Let them remember,
though, that if I cannot see the fire at the end of their
cigarettes, neither can they thread a needle in the dark. All I ask,
gentlemen, is a fair field and no favor. I have entered the fight
against preparedness and against the economic system under which we
live. It is to be a fight to the finish, and I ask no quarter.
The future of the world rests in the hands of America. The future of
America rests on the backs of 80,000,000 working men and women and
their children. We are facing a grave crisis in our national life.
The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the
workers into an army which will protect the interests of the
capitalists. You are urged to add to the heavy burdens you already
bear the burden of a larger army and many additional warships. It is
in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dread-noughts
and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam
yachts and country estates. You do not neet to make a great noise
about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars
and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All
you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to
straighten up and fold your arms.
We are not preparing to defend our country. Even if we were as
helpless as Congressman Gardner says we are, we have no enemies
foolhardy enough to attempt to invade the United States. The talk
about attack from Germany and Japan is absurd. Germany has its hands
full and will be busy with its own affairs for some generations
after the European war is over.
With full control of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea,
the allies failed to land enough men to defeat the Turks at
Gallipoli; and then they failed again to land an army at Salonica in
time to check the Bulgarian invasion of Serbia. The conquest of
America by water is a nightmare confined exclusively to ignorant
persons and members of the Navy League.
Yet, everywhere, we hear fear advanced as argument for armament. It
reminds me of a fable I read. A certain man found a horseshoe. His
neighbor began to weep and wail because, as he justly pointed out,
the man who found the horseshoe might someday find a horse. Having
found the shoe, he might shoe him. The neighbor's child might some
day go so near the horse's hells as to be kicked, and die.
Undoubtedly the two families would quarrel and fight, and several
valuable lives would be lost through the finding of the horseshoe.
You know the last war we had we quite accidentally picked up some
islands in the Pacific Ocean which may some day be the cause of a
quarrel between ourselves and Japan. I'd rather drop those islands
right now and foret about them than go to war to keep them. Wouldn't
Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States.
It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and
investors in Mexico, South America, China, and teh Philippine
Islands. Incidentally this preparation will benefit the
manufacturers of munitions and war machines.
Until recently there were uses in the United States for the money
taken from the workers. But American labor is exploited almost to
the limit now, and our national resources have all been
appropriated. Still the profits keep piling up new capital. Our
flourishing industry in implements of murder is filling the vaults
of New York's banks with gold. And a dollar that is not being used
to make a slave of some human being is not fulfilling its purpose in
the capitalistic scheme. That dollar must be invested in South
America, Mexico, China, or the Philippines.
It was no accident that the Navy League came into prominence at the
same time that the National City Bank of New York established a
branch in Buenos Aires. It is not a mere coincidence that six
business associates of J.P. Morgan are officials of defense leagues.
And chance did not dictate that Mayor Mitchel chould appoint to his
Committee of Safety a thousand men that represent a fifth of the
wealth of the United States. These men want their foreign
Every modern war has had its root in exploitation. The Civil War was
fought to decide whether to slaveholders of the South or the
capitalists of the North should exploit the West. The
Spanish-American War decided that the United States should exploit
Cuba and the Philippines. The South African War decided that the
British should exploit the diamond mines. The Russo-Japanese War
decided that Japan should exploit Korea. The present war is to
decide who shall exploit the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, India,
China, Africa. And we are whetting our sword to scare the victors
into sharing the spoils with us. Now, the workers are not interested
in the spoils; they will not get any of them anyway.
The preparedness propagandists have still another object, and a very
important one. They want to give the people something to think about
besides their won unhappy condition. They know the cost of living is
high, wages are low, employment is uncertain and will be much more
so when the European call for munitions stops. No matter how hard
and incessantly the people work, they often cannot afford the
comforts of life; many cannot obtain the necessities.
Every few days we are given a new war scare to lend realism to their
propaganda. They have had us on the verge of war over the Lusitania,
the Gulflight, the Ancona, and now they want the workingmen to
become excited over the sinking of the Persia. The workingman has no
interest in any of these ships. The Germans might sink every vessel
on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and kill Americans
with every one--the American workingman would still have no reason
to go to war.
All the machinery of the system has been set in motion. Above the
complaint and din of the protest from the workers is heard the voice
"Friends," it says, "fellow workmen, patriots; your country is in
danger! There are foes on all sides of us. There is nothing between
us and our enemies except the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Look at what has happened to Belgium. Consider the fate of Serbia.
Will you murmur about low wages when your country, your very
liberties, are in jeopardy? What are the miseries you endure
compared to the humiliation of having a victorious German army sail
up the East River? Quit your whining, get busy and prepare to defend
your firesides and your flag. Get an army, get a navy; be ready to
meet the invaders like the loyal-hearted freemen you are."
Will the workers walk into this trap? Will they be fooled again? I
am afraid so. The people have always been amenable to oratory of
this sort. The workers know they have no enemies except their
masters. They know that their citizenship papers are no warrant for
the safety of themselves or their wives and children. They know that
honest sweat, persistent toil and years of struggle bring them
nothing worth holding on to, worth fighting for. Yet, deep down in
their foolish hearts they believe they have a country. Oh blind
vanity of slaves!
The clever ones, up in the high places know how childish and silly
the workers are. They know that if the government dresses them up in
khaki and gives them a rifle and starts them off with a brass band
and waving banners, they will go forth to fight valiantly for their
own enemies. They are taught that brave men die for their country's
honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction--the lives of millions
of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life;
existence made hideous for still more millions of human being; the
achievement and inheritance of generations swept away in a
moment--and nobody better off for all the misery! This terrible
sacrifice would be comprehensible if the thing you die for and call
country fed, clothed, housed and warmed you, educated and cherished
your children. I thinkthe workers are the most unselfish of the
children of men; they toil and live and die for other people's
country, other people's sentiments, other people's liberties and
other people's happiness! The workers have no liberties of their
own; they are not free when they are compelled to work twelve or ten
or eight hours a day. they are not free when they are ill paid for
their exhausting toil. They are not free when their children must
labor in mines, mills and factories or starve, and when their women
may be driven by poverty to lives of shame. They are not free when
they are clubbed and imprisoned because they go on strike for a
raise of wages and for the elemental justice that is their right as
We are not free unless the men who frame and execute the laws
represent the interests of the lives of the people and no other
interest. The ballot does not make a free man out of a wage slave.
there has never existed a truly free and democratic nation in the
world. From time immemorial men have followed with blind loyalty the
strong men who had the power of money and of armies. Even while
battlefields were piled high with their own dead they have tilled
the lands of the rulers and have been robbed of the fruits of their
labor. They have built palaces and pyramids, temples and cathedrals
that held no real shrine of liberty.
As civilization has grown more complex the workers have become more
and more enslaved, until today they are little more than parts of
the machines they operate. Daily they face the dangers of railroad,
bridge, skyscraper, frieght train, stokehold, stockyard, lumber raft
and min. Panting and training at the docks, on the railroads and
underground and on the seas, they move the traffic and pass from
land to land the precious commodities that make it possible for us
to live. And what is their reward? A scanty wage, often poverty,
rents, taxes, tributes and war indemnities.
The kind of preparedness the workers want is reorganization and
reconstruction of their whole life, such as has never been attempted
by statesmen or governments. The Germans found out years ago that
they could not raise good soldiers in the slums so they abolished
the slums. They saw to it that all the people had at least a few of
the essentials of civilization--decent lodging, clean streets,
wholesome if scanty food, proper medical care and proper safeguards
for the workers in their ocupations. That is only a small part of
what should be done, but what wonders that one step toward the right
sort of preparedness has wrought for Germany! For eighteen months it
has kept itself free from invasion while carrying on an extended war
of conquest, and its armies are still pressing on with unabated
vigor. It is your business to force these reforms on the
Administration. Let there be no more talk about what a government
can or cannot do. All these theings have been done by all the
belligerent nations in the hurly-burly of war. Every fundamental
industry has been managed better by the governments than by private
It is your duty to insist upon still more radical measure. It is
your business to see that no child is employed in an industrial
establishment or mine or store, and that no worker in needlessly
exposed to accident or disease. It is your business to make them
give you clean cities, free from smoke, dirt and congestion. It is
your business to make them pay you a living wage. It is your
business to see that this kind of preparedness is carried into every
department on the nation, until everyone has a chance to be well
born, well nourished, rightly educated, intelligent and serviceable
to the country at all times.
Strike against all ordinances and laws and institutions that
continue the slaughter of peace and the butcheries of war. Srike
against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike
against manufacturing scrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of
murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to
millions of human being. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of
destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.