for them to take the industry, and run it to suit
themselves, and build their own libraries--that would have been
Sometimes the agony of such things as this was almost more than
Jurgis could bear; yet there was no way of escape from it, there
was nothing to do but to dig away at the base of this mountain of
ignorance and prejudice. You must keep at the poor fellow; you
must hold your temper, and argue with him, and watch for your
chance to stick an idea or two into his head. And the rest of
the time you must sharpen up your weapons--you must think out new
replies to his objections, and provide yourself with new facts to
prove to him the folly of his ways.
So Jurgis acquired the reading habit. He would carry in his
pocket a tract or a pamphlet which some one had loaned him, and
whenever he had an idle moment during the day he would plod
through a paragraph, and then think about it while he worked.
Also he read the newspapers, and asked questions about them. One
of the other porters at Hinds's was a sharp little Irishman, who
knew everything that Jurgis wanted to know; and while they were
busy he would explain to him the geography of America, and its
history, its constitution and its laws; also he gave him an idea
of the business system of the country, the great railroads and
corporations, and who owned them, and the labor unions, and the
big strikes, and the men who had led them. Then at night, when
he could get off, Jurgis would attend the Socialist meetings.
During the campaign one was not dependent upon the street corner
affairs, where the weather and the quality of the orator were
equally uncertain; there were hall meetings every night, and one
could hear speakers of national prominence. These discussed the
political situation from every point of view, and all that
troubled Jurgis was the impossibility of carrying off but a small
part of the treasures they offered him.
There was a man who was known in the party as the "Little Giant."
The Lord had used up so much material in the making of his head
that there had not been enough to complete his legs; but he got
about on the platform, and when he shook his raven whiskers the
pillars of capitalism rocked. He had written a veritable
encyclopedia upon the subject, a book that was nearly as big as
himself--And then there was a young author, who came from
California, and had been a salmon fisher, an oyster-pirate, a
longshoreman, a sailor; who had tramped the country and been sent
to jail, had lived in the Whitechapel slums, and been to the
Klondike in search of gold. All these things he pictured in his
books, and because he was a man of genius he forced the world to
hear him. Now he was famous, but wherever he went he still
preached the gospel of the poor. And then there was one who was
known at the "millionaire Socialist." He had made a fortune in
business, and spent nearly all of it in building up a magazine,
which the post office department had tried to suppress, and had
driven to Canada. He was a quiet-mannered man, whom you would
have taken for anything in the world but a Socialist agitator.
His speech was simple and informal--he could not understand why
any one should get excited about these things. It was a process
of economic evolution, he said, and he exhibited its laws and
methods. Life was a struggle for existence, and the strong
overcame the weak, and in turn were overcome by the strongest.
Those who lost in the struggle were generally exterminated; but
now and then they had been known to save themselves by
combination--which was a new and higher kind of strength. It was
so that the gregarious animals had overcome the predaceous; it
was so, in human history, that the people had mastered the kings.
The workers were simply the citizens of industry, and the
Socialist movement was the expression of their will to survive.
The inevitability of the revolution depended upon this fact, that
they had no choice but to unite or be exterminated; this fact,
grim and inexorable, depended upon no human will, it was the law
of the economic process, of which the editor showed the details
with the most marvelous precision.
And later on came the evening of the great meeting of the
campaign, when Jurgis heard the two standard-bearers of his
party. Ten years before there had been in Chicago a strike of a
hundred and fifty thousand railroad employees, and thugs had been
hired by the railroads to commit violence, and the President of
the United States had sent in troops to break the strike, by
flinging the officers of the union into jail without trial. The
president of the union came out of his cell a ruined man; but
also he came out a Socialist; and now for just ten years he had
been traveling up and down the country, standing face to face
with the people, and pleading with them for justice. He was a
man of electric presence, tall and gaunt, with a face worn thin
by struggle and suffering. The fury of outraged manhood gleamed
in it--and the tears of suffering little children pleaded in his
voice. When he spoke he paced the stage, lithe and eager, like a
panther. He leaned over, reaching out for his audience; he
pointed into their souls with an insistent finger. His voice was
husky from much speaking, but the great auditorium was as still
as death, and every one heard him.
And then, as Jurgis came out from this meeting, some one handed
him a paper which he carried home with him and read; and so he
became acquainted with the "Appeal to Reason." About twelve years
previously a Colorado real-estate speculator had made up his mind
that it was wrong to gamble in the necessities of life of human
beings: and so he had retired and begun the publication of a
Socialist weekly. There had come a time when he had to set his
own type, but he had held on and won out, and now his publication
was an institution. It used a carload of paper every week, and
the mail trains would be hours loading up at the depot of the
little Kansas town. It was a four-page weekly, which sold for
less than half a cent a copy; its regular subscription list was a
quarter of a million, and it went to every crossroads post office
The "Appeal" was a "propaganda" paper. It had a manner all its
own--it was full of ginger and spice, of Western slang and
hustle: It collected news of the doings of the "plutes," and
served it up for the benefit of the "American working-mule."
It would have columns of the deadly parallel--the million dollars'
worth of diamonds, or the fancy pet-poodle establishment of a
society dame, beside the fate of Mrs. Murphy of San Francisco,
who had starved to death on the streets, or of John Robinson,
just out of the hospital, who had hanged himself in New York
because he could not find work. It collected the stories of
graft and misery from the daily press, and made a little pungent
paragraphs out of them. "Three banks of Bungtown, South Dakota,
failed, and more savings of the workers swallowed up!" "The mayor
of Sandy Creek, Oklahoma, has skipped with a hundred thousand
dollars. That's the kind of rulers the old partyites give you!"
"The president of the Florida Flying Machine Company is in jail
for bigamy. He was a prominent opponent of Socialism, which he
said would break up the home!" The "Appeal" had what it called
its "Army," about thirty thousand of the faithful, who did things
for it; and it was always exhorting the "Army" to keep its dander
up, and occasionally encouraging it with a prize competition,
for anything from a gold watch to a private yacht or an eighty-acre
farm. Its office helpers were all known to the "Army" by quaint
titles--"Inky Ike," "the Bald-headed Man," "the Redheaded Girl,"
"the Bulldog," "the Office Goat," and "the One Hoss."
But sometimes, again, the "Appeal" would be desperately serious.
It sent a correspondent to Colorado, and printed pages describing
the overthrow of American institutions in that state. In a
certain city of the country it had over forty of its "Army" in
the headquarters of the Telegraph Trust, and no message of
importance to Socialists ever went through that a copy of it did
not go to the "Appeal." It would print great broadsides during
the campaign; one copy that came to Jurgis was a manifesto
addressed to striking workingmen, of which nearly a million
copies had been distributed in the industrial centers, wherever
the employers' associations had been carrying out their "open
shop" program. "You have lost the strike!" it was headed. "And
now what are you going to do about it?" It was what is called an
"incendiary" appeal--it was written by a man into whose soul the
iron had entered. When this edition appeared, twenty thousand
copies were sent to the stockyards district; and they were taken
out and stowed away in the rear of a little cigar store, and
every evening, and on Sundays, the members of the Packingtown
locals would get armfuls and distribute them on the streets and
in the houses. The people of Packingtown had lost their strike,
if ever a people had, and so they read these papers gladly, and
twenty thousand were hardly enough to go round. Jurgis had
resolved not to go near his old home again, but when he heard of
this it was too much for him, and every night for a week he would
get on the car and ride out to the stockyards, and help to undo
his work of the previous year, when he had sent Mike Scully's
ten-pin setter to the city Board of Aldermen.
It was quite marvelous to see what a difference twelve months had
made in Packingtown--the eyes of the people were getting opened!
The Socialists were literally sweeping everything before them
that election, and Scully and the Cook County machine were at
their wits' end for an "issue." At the very close of the campaign
they bethought themselves of the fact that the strike had been
broken by Negroes, and so they sent for a South Carolina
fire-eater, the "pitchfork senator," as he was called, a man who
took off his coat when he talked to workingmen, and damned and
swore like a Hessian. This meeting they advertised extensively,
and the Socialists advertised it too--with the result that about
a thousand of them were on hand that evening. The "pitchfork
senator" stood their fusillade of questions for about an hour,
and then went home in disgust, and the balance of the meeting was
a strictly party affair. Jurgis, who had insisted upon coming,
had the time of his life that night; he danced about and waved
his arms in his excitement--and at the very climax he broke loose
from his friends, and got out into the aisle, and proceeded to
make a speech himself! The senator had been denying that the
Democratic party was corrupt; it was always the Republicans who
bought the votes, he said--and here was Jurgis shouting
furiously, "It's a lie! It's a lie!" After which he went on to
tell them how he knew it--that he knew it because he had bought
them himself! And he would have told the "pitchfork senator" all
his experiences, had not Harry Adams and a friend grabbed him
about the neck and shoved him into a seat.
One of the first things that Jurgis had done after he got a job
was to go and see Marija. She came down into the basement of the
house to meet him, and he stood by the door with his hat in his
hand, saying, "I've got work now, and so you can leave here."
But Marija only shook her head. There was nothing else for her
to do, she said, and nobody to employ her. She could not keep
her past a secret--girls had tried it, and they were always found
out. There were thousands of men who came to this place, and
sooner or later she would meet one of them. "And besides,"
Marija added, "I can't do anything. I'm no good--I take dope.
What could you do with me?"
"Can't you stop?" Jurgis cried.
"No," she answered, "I'll never stop. What's the use of talking
about it--I'll stay here till I die, I guess. It's all I'm fit
for." And that was all that he could get her to say--there was no
use trying. When he told her he would not let Elzbieta take her
money, she answered indifferently: "Then it'll be wasted
here--that's all." Her eyelids looked heavy and her face was red
and swollen; he saw that he was annoying her, that she only
wanted him to go away. So he went, disappointed and sad.
Poor Jurgis was not very happy in his home-life. Elzbieta was
sick a good deal now, and the boys were wild and unruly, and very
much the worse for their life upon the streets. But he stuck by
the family nevertheless, for they reminded him of his old
happiness; and when things went wrong he could solace himself
with a plunge into the Socialist movement. Since his life had
been caught up into the current of this great stream, things
which had before been the whole of life to him came to seem of
relatively slight importance; his interests were elsewhere,
in the world of ideas. His outward life was commonplace and
uninteresting; he was just a hotel-porter, and expected to remain
one while he lived; but meantime, in the realm of thought,
his life was a perpetual adventure. There was so much to know--so
many wonders to be discovered! Never in all his life did Jurgis
forget the day before election, when there came a telephone
message from a friend of Harry Adams, asking him to bring Jurgis
to see him that night; and Jurgis went, and met one of the minds
of the movement.
The invitation was from a man named Fisher, a Chicago millionaire
who had given up his life to settlement work, and had a little
home in the heart of the city's slums. He did not belong to the
party, but he was in sympathy with it; and he said that he was to
have as his guest that night the editor of a big Eastern
magazine, who wrote against Socialism, but really did not know
what it was. The millionaire suggested that Adams bring Jurgis
along, and then start up the subject of "pure food," in which the
editor was interested.
Young Fisher's home was a little two-story brick house, dingy and
weather-beaten outside, but attractive within. The room that
Jurgis saw was half lined with books, and upon the walls were
many pictures, dimly visible in the soft, yellow light; it was a
cold, rainy night, so a log fire was crackling in the open
hearth. Seven or eight people were gathered about it when Adams
and his friend arrived, and Jurgis saw to his dismay that three
of them were ladies. He had never talked to people of this sort
before, and he fell into an agony of embarrassment. He stood in
the doorway clutching his hat tightly in his hands, and made a
deep bow to each of the persons as he was introduced; then, when
he was asked to have a seat, he took a chair in a dark corner,
and sat down upon the edge of it, and wiped the perspiration off
his forehead with his sleeve. He was terrified lest they should
expect him to talk.
There was the host himself, a tall, athletic young man, clad in
evening dress, as also was the editor, a dyspeptic-looking
gentleman named Maynard. There was the former's frail young
wife, and also an elderly lady, who taught kindergarten in the
settlement, and a young college student, a beautiful girl with an
intense and earnest face. She only spoke once or twice while
Jurgis was there--the rest of the time she sat by the table in
the center of the room, resting her chin in her hands and
drinking in the conversation. There were two other men, whom
young Fisher had introduced to Jurgis as Mr. Lucas and Mr.
Schliemann; he heard them address Adams as "Comrade," and so he
knew that they were Socialists.
The one called Lucas was a mild and meek-looking little gentleman
of clerical aspect; he had been an itinerant evangelist, it
transpired, and had seen the light and become a prophet of the
new dispensation. He traveled all over the country, living like
the apostles of old, upon hospitality, and preaching upon street-
corners when there was no hall. The other man had been in the
midst of a discussion with the editor when Adams and Jurgis came
in; and at the suggestion of the host they resumed it after the
interruption. Jurgis was soon sitting spellbound, thinking that
here was surely the strangest man that had ever lived in the
Nicholas Schliemann was a Swede, a tall, gaunt person, with hairy
hands and bristling yellow beard; he was a university man, and
had been a professor of philosophy--until, as he said, he had
found that he was selling his character as well as his time.
Instead he had come to America, where he lived in a garret room
in this slum district, and made volcanic energy take the place of
fire. He studied the composition of food-stuffs, and knew
exactly how many proteids and carbohydrates his body needed;
and by scientific chewing he said that he tripled the value
of all he ate, so that it cost him eleven cents a day. About the first of
July he would leave Chicago for his vacation, on foot; and when
he struck the harvest fields he would set to work for two dollars
and a half a day, and come home when he had another year's
supply--a hundred and twenty-five dollars. That was the nearest
approach to independence a man could make "under capitalism," he
explained; he would never marry, for no sane man would allow
himself to fall in love until after the revolution.
He sat in a big arm-chair, with his legs crossed, and his head so
far in the shadow that one saw only two glowing lights, reflected
from the fire on the hearth. He spoke simply, and utterly
without emotion; with the manner of a teacher setting forth to a
group of scholars an axiom in geometry, he would enunciate such
propositions as made the hair of an ordinary person rise on end.
And when the auditor had asserted his non-comprehension, he would
proceed to elucidate by some new proposition, yet more appalling.
To Jurgis the Herr Dr. Schliemann assumed the proportions of a
thunderstorm or an earthquake. And yet, strange as it might
seem, there was a subtle bond between them, and he could follow
the argument nearly all the time. He was carried over the
difficult places in spite of himself; and he went plunging away
in mad career--a very Mazeppa-ride upon the wild horse
Nicholas Schliemann was familiar with all the universe, and with
man as a small part of it. He understood human institutions, and
blew them about like soap bubbles. It was surprising that so
much destructiveness could be contained in one human mind. Was
it government? The purpose of government was the guarding of
property-rights, the perpetuation of ancient force and modern
fraud. Or was it marriage? Marriage and prostitution were two
sides of one shield, the predatory man's exploitation of the sex-
pleasure. The difference between them was a difference of class.
If a woman had money she might dictate her own terms: equality,
a life contract, and the legitimacy--that is, the property-rights--
of her children. If she had no money, she was a proletarian, and
sold herself for an existence. And then the subject became
Religion, which was the Archfiend's deadliest weapon. Government
oppressed the body of the wage-slave, but Religion oppressed his
mind, and poisoned the stream of progress at its source. The
working-man was to fix his hopes upon a future life, while his
pockets were picked in this one; he was brought up to frugality,
humility, obedience--in short to all the pseudo-virtues of
capitalism. The destiny of civilization would be decided in one
final death struggle between the Red International and the Black,
between Socialism and the Roman Catholic Church; while here at
home, "the stygian midnight of American evangelicalism--"
And here the ex-preacher entered the field, and there was a
lively tussle. "Comrade" Lucas was not what is called an
educated man; he knew only the Bible, but it was the Bible
interpreted by real experience. And what was the use, he asked,
of confusing Religion with men's perversions of it? That the
church was in the hands of the merchants at the moment was
obvious enough; but already there were signs of rebellion, and if
Comrade Schliemann could come back a few years from now--
"Ah, yes," said the other, "of course, I have no doubt that in a
hundred years the Vatican will be denying that it ever opposed
Socialism, just as at present it denies that it ever tortured
"I am not defending the Vatican," exclaimed Lucas, vehemently.
"I am defending the word of God--which is one long cry of the
human spirit for deliverance from the sway of oppression. Take
the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Job, which I am
accustomed to quote in my addresses as 'the Bible upon the Beef
Trust'; or take the words of Isaiah--or of the Master himself!
Not the elegant prince of our debauched and vicious art, not the
jeweled idol of our society churches--but the Jesus of the awful
reality, the man of sorrow and pain, the outcast, despised of the
world, who had nowhere to lay his head--"
"I will grant you Jesus," interrupted the other.
"Well, then," cried Lucas, "and why should Jesus have nothing to
do with his church--why should his words and his life be of no
authority among those who profess to adore him? Here is a man
who was the world's first revolutionist, the true founder of the
Socialist movement; a man whose whole being was one flame of
hatred for wealth, and all that wealth stands for,--for the pride
of wealth, and the luxury of wealth, and the tyranny of wealth;
who was himself a beggar and a tramp, a man of the people, an
associate of saloon-keepers and women of the town; who again and
again, in the most explicit language, denounced wealth and the
holding of wealth: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on
earth!'--'Sell that ye have and give alms!'--'Blessed are ye
poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven!'--'Woe unto you that
are rich, for ye have received your consolation!'--'Verily, I say
unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
Heaven!' Who denounced in unmeasured terms the exploiters of his
own time: 'Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites!'--
'Woe unto you also, you lawyers!'--'Ye serpents, ye generation of
vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?' Who drove out
the businessmen and brokers from the temple with a whip! Who was
crucified--think of it--for an incendiary and a disturber of the
social order! And this man they have made into the high priest
of property and smug respectability, a divine sanction of all the
horrors and abominations of modern commercial civilization!
Jeweled images are made of him, sensual priests burn incense to
him, and modern pirates of industry bring their dollars, wrung
from the toil of helpless women and children, and build temples
to him, and sit in cushioned seats and listen to his teachings
expounded by doctors of dusty divinity--"
"Bravo!" cried Schliemann, laughing. But the other was in full
career--he had talked this subject every day for five years, and
had never yet let himself be stopped. "This Jesus of Nazareth!"
he cried. "This class-conscious working-man! This union
carpenter! This agitator, law-breaker, firebrand, anarchist!
He, the sovereign lord and master of a world which grinds the
bodies and souls of human beings into dollars--if he could come
into the world this day and see the things that men have made in
his name, would it not blast his soul with horror? Would he not
go mad at the sight of it, he the Prince of Mercy and Love! That
dreadful night when he lay in the Garden of Gethsemane and
writhed in agony until he sweat blood--do you think that he saw
anything worse than he might see tonight upon the plains of
Manchuria, where men march out with a jeweled image of him before
them, to do wholesale murder for the benefit of foul monsters of
sensuality and cruelty? Do you not know that if he were in St.
Petersburg now, he would take the whip with which he drove out
the bankers from his temple--"
Here the speaker paused an instant for breath. "No, comrade,"
said the other, dryly, "for he was a practical man. He would
take pretty little imitation lemons, such as are now being
shipped into Russia, handy for carrying in the pockets, and
strong enough to blow a whole temple out of sight."
Lucas waited until the company had stopped laughing over this;
then he began again: "But look at it from the point of view of
practical politics, comrade. Here is an historical figure whom
all men reverence and love, whom some regard as divine; and who
was one of us--who lived our life, and taught our doctrine. And
now shall we leave him in the hands of his enemies--shall we
allow them to stifle and stultify his example? We have his
words, which no one can deny; and shall we not quote them to the
people, and prove to them what he was, and what he taught, and
what he did? No, no, a thousand times no!--we shall use his
authority to turn out the knaves and sluggards from his ministry,
and we shall yet rouse the people to action!--"
Lucas halted again; and the other stretched out his hand to a
paper on the table. "Here, comrade," he said, with a laugh,
"here is a place for you to begin. A bishop whose wife has just
been robbed of fifty thousand dollars' worth of diamonds! And a
most unctuous and oily of bishops! An eminent and scholarly
bishop! A philanthropist and friend of labor bishop--a Civic
Federation decoy duck for the chloroforming of the wage-working-
To this little passage of arms the rest of the company sat as
spectators. But now Mr. Maynard, the editor, took occasion to
remark, somewhat naively, that he had always understood that
Socialists had a cut-and-dried program for the future of
civilization; whereas here were two active members of the party,
who, from what he could make out, were agreed about nothing at
all. Would the two, for his enlightenment, try to ascertain just
what they had in common, and why they belonged to the same party?
This resulted, after much debating, in the formulating of two
carefully worded propositions: First, that a Socialist believes
in the common ownership and democratic management of the means of
producing the necessities of life; and, second, that a Socialist
believes that the means by which this is to be brought about is
the class conscious political organization of the wage-earners.
Thus far they were at one; but no farther. To Lucas, the
religious zealot, the co-operative commonwealth was the New
Jerusalem, the kingdom of Heaven, which is "within you." To the
other, Socialism was simply a necessary step toward a far-distant
goal, a step to be tolerated with impatience. Schliemann called
himself a "philosophic anarchist"; and he explained that an
anarchist was one who believed that the end of human existence
was the free development of every personality, unrestricted by
laws save those of its own being. Since the same kind of match
would light every one's fire and the same-shaped loaf of bread
would fill every one's stomach, it would be perfectly feasible to
submit industry to the control of a majority vote. There was
only one earth, and the quantity of material things was limited.
Of intellectual and moral things, on the other hand, there was no
limit, and one could have more without another's having less;
hence "Communism in material production, anarchism in
intellectual," was the formula of modern proletarian thought.
As soon as the birth agony was over, and the wounds of society had
been healed, there would be established a simple system whereby
each man was credited with his labor and debited with his
purchases; and after that the processes of production, exchange,
and consumption would go on automatically, and without our being
conscious of them, any more than a man is conscious of the