International Socialist Review (July 1917)

Articles from the July 1917 issue of International Socialist Review.

Antiwar efforts and repression in 1917 U.S.

A news roundup of anti-World War I activities in the United States during the first half of 1917.

Side by side with the sweep of our incomparable patriotism across the country, comes the news of Socialist and I. W. W. anti-war demonstrations in many cities.

We feel sure all REVIEW readers, not only in this country but in South Africa, Australia and the prison camps of Europe, will be interested in what is happening in America today.

Cleveland, Ohio

The members of Local Cleveland determined at the beginning of the war that so far as it lay within their power they would continue their activities just as if there had been no declaration of war. They determined that in reference to the war and attempts to abridge the rights of the workers, there would be no faltering, no hesitancy, no yielding of rights previously exercised, but open, bold and unafraid opposition.

The first step was to organize a May day parade which would be a demonstration of internationalism and against war. This parade, which was the biggest ever held on May Day in Cleveland, was referred to by the capitalist papers as "a streak of revolutionary red across the heart of the city." Scores of signs were carried in the parade denouncing the war,' conscription and the capitalist class— carried thru the downtown streets at the hour when tens of thousands of workers were leaving their work for their homes.

Since the May Day demonstration five great peace demonstrations have been held on the Public Square and Market Square. These have been attended by from three to six thousand people. Three distributions of fifty thousand leaflets each have been made. Among these has been the party war. manifesto and an anti-conscription leaflet. Street meetings attended by audiences ranging from 'five hundred to a thousand people are being held nightly.

Altho the police are always in evidence at the meetings, as shown by the accompanying picture, and a court stenographer takes down the speeches for the federal authorities, the only trouble thus far has been the arrest of Alfred Wagenknecht, state secretary of the party, at a meeting held May 27th, and of Charles Baker, state organizer of Ohio, at one of the street meetings. Both comrades are charged with disorderly conduct. Comrade Wagenknecht was in the midst of an anti-conscription argument when stopped and Comrade Baker was arrested on the trumped up charge of a war patriot who tried to break up his meeting, that he had made disrespectful remarks about the flag. The "Socialist News," local weekly of the party, has been withheld from the mails for two weeks, but hundreds of Reviews have been sold.

The result of the campaign which the party is making, has been three hundred new members added to the party in six weeks' time. Collections ranging from $125 to $350 have been taken up at the big mass meetings and a thousand new readers have been added to the mailing list of the "Socialist News," and interest and enthusiasm among party members such as has never been developed locally before.-—By C. E. Ruthenberg.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Almost all active members of the Socialist Party have been arrested and indicted by a Federal Grand Jury. Principal charge is that the accused, by the circulation of literature and "thru demonstrations, mass petitions and by other means," conspired to "prevent, hinder and delay" the execution of the conscription law. There were six counts in the indictment.

National Secretary Adolph Germer, of the Socialist Party, was also indicted by the same jury and charged with conspiracy. On learning the "news," Comrade Germer went to Grand Rapids, submitted to arrest, plead "not guilty" and was liberated on bonds. If necessary, these cases will be carried to the highest courts.

Grand Rapids has a population around 130,000—mostly wage slaves. Scab labor runs its factories. It is a typical American Billy Sunday burg. Therefore all the fury of the pulpit and the press was directed against the socialists.

Among the indicted comrades are Ben A. Falkner, financial secretary of the Local. For years he has been employed in the city water works department. He has been fired and blacklisted by the political patriots. Comrade G. G. Fleser, corresponding secretary of the Local, who had worked eight years for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad as a stenographer, was discharged by the patriotic rail-plutes. Viva L. Flaherty, social worker and writer; Charles G. Taylor, member of Board of Education; James W. Clement, manufacturer; Charles J. Callaghan, postal clerk (discharged); Dr. Martin E. Elzinga; G. H. Pangborn; Vernon Kilpatrick; Rev. Klaas Osterhuis, and our wellknown, active old-time Comrade, Ben Blumenberg.

In spite of the fact that the minutes of socialist meetings were confiscated by the city sleuths, t h e comrades are holding well attended local meetings and are now busy looking for new headquarters . —L. H. M.

Rock Island, Illinois

Anti-military propaganda has been carried on here by the comrades of Rock Island and Moline for the past two years, and during the past three months we have held many overflow anti-conscription meetings.

Last Saturday night we packed the Turner Hall and sold all our literature, including the last 149 copies of the REVIEW. At the open air street meeting we had to compete with a recruiting outfit of five auto trucks, two of which had cannon on them, the others carrying the drum and fife corps, We had the largest crowd as the workers are with us.—Edgar Owens.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Two comrades, Arthur Tiala and C. Mattson, Treasurer Hennepin County Central Committee, have been jailed and held under $5,000 bail for failing to register.

Over in St. Paul, Comrades C. and H. Holm have been bound over to the October court charged with distributing seditious literature. Otto Wangerin, Walter Wangerin, Alfred Grahl, Joe Arver, all Socialist Party members, are out on bail after having refused to register. A defense committee is on the job and doing effective work. It is practically admitted that 9,000 failed to register in St. Paul and more than that number in Minneapolis.

As a result of newspaper statements, we are holding big meetings in different parts of the state. At one point we organized a Socialist Local of sixty out of a crowd of five hundred and sold $40.00 worth of literature. This is being duplicated in other places.—A. L. Sugarman:

Kansas City, Mo.—The following printed in the Kansas City Star gives a historic example of how the organization of the working class are illegally attacked, beaten and their headquarters destroyed and then the organizers thrown into jail on a charge of "breaking the peace":

"Under the law, the powers of military forces in the United States do not extend to the civilian population unless a city is under martial rule. Consequently, all three of the raids on I. W. W. headquarters have been made in defiance of both military and civil law, and without the sanction of those higher in command. "In the first two raids only slight disturbances occurred, but the one yesterday came near to bloodshed.

"Since the last previous raid, I. W. W. headquarters had been abandoned most of the time. Yesterday afternoon, however, word reached the Battery B recruiting station at 901 Main street, that the headquarters had again been opened, and that a dozen men were talking pacifism inside.

"Accordingly a squad under Sergt. H. C. Davis promptly descended upon 722 Main, threw its occupants, outside and wrecked the place.

"Among the men who were thrown out was W. Francik, an ardent I. W. W. from Wisconsin. Francik went to his rooms, got a large revolver, filled his pockets with cartridges and returned.

"J. M. Blankenship of Merriam, Kas., and Sergeant Davis followed Francik up the stairs. Near the top the man drew his revolver and ordered Blankenship to halt. That was Sergeant Davis' signal to get into his action, which he did with such abruptness that the revolver was lying on the floor and Francik half way down the stairs before any damage could be done.

"At the bottom Francik was beaten by other men in army uniforms—a fate which bystanders said was also shared by a boy who tried to interfere. The police finally came up, stopped the riot, and rescued Francik by taking him to police headquarters, where he was held on a charge of disturbing the peace. None of the militiamen who had started the disturbance was taken."

And yet some people have the nerve to call the members of the I. W. W. rowdies and law-breaking destroyers of property ! This is "the place to laugh; But don't say we did not warn you that the story in the Star expresses exactly what the working class may expect of militarism. Militarism means no law save brute force against the workers.—R. T.

Seattle, Washington

Four active socialists are facing long terms of imprisonment and heavy fines for their "crime," which consisted in the alleged drawing up and circulation of a leaflet similar in contents to that issued by the Conscientious Objectors of Great Britain. Among the "seditious" utterances in the suppressed leaflet were quotations from the Constitution of the United States and from Daniel Webster.

Hulet M. Wells is one of the best known members of the Socialist and Labor movement in the Northwest. He has been twice candidate.for Mayor of Seattle in the interests of the Socialist Party; he was president of the Seattle Central Labor Council during a most successful term; and he has for long been an active member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Comrade Sam Sadler has been for years identified with the activities of the Socialist Party of Washington and is esteemed one of the most trustworthy and vigorous 'revolutionary propagandists on the Pacific Coast. He was for some time President of the Seattle Local of the International Longshoremen's Association and served on the Central Labor Council as delegate. Aaron Fislerman is secretary of the King County Socialist Party and is also known as a capable writer on Marxian economics. R. E. Rice, the fourth and last defendant, is a member of the Laundry Drivers' Union, an obscure but earnest soldier of the Social Revolution.

The cases are to come up for trial shortly. The four comrades who are under charges are all workers. They have not the means to put up a strong legal fight and the best talent must be secured. The International Workers' Defense League of Seattle, an organisation to which are affiliated some fifty bodies, including the American Federation of Labor unions, the I. W. W. and the Socialist Party, has taken charge of the defense. Send all funds to Paul S. Parker, secretary- treasurer, International Workers' Defense League, Box 86.

As we go to press a telegram comes in from Seattle, stating that a crowd of sailors and soldiers attempted to raid the I. W. W. hall. One sailor was shot and the rest were thrown out of the hall. A later attack was made but by that time the hall had been barricaded and the police arrested six sailors and forty members of the I. W. W. All of the latter have been released with the exception of fourteen, who are being held for nonregistration.

Detroit, Mich.—To understand the present situation here we must refer back to Monday, May 21st, when Local Detroit passed a resolution calling upon the workers to oppose conscription.

The Michigan Socialist of May 26th, contained the resolution as well as articles strongly condemning the draft law. Together with the paper, circulars headed "Kill the Draft" were distributed thruout the city. On Sunday morning, May 27th, the first arrests in this connection were made. Six of the comrades were arrested and held by the Federal authorities, bail being fixed at $5,000.

The following day Comrade Paul Michelson of New York, who was acting as speaker and organizer for Local Detroit was arrested and is still being held. Later the editor of the Michigan Socialist Nathan Welch, and the members of the board of management of the paper, Maurice Sugar, Samuel Diamond and Ludwig Boltz were placed under arrest, the charge against them is conspiracy to defeat the draft. Bail in all cases being fixed at .$5,000 each. Most of the comrades are still in jail.

On Tuesday the 12th, they were brought into the Federal Court for a hearing when the case was postponed till Thursday, the 14th. Several others have been arrested on the charge of distributing the anti-draft literature and failing to register. On Monday, the llth, six more arrests were made, five of the bunch were released on registering. Milton V. Breitmeyer, a member of the Socialist Party, refused to register and is held for the grand jury.

A mass meeting which was to be held here on Sunday, June 3rd, at Arcadia (the largest hall in the city) had to be abandoned on account of the federal authorities ordering the hall closed against the Socialists. Crowds gathered at the hall but were driven away by the police. No arrests were made there. In spite of the pressure brought against the movement by the police, the plute-press and the pulpit pounders, the increase of members is the greatest the Local has ever experienced.

At Jackson four have been arrested. Two, Harvey A. Hedden and Wm. Kidwell, for the circulation of literature.

At Ann Arbor two university students, members of the Socialist Local there, Ellwood Moore and Max Frocht, were arrested for failing to register. The other places in this state where arrests have been made are Grand Rapids, Negaunee and Marquette.—John Keracher,

Rockford, 111.—On June 6th .one hundred and thirty-eight socialists and I. W. W. marched to the sheriff's office and demanded to be arrested, as they refused to register. The proceedings passed off peacefully until the officers attempted to divide the men. A rough and tumble battle then ensued and several of the men were badly beaten up. The prisoners were divided into three groups, one remaining in Rockford and the other two groups being railroaded to nearby towns.

At this writing ten are held for conspiracy under $10,000 bonds, eight of whom are members of the I. W. W.

A defense committee was immediately organized, composed of three members each of the I. W. W., the Swedish Socialist Party, the American Socialist Party and the Knights of Good Templar.

Attorney Hall of Rockford and Seymour Stedrnan of Chicago have been retained.

The socialists have five city councilmen, and at the last branch meetings the English local took in twelve new members and the Swedish branch took in sixty-five new members. Peace meetings are being held every Sunday with an average attendance of from three to five thousand.

Cincinnati, Ohio—We have re.ceived no word direct from comrades, but according to the Cincinnati Post, eleven Socialists have been "accused of the crime of giving aid and comfort to their country's enemies. Bail has been fixed at $1,500." It seems they are charged with "circulating handbills against the military registration." Attorney Nicholas Klein will defend the accused. The trials will take place during July, and we will arrange to give to our readers a concise account of what takes place.

Chicago, 111.—Five members of the Young People's Socialist League were arrested and held several days in police stations, where they were thre_atened with deportation and otherwise intimidated. The record books and minutes of the League were taken. The League has one thousand members and fourteen branches.

New York City—Many successful protest meetings have been held. At the last central committee meeting of Local Bronx, it was decided to issue 25-cent assessment stamps, provided to form a defense fund for the protection of those arrested duing the campaign.

It was further decided that delegates to the state committee be instructed to move that the state committee instruct Meyer London to introduce a bill for the repeal of the conscription law, failing of which should result in preferring charges against him, with expulsion from the party.- This motion was carried.

Originally appeared with the title 'Propaganda News' in the International Socialist Review (July 1917)

Excerpts from 'A German deserter's war experience'

The following are extracts from A German Deserter's War Experience, published by B. W. Huebsch, Hew York, at $1.00 net. The author is a socialist internationalist. His book is non-partisan so far as the warring nations are concerned. He hates German war as he hates all war. He spent fourteen months in every kind of fighting before he was able to escape. A wonderful book which ought to be read by every workingman in America. For sale at this office.

A subdued signal of alarm fetched us out of our "beds" at 3 o'clock in the morning. The company assembled, and the captain explained to us the war situation. He informed us that we had to keep ready to march, that he himself was not yet informed about the direction. Scarcely half an hour later fifty large traction motors -arrived and stopped in the road before our quarters. But the drivers of these wagons, too, knew no particulars and had to wait for orders. The debate about our nearest goal was resumed. The orderlies, who had snapped up many remarks of the officers, ventured the opinion that we would march into Belgium the very same day; others contradicted them. None of us could know anything for certain. But the order to march did not arrive, and* in the evening all of us could lie down again on our straw. But it was a short rest. At 1 o'clock in the morning an alarm aroused us again, and the captain honored us with an address. He told us we were at war with Belgium, that we should acquit ourselves as brave soldiers, earn iron crosses, and do honor to our German name. Then he continued somewhat as follows: "We are making war only against the armed forces; that is, the Belgium army. The lives and property of civilians are under the protection of international treaties, international law, but you soldiers must not forget that ii is your duty to defend your lives as long as possible for the protection of your Fatherland, and to sell them as dearly as possible. We want to prevent useless shedding of blood as far as the civilians are concerned, but I want to remind you that a too great considerateness borders on .cowardice, and cowardice in face of the enemy is punished very severely."

After that "humane" speech by our captain we were "laden" into the automobiles, and crossed the Belgian frontier on the morning of August 5th. In order to giv special solemnity to that "historical" moment we had to give three cheers.

At no other moments the fruits of military education have presented themselves more clearly before my mind. The soldier is told, "The Belgian is your enemy," and he has to believe it. The soldier, the workman in uniform, had not known till then who was his enemy. If they had told us, "The Hollander is your enemy," we would have believed that, too; we would have been compelled to believe it, and would have shot him by order. We, the "German citizens in uniform," must not have an opinion of our own, must have no thoughts of our own, for they give us our enemy and our friend according to requirements, according to the requirements of their own interests. The Frenchman, the Belgian, the Italian, is your enemy.1 Never mind, shoot as we order, and do not bother your head about it. You have duties to perform, perform them, and for the rest—cut it out!

Those were .the thoughts that tormented my brain when crossing the Belgian frontier. And to console myself, and so as to justify before my own conscience the murderous trade that had been thrust upon me, I tried to persuade myself that tho I had no Fatherland to defend, I had to defend a home and protect it from devastation. But it was a weak consolation, and did not even outlast the first few days.

* * * * * *

We now advanced quickly, but our participation was no longer necessary, for the whole line of the enemy retired and then faced us again, a mile and a quarter southwest of Sommepy. Sommepy itself was burning for the greater part, and its streets were practically covered with the dead. The enemy's artillery was still bombarding the place, and shells were falling all around us. Several hundred prisoners were gathered in the market-place. A few shells fell at the same time among the prisoners, but they had to stay where they were. An officer of my company, Lieutenant of the Reserve Neesen, observed humanely that that could not do any harm, for thus the French got a taste of their own shells. He was rewarded with some cries of shame. A Socialist comrade, a reservist, had the pluck to cry aloud, "Do you hear that, comrades? Dhat's the noble sentiment of an exploiter; that fellow is the son of an Elberfeld capitalist and his father is a sweating- den keeper of the worst sort. When you get home again do not forget what this capitalist massacre has taught you. Those prisoners are proletarians, are our brethren, and what we are doing here in the interest of that gang of capitalist crooks is a crime against our own body; it is murdering our own brothers!" He was going to continue talking, but the sleuths were soon upon him and he was arrested. He threw down his gun with great force; then he quietly suffered himself to be led away.

All of us, were electrified. Not one spoke a word. One suddenly beheld quite a different world. We had a vision which kept our imagination prisoner. Was it true, what we had heard—that those prisoners were not our enemies at all, that they were our brothers? That which formerly—O how long ago might that have been!—in times of peace, had appeared to us as a matter of course had been forgotten; in war we had regarded our enemies as our friends and our friends as our enemies. Those words of the Elberfeld comrade had lifted the fog from our brains and from before our eyes. We had again a clear view; we could recognize things again.

One looked at the other and nodded without speaking; each one felt that the brave words of our friend had been a boon to us, and none could refrain from inwardly thanking and appreciating the bold man. The man in front of me, who had been a patriot all along, as far as I knew, but' who was aware of my views, pressed my hand, saying: "Those few words have opened my eyes; I was blind; we are friends. Those words came at the proper time." Others again I heard remark: "You can't surpass Schotes; such a thing requires more courage than all of us together possess. For he knew exactly the consequences that follow when one tells the truth. Did you see the last look he gave us? That meant as much as, 'Don't be concerned about me; I shall fight my way through to the end. Be faithful workers; remain faithful to your class!'"

* * * * * *

On that day I was commanded to mount guard and was stationed with the camp guard. At that place arrested soldiers had to call to submit to the punishment inflicted on them. Among them were seven soldiers who had been sentenced to severe confinement which consisted in being tied up for two hours.

The officer on guard ordered us to tie the "criminals" to trees in the neighborhood. Every arrested soldier had to furnish for that purpose the rope with which he cleaned his rifle. The victim I had to attend to was sapper Lohmer, a good Socialist. I was to tie his hands behind his back, wind the loose end of the rope round his chest, and tie him with his back towards the tree. In that position my comrade was to stand for two hours, exposed to the mockery of officers and sergeants. But Comrade Lohmer had been marching with the rest of us in a broiling sun for a whole day, had all night fought and murdered for the dear Fatherland which was now giving him thanks by tying him up with a rope.

I went up to him and told him that I would not tie him to the tree. "Do it, man," he tried to persuade me; "if you don't do it another one will. I shan't be cross with you, you know."—"Let others do it; I won't fetter you."

The officer, our old friend Lieutenant Spahn, who was getting impatient, came up to us. "Can't you see that all the others have been seen to? How long do you expect me to wait ?" I gave him a sharp look, but did not answer. Again he bellowed out the command to tie my comrade to the tree. I looked at him for a long time and did not deign him worthy of an answer. He then turned to the "criminal," who told him that I could not get myself to do the job as we were old comrades and friends. Besides, I did not want to fetter a man who was exhausted and dead tired. "So you won't do it?" he thundered at me, and when again he received no reply—for I was resolved not to speak another word to the fellow—he hissed, "That b is a Red to the marrow!" I shall never in my life forget the look of thankfulness that Lohmer gave me; it rewarded me for the unpleasantness I had in consequence of my refusal. Of course others did what I refused to do; I got two weeks' confinement. Naturally I was proud at having been a man for once at least. As a comrade I had remained faithful to my mate. Yet I had gained a point. They never ordered me again to perform such duty, and I was excluded from the guard that day. I could move about freely and be again a free man for a few hours.

The evening I got off I employed to undertake a reconnoitering expedition thru the surrounding country in the company of several soldiers. We spoke about the various incidents of the day and the night, and, to the surprise, I daresay, of every one of us, we discovered that very little was left of the overflowing enthusiasm and patriotism that had seized so many during the first days of the war. Most of the soldiers made no attempt to conceal the feeling that we poor devils had absolutely nothing to gain in this war, that we had only to lose our lives or, which was still worse, that we should sit at some street corner as crippled "war veterans," trying to arouse the pity of passers-by by means of some squeaking organ.