‘The Oregon-California Socialist Encampment, Klamath Falls’ by Kittie E. Hulse from International Socialist Review Vol. 11 No. 2. August, 1910.

Encampment Band.
‘The Oregon-California Socialist Encampment, Klamath Falls’ by Kittie E. Hulse from International Socialist Review Vol. 11 No. 2. August, 1910.

THE Socialist Encampment is ended; the tents are folded; of the bivouac fires remain but ashes; quiet reigns on the spot where so recently the stirring strains of the Marseillaise quickened the heart-throbs of men and women who looked into each other’s eyes with the comprehending glance of comradeship, more significant than the warm hand-clasp or embrace.

The officers have gone on to choose new sites for bivouacs and positions for other bloodless battles of the Industrial Revolution that is even now in progress. There is no question that we have gained a victory here and from the bivouac fires of “Camp Progress” have been carried the embers that shall light the fires of revolt in countless other camps. The Encampment has been a great stone dropped into the current of Western thought and the ripples will spread to its farthest boundaries.

Klamath Falls circa 1910.

This beautiful city is built like Rome on her seven hills and is destined to become one of the industrial centers of the western interior. It will be henceforth known as the birthplace of the Encampment Idea in the West, and as Comrade Sherman of Ashland humorously announced, will be located as being near the site of the first Oregon-Socialist Encampment. No doubt the back end of Muller’s graphophone shop will in time become a historic landmark!

The Encampment at night, with its great canvas auditorium, its hundred smaller tents intended for the accommodation of visiting comrades, illuminated by hundreds of red and white electric lights, was a most inspiring sight to all whose hearts beat faster at the sight of the red flag.

That the Encampment has been a success from an educational viewpoint no Socialist who attended would for a moment dispute. There has been a nightly attendance of from two to three thousand during the eight days of the Encampment and fair-sized audiences at afternoon meetings. The attendance of comrades from outside points was much smaller than had been expected, due no doubt to industrial conditions obtaining at this time of year. The most unusual interest has been evinced by the audiences throughout the Encampment.

Socialist Camp, Klamath Falls, Oregon. June 1910.

The local politicians are non-plussed. During the progress of the Cantrell-Smith debate, the valiant defender of the present regime accused the Socialists of having appropriated the “brass band methods” of the Democrats and the Republicans, which, he asserted, had been almost abandoned by the said parties.

Socialists who might condemn the methods used in this instance as spectacular should remember “the first step in pedagogy is to arouse the interest of the child”. If, as the Encampment seems to indicate, the shortest road to the understanding of the majority is via brass band and vaudeville, let the anti-sensational element of the party console themselves by reflecting on the words of another great Revolutionist: “The event justifies the deed”.

Socialist candidate J. Stitt Wilson, in coat and hat center, stumping in California in 1913. He would become mayor of Berkeley.

As I looked nightly over the immense throng in the Big Tent, noted the striking absence of dissent to the utterances of our speakers, even the most revolutionary, heard the at times uproarious applause, I recalled the time four years ago when the handful of members comprising Local Klamath Falls held their meetings in a lumber yard. Later the meetings were held at private houses and afterward a hall was hired. The local has had a hard fight and has had its seasons of depressions, also its internal dissensions, but today the movement is progressing at a rapid rate.

The Oregon-California Socialist Band under the efficient leadership of Ernest Griffith cannot be too highly praised for their inspiring work. Two clever vaudeville teams, Williams and Wright and Mr. and Mrs. Bob Miller furnished the sugar coating to make the Great Remedy palatable to the thoughtless “children of a larger growth” as well as the others.

Dorothy Johns, right, in Los Angeles jail with other Socialist activists during a ‘free speech’ fight in the city. 1908.

On our list of speakers was J. Stitt Wilson whose name is familiar to the Socialists. Cloudesley Johns, journalist, author, revolutionist, who boasts of having had practical experience in sixty-seven lines of work, whose winning personality has his audience half-won before he has appealed to their reason in soft, persuasive tones. Dorothy Johns, the beautiful and gifted wife of the former, who speaks from knowledge of conditions in Mexico gained from twelve years of residence in the dominion of Diaz, the despot, and whose lecture on “Sovereign Peons” created a deep impression on her audience and received very favorable comment from the local capitalist press.

And last but by no means least, Tom Lewis the Proletarian Agitator – “Good Little Tom” as his comrades call him once a child-slave in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, then miner, and later an upholsterer by trade. I was illuminatingly reminded of Whitman’s “Dear Love of Comrades” by one of the most significant incidents of the Encampment when a roughly-garbed young cow-puncher threw an arm lovingly around Lewis’ shoulders, saying “Good Little Tom!” Having a keen realization of the real condition and needs of the working class gained from actual experience as a member of that class, he has an indescribable but most effective faculty for forcing the points of his argument into the proletarian consciousness. The most striking characteristic of the man is his utter fearlessness. Some of the more timid comrades were somewhat dubious of the effect of Lewis’ revolutionary utterances: but it is a deeply significant fact that of all that was uttered, his words were most eagerly received.

Tom Lewis speaking in Portland, Oregon on May Day, 1910.

What impressed even the most casual observer at the Encampment was the Spirit of Comradeship that was so plainly manifested, the atmosphere of equality and freedom from conventionality that prevailed. There was utter absence of inharmony and discord, a striking illustration of the familiar quotation: “Where all govern nobody serves; where all serve nobody governs.” Here the lion and the lamb lay down together, that is, Impossibilist and Opportunist, and swapped ginger and oil to their mutual advantage. Of especial significance was the contribution of Oregon comrades to carry on the campaign in California.

The suggestion was made by one of the women members present that the organization adopt the suggestive motto: “Watch my Smoke!” but as it was received by most of the male members with the stony stare of disapproval—especially those from up Portland way—the woman member with feminine tact refrained from pressing the matter.

In the opinion of your correspondent the Encampment Idea is fraught with stupendous possibilities for educational work.

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v11n02-aug-1910-ISR-gog-Corn-OCR.pdf

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