Day by day Jimmie was coming to place more of his hopes in Russia. His little friend Rabin, the tailor, took a Russian paper published in New York, the Novy Mir, and would translate its news and editorials. Local Hopeland, thus inspired, voted a message of fraternal sympathy to the Russian workers. In Petrograd and Moscow there was going on, it appeared, a struggle between the pro-ally Socialists and the Internationalists, the true, out-and-out, middle-of-the-road, thick-and-thin proletarians. The former were called Mensheviki, the latter were called Bolsheviki, and, of course, Jimmie was all for the latter. Did he not know the “stool-pigeon Socialists” at home, who were letting themselves be used by capitalism?
The big issues were two—first, the land, which the peasants wanted to take from the landlords; and second, the foreign debt. The Russian Tsar had borrowed four billion dollars from France and a billion or two from England, to be used in enslaving the Russian workers and driving several millions of them to death on the battlefield. Now should the Russian workers consider themselves bound by this debt? When anybody asked Jimmie Higgins that question, he responded with a thunderous “No”, and he regarded as hirelings or dupes of Wall Street all those Socialists who supported Kerensky in Russia.
When the American government, wishing to appeal to the Russian people for loyalty in the war, sent over a commission to them, and placed at its head one of the most notorious corporation lawyers in America, a man whose life, the Jimmies said, had been sold to service in the anti-liberal cause, Jimmie Higgins’s shrill voice became a yell of ridicule and rage. Of course, Jimmie’s organization saw to it that the Bolsheviki were informed in advance as to the character of this commission—something which was unnecessary, as it happened, because immediately after the overthrow of the Tsar there had begun a pilgrimage of Russian Socialists from New York and San Francisco, men who had seen the seamy side of American capitalism in the slums of the great cities, and who lost no time in providing the Russian radicals with full information concerning Wall Street!
It chanced that in San Francisco a well-known labour leader had been charged with planting a bomb to break up a “preparedness” parade. He had been convicted upon that which was proven to be perjured testimony, and the labour unions of the country had been conducting a campaign to save his life—which campaign the capitalist newspapers had been carefully overlooking, according to their invariable custom. But now the returned exiles in Petrograd took up the matter, and organized a parade to the American embassy, with a demand for the freeing of this “Muni”. The report, of course, came back to America—to the immense bewilderment of the American people, who had never heard of this “Muni” before. To Jimmie Higgins it seemed just the funniest joke on earth that a big labour-struggle should be on in San Francisco, and Americans should get their first news about it from Petrograd! Look! he would cry—how much real democracy there is in America, how much care for the working classes!