VOL. I. APRIL, 1918, NEW YORK NO.7.
To All My Dear Ones
Jefferson State Prison,
Sunday, March 24th, 1918.
I am so glad my message of March 3rd has reached you. I wish I were certain this letter too would reach you. But I am not. Since March 7th all my incoming mail and my outgoing weekly letters have been held up, "by orders of the Federal authorities," I was told. It seems the rigid censorship which the prison officials here exercise over the prisoner, every move they make, line they write or thought they have, does not satisfy Washington in my case. So if you ever doubted my importance you will be convinced now. You see I have the proud distinction of being considered dangerous, therefore a U. S. Deputy now reads my mail, after it has been thoroughly read by the prison officials. Well, there is no objection to that, if only the U. S. Deputy would deliver my mail after he reads it. But no, he keeps it in to the bargain. Still I mean to keep the Federal authorities busy. I will continue to write and I ask you to do the same. If they are so anxious to ascertain who my correspondent are, what they feel for me and what I feel for them, we must not disappoint Washington. It would be really comic, if it were not so pathetic, that a mighty Government of a hundred million people, now engaged in a mighty war for Democracy should pursue those whom it has placed behind prison bars with unnecessary and cruel persecution. But I will survive that too, never doubt that, my dear ones.
Since I wrote you last I have advanced in my speed. I now make 36 jackets a day. It is going some." It means incessant grind for nine hours without let up. It is Katorga alright. It is what the Tzar used to impose upon the political prisoners, but strange to say never did the women politicals have to do it. I see that even Babushka Breshkovsky, who spent so many years in Siberian prisons and exile was exempt from "Katorga." Apropos you must read "the Reminiscences and Letters of Babushka edited by Alice Stone Blackwell. What a wonderful woman! What a wonderful life! Her letters are most fascinating even though they show childish naiveté about American Institutions; so amusing to one who has lived under them for thirty years. Babushka's description of her daily life while in Siberia is most inspiring. There is one factor which sustained her through all the years --- her association with kindred spirits; men and women political offenders like herself. She writes that the hardest conditions were as nothing compared with the mental sufferings she endured, when she was deprived of seeing loved comrades. How well I can understand that! Since April, American prisons are being crowded with political prisoners, strange to say all men. Is it that American women have not yet learned to love liberty well enough to pay the price for it? There are a few exceptions; Louise Olivereau, who fortunately has been sent to the Colorado penitentiary. How I should enjoy her companionship, but I am glad she is not here, I know the air is better in Colorado than Missouri. Then there is Kate Richards O'Hare, who got five years, but she is still at large. I hope she will remain so. My companions in misery while most kind to me, indeed more generous and human than the average lot outside, are yet separated by worlds from me. They are victims of a cruel social arrangement, but they have no social vision. They consider their trouble a misfortune imposed upon them by fate, or God, or some cruel judge, or their own wickedness. They do not know that they are each and all cogs in the machine of social injustice. My heart goes out to all of them. My deep regret is that I can do nothing to alleviate their hard lot. They are like children so eager for every little act of kindness and affection, hungry all the time for the things prison can not give. I listen to their small talk which always centers around the same topic: the dreaded work and how to meet it, day after day. But deeply as I feel with them and for them, there is no intellectual or spiritual kinship save the strong tie which always brings human beings together when they are souls in pain. How stupid of those who prate of criminal tendencies. Not one of my fellow prisoners is inherently criminal. The circumstances and a cruel lack of understanding for the human, all too human, bring them here; nor are they likely to return to society with a more kindly spirit when their time is up. But I am fortunate in having the Babushkas, the Louise Michels and the other great ones to draw from. I am rich after all. Then there is your friendship, my dear ones and my faith in your comradeship. Nothing can shake that. May I hope that you feel the same about me? This hope is giving me strength and will keep my spirit alive until I may again see you all and clasp you by the hand. This is the month of the Commune. They said it was dead when they slaughtered thirty thousand, but it lives forever.
To the letter on the first page we add information that in the meantime comrade Emma Goldman's mail, held back for a time, has been released. The friends she has all over the country may write to her frequently and help in that way to lighten the burden of prison life.
* * *
Parcels with things to eat addressed to Alexander Berkman, sojourning at present in Atlanta Federal Prison, will not reach their destination. It is against the rule of that educational institution that a student should receive such tokens of love. Instead write letters to him often. In his own letters he recently said that he suffered from headache and pain in the neck. The sewing machine, on which he has to work, probably is the cause of these troubles. Otherwise his philosophy is up to date and has a good effect upon his letters, which bear witness that his mind is calm and serene.
However, no mail from comrade Berkman has been received for more than two weeks. We hope that he is not ill nor that the writing privilege has been taken away from him.
* * *
The "Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist," Berkman's book, is at present in good progress of being translated into the Jewish language. A. Frumkin is the translator, the name being guarantee enough that it will be a first‑class translation. It will take a considerable amount of money to pay for the translation, and to have the book printed. For this reason we ask the comrades to subscribe for the book in advance. The price will be only $1.00. Later it will be more.
Send advance subscriptions to M. E. Fitzgerald, 32 Union Square, Room 1015, New York City.
* * *
Dr. Ben Reitman,
having begun to serve his term of six months several weeks ago at Warrensville, Ohio, is comparatively "well off." We were glad to hear that he works there in his capacity as a physician. He is practically in charge of a hospital with twenty‑five beds and also works in the clinic. He is not bolted up in a cell and can always go out in the yard for fresh air. The food is good, also the bed, and the opportunity to learn much about medicine and men is great, as he writes himself.
Our civilization has weak spots; no doubt, it is in delicate health and must be protected; but decent treatment of the prisoners will do the trick just as well and better as inhuman treatment.
* * *
From Louise Olivereau the authorities of the State Prison of Canon City, Col., withheld for a month all papers, magazines, and any other literature, including the "Public" and the "Union Record," an American Federation of Labor publication. But pardon, we exaggerate, Louise Olivereau enjoys the privilege of being permitted to read the "Christian Science Monitor!"
In a short time a pamphlet about Louise Olivereau's trial will be published, including her speech to the jury. It will no doubt find a hearty welcome and wide distribution.
"Is it not curious," somebody wrote in a communication to one of the New York dailies, "that in these days of exalted praise for democracy, Thomas Jefferson should not be considered a more popular interpreter of the nation's ideal than Washington or Lincoln?"
To our mind it seems not curious at all. The nation's ideal is an elusive quality. How is one going to find out what it really consists of, when the masses of the subjects are inert, silent, and only "represented" by officials and politicians? As long as they remain in this state it means, we suppose, that order and law prevail. But if they should begin to take things into their own hands, as in Russia, for instance, it would, in official language, signify "that disorder and terrorism reign supreme."
This brand of democracy Jefferson hated as a pretense and a deception. It was for this reason that he fought Hamilton, Chief Justice Marshal, and the Supreme Court. Of the latter he wrote to Spencer Roane:
"The Constitution on this hypothesis is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they may please."
The hypothesis mentioned was upheld by the Federalists who, in reality, wanted an ironcast centralization with power invested in the big land owners.
The tendency of many democrats of to‑day is the more government the better. Jefferson felt quite contrary. His idea on the subject is expressed in the words:
Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and the general government, may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants."
Jefferson's distrust of government and centralized power is further elaborated in the Kentucky resolutions of 1798, of which he was the author. These resolutions were directed against the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress. Jefferson advised the people of the individual states "to stop the progress of the evil" by refusing to have the provisions of the bill carried out in their territory. The people of that time must have been different from the people of to‑day. They must have thought such conduct and vigorous opposition very becoming to a good citizen. They didn't cross themselves on account of it, neither did they call for the police, but instead elected Jefferson President of the United States two years after he had written the following passage:
"Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, not in confidence; it is jealousy, not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power. In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
More than that, in regard to "Shay's Rebellion," Jefferson said that the tree of liberty would never grow properly unless refreshed now and then with the blood of patriots and tyrants, patriots meaning at that time fighters for liberty.
"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance."
And worst of all, Jefferson divined the future when he wrote during the war against England:
"The spirit of the times may alter --- will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money and will never think of uniting to affect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion."
No, Jefferson would not fit well into the present scheme of things. Not one single word of his, one must be afraid, could be used properly for the purpose of intensifying the glory of the present system and its protagonists. His day has not yet arrived.
The British Labor Movement
By Leonard D. Abbott
The most important outcome of the war, thus far, has been the Russian Revolution. A second result, of immense significance, is the awakening of British labor. Four million British trade‑unionists, allied with Socialists and Co‑operators, have lately drafted a notable manifesto. These same trade‑unionists have met in several conferences with representatives of the labor movements in the allied countries and are now striving to bring about an international working‑class conference of all belligerent countries. They are discussing peace terms, and they propose to influence the official peace conference, whenever held.
The leader of this movement, Arthur Henderson, is a Member of Parliament who was ousted by Premier Lloyd George from the British Cabinet because of his radical sympathies. He had been sent to revolutionary Russia by the British Government to argue against the proposed international Socialist conference at Stockholm. He returned from Russia an advocate of the Stockholm conference. When compelled to choose between his new conviction and his position in the Cabinet, be resigned from the Cabinet.
A little later, Lloyd George himself was called before the British Trade Union Congress. He was asked to tell the British workers what they were fighting for. At the close of his address he was mercilessly heckled. When he told the workingmen that revolutionary Russia must be left to her late, they replied that they stood with Russia.
The statement of principles put forward by the British Labor Party is notable not only because of its largeness of view, but also because it represents a distinctively working‑class attitude. It declares for the Russian ideals of peace and for self‑government of peoples in the empire. "We seek," it says, "no increase of territory. We disclaim all ideas of 'economic war.' We believe that nations are in no way damaged by each other's economic prosperity or commercial progress; but, on the contrary, that they are actually themselves mutually enriched thereby."
The view of the Labor Party in relation to internal affairs is that what has to be reconstructed after the war is "not this or that government department, or this or that piece of social machinery; but, so far as Britain is concerned, society itself." What is needed is "a new social order, based not on fighting but on fraternity --- not on the competitive struggle for the means of bare life, but on a deliberately planned co‑operation in production and distribution for the benefit of all who participate by hand or brain."
As steps toward this end the Party proposes:
(a) The Universal Enforcement of the National Minimum;
(b) The Democratic Control of Industry;
(c) The Revolution in National Finance; and
(d) The Surplus Wealth for the Common Good.
When we come to look into the details of this program we find that the minimum wage that the Party wants enforced --- of course by the Government --- is 30s, ($7.50) per week. When we look for an explanation of the phrase, "democratic control of industry," we find that it means "the immediate nationalization of railways, mines and the production of electrical power" and the establishment of the "common ownership of the means of production" by parliamentary methods. The "revolution in national finance" pertains chiefly to taxation, which is to be "steeply graduated so as to take only a small contribution from the little people and a very much larger percentage from the millionaires." Surplus wealth, now absorbed by individuals, is, under the new program, to be devoted to the sick and infirm, to the aged and those prematurely incapacitated, to education, to public improvement of all kinds, to scientific investigation, and to the promotion of music, literature and fine art.
The manifesto, which is well written, declares for the complete abolition of the House of Lords, and asserts the right of freedom of speech, freedom of publication, freedom of travel and freedom of choice of place of residence and kind of employment, after the war. The obligation resting upon the Government to find employment for returning soldiers; social insurance against unemployment at all times; workmen's compensation; reduction of working hours to forty‑eight a week, are some of the other themes discussed. In practically every case it is to "the Government" that British Labor looks for relief. A Social‑Democratic spirit informs the entire document.
We do not wish to depreciate unduly the importance of a statement of principles that may turn out to be, quite literally, epoch-making. The fact that such men as Theodore P. Shonts and William R. Hearst regard this platform as "too radical" shows that there must be virtue in it. The platform is radical; it is not revolutionary, except in a Social‑Democratic sense. From a libertarian point of view its demands are too moderate; it leans too much on government. When will the workers of Great Britain, like the workers of Russia, come to realize that they must depend not upon government, but upon themselves, to attain the "new social order" of which they dream?
When reaction closed in on all sides, Heinrich Heine, the poet, living in exile, called himself a "forlorn sentry in liberty's war."
The "Bulletin" is something like it. But in the dark, with voices hushed, aims and goals obliterated and confused, it is perhaps a pleasant feeling to come across such a sentry.
We are eager to send the 'Bulletin" to new subscribers, to have new customers for the book shop.
Pass the torch on to others.
* * *
The German monster gun with a range of seventy‑five miles, and able to kill off women and children in Paris from a great distance, was undoubtedly invented with the help of the same God whom the Kaiser appointed for his war specialist.
Yet this is not a godforsaken country either. Fierce competition between gods has been witnessed before, they may now be tempted again to enter the arena, urged on by the prayers from the pulpits of all countries to help to destroy the enemy. This would account for the invention of an American gun, which, according to reports, has a range of 105 miles, Pray on priest, pray! Whether in these days the priests have more cruel fun with the gods or the gods with the priests, that is a question not easy to answer.
* * *
Thomas Paine wrote to a friend shortly before his death:
A thousand years hence, perhaps in less, America may be what England is now. The innocence of her character, that won the hearts of all nations in her favour, may sound like a romance, and her inimitable virtue as if it had never been. The ruins of that liberty, which thousands bled to obtain, may just furnish materials for a village tale, or extort a sigh from rustic sensibility; while the fashionable of that day, enveloped in dissipation, shall deride the principle and deny the fact."
Only one of those pesky American Boylsheviki, who are so bitterly attacked by Roosevelt with all the extraordinary power of his jaw, would be daring enough to maintain that Paine showed some ability for prophesy.
* * *
In Chicago the trial against 112 members of the I.W.W. is in progress before Judge Landis. Some of the defendants will have a separate trial. A number of cases were dismissed, also the charge against Arturo Giovanitti. The fact that he translated years ago a syndicalist pamphlet from the French will not go on record as coming under the Espionage Act. Great is wisdom!
George Andreychine and J.A. McDonald were released from custody on account of sickness. Andreychine has contracted tuberculosis in Cook County jail, the food and general conditions of which are an abomination. Another defendant has become insane in the jail. Stanley Jansharick died, one is nearly blind, others got pneumonia and tuberculosis. But the boys on trial are undismayed. When assembled for lunch during recess in a room in the court house they nag the Internationale.
To pick out the required number of jurors will probably take at least two weeks' time.
The correspondent of the New York Tribune wrote that much excitement was going on in the corridors of the court house, deputies moving about, watching for bombs.
That was necessary, indeed, the Chicago police having been famous since the Haymarket affair and after that they are great in discovering bombs planted by some of their own smart acquaintances.
* * *
New developments in the San Francisco bomb case seem to indicate, that the big cracks in the frame‑up have become so wide and yawning, that the final crash is only a question of time. A dismissal of three charges against Israel Weinberg took place in the court of Judge Griffin. After this the State Supreme Court admitted bail for Weinberg, who is still charged on two counts. Also Rena Mooney was admitted to bail. Both are now free and warmly they are welcomed by hundreds of thousands of men and women who helped to get justice for them and will continue to do so. Judge Dunne had to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court but could not refrain from showing his animosity against the accused. He said, when fixing bail for Rena Mooney: "It is my personal conviction that they all should be held in prison."
In regard to Mooney and Billings, the clamor for their liberation gains impetus every day. The protests become more urgent and greater in number. In behalf of Mooney, President Wilson and Gompers have written to Gov. Stephens, asking him to take action in the matter. Mooney will appear before judge Griffin on April 13. The judge is supposed to repeat the death sentence. The entangled mess of technicalities, it is maintained, leaves him no other choice; but according to a report he said that he was dead tired and disgusted with the whole game. It is unbelievable that Mooney will hang after all what has happened in the course of the infamous proceedings against him and the others, but a "pardon" with commuted sentence for life would certainly be nothing less than a bitter ironical climax of this miscarriage of justice. Mooney and Billings must get a new trial or be liberated altogether.
* * *
What charming things have been said about the workingmen in the last couple of months! By highly distinguished men, mark you, not by some I.W.W. sabotteur with a prison record. The Bethlehem multi‑millionaire Schwab predicted a future with labor on the top. In a recently published letter President Wilson gave a strong hint in the same direction and now the Rockefeller family starts out to establish sweet harmony between its own interests and those of labor.
The millennium seems close at hand. The next report will be that the Rockefellers will pick out half a million of the neediest families in the country and divide their fortune of $l,200,000,000 with them. The share of each of these families would be $2,400. Don't say that capitalism is not s good thing for the poor people!
* * *
Philanthropists, prison reformers, etc., should not miss reading the I. W. W. papers. About 2,000 members of the I.W.W. organisation are at present in jail. They are as a rule trustworthy, intelligent observers. Their accounts of the conditions they find in the prisons from West to East, from North to South are veritable mountains of valuable information that beats all official investigations and commission reports to splinters.
Only such reformers whose nerves cannot stand much may be warned before reading these accounts. They may however get away with a half dozen nightmares as a result of their studies, while those who are compelled to live in these vermin‑infested pest‑holes, called prison cells, experience a foretaste of real hell.
* * *
After Carl Muck of the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been driven out, the scalp of another music director --- Stransky of the Philharmonic Society --- is demanded. It makes even the music critic of the "Evening Sun wild.
"So Mr. Stransky is the next on the blacklist of our musical nationality! The society lady and the society magazine have willed it so, and their will be done! Against such as these how can art prevail?
But if Mr. Stransky does depart from the Philharmonic (which we hope in the particular instance he will not) it should be for other and better founded reasons. The chief of them lies in his baton, not in his nation; in his past programmes rather than in any of the present propaganda, one direction or the other. The lisping triviality of this new campaign is the saddest commentary of all upon a patiently musical New York!"
The critic must have slipped in his copy while the rabid chief editor had a consultation with a specialist on blood poisoning.
* * *
Arrests and charges under the Espionage Act come thick and fast. Victor Berger, Adolph Germer, Louis Engdahl, William F. Kruse, and Irwin St. John Tucker of the Socialist Party have been indicted by the Federal Grand Jury. They are accused of sixteen overt acts committed against the law mentioned.
A preacher Clarence H. Waldron, was convicted by the Federal Supreme Court of Burlington, Vt., and sentenced to a fifteen years' term in the Atlanta federal prison. He was charged with having spoken against the draft and the liberty loan.
Scott Nearing and Rose Pastor Stokes are also in the net. Nearing is charged with having violated the law in his writings and Rose Pastor Stokes with having done the same in statements made during her tour through the West.
People who believed that war and liberty of opinion could come to an agreement, at least in a republic if not in a monarchy, have indulged in too much optimism.
* * *
It is announced that a truce between capital and labor has been concluded for the period of the war by a body of men called the Labor Planning Board.
Attempts in the same direction have been made in all the belligerent countries of Europe, and as a rule they have missed the mark. Representatives of organized labor, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, may sign the agreement, but it will chiefly pertain only to the "aristocracy of labor." It has always been the medieval policy of the Federation to exclude the "unskilled" laborer masses of modern industry from the benefits of this organization, which, besides, are of very doubtful quality anyway.
* * *
On March 21 Ricardo Florence Magon was arrested again in Los Angeles and placed under $25,000 bail, which it was probably impossible to obtain. Accusation is based on an editorial in "Regeneracion," of which the Los Angeles correspondent of the New York "Times" has to say that it advocated the destruction of existing governments all over the world." Simply dreadful! The Magon family has lately been overwhelmed with misfortune. They have been hounded terribly by the police for years.
And now comes the arrest of Ricardo Florence Magon. We have received no direct information about the cases, but will certainly do what we can to give at least publicity to the facts as widely as possible under the circumstances.
By David Leigh
Courtrooms always make me think of the story of the woman who tried to match her thread. She hung on to her garment so long that it wore out during the search. Meantime, the styles changed; but she was not aware of it.
At the Hindu trial, now going on in San Francisco, I expected to see red. I saw black. Even the light, as reflected from where I sat, gave the judge a dusky hue; and the soldier bailiff (also in the shadow) could easily have been mistaken for a Filipino. We are fooled often --- all of us --- by appearances.
The doorkeeper said I could not go in, at first; but, somehow, after a little, he made room for me (in his heart), and so I stepped in.
The place was face‑packed, full of eyes, but black to me, very black. There were so many Hindus. One glance made me almost believe India, en masse, had come to pay us a visit. But that, of course, was a mirage. There are blond defendants also.
Twelve or more astute attorneys flank the defendants, as accepted counsel. These men are patriots, with possibly one exception. They look well fed and unworried. Nobody excepts to their remunerated interest. Nobody questions the fact of their association with those who are, at present, in bad odor officially. Nobody even hints that it is not in line with patriotism to defend individuals so charged. Theirs, evidently, is a course in conformity with the code de facto. The code de facto abounds with irreconcilable angles. Pay and way, while not synonyms, have a certain correlative significance, in this, our warring day.
At the prosecutor's table sits one man --- and a woman. One would not mention the woman did she not have light hair. There is something about light hair which attracts. The prosecutor looks small, sitting. He is tall, standing; and he has a stentorian voice. It savors of "that deep and dreadful organ‑pipe." To sit behind him is to hear the sea roll. To sit opposite him is to see contentious waves spurt foam. Personally, he lacks impress. He arrests one's attention through sound only.
Behind the prosecutor sat half a dozen ladies, knitting, friends of his, I am told, society ladies. They appeared to knit very well. They seemed so interested --- in their knitting. One of these ladies, I learn, once attended a lecture given by one of the Hindu defendants, on Prostitution. She was present the other day when the District Attorney grilled this same defendant for his ideas, in re this subject. She said not a word in the courtroom --- not even that she had attended the lecture.
Knitting appears to be an absorbing occupation. They say it takes one's mind off other things. If that is so, would it not be a capital idea to have the men who frequent houses of prostitution learn to knit? Just an idea, of course.
The judge is a little man. Chair‑framed, he appears diminutive. He drinks water constantly. The water reposes in a beautiful silver pitcher. Filled as the room is with human beings, nothing in it stands out like that pitcher. It wafts serenity from its inert sides. In fact, it has a distinct judicial air.
Two electric fans whir over the judge's head. Introducing perpetual motion, they seem to clash with ensconced precedent. Nobody pays the least attention to them; but they keep on whirring. Electricity has given us action, if not ideas.
The defendants sit bunched together. I say defendants, meaning Hindus. The seeing eye can only be conscious of darkness in that room: and the Hindus, of course, being black, overshadow the blond presence. They are a splendid‑looking lot of men, thoughtful, perceiving, purposeful. As the session continued, their poses were various. One, with a face supernal, tilted his chair slightly backwards and gazed at the ceiling. I read in his look conceptions of a beyond that would shock the earthly‑centered, could they see it. Another, bespectacled, with classical nose and ebullient intelligence, gave his attention exclusively to the perusal of a court transcript. He smiled esoterically at parts of it.
The jurors are youngish‑looking men, business men, evidently. They do not look like a theatre party. I noticed, though, during the recess, they smiled (at each other) with the grace of free men. The recess seems to be wisdom's contribution to court proceedings. Its effect is magical on everybody. It puts stress to flight, it transforms artifice into feeling, it releases sympathy. Let Providence be thanked for the idea of recess. So powerful is it that it lingers (if only for a moment) after the session reconvenes. The judge brought back a smile with him that would have dispelled a London fog.
So many old men, among the spectators. (I counted fifteen.) And young men there, too, in plenty, equally old. Only one did I see who was ageless. He sat beside me. Came in during the recess, with a paper and opinions, which he rattled and aired. He knew the man next to him. He talked to him and at me, --- beyond. "They're a bloody lot, the bunch of 'em. They ought to hang the whole crowd. (Pause; glances.)
I tell you I'm a good American. My people was born in Germany; so was I; but that don't matter. No better 'Mericans ever lived than me and my people. (More observation.)
"We've got to kill this Kaiser business --- and the niggers that are in with 'em. They're a dirty bunch. They ought to hang 'em all first --- and try 'em afterwards. That's what they'd do to 'em in Germany." . . .
After attending the court session I accompanied one of the Hindu defendants to the studio of a friend, a young Russian pianist. The sudden change nearly unbalanced me. For a moment I felt light‑headed. It was like being hoisted to Mt. Ararat after a sojourn in a coal pit.
In the room were a grand piano, several chairs, stacks of music and --- that comforter divine --- the unspoken welcome. Judge, jury, bailiff, counsel were noticeably absent.
"Play what you set to music for me," said the Hindu to his friend, --- that last one. You remember."
The pianist glanced comprehension. Then he brought forth some typewritten verses and a sheet of stiff paper, on which was penciled an amazing succession of cryptic bars and dots --- his own work. Without preliminary, he began to play. But play is scarcely the word. Rather did he caress the page unto himself (and us) till there was no presence in the room, save Beauty.
"Bravo!" cried the Hindu. That is great, my friend."
Then they sang the words (written by the Hindu), which gave Beauty the mate of Sympathy and gladness its spiritual raiment: and, looking upon them, I wondered why courts are places where sound alone presides. I wondered why it is that men venture so little in a sphere which is freighted with so much. I wondered what it is non‑observers get out of life.
I wondered then; and I still wonder.
3 A.M. In Jail
By Louise Olivereau
In the stark hours
Like a great bird
The unquiet Spirit of the Jail
Broods close above me
Till I gasp for breath ---
And now it settles,
Beak and claws upon my heart,
Its evil, searching eyes within my soul.
In the bed beneath me
Writhes in her sleep, and cries out
"Jesus God! Mother of Christ,
Obscene oaths and shuddering moans of pain
Follow her prayers; half‑wakened
She beats her pillows, curses,
Groans, and prays again.
Across the room in the half‑light,
Prostrate like the Magdalen at the feet of her
A sweet wild slip of a girl,
--- Just seventeen ---
Whose thirst for beauty and joy
We have answered with --- Jail ---
Through her frightened sobbing whispers,
"Mother, I will be good; take me home!"
The others sleep: a gentle idiot in the lowest bed;
Endless toil through all her girlhood on a lonely farm;
Marriage with one whom toil and drink made brutish;
These have brought her here
To wait the verdict that will pen her up for life
With others of her kind.
And she, that other frail one,
Mother and wife and daughter of joy
And would‑be suicide,
Slave of the drug‑fiend,
Turned thief for those white grains
More precious far than life to her;
Still but a child in years,
But ageless in knowledge of evil,
Loose lips half‑smiling,
Tear‑wet lids veiling her harlot's eyes,
Sleeps peacefully as any little child.
--- Ah, how the tearing beak and claws
Work their harsh will upon my heart,
And the ever‑questioning eyes,
Glittering, evil, not‑to‑be‑denied,
Ask their relentless "Why? --- Why?
Why are these here?"
In the next room the Matron sleeps;
No bird disturbs her even breath and placid dreams;
The jailer in his office yawns
And stretches in his chair
Until it squeaks and groans again;
He drops his keys; a paper falls
And flutters like a frightened bird;
Then for a space
Only the tearing, tearing
Beak and talons at my heart,
And over, over, over,
In a hammered rhythm,
The terrible question,
"Why? --- Why? --- Why?"
Then splitting the unquiet silence
Like jagged lightning a stormy sky,
The yell of a maniac
Far down the corridor.
The caged tiger's rage
And nameless grief of the wolf
Starving alone on snowy wastes
Blend in that dreadful human cry.
The jailer snarls "Shut up, damn you!"
And hunts his mad charge away from the bars
Back to the far corner of his cage.
The creature whimpers and cries;
A murmured confusion of curses and groans
Swells from the cells where sleepers have wakened,
For sleep is precious in jail ---
Another snarled order for quiet;
The jailer returns to his chair,
Yawns again ---
And again all is quiet:
Only the bird
At my heart
Only its eyes,
In my soul,
"Why? --- Why?
Why did you let them come?"
Work for the Political Amnesty League
The need for an organization, spreading the idea that better treatment should be accorded to political prisoners and full amnesty granted to them after the war, becomes more urgent every day. The number of political prisoners grows rapidly.
In the Chicago court room, where over 100 I.W.W. are tried, the presiding judge had to take personal action in order to afford the defendants a prison treatment not altogether beastly.
Under prevailing circumstances the question is not whether a league for the recognition and amnesty of political prisoners is necessary, but how it can be carried on and impress the public mind.
The league has done good work in the short time it exists. As a result of the meetings and conferences, held by Prince Hopkins on his trip to the West, branches have been organized in a number of cities. Ten thousand copies of a little pamphlet have been distributed, in which the principles and aims of the league are set forth. Many have written that they liked the idea. It will be necessary to have ten thousand more of these pamphlets printed. Also a list of all political prisoners, as far as it is possible to obtain the names, place of imprisonment, and other data is in progress.
In order to accomplish this the league appeals to friends and sympathizers for their cooperation and financial help.
Letters and contributions can be addressed to:
32 Union Square, Room 1015, New York.
Cassius V. Cook
In Chicago the secretary‑treasurer of the "League of Humanity," Cassius V. Cook, has been arrested and placed under $10,000 bail. The league has for its object a consistent propaganda against the violation of human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, actual freedom of conscience and belief. Meanwhile charges have been brought against Cook for conspiracy to obstruct the draft, etc. Cook has been a good worker in the radical movement for long years. Financial aid for his defense will be needed. Contributions to be sent direct to C.V. Cook Defense Committee, 143 N. Dearborn St., Room 30, Chicago. Ill.
Attention! New York
A performance of Butler Davenport's play: Deferred Payment" will be given at Bramhall Playhouse, 27th Street and Lexington Avenue, on May 3, for the benefit of the Russian syndicalist‑anarchist paper, "Golos Truda." A large attendance is expected. Tickets $1.00.
With this issue of the "Bulletin" a catalogue of the Mother Earth Book Shop was mailed to our subscribers.
THE CABIN, By V. Blasco Ibanez. English translation by Dr. Francis Haffekine Snow and Beatrice M. Mekota. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $1.50.
Writers of former periods thought it necessary that the authors of novels and tragedies should prefer to select their heroes and heroines from the exalted ranks of society. Because, they argued, ordinary people neither can rise very high nor fall very low. Their fate is commonplace, and therefore lacks the material to build up the great passionate tragedy of life. For this reason kings, dukes, barons, princesses, marquises, countesses crowded the books and stages, being not only a nuisance in life, but in literature also. Many a ferocious young reader wonders to this very day where all these perfectly superfluous people come from. ‑
The Cabin, of whose author the introduction says: "In theory, he might almost be said to be a disciple of Ferrer," leads us into an agricultural district of Spain. It is a bitter, hard life which the tenant farmers have to endure. Their wives and children carry manure in baskets on their shoulders from Valencia in order to fertilize the patches of land. They work fiercely away from dawn to sunset, but in the end it is hardly possible to scrape the rent together, payable to rich, usurous land‑owners in the city, who try their best to squeeze out the last penny from them. Sometimes it is not possible at all. Such a case is that of the farmer Barrett. His grandfather and his father owned the piece of land on which he now lives as a tenant. He is blessed with four daughters. Deeper and deeper he gets into debts with Don Salvador, who owns the fields. The day comes when the law sends him notice to leave house and land. Old as he is, hard as he has worked, now he is a beggar. Despair and wrath overwhelm him. He kills Salvador. The farmers rejoice over the death blow, which Barrett dealt to the oppressor. It becomes a silent agreement among them that no other tenant will be tolerated on the Barrett place, tabooed under the people's curse, and the life of any newcomer is made miserable. Finally the heirs of Don Salvador succeed in getting Batiste, a robust, fearless man to settle down on the place. A struggle of life and death begins between this man and the community. Batiste kills his worst enemy, Pimento, but his house is set on fire and burned to the ground. Under wreckage and ruin he waits in the night with his family for daylight, when they will start out again in search for another meagre existence.
"Bread! At what cost is it earned! And how evil it makes man!" There is tragedy and fierce passion enough for you.
It is a genuine book. The author possesses considerable artistic power for description and characterization.