This debate was not conducted in the realm of abstractions; the two wings of the movement would attack one another with bitterness. The “politicians” would denounce the “impossibilists,” calling them “anarchists;” and the other side, thus goaded, would accuse their enemies of being in the hire of the government. Peter would supply McGivney with bits of scandal which the “under cover” men would start going among the “left-wingers;” and in the course of the long wrangles in the local these accusations would come out. Herbert Ashton would mention them with his biting sarcasm, or “Shorty” Gunton would shout them in one of his tirades—“hurling them into his opponents teeth,” as he phrased it.
“Shorty” Gunton was a tramp printer, a wandering agitator who was all for direct action, and didn’t care a hang who knew it. “Violence?” he would say. “How many thousand years shall we submit to the violence of capitalist governments, and never have the right to reply?” And then again he would say, “Violence? Yes, of course we must repudiate violence—until we get enough of it!” Peter had listened to “Shorty’s” railings at the “compromisers” and the “political traders,” and had thought him one of the most dangerous men in American City. But later on, after the episode of Joe Angell had opened Peter’s eyes, he decided that “Shorty” must also be a secret agent like himself.
Peter was never told definitely, but he picked up a fact here and there, and fitted them together, and before long his suspicion had become certainty. The “left wing” Socialists split off from the party, and called a convention of their own, and this convention in turn split up, one part forming the Communist Party, and another part forming the Communist Labor Party. While these two conventions were in session, McGivney came to Peter, and said that the Federal government had a man on the platform committee of the Communist Party, and they wanted to write in some phrases that would make membership in that party in itself a crime, so that everybody who held a membership card could be sent to prison without further evidence. These phrases must be in the orthodox Communist lingo, and this was where Peter’s specialized knowledge was needed.
So Peter wrote the phrases, and a couple of days later he read in the newspapers an account of the convention proceedings. The platform committee had reported, and “Shorty” Gunton had submitted a minority report, and had made a fiery speech in the convention, with the result that his minority report was carried by a narrow margin. This minority report contained all the phrases that Peter had written. A couple of months later, when the government had its case ready, and the wholesale raids upon the Communists took place, “Shorty” Gunton was arrested, but a few days later he made a dramatic escape by sawing his way thru the roof of the jail!