New occasions bring new dutiessings Lowell in his immortal poem, "The Crisis." The textile workers of Lawrence had won a great victory, to the material advantage of themselves and their fellow workers. But the arrests of Ettor and Giovannitti left them with new duties to perform; to their own victory they now had to add the liberation of their wrongly imprisoned leaders. The movement inaugurated by them for this purpose may, at some future time, impress the historian as being more significant than their original revolt itself. Especially is this true of the general strike, inaugurated in behalf of the two men and Caruso. This general strike did not involve, primarily, a bread and butter issue. It was not a spontaneous outbreak against starvation and degradation. It was a moral protest, a patient method of righting a wrong done, not to the workers themselves, but to their chosen representatives and mouthpieces. Further, it took place, not in the white heat of an irrepressible eruption, but at a time when strikes generally are impossible because of reaction and disorganizationa time eight months after the event and many months after a victory, when indignation and enthusiasm are both generally spent, and exhaustion and indifference prevail instead. Finally, the general strike was not local; it was widespread, and, at one period, assumed serious proportions.
The incidents leading up to and attending the Ettor-Giovannitti general strike were not without dramatic, nay, tragic, intensity. These often possessed an uplifting fervor like that of the spiritual ecstasy of a religious crusade. They could not be otherwise, as they were born of deep ethical feelingsof a sense of outraged justice instead of physical need.
The general strike, as a means to free Ettor and Giovannitti, was first urged at the end of the Lawrence strike. "Open the jail doors or we will close the mill gates"thus was inscribed one of the banners welcoming home to Lawrence the children who had been sent to New York and elsewhere. There was some doubt about the propriety of carrying this banner. But the radicals prevailed over the conservatives; so the banner was flung to the breeze, with all that that implied. The implication was not grasped at once. Nor was it believed, until the very last moment, that the implication would ever be a realizationthat a general strike for Ettor and Giovannitti would really ever take place. General strikes for the liberation of imprisoned leaders are rarities in this country. Only once before, in the case of the Tampa, Fla., cigarworkers, had it been invokedand then with success. In France, it has freed Durand, a laborer, accused, like Ettor and Giovannitti, of inciting to murder during a labor dispute. Now, as ever, the germs of big movements, like the seeds of great plants, are often hid in the most unpromising looking soil; the soil in which, however, they flourish most.
Under these circumstances, the idea of a general strike was, to all appearances, lost in the customary preparations for a formal, legal defense. Even this defense was launched amid difficulties. An Ettor-Giovannitti Defense Committee was organized, consisting of Wm. D. Haywood, Wm. E. Trautman, secretary; Wm. Yates, treasurer; Thomas Holliday, Edmundo Rossoni, Ettor Giannini, James P. Thompson, Guido Mazerreli, Francis Miller, August Detollenaire, Josephine Liss and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Most of these men and women were involved in the leadership of the many New England textile strikes which the Lawrence victory inspired. Some were indicted for conspiracy in connection with the Lawrence strike and were staying outside of the state in order to continue their efforts in Labor's behalf, unhampered by legal chicanery. Still others were struggling with the local problems of adjustment which always arise under new conditions; especially following an upheaval such as Lawrence had undergone. To all this must be added differences in temperament and policy between Trautman and Yates, the two men in active charge. As a consequence of all of the foregoing, the legal defense suffered from lack of continued and undivided attention at its inception. However, all this was gradually overcome. The numerous strikes subsided, the local problems were adjusted, and a greater co-operation sprung up between the local and national textile unions of the I. W. W. and the general administration of the latter. Long before the close of the trial, all these elements were working without the friction, which, at one time, was quite serious.
The Ettor-Giovannitti defense was organized along three lines: a legal, a publicity and a financial department. All three were growths, dictated largely by the exigencies of the defense. Geo. W. Roewer, Jr., of the Boston firm of Roewer and Mucci, was the foundation stone of the legal department. He was the first legal representative of the Lawrence strikers and fought their cases for them in the local court. At the preliminary trial of Ettor and Giovannitti, in Lawrence, he secured the services of John P. S. Mahoney, of the well-known Lawrence firm of criminal lawyers, Mahoney & Mahoney, for Ettor, and Thos. Lynch of Boston, Mass., for Giovannitti. Later, Caruso was indicted and arrested; Ex-Judge James Sisk of Lynn, Mass., was secured in his behalf, and W. Scott Peters, ex-district attorney of Essex County, residing at Haverhill, Mass., was put in place of Lynch as counsel for Giovannitti. Ex-Judge O. N. Hilton, of Denver, Colo., famous legal authority and one of the attorneys for Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone, acted in a general advisory capacity. Finally, Fred J. Moore, of Los Angeles, Cal., general counsel for the I. W. W., entered the case. Thus six lawyers in allRower, Mahoney, Sisk, Peters, Hilton and Moorerepresented the legal department.
The publicity department was in charge of Justus Ebert, for the press, and Benj. Legere, for public speaking and general agitation purposes. The publicity department, at one time, supplied nearly 1,000 publications daily with "write-ups." These were most largely used by the Italian, the radical bourgeois, the Socialist, and the labor press in the order given. That is to say, the best supporter of the Ettor-Giovannitti defense was the Italian press, regardless of class interests or political belief. The work of this branch of the publicity department met with the endorsement of men in a position to observe and appreciate its influence. No doubt it contributed some to the liberation of the three men.
Through Legere, extensive tours for prominent speakers were mapped out; that of Miss Elizabeth Gurley Flynn being especially noteworthy. Much agitation was started and funds raised by means of them. Legere deserves special credit for his agitational work in Essex County, from which the jury was drawn. He did much of the agitation here himself; speaking, arranging and advertising meetings, interesting newspapers, organizing defense leagues, initiating general strike and other movements. He had the assistance of Miss Flynn and Rev. Roland D. Sawyer, Socialist party candidate for Governor, in arousing Essex County and moulding opinion. The results speak for their combined efficiency.
The financial department was, at first, a part of the National Textile Union of the I. W. W.; the funds, under the original call, being also contributed for its upbuilding in the face of the attacks of New England's textile capitalism. Later, the funds were segregated and Fred W. Heslewood was placed in principal charge by the general administration of the I. W. W., with Yates as co-worker. This department circularized unions and paid out all disbursements. The greatest care was exercised; and no bill got by that was excessive or fraudulent. Sixty thousand dollars were thus received and expended. The biggest part of this amount came from Italian sources; the Italian Mine Workers' local unions, among whom Ettor did much helpful work at various times, being among the principal contributors.
At the time of the trial, all the men either in charge of the defense or in its employ, were, with the exception of the lawyers, workingmen. Yates is a weaver; Heslewood, miner; Ebert, lithographer; Legere, machinist, and Coppens, Chadwick, Guthrie and Benkowski are weavers.
The work of the defense received much support from the working class in general. This came through the formation of Ettor-Giovannitti Defense Conferences, composed of representatives of Socialist, labor and progressive organizations. All the large and principal cities had such conferences. New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and other cities were thus organized. Big protest parades and demonstrations were held, at which the attention of all liberty-loving and right-minded persons were called to the outrages perpetrated against labor and its leaders, and Labor was urged to act in their behalf. At a big meeting in Cooper Union, New York, May 21, Morris Hillquit was compelled, by the logic of events, to speak in favor of the I. W. W. from the same platform, where, months before, he had condemned it.
Especially noteworthy was the meeting held in Boston, on the Common, on Sept. 15. Two special trains containing 2,700 passengers left Lawrence to take part. All the surrounding industrial cities and towns, within a 40 mile radius of Boston, were represented. It was the largest and most imposing demonstration ever held in the Hub. As it occurred right in the shadow of the State Building, and in the center of New England's textile manufacturies, the Boston demonstration made a great and favorable impression in behalf of the three prisoners.
Many of the banners carried in this demonstration are worth notice. One read, "Christ died on the Cross, Bruno was Burned at the Stake, Ferrer Shot in the Ditch, Emmet was Hanged in Dublin. Are Ettor and Giovannitti to be Murdered in the Electric Chair?"
This protest movement was by no means national; it spread to Europe, Australia, Canada, Hawaii, Cuba, Panama and even Argentine. The Swedish workingmen proposed a European boycott of American products and a strike against all ships destined for American ports, as a means of bringing pressure to bear to secure liberation. This idea was seconded by French and Australian transport workers' organizations. Its probable practical application worried American commercial interest not a little, as it would have meant much to them in the present acute state of world-competition. In Italy, governmental interpellations by Socialist deputies, general strikes, demonstrations against American consulates, and the nomination of Giovannitti for parliament, were the order of the day. The Italian movement in behalf of the three men was the cause of much diplomatic correspondence. It is well known by the defense that President Taft personally interested himself in the case and was visited by Italians at his summer home at Beverly, Mass., in regard thereto. In brief, the international movement, with its boycotts, resolutions of protest, and international complications, exerted considerable economic and political influence in behalf of the three prisoners.
At all protest demonstrations the general strike was advocated and urged. The general strike movement was formally launched at a meeting held in Providence, R. I., at which Haywood, Heselwood, Yates and others prominent in the defense, were present. It was given great impetus during the last week in August, when President Wm. M. Wood of the Woolen Trust, Fred E. Atteaux, president of the Atteaux Supply Company, and a close friend of Wood's, and Dennis J. Collins, a dog fancier of Cambridge, were indicted, arrested and held on a charge of conspiracy to "plant" dynamite in order to discredit the Lawrence strike. This was the same "plant" for which Breen had been fined, as told in the preceding chapter. These arrests came as a result of the confession of Ernest W. Pittman, President of the Pittman Construction Company, a neighbor of Wood at Andover, who built the Wood Mills at Lawrence and other textile plants of note. He "coughed up" to District Attorney Pellietier of Boston during an exhilarating dissipation at Young's Hotel, one of the Hub's most exclusive hostelries. He betrayed the fact that the conspiracy had been planned in the Boston offices of the textile corporations. When Pittman sobered up he realized he had made an awful mistake and so went and killed himself. District Attorney Pellieter is believed to have found Pittman's confession useful to his political ambitions, for he was an aspirant for gubernatorial honors against Governor Foss, but was subsequently defeated by the latter.
These arrests, together with the suicide of Pittman, created a veritable sensation in favor of the liberation of Ettor, Giovannitti and Caruso. Especially was this so when the contrast in the cases on each side was made. Ettor, Giovannitti and Caruso had been summarily arrested and detained in prison for months; Wood and Breen did not spend one minute in confinement; bail and all the necessaries to release were arranged for them in advance. Wood thought so little of the whole affair that he smiled as the newspaper men photographed him. Further interest was aroused when the Boston grand jury's investigations continued and threatened to overhaul the entire Lawrence strike situation once more. As a result of such actions, Joseph J. Donohue, Boston American reporter at Lawrence, became involved in the dynamite conspiracy, but was not indicted. Ex-City Marshall James T. O'Sullivan of Lawrence, a witness before the Boston grand jury, made the startling statement that all the trouble in Lawrence could be laid at the doors of a combination of politicians and mill-men and not the strikers. All of which events proved; and all of which aroused interest in the general strike to a pitch. In all New England's textile centers, in the mining centers of Pennsylvania, the shoe centers of Haverhill and Lynn, the quarries at Barre, Vermont, and Quincy, Mass., and other important industrial points, the general strike movement sprang up and flourished. It grew ever more extensive and threatening.
But it was in Lawrence itself where this movement was strongest. Here is gathered such volume and impetus as to refuse to yield to the restraint of the most powerful influences, as we shall soon see. On Sept. 12 a rousing meeting was held on "The Lots," a big vacant space at the corner of Chestnut and Short Streets. Following this meeting a parade was organized and the vast audience of seven thousand, led by a flag and singing the Internationale, took possession of the Common, which had been denied them. As the police were absent everything passed off orderly, proving once more that they are the only inciters to riot.
Various meetings were also held subsequently to discuss the situation and prepare for action. The authorities tried to suppress all large meetingsin fact, everything productive of mass action. But such was the pressure of events that finally they gave a permit for a mass meeting to be held on Amesbury Street, south of Essex, on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Long before the hour appointed, these thoroughfares were jammed with thousands of interested workmen and women. But no meeting was held. Instead all present adjourned to Lexington Hall, I. W. W. headquarters, on Lawrence Street. Here, from the windows, an immense gathering was addressed in various tongues by Miss Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Carlo Tresca and others. They read letters from Ettor and Giovannitti, urging that the general strike be abandoned for the present. Ettor argued that the general strike "would tend to prejudice public opinion"; Giovannitti thought the price in misery to the workers too great to pay and counseled delay until the trial would demonstrate its necessity. The general committee of Local 20, I. W. W., endorsed the advice thus given "in order that the Massachusetts courts might have an opportunity to demonstrate the fairness that the master class boasts they have."
The following morning the Lawrence newspapers could not hide their elation. They came out in big headlines, "No Strike; General Committee, I. W. W., Votes Against It." And the business element of Lawrence could almost be heard to heave a sigh of relief. "No general strike" meant continued mill exploitation and profits in sales to the mill workers for them. But all concerned reckoned without their hosts. Though the workers had apparently acquiesced in the advice given by Ettor and Giovannitti, whom they revered, they were plainly disappointed, deeply so. They were so set on action in behalf of their imprisoned leaders and fellow-workers that to be denied the opportunity were worse than defeat by the enemy. They did not believe in the letters read; so a committee visited Lawrence Jail to find out if they were genuine. They got others, of the same kind. The workers thereupon proceeded to act on their own account; they ignored the advice, they set aside the action of the Central Committee and their affection and proceeded with determinationthe industrial democracy reasserted itself once more, the general strike took place; the Woolen Trust and other big mills were closed down, 15,000 to 20,000 textile workers were out in Lawrence on Sept. 29, when Ettor, Giovannitti and Caruso went to trial. Other large cities, especially in Massachusetts, were affected and the public impression was stupendous. A cause so powerful, so deep, cannot be trifled with, as we shall again see, in our account of the trial. The general strike exerted a great influence.
Of course, the general strike was not inaugurated without difficulties; nor was it free from attempts at repression or consequences of various kinds. The advice given in the prison letters was at first a cause of friction and division; but this was not fundamental enough to be insurmountable. The rank and file prevailed; and the I. W. W. wisely stood behind them both locally and nationally; so that a united front against the common enemy was the final outcome. This was necessary; for the enemy was prepared. "Lay-offs" and large stocks were the rule, in preparation for the event. Short weaves were put in looms, new locks and bolts put in doors, and private detectives hired from Boston to prevent sabotage in the mills. The Wood Mill, the largest in Lawrence, had suffered, since the Lawrence strike, a decrease of 12 per cent in efficiency. This meant a loss of three-quarters to one million dollars annually, primarily through sabotage. The latter was a factor in the trial; for the superintendent of this mill, together with fifteen other mill superintendents, it is reported, expressed a willingness to go on the stand to testify in favor of the three men, provided this condition of affairs would cease. As it was, one of the leading officials of the American Woolen Co. did go on the stand for the defense; as also did a close friend of the capitalist indicted for dynamite "planting," "Billy" Wood, Mr. Atteaux. All of which is noteworthy.
Thus it came about that there was much brutality by private detectives hired by the mill-owners during the general strike. These, at the inception of the general strike, attacked the more active of the mill employees in favor of the general strike with long clubs, loaded with lead, and drove them out of the mills, inflicting many injuries. The police also acted with ferocity. They drove 200 men and women up a blind alley near the Arlington Mills and attacked them without mercy. One policeman was shot and many workers wounded in other fracases. In Lynn and Haverhill bloody encounters also took place, and many arrests were made.
But most significant of all were the aftermaths of the general strike. These were, first, the threat of the mill-owners to black-list all the active spirits. This was met by a counter-threat to move 1,000 textile workers from Lawrence at once. The mill-owners gave in instantly. They did want a shortage of labor. They caused it to be known that all hands would be re-employed without discrimination. Second, there was the famous (sic) "God and Country" agitation. This was an attempt to arouse religious and patriotic sentiments against the I. W. W. It was an appeal to prejudice, in which physical force was urged. Father Reilly, the consistent follower of the "Prince of Peace," the meek and lowly Christ, was the holy backer of this crusade. The I. W. W. was to be run out of town, tarred and feathered, a in San Diego. To this end, a great flag demonstration and parade was arranged for Columbus Day, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1912, the flag display to last one month. Mayor Scanlon gave warning that no I. W. W. buttons would be allowed in the parade; that anyone seen wearing them would be yanked out of line without ceremony.
But this and similar incitements to riot, in the name of "God and Country" that is, dynamite planting capitalists and crooked politicians, failed. The I. W. W. served warning on Mayor Scanlon that it would hold him and "his" city government individually and collectively responsible for injuries to I. W. W. members. None occurred. A counter agitation was also started. Cards and leaflets were issued exposing the true import of "God and Country." (See appendix.) An outing was arranged at Spring Valley on Columbus Day, where 5,000 I. W. W. members put in an appearance, despite a drizzling rain and a four-mile walk for most of them because of poor trolley facilities. Revolutionary songs were sung, bands played, games were indulged in. Speeches were made by Ex-Mayor John Cahill, William D. Haywood, Fred W. Heselwood, Miss Flynn and others. Haywood struck the keynote when he said, "This is not a religious or patriotic question; this is an industrial question and can only be settled in industry." The outing was conceded by the press to have been a strategic move, as it robbed the other side of all excuse or opportunity for violence and kept the I. W. W. intact before a subtle and well-planned attack.
A boycott of the "patriots" brought down all the flags on Essex street long before the date originally set. So ended "God and Country" in Lawrence, 1912.
It may be said, in passing, that the workingmen of Lawrence would not have permitted a repetition of San Diego there. It was common gossip in working class circles that over 200 revolvers had been purchased in Boston during Columbus Day week, as a precautionary measure of self-defense. This fact may have reached the ears of Gov. Foss, for he is reported to have notified Mayor Scanlon that Lawrence need not appeal to him on Columbus Day. If trouble ensued, it would have to settle its own problems without State aid. Again, it is reported that the Governor was moved to this action by the threat of Boston editors to publish the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding Columbus Day in Lawrence. As this would be advertising to the world a most scandalous condition of affairs, if created as contemplated, the Governor acted as stated, again according to report.
There are more ways than one of killing a cat besides violence; when the industrial democracy asserts itself intelligently it sets in motion a string of events favorable to its own welfare. Of that, the general strike at Lawrence leaves no doubt. It was a great and triumphant uprising in behalf of justice to the workersand will bear repetition wherever necessary.