So all that summer and autumn, while Jimmie Higgins slaved in the fields, getting in his country’s wheat-crop, and then his country’s corn crop, there was a song of joy and awakening excitement in his soul. Far over the seas men of his own kind were getting the reins of power into their hands, for the first time in the history of the world. It could not be long before here in America the workers would learn this wonderful lesson, would thrill to the idea that freedom and plenty might really be their portion.
JIMMIE HIGGINS TURNS BOLSHEVIK
Winter was coming, and the farm-workers moved to the cities; but this year they did not go as down-and-out-o’-works—they went, each man a little kink. Jimmie wandered into the city of Ironton, and got himself a job in a big automobile shop at eight dollars a day, and set to work agitating for ten dollars. It was not that he had any need of the extra two dollars, of course, but merely because his first principle in life was to make trouble for the profit-system. The capitalist papers of this middle-Western metropolis were furiously denouncing working-men who struck “against their country” in war-time; Jimmie, on the other hand, denounced those who used “country” as camouflage for “boss” and made the war a pretext to deprive labour of its most precious right.
There was a Socialist local in Ironton, still active and determined in spite of the fact that its office had been raided by the police, and most of the party’s papers and magazines barred from the mails. You could always get leaflets printed, however; and if you could no longer denounce the war directly, you could jeer at England’s exhibition of “democracy” in Ireland, you could point to the profits of the profiteers, and demand conscription of wealth along with conscription of manhood. Some American Socialists became almost as subtle as that German rebel of pre-war days, who, desiring to lampoon the Kaiser, wrote an account of the life of the Roman Emperor Agricola, reciting his vanities and insane extravagances.
Late in the autumn came an event which should have troubed Jimmie Higgins more deeply than it did. Along the Izonzo river the Italian armies were facing the Austrians, their hereditary enemies; they were at the end of a long, exhaustive, and for the most part unsuccessful campaign, and the Italian Socialists at home were carrying on precisely such a warfare against their own government as Jimmie Higgins was carrying on in America. They were helped by the Catholic intriguers, who hated the Italian government because it had destroyed the temporal power of the Pope; they were helped by the subtle and persistent efforts of Austrian agents in their country, who spread rumours among Italian troops of the friendly intentions of the Austrians, and of the imminence of a truce.