PREAMBLE TO THE MASTHEAD
CHICAGO'S "hunger riots" were followed by a ferment of unrest due to the growing intensity of the war in Europe and the strike situation throughout the U.S.A. It was a period of high emotional tension for all radicals. Paterson, Lawrence, Akron, and Wheatland were crowded out of the picture by more dramatic events. Resentment aroused by the Joe Hill case was intensified by the sensational arrest of Mooney and Billings following the San Francisco Preparedness Day Parade. From both of these events and a hundred others came the fervor that went into the first nation-wide organizational drive of the I.W.W. I was caught in the midst of the storm and carried along.
The West Madison Street "slave market" soon reflected renewed activity in the agricultural industry. Wobbly buttons were much in evidence, and free-lance soapboxers were making a killing on every street corner. Now, if ever, was the time to establish an English-speaking branch of the I.W.W. in Chicago. But friction had started to develop between wintering migratory workers and the foreign-language groups.
This cleavage dated back to McKees Rocks, where the I.W.W. first attempted to organize immigrant workers. Throughout the country it had become the custom of "harvest stiffs" to use the Wobbly halls for overnight shelter as occasion demanded. The Tovarischi, at the Chicago Russian Propaganda League, put thumbs down on every practice of this kind on the general grounds that "flopping on the floor" was not a revolutionary act. The Jewish fellow-workers put up with it patiently for a while and then adopted a similar attitude. One evening I was called to an "indignation meeting." The stiffs decided that Chicago needed an I.W.W. hall of its own. Bill Haywood supported them.