Wobbly, the Rough-And-Tumble Story of An American Radical

By Ralph Chaplin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 19. THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
CLAMPS DOWN

TROUBLE had been brewing for a long time. The whole country was aroused against us. Public opinion was being lashed into fury as reports from European battle fronts became more disturbing. We were on record as having denounced the war as another capitalist slaughterfest. That didn't help.

Our most intensive organizational drive was under way. We were getting a break at last in our efforts to line up "wage slaves" in support of the "One Big Union" program. Metal miners, longshoremen, seamen, as well as harvest, oil, and construction workers, were flocking to the I.W.W. in droves. Starting with the boxcars, we were obtaining job control in several basic industries. The continent had been plastered with I.W.W. stickerettes, and Joe Hill's songs were being sung around countless "jungle" fires. It looked like our inning. We had waited a long time for it. But, while this was going on, the information of our strikes, picket lines, and utterances as it reached the public was distorted and exaggerated out of all proportion. There were dark hints about machinery, bridges, and trains that had been "sabotaged." Whenever a haystack or a barn burned down, a posse of good citizens started to look for the Wobbly in the woodpile. Itinerant workers and I.W.W. organizers were every man's game. Local hoosegows were full of "I.W.W. dynamiters." I.W.W. prisoners dragging ball-and-chain were a common sight in many otherwise tranquil towns and cities.

I stepped into the editorship of Solidarity just at the peak of this troubled period. Every morning my desk was piled high with strike bulletins and harrowing accounts of the manhandling or arrest of I.W.W. members. Our enemies were putting two and two together in an effort to enmesh us in a web of "anti-war

-219-

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