Everything Is Just Dandy!

Alexander Berkman – The Blast Vol. I, No. 3

The Anarchist Library

Author: Alexander Berkman
Title: The Blast Vol. I, No. 3
Subtitle: San Francisco, Saturday, January 29, 1916
Date: January 29, 1916
Notes: Alexander Berkman, Editor and Publisher; E. B. Morton, Associate Editor; M. E. Fitzgerald, Manager
Source: Retrieved on September 22, 2022 from https://archive.org

Resistance to Oppression

Labor, organized as well as unorganized, owes a debt to those within its ranks who have had the daring to resist the master class in defense of the working class.

It is tragic to see labor leaders and their editors repudiating the McNamaras, Ford and Suhr, Quinlan, Schmidt or Joe Hill on the plea that Organized Labor cannot “afford to encourage violence.”

It is this cringing slave philosophy, this repudiation of the fighting spirit of Labor, which has given the employing class almost unlimited opportunity for violence by proxy; that is, through hired gunmen, police, the courts and similar agencies.

Ford and Suhr gave life and impetus to the California Commission on Housing and immigration, and the Federal Commission on Industrial Relations was virtually created as a result of the McNamaras’ war.

The report of the latter Commission contains a radical analysis of industrial conditions, the import of which Labor has not as yet fully digested.

From Chapter VIII we quote as follows:

“The general effect of the decisions of American courts, however, has been to restrict the activities of labor organizations and deprive them of their most effective weapons, namely, the boycott and the power of picketing, while on the other hand the weapons of employers, namely, the power of arbitrary discharge, of blacklisting, and of bringing in strikebreakers, have been maintained and legislative attempts to restrict the employers’ powers have generally been declared unconstitutional by the courts. Furthermore, an additional weapon has been placed in the hands of the employers by many courts in the form of sweeping injunctions, which render punishable acts which would otherwise be legal, and also result in effect in depriving the workers of the right to jury trial.”

After expressing grave doubts as to the efficacy of the Clayton Act, the report declares all efforts to restrict the rights and powers of the employers to correspond in substance with those allowed trade unions, have failed absolutely—not only on account of the intervention of the courts, but on account of the ineffectiveness of legislation against blacklisting and arbitrary discharge.

As Labor admittedly has all the worst of the law, and no possible redress through it, why in the name of common sense should Labor be law-abiding? On the subject of violence we quote from the Industrial Relations Commission report: “Violence is seldom, if ever, spontaneous, but arises from a conviction that fundamental rights are denied and that peaceful methods of adjustment cannot be used. * * * The arbitrary suppression of violence by force produces only resentment which will rekindle into greater violence when opportunity offers. Violence can be prevented only by removing the cause of violence; industrial peace can rest only upon industrial justice. * * * Throughout history where a people or a group have been arbitrarily denied rights which they conceived to be theirs, reaction has been inevitable.”

Violence is a natural form of protest against injustice.”

“No strike can be won if the employer can operate his plant without difficulty.”

“When governmental institutions are thus corrupted and used as instruments of oppression, men can only resist with such power as they have, not alone for the protection of themselves and their families but for the preservation of the fundamental rights of themselves and their fellow citizens.”

The peaceable and orderly progress of civilization is a social myth. It was invented thousands of years ago by masters who had found that fooling the slaves involved less personal risk and strenuous effort than the application of the lash.

As faithfulness to the master class and conspicuous ability to subdue rebellious sentiment was the only condition upon which a slave overseer might be released from his own bondage in ancient times, so it is now.

The climbers within the ranks of Labor, provided the masters think them safe, sane and conservative, emancipate themselves from toil and generally graduate into political jobs. To them Labor is not Vision—it is a living.

Can You Prove It?

We radicals are constantly being accused of making assertions without proof. For instance, if you should declare, with Dr. Chapman, that “Government is an organized system of exploitation within a given territory,” you would instantly be challenged to prove your statement. “For this government is conceived in liberty,” the infatuated patriot will say. Yet, in spite of that, you can prove your definition true even for this country. Or, rather, a university professor has already done it for you. Merely say: “Allow me to suggest, my friend, that you read a book by the eminent Prof. Charles A. Beard, of Columbia University, called ‘An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution.’ You will then be convinced that the ‘fathers of the Constitution’ established it mainly so that they themselves and others of similar interests could speculate in government securities, could collect high rates of interest from hard-working farmers, could gain fortunes by buying up Western lands which the work of other men would make valuable, and could exploit men and women in manufactures and commerce.”