One of the finest appreciations of William D. Haywood is this marvelous 1913 essay from French-born translator, syndicalist-cum-communist, ‘Masses and ‘New Review’ editor, arts critic, and pioneering psychoanalyst (he translated Freud and Alfred Adler into English), André Tridon.
‘Haywood’ by André Tridon from New Review. Vol. 1 No. 16. May, 1913.
Many a time I set out to observe some social fermentation in which Big Bill played the part of a leavening ingredient; I was going to devote my attention to strike crowds, strike tactics; at the end of the day I found that I had observed closely and studied exclusively…Haywood. Magnetism? Magnetism is an absurd word which explains as little Haywood’s lure as metaphysics explains the beginning of the world.
Let us dissect Haywood and catalogue whatever we find or do not find. First of all, Haywood is Haywood. Remember Peer Gynt’s definition of the Sphynx: “The Sphynx is itself.” Rosny’s “Red Wave,” Hauptmann’s “Weavers,” Mirbeau’s “Bad Shepherds,” Galsworthy’s “Strife” have acquainted bourgeois readers with labor agitators who agitate mostly themselves.
Mysterious, mystical, dramatic, abnormal, stubborn, brutal; the labor leaders of fiction are one or several of these things; not one of them resembles Haywood nor helps to explain him.
Intensely positive as he is, I find it easier to describe him by pointing out what he is not, does not say, or does not do.
He is not dramatic. The platform from which he speaks never becomes a stage, and when he speaks from a stage, that stage becomes a platform. I have seen Haywood miss splendid opportunities for trashy melodrama. A child was hurt in Paterson when the police cleared a street; the boy’s mother was laid low by a billy’s blow; another blow put out of commission a man who was helping her to her feet. Haywood, the next day, recited the facts, bare, unembellished, without comment, without tremolo.
“What’s the policeman’s name?” a voice queried.
“His name,” Haywood answered, “is said to be Edward Duffy. His number 72.”
If Duffy had been present, this simple statement made in a slow, cold, earnest tone would have chilled him. Edward Duffy, No. 72, had been sentenced to the implacable hatred of 2,000 human beings.
Eloquence Haywood spurns. Resounding words, soap box platitudes, the brotherhood of man, the Socialist commonwealth rising upon the ruins of the capitalist system, death to the exploiters, will not fire sluggards with a desire to fight for their rights. Workers want simple, homely facts concerning their trade. When a strike is well launched, it is altogether too easy to fire a crowd with the desire to do stupid things, it is too easy to catch round after round of applause.
Haywood is simple. His speech and manner are simple. So are his clothes and his get up. Some of the youngsters in the labor movement cultivate flowing manes and affect flowing ties, anathematize stiff collars and all but clerical, black clothes. They are burdened by their prophetic mission. Haywood’s huge stature and his one damaged eye are the only things that make him conspicuous in a crowd. A Western soft hat, the collar, the tie, the suit, the overcoat that a million workingmen wear; neither foppish, nor slatternly.
Almost seven foot tall and with ample girth, he lets his appearance proclaim his strength; he does not stamp or pound, he does not act the bully; he does not use invective, he never damns or swears. Having been jailed perhaps a hundred times, he does not harp on his martyrdom. He does not whine. He does not boast. He is not a hero, nor an apostle. Just a big, strapping fellow, who came from far away to do some work that had to be done and who is going to do it regardless of what may befall him. If the police interfere with his plans he will neither be cowed nor will he provoke them to acts of violence. He will, once more, go to jail without uttering the empty words which textbooks record as historical sayings.
His many encounters with the representatives of organized capital have not embittered him; he is too healthy to be bitter. Familiarity with the woes of struggling mankind has not hardened him; a realization of how many maggots fatten on the rotten side of labor has not made him cynical.
Haywood is not mysterious, nor mystical; he is not distant with strangers nor unduly familiar with close associates. In a word a poor subject for the dramatist. “Clever, shrewd, a Machiavelli,” thus speak those who watched him once or twice adapting himself to the mood, the temper, the level of a thousand miners, ten young children, a group of artists, a cultured woman. Watch him some more and you will find something more humanely interesting than Machiavellian shrewdness or cleverness: the faculty of sympathetic response. Uncover the strings of a piano and every sound in the room will call forth a sympathetic vibration of the sounding board. Haywood vibrates sympathetically.
Haywood adapts himself to the audience, but that adaptation is the result of a reflex action, not of a conscious effort. The other day I watched him conducting a risky movement. He asked a crowd made up of perhaps twenty-five nationalities to select as many delegates, whom he sat on the stage in a row, calling upon them in turn to say a few words. The crowd had been on strike several weeks; which means that for several weeks those men, women and children had slept their fill, rested their limbs, listened, for hours to argumentation, read pamphlets; their bodies and their minds were undergoing a crucial change; races were commingling, united by the same hopes; bold, energetic men with a halo of romance had come from the ends of the continent to lead their fight. Bellies were empty perhaps, but hunger is not so fierce in idleness as in times of factory speeding. A carnival spirit pervaded the hall; and the twenty-five were lined up on the platform, self-conscious, with the weak jaw of the scared or the swagger of the panicky.
Some of them rushed to the front when called upon and repeated stock phrases; these Haywood encouraged, in order to give heart to the others. Some launched upon a lecture. Some stuttered in a choked whisper; Haywood repeated their words, editing them a little, for the benefit of the last row in the audience. Some were ridiculous and called forth a storm of mock applause and giggling; Haywood reminded the audience of the fact that the hardest workers are not the best talkers. When a sweet-faced, child-like girl, the Italian delegate, almost ran off the stage in a fit of fright, Haywood, with the attitude of a father to his young daughter or of a courtier to a princess, came to her, took her hand and with a bow presented her to the audience. And the girl, feeling safe under the protection of the tall Cyclop, found something to say and the voice to say it. But for the strong restraining hand of Haywood the audience would have jeered the poor inarticulate delegates, shouted the little girl off the stage, and then delegates and crowd, the former humiliated, the latter ashamed, would have all born a grudge against the organizer of the performance.
As it was, the representatives of twenty-five nations gathered on the platform and, affirming the solidarity of their races in the present strike, felt thankful to Haywood and impelled thereafter to justify by deeds the trust placed in them. The crowd felt that from the twenty-four men and the girl thus singled out a new activity would radiate.
Lunching once in a little restaurant patronized by Orientals, Haywood turned around and, looking into the men’s faces, began to speak. The dark-eyed men laid down their cards or their forks, listened, asked questions in broken English. Haywood answered the questions slowly, in a simplified English which his Armenian or Greek audience could understand. Children drifted in. They were not boisterous, not intrusive, nor familiar. They too listened. Now and then Haywood had a word for “the babies,” and the babies, some of them fourteen or fifteen years old, drew nearer and nearer; two sat on his knees evincing the confidence of chicks nestling under the mother’s wing…
Wherever Haywood happens to be there starts a little meeting at which he patiently explains, elucidates, reiterates as long as the audience seems to need his explanations. Shrewdness, cleverness? No. Power, simplicity only. Once Haywood made a great mistake. He debated with one who is clever and shrewd. The sight was as incongruous as the first part of a bull fight: A bull with savage horns versus a thin Spaniard who holds two light arrows topped with red and yellow. The bull rushes, the thin Spaniard steps lightly aside and plants his arrows into the beast’s hide. Amusing to the idle and unthinking, but a waste of time. At least we know that the bull could turn up deep furrows in a fertile field, while the little fellow was born to plant little arrows which barely scratch the hide, all the while addressing his knowing smile to the audience.
Stripping Haywood of all the attributes which usually enable labor leaders to lead, we end by finding in him two qualities, rare ones: genuine power and genuine simplicity. Two qualities which every performer everlastingly tries to sham. Tragic antics, eloquence, emotionalism, bullyism, floor stamping, pulpit pounding, abuse, invective: weakness masquerading as power. Dirty hands and clothes, picturesque garb, slouchy, vulgar familiarity: shrewdness masquerading as simplicity.
Another man in this country is two-thirds as genuinely powerful as Haywood: Roosevelt. They are two-thirds alike. Roosevelt makes a successful effort, but an effort just the same, to interest himself in what, interests the voters, that their sympathy may come to him more freely. Haywood in his spare hours reads books or looks at paintings, that his sympathy may follow more freely not only to those who work with their hands but also to those who work with their brains. Roosevelt is ceaselessly seeking what road the immediate trend will compel the crowd to take; his mind is broadening because the crowd’s mind is broadening, and he must keep up with the crowd. Haywood’s views are changing because he is seeing a new light and he trusts the crowd to follow him.
Haywood’s power and simplicity are congenital; Roosevelt’s power and simplicity are cultivated. One represents the melting pot. the other the bourgeoisie. Roosevelt represents the spirit of to-day; Haywood, the spirit of to-morrow and of the day after to-morrow.
New Review was a New York-based, explicitly Marxist, sometimes weekly/sometimes monthly theoretical journal begun in 1913 and was an important vehicle for left discussion in the period before World War One. In the world of the Socialist Party, it included Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Herman Simpson, Louis Boudin, William English Walling, Moses Oppenheimer, Walter Lippmann, William Bohn, Frank Bohn, John Spargo, Austin Lewis, WEB DuBois, Maurice Blumlein, Anton Pannekoek, Elsie Clews Parsons, and Isaac Hourwich as editors and contributors. Louis Fraina played an increasing role from 1914 on, leading the journal in a leftward direction as New Review addressed many of the leading international questions facing Marxists. The journal folded in June, 1916 for financial reasons. Its issues are a formidable archive of pre-war US Marxist and Socialist discussion.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/newreview/1913/v1n16-may-1913.pdf