There had been a great labor shortage during the war, and some of the more powerful unions had taken the general rise in prices as an excuse for demanding higher wages. This naturally had made the members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association indignant, and now they saw their chance to use these returned soldiers to smash strikes and to break the organizations of the labor men. They proceeded to organize the soldiers for this purpose; in American City the Chamber of Commerce contributed twenty-five thousand dollars to furnish the club-rooms for them, and when the trolley men went on strike the cars were run by returned soldiers in uniform.
There was one veteran, a fellow by the name of Sydney, who objected to this program. He was publishing a paper, the “Veteran’s Friend,” and began to use the paper to protest against his comrades acting as what he called “scabs.” The secretary of the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association sent for him and gave him a straight talking to, but he went right ahead with his campaign, and so Guffey’s office was assigned the task of shutting him up. Peter, while he could not take an active part in the job, was the one who guided it behind the scenes. They proceeded to plant spies in Sydney’s office, and they had so many that it was really a joke; they used to laugh and say that they trod on one another’s toes. Sydney was poor, and had not enough money to run his paper, so he accepted any volunteer labor that came along. And Guffey sent him plenty of volunteers—no less than seven operatives—one keeping Sydney’s books, another helping with his mailing, two more helping to raise funds among the labor unions, others dropping in every day or two to advise him. Nevertheless Sydney went right ahead with his program of denouncing the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association, and denouncing the government for its failure to provide farms and jobs for the veterans.
One of Guffey’s “under cover operatives”—that was the technical term for the Peter Gudges and Joe Angells—was a man by the name of Jonas. This Jonas called himself a “philosophic anarchist,” and posed as the reddest Red in American City; it was his habit to rise up in radical meetings and question the speaker, and try to tempt him to justify violence and insurrection and “mass-action.” If he repudiated these ideas, then Jonas would denounce him as a “mollycoddle,” a “pink tea Socialist,” a “labor faker.” Other people in the audience would applaud, and so Guffey’s men would find out who were the real Red sympathizers.