‘Remember the Fifth of November’ by Walker C. Smith from International Socialist Review. Vol. 17 No. 7. January, 1917.

‘Remember the Fifth of November’ by Walker C. Smith from International Socialist Review. Vol. 17 No. 7. January, 1917.

“Do you remember the fifth of November,
With its gunpowder, treason and plot?
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”

THIS ancient English verse in commemoration of the exploits of Guy Fawkes applies so undeniably well to the operations of the murderous master-class mob on Bloody Sunday at Everett, Wash., that it should be accorded a place among the songs of the social revolution.

Why should we forget that five members of our class were shot down in cold blood by the scab-loving lackeys of the lumber trust on November 5, 1916? Why should we forget that many of our brothers were punctured by the poisonous copper bullets and soft lead slugs from the guns of the open-shop camoristas [camorristas] acting for the commercial clubs on the Pacific coast? Why should we forget that seventy-four stalwarts of labor, absurdly charged with first degree murder, are at the mercy of the half-crazed sheriff of Snohomish county and thirty-four more are imprisoned in the King county bastile on the charge of unlawful assembly? I see no reason why any of these things “should ever be forgot” by the working class.

Felix Baran, Hugo Gerlot, Gus Johnson, John Looney, Abe Rabinowitz-French, German, Swedish, Irish, Jewish—these are the true internationalists who died in the fight for free speech in this “land of liberty.” In the words of Courtenay Lemon, “That the defense of traditional rights to which this government is supposed to be dedicated should devolve upon an organization so often denounced as ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘un-American’ is but the usual, the unfailing irony of history.” The names of those who are martyrs to the cause of free speech will be a source of inspiration to the workers when their cowardly murderers have long been forgotten.

Am I too bitter against the sheriff and his accessories? Let their own actions testify.

On the evening of November 5 the open-shop outlaws gathered in the Everett Commercial Club to hear the results of their massacre. Shortly after the steamer Verona had docked in Seattle the news was telegraphed to them. The Seattle Times of November 6 reported that “When the message was read and the posse learnd for the first time of the effect of their shots—that four were dead and twenty-five wounded—many began to cheer.” Imagine a bunch of red-handed murderers jumping up and down like maniacs and yelling “Goody! Goody! We got four of them!” Many of the members of the Commercial Club—all the sane ones—resigned in disgust.

Directly following the outrage Louis Skaroff was arrested when he courageously tried to hold a street meeting. The next night Mayor Merrill had the night jailer take Skaroff to a private cell, where the two “Pillars of society” put him thru the third degree. The boy was badly beaten and the ligaments in his hands severely wrenched when the mayor jumped upon the bed after Skaroff’s hands had been forced beneath the casters.

Deputy H. L. Stevens was found wandering around Seattle a few days after the tragedy making the boast that he had killed two men on the Verona. He was apprehended and is now in an asylum at Sedro-Wooley. One deputy is reported to have committed suicide upon realizing the enormity of his offense. A number of others have resigned and left for parts unknown.

The seventy-four prisoners were so nearly starved that they were forced to protest by means of a hunger strike. This was adjusted when their attorney arrived in the city. But Attorney Moore finds it difficult to see the prisoners and is often forced to wait for hours. On one occasion he was absolutely refused permission to see his clients at all! Petty persecutions within the jail are too numerous to mention.

A committee of Socialists, labor unionists and other Everett citizens secured leave from the jail authorities to serve a “Dinner of Thanks” to the prisoners. With the aid of the Cooks’ and Waiters’ Union a fine meal was prepared. When the committee reached the jail Sheriff McRae refused to allow them to enter and the prisoners were served with moldy mush, strongly doped with saltpeter, in place of the repast prepared for them on Thanksgiving day.

It is only by the interposition of the mayor of Seattle that the Everett authorities are prevented from taking Ed Roth, who lies seriously wounded in the Seattle city hospital, to throw him in a filthy jail cell to die.

These and many other instances of degenerate action indicate the depths of human depravity to which the open-shop lumber trust has forced its Everett mercenaries.

The trend of public sentiment is clearly indicated by the noble way in which the craft unions and the citizens in general have swung into line in this battle for free speech and the right to organize. On November 19 speakers from all walks of life addressed the largest audience that has ever gathered in Seattle’s greatest hall. The secretary of the Everett Building Trades Council, J. Michel, told of brutalities in his city prior to the massacre. “Not a man in overalls is safe,” stated Michel. “Men just off the job with their pay checks in their pockets have been unceremoniously thrown out of town just because they were working men.” The thousands of people present at the meeting voted unanimously for a federal investigation. Large meetings have been held before practically every foreign speaking organization in the surrounding territory. There have been speakers before the women clubs, the university bodies, the temperance organizations—everywhere that a hearing could be had. The only bodies that are opposed to a governmental investigation are the commercial clubs, the Chamber of Commerce and McRae’s band of outlaws.

Any doubt that existed as to public sentiment was dispelled by the funeral of Felix Baran, Hugo Gerlot and John Looney on November 18, Gus Johnson having been buried by relatives and the body of Rabinowitz sent to New York at the request of his family. Thousands of workers, each with a red rose or carnation on his coat, formed in line at the undertaking parlors and silently marched four abreast behind the three hearses and the automobiles containing the eighteen women pallbearers and the floral tributes to the martyred dead.

To the strains of the “Red Flag” and the “Marseillaise” the grim and imposing cortege wended its way thru the crowded city streets, meeting with expressions of sorrow and of sympathy from those who lined the sidewalks. The solidarity of labor was shown in this great funeral procession, by all odds the greatest ever held in the northwest.

Arriving at the graveside in Mount Pleasant cemetery the rebel women reverently bore the coffins from the hearses to the supporting frame above the yawning pit. A special chorus of one hundred voices led the singing of “Workers of the World, Awaken,” after which the chairman introduced Charles Ashleigh.

Standing on the great hill that over looks the whole city of Seattle, the speaker pointed out the various industries with their toiling thousands and referred to the smoke that shadowed large portions of the view as the black fog of oppression and ignorance which it was the duty of the workers to dispel in order to create the workers’ common wealth. The entire address was marked by a simple note of resolution to continue the work of education until the workers have come into their own, not a trace of bitterness evincing itself in the remarks. Ashleigh called upon those present to never falter until the enemy had been vanquished. “Today,” he said, “we pay tribute to the dead. Tomorrow we turn, with spirit unquellable, to give battle to the foe!”

As the words of “Hold the Fort!” rang out upon the air a shower of crimson flowers, torn from the coats of the assembled mourners, covered the coffins and there was a tear in every eye as the bodies slowly descended into their final resting place. As tho loath to leave, the crowd remained to sing the “Red Flag” and “Solidarity Forever!”

By my side during the entire occasion was a minister, drawn partly by sympathy, partly by curiosity, and at the conclusion of the final song he turned to me and said in a broken tone, “A most impressive ceremony! A wonderfully impressive ceremony!” This despite the fact that religious formalities were entirely dispensed with.

No one present during the simple tho stirring service can ever again look upon the class struggle as a mere bookish theory. The thought that five of our comrades and fellow workers have given their lives in Freedom’s cause is a compelling call to action. Every liberty-loving person in Seattle and vicinity is sparing neither time nor money in this case. To the rebels thruout the country I wish to say once more:

“Do you remember the fifth of November
With its gunpowder, treason and plot!
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”

Funds are urgently needed. Make remittances to HERBERT MAHLER, secretary Everett Prisoners’ Defense Committee, Box 1878, Seattle, Wash.

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/v17n07-jan-1917-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf

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