Report by Heather Gorgura
Abstract: The Agitator was published by members of the anarchist colony of Home, in the state of Washington. Editor Jay Fox made the bimonthly tabloid into a lively journal advocating a blend of libertarian ideas and revolutionary industrial unionism. Free speech, sexual freedom, modern rational education, and support for the IWW were among its provocative concerns. Dates: November 15, 1910-November 1, 1912 Editor: Jay Fox
Collection: University of Washington library microfilm A7152
The Agitator, an anarchist/libertarian newspaper, was published by Agitator Publishing Association in Lakebay, Washington at the Home colony on a bimonthly basis from 1910 to 1912. Home was founded on the philosophy of maximum liberty, rather than collectivization as some other Washington communes of the same experimental era in the state. As a libertarian colony, Home had no central organization, no ownership of land, and no government. According to the first issue of The Agitator put out on November 15th, 1910,
A census of Home shows a population of 213 in 68 homes. There are 75 children, an average of a little over one for each home. The lowest average of children for any community in the world. There are three cooperative stores; a hall, school, print shop, a bi-monthly paper, a wharf and warehouse...Fifteen years ago three pilgrim families landed here, built shacks on the shore and began hewing their way into the dense forest of giant evergreens...Others came, and as like attracts like, they too were of the no rule order of intellect, and presently there was an Anarchist colony...
This Colony differs from other colonies in that it was not started with the object of proving anything. It grew naturally, as all things should grow; and having grown in this way whatever it does prove counts.(11/15/10)
The first families who settled on Joe’s Bay with the intention of forming the Home colony arrived in 1896, and two years later the Mutual Home Association was legally created. "The Home founders...critical of the communitarian ideal, emphasized that this was to be a community of individuals, rather than a cooperative colony." Home was the site of visits from various notorious radical personalities, including Emma Goldman. Home lasted longer than any of the other radical communes founded in Washington state around the turn of the century, but it and its members faced ongoing suspicion and persecution over the years. In 1921 the Home association was disbanded by local courts. The Agitator had two predecessors at Home. The first paper published there was New Era. When New Era died, it was followed by Discontent: Mother of Progress, a four-page, tabloid-sized paper.
The editor of The Agitator was Jay Fox, who arrived at Home in 1910 at the age of forty. He was a veteran of the Haymarket Riots in Chicago, and was well known among radicals and labor leaders. Fox printed the paper at his home, according to historian Charles LeWarne, "on a press used fifty years before by Ezra Haywood...He hoped to popularize knowledge so that common toilers as well as ‘the rich and privileged class’ should be uplifted to philosophy and science." In 1912 Fox’s friend, William Z. Foster – a syndicalist who had taken part in the IWW movement – became increasingly involved in producing The Agitator. Driven by financial concerns and encouraged by Foster, Fox ultimately agreed to move The Agitator to Chicago, where its last issue was published in November, 1912. It re-emerged in January the following year as The Syndicalist. After Fox and his first wife, Esther, were divorced, she married Foster, and the three remained friends. Fox married a second time and remained at Home for the rest of his life, which ended on March 8, 1961. Foster died in Moscow six months later, his wife Esther by his side.2A self-described propaganda tool, The Agitator contains more editorials than articles, more rhetoric and purple prose than investigative journalism and hard facts. Colorful phrases such as, "hair-brained mental contortionists," "corpulent comrades," "insignificant mental castrates,"3 and name-calling (Teddy Roosevelt is a "blatherskite,"4 "Terrible Teddy," a "jabbering jawsmith," and an "inflated windbag,"5) are far more abundant than analysis or concrete information.
The editorial pieces in The Agitator’s four pages address a range of issues, from historical events like the Haymarket incident of 1886, to national labor issues such as strikes, to presidential elections, and international political events such as the Mexican civil war and the ousting of the king of Portugal. The Agitator advocated passive resistance, direct action, and free speech. Frequently a poem appeared, and fairly regularly there was an update on the situation at the Home colony, though these brief reports were census-like in nature, and provided little insight into the workings of the commune. Most issues offered a list of publications for sale by the Agitator Publishing Association as well as a list of recommended periodicals. Twice a year The Agitator published a financial report which generally showed a subscription circulation of about 300 copies at a dollar per year, and it seems the paper was usually run in the red.
As its masthead declares, The Agitator is a bi-monthly advocate of the modern school, industrial unionism, and individual freedom. In "Greeting to You All" in its first issue, the paper outlines its purpose, and its stance on these three major ideas.
The Agitator contends that the greatest need of the world today is men and women who can popularize the knowledge that is laid away in musty tombs in the libraries. How many working people know anything about Darwin’s theory of evolution? What is known of Spencer, who built a philosophy of the universe without a god and would leave it without a government? What is known about Proudhon, Marx and Kropotkin, whose ideas would free the masses from the economic and political bondage that enslaves them?
In this age of printing every man should know something real about himself. But to every man has not been given the mind that can follow the weighty philosophers and scientists with any great success after serving his capitalistic master eight to sixteen hours a day. [More]
The Modern School
Further developing its stance on the modern school, The Agitator, aligned with the International League for Rational Education, advocated rational education of the young. "By the term rational, as applied to education we mean the withholding from the child mind of no light or information whatever that may be had upon the subject in hand, in contra-diction to the sanctioned or standardized methods of the regular schools."(12/1/10) "We want free thinking men...We want men longing to destroy and create, alter and improve their surroundings, alter and improve themselves; we want free citizens who will be chained by nothing...[to] bring in the word of liberty all over the world."(12/1/10) The claim was made that education, such as it is, exists in spite of, rather than because of the government. "We all know that, at every period of human history, the states and governments always took great care to hold the common people in dark ignorance..." Because of the nature of industrialization, however, it had become necessary for workers to have a degree of education in order for country and the owners of capital to be competitive economically.
If the masses must be educated, thinks the government, then the nation’s heroes must be held up before the children in order to turn them into good, law-abiding producers of the capitalist system. Saying that the American Revolution and the rest of our wars have been of no real consequence, Bruce Rogers made the case that had the industrial history of the nation been truly taught, the workers would know their value "and their relations to the fetish of government which they so foolishly sustain." The standardized school texts put forth by the government "deal with our military life and with our swash-buckling heroes, whereas the true history of the country is its industrial history, because it is in the industries that the people have their only progress, and the source of life and well-being."(11/15/10)
"If all the unions employed in [an] industry were to unite and present a solid front to the employers and say: ‘The garment workers’ fight is our fight; our cause is one; we stand or fall together,’ that would be industrial unionism...At this stage of industrial evolution, the strike of an individual union is no more effective than was the strike of an individual worker fifty years ago. The times demands (sic) a union of unions, not merely in form, but in action.""Industrial unionism makes no distinction between trades or callings. All who work for wages should be joined, inseparably, and when they strike, strike together, strike hard. Tie up the entire industry. Let not a wheel move."The Agitator went beyond this call for all workers within an industry to strike in unison. In addition, it advocated the participation of all who had economic dealings with the owners against whom the employees were striking. Drivers, gardeners, cooks and maids were entreated to quit their jobs. Grocery delivery men, the milkman, teamsters and icemen were asked to avoid the owners’ homes. Citizens were encouraged to mark these bosses, to trail them to restaurants and stores, so that waiters and salespeople would recognize them and refuse them service.
The paper’s stance on the A.F. of L. was that it would have to change to remain viable. The I.W.W., on the other hand, The Agitator saw as the herald of things to come, pointing in the right direction:
"Industrial unionism is not a salve to rub on the wounds of injured slaves to make their burden easier to carry. It is not a movement for high wages only. It is a movement with an ideal that reaches over the bounds of capitalism. It asserts the system cannot be patched up so the workers will get what is coming to them. The wage system is a slave system that supports more idlers, and keeps them in greater luxury, than any system of society in the past. Industrial unionism says it must go, to make way for a system based on freedom, on equality, on mutual aid, on cooperation."(12/15/10)
Strikes and High Wages
The recent railroad strike in France is a splendid sign of the times. Whether a strike is won or lost is never a matter of much importance. It is the manner in which it is organized and conducted that counts. The strikes of today are merely skirmishes in the great industrial war of tomorrow.The bricklayers may strike and get seven dollars a day. Their victory is of no value to the working class in general. It is an individual craft victory: It is the bricklayers’ victory; and he profits by it only so long as there are garment workers getting sixty cents a day; farm laborers getting $15 a month; and hatters and shoemakers getting $2 a day......the organization of labor tends to develop solidarity and education, It teaches them the power of united effort and awakens a desire for a change to a better system of economics. For this, unions and strikes are to be commended. For this The Agitator will ever be in the front ranks with the organizers of labor. But I dissent from the assertion that labor as a whole gains anything by high wages. ...By and by when the garment workers win a strike the bricklayers and the rest of us will pay more for our clothes. The capitalist loses nothing. He gets his per cent. Wages is like the tariff, the consumer pays it. The capitalist gets his dividend no matter what happens. High wages means high prices, and the low paid toilers always get the worst of it. They actually pay the greater part of the high wages, because they are the greatest consumers...
What is the goal? What’s to be done? Organize unions to have and to hold the industries of the country and operate them for the benefit of all. Today, Rockefeller, Morgan & Co. have, hold, and operate them for their own special delight. Organize according to industries, not according to trades. Because industry is carried on that way. (12/15/10)
The Haymarket Riots**
The first issue of The Agitator was published on November 15th, 1910 – twenty-five years after the execution of four men who were convicted for their roles in the Haymarket Riots. "The publishers are glad to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chicago martyrdom by the publication of a paper that stands for the freedom throttled by Gary and his co-conspirators November. 11, 1887."(11/15/10) This issue is largely devoted to the men it calls the Chicago Martyrs, with a poem in their honor written by William Francis Barnard, an illustration of a monument erected to them, reproductions of letters written by Spies, Parsons, Engel, Fischer and Lingg to Governor Oglesby, and excerpts from speeches made before the court during the Haymarket trial. Jay Fox***, editor of The Agitator, also wrote an article, "The Chicago Martyrs," for this first issue.
On the 1st of May, 1886, the United Workers of America laid down their tools and said: ‘Ten hours is too long for a workingman to toil each day, we therefore resolve not to again take up our tools until the employers agree to an eight-hour day.’ This was the first attempt at a general strike, and as a walkout it was a fair success. Every man who had promised to strike did so, and many thousands of non-union men and women marched out with their union comrades, and stayed with them until starvation drove them back to the factories and mills again at the old rate and hours. In many instances they won the eight-hour day, but since it did not become general, the employers that agreed to the demands of the workers were forced to return to the ten-hour day, thru the inevitable workings of the law of competition. [More]
In "Non-Resistance vs. Passive Resistance,"(9/1/11) the writer, who took credit for his or her article simply with the initials R.G., advocates the use of passive resistance to turn the tables on the enemy, to convert adversaries into friends, and to win public sympathy. "The act of passive resistance is based upon a sociological truth, namely, that violence begets violence and love and kindness begets love and kindness, especially in cases where the abused is the stronger physically."
Being an anarchist paper, The Agitator was, not surprisingly, anti-voting. In "The Political Shell Game," the writer states, "The election is over. The voice of the great American people has rung out in stentorian tones. It has chosen its masters, and I am heartily glad I took no part in the stupid business." (12/1/10) In "Paper Revolutionists" J.S. Biscay writes, "By agreeing to use the ‘legal’ methods laid down by the capitalists, our hair-brained mental contortionists necessarily agree with the masters and give the same advice – to legislate a revolution...They are waving the ballot to stop the groans and sobs of the mutilated slaves; they are dancing to the tune of clanking chains; singing to drown the mad shrieks of despair, like the insignificant mental castrates that they are." (9/1/11) Octav Mirbeau expresses similar views in "The Simpleton Voter." "Only one thing is left incomprehensible to me: how does it come that a politician, a senator, a governor, or any other political trickster, who can yet find a voter, that strange mortal, to support him with his bread and to clothe him with his wool, feeding him with his blood and enriching him with his money. And for what? This fact surpasses even my most pessimistic imaginings about human stupidity...The man to whom you gave your vote does not represent your misery. He does not represent your hopes. He does not represent you in anything. He represents only his own passions, his own interests, which are directly contrary to yours. Therefore come back, my dear dumb-head, and begin, finally, your strike against the ballot box." (11/1/12) Of course it follows that, being anti-voting, The Anarchist was anti-women’s suffrage as well, as expressed in "Women and the Ballot."
The right to vote is a paltry right at this age of progress, when the advanced men of all countries are actually forsaking the ballot, having found it a futile weapon for defense or offence against the tyranny of capitalism.The women are, of course, entitled to it. They are entitled to all they can get. But there are many things we are entitled to which are not worth the effort, and the ballot is one of them.While men control the means by which women live they will control their votes. This has been well proven in the case of men. Property makes the laws of the world, have always done so; and the great mass of propertyless voting men have been unable to remedy the evil. So they are forsaking the ballot for more effective means.Men have learned that it is their economic organizations alone that are retarding the downward trend towards slavery; and it is unfortunate that the women of England and America should be expending their splendid revolutionary energies on a useless accomplishment.
Women should learn that it is not liquor prohibition, nor red light prohibition, nor sanitary inspection, nor better prisons, nor child labor regulation, nor any of the numerous reforms they hope to bring about that counts. These are merely effects of one great cause. And that cause is want of economic opportunity. (12/1/10)
The Arrest of Jay Fox
In August of 1911 Jay Fox, editor of The Agitator was arrested on charges of "publishing matter tending to encourage disrespect for the law and the courts,"19 for printing the article "The Nude and the Prudes" in issue no. 16 of his paper. He responded to his arrest by quoting free speech rights of the United States Constitution and the State of Washington Constitution, then comparing the current state of the U.S. with that of Russia, and it’s government with that of the Russian Czar, against whom it was forbidden to speak aloud. Fox went on in his editorial, "Arrest of the Editor" in issue no. 20, September 1, 1911:
If the capitalist class could smother the voice of criticism, it would be secure for a long time in its position on the back of labor....Today the free press is the most vital element in the education and organization of the working class...The capitalists know well the power of the press. With so much importance do they regard it that there is not a paper in the country that dare tell the truth where the truth conflicts with the interests of capital.[The] splendid spirit of solidarity – the spirit that is going to unite the working class in one organization the world over – was shown by the big protest meeting held by the I.W.W. without previous notice, on the first day of my arrest.On Sunday evening, the day after my release on $1000 bail, I addressed a big meeting in the I.W.W. Hall on the subject of "Militaryism," where the hearty support of the members was pledged in this struggle for a free press.If our writers and speakers cannot criticize decisions of the courts and point out the absurdities on the statute books without being imprisoned, all progress must come to a standstill, for it is only as the mistakes of the past are discovered and remedied that progress is made.
But those who benefit by the system are very well satisfied to let it stand as it is. A system that keeps them in power and idleness and luxury, undreamt of by even the kings of the past, is quite good enough for the landlords, and the lords of commerce, and the lords of the law, and the lords of the fourteen-inch guns, and the lords of the sky who anoint the other lords and declare them the necessary fulfillment of the will of the divine lord on high. (9/1/11)
After his trial in Tacoma, Washington, Fox was found guilty as charged, though at the time of Fox’s
Excerpts from Various Articles
(July 1, 1911)Clothing was made to protect the body, not to hide it. The mind that associates impurity with the human body is itself impure. To the humanitarian, the idealist, the human body is divine, "the dwelling-place of the soul." as the old poets sang.To the coarse, half civilized barbarian steeped in a mixture of superstition and sensualism, the sight of a nude body suggests no higher thoughts, no nobler feelings than those which the sight of one animal of the lower order of creation produces in another.The vulgar mind sees its own reflection in everything it views. Polution cannot escape from polution, and the poluted mind sees its own reflection in the nude body of a fello being, and arises in the early morning to enjoy the vulgar feast, and then calls on the law to punish the innocent victims whose clean bodies aroused the savage instincts is not fit company for civilized people, and should be avoided.These reflections are based on an unfortunate occurrance that took place recently in Home.Home is a community of free spirits, who came out into the woods to escape the poluted atmosphere of priest-ridden conventional society. One of the liberties enjoyed by Home-ites was the privilege to bathe in evening dress, or with merely the clothes nature gave them, just as they chose.No one went rubbernecking to see which suit a person wore, who sought the purifying waters of the bay. Surely it was nobody’s business. All were sufficiently pure minded to see no vulgarity, no suggestion of anything vile or indecent in the thought or the sight of nature’s masterpiece uncovered.But eventually a few prudes got into the community and proceeded in the brutal, un-neighborly was of the outside world to suppress the people’s freedom. They had four persons arrested on the charge of "indecent exposure." One woman, the mother of two small children, was sent to jail. The one man arrested will also serve a term in prison. And the perpetrators of this vile action wonder why they are being boycotted.The well-merited indignation of the people has been aroused. Their liberty has been attacked. The first step in the way of subjecting the community to all the persecution of the outside has been taken. If this was let go without resistance the progress of the prudes would be easy.But the foolish people who came to live among us only because they found they could take advantage of our co=operation and buy goods cheaper here than elsewhere have found they got into a hornet’s nest.Two of the stores have refused to trade with them and the members avoid them in every way.To be sure, not all have been brought to see the importance of the situation. But the propaganda of those who do will go on, and the matter of avoiding these enemies in our midst will be pushed to the end.The lines will be drawn and those who profess to believe in freedom will be put to the test of practice.There is no possible grounds on which a libertarian can escape taking part in this effort to protect the freedom of Home. There is no half way. Those who refuse to aid the defense is [sic] aiding the other side. For those who want liberty and will not fight for it are parasites and do not deserve freedom. Those who are indifferent to the invasion, who can see an innocent woman torn from the side of her children and packed off to jail and are not moved to action, can not be counted among the rebels of authority. Their place is with the enemy.The boycot will be pushed until these invaders will come to see the brutal mistake of their action, and so inform the people.This subject will receive further consideration in future numbers. 23
(January 15, 1912)
"Guilty as charged in the complaint" was the verdict of the jury that tried me in the superior court at Tacoma, Wash., for the heinous offense of "publishing matter tending to create disrespect for the law."The prosectution introduced "Anarchy" into the case, and played it up to the limit. One would have thot at times that Anarchy and Home Colony were on trial. That was the game of the tricky prosecution. They daared not try the case on its merits. They dared not meet Anderson and me on the question at issue, which was the right of Free Press, before the jury; a jury that, by its general ignorance of the subject, would have been favorable to them from the start.No, these noble lawyers preferred to wallow in the mire of prejudice and misrepresentation.But they won, and to some men success is everything, the means nothing.In this case there were two very unusual occurrences: The prisoner addressed the jury in his own behalf, and the crowded court room once burst into applause, when Col. Anderson told the jury the reason why the prosecuting attorney don’t go after the daily papers for the articles they publish tending to create disrespect for law was "because there is too much power, too many votes behind them."According to the law, the penalty goes as high as a year in jail. But the case will be appealed. As we go to press the judge had not pronounced sentence.24
(January 15, 1912)To Lovers of Free Speech and fair play:
It is plainly evident that Jay Fox did not get a fair deal in his trial. The Jury was poisoned against him from the start. many of them admitted they had been prejudiced against Home Colony by the newspaper stories inspired by the prosecutor.If this verdict’s allowed to stand, with the precedent it establishes every readical editor in the state will be at the absolute mercey of the prosecutors and may be thrown into jail at any time.Under the law comrade Fox may be given a year in prison and fined $1000. A similar fate hangs over the head of every editor whom the capitalist class dislikes.Our duty in the matter is clear. We must appeal this case. The interest of free press and free speech demans it. But we cannot do it without money, and therefore appeal to you to subscribe to this fund as liberally as you can.We make this urgent appeal in full realization of the profound truth of Camrade Fox’s speech before the court, when he said:"Free speech is the foundation of all progress. Show me a country where there is the most tyranny and I will show you a country where there is no free speech."25
"Anarchism and Other Essays" by W.C. Owen
Emma Goldman’s book, Anarchism and Other Essays, seems to me an event of more than ordinary importance...It must be remembered that Emma Goldman**** has had a singular career: has traveled, talked and listened incessantly; has been in contact with all phases of the revolutionary movement and has met many of the most distinguished men and women in innumerable fields of human effort......[S]he has been able to produce a work that ranges far with a remarkableeconomy of effort. One that deals with no less than twelve great divisions of the social question, in as many chapters.Naturally the standpoint is anarchistic, but there is little direct treatment of anarchism as such. The one essay devoted to it is short and presents it not as a program but a mental attitude; a rebellion against whatever hinders human development; a struggle, above all, to make the individual conscious of himself, his latent possibilities, his rights as a member of the superior type known as man. The dignity of human life is emphasized thruout the book, and, of course, the writer spares no pains to show that religion, the state and society, true to the traditions of a slavish past, conspire to degrade that dignity and suppress the awakening of self-consciousness.
Woman suffrage...is considered in one of the most interesting chapters. All well informed persons are aware that many of the greatest women writers, George Eliot and Quida for example, have opposed it and presented a powerful array of arguments to back their opposition. Yet never are those objections considered in the literature of woman suffrage, and the agitation proceeds as if they did not exist. That such objections are vital, living facts; formidable lions that sooner or later must be faced; Emma Goldman clearly shows. Thereby she, herself one of the most emancipated women in the world, renders true service to the cause of woman’s emancipation. But for some time to come the suffragists are likely to repudiate the debt.26
The Agitator contends that the greatest need of the world today is men and women who can popularize the knowledge that is laid away in musty tombs in the libraries. How many working people know anything about Darwin’s theory of evolution? What is known of Spencer, who built a philosophy of the universe without a god and would leave it without a government? What is known about Proudhon, Marx and Kropotkin, whose ideas would free the masses from the economic and political bondage that enslaves them?In this age of printing every man should know something real about himself. But to every man has not been given the mind that can follow the weighty philosophers and scientists with any great success after serving his capitalistic master eight to sixteen hours a day.The system saps the vitality out of the modern worker as much as the systems of old did his ancestors, and what little energy he has left after his day’s labor must not be used in attempts to unravel obtuse problems. The problems must be reduced to simplicity. Science must be expressed in common words.Education, like leisure and travel, has always been the luxury of the rich and privileged class. The toilers have toiled that the loafers might loaf. Knowledge is the most dangerous thing in the world. Theodore Parker, a Boston preacher of fifty years ago said; "Did a mass of men know the actual selfishness and injustice of their rulers, not a government would stand a year; the world would ferment with revolution."
The catholic church knows well the danger of education. It killed the greatest educator the world has produced. Francisco Ferrer* possessed one great faculty coupled with one grand desire. He had the faculty for assimilating great quantities of the most abstract learning and reducing it to the language of the simplest child, and he had the over-mastering desire to plant that learning in the minds of his fellow-countrymen. The catholic church marked Ferrer from the start and put a volley into him at its first opportunity.
The Agitator will do its best to develop simplifiers of science in this country where they are as badly needed as in Spain. It is not the children alone that come under the banner of the modern school. The Agitator is dedicated to the modern school for grown-ups. The Agitator will advocate the industrial form of organization among the toilers, because experience has shown that the various trades acting singly can not cope with the modern capitalists, who have learned the lesson of industrialism. The coming struggle will be industrial capitalism vs. industrial labor. The capitalists are already organized and beginning to reap the fruits of their foresight. It is now up to the workers to swing into line and present an unbroken front to the enemy.The I.W.W. is a vigorous young organization. The A.F. of L. is slow to move, like all large bodies, but it is advancing toward industrialism... The Agitator will urge upon the rank and file of the trades the dire necessity of quickly adopting the industrial form before their unions are disrupted by the ravages of industrial capitalism, and the result of their fifty years of effort be entirely lost... The Agitator will not attack any set of workers groping towards the light. It will advise with them and appeal to their reason and experience when it thinks they are going in the wrong direction. Its object is to help create that unity of effort and solidarity among the workers necessary to their emancipation... The Agitator will help to banish all of the many varied superstitions handed down from the mystic past as much as its space will permit; but its main object of assault will be the errors surrounding the economic and political life of the people... The Agitator is convinced that so sure as the tendency in modern industry is toward one great combination of capital and one grand union of labor, the inevitable outcome will be a great struggle for mastery, and that great struggle, organized on the economic field, will be fought out there. So it is not going to ally itself with any political movement. It would be glad indeed to espouse the utopian dream of politics, for it has a leaning toward poetry, but its knowledge of evolution, its experience of the past, its observations of the present, are all against it....The duty of every student of the labor question is to study the law of social growth. It will be part of The Agitator’s work to present its readers with articles and pamphlets on this question; and we have no hesitancy in predicting that our studies will lead us to the conclusion that this bug industrial union, now in its infancy, will attend to the change without us bothering about it now. Unions usually strike when they want something. So the inference is strong that the industrial union will strike its way into freedom.
The Agitator will stand for freedom first, last and all the time. It will insist upon the right of every person to express his or her opinion.(11/15/10)
On the 1st of May, 1886, the United Workers of America laid down their tools and said: ‘Ten hours is too long for a workingman to toil each day, we therefore resolve not to again take up our tools until the employers agree to an eight-hour day.’ This was the first attempt at a general strike, and as a walkout it was a fair success. Every man who had promised to strike did so, and many thousands of non-union men and women marched out with their union comrades, and stayed with them until starvation drove them back to the factories and mills again at the old rate and hours. In many instances they won the eight-hour day, but since it did not become general, the employers that agreed to the demands of the workers were forced to return to the ten-hour day, thru the inevitable workings of the law of competition.The eight-hour day did not become an actuality, but a victory of far more importance was achieved by that strike. The workers learned the rudiments of social action upon which future success must be founded – unity, solidarity...once let [the workers] see the possibility of asserting their independence, of achieving their liberties, and of improving their social and economic conditions, and they would never again rest upon their ??? and adjust themselves to the miserable conditions that surround them. To be sure, they had gotten glimpses of this knowledge in previous struggles, especially in the strike of 1871, when they routed the soldiers at Pittsburgh and drove them from the city out into the tall grass; but it required a movement like that of 1886 to fix the matter definitely, and for all time, in the mind and in the traditions of the working class of America....The Haymarket meeting...would not now be one of the leading historic events in the world’s labor movement had not the police attacked it. There was not the slightest excuse for dispersing the meeting, not even from the "law and order" point of view. The strike was in full swing, and the masters had undoubtedly become greatly alarmed at the show of unity and resistance displayed by the workers. The police certainly had special orders to use every means at their command to suppress the strike, law or no law. Law is observed by the authorities only when it can be used to suppress the working man; when it protects him it is ignored.
An unknown hand cast a bomb into the midst of the platoon of police that was descending upon a peaceful and orderly meeting of citizens, gathered together to discuss their just grievances. Eight policemen died as a result of the explosion. Then eight men were coldly and deliberately picked from among the leading, and, consequently, the most "dangerous" Anarchists, and put on trial for murder and conspiracy. No responsibility for the throwing of the bomb was traced to any one of the eight men. The bomb thrower has never been discovered. The law says a case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before conviction can be had. This was a case where the law interfered with the execution of the wishes of the authorities, so it was quietly set aside...(11/15/10)
Background: The Modern School at Stelton, New Jersey, was a child of the early twentieth century anarchist and libertarian education movements. It was inspired by the example of Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer (1859-1909) who had established "modern" or progressive schools in Spain in defiance of an educational system controlled by the church. Fiercely anti-clerical, he believed in "freedom in education," education free from the authority of church and state. Ferrer founded the first Modern School, the Escuela Moderna in Barcelona, in 1901. The school was very successful, and soon branches were started throughout Spain. The Escuela Moderna, which also encompassed an adult education center and radical publishing house, was closed in 1906 when Ferrer was implicated in a plot to assassinate the King of Spain. In October 1909, Ferrer was tried and executed, accused of masterminding the events of the "Tragic Week," July 26 to August 1, 1909, when a workers' protest in Barcelona developed into open rebellion, resulting in the desecration and burning of numerous churches and convents. (1)
Emma Goldman on the Modern School at:
Early in 1886 labor unions were beginning a movement for an eight-hour day. Serious trouble was anticipated and on May 1 many workers struck for shorter hours. An active group of radicals and anarchists became involved in the campaign. Two days later shooting and one death occurred during a riot at the McCormick Harvester plant when police tangled with the rioters.On May 4 events reached a tragic climax at Haymarket Square where a protestmeeting was called to denounce the events of the preceding day. At this meeting,while police were undertaking to disperse the crowd, a bomb was exploded.Policeman Mathias J. Degan died almost instantly and seven other officers died later. Eight men were finally brought to trial and Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of them and the eighth was given fifteen years in prison. Four were hanged, one committed suicide and the sentences of two were commuted from death to imprisonment for life. On June 26, 1893, Governor John P. Altgeld pardoned the three who were in the penitentiary.
The Haymarket Riot statue, a 9-foot bronze of a Chicago policeman of the 1880's, was erected in 1889 near the original site of the riot on Randolph Street near Halsted street as a tribute to the Chicago policemen who lost their lives in the Haymarket square riot of 1886. In 1892, the park district shifted it to Union Park and later relocated it to another spot in Union Park. In 1957 the statue was moved to the northeast corner of the bridge over the Kennedy expressway at Randolph Street. In October, 1969, and again in October of 1970 the statue was blown off of its pedestal in unsolved explosions. In January of 1972 it was moved to the lobby of police headquarters at 1121 S. State Street. Later it was moved to the courtyard of the Police Academy at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd.
The Jay Fox Papers
Born in 1870, Jay Fox was an anarchist and labor radical from Home Colony, Washington. The Fox Collection at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington consists of some 250-300 items purchased by the Library in 1965. The collection includes books, pamphlets, periodicals, and other miscellany such as sheet music, which belonged to Jay Fox. It also includes portions of his unpublished memoirs. The holdings for the book collection can be found on the online catalog.
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) stands as a major figure in the history of American radicalism and feminism. An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women's equality and independence, union organization, and the eight-hour work day. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during World War I led to a two-year imprisonment, followed by her deportation in 1919. For the rest of her life until her death in 1940, she continued to participate in the social and political movements of her age, from the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War.
Chronology of Goldman’s Life at:
Charles Pierce LeWarne, Utopias on Puget Sound 1885-1915 (Seattle, 1995)1. "Home," The Agitator, November 15, 1910.2. LeWarne, Charles Pierce, Utopias on Puget Sound 1885 – 1915, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1995, pp. 171-220.3. "Paper Revolutionists," J.S. Biscay, The Agitator, September 1, 19114. "Greetings to You All," The Agitator, November 15, 1910.5. "The Passing Show," The Agitator, December 1, 1910.6. "Greetings to You All," The Agitator, November 15, 1910.7. "From the Prospectus of Seattle’s Modern School," The Agitator, December 15, 1910.8. "Rational Education," The Agitator, December 1, 1910.9. "Childhood and Revolt," The Agitator, November 15, 1910.10. "What is Industrial Unionism?," The Agitator, December 15, 1910.11. "Strikes and High Wages," The Agitator, December 1, 191012. "Greetings to You All," The Agitator, November 15, 1910.13. "The Chicago Martyrs," Jay Fox, The Agitator, November 15, 1910.14. "Non-Resistance vs. Passive Resistance," R.G., The Agitator, September 1, 191115. "The Political Shell Game," The Agitator, December 1, 1910.16. "Paper Revolutionists," J.S. Biscay, The Agitator, September 1, 1911.17. "The Simpleton Voter," Octav Mirbeau, The Agitator, November 1, 1912.18. "Women and the Ballot," Fred Moe, The Agitator, December 1, 1910.19. "A Free Speech Fight," The Agitator, September 1, 191120. "Arrest of the Editor," Jay Fox, The Agitator, September 1, 191121. "Arrest of the Editor," Jay Fox, The Agitator, September 1, 191122. LeWarne, Charles Pierce, Utopias on Puget Sound 1885 – 1915, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1995, pp. 218-219.23. "The Nude and the Prudes," Jay Fox, The Agitator, July 1, 191124. "The Editor Found Guilty," Jay Fox, The Agitator, January 15, 191225. "The Editor’s Defense," Nathan Levin, The Agitator, January 15, 1912
26. "Anarchism and Other Essays," W.C. Owen, The Agitator, January 15, 1911.
The paper frequently ran articles on anarchist theory, written by famous anarchists. Here, the editors ran a brief article written by Emma Goldman, who visited Home on several occasions.
Although the paper was geared towards the anarchist colony of Home, it also ran articles about International news.
As anarchists, members of Home felt that little could be attained by voting. Rahter, they advocated direct action through strikes.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Heather Gorgura