‘Living on Determination in Paterson’ by Phillips Russell from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 2. August, 1913.

‘Living on Determination in Paterson’ by Phillips Russell from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 2. August, 1913.

THE strike of the Paterson silk workers must now take its place as one of the memorable labor struggles of American history. It began in January, in the dead of winter. It is now mid-Summer and still the army of toilers presents an unbroken front to the enemy.

Thea Lawrence strike, which marked an epoch in American industrial life, lasted ten weeks. to last ten months. The Lawrence strikers were fed from the stream of contributions that poured in from an aroused working class. The Paterson workers have had to live mostly on hope, which now has become simply grim determination.

Since the last reports from the seat of war were made in these columns, several new atrocities have been added to the list which the. workers of Paterson will carry in their memories and hearts for a long, long time. Among these is the sentencing of Patrick L. Quinlan, organizer, to the penitentiary in Trenton, N.J.; the trial of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn which resulted in a disagreement; the throwing into jail of Frederick Sumner Boyd; and the murder of the striker, Madonna.

Mass strike support meeting, Haledon, New Jersey.

Madonna, one of the most faithful and active of pickets, was shot and killed by an armed thug doing scab work in one of the mills. Several thousand silent strikers escorted his body to its grave and dropped into it their red blossoms, symbol of the blood of the workers.

By her husband’s open grave Madonna’s wife turned and faced the throng. In broken, halting English she began to speak.

“I do not cry,” she said. ‘Madonna is dead, but still I cannot cry. They have killed my man, but I shed not one tear. After you win the strike, then maybe I cry. I do not ask help from you, though my man is dead. I ask only that you win this strike.”

While this spirit lasts, all the deviltries, cruelties and oppression of the entire capitalist class will avail nothing. Madonna’s wife probably had never made a public utterance before in her life but her simple, dry-eyed appeal was more eloquent than the tongues of a thousand gifted orators. She knew how to talk to her people. They heard her message and understood.

At last Paterson officialdom summoned up enough nerve to sentence Quinlan. He was pronounced guilty some time ago of “inciting hostility to the government” on the unsupported testimony of detectives and policemen who got up one after another and swore to the same monotonous lie, saying Pat told the strikers to go out and club the heads off the scabs, though as a matter of fact there were any number of witnesses to prove that Pat did not make a speech that day at all, not even being present in the hall where the gum-shoe men swore he fired off his incendiary and bloody utterances.


But they didn’t sentence Quinlan at the time. They were afraid to. There was a certain tenseness in the atmosphere in Paterson at that time and the masters felt a vague, unnamable fear that caused them to decide to await a safer time.

One day afterward they found Pat in the courtroom listening to the trial of Gurley Flynn whereupon they suddenly seized him and led him before the judge, who sentenced him to two to seven years in the penitentiary. In 48 hours Pat was on his way to the Bastile, chained to a negro burglar. They probably thought they were heaping insult on injury by doing this, but I am sure when Pat saw who his team-mate on the way to prison was to be, he rejoiced that it was a negro burglar and not a Paterson silk manufacturer or a pot-bellied judge with respectability on his countenance and corruption and murder in his heart.

Pat has been an active worker in the Socialist party these many years. But the party saw him railroaded to the penitentiary with scarcely more than a murmur of protest. Can it be that while we are agitating ourselves as to whether commission government will advance or retard the revolution and striving to elect persons to office who are committed to municipal ice- houses the capitalists are quietly stealing our fundamental rights away?

Practically the same set of liars who brought about the conviction of Quinlan tried to send Miss Flynn over the same road, but failed because two jurymen re- fused to be parties to the crime. The stomachs of Jersey jurymen are strong but perhaps those of these two turned at the last moment. So Gurley will have to stand trial again in the fall when judges and prosecutors have strengthened themselves by a sojourn at the seashore and can put a woman behind the bars for an indefinite number of years without having indigestion afterward.

The trial of Boyd, who is now out on bail after using the same towel in common with thirty others for two weeks, is going to set a precedent that no revolutionist can ignore. He is charged with “inciting the destruction of private property.” In other words he is accused of advocating that dreadful thing—sabotage. He himself is confident of being burned at the stake, but his friends are hopeful that his punishment will be no worse than being boiled in oil— olive oil, which is a soothing emollient and ought to provide an agreeable death.

Lessing, Haywood, and Tresca leading the Pageant Parade to Madison Square Garden on June 7, 1913.

The Socialist party will find itself in a peculiarly awkward position in Boyd’s case. The New Jersey statute he is accused of violating is practically the same as Section 6, Article II, of the Socialist party constitution, and though Boyd has been a valuable worker in the party in New York for several years, the party will hardly dare say much in his defense lest the ghost of the Indianapolis convention rise up to bedevil it. The party will not dare denounce the capitalists in case Boyd is convicted, because the capitalists and the party have agreed and written on their statute books that sabotage ranks with violence and crime, and therefore is to be severely punished!

Boyd’s will be the first case in this country dealing with the question of sabotage. It behooves every revolutionist to bestir himself and help raise money for Boyd’s defense.

Haywood and Carlo Tresca also will be tried in the fall for high crimes committed against the capitalist class in Paterson. Meantime the strikers are holding on grimly and desperately. They dare not lose.

What is the working class going to do about it?

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and loyal to the Socialist Party of America. 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 was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v14n02-aug-1913-ISR-gog-ocr.pdf

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