The Working-Class Movement in America: Eleanor Marx

The Working-Class Movement in America: Eleanor Marx

A book detailing the working conditions and the young labour movement of the USA in the 19th Century, based primarily on the daughter of Karl Marx's fifteen week agitation tour.

THE Working-class Question is the same in America as in Europe. There the reiterated, always more pressing inquiry, which is not only the working-class question but the social question of to-day, is uttered with even more reiteration and emphasis than in England. The inquiry, variously fashioned and variously formulated, is yet always in essence the same, and for practical purposes may be put in these words:--Why is it that the actual producers and distributors of wealth own least wealth, and those who are not its actual producers and distributors own most wealth?

It would be foolish, and more, on our part, to deny that the phrase "Working-class Question in America" is to us in the main synonymous with the phrase "Socialism in America." We believe that Socialism explains the reason why there is, and always must be, a "working-class question," until that question is solved by the historic, evolutionary, and revolutionary method, that Socialism alone points out as inevitable. But whilst this is the case with the beginning of the real working-class movement in any country,--and it really has begun in America,--there must be mixed up with that beginning so much of confusion, of false starts, of marching and counter-marching, of apparent conflict between those that actually have the same end at heart, and of very real conflict between the slowly awakening masses, on the one hand, and the many blind led by the wittingly or unwittingly blind, on the other, that, in a sense, any account of the working-class question has to do with certain elements that are other than socialistic.

And, first, a few words on our credentials to deal with the subject. These consist of some study of the questions under discussion in this country, observation of the great proletarian movement in Europe and America through the medium of the labour press of other lands, a fifteen weeks' tour through America under the auspices of the Socialist Labour Party. The second and third of these alone call for a moment's notice.

The ordinary reader has little or no idea, of the amount of purely corking-class journalism that there is abroad. Here we cannot pause to say anything on the English newspapers that are really devoted to the cause of labour. But we may ask the reader not to form his estimate of the magnitude of the working-class movement generally from the meagre list of journals of this kind to be found in England. In every other of the chief European countries the journalistic strength of the proletarian movement, where oppression by the authorities has not been resorted to, is much greater than in this. But in connection with the special object before us the following list of some of the chief working-class papers of the United States is of interest:--Labour Journal, Alpena, Mich.; The Talk, Anna, Ills.; The Trades' Union, Atchison, Kansas; People's Advocate, Atlantic, Cass Co., Iowa; The Free Press, Baltimore, Mich.; The Labour Vindicator, Bay City., Mich.; The Labour Leader, Boston, Mass.; The Missouri Industry, Brookfield, Mo.; The Agitator, Bridgeport, Conn.; Morning Justice, Burlington, Iowa; The Signal, Champaign, Ills.; The Carpenter, Cleveland, Ohio; The Chicago Express, Chicago, Ills.; Arbeiter Zeitung, Chicago, Ills.; The Sentinel, Chicago, Ills.; The Women's World, Chicago, Ills.; The Unionist, Cincinnati, Ohio; Cloud County Critic, Concordia, Kansas; Iowa Plain Dealer, Cresco, Iowa; The Commonwealth, Creston, Iowa; The Dayton Workman, Dayton, Ohio; Daily Labour Bulletin, Decatur, Ills.; The Labour Leaf Detroit, Mich.; The Labour Enquirer, Denver, Colo.; Workman, Durham, N.C.; Easton Labour Journal, Easton, Pa. Anti-Monopolist Enterprise, Dickinson Co., Kansas; Western Watchman, Eureka, Humboldt Co., Cal.; The Weekly Protest, Exeter, N.H.; Labour Advocate, Galveston, Texas; The Signal, Grinnell, Iowa; The Palladium, Hamilton, Ont.; American Liberty, Hampton, Va.; The Labourer, Haverhill, Mass.; Labour Echo, Houston, Texas; Industrial Record, Jacksonville, Fla.; Joliet Weekly News, Joliet, Ills.; Labour Organizer, Kansas City, Mo.; The Equator, Key West, Fla.; El. Jornalero, Key West, Fla.; Labour Advocate, Lewiston, Maine; The Radical, Litchfield, Minn.; Saturday Evening Union, Los Angeles, Call.; The Labour Record, Louisville, Ky.; The Knight of Labour, Lynn, Mass.; Budget, Manchester, N.H; Menominee River Labourer, Marinette, Men. Co., Mich.; Die Tribune, Indianapolis, Ind.; The Weekly Record, Memphis, Tenn.; Arbeiter Zeitung, Milwaukee, Wis.; Labour Review, Milwaukee, Wis.; Free Press, Millersville, Pa.; Rights of Man, Mount Vernon, Ind.; The Liberal, Nashville, Tenn.; The Agitator, Nangatnek, Conn.; Workman'a Advocate, New Haven, Conn.; New Jersey Unionist, Newark, N.Y.; The People, Providence, N.Y.; Bäcker Zeitung, Boycotter; Der Sozialist, Furniture Workers' Journal, Irish World, John Swinton's Paper, Our Country, Progress, Leader, Volks Zeitung, Standard, all of New York City; The Sentinel, Norwich, N.Y.; Progress, Omaha, Neb., N.Y.; The State Standard, Parkersville, West Va.; Labour Standard, Paterson, N.Y.; The Voice of Labour, Petersburg, Ills.; National Labour Tribune, Pittsburgh, Pa.; The Labour Herald, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Granite Cutters' Journal, Tageblatt, Philadelphia, Pa.; The Avant Courier, Portland, Oregon; Kansas Workman, Anenema, Kansas; The Laborette, Rawlins; Labour Herald, Richmond, Va.; The Capital, Richmond, Va.; The Southern Artizan, Richmond, Va.; Anti-Monopolist, Wentworth Block, Rochester, N.H.; The Rockland Opinion, Rockland, Maine; Rock Islander, Rock Island, Ills.; The Champion, St. Louis, Mo.; The Oregon Vidette, Salem, Oregon; Die Tribune, and Puget Sound Weekly Co-operator, Seattle, Wash, Ter.; The Labour Union, Sedalia, Mo.; The Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls, Wis.; The Voice of Labour, Springfield, Ills.; The Mail, Eldridge Building, Stockton, Cali.; The Labourer, Syracuse, N.Y.; The Industrial News, Toledo, Ohio.

It should be noted (1) that this is not a complete list, especially as regards the large number of German papers that are published weekly or daily, and are avowedly proletarian in character; (2) that probably each journal in the list is a genuine working-class paper, and not, like almost all our English so-called labour prints, a capitalist organ in disguise. Dealing, however briefly, with our recent tour through the States, involves a certain amount of personal reference only justifiable by the desire to show that we have had exceptional opportunities for observation during our stay in America. From September 10th to October 1st New York was our centre. During those three weeks large audiences were addressed in New York, its suburbs, and neighbouring towns to the number of some half-dozen. On October 2nd we left New York on a twelve weeks' tour, visiting in all some thirty-five places. This tour included the New England towns, the Lake towns, the West as far as Kansas City, whence we worked steadily back to New York.

In all these places at least one meeting was held, and in some places as many as four meetings. These were, with the very rarest exceptions, largely attended. In many places hundreds of people were unable to gain admission. The audiences were, without any exception at all, most attentive. We have never spoken to any audiences like the American for patience, fairness, anxiety to get at the meaning of the speaker. To say that all, or even the majority of the listeners agreed with the views laid before them, would be inaccurate. But to say that all gave a fair hearing, and that the majority at least understood what was meant, is to say the truth.

The fact is the American people were waiting to hear in their own language what Socialism was. Until this time its doctrines had been consciously and deliberately preached, as a rule, only by Germans. Of systematic and general declaration of them in the English tongue there had been practically nothing. This is the real significance Of the tour of 1886. For the first time the American public were brought clearly face to face with the principles of a teaching they had ridiculed and condemned without understanding.

That this is the case was shown by the tone of the press. Liebknecht our German friend and co-worker, and ourselves were, on our arrival in America, assailed with all the violence, virulence, and misrepresentation of which portions of the press of that country are capable. Our meetings, if reported at all, were dismissed in a few lines of inaccurate statement. Within three weeks all this was changed, and from that time to the end of the tour every leading newspaper in every town, from New York to Rockville, gave full and fair accounts of interviews, of the meetings, and of the speeches. Thus for some three months the American public had in town after town from one to three or four columns in each of the leading papers wholly given over to socialistic teaching, to say nothing of the countless leaders devoted to the demolition and advertisement of our doctrines.

And in every town we met, both in private and in public, the leading men and women in the various working-class organisations. Most of our days were spent in the presence of, and conversation with, the rank and file as well as the leaders of those organisations. Our position in respect to them was that of learners rather than of teachers. We were anxious to gather from them all the facts and generalisations possible. Some of these facts and generalisations, together with certain of our own observations, we now lay before the reader.