‘Thugs Rule in Aberdeen’ by Jay Fox from The Agitator. Vol. 2 No. 3. December 15, 1911.
For the second time in the history of the industrial struggle in this country the capitalists have set aside all pretense of “lawful” action and boldly set aside the laws, ordinances and constitutions, and organized themselves into a gang of highwaymen and gone forth to waylay and rob the people of the last remnants of liberty.
In 1904 the mine owners of Colorado organized the business men of Cripple Creek, armed them and, under penalty, forced the city officials to do their bidding. They drove every Union miner and every sympathizer with unionism from the city; raided their hall, confiscated their property; and assaulted their wives and daughters.
The lumber barons of Washington have repeated the Colorado outrage. They have organized the petty business men of Aberdeen, armed them with pick handles and revolvers and turned them loose upon the citizens.
The special object of this Bandetti was the members of the I.W.W., who had aroused the ire of the big bosses by organizing and educating the lumberjacks.
They forbid the I.W.W. to hold street meetings, except in back streets, and when the organizers insisted on being on an equality with the Salvation Army and opened meetings on the main streets, they were thrown into jail. When they led a crowd of 5,000 indignant working people to the city hall as a protest, the fire department turned powerful streams of water on them. When they organized a huge protest meeting in a theatre the police prevented the meeting being held and confiscated $50 worth of literature.
They next raided the I.W.W. hall and ordered every member to leave the city. They unlocked the jail and took every man that was under arrest to the city limits, and ordered them to “beat it” with this sneering admonition. ”Go and God be with you, but God help you if you return.”
Every worker suspected of sympathy with his own class was hustled out of the city in the same way.
But this is not all. The city is cut off from the main land by a swamp 11 miles wide; and the unfortunate workers were forced to wade through mud and water waist deep for the greater part of that distance. Many had scarcely strength enough to carry them through, and barely escaped death.
The lumber barons and their lackies, the small business men, are a heartless set of ghouls, who care no more for the life of a worker than they do for the ashes that form on the ends of their cigars.
Their business in life is to keep the worker in subjection so they can exploit them to the last degree. They do not look upon a working man as a human being. He is merely a tool, a cog in the great wheel of industry, that runs for their benefit only. As the machine is given oil to keep it in good running order, so the slave is given a measly “living” to keep him from dying on the job. When he is worn out he is cast upon the social scrap-heap; and when the spirit of manhood awakes in him, and he rebels, he is driven into the swamps with the blessings of God to comfort him.
Where the law is sufficient to keep the toilers in subjection it is used. When its operations are not swift enough it is set aside and an irresponsible gang of thugs with guns and clubs is substituted.
They are setting a dangerous example before the workers, who, whatever may be said about their originality, are certainly good imitators. If setting aside the law and resorting to mob violence and brute force is regarded as an effective and propel’ method for maintaining its power by the capitalist class, the process of reason by which the working class could transfer the application to its side is very simple.
True, the bosses in Aberdeen got the sanction of the mayor and city council for their outlawry. But nobody has been deceived by that. Every child knows that the lumber kings rule Aberdeen, and that the city officials are merely their executive committee.
The unionists of Aberdeen have been spat upon and grossly insulted by the arrogant business bosses, who have now openly declared war on all forms of working class organization in the Grays Harbor district.
The open shop has been declared. This means a death blow to unionism in that part of the country.
The union is the working man’s only protection. Without it he is at the absolute mercy of the owning and governing class.
The Grays Harbor district will now become a slave pen. This is a matter for the serious consideration of all unionists in the state. Let us drop all quibbling amongst ourselves in the face of the common enemy.
The bosses act as one man. There is no question of whose business is attacked. Nobody sulks in his tent. ” All for one, one for all,” is their motto, stolen from us. They have a better title to it. Let us get together and prove ourselves worthy of what we preach.
The Syndicalist began as The Agitator by Earl Ford, JW Johnstone, and William Z Foster in 1911. Inspired by the revolutionary syndicalism of the French CGT, they felt they were political competitors to the IWW and in early 1912, Foster and others created the Syndicalist Militant Minority Leagues in Chicago with chapters soon forming in Kansas City, Omaha, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Denver, Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. They renamed The Agitator The Syndicalist as the paper of the Syndicalist League of North America with Jay Fox as editor. The group then focused on the AFL. The Syndicalist ceased publication in September 1913 with some going on to form the International Trade Union Educational League in January 1915. While only briefly an organization, the SLNA had a host of future important leaders of the Communist movement. Like Foster, Tom Mooney and Earl Browder who were also members.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/agitator/v2n03-dec-15-1911-agitator.pdf