(Copyright, estate of Gaillard Hunt)
CITY OF MASTERLESS MEN
Peter Mann was "agitprop" of his Communist Party unit. It was his duty to lead the political discussion period. He would make a report on the developments that had occurred during the week in America, and would call for discussion and analysis thereof. Then he would call on Comrade Meyer for a report on the China situation, following which Comrade Fuller would be asked to outline a Marxian analysis of the boiling porridge of European politics. Political discussion was supposed to take up forty-five minutes to an hour, then they would cut it short and get down to the business of a certain professional workers' union that they controlled.
There were nine of then, and it was a fact that they controlled the local of over two hundred members. Democratic procedure was scrupulously observed in union meetings, but it always happened that any measure the unit had agreed upon was passed and that anyone the unit put up was elected to office. They could do this because the unit members knew what they wanted and also knew the arguments in favor of it and the answers to any arguments anyone was likely to raise against it, and also because no other organized group had risen to oppose their control.
The meeting that week was held in Meyer's apartment, and the members were distributed haphazard over the main room of the place. Two were scrawled on the couch, three were sitting in chairs, and the rest were seated on the floor. Peter was finishing his analysis of an unemployment insurance bill that had just been introduced into Congress. "Therefore, the bill is just a gesture. It's a token payment, sort of. Does nobody any good but, at the same time, it is a step in the right direction. This Administration can accordingly claim credit for doing a whole lot more than the Republicans ever did. But no bourgeois political party can really solve this problem within the framework of capitalist society, because unemployment is the natural result of the contradictions of the system at the present stage of the game.
"Come right down to it, unemployment is the link that, if grasped, will move the whole chain, as Lenin puts it. That's why the Party is trying to promote a mass movement on this issue.
"Now, any discussion, or any correction to anything I've said?" Fairchild, the organizer, cleared his throat and. said, "I just wish to say that was a very good analysis, mainly because Comrade Mann puts everything into his own terminology instead of using the same wordage that is found in. the literature that we all read. Now we have twenty-five minutes more to devote to political discussion."
"Damn right I use my own terminology," said. Peter. "Trouble with Party literature is that it's full of cliches that are used so much they become meaningless. Send 'em a directive about it."
"But let's have some discussion. Comrade Freehoff." Freehoff, from the Bureau of Standards, said, "I took some notes. Now, you said that American workers seldom considered themselves other than temporarily destitute.
"You also said that Americans would stand for any amount of hardship provided the right kind of soft soap were handed out with it. You said that it is only when the ruling class is forced to brush aside the subterfuge and get tough that Americans become rebellious.
"Now, isn't that dangerously close to the doctrine of American exceptionalism."
"Is it?" said Peter.
"I don't think so," said. Fairchild. "The doctrine of exceptionalism, as expounded by the Lovestoneites, pertained to the actual operation of forces, as defined by dialectical materialism, in America under capitalism. Comrade Mann may or may not be right as to the emotional reactions of American workers. The fact remains that we have seen and are seeing the breakdown of capitalism, and the personal reaction of a worker or workers is beside the point.
"But wasn't Comrade Meyer assigned a report on the situation in China? And Comrade Fuller a report on Europe? The time is getting short."
Meyer began an explanation of the villainy of Chiang Kai-Shek and a description of the superhuman fortitude of the Chinese Red Army. Meyer came from Hew York, and he had once said that he could have written Mike Gold's "Jews Without Money". Peter did not think so -- he might have been born on the East Side but he lacked the depth of feeling of Mike Gold. Everything was a pat proposition to Meyer. He had a good government job -- he had got it thru Party connections and was in line for advancement thru the same influences -- but Peter was willing to admit that be was a Communist by conviction and a job-getter by instinct. For that matter he had had a good job in New York beforehand -- he just naturally had the knack of getting along. He belonged to the Party because it was the Right Organization; he believed in. the party line because the Party taught it, and he used the Party for material advantage because there was no rule against using it that way. If he had been born on Park Avenue instead of downtown be would have used the Masons or K. of C. or B'nai B'rith the same way. He was by no means a smart alec who bragged of knowing all the angles because a knowledge of the angles seemed to have been bred in his bones, and he took such knowledge for granted.
Fuller, on the other hand, was a different proposition. He was high-strung, emotional and nervous. To him the Party was something sacred -- the unit had once decided he was a victim of a "messianic complex" and it took peculiar forms. For instance, a set of Lenin to him was something evil unless it was the "Authorized Edition" and then it was like a Bible that has been blessed by the Pope. When he was drunk (his emotionalism often slopped. over into alcoholism) be was likely to sing the Volga Boatmen in Russian. He was the only son of a superannuated official of' an old-line agency and the constant conflict between him and his parents over his radical activities was a source of apprehension to the unit -- suppose they should talk to the Department of Justice? He was a hard worker, and would usually faithfully accomplish any task assigned him, but his general instability and his tendency to talk while drunk made him a standing threat to the iron-clad secrecy of the outfit.
Fairchild, the organizer, came from Philadelphia. There he had gone thru high school, then spent eight years attending a college and. professional school in the suburbs, at the same time living at home with his mother. During this time he seemed to have built up a frustrated idealization toward all that was lacking from his restricted life -- the things exemplified in the collegiate field by Skull-and-Bones traditionalism, for instance. His frustration made him bitter, and when he graduated near the top of his class in 1931 and found there were no jobs anywhere his bitterness turned to defeatism.
Once when they were discussing the need for secrecy and how quickly anyone would be fired from the Government if caught Peter had come across with a line that he had picked up from itinerant workers in the West: "Hell with 'em. I was looking for a job when I found this one." And Fairchild had answered, "That's wrong. I never expected to have a job when I found this one."
It was during this period of hopelessly walking the streets and filling out fruitless applications that he passed a Socialist bookstore and saw a pamphlet, "The Plight of the Technical Worker." He went in and bought it, and came back and bought other literature, and began to go to Socialist meetings. Communist scouts had picked him up there and recruited him into the Party, and when the CWA came he was a leader in a mass organization that did some good work.
He had studied Marx and Engels and Lenin and was a well-versed theoretician -- one of the effects of this was that the Skull-and-Bones stuff no longer bothered him because he could classify it as overplayed ritualism of a decadent ruling class.
Fuller ran thru the situation in regard to the United Front in France and Fairchild called an end to the political discussion. Then they discussed the passage, at the next union meeting, of a resolution supporting a Party-backed bill for Unemployment and Social Insurance, and the mailing of postcards to Congressmen and a donation from the union treasury to the League pushing the bill. It was decided that Fuller should introduce the resolution, and Peter should second it, and Fairchild, as president of the local and chairman, should recognize two or three of them for speeches in favor. If anyone spoke against it, the other comrades should jump up and snow him under with arguments.
"Now I move we adjourn and go out and watch the end of Prohibition," said Peter.
"Second the motion to adjourn," said Meyer, yawning. "But as far as going anywhere to see anything goes, I need some sleep. It's raining anyhow."
The motion carried, and they all stood up, stretched, and began to pick up hats and coats. "Repeal is not significant," said Fuller. "Prohibition was merely a convenient scapegoat to blame the Depression on. Distract attention from the real issues."
The manufacture of beer was to be made legal at midnight, and quite a large crowd had gathered in front of and behind Abner Drury's brewery waiting for the hour to strike. Several men had filtered thru the guards and were standing around the ground floor making wisecracks and looking over conveyors and capping machines, where an oldish worker in overalls was answering questions. He seemed expectant and excited, and a policeman stood nearby nervously flipping his club and eying the men with disapproval, but doing nothing about it. A smell of beer pervaded the place altho none was in sight.
Suddenly a whistle shrilled off somewhere and the conveyors began to clank forward. While the men watched fascinated they ran empty for a few seconds, then uncapped bottles of beer appeared. The worker ran and grabbed one from the first line and raised it and said something that was lost in the clatter, then other men seized bottles, raised them and drank the beer cooled for capping. Between gulps they cheered, and the cheer could be heard echoing outside. The cop got into the spirit of the thing and, grinning all over, strode to the conveyor and took a bottle.
He drank quickly, however, and after he had finished and placed his empty bottle carefully on the floor he drew himself up and began to shout, "Everybody, all of you, no exceptions -- ". The overalled man also snapped out of it and loudly insisted that the place had to be cleared. Peter went thru a door onto a loading platform, jumped down, and edged thru the crowd to where Ellen was sitting in his car which was double parked on the other side of the street.
He slid under the wheel, started the engine, and slowly eased forward to give people a chance to get out of his way. There were several men directly in his path -- they were standing in the street conferring and he had to blow his horn to make them move. They were a type he had seen in the crowd -- they wore shapeless hats and crumpled collars and their faces showed up in his headlights as dead serious and impassive. As he passed thru them he heard one say, "Ain't nothing holding you -- go get that quarter keg."
"Note these guys," he said.
"I've already noted them," said Ellen. "They look like an old woodcut of 'saloon life.'"
"Question is where have they been keeping themselves for the last fifteen years?"
"I haven't any idea," she said. By this time they were clear of the crowd and heading down I Street thru Georgetown. "Did you get inside? What happened in there?"
He described the scene in the brewery and added, "I met Peyton in there, and I saw Randolph and Root in the crowd. Maybe I should have invited them around to the apartment. We could have got some beer."
"What about Fairchild and Meyer?"
"They were tired. Is there a big preference?"
"Well," she said. "I've known men like Randolph and Root all my life. There were some men like Fairchild and Meyer at school but we couldn't associate with them."
It had started to rain again and he snapped on the windshield wiper and said, "Couldn't? Or wouldn't?"
"Darling, when you're a nice girl in the right sorority at the University of Alabama it amounts to the same thing."
When they got to the apartment house there was a note in the mail box: Will be back at 1 A.M.-- S.G. It was from the Open Party "contact" who brought literature from the bookstore.
They walked up two flights of stairs to their apartment which was a three room affair with well-proportioned rooms and ample windows looking out into the branches of a large magnolia tree. They had made no special effort to decorate their apartment but it was comfortably furnished -- Peter had got a few pieces from his family and they bad bought others to go with them. As they went in she said, "Dear, please don't sit up all night checking over accounts with Sam."
"Will it be all right if I get Sammy talking about Chicago strikes and what's wrong with Ludwig Lewisohn and --"
"It's a little late even for that," she interrupted. "Communists would be lots more effective if they'd ever get enough sleep."
They had scarcely taken off their overcoats and hung them up when there was a knock on the door and a sharp-faced, foreign-appearing man of about thirty-five came in. He had on a tweed suit under his damp topcoat and carried a paper-wrapped package.
"Good evening, comrades," he said. He turned to Peter. "Let's get the literature straightened out first."
He hung his topcoat over a chair and he and Peter sat on the couch and opened the package. It contained magazines, pamphlets and paper-covered books. Ellen selected a copy of the New Masses and sat in a chair to read it while the two men spent several minutes checking over orders, deliveries and payments.
When they had finished the man said, "Now there's something else. A comrade from the Central Committee is here and he wants to know about the underground setup you have here in Washington. So you run thru it -- naturally, don't tell me any names or departments or unions but just tell me how you're organized and what steps you take to insure secrecy, so I can make a report."
Peter lit a cigarette and started in. "To begin with, we're all organized into cells, or units, and the units are insulated from each other so that no comrade knows the identity of the members of other units than his own. Each unit sends one member -- usually the organizer -- to meet with the Buro, which decides policies and sends directives to the various units. The members of the Buro have no contact with each other's units and therefore know only their own units plus the comrades on the Buro. Therefore, if a spy should get in somewhere, he could expose only a small portion of the entire setup and the rest of the apparatus would be protected.
"You know how we handle dues. The Party cards and dues books are kept in the District Center at Baltimore and we turn in the money and the list either to the comrade from the District that comes over to meet with the Buro every so often to supervise the work, or I give them to you to pass on to the District Center. Naturally only Party names are used."
"A fine collection it is, too," said Sam. "Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, John Brown . . . Now if you would only live up to them -- "
"We'll see," said Peter. "Then there's the matter of literature. It is a strict rule for no comrade to ever go to the Bookstore. All the literature we read, I get from you. The comrades in my own unit give me their orders direct, and the organizer gives me the orders that he gets from members of the Buro for the guys in the other units to be distributed thru the members of the Buro.
"Naturally, such distribution is not suitable for regular subscriptions to the Daily Worker, so we have a different procedure for that. I stop by a certain store -- it happens to be a drug store run by a comrade or sympathizer -- and pick up a bundle containing the DWs for my unit. The members can drop by here for them when desired, or I can give 'em to them at the unit meeting. I don't know how other units work it, but I do know that no comrade gets the DW or any party literature thru the mail.
"Furthermore, we avoid attending demonstrations, mass meetings and so forth that are known to be under Party leadership. For one thing, old camera-eye Papalonidas and his Red Squad are always there and at present we know him much better than he knows us and we want to keep it that way. Also, you can't tell who the Department of Justice will send. Of course, when it is an affair under strictly union auspices it is some times necessary to attend.
"That's about the story."
"I got it," said Sam. "I'll report it.
"Now there's a couple of directives the comrade from the Center wants me to give you in regard to illegal work. One is that you must protect the identity of members in other units very rigidly. For instance if you learn in the course of duty that Mr. A is a Party member, don't tell your own unit members. And don't even hint at it by saying, for instance, 'Mr. A is a good guy.' Or, 'Mr. A knows what it is all about and can be trusted.'
"Also, don't turn up at union meetings and other mass functions in a body, and don't get off and confab with your comrades at such places. This should be elementary but after all the comrades are your friends and the temptation is to act as if they were your friends in public.
"I'll tell 'em," said Peter.
"Do that," said Sam. He stood up and said, "It's late and I have to go."
He hurriedly slipped on his overcoat and went to the door. "Good-night, comrades. See you next Thursday." And he was gone.
"Strictly business this time," said Peter.
Ellen put down her magazine and said, "Wasn't he, I'm disappointed, even if it is late. I enjoyed him so much last time, on Ludwig Lewisohn."
She looked so cool and poised that be found it hard to realize that all he had to do was to run his hand over her and the coolness would melt away like light snow in the sunshine, that when he would interlace his fingers with hers and squeeze she would squeeze back, that when he kissed her she would kiss back for as long as he kissed. But he knew it was true and that he would be doing all of this before long.
"Yes," he said, standing up and taking off his coat. "If I was a Jew I'd feel the same way he does."
"Me too. But they're terribly clannish. I noticed it at the meeting of my local last night. They all say the same things and vote the same way. I've got my own ideas who is in the C.P. unit in that union."
"If you want to know these little details, join the Party."
"Trying to play on my curiosity now?"
"Don't forget I have a standing assignment to recruit you."
She smiled and said, "As I remember it you once signed a paper that you would recruit me into the Catholic Church."
"That shou1dn't bother you."
It was impossible to tell from her face what she was thinking but be was thinking that she was his to use to fill up the blank space, to quench the fire, and that when he would press tight against her her warm flesh would give and respond to his and her breasts rub smoothly against him as they went along easily down the backstretch until he swung her around the turn with the warn blood pulsing like hoofbeats and the feeling galloping in his loins and her lips parted against his with breath coming in rhythmic gasps as he sucked out the last ounce of
ecstasy in the long stretch drive. That would take place soon; meanwhile she seemed to want to talk about the Party so he remained seated on the edge of the couch and lit a cigarette.
She said, "I'm not bothered by this, either. You haven't been too insistent. I want you to do what you think you should be doing -- I realize I wouldn't stand a chance of stopping you anyhow. But I'm not convinced. At least not yet. I'll just keep on working in. that little union local we have down at the office and pass around petitions to reinstate whatsisname and help picket -- "
"Thereby raising the appearance and appeal of our picket lines fifty percent."
"Me and Rose Ginsberg. I'd feel a lot more at home if we had more blondes -- there we are on that subject again."
"Don't ever think that subject doesn't come in for plenty of consideration by the people behind the scenes."
"I hope so, because it is an element. I get the feeling that people are staring at me with some kind of special curiosity. The rest of 'em are just people picketing but they seem to consider me something so terribly out of the ordinary. And one of the girls at the office almost put it into words -- it was when I was trying to get signatures on that petition. She said, 'You shouldn't be doing something like this.' I tried to pin her down but all I could get out of her was, 'It just isn't the kind of thing a person like you should do.' Maybe she thinks I ought to spend my time talking about clothes and calling people 'honey' ."
"Hell," he said disgustedly. "They react the same way down at my place. They're supposed to be educated, but they're still small-minded middle class wage slaves. That's the material we have to work with in Washington."
"I'm afraid you'd find it hard anywhere. "But you don't have to work with them right mow, darling. It's getting terribly late . . . ."
JOHN L. LEWIS, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED MINE WORKERS, SENT TELEGRAMS TO 300 LOCAL UNIONS URGING MEN TO RETURN TO WORK PENDING THE ADOPTION OF A CODE. THE TELEGRAMS SAID IN PART -I HAVE PLEDGED THE HONOR OF THE UMW TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO ASSIST HIM IN WORKING OUT THESE GRAVE QUESTIONS AJND I ASK YOUR SUPPORT TO REDEEM THIS PLEDGE-
A MURDER MYSTERY CONFRONTED NEW YORK POLICE TODAY WITH THE DISCOVERY ON SATURDAY OF THE BODY OF H.F. SANBORN, RAILWAY EXECUTIVE, BURIED IN A WOODED SECTION OF BAYSIDE, QUEENS.
INSPECTOR JOHN J. GALLIGHER SAID POLICE WERE LOOKING FOR A GIRL WHOSE NAME HE REFUSED TO REVEAL BUT WHO HE SAID WAS SANBORN'S FIANCEE.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT WILL RECOMEND THAT ADJUSTMENTS WILL BE MADE WITH THOSE EMPLOYERS WHO, HOLDING GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS AT A FIXED PRICE, HAVE FOUND THEIR COSTS INCREASED BY COOPERATION WITH NRA.
GENERAL JOHNSON LAUNCHED A SPEND FOR RECOVERY DRIVE IN A RADIO ADDRESS TO A MASS MELTING IN CLEVLAND. HE WARNED CONSUMERS TO SPEND NOW AND GET SOMETHING OR SPEND LATER FOR TAXES AND DOLES AND GET NOTHING. -TURN YOUR MONEY INTO THINGS BECAUSE ALMOST BEFORE YOU CAN DRAW A BREATH THINGS YOU WANT WILL BE WORTH MORE THAN THE MONEY YOU CAN SAVE BY NOT SPENDING- HE APPEALED TO THE WORKERS OF THE COUNTRY TO GIVE THEIR EMPLOYERS 100% WORTH FOR THE HIGHER MINIMUM WAGES AND LOWER MAXIMUM HOURS AGREED TO BY THE VARIOUS EMPLOYERS IN THE VARIOUS CODES AND AGREEMENTS
ADD SCHEDULE OF CODES
LIME--AUG.8, DUPUTY MUIR, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, GARDEN ROOM
BITUMINOUS COAL-- AUG. 9, DEPUTY SIMPSON, COMMERCE DEPT., AUDITORIUM
UNDERWEAR AND ALLIED PRODUCTS, EXCEPT OUTWEAR--AUG. 16, DEPUTY
WHITESIDE, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, BALLROOM
KNITTING MACHINERY AND BRAIDING AND WIRE COVERING MACHINERY -- AUG. 10,
DEPUTY MUIR, WILLARD HOTEL, SMALL BALLROOM
LEGITIMATE THEATRE -- AUG. 10, DEPUTY ROSENBLATT, OLED HOUSE OFFICE
BUILDING, CAUCUS ROOM
HOSIERY -- AUG. 10, DEPUTY ROGERS, NEW HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, CAUCUS ROOM
SALT -- AUG.14, DEPUTY PADDOCK, OLD HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, CAUCUS ROOM
FISHING TACKLE--AUG. 14, DEPUTY WHITESIDE, COMMERCE BUILDING, ROOM 2062
RETAIL TRADE STORES, EXCEPT FOOD AND GROCERIES--AUG. 15, DEPUTY WHITESIDE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
DRESS MANUFACTURE--AUG. 22, (POSTPONED FROM AUG. 10) DEPUTY HOWARD, NEW HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, CAUCAUS ROOM
MARY VAN KLEEK, DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL STUDIES OF THE RUSSELL SAGE FOUNDATION, ADDRESSED A TELEGRAM YESTERDAY TO SECRETARY OF LABOR PERKINS CANCELING HER ACCEPTANCE OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE FEDERAL ADVISORY COUNCIL OF THE U.S. EMPLOYEMNT SERVICE AND PROTESTING THE LABOR POLICY OF THE NATIONAL ADMINISTRATION.
MRS. VAN KLEEK CHARGED TEAT THE ISSUE WAS ALSO EVADED ON THE STEEL CODE.
-MOREOVER ENFORCEMENT OF THE LABOR PROVISIONS IN CODES ACCEPTED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT REQUIRES ACTIVE TRADE UNIONS-
BERLIN 60,000 NAZI STORM TROOPERS PARADED BEFORE ERNST ROIIIM, THEIR
CHIEF OF STAFF, ON TEMPLEHOF FIELD TODAY AND HEARD HIM HURL DEFIANCE AT
NATIONAL SOCIALIST CRITICS ABROARD.
-WE WILL WIN BECAUSE WE WANT TO WIN. WILL IS DECISIVE, IN THIS HOUR WE
PLEDGE TO OUR LEADER THAT WE WILL HOLD ALOFT HIS BANNER FOR ALL TIME.
-JEWS AND ASSOCIATES OF JEWS HAVE HELD THE GERMAN SOUL.
-GOD ETERNAL DID WHAT HE HAS DONE ONLY EVERY FEW THOUSAND YEARS--HE GAVE US A LEADER FOR THE WAR.--
KOENIGSBERG, EAST PRUSSIA--ERICH KOCH HAILED THE VIRTUAL ABOLITION
OF UNEMPLOYMENT IN THIS PROVINCE AS THE -MIRACLE OF EAST PRUSSIA-
ST. LOUIS-- A GIGANTIC BLUE EAGLE PARADE, WHICH WILL BE THE OUTSTANDING EVENT IN THE CAMPAIGN HERE TO OBTAIN 100% BACKING FOR PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT'S REEMPLOYMENT CAMPAIGN, HAS BEEN SET FOR AUG. 23.
Shortly after lunch time Peter was called on the telephone by Fairchild. It seemed he was in an uptown police station and needed someone to come and put up collateral.
Peter put down the phone and turned to the Chief, but it seemed the Chief had been listening and he was evidently in a benevolent mood. He waved aside Peter's request for leave. "It's quite all right, Mr. Mann. I like to see someone help a friend out of trouble. Only don't stay too long."
He took a taxi to the police station, paid the $10 collateral, and Fairchild walked out of the cell block. His suit was wrinkled and his eyes were half closed from a hangover but he was otherwise in fair condition. He expressed a desire for coffee so they went to a lunch room -- it was a small joint with wooden booths and a radio playing soft music.
Fairchild rubbed one side of his forehead with his hand and said, "Ten bucks."
"I tried to soft soap the man but it was no go," said Peter, "Told him you were a. responsible Government worker, a law abiding citizen, a good Communist -- "
"I'm afraid you're wrong there. As a matter of self criticism I will say that such an episode is inexcusable. It just happened that I didn't have any Party papers with me, or there might have been serious consequences."
"There might, at that," said Peter. "Suppose you tell me just what happened, anyhow."
It was not spectacular or interesting. He had taken a couple of drinks because he felt despondent, then had taken more, had run out of liquor and. gone out to a bootlegger and got some more and ended up blind drunk on the street. He did not remember much of what happened but there had been an argument with a taxi driver and. he woke up in jail. To Peter it sounded like an unintelligent petit-bourgeois trying to drown out some kind of bitterness. He said so.
"It's happened before," said Fairchild sipping his coffee. "Not often, but it has happened. I have made a decision to abstain completely from liquor for an indefinite period, and. I'll report it to the unit and see if they have any disciplinary measures to impose.
"These episodes are the result of a fundamental emotional disturbance. The primary cause of it, of course, is my need for a normal sex life."
"Even a Communist needs that."
"Even a Communist. But that's just the trouble -- it's difficult if not impossible to have a normal sex life when you're an active Party member. That is, if you're not married or otherwise satisfactorily situated to begin with."
"You mean Party work takes up all your time?"
"That's only part of it. I am so constituted that I can't become interested in girls with whom I am not ideologically compatible."
"What about Party members? Aren't there some girls on the Buro that you might give a whirl?"
Fairchild laughed and said, "You don't know 'em. But seriously, the condition is aggravated by working in this illegal Washington apparatus. We don't get the advantage of open association with a considerable number of comrades, as they do in New York and other places."
"There's something in that," said Peter.
Fairchild drained his coffee cup, sighed, and said, "I feel better already -- I'm. going to have another cup." The radio had stopped the music and was giving race results. The announcer said they were at the post for the second at Narragansett, and. then went into a commercial for a small loan company.
"I like a horse in this race if I can get the right odds," said. Peter. He got up and went to the telephone booth.
"When he got back Fairchild was stirring his coffee unsteadily. "You haven't forgot that delegation this afternoon," he said. "The one about overtime in that new agency."
"No," said Peter. "I've studied the issues. I'll give 'em hell."
"Good," said Fairchild. "If we win this case it will be a big organizational factor for the union. It will also help build you up. As was pointed out at the unit meeting, you have possibilities of becoming a strong union leader if you would develop yourself along certain lines in which you are now weak. For instance, recruiting and. organizational work."
Peter made a face. "I'll do my damnedest, but I don't like organizational work. Talking people into things. Soliciting. Pushing people around. Wish there was some way to fix it so I could concentrate on political analysis and education -- writing editorials and making speeches and so forth."
"The Party does not look with favor on specialization," said Fairchild severely. "You have all the qualifications and none of the handicaps for developing into a mass leader. What don't you like about organizing?"
"Don't like the material we have to work with."
"They're your own class. Professional workers. Salaried employees."
"Yeah, but they're too small change. I don't like their cowed attitude. They make a life career out of holding a job that gives a bare living."
"Brother," said Fairchild ominously. "Under present conditions a job giving a bare living is a career."
"I hate like hell to admit it, even if it is true. And it's a characteristic of white-collar men to abjectly accept that fact and kowtow to the bosses because of it. Workers as a rule don't. At least not the ones I've known, and I've known quite a few.
"Why, there's even an expression for it: F------ you, Jack, I got it made. Meaning I've got thirty bucks and that gives me sufficient independence not to have to take whatever unpleasantness you, the boss, are currently handing out. You hear that expression in construction camps, oil fields, harvest gangs, everywhere. And it's not just a cliche, it's an attitude. You could organize a strike with guys like that, but damn if you could with Government workers."
"That attitude is all right under certain conditions but you've never been out of work in a depression."
"No? I was in Los Angeles broke one winter when there were seventy-five thousand unemployed. I was also in Regina, Saskatchewan, when the harvest was rained out with the town overrun with harvest hands, and several other places under like conditions."
"That may be true, but you've never been living at home, unemployed, with no chance of getting a job and no assurance of ever getting one. That does something to you. You put in a few years as an itinerant worker, yes. But you did it more thru curiosity and a desire for adventure than anything else and the periods of destitution were part of the adventure.
"This, however, is serious business. It's not glamorous and it's not adventurous. To take an active part in a movement like ours means just plain monotonous hard work. In time of revolution you might lead an undisciplined band of irregulars, like Chapayev, but we are not at present in that stage.
"We must accept these white-collar guys as they are and learn to work with them and find out how to bring them into our organizations. You can't just disregard them because they don't talk like your f-- you jack itinerants. We have men in the transient camps to take care of them.
"We must learn to get the perspective of those with whom we work. Now, you probably bet over a day's salary on that horse just now."
"No," said Peter, "Price was too short. But I would have bet five and five, and that's considerably more than I make in a day."
"Exactly," said Fairchild waving his hand. "Do you wonder that gambling injures your perspective? In order to wage an effective campaign for salary readjustment you can't be so contemptuous of what a day's pay means to most Government workers.
"However, I realize that gambling is merely one manifestation of an inner unrest, just as what I did last night is a manifestation of a deficiency in my own life. We must overcome such obstacles. In order to become a real Bolshevik it is necessary to resolve all personal conflicts."
"What do you mean?"
"As an illustration, the Central Committee meets in New York. Assignments are given out: Browder go to Chicago for the Unemployed Councils, Minor to Pittsburgh for the steel workers, Winestook to Washington for the AFL Rank and File. And so on. They never consider a racetrack in Chicago or a girl in Pittsburgh or anything else outside the political field. All considerations have been eliminated and all personal conflicts resolved in favor of political effectiveness."
"Sounds difficult," said Peter.
"It is. But to get back to your problem, suppose you as an assignment find out how men at the Patent Office look at things, where they stand politically, what their grievances are and so forth. Make a report on it at the next unit meeting and maybe we can decide on the correct technique."
"Okay. I already know most of that and I'll correlate it and make a report. Incidentally, having a hangover doesn't affect your power of speech, does it?"
"No. A Communist must always be ready patiently to explain, even when he's in my condition. But let's go. I have to go to my room, take a shower and change my clothes and I'll see you later with the delegation."
Peter went back to the Office, and after work he walked over to the building where the delegation was to meet. They had an appointment at five o'clock to see Dr. Boswell, the head of the agency whose employes complained they were forced to work an hour or more overtime every day without compensation.
The delegation began to assemble. First came a chemist from the Bureau of Standards, then a man named King who worked at the Naval Observatory, wore thick glasses, and claimed he could do problems in celestial mechanics. Fairchild also turned up looking much better. Since it was almost five they went upstairs.
Dr. Boswell was ready for them. A messenger ushered them into the office where four chairs had been placed in front of the desk as in a classroom. The Doctor wrote down each of their names and departments on a scratch pad and glanced to the side of the room where a stenographer sat, pad and pencil in hand. Then they started in.
The Doctor wanted to know how many members of their organization were in his agency. Why was there not at least one of his employes on the delegation? How many of his employes were dissatisfied with conditions there? How did it happen that this delegation, which was made up of men outside his office, was here to present the case? Who had delegated them to do it? If anyone was dissatisfied, why did he not come to the Doctor in person?
Peter was chairman, and he answered all these questions promptly enough. They were routine stuff -- all department heads acted that way at first. Unionism and collective bargaining was new to then and they took the attitude that it was no outsider's damn business what happened between them and their employes -- they were not going to be influenced by any self appointed gang of trouble makers. If anyone complained on the outside they would like to know who it was -- such a person would be attended to all right. Naturally such an attitude was never openly expressed but was strongly implied in their questions. It was up to the spokesman of the delegation to state in effect that there were members of the organization in the department, that their names and how many there were would not be revealed, and that it would be po1itic for the department head to give his attention to the grievance involved.
Then they got down to the question of overtime. The Doctor said that his employes worked overtime voluntarily, and that he was prevented by statute from paying for such overtime. Peter said that coercion had been used, that they had records of when it had been used and by whom, that such records would be revealed if and when it became pertinent and that, whereas the statute expressly forbade the payment of overtime it was certainly not intended to be a unilateral provision and. it implicitly forbade the forcing of overtime work without payment. He cited decisions.
The Doctor said that his employes were professional men and it was decidedly out of the ordinary that they should resort to such measures as joining a union like laborers. They were interested in their jobs and wanted to do the extra work for this reason. Peter said that was commendable and that nothing would ever be said if, in case of emergency or desire to complete some particular job, they worked overtime for a day or so but in this case they were forced to do so day after day and. accordingly it came under the head of a grievance to be corrected.
Then the Doctor said, "Why, the bulk of our men were unemployed when they were taken on here. You realize this agency is only temporary but we hope to have a permanent appropriation to continue with a smaller force when our present appropriation expires. Our men are quite naturally all desirous of being selected for this permanent force so they try to make as good a showing as they can."
Peter took some time to answer that one. His mind went back to his interview with the Chief Clerk two years ago and he realized that the Doctor was expressing the attitude of all present-day employers -- work and tremble, you scum. If I snap my finger you will be destitute on the streets. Compete, cut each other's throats and worry. All for a chance to make a bare 1iving. He could not answer as he would like to -- tell him what he actually thought of him. But he couldn't let it pass; he would have to take it easy and follow it up,
The stenographer's pencil scratched and she turned a page of her notebook. Peter said, "These men were all qualified, were they not, sir? Passed examinations, certified by Civil Service?"
"They are all capable of holding these jobs; will be even more capable when the appropriation terminates and they are let go?"
"Yet you say, in effect, that you are staging a competition among them for a few permanent appointments. Now what factor enables you to set up such a competition? Why is it they are willing to compete?"
"Why, as I said, most of them were unemployed when they came here."
"You mentioned the fact that they are professional men. You implied that their professional dignity should put them above joining a union. Just where is the dignity in such a situation as prevails here -- afraid for their jobs, competing with each other for a mere permanent appointment, and being exploited by overtime as part of the competition?
"I cannot tell you what their feelings are in the matter. I only know that no one of them has spoken to me personally on the subject."
"Is it not likely that they would join an employe organization for protection against such exploitation?"
"I don't know what their intentions are, because they have not told me. If any one or a number of them came to me and complained I would be glad to consider the matter, but now I don't know how many or which ones are dissatisfied; I don't know how many you represent."
That put them back where they were before. Peter repeated that they represented a number of the employes involved, they were concerned with the treatment of all employes, and. cited the regulations to show they had a clear grievance. The Doctor said he would take the matter under advisement. He stood up and they thanked him and filed out.
"That was nice work," said Fairchild as he and Peter walked down the street together.
"I got a terrific kick out of telling that old bastard where to get off," said Peter. "Ye-ow. That was worth while."
Fairchild laughed and said, "I can see how you derive personal satisfaction from saying 'f--- you Jack' to a Government official, but that isn't the important thing. What counts is you also brought out the correct points to win the case and build the organization."
"Phooey. We've got five members there. May get ten or fifteen more if we win. Out of two hundred. The rest will take the benefit and sneer at those that fight for it. Guys like that just don't go for organization."
"Not now, but they will. We'l1 just keep plugging and show them. Show 'em once, show 'em twice, show 'em time and time again. They'll get the idea eventual1y."
Or home, to Introduction