Observations and Comments

Our inveterate optimism is responsible for the delay in the publication of Comrade Alexander Berkman’s book. We could not readily part with the hope that in this wide land there will be found one publisher bold enough to give to an intelligent minority a human document,—one which is undoubtedly the most signifcant and unique of its kind.

Alas, the search of Diogenes was vain among the great publishing houses. Fortunately, and thanks to some of you, we are enabled to constitute ourselves the publishers of our comrade’s life-work. But we ask our friends to forbear with us a little longer. The MS. is about to go to the printer, and the book will be mailed to the subscribers as soon as bound copies are available.

The advance price of $1.25 holds good only till February 1. Friends wishing to take advantage of the opportunity will kindly send in their orders at once.

Mother Earth Publishing Association.

Legal justice is a Janus head with two faces, the one smiling fawningly upon the rich and influential, the other turned with a cruel sneer toward the poor and friendless. This is the true character of justice, and the verdict rendered in the case of Harris & Blank, of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The two men were charged with having caused the death of 147 persons, among them 131 young girls and women, who helpelessly perished in the fire-trap of the Triangle factory. It was demonstrated during the trial that all safety requirements were entirely ignored by the bosses. The owners of the factory were concerned solely with the question of profits. They had no time to consider the safety of their employees. And the city authorities and factory inspectors drew their comfortable salaries and let the fire-traps remain undisturbed.

Had the laws and regulations of the safety department been taken seriously, the factory inspectors and heads of the city government would have been placed in the prisoners’ dock together with Harris and Blank, all equally responsible for the terrible holocaust that cost 147 human lives. But regulations for the safety of workers are not meant seriously. Worse yet, they are a positive menace for the trustful toilers, who believe that their lives are protected, while in reality industrial murder knows no limits, the alleged protection a miserable sham on paper.

The acquittal of Harris and Blank signifies the legalization, the justification of industrial murder as an established economic fact. Notwithstanding the locked factory exits and the strong suspicion that they had bribed the witnesses, the bosses were freed from all responsibility for the wholesale slaughter, because the judge and jury evidently believed in their own hearts that such happenings, such bloody catastrophes are inevitable, and are conditioned in the very system. Thus they thought. Yet they dared not utter the thought, for it would have disclosed the criminal character of the system,—aye, more, it would have torn the mask off the miserable comedy of their justice.

It has further developed during the trial that in the industrial field the workers are commonly considered as thieves, and treated accordingly. Like convicts, they are searched and locked in, that they may not steal a little piece of cloth or a spool of cotton. The only difference between these workers and the convict is that the latter is imprisoned for a crime already committed, while the free worker is kept under lock and key on suspicion that he might commit a crime. Suspicion alone suffices.

If the toilers are not content to continue to risk life and limb every day and every hour of their existence, they must themselves seek security in thorough organization and in solidaric activity. They will have to discard their naive faith in and reliance upon city or State providence, and seek to protect their lives by direct action on the spot, in shop and factory, introducing regulations and measures necessary to protect themselves against the consequences of capitalist greed.

The municipal government of New York prefers to swamp the city with filth and disease rather than concede the timid and just demands of the striking street-cleaners.

The attitude of the Mayor, his spirit mutilated by the letter of the law, indicates that this well-paid official considers it his chief business to set the iron heel upon the neck of the street workers. These hard-toiling men, incomparably more useful and indispensable to the community than the Mayor with all the stupid and corrupt officialdom at City Hall, have been treated like veritable slaves and convicts. The authorities strove the utmost to insult and humiliate the street employees and rejoiced in making them feel that they were considered no better than the filth in the streets. They had no right to cooperate for mutual benefit, no right to demand better conditions of existence.

In view of such official impudence one wondered at the apathy of the organized labor of New York, that supinely witnessed the violation of all the rights of labor. In truth, the leaders now and then still show faint signs of life, but their intelligence and courage have long since taken wing.

New York almost witnessed a strike of the gas men. Already we saw visions of its grand effects. How timely and fitting it would have been, for instance, if the lights had suddenly gone out in the midst of the fake peace banquet held by the contractors for war supplies, bomb manufacturers, diplomats, and other pillars of universal peace. Many other interesting developments would have been the result of a gas strike,—but we leave them to the imagination of the reader.

Yet it happened otherwise. The churches had made great preparations for brisk Christmas business, and thus it came to pass that a number of reverends decided to confer with the leaders of the dissatisfied workers to postpone the strike. A gentleman’s agreement, and—the business agents of the heavenly Father and other cadets succeeded in nipping the strike in the bud. The philanthropy of the Civic Federation gave the workers the final death blow.

The most prominent among the leaders of the gas-workers was a representative of the A. F. of L., a certain Wyatt. He is probably the same law-abiding citizen who recently expressed his cheerful willingness to play the hangman of the McNamaras. In recognition of his valuable services the reverends who helped to settle the strike should not fail to present the gentleman with a Bible (cheap edition) or at least a nice little catechism.

Since the American historians have proclaimed to the world the glad news that during the Cuban war Roosevelt had bravely shot a blind Spanish jackass from behind, our great national hero has come to look upon himself as an expert in all matters of violence and murder. Recently he felt called upon to voice the sentiment that Emma Goldman and her friends are imbued with the sole purpose of inciting to murder.

The utterance does full justice to a man who, as a second-rate politician, attracts much attention only becuase his political antagonists are third-raters. No one will expect Roosevelt to waste his time to inform himself of such insignificant matters as the philosophy of a world-liberating idea.

Four more labor men were arrested in California, charged with alleged complicity in an alleged dynamite conspiracy. What bitter irony upon those well-meaning, but superficious meddlers who had assured the country that the confession of the McNamaras would bring industrial peace and harmonize capital and labor.

Since the McNamara plea of guilty, the prosecutors and spies feel themselves masters of the situation. And that especially because the gentlemen of the national labor bodies have been behaving like little schoolboys, fearful of receiving a bad mark at school. Cravenly they ignore the insolent challenges that the enemies of labor continually cast into their face, though indeed they do not lack the means to repel the attacks with vigor and strength. Murder is murder, they are taunted. Aye,—the acts of the McNamaras are the merest child-play in comparison with the systematic murder of capitalism and government.

According to the reports of the boy scout movement, its membership has now grown to 300,000. A rich harvest of young blood. The patriots for profit may well calculate with a smile of satisfaction: If the army is declining as a drawing-card, or even if the soldiers should refuse to shoot and kill to order, we have these 300,000 boys that can be let loose upon the discontented mob. If it should happen now and then that some youth kill his father or brother, it will in no way detract from the glory of the country. Does not patriotism cover, indeed glorify, a multitude of crimes which under other conditions are regarded dishonorable and are punished with prison and the gallows?

It required seven month’s steady work by fifty seamstresses to prepare the train of the dress worn by the royal goose of England at the Durbar, where she was crowned Empress of India.

A dear goose, indeed! Proudly she trailed her robes across the soil of India, dripping with the blood of unnumbered Hindoo subjects slowly starved to death.

The lawyers, sky-pilots, and politicians of the Socialist Party are still after the scalp of William D. Haywood. Serves him right. What business has he, true revolutionary Socialist that he is, among men who use Socialism as a trap to catch votes, political offices, and sinecures.

Impelled by the pious love for the tramp and beggar of Nazareth, the good Mayor of New York issued orders, a few days before Christmas, to arrest every beggar the police could lay their hands on.

It is this same Mayor who never tires of proclaiming that the Bible is the greatest book of all times. He is a good Christian who evidently wished to gladden the hearts of his less fortunate brothers in Christ with a happy Christmas gift. He glorified his divine Redeemer by sending the friendless and the homeless to the workhouse and prison.

The investigation of the Capitol at Albany has brought to light the information that there is intimate connection between politics and prostitution. Apparently prostitution, however, had the worst of the partnership. The politicians and bureaucrats exploited it to the limit, and then blackmailed it to boot.

Moral indignation came to the rescue. A campaign of extermination began against the dives and gambling houses, and presently it wasannounced that Albany had been cleaned out and restored to its pristine purity. But the Capitol was not disturbed. This the hotbed of political prostitution and graft remains intact. The roots of the evil are untouched; soon it will bud its poisonous foliage and bear destructive fruit.

The campaign of pacification continues in Mexico. We quote from a recent communication:

A Mexican by the name of Tirso Toba, prominent in the late Liberal party insurrection of Lower California, was kidnapped about twenty miles north of the international boundary by the subprefect of Mexicali, aided by U.S. immigration officials. The prisoner was taken to Mexicali and cast into cuartel incommunicado. Later Calexico officers and Mexican secret service men searched the home of Jesus and Norberto Amador and looted the house, stealing valuable papers and a sum of money.

But all governmental brutality and repression is powerless to stifle the yearning for liberty of the Mexican people.