Living My Life : Volume 1, Chapter 38
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of violence. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "Man's greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges." (From : "The Place of the Individual in Society," by Emma ....)
• "Patriotism is inexorable and, like all insatiable monsters, demands all or nothing. It does not admit that a soldier is also a human being, who has a right to his own feelings and opinions, his own inclinations and ideas." (From : Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty," by Emma Goldman,....)
• "The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age." (From : "Minorities Versus Majorities," by Emma Goldman.)
Volume 1, Chapter 38
THE MCNAMARA DRAMA, STAGED IN THE COURTS OF LOS ANGELES, held the entire country in tense anticipation and then came to a sudden farcical end. The McNamaras confessed! Unexpectedly, to everyone's amazement, they pleaded guilty to the charges on which they were being tried. The reactionary press was jubilant; the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association; Harrison Gray Otis, William J. Burns, and their crew of spies, whose mission it was to send these men to their death, now offered fervent thanks for the lucky turn affairs had taken. Had they not from the first proclaimed the McNamara brothers anarchists and dynamiters?
The prosecution and the informers had reason to be grateful to the circumstances that had induced the plea of guilty. It was a blow to Labor that even Detective Burns had never dreamed of being able to deliver. Alas, those responsible for the confession came not from the enemy's ranks, but from the camp of Labor itself, from the circle of "well-intentioned" friends.
It would be unfair to lay upon any one person the entire responsibility for the ludicrous end of what had begun as an epoch-making event in the history of the industrial war in the United States. The ignorance of John J. and James B. McNamara about the social significance of their case must share the blame for the irreparable blunder they had made. Had the McNamaras had revolutionary spirit and the intellectual powers of Sasha and other social rebels, there would have been a proud avowal of their acts and an intelligent analysis of the causes that had compelled them to resort to violence. In such a case there could have been neither the feeling nor the admission of guilt. But the McNamara brothers were only trade-unionists who saw in their struggle no more than a feud between their organization and the steel interests.
Yet, however unfortunate the limitations of these two victims, the timidity of their counsel and the credulity of the reformers among their friends were far more blame-worthy. Such people never seem to learn from experience. No matter how often they had seen the lion devour the lamb, they continued to cling to the hope that the nature of the beast might change. If only the lion could get to know the lamb better, they argued, or talk matters over, he would surely learn to appreciate his gentle brother and thereby grow gentle himself. It was therefore not difficult for the prosecutors of the McNamaras to say to them: "Now, gentlemen, induce the prisoners to plead guilty. Get them to confess and we give you our word of honor that their lives will be saved and there will be no further man-hunt, no more arrests, no prosecution of anybody in the labor ranks connected with their acts. Believe us, gentlemen. We may roar like lions, but we have soft hearts. We feel with the poor lambs in the Los Angeles County Jail. Get them to confess and they shall not be doomed. This is a gentlemen's agreement. Now shake, and let's all be lambs."
And those infants believed. They accepted the promise of the sly and cunning beasts. They went forth inspired by the great mission fate had placed before them to bring the lion and the lamb together. But it was not long before the taste of the tender mutton helped to whet the lion's appetite for more of it. A renewed man-hunt followed, arrests upon arrests, indictments by the score, and savage persecution of the victims caught in the dragnet.
Now J. J. and J. B. McNamara were hurled from their pedestal into the dust. They were dragged through the mire, reviled, and branded by the very supporters who had recently strewn roses in their path. The wretched apostates now beat their chests and cried: "We have been deceived, we did not know that the McNamaras were guilty, and that they had used violence. They are criminals."
The collapse of the trial disclosed the appalling hollowness of radicalism in and out of the ranks of labor, and the craven spirit of so many of those who presume to plead its cause.
A few clear minds and staunch souls remained, all too few when compared with the pack that were calling down anathema upon the two victims. These refused to be swayed by the panic which followed on the heels of the McNamara confession. Among the small minority in the United States most anarchists stood by the deserted labor leaders because they were victims of a system supported by violence and unyielding to any other method in the industrial struggle.
The Mother Earth group registered its protest in our magazine and on the platform against the cheap apology of those who claimed to have been "deceived in thinking the McNamaras innocent." We held that if such excuses were sincere, then the trade-unionists and the reformers, as well as the political socialists, were fools and not competent to be teachers of the people. We pointed out that he who remains ignorant of the causes of the class conflict makes himself responsible for its existence.
Every time I lectured on the McNamara case, police and detectives were on my trail, but I did not care. In fact, I should have welcomed arrest. Prison seemed preferable to the world of cowardice and impotence. Nothing happened, however, and I went on with our work. The next job was already at hand, the Lawrence strike.
Twenty-five thousand textile workers, men, woman, and children, were involved in the struggle for a fifteen-per-cent increase in their wage. For years they had toiled fifty-six hours a week for an average weekly pay of eight dollars. Out of the strength of these people the mill-owners had grown immensely rich. Poverty and misery had at last driven the Lawrence textile workers to strike. The struggle was hardly underway when the mill lords began to show their teeth. In this they had the support of the State, and even of the college authorities. The Governor of Massachusetts, himself a mill-owner, sent the militia to protect his interests and those of his mill-owning colleagues. The president of Harvard was, as one of the stockholders, equally interested in dividends from the Lawrence mills. The result of this unity between State, capitalism, and seats of learning in Massachusetts was a horde of police, detectives, soldiers, and collegiate ruffians let loose on the helpless strikers. The first victims of this reign of military terror were Anna Lapezo and John Ramo. During a skirmish the girl was shot and the young man bayoneted to death by a soldier. Instead of apprehending the perpetrators of the crime, the State and local authorities arrested among others, Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, the two foremost strike leaders. These men were conscious rebels, backed by the Industrial Workers of the World and by the other revolutionary elements in the country. Labor in the East rallied with particular generosity to the support of the Lawrence strikers and to the defense of the two men. The gap left by the arrest of Ettor and Giovannitti was immediately filled by Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Haywood's years of experience in the labor struggle, his determination and tact, made him a distinctive power in the Lawrence situation. On the other hand, Elizabeth's youth, charm, and eloquence easily won everybody's heart. The names of the two and their reputation gained for the strike country-wide publicity and support.
I had known and admired Elizabeth since I had first heard her, years before, at an open-air gathering. She could not have been more than fourteen years of age at the time, with a beautiful face and figure and a voice vibrant with earnestness. She made a strong impression on me. Later I used to see her in the company of her father at my lectures. She was a fascinating picture with her black hair, large blue eyes, and lovely complexion. I often found it hard to take my eyes off her, sitting in the front row at my meetings.
The splendid free-speech fight she had made in Spokane with other members of the I.W.W., and the persecution she had endured, brought Elizabeth Gurley Flynn very near to me. And when I heard she was ill, after the birth of her child, I felt great sympathy for this young rebel, one of the first American women revolutionists of proletarian background. My interest in her had served to increase my efforts in raising funds, not only for the Spokane fight, but for Elizabeth's own use during her first months of young motherhood.
Since she had returned to New York we were often thrown together, in meetings and in more intimate ways. Elizabeth was not an anarchist, but neither was she fanatical or antagonistic, as were some of her comrades who had emerged from the Socialist Labor Party. She was accepted in our circles as one of our own, and I loved her as a friend.
Bill Haywood had but recently come to live in New York. We had met almost immediately and became very friendly. Bill also was not an anarchist, but, like Elizabeth, he was free from narrow sectarianism. He frankly admitted that he felt much more at home with the anarchists, and especially with the Mother Earth group, than with the zealots in his own ranks.
The most notable characteristic of Bill was his extraordinary sensitiveness. This giant, outwardly so hard, would wince at a coarse word and tremble at the sight of pain. On one occasion, when he addressed our eleventh-of-November commemoration, he related to me the effect the crime of 1887 had had on him. He was but a youngster at the time, already working in the mines. "Since then," he told me, "our Chicago martyrs have been my greatest inspiration, their courage my guiding star." The apartment at 21O East Thirteenth Street became Bill's retreat. Frequently he spent his free evenings at our place. There he could read and rest to his heart's content, or drink coffee "black as the night, strong as the revolutionary ideal, sweet as love."
At the height of the Lawrence strike I was approached by Mr. Sol Fieldman, a New York socialist, in regard to two debates on the difference in theory and tactics between socialism and anarchism. I had debated with socialists all through the United States, but never in my own city. I was glad of the opportunity, and the proposal caught Ben's fancy. Nothing but Carnegie Hall would do, he declared; he was sure we could jam it, and off he went to rent the place. But he returned with a sad face; the hall was free for one evening only. For the second date he had to be content with the Republic Theater.
It occurred to me that the debates presented a splendid occasion to raise a substantial sum for the Lawrence strike, and Mr. Fieldman agreed. Nothing was said as to who should make the appeal, but I set my heart upon having Big Bill do it. He, in the very thick of the battle, was the most appropriate person for the purpose.
Mr. Fieldman wanted to supply the chairman from his own ranks. I made no objections, because it was of no moment to me who presided. On the day of the debate my opponent informed me that he was still without a chairman and that he had been severely censured by his socialist comrades for having proposed the debate. "Very well, we'll wire for Bill Haywood," I said; "he'll be glad to preside and he is the man to make the appeal." But Mr. Fieldman refused. He would prefer even an anarchist, he said, to Haywood. I insisted that it must be Bill for the appeal, no matter who presided. In the evening, when I came to Carnegie Hall, Fieldman was still without a chairman, nor would he consent to Bill. "All right, there will be no debate," I announced; "but I myself will tell the audience the reason for it." The categorical imperative frightened him into submission.
The audience knew that Bill came straight from the Lawrence scene. The feeling the strike had aroused now broke out in an ovation for Bill. His simple appeal for the heroic men and women of Lawrence moved everybody to response. Within a few minutes the platform was strewn with money, and Mr. Fieldman was on all fours gathering in the harvest of Bill's appeal. The amount contributed was five hundred and forty-two dollars, a very large sum from an audience of working people who had already paid admission to the debate.
Then the bull-fight began, but, alas, the bull turned out to be a very tame animal. Mr. Fieldman knew his catechism. He recited his Marxist rosary with the fluency and precision which comes from practice, but not one original or independent thought did he advance. In roseate colors he painted the marvelous achievements of social democracy in Germany, dwelling on its party strength of four million votes and its even greater number of adherents in trade-union ranks, consisting of eight millions. "Think of what those twelve million socialists can do," he cried triumphantly; "stop wars, take possession of the means of production and distribution. Not by violence, but by their political power! As to the State, did not Engels say that it will die of itself?" It was a grand socialist speech, ably delivered. But it was no debate.
The historic data and current facts I advanced to prove the deterioration of socialism in Germany, the betrayal on the part of most socialists who had achieved power, the tendency in their ranks everywhere towards petty reforms --- all that Mr. Fieldman conviently ignored. Each time he rose to reply, he repeated verbatim what he has said in his opening round.
Our debate on political versus direct action, at the Republic Theater, was more spirited. Many I.W.W. boys were present and gave the proceedings heightened color. The Lawrence strike served me as an illuminating example of direct action. My opponent did not feel quite so sure of himself as when he had presented the socialist theory with such finality. He was especially nonplused by the questions hurled at him from the gallery by an I.W.W. boy: "How would politial action serve the mass of migratory workers, who are never long enough in one place to be able to register for voting, or millions of boys and girls under age and without the right to the ballot? Is not direct mass action their only medium, and the most effective to gain economic redress? The textile workers in Lawrence, for instance; should they have waited until they had voted their socialist comrades into the Massachusetts legislature?"
My opponent sweated trying to wriggle out of a definite answer. When he did finally meet the issue, it was to say that the socialists do believe in strikes, but that when they should gain the majority and come into political power, there would be no further need of such methods. This was too much for the overall brigade. They howled with laughter, stamped their feet, and intoned I.W.W. songs.
Our activities did not leave us much leisure for sociability or intellectual enjoyment. The return to America of Paul Orleneff with a new company came as a great surprise and brought joy to all of us who had known the man from his first visit. Paul looked older; his face was more lined, and his eyes had more Weltschmerz in them. But he remained the same naive, unworldly creature, living only in the realm of his art.
The people who could help him to some success were the men of the Yiddish press, particularly Abe Cahan and the other Jewish writers. Orleneff would not listen to my suggestion that he seek them out. It was not resentment, he said, at the unkind treatment during the latter part of his visit in 1905. "You see, Miss Emma," he explained, "for almost a year I have been living Ibsen's Brand. You know what his motto is: 'No compromise; all or nothing.' Can you imagine Brand going about knocking at the door of the editors? If I should do what Brand would scorn to do, I'd ruin my conception of the character."
Before long, Orleneff left America. He could not acclimatize himself in this country or accept its attitude to art. The realization also that the tie which had bound him to Alla Nazimova was definitely broken excluded his continued stay. They were separated now by the gap which must always exist between a truly creative artist and one interested mainly in material success.
In Chicago I had the opportunity of meeting the famous Russian revolutionary Vladimir Bourtzeff. I was greatly interested in his recital of the arduous mission that had come to him of unmasking Azeff as a police spy. Azeff was undoubtedly a most exceptional phenomenon in revolutionary annals. Not that there had not been before, or since, traitors in revolutionary ranks. But Azeff was no ordinary spy, and even today the psychology of the man remains an unsolved enigma. For years he had not only been a member of the Fighting Organization of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party of Russia, but also the all-powerful head of that terrorist body. He had planned and had successfully executed numerous acts against the highest dignitaries of the Czarist Government, and he enjoyed the absolute confidence of all his coworkers. When Bourtzeff charged Azeff, the ultra-terrorist, with being an agent of the Russian Secret Service, even the nearest friends of the accuser thought him demented. The mere suggestion of such a possibility was considered treason to the revolution, for Azeff personified the very spirit of the Russian revolutionary movement. Bourtzeff, however, was a man of dogged tenacity who possessed an unerring intuition in such matters. He had exposed a number of spies previously, and his sources of information had always proved to be entirely reliable. Yet even he underwent a long inner struggle before he could bring himself to believe in the guilt of the trusted head of the Fighting Organization The data Bourtzeff secured were incontrovertible and damned Azeff as a man who had during a period of twenty years managed to dupe the Russian Secret Service and the revolutionists at the same time. Bourtzeff succeeded in proving Azeff a traitor to both sides, and both resolved to punish Azeff by death for his monumental deceit. Yet even at the eleventh hour Azeff tricked them, by escaping without leaving a trace.
Except for the good-fellowship of my comrades in Denver, the city had always been a disappointment to me. There even Ben's energy had failed to arouse interest in our work. This time the number of my friends was augmented by Lillian Olf, Lena and Frank Monroe, John Spiss, May Courtney, and other American anarchists, as well as by new comrades among the Yiddish element. But the public at large remained away from our meetings. Then it happened that the Denver Post asked me to write a series of articles on the growing social unrest. At the same time several newspaper women I knew offered to arrange a special lecture at the Brown Palace Hotel. The subject they chose was Rostand's Chantecler.
I had long since become convinced that the modern drama is a fruitful disseminator of new ideas. My first experience in that regard was in 1897, when I had talked to a group of miners on George Bernard Shaw's plays. It was during their lunch-hour, and we were four hundred feet below the ground. My audience clustered around me, their black faces lit up now and then by the gleam of their lamps. Their eyes, deep-sunken, looked dull at first, but as I continued speaking, they began glowing with understanding of the social significance of Shaw's works. My well- dressed audience in the luxurious ballroom of the Brown Palace Hotel reacted in the same manner as the miners had. They, too, saw themselves reflected in the dramatic mirror. Several teachers of the university and of the high school urged me to deliver a drama course. Among them one woman particularly attracted my attention, Miss Ellen A. Kennan, who had a very scholarly mind. She offered to maintain the class until I returned. Thus my visit to Denver for five lectures lengthened into fourteen and resulted also in five articles for the Post.
Among the interesting features of my stay in the city was the opening performance of Chantecler, with Maud Adams in the title rôle, which I attended by request to review the play in the press. I had liked Miss Adams in her demure parts, but in stature and voice she impressed me as miscast in the rôle of Chanticler.
San Diego, California, had always enjoyed considerable freedom of speech. Anarchists, socialists, I.W.W. men, as well as religious sects, had been in the habit of speaking out of doors to large crowds. Then the city fathers of San Diego passed an ordinance doing away with the old custom. The anarchists and I.W.W.'s initiated a free-speech fight, with the result that eighty-four men and women were thrown into jail. Among them was E. E. Kirk, who had defended me in San Francisco in 1909; Mrs. Laura Emerson, a well-known woman rebel; and Jack Whyte, one of the most intelligent I.W.W. boys in California.
When I arrived with Ben in Los Angeles in April, San Diego was in the grip of a veritable civil war. The patriots, know as Vigilantes, had converted the city into a battle-field. They beat, clubbed, and killed men and women who still believed in their constitutional rights. Hundreds of them had come to San Diego from every part of the United States to participate in the campaign. They traveled in box cars, on the bumpers, on the roofs of trains, every moment in danger of their lives, yet sustained by the holy quest for freedom of speech, for which their comrades were already filling the jails.
The Vigilantes raided the I.W.W. headquarters, broke up the furniture, and arrested a large number of men found there. They were taken out to Sorrento to a spot where a flag pole had been erected. There the I.W.W.'s were forced to kneel, kiss the flag, and sing the national anthem. As an incentive to quicker action one of the Vigilantes would slap them on the back, which was the signal for a general beating. After these proceedings the men were loaded into automobiles and sent to San Onofre, near the county line, placed in a cattle-pen with armed guards over them, and kept without food or drink for eighteen hours. The following morning they were taken out in groups of five and compelled to run the gantlet. As they passed between the double line of Vigilantes, they were belabored with clubs and blackjacks. Then the flag-kissing episode was repeated, after which they were told to "hike" up the track and never come back. They reached Los Angeles after a tramp of several days, sore, hungry, penniless, and in deplorable physical condition.
In this struggle, in which the local police were on the side of the Vigilantes, several I.W.W. men lost their lives. The most brutal murder was that of Joseph Mikolasek, who died on May 7. He was one of the many rebels who had attempted to fill the gap caused by the arrest of their speakers. When he ascended the platform, he was assaulted by the police. With difficulty he dragged himself to the socialist headquarters and thence home. He was followed by detectives, who attacked him in his house. One officer fired and severely wounded him. In self-defense Mikolasek had picked up an ax, but his body was riddled with bullets before he had a chance to lift it against his assailants.
On every tour to the Coast I had lectured in San Diego. This time we were also planning meetings there after the close of our Los Angeles engagements. Reports from San Diego and the arrival of scores of wounded Vigilante victims decided us to go at once. Especially after the killing of Mikolasek we felt it imperative to take up the free-speech fight waged there. First, however, it was necessary to organize relief for the destitute boys who had escaped their tormentors and had reached us alive. With the help of a group of women we organized a feeding-station at the I.W.W. headquarters. We raised funds at my meetings and collected clothing and food-stuffs from sympathetic store-keepers.
San Diego was not content with the murder of Mikolasek; it would not permit him even to be buried in the city. We therefore had his body shipped to Los Angeles, and prepared a public demonstration in his honor. Joseph Mikolasek had been obscure and unknown in life, but he grew to country-wide stature in his death. Even the police of the city were impressed by the size, dignity, and grief of the masses that followed his remains to the crematorium.
Some comrades in San Diego had undertaken to arrange a meeting, and I chose a subject which seemed to express the situation best --- Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.
On our arrival we found a dense crowd at the station. It did not occur to me that the reception was intended for us; I thought that some State official was being expected. We were to be met by our friends Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Kirk, but they were nowhere to be seen, and Ben suggested that we go to the U. S. Grant Hotel. We passed unobserved and got into the hotel autobus. It was hot and stuffy inside and we climbed up on top. We had barely taken our seats when someone shouted: "Here she is, here's the Goldman woman!" At once the cry was taken up by the crowd. Fashionably dressed women stood up in their cars screaming: "We want that anarchist murderess!" In an instant there was a rush for the autobus, hands reaching up to pull me down. With unusual presence of mind, the chauffeur started the car at full speed, scattering the crowd in all directions.
At the hotel we met with no objections. We registered and were shown to our rooms. Everything seemed normal. Mr. and Mrs. Kirk called to see us, and we quietly discussed final arrangements for our meeting. In the afternoon the head clerk came to announce that the Vigilantes had insisted on looking over the hotel register to secure the number of our rooms; he would therefore have to transfer us to another part of the house. We were taken to the top floor and assigned to a large suite. Later on, Mr. Holmes, the hotel manager, paid us a visit. We were perfectly safe under his roof, he assured us, but he could not permit us to go down for our meals or leave our rooms. He would have to keep us locked in. I protested that the U. S. Grant Hotel was not a prison. He replied that he could not keep us incarcerated against our will, but that, as long as we remained the guests of the house, we should have to submit to his arrangement for our safety. "The Vigilantes are in an ugly mood," he warned us; "they are determined not to let you speak and to drive you both out of town." He urged us to leave of our own account and volunteered to escort us. He was a kindly man and we appreciated his offer, but we had to refuse it.
Mr. Holmes had barely left when I was called on the telephone. The speaker said that his name was Edwards, that he was at the head of the local Conservatory of Music, and that he had just read in the papers that our hall-keeper had backed out. He offered us the recital hall of the conservatory. "San Diego still seems to have some brave men," I said to the mysterious person at the other end of the telephone, and I invited him to come to see me to talk over his plan. Before long a fine-looking man of about twenty-seven called. In the course of our conversation I pointed out to him that I might cause him trouble by speaking in his place. He replied that he did not mind; he was an anarchist in art and he believed in free speech. If I were willing to take a chance, so was he. We decided to await developments.
Towards evening a bedlam of auto horns and whistles filled the street. "The Vigilantes!" Ben cried. There was a knock at the door, and Mr. Holmes came in, accompanied by two other men. I was wanted downstairs by the city authorities, they informed me. Ben sensed danger and insisted that I ask them to send the visitors up. It seemed timid to me. It was early evening and we were in the principal hotel of the city. What could happen to us? I went with Mr. Holmes, Ben accompanying us. Downstairs we were ushered into a room where we found seven men standing in a semicircle. We were asked to sit down and wait for the Chief of Police, who arrived before long. "Please come with me," he addressed me; "the Mayor and other officials are awaiting you next door." We got up to follow, but, turning to Ben, the Chief said: "You are not wanted, doctor. Better wait here."
I entered a room filled with men. The window-blinds were partly drawn, but the large electric street light in front disclosed an agitated mass below. The Mayor approached me. "You hear that mob," he said, indicating the street; "they mean business. They want to get you and Reitman out of the hotel, even if they have to take you by force. We cannot guarantee anything. If you consent to leave, we will give you protection and get you safely out of town."
"That's very nice of you," I replied, "but why don't you disperse the crowd? Why don't you use the same measures against these people that you have against the free-speech fighters? Your ordinance makes it a crime to gather in the business districts. Hundreds of I.W.W.'s, anarchists, socialists, and trade-union men have been clubbed and arrested, and some even killed, for this offense. Yet you allow the Vigilante mob to congregate in the busiest part of the town and obstruct traffic. All you have to do is to disperse these law-breakers."
"We can't do it," he said abruptly; "these people are in a dangerous mood, and your presence makes things worse."
"Very well, then, let me speak to the crowd," I suggested. "I could do it from a window here. I have faced infuriated men before and I have always been able to pacify them."
The Mayor refused.
"I have never accepted protection from the police," I then said, "and I do not intend to do so now. I charge all of you men here with being in league with the Vigilantes."
Thereupon the officials declared that matters would have to take their course, and that I should have only myself to blame if anything happened.
The interview at an end, I went to call Ben. The room I had left him in was locked. I became alarmed and pounded on the door. There was no answer. The noise I made brought a hotel clerk. He unlocked the door, but no one was there. I ran back to the other room and met the Chief, who was just coming out.
"Where is Reitman?" I demanded. "What have you done with him? If any harm comes to him, you'll pay for it if I have to do it with my own hands."
"How should I know?" he replied gruffly.
Mr. Holmes was not in his office, and no one would tell me what had become of Ben Reitman. In consternation I returned to my room. Ben did not appear. In dismay I paced the floor, unable to decide what steps to take or whom to approach to help me find Ben. I could not call any person I knew in the city without endangering his safety, least of all Mr. Kirk; he was already under indictment in connection with the free-speech fight. It was brave of him and his wife to meet us; it was sure to aggravate his situation. The circumstance that the Kirks did not return as they had promised proved that they were being kept away.
I felt helpless. Time dragged on, and at midnight I dozed off from sheer fatigue. I dreamed of Ben, bound and gagged, his hands groping for me. I struggled to reach him and woke up with a scream, bathed in sweat. There were voices and loud knocking at my door. When I opened, the house detective and another man stepped in. Reitman was safe, they told me. I looked at them in a daze, hardly grasping their meaning. Ben had been taken out by the Vigilantes, they explained, but no harm had come to him. They had only put him on a train for Los Angeles. I did not believe the detective, but the other man looked honest. He reiterated that he had been given absolute assurance that Reitman was safe.
Mr. Holmes came in. He corroborated the man and begged me to consent to leave. There was no object in my remaining any longer in town, he urged. I would not be allowed to lecture and I was only endangering his own position. He hoped I would not take undue advantage because I was a woman. If I remained, the Vigilantes would drive me out of town anyhow.
Mr. Holmes seemed genuinely concerned. I knew there was no chance in holding a meeting. Now that Ben was safe, there was no sense in harassing Mr. Holmes any further. I consented to leave, planning to take the Owl, the 2:45 A.M. train, for Los Angeles. I called for a taxi and drove to the station. The town was asleep, the streets deserted.
I had purchased my ticket and was walking towards the Pullman car when I caught the sound of approaching autos --- the fearful sound I had first heard at the station and later at the hotel. The Vigilantes, of course.
"Hurry! Hurry!" someone cried; "get in quick!"
Before I had time to make another step, I was picked up, carried to the train, and literally thrown into the compartment. The blinds were pulled down and I was locked in. The Vigilantes had arrived and were rushing up and down the platform, shouting and trying to board the train. The crew was on guard, refusing to let them on. There was mad yelling and cursing --- hideous and terrifying moments till at last the train pulled out.
We stopped at innumerable stations. Each time I peered out eagerly in the hope that Ben might be waiting to join me. But there was no sign of him. When I reached my apartment in Los Angeles, he was not there. The U. S. Grant Hotel men had lied in order to get me out of town!
"He's dead! He's dead!" I cried in anguish. "They've killed my boy!"
In vain I strove to drive the terrible thought away. I called up the Los Angeles Herald and the San Francisco Bulletin to inform them about Ben's disappearance. Both papers were unequivocal in their condemnation of the Vigilante reign of terror. The guiding spirit of the Bulletin was Mr. Fremont Older, perhaps the only man on a capitalist paper brave enough to plead labor's cause. He had made a valiant fight for the McNamaras. Mr. Older's enlightened humanity had created on the Coast a new attitude towards the social offender. Since the San Diego fight he had kept up a fearless attack on the Vigilantes. Mr. Older and the editor of the Herald promised to do their utmost to unearth Ben.
At ten o'clock I was called on the long-distance phone. A strange voice informed me that Dr. Reitman was boarding the train for Los Angeles and that he would arrive in the late afternoon. "His friends should bring a stretcher to the station." "Is he alive?" I shouted into the receiver. "Are you telling the truth? Is he alive?" I listened breathlessly, but there was no response.
The hours dragged on as if the day would never pass. The wait at the station was more excruciating still. At last the train pulled in. Ben lay in a rear car, all huddled up. He was in blue overalls, his face deathly pale, a terrified look in his eyes. His hat was gone, and his hair was sticky with tar. At the sight of me he cried: "Oh, Mommy, I'm with you at last! Take me away, take me home!"
The newspaper men besieged him with questions, but he was too exhausted to speak. I begged them to leave him alone and to call later at my apartment.
While helping him to undress, I was horrified to see that his body was a mass of bruises covered with blotches of tar. The letters I.W.W. were burned into his flesh. Ben could not speak; only his eyes tried to convey what he had passed through. After partaking of some nourishment and sleeping several hours, he regained a little strength. In the presence of a number of friends and reporters he told us what had happened to him.
"When Emma and the hotel manager left the office to go into another room," Ben related, "I remained alone with seven men. As soon as the door was closed, they drew out revolvers. 'If you utter a sound or make a move, we'll kill you,' they threatened. Then they gathered around me. One man grabbed my right arm, another the left; a third took hold of the front of my coat, another of the back, and I was led out into the corridor, down the elevator to the ground floor of the hotel, and out into the street past a uniformed policeman, and then thrown into an automobile. When the mob saw me, they set up a howl. The auto went slowly down the main street and was joined by another one containing several persons who looked like business men. This was about half past ten in the evening. The twenty-mile ride was frightful. As soon as we got out of town, they began kicking and beating me. They took turns at pulling my long hair and they stuck their fingers into my eyes and nose. 'We could tear your guts out,' they said, 'but we promised the Chief of Police not to kill you. We are responsible men, property-owners, and the police are on our side.' When we reached the county line, the auto stopped at a deserted spot. The men formed a ring and told me to undress. They tore my clothes off. They knocked me down, and when I lay naked on the ground, they kicked and beat me until I was almost insensible. With a lighted cigar they burned the letters I.W.W. on my buttocks; then they poured a can of tar over my head and, in the absence of feathers, rubbed sage-brush on my body. One of them attempted to push a cane into my rectum. Another twisted my testicles. They forced me to kiss the flag and sing The Star Spangled Banner. When they tired of the fun, they gave me my underwear for fear we should meet any women. They also gave me back my vest, in order that I might carry my money, railroad ticket, and watch. The rest of my clothes they kept. I was ordered to make a speech, and then they commanded me to run the gantlet. The Vigilantes lined up, and as I ran past them, each one gave me a blow or a kick. Then they let me go."
Ben's case was but one out of many since the struggle in San Diego had begun, but it helped to focus greater attention on the scene of savagery. A number of labor and radical journalists went to that city to gather material at first hand. The Governor of California appointed Colonel H. Weinstock as special commissioner to investigate the situation. Guarded and cautious as his subsequent report was, it yet substantiated every charge made by the victims of Vigilante rule. It aroused indignation even among the conservative elements of the country.
In Los Angeles the tide of sympathy rose very high and we drew unusually large crowds. On the evening of the protest meeting we had to address audiences in two halls. We could have filled several more if we had had them and enough speakers to go round.
San Francisco, fruitful for years, turned out an enormous crowd this time. Our comrades were spared the labor and expense of advertising; the Vigilantes had done that for us. Their action inspired the San Francisco city officials to give us a glad welcome. The Mayor, the Chief of Police, and hordes of detectives came to meet us at the station, though not to interfere. Our halls, larger than in Los Angeles, yet proved not big enough to hold the masses that came to the lectures, while the rush on our literature floored even Ben, who was seldom content with sales.
The climax was reached with our meeting in the Trade Council Hall. Our friend Anton Johannsen, a well-known labor man, presided. He urged a boycott against the approaching fair in San Diego, "until their citizens are cured of their rabies." Ben recounted the details of the Vigilante attack upon him. I gave a brief report of my experience and then delivered the treasonable lecture, "The Enemy of the People."
Before we left for Portland, we were able to turn over a substanial fund to the San Diego free-speech fight, send money for the Ettor-Giovannitti defense, and also free Mother Earth for a while from a considerable debt.
Mainly responsible for the madness of San Diego were two newspapers. They started the cry of "Anarchist and I.W.W. peril!" The inhabitants were kept in constant fear of dynamite and bombs, which were said to have been smuggled in on barges to blow up the town. The evil spirit of the Vigilante activities was a certain reporter on one of these newspapers. Such fame and glory as his must needs arouse envy in the hearts of other capitalist sheets. A Seattle newspaper set to work to emulate its San Diego colleagues. Long before our arrival it began a campaign calling on good American patriots to protect the flag and save Seattle from anarchy. Some senile Spanish War veterans suddenly discovered their lost manhood and offered to do their duty. "Five hundred brave soldiers will meet Emma Goldman at the station," the newspaper announced, " and drive her back."
The story, whether true or invented, put everybody in a panic. Our friends in Portland begged us not to proceed to Seattle. Our comrades in Seattle, anxious for our safety, offered to call off the meetings. But I insisted on going through with our program.
Arriving in Seattle, we learned that Mayor Cotteril was a staunch single-taxer. He announced that he would not interfere with free speech, and that he would send the police to protect our meetings. The courage of the tottering veterans evidently caved in at the last moment; they did not appear to give us the promised reception, but the police were on hand. They crowded the hall and stationed themselves on the roofs. They even searched the people who came to my lectures for weapons. The lurid articles in the Times and the array of blue-coats naturally did much to intimidate a great many people. I had to request the Mayor to be less solicitous about our safety and call off our protectors. He did, whereupon the audiences took heart to attend my meetings.
On the Sunday of my first lecture a sealed note was left at my hotel for me. The anonymous writer warned me of a plot against my life: I was going to be shot when about to enter the hall, he assured me. Somehow I could give no credence to the story. Not wishing to cause my comrades any anxiety, however, I did not mention the matter to my friend C. V. Cook, who came to escort me to the hall. I told him that I preferred to go alone.
I was never more calm than as I walked leisurely from the hotel to the meeting-place. When within half a block of it I instinctively raised to my face the large bag I always carried. I got safely into the hall and walked towards the platform still holding the bag in front of my face. All through the lecture the thought persisted in my brain: "If I could only protect my face!" In the evening I repeated the same performance, holding my bag to my face all the way to the hall. The meetings went off well, without any sign of the plotters.
For days after, I tried to find some plausible explanation for my silly action with the bag. Why had I been more concerned about my face than about my chest or any other part of my body? Surely no man would think of his face under such circumstances. Yet I, in the presence of probable death, had been afraid to have my face disfigured! It was a shock to discover in myself such ordinary female vanity.
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