It was no easy job for these plain fellows, the Jimmie Higginses. When they tried to think the matter out, they were almost brought to despair. There were so many sides to the question—the last fellow you met always had a better argument than anyone you had heard before! You sympathized with Belgium and France, of course; but could you help hating the British ruling classes? They were your hereditary enemies—your school-book enemies, so to speak. And they were the ones you knew most about; since every American jack-ass that got rich quick and wanted to set himself up above his fellows would proceed to get English clothes and English servants and English bad manners. To the average plain American, the word English stood for privilege, for ruling class culture, the things established, the things against which he was in rebellion; Germany was the I. W. W. among the nations—the fellow who had never got a chance and was now hitting out for it. Moreover, the Germans were efficient; they took the trouble to put their case before you, they cared what you thought about them; whereas the Englishman, damn him, turned up his snobbish nose, not caring a whoop what you or anybody might think.
Moreover, in this controversy the force of inertia was on the German side, and inertia is a powerful force in any organization. What the Germans wanted of American Socialists was simply that they should go on doing what they had been doing all their lives. And the Socialist machine had been set up for the purpose of going on, regardless of all the powers on earth, in the heavens above the earth, or in hell beneath. Ask Jimmie Higgins to stop demanding higher wages and the eight hour day! Wouldn’t anybody in his senses know what Jimmie would answer to that proposition? Go chase yourself!
But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that Jimmie was staggered by the idea that he might be getting into the pay of the Kaiser. It was true that the traditions of the Socialist movement were German traditions, but they were German anti-Government traditions: Jimmie regarded the Kaiser as the devil incarnate, and the bare idea of doing anything the Kaiser wanted done was enough to make him stop short. He could see also what a bad thing it would be for the movement to have any person believe that it was taking the Kaiser’s money. Suppose, for example, that a report of this evening’s discussion should reach the Herald! And with the public inflamed to madness over the Lusitania affair!
After the discussion had proceeded for an hour or so, Norwood made a motion to the effect that the Worker committee should be instructed to investigate thoroughly the sources of all funds contributed, and to reject any that did not come from Socialists, or those in sympathy with Socialism. The common sense of the meeting asserted itself, and even the Germans voted for this motion. Sure, let them go ahead and investigate! The Socialist movement was clean, it had always been clean, it had nothing to conceal from anyone.