Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Truth and Socialist Worker

(Tacoma: 1913-1914)


Report by Stephanie Curwick


Abstract: Socialist papers of the Tacoma, Washington area, "TRUTH" & "The Socialist Worker" were lively left-wing papers that called for the "revolution and emancipation of labor from its brutal slavery." These militant socialist papers were critical in exposing problems that capitalism had reaped upon labor.

Dates Published: Exact publication dates unknown. Weekly publication. Printed every Saturday. All remaining issues are four pages in length. These include TRUTH: Vol. 1, no. 29, no. 31, no. 37 (May 3, 1913, May 17, 1913, June 28, 1913) continued as The Socialist Worker: Vol.1, no. 51. Vol.2, no. 6, no. 16 (Oct. 4, 1913, Nov. 22, 1913, Jan. 13, 1914

Publishing Organization: :"TRUTH" - endorsed by the Socialist Party Council Committee. "The Socialist Worker" - owned and controlled by the membership of the Socialist Party.

Editors: "TRUTH" Vol.1, no.29, no.31 - W.E.Reynolds (temp. managing board) Vol.1, no.37 Leslie E. Aller. "The Socialist Worker" Aller continues as editor for first known issue of "SW" (Vol.1, no. 51). E.L. Currier hired as editor (Vol. 2, no. 6) and stays as editor through the last known issue of "SW" (Vol. 2, no. 16)

Location of collection: UW Library: Microfilm [A7240} Incomplete, mostly mutilated and out of focus. Only six issues remain. Total issues published is unknown. At least sixty-two issues are missing.

* * *

"Would you help to abolish crime, disease and despair from the world?
Then abolish poverty which is the cause.
Would you abolish poverty?
Then assist us in abolishing the Wages System, the cause of poverty.
TRUTH conquers all things.
"New times demand new measures and new men;
The world advances, and in time outgrows that in
Our fathers days' were best;
And, doubtless, after us, some purer scheme will
Be shaped out by wiser men than we, made wiser
By the steady growth of TRUTH."

TRUTH, a weekly four page socialist newspaper endorsed by the Socialist Party Council Committee, served as the socialist paper of Tacoma, Washington, where it was published from approximately September, 1912, to September, 1913. It was then renamed as the "Socialist Worker" and the number of issues published is unknown. Only three issues of each publication are available today. Unfortunately, all six issues are mutilated and mostly out of focus; none are in sequential order. Thus, it is impossible to predict if coverage on specific incidents continued from publication to publication.

TRUTH, a lively voice for the socialist party in Tacoma, called for the "revolution and emancipation of labor from its brutal slavery." Such revolution could only be accomplished once labor finally realized the capitalist system had outgrown its usefulness. Contributors to this left-wing paper recognized that the only system that could solve the plight of abused workers worldwide was socialism. However, socialism was only a valid answer if composed of workers, not leaders. Ironically, before the May 3, 1913, issue, authority of this socialist paper remained in only one person's hands. Because of constant criticism from comrades "who were not willing to allow any one individual to have complete control over a paper which was to voice the worker's wants and fight the worker's battles," the editor turned the paper over to a co-operative which pledge "to advocate revolutionary socialism and to fight the battles of the working class in general."

TRUTH contains a vast array of local and national news, poetry, inspirational socialist propaganda, advertisements, and "Mental Ticklers" by John Dequer. Examples of the "Mental Ticklers" include:

*A civilization that cannot hush the wails of hungry children isn't worth a fiddler's dream.*

*Boss beats up a working woman. Out on $100.00 bail. If is was a worker beating up a boss the

bail would be at least $5000.00. Some difference whose ox is gored.*

*Funny how all agitators are ignorant, isn't it?*

*A worker: A human bee who is so busy producing that he does not notice that he is being robbed. When he does catch on - Look out!*

*A saloon: An institution of capitalism to deaden the brains of the worker and cause him to forget his low estate. It is violently opposed by the church until the Socialist begin to threaten its existance [sic], then church and saloon vote the same ticket to continue the game. "By their fruits, ye shall know them."*

*Preacher: A disseminator of mental anesthesia to the working class. Bribed with half fare railroad tickets, and an income directly coming from the masters, he is bound to do the master's bidding or come down from the high estate. Pity the doninie.*

*Faith: A firm belief in that which you do not know.*

Despite its radical messages TRUTH had no trouble attracting Tacoma area advertising, including funeral parlors, furniture, ice cream, hotels, wine, liquor, tailors. One of the more interesting one was from the The Tacoma Artificial Limb company, whose ad read: "If you are a victim of Capitalist Carelessness, see us. We can fix you up at a price that you can afford to pay." Readers of the TRUTH were continuously reminded of the importance of advertisement. "We must learn as never before to use the United Purchasing Power of our dollars through the medium of the advertising columns of our Socialist Press. Never buy from merchants that refuse to advertise in your papers."

Young People

"TRUTH" sought readers of several generations. A "Bulletin of Educational Bureau" appeared in each issue. This column reflected the views of younger members of the socialist party who indeed, were no boy scouts. Edward Heath, a young lad from Washington writes to the editor: "I think it is very wrong for working boys to have to buy a license to go fishing when the rich will never miss the money they pay. I will not salute the flag the way it stands. There is no 'liberty and justice for all' today as they say in the salute. See how they sent a little boy to jail for stealing a bottle of soda water. It was worth five cents and he was sent to the penitentiary for eleven years." The majority of all communications with the editor reflected this anti-capitalist view of America. The "Column of Truth" was composed entirely of unsigned editorials, echoing the plague of capitalism and inspiring socialists throughout Tacoma. "The storm is coming and you had better be pushing the possessions of your oft bragged brain by getting in the organization and preparing for the storm. Think this over. The storm is coming, WAR is almost here and war is HELL," wrote one unknown contributor in the 29th issue of "TRUTH" (May 3, 1913).

Laundry Strike

Two weeks after that editorial, "TRUTH" covered the strike of sixteen laundry girls at Tacoma Steam Laundry. Written by J.E. Sinclair, secretary of the "TRUTH", "The Iron Heel in Tacoma" portrays a harrowing incident at the hands of a capitalist monster. On Tuesday, May 13th, 1913, Mrs. Mary Kilpatrick, widow and mother of a six year old boy, was determined to strike with fifteen other women of the factory. Kilpatrick was attempting to coax a scab into not entering and help break the strike when Jensen, under the authority of the manager, "seized Mrs. Kilpatrick in his brutal arms, smashed her face against the wall and disfigured her for life." Kilpatrick's face was cut to the bone with the sharp end of masonry on the wall. Immediately following this attack, an unknown figure in the building threw two pans of dirty dishwater on her face. Kilpatrick was admitted to the Tacoma General Hospital where she received treatment for her marred body. The National Council of Women Voters instantly endorsed the strike of the laundry girls when they saw Kilpatrick's disfigured face. Sinclair called for a general strike to support the laundry workers:

Stop every wheel that turns in Tacoma until this strike is won. Show the merchants and the manufacturers' association than an injury to one is an injury to all. The manufacturer that you work for everyday is in league with Miller [manager of Tacoma Steam Laundry]. Every lick of work you do helps make them stronger. Every exploiter is your enemy. They have leagued themselves together secretly to crush you. Let us pool our interests too and strike together. They have shed the blood of one of us. The hour demands action.

The importance of purchasing power rings throughout this edition. To help the girls win, it was crucial to both strike together and to not send work to scabs who were effective in keeping the factory open. The strike was also opened complicated racial issues. "Leave your laundry with the Japs. They pay union wages and give the girls tea and cake twice a day. Better be a white slave producer and get paid for it than to send your laundry to a rat shop and help make white slaves," insisted one advertisement.

New Ownership

Between May 17th and June 28th, 1913, "TRUTH" underwent an additional change. Previously owned by Truth Publishing Co., Co-operative, it was now owned and controlled by the membership of the socialist party. "TRUTH" also changed addresses and a new editor, Leslie E. Aller, was hired. The June 28th issue gave no credit to the contributors, nor were any of John Dequer's 'mental ticklers' present. Much of this issues, which appeared a full year before the outbreak of World War I in Europe, focused on the question of compulsory military duty in Washington.

The state legislature in 1909 had passed a law demanding that "every able bodied male citizen . . . who is more than eighteen and less than forty-five years of age shall be subject to military duty". The "TRUTH" questioned why the workers should defend "a system that has robbed and depraved them, and now seeks to lawfully and legally murder them for the benefit of the commercial pirates and book-thirsty vultures whose hearts are as black as the hub of hell, and whose ears are deft to the one's of distress that filled the whole earth." Another attack at personal freedom was short behind. Section 67 declared that any person "who either by himself, or with another, willfully deprives a member of the National Guard of his employment, or dissuades any person from enlisting in the said National Guard shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be fined in the sum not exceeding a $100.00 or imprisoned in the country jail." The effects of Section 67 were far reaching. "TRUTH" realized the effect this had on the working class for if they struck, the National Guard could scab on the workers and they would be forced to keep their mouth shut. "You as a working man must work alongside of a National Guard whom you know if a servant of the master and only awaits the first opportunity to thrust the poison fangs of military despotism into your quivering flesh should you incur the master's wrath."

To counter this measure, "TRUTH" insisted that socialists be elected to the legislature so that such law could be changed. This measure was seen as imperative so long as men wanted to retain their freedom. One anonymous contributor questioned: "Can any person be free so long as they are gagged by such vicious impositions which deprives them of their manhood, stifles their ambition, pollutes their mind, and destroys their respect for the fellow man?"

Socialist Worker

With most of the issues missing, it is impossible to know when "TRUTH" ceased publication and became the "Socialist Worker". Still owned and controlled by the membership of the Socialist Party, the first surviving issue of the new newspaper appeared on October 4, 1913. Whereas the "TRUTH" published cartoons to accompany their articles, "The Socialist Worker" was composed entirely of articles. Though the format of the paper had changed considerably, most notable was the dramatic change in the articles present. "The Socialist Worker" sought to educate its readers from a more diverse national approach; exposing the wrongdoings of capitalism on a national scale. Capitalism was responsible for degenerates, criminals, and prostitutes alike, for poverty was the cause of crime, disease and despair in the world.

Most substantial of the victims of capitalist greed were mother and child. Leslie E. Aller, who continued as editor of the renamed newspaper, writes: "For every crime against the mother and the child, capitalism is to blame. It is the sordid, cankerous ulcer of privation and dissolution; it is the hideous nightmare of despair and gloom that waxes fat on the misery of helpless, hopeless women and the innocence of children". Because women had to serve a master, most likely male, she was constantly subjected to the "animal passions" of men. The full impact of the capitalist system could be seen in the expansion of prostitution, whose end was seen as unlikely if the capitalism system was allowed to continue. In a subsequent issue, Aller writes: "So long as society maintains the present system of wage slavery, there can be no relief. Just so long as women are compelled to serve an economic master, just so long prostitution will flourish, it being a reflex of our present industrial and social conditions." To rid the world of prostitution, capitalism had to be abolished. The one escape was through the united effort of the whole working class.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford announced his famous $5/day wage in 1913 which soon became the subject of a detailed discussion in "The Socialist Worker." Ford Motor Company was under close scrutiny because of their newly announced profit sharing plan that included a sociological department. According to Mr. Couzens, secretary of the company, the sociological department "will keep close watch on the manner of living of all employees, and those found using their extra money in an improper manner will immediately ceased to be beneficiaries under the plan". Ford, owner of Ford Motor Company, believed such plan would "materially improve the standard" of all employees. Though "The Socialist Worker" credited Ford with this insight, it was also realized that it was solely Ford, as owner and proprietor, who was benefiting from such plan. "The Socialist Worker" explains:

Any employer of labor that is farsighted enough to give his employee better wages, shorter hours and better working conditions than those endured by the slaves of his compeers, will always have loyal workmen. They will work with all their might and with all their skill for such a mater, thus increasing his profit to the point where his "benevolence" will have cost him NOTHING.

Tacoma Smelter Strike

Though primarily now concerned with national news, "The Socialist Worker" still gave front page news to issues immediately surrounding the Tacoma area. According to A.H. Barth, who covered the Tacoma Smelter Strike, workers at the smelter were facing pay cuts and a one hour addition to the already eight-hour workday. Notices of such changes were posted on December 26, 1913 and were to be put in effect after January 1, 1914. The men of the smelter voluntarily organized and applied for a charter to the United Mine Workers of America that was eventually granted. This charter strengthened the union to 400 men strong. The spirit of solidarity was so high that scabs were not able to cross the picket lines. The furnaces froze in early January, and the boss was forced to herd 300 unskilled scabs to the smelter through the municipal dock. The storm was upon Tacoma again, and 200 deputies were called to the battlefield. Strikers were urged once again to not let racial or national boundaries divide them, being constantly reminded that an injury to one is an injury to all - the motto of the working class.

Both "The Socialist Worker" and "TRUTH" exposed the horrifying effects of capitalism. Such propaganda was crucial in defining the working class as a separate entity from that of the employing class. Such papers not only served as informational tools, but also as encouragement to assist others in abolishing the wages system through joining the Socialist Party.


Click to enlarge

(May 3, 1913, p.1)


(October 4, 1913, p.1)

Revolutionary Theory and Capitalism

Truth, and latter The Socialist Worker, called for the revolution and emancipation of labor from capitalism.  Many editions contained tracts on revolutionary theory, and other articles warned that the revolution was near.

(November 22, 1913, p.1)

The Class War

Many articles in the paper dealt with workers struggles and battles.  Always framed under the rhetoric of class warfare, these articles were unabashedly pro-worker.

(January 31, 1914, p.1)


Like most of the socialist press, Truth and The Socialist Worker were anti-war.  Here, the authors warn that military service only forces workers to kill other workers.

(June 28, 1913, p.1)