‘William D. Haywood— “Undesirable Citizen” By J. Louis Engdahl from The Communist. Vol. 7 No. 7. July, 1928.
THE place to be assigned to William D. (“Big Bill”) Haywood (1869-1928) in the history of the American proletarian struggle for the overthrow of capitalism, can best be judged by an analysis of the enemies he made during his life of revolutionary activity. These may be placed in four categories:
First: It was the mine owners of the Rocky Mountain states in the far west (of gold, silver and copper), who placed him on trial for his life, as Secretary-Treasurer of the Western Federation of Miners, in 1907. He escaped this fate, but he was in turn jailed by the woolen trust, at Lawrence, Mass., the great silk mill owners of Paterson, New Jersey, and by the powerful capitalists who dominate the ever-growing industrial districts in America.
Second: It was none other than Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States (1901-8), who denounced Haywood together with his fellow officials of the Miners’ Union, Charles H. Moyer and George A. Pettibone, as “undesirable citizens” during the Boise, Idaho, trial, when the whole American ruling class was crying for the blood of these militant working-class leaders. This was at the zenith of Roosevelt’s popularity as a “trust buster,” the idol of the outraged middle class in the period when great monopolies, crushing out smaller enterprises, were springing into existence every- where in industry. Roosevelt was the liberal in politics, who was charged with “stealing” half the Socialist Party platform in 1912 to build his own in the fight for re-election in that year.
Third: It was not only the powerful capitalists and the middle-class politicians who found Haywood “undesirable.” Just as venomous in its hatred was the official family of the American Federation of Labor, especially during the regime headed by Sam Gompers. In The Voice of Labor, June, 1905, Haywood declared that “the ideas of Mr. Gompers are hoary, aged, moss-covered relics of the days of the ox team and the pony express, when the craftsman owned or controlled the tools of production.” Gompers attacked Haywood and the Industrial Workers of the World, organized in 1905, as having “an appeal to the reckless, the unprincipled, the uneducated, the unstable,” adding that “the I.W.W. was frankly revolutionary and had an appeal to a limited number of wage earners.” Here was the continuous clash between the spirited effort to organize the masses of workers on broad industrial lines on the one hand and the contentment of the labor aristocracy on the other with its weaknesses and shortcomings growing out of the numerous craft divisions and refusal to organize the unskilled, the semi-skilled and the migratory workers.
Fourth: Even in the ranks of the Socialist Party, Haywood was declared “undesirable” by the Berger-Hillquit leadership. He was expelled in 1912 when he refused to adhere to the pure parliamentarism advocated by the party leadership, who basked in the warm sunshine of the European social-democracy of MacDonald and Henderson, Scheidemann and Legien, Longuet and Thomas, Vandervelde and the elder Adler, Branting and Stauning, who had been in the foreground of the 1910 Copenhagen Congress of the Second Socialist International which Haywood had attended with Berger, Hillquit, Spargo and others. A few Socialists of prominence had joined in the organization of the I.W.W. in 1905 (Eugene V. Debs, A.M. Simons, Charles O. Sherman, Frank Bohn) but none of these were expelled with Haywood. While the Socialist Party warmed toward the A.F. of L., it developed its attack with in- creasing vitriol against the I.W.W.
But Haywood found an increasing response among the working- class masses from whom he had sprung as the son of a miner at Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1869. His early life was constituted of the years in which the full drift of the mass migration towards the Pacific Coast, “The West,” was getting under way in the decades following the Civil War (1861-65). Youthful American capitalism, spanning the continent, developed rapidly, concentrating its forces towards the end of the century.
Haywood became a member of the Western Federation of Miners in 1896, just two years before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, during which the Dollar Republic burst its capitalist confines and entered upon its imperialist epoch with the bloody seizure of the Philippine Islands, and the grabbing of Cuba and Porto Rico under the pretext of waging a “war for humanity” against Spain.
It was in this war that Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard University graduate and lawyer, who had gone West to regain his health on a cattle ranch, organized his “Rough Riders” and gained sufficient jingo fame with this cavalry unit to receive the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination in the national elections of 1900. Roosevelt stepped into the Presidency the following year when President McKinley was assassinated. He used this position as a forum for attack against Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone as “undesirable” of citizenship in the capitalist republic. Instead of destroying Haywood, however, it only resulted in bringing his appeal to the attention of the working class on a nation-wide scale. Hitherto, Hay- wood’s efforts had been confined to the metal-mining districts of the West, where blazed the strikes at Coeur D’Alene, in Idaho, 1893; and Cripple Creek, in Colorado, 1894. Early milestones in the development of the American class-struggle, followed by Leadville in 1896-7, Salt Lake City and the Coeur D’Alene again in 1899; Telluride in 1901; Idaho Springs in 1903 and Cripple Creek again in 1903-4. Yet he had grown to the full stature of a revolutionary working-class leader. The kidnapping from Colorado, the long imprisonment and the death trial in Idaho, the vicious attack by President Roosevelt and the organization of the I.W.W., served to bring Haywood out of Western obscurity, to put the name of “Big Bill” upon the lips of millions of workers the nation over, and to make him a terror to capitalists wherever the slave-driven machinery of privately owned industry hummed.
The temper of certain sections of the American workers in this period may be judged from the declaration of the preamble of the Western Federation of Miners. It declared that:
“There is a class-struggle in society and this struggle is caused by economic conditions;…the producer…is exploited of the wealth which he produces, being allowed to retain barely sufficient for his elementary necessities;…that the class-struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as the sole master of his product;…that the working class, and it alone, can and must achieve its own emancipation;…and finally, that an industrial union and the concerted political action of all wage workers is the only method of attaining this end.”
The vicious attacks of city, state and national governments in co-operation with the great exploiters, the brutal and murderous use of the state militia and federal troops, the subservience of the courts, all contributed toward forcing the Western Federation of Miners to turn to political action (the use of the ballot as it was conceived) so that in 1904 we find the miners adopting a statement that:
“We recommend the Socialist Party to the toiling masses of humanity as the only source through which they can secure…complete emancipation from the present system of wage slavery…”
“Let all strike industrially here and now, if necessary,” says another resolution (signed by William D. Haywood) “and then strike in unity at the ballot-box for the true solution of the labor problem by putting men of our class into public office.” Yet the leadership of this Socialist Party, in 1908, maneuvered successfully to sidetrack Haywood as the party’s candidate for the Presidency because of his unorthodox revolutionary views, although while in prison, he had been candidate for governor of Colorado on both the Socialist and the Socialist Labor Party tickets.
J.M. O’Neill, the editor of the Miners’ Magazine, wrote Haywood, at the 13th Convention of the Western Federation of Miners in 1905, that:
“If this convention goes on record, giving its unanimous sanction to the movement that is contemplated in Chicago, such action will be heralded from the Atlantic to the Pacific…and will create a sentiment that will keep on crystallizing until capitalism will feel that it is threatened in the citadel of its own entrenched power.”
The citadel was Chicago, where the conference met on June 27, 1905, and organized itself as the Industrial Workers of the World, to begin, in the words of Debs, “the work of forming a great economic or revolutionary organization of the working class so sorely needed in the struggle for its emancipation.”
This was in the year that the Revolution of 1905 was hammering at the gates of Czarism in Russia.
Speaking of the Western Federation of Miners at this first convention of the I.W.W., Haywood said “We have not got an agreement existing with any mine manager, superintendent or operator at the present time. We have got a minimum scale of wages” and “…the eight-hour day, and we did not have a legislative lobby to accomplish it.”
He wanted at this time to build up the same sort of an organization, not only for the mining industry, but for all industries.
It was this Haywood that went to jail in Idaho, not only as an official of the Western Federation of Miners, but also as an organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World, to which the W.F. of M. belonged. The I.W.W. took up the fight for Haywood and his fellow prisoners with great energy. When the struggle became desperate Eugene V. Debs issued his historic appeal, entitled, “Arouse, Ye Slaves!” which concluded as follows:
“Whatever is done we must do ourselves, and if we stand up like men from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf, we will strike terror to their (the Mine Owners’ Association of the Western states and their Standard Oil backers and pals in Wall Street) cowardly hearts and they will be but too eager to relax their grip upon our throats and beat a swift retreat. We will watch every move they make and in the meantime prepare for action.
“A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat at Chicago, or some other central point, would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising. If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it.”
This declaration marked the highwater mark in the revolutionary utterances of Debs, always close to Haywood. The liberation of Haywood came July 28, 1907. But during his imprisonment the Western Federation of Miners had withdrawn from the I.W.W., afterwards returning to Gompers’ A.F. of L., Moyer going with it and clinging close, even to this day, to the official family of the trade union reaction. Pettibone disappeared from the scene of the labor struggle.
This period was crucial in Haywood’s activities in the revolutionary movement. His aggressive leadership of labor had brought him close to the gallows. Now Debs, Simons, Sherman, not to mention Moyer, were quickly recoiling into the shell of the Socialist Party and its purely parliamentary action in a period when the party leadership was hoping for a big increase in its vote and the sending of large numbers of its members into political office. It was to make the party more “respectable” that the leadership repudiated Hay- wood, at the same time sacrificing tens of thousands of militant members in doing so.
“Leading” Socialists and “leaders” of the A.F. of L. announced the collapse of the I.W.W. But Haywood never faltered. The I.W.W. did not “receive its death blow” in the words of Max Hayes, the A.F. of L. trade-union Socialist. The I.W.W. turned more to the organization of unskilled and migratory workers, and while Victor L. Berger had gone to Washington as a Socialist Congressman in 1913, Haywood was leading the now historic strike of the textile workers in the mills of the woolen trust at Lawrence, Mass. Year after year, wherever labor rose in revolt, in the coal fields, in the copper mine districts of Michigan and Montana, in the silk mills of Paterson, New Jersey, in the clothing factories of Chicago, in steel towns or lumber camps, Haywood came with his rebellious message to discontented workers. Intuitively exploiters blamed him for strikes in their industries. The I.W.W. was looked upon as a scourge to profits. The jails and prisons of the capitalists and their government held no terrors for Haywood. The malicious attacks of the labor bureaucracy and the Socialist parliamentarians did not trouble him. He went on with his work as he saw it.
He became Secretary-Treasurer of the I.W.W. in 1916 and in the spring of 1917 the United States entered the world war. Here was an opportunity not to be missed by the profit-hungry war-mongers to be found in all the great industries. The government, under its hastily adopted war espionage act, launched terrific raids against the I.W.W. in an effort to crush and exterminate the organization. Haywood, with hundreds of others, was arrested. A mass trial was carried out in Chicago before the infamous Judge Landis. Haywood with others received 20-year sentences. Many faced shorter terms in prison. Haywood was sent to the Leavenworth Federal Prison where he was kept for a long time before being released on bail pending an appeal from his conviction.
But now the wave of proletarian enthusiasm born of the Russian Bolshevik revolution reached even to the United States Communist sentiment crystallized in 1919 into the organization of the Communist movement, and Haywood logically found him- self in the ranks of the Communists, who became in these days the nightmare of American as well as European capitalists. The Palmer reign of terror was launched in January, 1920, resulting in the arrest of thousands of members of the Communist Party, the Communist Labor Party and the I.W.W. These were the days of political exiles from America. Haywood, now past 50 years of age, most prominent of these exiles, found protection from the rage of the American capitalist reaction under the proletarian power of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union.
Haywood was an agitator of the masses. Although he had skill as an organizer, shown in his activities as an official of the Western Federation of Miners, his greatest ability was called forth in the actual strike struggles. He was not deeply based in Communist theory. But his proletarian instincts never failed to guide him finally along the correct path of struggle, when Debs was led astray by pacifist illusions that held him chained to the social-democratic traitors of the Socialist Party.
Haywood, Debs and C.E. Ruthenberg were the three outstanding figures in the American revolutionary movement, in the period that began with the appearance of American capitalism upon the world imperialist arena in the first two decades of the century, coming to an end in the after-war years with the Dollar Republic, supreme among the bandit nations, facing the Soviet Union, banner bearer of the Proletarian Revolution. Daniel De Leon had died before the war and the Russian Revolution came as a testing-time for revolutionists. Debs failed to recognize in the Bolshevik victory the beginning of the world revolution he had urged for nearly a quarter of a century.
The ashes of Haywood, the agitator of the masses, will rest before the Red Wall of the Kremlin, in Moscow, near the ashes of Ruthenberg, the organizer of the American Communist Party. Not far away is the grave of John Reed, flame bearer of the revolution.
But part of Haywood’s ashes will be sent across the sea to be buried near the graves of those other “undesirables,” the Haymarket victims (1886) in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago, linking the last century with the present in the American Revolutionary struggle, uniting more closely the liberated masses of the Soviet Union with the still enslaved and toiling multitudes in the homeland of the most powerful imperialism.
On his dying day, reviewing the resistance of the workers today in the American mine fields and textile mills, Haywood confidently declared:
“The workers of America are also learning the path to revolution, to the seizure of power, to the proletarian dictatorship under the leadership of the American Communist Party and the Communist International.”
There are a number of journals with this name in the history of the movement. This Communist was the main theoretical journal of the Communist Party from 1927 until 1944. Its origins lie with the folding of The Liberator, Soviet Russia Pictorial, and Labor Herald together into Workers Monthly as the new unified Communist Party’s official cultural and discussion magazine in November, 1924. Workers Monthly became The Communist in March ,1927 and was also published monthly. The Communist contains the most thorough archive of the Communist Party’s positions and thinking during its run. The New Masses became the main cultural vehicle for the CP and the Communist, though it began with with more vibrancy and discussion, became increasingly an organ of Comintern and CP program. Over its run the tagline went from “A Theoretical Magazine for the Discussion of Revolutionary Problems” to “A Magazine of the Theory and Practice of Marxism-Leninism” to “A Marxist Magazine Devoted to Advancement of Democratic Thought and Action.” The aesthetic of the journal also changed dramatically over its years. Editors included Earl Browder, Alex Bittelman, Max Bedacht, and Bertram D. Wolfe.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/communist/v07n07-jul-1928-communist.pdf