Red Web - Blair Coan

Temporizing With Terrorism

Discussing what he called "the widespread condition of political restlessness in our body politic," President Wilson, in his message to the first regular session of the Sixty-sixth Congress in December, 1919, said:

"The causes of this unrest, while various and complicated, are superficial rather than deep-seated. Broadly, they arise from or are connected with the failure on the part of our government to arrive speedily at a just and permanent peace permitting return to normal conditions, from the transfusion of radical theories from seething European centers pending such delay, from heartless profiteering resulting from the increase in the cost of living, and lastly, from the machinations of passionate and malevolent agitators. With the return to normal conditions this unrest must rapidly disappear."

One of the outstanding suggestions as a remedy for "this unrest," offered by the President in this same address to Congress was "genuine democratization of industry." In making it, Mr. Wilson but repeated the suggestion that it is that of the bolsheviks themselves, and but echoed the essence of his attitude toward economic problems as set forth in his "The New Freedom," a collection of addresses to which the radicals of the country have gone for ammunition from the day it came off the printing presses. What the President proposed as the remedy, in addition to "the return to normal conditions,"—a circumstance at once impossible with "a genuine democratization of industry," as soviet Russia so eloquently testifies today,—was what the reds had been clamoring for. It was nothing more nor less than sovietism, the evolutionary steps from which can be nothing short of industrial mobocracy first, and finally industrial autocracy.

The particular "condition of political unrest" to which President Wilson referred consisted of the manifestations of that year, 1919. The year was just drawing to a close. It had been a particularly auspicious year for the promoters of violence in behalf of the "working class revolution." Mr. Wilson's administration was in virtual panic over the situation. By turns it had been temporizing with the radicals, on the one hand, and using "strong arm" methods, on the other, but if there was any one policy the more generally adhered to, it was the policy of temporizing, vaporizing, coaxing, promising, compromising and petting. This was so because it was the natural inclination of Mr. Wilson throughout his administration to be as pink as possible, and because the President had surrounded himself, all during his presidency, but more particularly during the war and immediately thereafter, with a crowd of advisers that was as fine a collection of reds, pinks and yellows for which the most optimistic boosters of revolution in the United States could hope.

There were occasions, to be sure, when President Wilson seemed to get a flash of the proportions and proximity of the menace of red radicalism, and on these occasions he grew petulant, impatient, downright enraged, and did something to make the bolshevik reptile strike at him directly. On such occasions, a modern Mirabeau might very justly have said to him: "You have turned loose the bull, and now complain that he gores you."

While the administration, at the close of this hectic year of 1919, was in a state bordering on palpitant panic, the public, too, was in a state of sweat. Men whom other men called "alarmists" expressed the fear that the United States was "on the brink of a class war." But, in fact, these alarmists were far too mild. They didn't know, at least they didn't begin to tell, the half of it. We were not "on the brink" at all. We had been "on the brink" for quite a time, but the brink had long since been passed, and "class warfare" was on in earnest, with nearly all the heavy artillery and almost all the generals familiar with the trench and poison gas methods of attack on the side of the bolsheviks.

This war had not even waited for the World War to cease, to state the truth of the matter, when our own and imported bolshevik allies in the cause, with Moscow the base of operations and the seat of the general staff, were doing their full share throughout the final year of the World War. The field of operations was the world, and 1918 was not by any means free from sanguinary engagements on that battlefront that was and still is the United States of America. But in 1919, when the bolsheviki had accomplished much to their liking in Hungary, in Germany, in Italy, and on sundry other battlefronts, and when they had almost put down counterrevolution in Russia, thus giving them more time, energy and money to give to the job of revolting in the United States, we experienced in this country what might be termed a banner year and a full crop of red flag warfare of the most violent character.

Since there is not a year in which strikes of some greater or less magnitude do not figure in American industry, it would not be true to say that bolsheviks and bolshevik sympathizers were at the bottom of all the strikes that occurred in the United States during the year 1919. But it is in perfect harmony with truth to charge that a great many of them, some of very large proportions, were of bolshevik origin; that bolsheviks and soviet-lovers participated in and agitated every one of them, and that whenever and wherever possible, agents, dupes and tools of the Russian oligarchs capitalized, exploited and promoted them in the interests of the so-called working class revolution.

The day Victor Berger, the Milwaukee socialist leader, was convicted, January 9, 1919,—although this is no related coincidence, particularly, the strike of the marine workers at the port of New York was begun. The general strike at Seattle, to support striking shipbuilders, took place on the fourth of February. The nation-wide strike in the building trades began two days later. The New England telephone workers went on strike April 20th. On May 14th there took place the Chicago milk-drivers strike—a strike the milk-drivers won within two days and after a precarious condition developed, particularly in hospitals and among the infant population of the city. Strike riots in Toledo, Ohio, resulted in two deaths and many injuries on the third day of June. Commercial telegraphers in the south-east struck June 5th. The strike of Detroit car-men occurred on the eighth of June. Two days later there took place the general strike of telegraphers, of which the walk-out of June 5th was the prelude. The street-car men of Boston went on strike on the 18th of July. Surface and elevated car-men in Chicago struck eleven days later.

August first marked the beginning of the strike of the railroad shop workers, and five days later fourteen railroad unions made demands for wage increases. Car-men in Brooklyn went on strike August sixth. New York actors struck the day following, and less than a week later the actors' strike had spread to Chicago. New York traction workers went on strike August 17th. The next few days were marked by especially violent riotous demonstrations, notably at Hammond, Indiana, and Cudahy, Wisconsin, to which places troops had to be sent. The 24th of August the Pacific coast railways were tied up by strikes. Transportation strikes had become so serious that President Wilson, August 25th, ordered wage increases to the shopmen, and issued an explanatory statement to the public pleading for an industrial truce. The President's wage proposal and his appeal for a "truce" were both spurned by the railway shopmen's chiefs.

On the same day that three men were killed in strike riots at Hammond, Indiana, where troops had been sent, because the police had been unable to control the situation, the unionized police force of Boston went on strike. State troops were called to Boston the next day, when seven persons met death in riots due to the strike of policemen. On the day the great steel strike began, September 22nd, two persons were killed and many others were hurt in riots which the reds precipitated in the Pittsburgh region. Many newspapers and other periodicals were forced to suspend publication in New York city October first because of the strike in the printing trade.

The pay office of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, at Butte, Montana, was dynamited in July, and in August the home of Oscar Lawlor, former United States attorney, of Los Angeles, and the colliery of the Lehigh and Wilkesbarre Company, at Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, were wrecked by bombs.

Serious strike riots occurred at Gary, Indiana, in connection with the steel strike October fifth, and the next day federal troops were sent to Gary, East Chicago and Indiana Harbor. The New York harbor was completely tied up by strikes by October tenth. Four days thereafter came forth the order, effective November first, for the nation-wide strike of soft coal miners. The order came on the heels of President Wilson's summoning of the conferees for his subsequently famous but futile industrial conference, from which the "labor bloc,' socalled, withdrew when it found it impossible to dominate the conference. The conference very quickly thereafter dissolved.

Pleadings, temporizings and compromisings, resorted to by the government, were of no avail against the coal strike threat, the coal miners' union chiefs declining any and all offers. Experiencing one of his periodical lapses from an attitude of patience and tolerance for the bedevilments at the hands of radical agitators, who were playing no minor role in the warfare in the coal industry, President Wilson became so enraged on October 25th that he denounced the proposed coal strike as "a crime," and said the government would use every means to frustrate it.

[Illustration] from The Red Web by Blair Coan


While the international congress of working women and the international labor conference—sideshows of the league of nations—were taking place in Washington, and innumerable red and pink delegates thereto were chuckling with satisfaction every time they passed the White House, the President was wrestling with "this condition of political unrest." He was striving to keep up with his Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, who, notwithstanding the limitations put upon him by administration policy, had been sufficiently active in defending the country from the "machinations of passionate and malevolent agitators," of which Mr. Wilson so petulantly complained later on, that pink apologists for red tactics and the "liberal" press of the country denounced him as a "labor baiter." Of course, to a pink or a "liberal," anyone who indicates anything more militant than molly-coddling towards bolsheviks, particularly, and the industrial blight generally, is a "labor baiter." However, the red agitator knows much better.

As per schedule, and crime or no crime, the coal strike began November 1st, the day after the government had obtained before Judge Anderson, of the federal court, at Indianapolis, an injunction forbidding it. On the 8th of November, Judge Anderson ordered the miners' leaders to call off the strike by November 11th. The next day the executive committee of the American Federation of Labor pledged its "full support" to the strikers. The strike order was cancelled, as per Judge Anderson's order, November 11th, but the strike did not end, nevertheless, and the end of November found President Wilson both panicky and chagrined because the administration's efforts to end the strike by negotiation had completely failed and the strikers' chiefs had refused to return to work at wages which had been increased fourteen percent. Fuel Administrator Garfield, in consequence, began functioning as in wartime on the first of December, simultaneously with the opening of a second "industrial conference."

The second conference accomplished an armistice in the "class war" as manifested in the coal strike, and in the middle of December it was announced, on behalf of President Wilson, that "the coal strike is settled as the government wanted it settled." But it was a long, long way from being a settlement. As a treaty of peace, it was of less subsequent authority than the World War armistice, for it failed to settle anything. In fact, the peace is yet to be made, not merely in the coal industry, but in the "class war" as a whole.

Let it here be noted, that the Department of Justice, all this time, was the most abused branch of the government. Congress was bombarded with protests from organizations big and little and of all shades of red, pink, yellow and peagreen—protests against this "labor baiter," Palmer, and against the courts whose decisions in cases tallied with the contentions of the Department of Justice whenever and wherever prosecutions were undertaken, How the reds, the pinks and the putty-colored protagonists of "the new freedom" hated Palmer, and Judge Anderson, and Judge Landis!—and the sundry others who stepped forth to perform their public duties without apology to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Burglars, Pickpockets and Bomb Tossers— hated them and plastered them with abuse, just as later, for the same reason, they hated, abused and harassed Judge Wilkerson, Daugherty, Stone and, now, Sargent. Attorney General Palmer may not have nursed any wounds inflicted by the missles of the reds and their sympathizers, but he must have been peculiarly well armored if the abuse heaped upon him in the Senate and House—not for his inhumanity toward the reds, but for his "softness"—did not hurt, when he was forever conscious of the fact that whatever of softness did mark the conduct of the Department of Justice in this respect was the sign of the hand of Wilson and not that of the hand of Palmer.

Palmer was down on the lists for destruction, along with many others, in the bomb plots that were a part of the "condition of political unrest" in 1919. On the second of June, the Attorney General's home in Washington was blown up with a bomb, fortunately without damage to Mr. Palmer, himself. Two reds who had planted the bomb were themselves blown to such small bits that identification was impossible. The same day, the home of Representative L. W. Powers, of Newtonville, Mass., was wrecked by a bomb; destruction of the rectory of Our Lady of Victory, Philadelphia, was attempted, and a bomb placed at the Frankfort arsenal failed to explode; in Pittsburgh, houses were damaged by bombs intended to exterminate Judge Thompson and Police Inspector Sibray; the home of Judge C.C. Nott, in New York City, was wrecked, and two persons were killed by the explosion; the home of Justice A.F. Hayden, Boston, was bombed, and an attempt to wreck the home of Mayor H.L. Davis, of Cleveland, failed. At Paterson, N.J., and East Orange, N.J., minor bomb explosions occurred.

Subsequent to these outrages, William Gibbs McAdoo, whom the radicals of the country strove in 1924 to make the Democratic nominee for President, was quoted in the press as having excused the bomb plots as due to "ignorance of Americanism." He said later his remarks had been "misinterpreted" — an alibi that is familiar in all newspaper offices.

At Franklin, Mass., dynamite had been planted at the American Woolen Mills, in March. Four men were killed in this explosion. In January, at Philadelphia, bomb outrages had occurred; the homes of justice Van Moschzisker, Acting Superintendent of Police Mills, and others being wrecked. The conviction of the forty-six I.W.W.'s in Sacramento, Calif., for the dynamiting of the home of Governor Stephenson, had occurred in January. The Brownsville, Pa., municipal building had been wrecked by a bomb May second, this date and May first —the bolshevik "May Day" holiday—marking a number of bombing operations on the part of the makers of revohition.

The mails also had been used for the dissemination of missives of violence for the defenders of the "old order" against that of the "new." This system was a part of the May Day program. A bomb intended for Attorney General Palmer at that time was intercepted in the mails, as were bombs mailed to Ole Hanson, of Seattle; to Senator Overman, Senator King and F.R. Nebeker. Senators Overman and King had been particularly strong in their demands for Senate investigation of bolshevik propaganda and activity, and were active in having such an investigation made. Mr. Nebeker had prosecuted the Chicago gang of I.W.W.'s before Judge Landis. The bombs intercepted had been held up in the mails because of insufficient postage. One sent to ex-Senator Hardwick reached its destination, exploded, and wounded Mrs. Hardwick and her daughter.

Between the occurrence of the outrages of the first part of May and those of a month later, Frederick C. Howe, President Wilson's immigration chief at New York City, presided at a "Justice for Russia" meeting in New York, where denunciation of the United States government was as vociferous as the pleas for "justice" for the bolsheviki were fulsome.

Generally soft, but not always, the Administration, in February, had made a gesture toward ridding the country of alien enemies of the bolshevik stripe, when fifty-four reds apprehended in the West were ordered deported. An immediate howl against this "injustice" was raised by the radical and "liberal" crowds. Radical factions in the International Association of Machinists were joined by other organizations in a fight in behalf of the deportees.

Some of them were, in due time, deported, but others were released on parole as a result of the bombardment of protests from reds and pinks, and twelve of them later were released unconditionally, everyone of them returning to the ranks of the red army of propaganda and violence from which they had been taken.

Among the loudest of the protesters was Louise Bryant, wife of the communist and soviet agent, John Reed, and Albert Rhys Williams, an officially designated propagandist for Soviet Russia in the United States. They held in Washington but one of the innumerable pro-soviet mass meetings held all over the country—meetings of praise for the new saviors of mankind and champions of liberty, Lenin and Trotzky, and of denunciation of the United States and of all Americans who failed to perceive the virtues of the radical gentry and the system of government they headed and dominated.

Taking it all in all, the year 1919 was a great year for strikes, "class war" violence, bomb outrages, and bolshevik propaganda; it was the year Glenn E. Plumb, pro-soviet counsel for the railroad brotherhoods, presented his famous plan—the Plumb Plan — for nationalization and "democratization" of the railroads, a plan which he subsequently expanded with the proposal for its application to all industries in the United States. It was the year the railroad brotherhoods and the railway department of the American Federation of Labor sought to impose this socialistic scheme upon the country by strikes and threats "to tie up the railways so tight that they will never run again."

It was the year the notorious Ludwig Christian Alexander Karlovich Martens, born in Russia of German parentage and confessedly a lifelong revolutionist engaged in that profession in both Russia and Germany before coming to America, was appointed soviet "ambassador" to the United States, established headquarters at 110 West Fortieth Street, New York City, and installed an extensive staff of American and alien reds. It was a banner year for "the widespread condition of political restlessness in our body politic," as President Wilson described it as the year drew to a close.

The President told Congress that the causes were "superficial rather than deep-seated." It is possible he was only whistling to keep his courage up, but it is more probable that his conclusion was that of a peculiarly superficial mind or the result of an ostrich-like disinclination to look disturbing actualities in the face.

Superficial? The Sub-committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, directed by the Senate to "investigate the status and activities of one Ludwig C.A.K. Martens, claiming to be a representative of the Russian Socialistic Soviet Republic," brought out a wealth of proof to the contrary.

"Revolution, not reform," was Lenin's message to his agents in the United States and elsewhere. "Organize the workers of the world, including the American, in one fraternal union; crush all resistance, using terror if necessary."

Lenin admitted to Colonel Raymond Robins, who testified to the fact before the Senate Committee, that it was his ambition to overthrow the United States government. Solicitor Lamar of the Post Office Department, submitted to the committee a memorandum in support of the charge that a plot existed among the various radical groups in the United States to overthrow the American government and establish a bolshevik republic, and alleged the Department of Justice was in possession of evidence that more than 8,000 labor unions in the country were controlled by red radicals pledged to give aid to the revolutionary program.

Albert Rhys Williams admitted to the committee of the Senate, when called to the witness stand, that he was a soviet agent, and that he had been sent to the United States by the red chieis of Russia to promote soviet propaganda, and that 25,000 ex-residents of the United States were office-holders in the government of the bolsheviki in Russia. John Reed, who died later in Russia, where the reds erected a monument to his memory, admitted to the committee that he, too, was in the employ of the soviet government and that he had planned a propaganda bureau—he called it an "information bureau" —to be financed with money raised among wealthy American women whose names appear in the bolshevik "sucker list."

"Ambassador" Martens first came to the United States in January, 1916. A short time before the United States entered the World war, Martens joined Leon Trotzky in New York City. Trotzky and Gregory Weinstein were the editors of the Russian socialist paper, "Novy Mir," and Martens was a contributor and a member of the editorial board of the paper which was one of the organs of the Socialist party of the United States. These facts came from the lips of Martens, himself, when he was examined by Senator George H. Moses before the Senate sub-committee investigating his status and activities.

"The paper belonged to a society," said Martens, "the so-called Russian Socialist Publication Society, and I was a member of this Society and was elected on the editorial board of the paper."

Both Martens and Weinstein remained with the publication after Trotzky left New York to join his comrade, Lenin, in Russia to carry out the coup which resulted in the overthrow of the Kerensky government and the establishment of the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat." When Martens established "the soviet bureau" and began publication of another weekly paper, an official publication of the "bureau," called "Soviet Russia," in January, 1919, Weinstein became his personal secretary and general office manager. Weinstein, as well as Martens, was a Russian citizen. Another Russian, Santeri Nuorteva, was secretary of the "bureau," and his assistant was Kenneth Durant, an American, whose prior employment was with George Creel on the staff of ,the American Committee on Public Information.

Abraham Heller, of Russian birth, a New York manufacturer, a director of the Rand School of Social Science, which George Herron, President Wilson's representative and eulogist, had established with the Widow Rand's money, was director of the commercial department of the soviet "bureau." Owing to his connections and activities later on, when "Comrade" Martens had been obliged to depart the shores of the United States—particularly as bearing upon events in 1922,— "Comrade" Heller will appear as a figure in a later chapter of this book. Evans Clark, organizer of the Labor Bureau, Inc., and a vice president of the League for Industrial Democracy, born in New Jersey, was "Comrade" Martens' director of information and publicity. Another of George Creel's former deputies, an Englishman, Wilfred E. Humphries, was associate director of the publicity department. He had been in Russia in 1917-18 with the Y. M. C. A. International Committee, and delivered lectures from February until! December, 1919, favorable to the "new freedom" inflicted upon Russia and the world by the bolsheviki.

Morris Hillquit, who added to his own fame and detracted nothing from the fame of Messrs, Robert M. Lafollette and Burton K. Wheeler when he became one of their campaign managers in the presidential campaign of 1924, was the director of the legal department of the soviet "bureau." The managing editor of the "bureau's" house organ was an American, Jacob W. Hartman, an instructor in languages and history in the College of the City of New York from 1901 to 1919, who subsequently collaborated with Caleb Harrison and others in organizing the "Friends of Soviet Russia." Of Hartman, Harrison and the "Friends" we shall hear more in chapters dealing with events of a later period.

"Ambassador" Martens, revealing the names of the tnembers of his official staff during his testimony before the Senate committee, said the staff was thirty-five in number. Those just mentioned were the principal ones of those who names figured in the evidence. The cost of maintaining the "bureau," Martens told the committee, was about $10,000.00 a month, the money being supplied, he testified, by the Russian government which transmitted it "mainly by couriers from Russia."

We are still talking about that hectic year, 1919, which President Wilson referred to as a "widespread condition of political restlessness," the causes of which were "superficial" rather than "deep-seated"—that year of bomb outrages, of strikes twice as numerous and many more times as riotous and as serious otherwise as ever before in American history; that year of the Plumb plan for "industrial democracy" and of radical railway labor leaders' threats to force it upon the country; that year of "Ambassador" Martens and the official soviet "bureau"; that year of strenuous effort at crystallization and coordination of revolutionary forces within the United States to act with the same forces in other countries for the achievement of "revolution, not reform," quoting Lenin, "using terror if necessary."

This was the year of the first congress of the Communist (Third) Internationale, the call for which, released by "Rosta," official telegraph agency of the bolsheviki, February 24th, contained invitations to various organizajions throughout the world, including the I.W.W. of America, the Socialist Labor Party of America and the "left wing" faction of the Socialist Party of America. The Socialist Labor Party of America, represented by one Boris Reinstein, gave its sanction to the issuance of the call, "Comrade" Reinstein attaching his signature on one of the dotted lines under that of "Comrades" Lenin and Trotsky.

"The present is the period of destruction and crushing of the capitalistic system of the whole world," read the call, "and it will be a catastrophe for the whole European culture should capitalism with all its insoluble contradictions not be done away with. The aim of the proletariat must now be immediately to conquer power. To conquer power means to destroy the governmental apparatus of the bourgeoisie and to organize a new proletarian govermmental apparatus."

"The dictatorship of the proletariat must be the occasion for the immediate expropriation of capital and the elimination of the private right of owning the means of production, through making them common public property. . . . the establishment of a workmen's government and the concentration of economic functions in the hands of the organs of the proletarian dictatorship are the most essential aims of the day. In order to protect the socialist revolution against external and internal enemies, and to assist the fighting proletarists of other countries, it becomes necessary to entirely disarm the bourgeoisie and its agents and to arm the proletariat."

"The most important task of the present moment for the conscious and honorable workmen of all countries," said a manifesto from the congress, addressed to the "proletariat" of all lands, "is to strengthen the soviet, to increase their authority, and to imitate the government apparatus of Russia."

"The Great Communist Internationale was born in 1919," said a May Day proclamation from the executive committee of the Internationale. "The Great Internationale Soviet Republic will be born in 1920."