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On the San Pedro Slave Market

By FRED R. WEDGE

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men."

HIS is a recital of conditions on the San Pedro precious. Now forsaken by the masters, he waits

waterfront before the great strike of marine the final call to the morgue-homeless, friendless;

transport workers and longshoremen took remembered for a day, the great curtain will soon place. I leave it to the intelligence and judgment of close over him and some young husky stevedore will all sane man and women whether or not these work- step up to the iron rail in the slave market to take ers had sufficient cause to strike.

his place. I registered as a stevedore on March 21 at the As I turned away with a heavy, sinking feeling, office of the Pacific American Steamship and Ship nauseating disgust against a system that would throw Owners' Association. The slave number given me on the social rubbish heap this old man after almost was 1313. The blue employment card was signed every drop of blood had been squeezed out of him, by E. Nichols; card revocable any time Nichols a cripple limped up to me. thinks the slave shows radical symptoms.

“It's tough to see men like you stand up in comOn this eventful morning over four hundred work- petition with these husky stevedores," I remarked. . ers had been waiting outside since daybreak, in I was alright till a dock boss jerked a truck the hope of getting work cards. Inside the big out of my hands and a heavy piece of iron broke building once known as the "slave pen" or "fink my ankle.” hall," over eight hundred workers were crowding, “But why didn't you sue the company? The empushing, milling, like a drove of cattle on the range, ployers are responsible for the actions of their foreholding their blue cards out to stevedore foremen pedestaled above them like medieval kings on This touched a sore spot.

“Sue the company, thrones. The bosses looked down on the workers hell! I went to a lawyer and he told me the most with critical eyes, sizing them up and picking them I could get was $200, and I'd never get a chance out, the same as did the plantation owners prior to work on the docks again. The company has all to the Civil War with their black slaves before buy- the slaves insured, and although I was entitled to ing them.

$16.00 a week I never got it. Now the boss says The job seekers are yelling: "Here I am, Alex!"" when there are lots of boats and they're short of Over here, Bull Dog!" "You know me, Knuteson !" men he might take me on. I'm hoping so." "Oh, boss, give me a chance !" "I'll give you two Another fellow was cussing the system that would dollars for a job—three dollars-five dollars !" cause him to stand up in the slave market and be

Another yells out: "I'll give you ten per cent of bid upon like a chattel slave. what I make-take me!" Some slave way back in "I am from Nebraska,” he said. “I came out here the crowd cries out: "I'm nice and fat, take me! looking for work, and this is all I could find. I

Then a big six foot stevedore tramples over the put in two years at the University of Nebraska. I smaller workers, like a big bull plunging through have learned that a lot of things they taught me in the steers on the range. The bosses see him stam- college are not true. The old professor in economics peding the other wage slaves and make a rush to said that labor is not a commodity. He might as give him a work card. This slave, they well know, well have said that water will not freeze. Labor will make the others run on the job-he'll "speed is a commodity under this present sysceni. The law 'em up." He gets his card and with proud arrogant of supply and demand governs the price they pay air crowds "the little fellers" out of his way again. the wage slave.

One man who had been knocked down by this “Young man," I replied, "you have been listen. husky fellow worker said to me:

ing to some of these I. W. W. speakers up at "I don't know what I'll do if I don't connect Fourth and Beacon streets in San Pedro." with a work card today—I have a wife and three “Speakers, nothing! It's not the talk that makes children in San Pedro and all I've made in two radicals—it's the damn conditions under which we weeks is $4.00. Every morning I get here before work. Say, I've learned more about the real prinsix and stand up against this iron rail all day. I'm ciples of economics in one month here on the slave getting desperate. It's hard to see your wife and market than all those sul.sidized high-brov: profesbabies hungry when a few have all the good things sors taught me in all my diays at school and college. of life.”

It's coming." An old gray-headed man was trying to fight his “What's coming?" I asked, looking around, exway to the boss. His shrunken body and wrin- pecting to be trampled under foot by a gang of kled face made a pathetic appeal as he tried to stevedores. bravely grin with toothless gums. He was just a “Why, a changed system, you damn fool!" worn-out old wage slave. The master's greed for I admitted I had been a fool, but that I was gold had stripped him of all that he once held beginning to take on a little education since I had

INDUSTRIAL PIONEER

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den motives which they attempt to disguise, and to laugh at them, is stoutly denied by these self-appointed leaders.

As I went into the inner office of the Pacific American Steamship Association, I wondered if this man Nichols, into whose presence I was about to be ushered, really knew what those men in the slave pen were thinking. The ship owners, hungry for dividends, placing the dollar far above human values, and blinded by greed, fail to read the hand-writing on the wall.

Nichols did not impress me either by his appearance or intelligence. I have less respect for these sleek, well fed, well groomed tools of the masters than for the masters themselves. The masters accumulate millions, the go-betweens like Nichols drive the wage slaves—play the Judas Iscariot to their fellow men, and don't even get any dividends to placate their consciences with.

“What's your name?
“F. R. Wedge.”
"Ever work for this company before ?"
"No."
"Are you a member of the I. W. W.?"

The truth is, at that time I was not a member, nor did I possess very definite ideas about the aims and objects of the organization. I showed him my Elks card. This seemed to satisfy him that I was an obedient slave. But his satisfaction was but for a moment. When he started to write my name in the slip which was to 0. K. me with the registration clerk, somehow my name seemed to look different on paper.

"Wedge-Wedge—say, are you the fellow that has been speaking for the I. W. W's. in San Pedro ?”

I replied that I had been doing some lecturing on economics, that teaching was my profession. Nichols rang the buzzer. I thought it was for a policeman, but Kelly, another company official, answered the ring.

Do you know this man?”

“Yes, I've been expecting him here for several months. I knew he'd get here sooner or later. You're the man who gets $15 a night for speaking for the I. W. W."

I felt highly complimented to think the Pacific Steamship Manager placed such a high value on my services, but I was forced to admit that the Industrial Workers of the World place no such money value on my lectures. In fact, that I received no remuneration, but had begun to speak in defense of the working men who had been unjustly imprisoned on a fake charge of criminal syndicalism. So I told him that from a monetary standpoint my work had not been a success, that I was now forced to seek a job in order to support a wife and son. In the medieval days they considered it no sin to lie to a heretic and now the heretic was prevaricating to a representative of the master class.

The point is that I had made up my mind to get a job and see with my own eyes what's what on

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I suggest to every high school teacher and college professor of economics and sociology to put on a pair of overalls and handle a longshoreman's hook for a few months, and see if his parlor theories on economics will stand the test. Today one looks almost in vain among business men, editors, school teachers, clergymen and politicians for an intelligent understanding of the demands of the industrial workers. The ruling class hastens its own downfall by the manner in which it deals with the masses. The leaders in power seek to draw public attention back to old issues and faiths which are dead. The fact that the old charms and shibboleths no longer work, that the industrial laborer of today is intelligent enough to see right through them, to discover hid

JUNE, 19 2 3

the San Pedro water front, so after I had lied to tioned; they promised to give me the best of it and E. Nichols and his tool Kelly, I added to my infamy they tried to live up to that promise. In that inner by handing him a paper which I had written on the office they told me that some of their most trusted I. W. W. while I was studying at Harvard in Dr. men were once sympathetic to the I. W. W. but Wm. McDougal's class in abnormal psychology. I that now they are strongly against the wobblies. wrote this paper before I ever met an I. W. W., Sold out for thirty pieces of silver—0, Judas, thou when I was as innocent of the great idea of the one art still alive! When the strike was called, some of big union as my distinguished professor was ignor- these renegades to the working class became scab ant of the struggles of the workers. I read to herders for the Pacific American Steamship Owners, Nichols and Kelly some of the hottest Harvard argu- they perjured their souls with acts of violence ments against the I. W. W., taking particular care against the men who are trying to bring about a not to reveal the fact that the thesis was a year old. new and better system of society by organizing and In this paper I tried to prove that the I. W. W. idea educating the workers to the end of abolishing wage was not caused by economic conditions but was slavery. merely an attitude of mind; that the "crowd ideas" of the radicals were "fixations,” indicating that their On the following morning I was at the iron rail leaders were neurotics and paranoiacs. In fact, in of the slave pen in the fink hall at six o'clock. that paper I called the I. W. W's. every long scien- There were men who had come even earlier. True tific term I could steal from learned professors who to his word, Kelly stood beside one of the foremen had “Harvard ideas" about the workers.

and pointed me out. There was nothing fair in I could tell immediately that Nichols and Kelly that method. I was told of the blue ribbon gangs were greatly impressed by those psychological jaw- -the men who have steady work. I thought they breakers. I am sure they understood not a word of hold these jobs because they were better workers it, but they both expressed the thought they con- than the others, but I found that it is not so. Many sidered I was on the right line—that I had taken a of them never show up in the slave market. Most very reasonable and rational view against the of them are personal friends of the bosses; they I. W. W.

will stay on the job and scab when others strike. So I exchanged my Harvard thesis on the I. W. W., Some of them furnish wine and whiskey to the boss written before I ever met a member of the organ- when he visits their homes, which happens quite ization, for a blue card. Nichols made it perfectly frequently. Free eats, free booze, free cigars and clear that I was not to be considered a common cigarettes, at every visit. It is commonly reported worker, that as soon as I became familiar with the and alleged that some of the more ignorant workers stevedore business, I would be made a boss and in these blue ribbon gangs, whose sense of justice would make from $70 to $80 a week. Kelly in- and morality has been dulled through generations of vited Mrs. Wedge and son to his Long Beach home, slave philosophy, even permit familiarity of the and I left the office of the Pacific American Steam- bosses with their women folks at home. ship Owners with a very poor opinion of the intelli- Verily, verily, the modern stevedore boss is a gence of Nichols and Kelly, and a greater respect regular feudal lord. In the dark ages, the serf had for the workers in the slave pen. I pondered upon to get the consent of his master before he could the ignorance of those two men in that inner office marry, and often the lord of the manor got the about the great amount of knowledge among the first night. I hope the stevedore boss is more conworkers on the slave market. Nichols had just told siderate. But the ethics of the dark ages still me that the present unrest among the seamen and flourish. stevedores was all uncalled for, that everything To pass rapidly over the experiences of the last would be all right, were it not for the I. W. W. four weeks before the strike when day after day agitators who make the workers discontented. That I lined up with hundreds of workers in the slave when they succeed in silencing them by the use pen and scarcely made starvation wages. I worked of force, by charging them with criminal syndical- for a while on boats carrying cement and fertilizer, ism and sending them to San Quentin for ten or until I saw some men faint—who were not as strong twenty years, that then everything will be "fine and healthy as I. A few years of such toil will and dandy.” “All will then be peace in the ranks throw anybody on the social scrap heap. The policy of the seamen and stevedores forever and ever. of the Pacific American Steamship Company has Amen."

been to keep hundreds of extra workers ready for extra boats, but with no thought as to how these

workers are to live. In writing of my experiences during the past four weeks on the slave market, before the slaves rebelled and went on strike, I have cast behind me proprieties Then came the great day, the day when the slaves usually held sacred. I have spared no one. I have on the San Pedro water front asserted their manconsidered principles and human values more sacred hood, when they looked each other square in the than personal confidences. Personally, I have noth- eyes and called themselves men. The strike was ing against either of the two company officials men- called on Wednesday, April 25. The vote was taken

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Tribute to Ricardo Flores Magon

By MORTIMER DOWNING

I

I.

CERTITUDE
AM progeny

Of eternally recedent eras-
Of man, of man's forbears, of cosmic unison.
Some elements are crude
And some of rare subtility-
My Self, encysted in a clod.
Assault and repulse,
Struggle and yielding,
Battle and triumph,
Built the frame of me.
Between the Me that thinks and the insensate dross
Conflicts rage, enforcing form upon the incohate;
Every mite agonizing toward freedom in cannibal voracity,
But subserving to support me.
Intrinsic all-matter, function, stress.
Emancipate of duty,
These atoms would ride the wind,
Plumb the sea, seep into the rocks,
To wed and fashion other forms.
Shall I shudder when tranquillity enfolds this shape?
Death is Life's last kiss.

II.

PURPOSE
EFORE the earth was spaced in rhythm with the spheres,

Life was.
In deepest rocks, in frigid aether, incandescent suns,
Life abides.
Matter-motion-force, changing, indestructible, continuous,
Age on age, cell near cell, sterile,
Reposed the germinative urge;
Whirling gases calmed, affinities coalesced;
Mass emerged—land, ocean, air-
Chemic womb of animation.
Upon the silted floors of sunny seas
Cell sought cell and clearer light was craved;
Organization ripened into function;
Experience waxed into instinct;
Reproductive ganglia quested food.
Who recks the day when man's ancestor
Dared a space upon the strand
And from that feat regained his kind?
Who celebrates that seeker for the Holy Grail?
Offspring of gelid love,
Where school and school and school had spawned-
Broadcast melt with roe uniting-
This high adventurer broke trail for Eros and for Psyche.
To all the travail from rock-bound cell to Aristotle
I am heir.
Sentient, conscious, in Nature's laboratory I stand.
Shall I cower?
Shall I tryst with Destiny, my sweetheart ,
In her to procreate my will?

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