The companies were too vigilant for there to be any chance of a strike; but “Wild Bill” whispered to the young workers that he knew a trick worth two of that—he would teach them the art of “striking on the job”! This idea, of course, had great charm for embittered men; enabling them to pay back the boss, while at the same time continuing on his pay-roll. Bill had read whole books in which the theory and practice of “sabotage” were worked out, and he could tell any sort of workman tricks to make his employer sweat under the collar. If you worked in a machine-shop, you dropped emery-powder into the bearings; if you worked on a farm, you drove copper nails into the fruit-trees, which caused them to die; if you packed apples, you stuck your thumb-nail into one, which made sure that the whole box would be rotten when it arrived; if you worked in a saw-mill, you drove a spike into a log; if you worked in a restaurant, you served double portions to ruin the boss, and spit in each portion to make sure the customer did not derive any benefit. All these things you did in a fervour of exaltation, a mood of frenzied martyrdom, because of the blaze of hate which had been fanned in your soul by a social system based upon oppression and knavery.
To Jimmie, living the obscure and comparatively peaceful life of a Socialist propagandist, the question of “sabotage, violence and crime” had been a more or less academic one, about which the comrades debated acrimoniously, and against which they voted by a large majority. But now Jimmie was out among the “wobblies”, the “blanket-stiffs”—the unskilled workers who had literally nothing but their muscle-power to sell; here he was in the front-line trenches of the class war. These men wandered about from one job to another, at the mercy of the seasons and the fluctuations of industry. They were deprived of votes, and therefore of their status as citizens; they were deprived of a chance to organize, and therefore of their status as human beings. They were lodged in filthy bunk-houses, fed upon rotten food, and beaten or jailed at the least word of revolt. So they fought their oppressors with any and every weapon they could lay hands on.
In the turpentine-country, in a forest, Jimmie and his pal came to a “jungle”, a place where the “wobblies” congregated, living off the country. Here around the camp-fires Jimmie met the guerillas of the class-struggle, and learned the songs of revolt which they sang—some of them parodies on Christian hymns which would have caused the orthodox and respectable to faint with horror. Here they rested up, and exchanged data on the progress of their fight, and argued over tactics, and cussed the Socialists and the other “politicians” and “labour-fakirs”, and sang the praises of the “one big union”, and the “mass strike”, and “direct action” against the masters of industry. They told stories of their sufferings and their exploits, and Jimmie sat and listened. Sometimes his eyes were wide with consternation, for he had never met men so desperate as these.