Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 24 January 1920
Price of Peace, A Red Peace
Once more we are reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s dictum that the nation could not exist part SLAVE and part FREE.
The analogy between chattel slavery and the freedom that exists under wage-labor should be a thousand times emphasized when the conflict is between civilization and Bolshevism—a political and economic order of society which banishes both capital and wage-labor and makes, being addicted to work, the basis of citizenship and of the right to draw goods to satisfy all needs from the product of the common social labor.
Long, we were satisfied that neither the workers nor the non-workers were understanding what the Socialists and the Communists were advocating as a better order of society. The events in Russia have, however, removed the Socialist propaganda from the field of idealism and academic discussion to the realm of fact and actuality. The bourgeoisie, to use the term as including all but the workers, now thoroughly understand the menace of Socialism or Communism or Bolshevism. It means an experiment, a venture into the unknown with all the uncertainty which ever attaches to any attempt to create, anew, untried institutions. It means the destruction of status as an institution. Mr. Bullet tells that Clemenceau gave as his reason for not meeting the Bolshevik, that it would put them on equality with himself, a thing that was impossible.
When the Allies signed the armistice they were near to exhaustion. To fight Bolshevism they rendered assistance to the counter revolution in Russia in the Kolchak, Denekin and Yudenich campaigns, by expeditions to Eastern Siberia and the White Sea, and by the blockade and by support to Finland, Letticia [Lithuania?], Estonia, Poland, Romania and the new Slavic States, on Russia’s western borders. To suppress Bolshevism, all these expedients have failed. The terrible, fanatical soldiers of the Red armies have reacted as was to be expected, and are masters of practically the whole of ancient Russia with the exception of the west, where people alien to the Russians live. It is a war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.
To those who believe that the present order is the natural order “Bolshevism is the enemy of mankind.” What to do and what not to do “passeth all understanding.” If Europe, now on the point of exhaustion, determines to spend the last dollar in the fight and turns near-exhaustion into complete collapse she will not be able to feed her armies, and unfed armies must, perforce, turn Bolshevik. If money is borrowed from Uncle Samuel, the full toll must be paid and a former titled personage with no assets but a hard luck story, receives pity only, and with the pity goes contempt. If a third alternative, that of intervention is followed; the capitalism must follow its laws and again Uncle Samuel calls for the pound of flesh stipulated in the bond, when a relatively prosperous Russia may be too attractive for the workers and peasants of Europe, laboring to pay the war debt. Then America would be compelled to fight Europe, in which case Canada would be a somewhat uncomfortable home for a worker.
The culture of Russia in Europe is a European culture, but a large portion of her population is Asiatic or Oriental with the unfathomable culture of the east. All facts point in the direction of a rapid and friendly assimilation of the principles of Bolshevism by the Chinese and if Bolshevism fits into the Chinese scheme of things it will also strike the Oriental fancy of the people of India and Japan. The fanaticism which goes with a complete change of institutions worked out under the stress of a life and death struggle has always been an urge which has driven peoples to conquer. “The sword,” cried Mahomet, “is the Key to heaven and hell.” That, or a similar war cry, pealing its echo in every Oriental heart, would snuff out western civilization like a candle. Five hundred millions of Chinese, three hundred millions of Indians, and many millions more of yellow men, aroused from their slumbers of centuries, with wrongs and insults to avenge, is too terrible a spectre to contemplate.
As a beginning to unravel the tangle, the O.B.U. Bulletin recommends that civilization fires, right away her Lloyd Georges, her Clemenceau, her Wilsons, her Bordens, drops the secret diplomacy of her elderly statesmen, puts into power , as the heads of her democracies, some men who have done some things and have done them well. Let these men carefully consider the situation and then do their best afterwards. At least such men would not be muckers.
The Voice of History
“In England, if our great authors should prostitute their abilities by inculcating servile opinions that danger would no doubt be considerable, because other parts of society might find it difficult to escape the contagion. Still before the corruption had spread there would be time to stop its course so long as we possessed those free political institutions by the mere mention of which the generous imagination of a bold people is easily fired.
And although such institutions are the consequence not the cause of liberty, they do unquestionably react upon it and from the force of habit they could for a while survive that from which they originally sprung. So long as a country retains its political freedom there will always remain associations by which even in the midst of mental degradation and out of the depths of the lowest superstition the minds of men may be recalled to better things. But in France such associations had no existence. In France everything was for the governors and nothing for the governed. There was neither free press nor free parliament, nor free debates. There was no public meeting[s], there was no popular suffrage; there was no discussion on the hastings, there was no habeas corpus act, there was no trial by jury. The voice of liberty, thus silenced in every department of state could only be heard in the appeals of those great men who by their writings inspired the people to resistance.
“There can be no doubt that rebellion is the last remedy against tyranny, and that a despotic system should be encountered by revolutionary literature. The upper classes were to blame, because they struck the first blow; but we must by no means measure those great men, who having defended themselves from aggression, eventually succeeded in smiting the government by whom the aggression was originally made.” - From Henry Thomas Buckle’s “History of Civilization in England,” vol. 2, pages 179 and 198.
What is the Matter with Europe
Of late the American financiers have been overrun by European dukes and bankers, businessmen and statesmen who have presented pitiful appeals for financial assistance. They have all had the same sorrowful tale to tell, that if Europe did not get American financial assistance, Bolshevism was sure to appear. One of the recent emissaries from the European financiers is Sir George Paish. Addressing the annual meeting of the Philadelphia group of the Pennsylvania Bankers’ association, which was attended by many New York financiers, Sir George said he was in the United States as a private citizen to try to present a breakdown in exchange.
“If a breakdown were to come,” he said, “it would mean not only a breakdown of the exchanges of commerce, but it would promote that condition of anarchy which no one can look forward to without feelings of the gravest anxiety. We must at all costs prevent that breakdown, which seems to be so near. When I say so near, I would remind you that the exchanges have already fallen and fallen most seriously.”
The British expert said that if the exchanges were permitted to break down and anarchy followed a very large part of Europe would be starved.
Since 1914 the European nations have taken American credits into their financial system much the same as a person addicted to drugs takes his daily squirt of dope. The situation now is this, that if no more credits are forthcoming the European nations, having become so inflated with the American credits that they cannot live without it, will become bankrupt if it is stopped.
Sir George Paish perceives that a doomsday is approaching for European finance, and for if possible, to prolong the life of the old institutions, he asks the Yankee bankers for another “squirt” of financial dope. And the Yankee bankers are in the happy position that they can almost choose whether they want their patients to die through getting an overdose of financial “dope” or getting none at all.
However, if the situation could be solved simply by extending further credits to Europe, these credits would no doubt be granted. But such a move can solve nothing. It will only make the next crisis more severe.
What then is the matter with old Europe? On this point Sir George Paish is silent, but other spokesmen have at various times told us that what is needed is increased production.
“Increased production.” Can Europe get that, everything will be fixed, the debts will be paid, exchange will become normal, and society will be saved. But increased production is the very solution that Europe cannot attain, because the incentive to increased production has been destroyed because the workers of Europe have been exploited too mercilessly, too greedily and too long, to have any interest in increasing production. The working classes of Europe are in much the same position as a hired horse. The life of the master can only be saved by riding the horse to death. But the horse wants oats and it wants rest.
This cry of increased production is no new cry. Other periods in mankind’s history had their cry for “increased production,” but to no avail, because the slaves of those days also needed rest before they could produce more.
There was Rome in all her splendor. Gibbons says that everything from the four corners of the earth went to the master class in Rome, but when Rome declined the only article she had for export was dung. Had it been possible to get out of the slaves and the Plebeians an increased production, the master class might have survived a longer period.
Then there was France, before the Great Revolution. Thousands of peasants swarmed the country because the nobility had taxed and sweated them out of their cottages. The historian remarks about these times that “the flour which could have filled the stomachs of the poor was wasted as powder on the wigs of the rich.”
Under the feudal system the peasant had no mind to work hard, because he knew that the harder he worked the more he was taxed. They even had a proverb: “It is better to sleep yourself warm than to work yourself poor.” So when that system broke down hard work was the very thing the robber barons needed most and could not get.
And today, after the prodigious efforts of the working classes in the European countries during the war, the Bourgeois apologists propose to the workers that they work still harder so that the capitalist class shall not suffer any loss in dividends.
But the demand of the owners of the means of wealth production for increased output is already countered and downed by the workers’ cry for shorter hours and more pay and part or whole control of the production process.
The master class of former ages could not rob their people of more than what the people possessed and neither can the master class of today get more work out of the workers because the incentive to work under capitalism has gone by. The industrial community of Europe has been robbed so bare faced that there is absolutely no incentive left for to work. In plain English: The game is up.
What is the matter with Europe is indeed that the production will not keep step with the demand. The increased production wished for will not be attained by working those harder who are already in the mills, mines and factories but by lopping off parasites and have them do useful work.
As Rome grew, her parasites also grew. Every rich man in Rome had a bunch of parasites hanging around who did nothing useful except singing their master’s praise and attending to his person in exchange for three square meals a day. There was a steady increase in the number of parasites as Rome grew in power and wealth, and those who provided the three square meals had to work hard to keep it going.
As feudalism grew, the power of the kings and nobility increased. The population of France was slowly starving to death because the king and his parasites ate everything up. When the bust up came, many of the fine folks had to go to work.
And the situation in Europe today is simply this, that those who have done the productive work have labored hard to foot the bill while those who have wasted the good things produced by the workers have had a fine time. That fine time is about up.
The old institutions of Europe have outgrown their usefulness and new ones will be evolved to take their place. When this bust up in Europe is over, we will see fewer parasites and more useful workers.
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