Comrade Mary Allen, who loved all men, took up the argument. If those working men had been killed in a mine disaster, caused by criminal carelessness and greed for profits; if they had died of some industrial disease which might easily have been prevented; if they had been burned in a factory without fire-escapes—nobody in Wall Street would have wanted to go to war. And, of course, every Socialist considered this was true; every Socialist saw quite clearly that the enormity of the Lusitania sinking lay in the fact that it had reached and injured the privileged people, the people who counted, who got their names in the papers and were not supposed to be inconvenienced, even by war. So it was possible for Jimmie Higgins, even though shocked by what the Germans had done, to be irritated by the fuss which the Wall Street newspapers made.
Young Emil Forster spoke, and they listened to him, as they always did. It was a quarrel, he said—and as usual in quarrels, both sides had their rights and wrongs. You had to balance a few English and American babies against the millions of German babies which the British government intended to starve. It was British sea-power maintaining itself—and of course controlling most of the channels of publicity. It appealed to what it called “law”—that is to say, the customs it had found convenient in the past. British cruisers were able to visit and search vessels, and to take off their crews; but submarines could not do that, so what the British clamour about “law” amounted to was an attempt to keep Germany from using her only weapon. After all, ask yourself honestly if it was any worse to drown people quickly than to starve them slowly.
And then came “Wild Bill”. This wrangling over German and British gave him a pain in the guts. Couldn’t they see, the big stiffs, that they were playing the masters’ game? Quarrelling among themselves, when they ought to be waking up the workers, getting ready for the real fight. And wizened-up little Stankewitz broke in again—that vas vy he hated var, it divided the vorkers. There was nothing you could say for var. But “Wild Bill” smiled his crooked smile. There were several things you could say. War gave the workers guns, and taught them to use them; how would it be if some day they turned these guns about and fought their own battles?
Comrade Gerrity now took the chair and made an effort to get things started. The minutes of the last meeting were read, new members were voted on, and then Comrade Mary Allen rose to report for the Worker committee. The fund had been completed, the first number of the paper was to appear next week, and it was now up to every member of the local to get up on his toes and hustle as never in his life before. Comrade Mary, with her thin, eager face of a religious zealot, made everyone share her fervour.