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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 15
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    JIMMIE HIGGINS TURNS BOLSHEVIK

    I

    Winter was coming, and the farm-workers moved to the cities; but this year they did not go as down-and-out-o'-works--they went, each man a little kink. Jimmie wandered into the city of Ironton, and got himself a job in a big automobile shop at eight dollars a day, and set to work agitating for ten dollars. It was not that he had any need of the extra two dollars, of course, but merely because his first principle in life was to make trouble for the profit-system. The capitalist papers of this middle-Western metropolis were furiously denouncing working-men who struck "against their country" in war-time; Jimmie, on the other hand, denounced those who used "country" as camouflage for "boss" and made the war a pretext to deprive labour of its most precious right.

    There was a Socialist local in Ironton, still active and determined in spite of the fact that its office had been raided by the police, and most of the party's papers and magazines barred from the mails. You could always get leaflets printed, however; and if you could no longer denounce the war directly, you could jeer at England's exhibition of "democracy" in Ireland, you could point to the profits of the profiteers, and demand conscription of wealth along with conscription of manhood. Some American Socialists became almost as subtle as that German rebel of pre-war days, who, desiring to lampoon the Kaiser, wrote an account of the life of the Roman Emperor Agricola, reciting his vanities and insane extravagances.

    Late in the autumn came an event which should have troubed Jimmie Higgins more deeply than it did. Along the Izonzo river the Italian armies were facing the Austrians, their hereditary enemies; they were at the end of a long, exhaustive, and for the most part unsuccessful campaign, and the Italian Socialists at home were carrying on precisely such a warfare against their own government as Jimmie Higgins was carrying on in America. They were helped by the Catholic intriguers, who hated the Italian government because it had destroyed the temporal power of the Pope; they were helped by the subtle and persistent efforts of Austrian agents in their country, who spread rumours among Italian troops of the friendly intentions of the Austrians, and of the imminence of a truce. These agents went so far as to fake copies of the leading Italian newspapers, with accounts of starvation and riots in the home cities, and the shooting down of women and children. These papers were given out in the Italian trenches, before a certain mountain-sector where the Austrian troops had been fraternizing with the Italians; and then, during the night, the Austrian troops were withdrawn, and picked German "shock-troops" substituted, which attacked at dawn and drove through the Italian lines, sweeping back the army along a hundred-mile front, capturing some quarter of a million prisoners and a couple of thousand cannon--practically all the Italians had.

    That Jimmie Higgins did not pay more attention to this terrifying incident was in part because he read it in the capitalist papers and did not believe it; but mainly because his whole attention just now was centred on Russia, where the proletariat was about to make its bid for power. Now you would see how wars were to be ended and peace restored to a distracted world!

    The moderate Socialist government of Kerensky was pleading with the capitalist masters of the Allied nations for a statement of their peace terms, so that the workers of Russia might know what they were fighting for. The Russian workers wanted a declaration in favour of no annexations, no indemnities, and disarmament; on such terms they would help fight the war, in spite of all the starvation and suffering in distracted Russia. But the Allied statesmen would not make any such declaration, and the Russian workers, backed by all the Socialists of the world, declared that the reason was that these Allied statesmen were waging an imperialist war--they did not intend to stop fighting until they had taken vast territories from the German powers, and exacted a ransom that would cripple Germany for a generation. The Russian workers refused point-blank to fight for such aims, and so in November came the second revolution, the uprising of the Bolsheviki.

    Almost their first action when they took possession of the palaces and government archives was to publish to the world the secret treaties which the rulers of England, France and Italy had made with Russia. These treaties formed a complete justification for the attitude of the Russian revolutionists--they showed that the Allied imperialists had planned most shameless plundering; England was to have the German colonies and Mesopotamia, France was to have German territory to the Rhine, and Italy was to have the Adriatic coast, and to divide Palestine and Syria with England and France.

    And here was the most significant fact to Jimmie Higgins--these enormously important revelations, the most important since the beginning of the war, were practically suppressed by the capitalist newspapers of America! First these papers printed a brief item--the Bolsheviki had given out what they claimed were secret treaties, but the genuineness of these documents was gravely doubted. Then they published evasive and lying denials from the British, French and Italian diplomats; and then they shut up! Not another word did you read about those secret treaties; except for one or two American newspapers with traditions of honour, the full text of those treaties was given in the Socialist press alone! "And now," cried Jimmie Higgins to the working men in his shop, "what do you think of those wonderful allies of ours? What do you think of those Wall Street newspapers of ours?" Could any working-man who had such facts put before him fail to realize that Jimmie Higgins had a case, and a most important work in the world to do, in spite of all his unreason and his narrowness?

    II

    Jimmie was now in the seventh heaven, walking as if on air. A proletarian government at last, the first in history! A government of working-men like himself, running their own affairs, without the help of politicians or bankers! Coming out before the world and telling the truth about matters of state, in language that common men could understand! Disbanding the armies, and sending the workers home! Turning the masters out of the factories, and putting shop-committees in control! Taking away the advertising from the crooked capitalist papers, and so putting them out of business! Our little friend would rush to the corner every morning to get the paper and see what had happened next; he would go down the street so excited that he forgot his breakfast.

    Jimmie had made a new acquaintance in Ironton; the little tailor, Rabin, whose name was Scholem, which means Peace, had given him a letter to his brother, whose name was Deror, which means Freedom. Each afternoon when the automobile factory let out, Jimmie would get an evening paper and take it to Deror's tailor-shop and the two would spell out the news. By God, look at this! Did you ever hear the like? The man in charge of the Bolshevik foreign office was a Marxian Jew who had helped edit the Novy Mir, the revolutionary paper which Scholem had read to Jimmie! He had been a waiter in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, and now he was giving out the secret treaties, and issuing propaganda manifestoes to the international proletariat.

    The American capitalist press was full of lies about the new revolution, of course; but Jimmie could read pretty well between the lines of the capitalist press, and the few Socialist papers that were still in business, and which he read at the headquarters of the local, gave him the rest of what he wanted. To Jimmie, of course, everything the Bolsheviki did was right; if it wasn't right it was a lie. The little machinist knew that the Bolsheviki had repudiated the four-billion-dollar debt which the government of the Tsar had contracted with the bankers of France, and Jimmie knew perfectly well what was the lying power of four billion dollars.

    The American papers were shocked because the Russian Socialists were deserting the cause of democracy, and giving Germany a chance to win the war. The American papers called them German agents, but Jimmie did not take any stock in such talk as this. Jimmie was familiar with the "frame-up" as it is operated against the workers in America. He saw that the first thing the Bolshevik leaders did was to make an appeal to the revolutionary workers of Germany. The Russian proletariat had shown the way--now let the German proletariat follow! Literature was printed and shipped wholesale into Germany, leaflets were dropped by aviators among the German troops; and when Jimmie and Deror read that the German generals had protested to the Russians against such practices, they laughed aloud with delight. Well might the war-lords squeal; they knew what was coming to them! And when in January Jimmie and Deror read of the revolting of a brigade of German troops, and a strike of several hundred thousand working men throughout Germany, they thought the end was at hand. The little tailor got up in local Ironton and made a motion that it take to itself the name "Bolshevik"--which motion was carried with a whoop. And these American Bolsheviki went on to consult with the labour-unions, suggesting that they should form "shop-committees", and prepare for the taking over of industry a la Russe!

    III

    But something went suddenly wrong with the newly built revolutionary steam-roller. The German military chiefs seized their strike-leaders at home and threw them into jail, or shipped them off to the front trenches to be slaughtered. By terrorism, shrewdly mixed with cajolery, they broke the strike, and sent the grumbling slaves back to their treadmill. And then the German armies began to march into Russia!

    It was the crisis to which Jimmie Higgins had been looking forward ever since the war began. Tolstoi had taught that if one nation refused to fight, it would be impossible for another nation to invade it; and while Jimmie Higgins was no mystic or religious non-resistant, he agreed in this with the great Russian. No workers in an enemy army could possibly be brought to fire upon their peace-proclaiming brothers!

    And here at last was the test of the theory; here were German Socialists ordered to march against Russian Socialists--ordered to fire upon the red flag! Would they do what their masters, the war-lords, commanded? Or would they listen to the clamorous appeals of the international proletariat, and turn their guns against their own officers?

    All the world saw what happened; it saw the glorious revolutionary machine, in which Jimmie Higgins had put all his trust, run into a ditch and land its passengers in the mud. The German armies marched, and the Socialists in the German armies did exactly what the non-Socialists did--they fired upon the red flag, as they would have fired upon the flag of the Tsar. They obeyed the orders of their officers, like true and loyal Germans; they drove back the Bolsheviki in confusion, taking their guns and supplies, and destroying their cities; they led off the Russian women and children into slavery, precisely as if they were Belgian or French women and children, destined by the German Gott as the legitimate prey of Kultur. They sacked Riga and Reval, they overran all the Eastern portions of Russia--Courland, Livonia, Esthonia; they moved into the rich grain country of Southern Russia, the Ukraine; they landed from their ships and took Finland, wiping out the liberties of that splendid people. They were at the gates of Petrograd, and the Bolshevik government was forced to flee to Moscow. Of all which military feats the German Socialist papers spoke with stern pride!

    IV

    Poor Jimmie Higgins! It was like the blow of a mighty fist in the face; he was literally stunned--it was weeks before he could grasp the full meaning of what was happening, the debacle of all his hopes. And it was the same with Ironton's Bolshevik local; all the "pep" was gone out of its proceedings. To be sure, some noisy ones went on shouting for revolution the very next day--men, who had been talking formulas for twenty or thirty years, and had no more notion of a fact than they had of a pseudopodium. But the sensible men of the group knew that their "St. Louis resolution" was being shot to death over there in the trenches before Petrograd.

    It was interesting especially to see Rabin. The common belief of Americans was that a Jew could not be induced to fight; they told a story about one who cried out to his son, asking why he was letting another boy pummel him, and the son whispered in reply, "Keep still, I got a nickel under my foot!" All through the war the Jewish Socialists in America had been, next to the Germans, the most ardent pacifists; but now here was a social revolution managed by Jews, here was a Russian government which gave the Jews their rights for the first time in history! So the little Jewish tailor stood up before these American Bolsheviki, and with tears running down his cheeks declared: "Comrades, I am already tru vit speeches; I am going into dis var! I vill put myself vit de Polish Socialists, vit de Bohemian Socialists--I fight de Kaiser to de death! So vill fight every Jewish Socialist in de vorld!" And this was no mere braggadocio--Comrade Rabin actually proceeded to shut up his tailor-shop, and went away to join the "red brigade", which was being organized by the Jewish revolutionists of New York!

    If the German war-lords had set out deliberately to ham-string the American Socialists, to make it impossible for them to go on demanding peace, they could not have acted differently. They dragged the helpless Bolsheviki into a peace-conference at Brest-Litovsk, and forced them to cede away all the territories that Germany had taken, and on top of that to pay an enormous indemnity. They planned to compel the new Russian government to become a vassal to the Central Powers, working to help them enslave the rest of the world. The German armies went through the conquered territories, stripping them bare, robbing the peasants of every particle of food, beating them, shooting them, burning their homes if they resisted. They gave to the world such a demonstration of what a German peace would mean, that everywhere free men set their teeth and gripped their hands, and swore to root this infamous thing from out civilization. Even Jimmie Higgins!

    V

    Yes, even Jimmie! He made up his mind that he would work as hard as ever he could, and produce as many automobile-trucks as he could. But alas, a man cannot be hounded and oppressed all his life, cannot have hatred and rebellion ground into the deeps of his soul, and then forget it over-night because of certain intellectual ideas, certain new items that he reads in his paper. What happened to Jimmie was that his mind was literally torn in half; he found himself, every twenty-four hours of his life, of two absolutely contradictory and diametrically opposite points of view. He would vow destruction to the hated German armies; and then he would turn about and vow destruction to the men at home who were managing the job of destroying the German armies!

    For these men were Jimmie's life-long enemies, and were no more able to forget their prejudices over-night than was Jimmie. For example, the lying capitalist paper which Jimmie had to read every morning! When Jimmie had read a patriotic editorial in the Ironton Daily Sun, it had become utterly impossible for him to help win the war that day! Or the politicians, seeking to use the war-cry of democracy abroad to crush all traces of democracy at home; to "get" the radicals whom they hated and feared, and by means of taxes on necessities and a bonded debt to put the costs of the war on to the poor! Or the capitalists, making fervid speeches about patriotism, but refusing to give up the whip-hand over their wage-slaves!

    Jimmie Higgins was working in a factory, making automobile-trucks for the armies in France; and the owners of the factory would not let the men have a union, and so there was a strike. The bosses made an agreement to take everybody back and permit a union, and then proceeded treacherously to violate the agreement, getting rid of the most active organizers on this or that transparent pretext. Jimmie Higgins, trying to help with the skill of his hands to make the world safe for democracy, was turned out of his job and left to wander in the streets, because a big profit-seeking corporation did not believe in democracy, and refused to permit its workers any voice in determining the conditions of their labour! The Government was trying to deal with emergencies such as this, to put an end to the epidemic of strikes which was hindering the war-work everywhere; but the government had not yet got its machinery going, and meantime Jimmie's little feeble sprout of patriotism got a severe chill.

    Jimmie got drunk and wasted a part of his money on a woman of the street. Then, being ashamed of himself, and still plagued by the memory of his dead wife and babies, he straightened up and resolved to start life anew. He found himself thinking about Leesville; it was the only place in the world where he had ever been really happy, and now since Deror Rabin had gone East, it was the only place where he had friends. How were the Meissners getting on? How was Comrade Mrs. Gerrity, nee Baskerville? What was Local Leesville thinking about Russia and about the war? Jimmie took a sudden resolve to go and find out. He priced a ticket, and found that he had enough money and to spare. He would take the journey--and take it in state, as a citizen and a war-worker, not as a tramp in a box-car!

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