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By F. P. O'HARE
HE results of the vote in Oklahoma indicate the efficiency
of "intensive" agitation work, as opposed to the ordinary methods.
Years ago our Oklahoma agitators went into the "brush" as the most likely place to expound the class struggle. In the towns it will be found that there is as
yet no definite movement toward Socialism. In states like Illinois, the small towns are largely dominated by retired farmers, a most conservative and capitalistically minded class. The denizens of these communities are "established.” In Oklahoma, however, the towns are filled with a pushing, aggressive set of people, on the lookout for the nimble dollar. In the older states the attitude toward Socialism is hatred, but in our little towns tolerance largely prevails.
In the older communities class interests dominate, while in our communities town interests, town loyalty is strong.
This is true because each community is fighting every other community for trade supremacy.
So as yet there is but little foundation for a proletarian movement in our towns. But all classes give Socialism a respectful hearing.
But in the mining districts, and the rural districts, we find a true proletarian class—landless farmers and toilless laborers—and among these workers the socialist thought is making tremendous strides.
In 1900 there were 768 socialist votes in Oklahoma Territory, and probably the same number in Indian Territory, or a total of 1,500. At this election 21,750 votes were cast for Debs, and this, too, in the face of the fact that the Democratic party had met all of organized labor's demands and placed bona fide labor men in office as Commissioner of Labor and Mine Inspector.
So it is safe to say our vote is a true Socialist vote.
In the mining county of Coal, our vote was 24.3 per cent, and in the cotton county of Marshall, our vote was 24.2 per cent of the total.
Our membership has carried on the most thorough agitation of probably any state. Our state and national dues are 15 cents per month, and in spite of high dues, our comrades contributed about $850 for the Red Special
We have had as high as twenty speakers in the field at one time, and many of our counties took speakers for thirty days at a time, covering practically every voting precinct. Only nine of our counties cast less than 100 votes each, and we have seventy-five counties.
A unique step was taken by our force of field workers. At the last meeting of the state executive committee that body recognized the "Oklahoma Field Workers Association," composed of "all state speakers recognized as such by the Oklahoma Socialist State Committee.” The O. F. W. A. framed a series of recommendations having in view the greater economy of effort and greater efficiency of its membership, and these recommendations were adopted in toto by the State Executive Committee.
From June 15 to June 30, 1909, the field workers will conduct a school in some rural retreat, and each speaker is to be assigned to some department of socialist thought, to investigate and to deliver three lectures on it to the class.
Among the subjects to be assigned are: "The Race Question"; "The Farmer"; "Socialist Activity in Legislation”; “The Land Question"; "Women”; “Trade Unions”; Single Tax”; “Theory of Value”; “Theories of History," etc.
O. F. Branstetter, J. O. Watkins and the writer were made a committee on program and will arrange for the handling of each subject by the twenty or more speakers expected to be present.
From now on our effort will be to develop county secretaries and county organizers, as the routing of the speakers has assumed such proportions that it is necessary to divide the work. The ideal way, of course, is for the state secretary to assign a speaker to a given county for fifteen or thirty days and have the county secretary make the dates in his county.
We have a tremendous undertaking before us, but we have such a big bunch of tireless workers that the prospects look joyful indeed, and we all start in the campaign of 1910 with renewed enthusiasm and great expectations.
A CONDITION THAT DEMANDS ACTION
By WILLIAM McDEVITT
OLITICAL action is the most important weapon in the
armory of the working class organized. The ballot is an important fornial factor in the political struggle of the class war. The worker's vote is an outcome of long struggle for political “rights” and civic standing; and the preservation of the ballot of the working man
against direct or insidious attacks must necessarily be one of the greatest concerns of the socialist movement.
Undoubtedly the most serious and most practical questions springing out of the results of the recent general election, are these: Is the working class losing the ballot? Are the workers being disfranchised? What is the rate of disfranchisement? What is the cause? Is there a remedy?
The most casual study of the figures cited in this statement will demonstrate that the workers ARE being disfranchised. These figures. Grawn from the best available records of the vote and the population of this country prove, beyond the power of denial, that there is an immense fall in the ratio of total votes to total persons. Since the relative size of the working class is increasing in geometrical proportion, the loss of voting power falls almost entirely upon the men who produce the country's wealth and bear the nation's burdens.
Where the population is most congested, there the proletariat prevails in numbers; where the workers are most numerous, there the vote is most restricted. Rhode Island, for example, is the most densely populated state in this country; it has only 1 vote for each 7 persons, Massachusetts ranks second in density of population; it has about the same ratio of votes to persons as Rhode Island. Both of these states have a maximum of city or proletarian population, and a minimum of agricultural or rural population. Needless to say, their socialist vote is a pitiful percentage of the mass.
Now, then, for some figures that illuminate this decline of the suf
frage. Take the latest nine presidential elections; group them in periods of three, 1876 to 1884, 1888 to 1896, 1900 to 1904; then note the startling development in the process of disfranchising the worker and divorcing the man from the ballot, the producer from the vote.
In 1876 the total vote was 8,412,732, the population (estimated) 45,000,000, the ratio of voters to persons 1 to 574. In 1880 the vote was 9,209,406, population 50,155,783, ratio 1 to 512. In 1884, vote 10,044,985, population (estimated) 55,000,000, ratio 1 to 512. The average ratio for this period of three general elections is 1 to 5 5-12, or about 5 voters for every 27 persons.
For the second three-elections period the figures stand as follows: 1888, 11,280,860, 60,000,000—1 to 5 2-7; 1892, 12,059,351, 65,300,000— 1 to 51/2; 1896, 13.913,102, 70,500,000—1 to 5. (The abnormally large vote of 1896 has never been accounted for, except on the basis of Altgeld's demonstration of enormous ballot-box stuffing by the accomplished lieutenants of the late lamented Mark Hanna.) Allowing for abnormal conditions in 1896, we figure the ratio for the second three-elections period at 1 to 574. Apparently the vote has become less restricted ; actually, however, this was simply the golden age of ballot-box stuffing and repeat
More money was spent on votes in 1896 than in any previous campaign in American history.
But now the tide turns. The figures for the latest three-elections period are as follows: 1900, 13,952,896, 76,303,387–1 to 51/2; 1904, 13,510,708, 83,000,000—1 to 6 1-6; 1908, the vote, estimated liberally, is 14,400,000, the population 88,000,000, the ratio 1 to 6 1-7.
Now note the contrast: Every one of the latest three elections shows a smaller comparative vote than the average for the preceding six elections, or for the preceding three (1888, 1892, 1896), or for the preceding two (1892-1896). From 1888 to 1908 (twenty years), the rate has fallen from 1 to 5 2-7 to 1 to 6, or from 100 votes for 528 persons, to 100 votes for 600 persons. In other words, for every 600 persons 72 more than in 1888 are now disfranchised, an increase in disfranchisement of at least 12 per cent.
Taking the present population and using the ratio of the period 1888-1896 (1 to 514), the vote in 1908 should be 16,800,000 instead of 14,400,000 (or thereabouts). The number of the newly disfranchised, therefore, foots up to the appalling total of 2,400,000. These figures don't require emphasis—they cry aloud for themselves. Remember, also, that this number, 2,400,000, represents only the additional disfranchisement over 1888-1896.
Further light is thrown upon the condition of disfranchisement by a consideration of these figures: Voting population of the United
States in 1900, 21,329,819 (males of voting age); actual voters in 1900, 13,952,896. Over 7,000,000 voters didn't vote in 1900.
Such figures as the foregoing prove conclusively, then, that the workers are being disfranchised-progressively and effectually. Possibly the quantum of disfranchisement is less than some perfervid agitators have claimed; but it is certainly appalling enough to demand systematic and immediate action on the part of the socialists of this country.
Of the 2,400,000 persons disfranchised by reason of recent economic conditions and political trickery-loss of work, loss of residence, throwing out of ballots, suppression of the count, unnatural naturalization laws, and all of the insidious methods of robbing the workers of their franchise—it is certainly conservative to say that 20 per cent would vote the Socialist ticket. Adding this 480,000 to the cast-and-counted Socialist vote, we get at least one million as the actual Socialist vote of today. This calculation is far too conservative; but it presents a situation that requires planful and energetic action NOW. A systematic campaign during the next four years, to save our voting force, will do more to increase our votes in 1912 than the most strenuous Red Special campaign that we can conduct in 1912.
The most logical immediate demand of the Socialist Party is the demand for the vote for the worker—whether male or female. If we are ready to tolerate the increasing robbery of the workers' votes, we must also 'be ready to make a fundamental change in our political tactics.
Shall it be Ballots or Bullets?
The more a ruling class is able to assimilate the most prominent men of a ruled class, the more solid and dangerous is its rule.-Karl Marx, in Capital, Volume III.