EVENTS since the days of Reconstruction are still too close to afford that perspective view necessary to isolate the historically important from the sensationally striking. Only the length and vision of years, or the foresight of the prophet, can determine with certainty the events and the forces that form institutions and shape society, and thereby constitute the stuff of which history is made.

      The one great fact of these years has been the stupendous development of concentrated capitalism. This has been based upon a continuous rapid transformation of the tools with which society does its work. Invention has crowded fast upon invention. The whole wonderworking cabinet of the electrician has been unlocked and its contents put at the service of man. Almost every department of industry has been revolutionized over and over again in this period, and every revolution brought greater power of production.

      The network of railroads begun at the close of the war has been extended until it has covered the nation as with a web, whose radiating threads of steel mark the industrial centers. To the building of these railroads an empire of land, larger than the territory of any nation of western Europe (about five times as large as the state



of Ohio) has been given. To this imperial graft the same paternal government added cash subsidies and guarantees of bonds amounting to hundreds of millions more. To this has still been added piled up millions of bounties and bonuses by state and local governments until it is well within the truth to say that such funds, so given, have been sufficient to build and equip every railroad in the United States as they were built and equipped in the early eighties.

      These roads were then permitted by the government to become instruments of private profit.

      In those years steel displaced iron, owing to the introduction first of the Bessemer and then of the open hearth process. The development of the Lake Superior ore deposits, the cheapening of lake transportation, and the shifting of the market for iron westward, with the growth of the railway systems and the building of great cities, caused the center of the steel trade to move from Pittsburg to the point where these sources of demand and supply found an equilibrium. This point now seems to be located near the southern end of Lake Michigan.

      With the United States as a leading factor in the international steel trade an international steel trust was inevitable.

      More and more the population drifted cityward. As industry after industry - weaving, shoemaking, manufacturing of clothing, preparation of meat, and a host of others - left the rural household for the city factory, the workers perforce followed their work. At first the rural population was merely outdistanced in rate of growth. But the census of 1910 shows a positive decline in rural population in the predominant agricultural states.


      This growth of the cities was accelerated by the mighty flood of immigration. There was a succession of waves in this coming of the peoples of other countries. Irish, Germans, and Scandinavians formed the first battalions. These, like those that had been coming since colonial days, pressed forward to the frontier and were swiftly amalgamated. Later came a series of waves from southern and eastern Europe, Italians, the mixture of nationalities from within Austrian boundaries, and a great army of exiles from the Russian ghettoes.

      When these reached America, the frontier was gone. Free land was no more. Agriculture, instead of swiftly expanding, was already declining. This new army of colonists was caught up in the internal currents of population already flowing strongly toward the cities, and settled in ever growing colonies that resisted amalgamation and endured a degree of exploitation and misery hitherto unknown in America.

      Not even the Homestead Law, creating its millions of small freeholders, could prevent the forces of concentration producing their result. The census of rgzo again shows that even this wholesale apportionment of land by the government, the division into small farms of great sections of railroad holdings, and the breaking up of the Southern plantation, were unable, for more than a generation, to check the effect of the law of concentration of ownership in this, the slowest of all industries to respond to the pressure of social forces.

      From the beginning the farmer of the Western prairies formed a less self-sufficient industrial unit than the small pioneer farmer of the earlier and more eastern stage. The Western farmer was a grower of staple crops for


the market. Railroads, elevators, and marketing facilities were essential instruments in the production of these commodities. These instruments became the means of his exploitation, and against them he turned his wrath. In three great uprisings, - the "Granger Movement" of the late seventies, the Populist uprising of some ten years later, then the Bryan Democracy of 1896,-the farmers, aided by an incoherent mass of discontented members of the crumbling small-capitalist class, sought to capture the powers of government. In each of these uprisings the old cry of the debtor class for cheap money that had been heard ever since colonial days was brought to the fore; but these later movements in their demands for governmental action in fields of industry emphasized the importance of the industrial changes that had taken place.

      Each of these efforts went down to defeat. The class of great capitalists was in control of nation, state, and municipalities, and of the executive, legislative, and especially the judicial departments of each and all. At no other time in this country, and never in any other land, has this class enjoyed such complete domination. Its ideas and ideals made and modeled social institutions. It created a society after its own image, and looked upon its work in bombastic spread-eagleism and pronounced it good. As the final triumph of capitalist evolution, its institutions deserve analysis.

      It was the time when the American dollarocracy of beef, pills, soap, oil, or railroads became the worldwide synonym for the parvenu and the upstart. In literature it produced the cheap, wood-pulp, sensational daily, the New York Ledger type of magazine, the dime


novel, and the works of Mary J. Holmes, Laura Jean Libby, and "The Duchess." In industry its dominant figures were J. Gould and Jim Fiske. In politics it evolved the "machine," the ward heeler, and the political boss, with Tweed as the finished sample. Its religious life found expression in sensational revivals upon the one hand, and a cheap negative atheism upon the other. In public architecture it erected the hideous piles that now disfigure our cities, and for private homes it added the type of the "Queen Anne front" and the "Mary Ann back." Its triumphs in sculpture were the bronze and cast-iron dogs with which the millionaire decorated his front lawn. It moved forward to the music of Moody and Sankey hymns and ragtime bands, while its one contribution to the pictorial art of the world was the chromo.

      There was a steady progress in industrial concentration, but there are certain distinct stages worthy of notice. The ten years following the Civil War might be properly designated as the period of the domination of the "large industry," the next fifteen years as that of the CC great industry," in contrast with the monopolistic stage prevailing since that date. These phrases are indefinite, and do not fully express the qualitative as well as the quantitative differences that distinguish these periods.

      Until the panic of 1873, the dominant industrial unit (not the most numerous, but the one of which the ruling portion of industry was composed) had a capitalization of between fifty and five hundred thousand dollars. The number of firms was increasing quite rapidly in all but a few lines. There was still room at the top, and a host struggling upward.


      When in 1873 the "mad gallop" of industry ended once more in the ditch of an industrial crisis, with Jay Cooke and Sons, the great bankers and governmental agents of the war period, at the bottom of the mess, it was the last general panic of capitalism. Henceforth there were to be those who were to stand outside industrial crises.

      In 1873 the average capitalization of the firms failing was forty-four thousand dollars. Twenty years later, with the average industrial unit fully three times as large, there came another crisis, and the average capitalization of the firms failing was less than twenty thousand dollars. In the five years from 1893 to 1897 only five firms, with a capitalization of five hundred thousand dollars or over, failed.

      The gods of our industrial world were now safe upon a monopolistic Olympus above the storms that had once overthrown them. A few years later, in 1908 and 1909, they were able to largely direct the tempest, and even to hurl its lightnings at those who had presumed to dispute their divinity.

      The panic of 1873 marked the climax and collapse of expanding and competitive industry. This is shown most graphically by the table on the following page. Forty years of the most rapid growth in production, the doubling of the population, and the conquest of the international markets were accompanied with a decrease in the number of firms in the leading industries.

      Even these figures give but little idea of the tremendous concentration of power that has taken place within the capitalist class itself. The periodical press is now filled with descriptions of "inner circles," "spheres of interest,"


and all the multitude of methods by which a little group completely dominate the financial and industrial life of a nation.


18501860187018801890 1900
Agricultural Implements133321162076 1943910715
Carpets and Rugs116213215 195173133
Cotton Goods 1094 1091956 1005905 1055
Glass94112201211294 355
Hosiery and Knit Goods85197248359 796921
Iron and Steel468542726699 699668
Leather6686518875692628 17871306
Paper and Wood Pulp443555677 742649763
Shipbuilding9536756942188 10061116
Silk and Silk Goods6713986382 472483
Slaughter'd & M't P'kg.185259768 87213671134
Woolen Goods155912602891 199013111035
Malt Liquors 43112691972 219112481509
--------------- --------------
Totals13,51413,61619,349 18.40511,61711,193

      The period between the panics of 1873 and 1894 was still fiercely competitive, but it was the beginning of the competition of cannibalistic absorption, not for the conquest of new fields. It was the war to determine who should survive and dominate within the national market. When all industries, including railroads, were in a tooth and claw fight for survival, some rather startling weapons were discovered and brought into play. These were the palmy days of rebates, secret rates, and the various devices that gave rise to a whole system of repressive legislation after they had accomplished their purpose and were of no value to the ruling powers.


      After the panic of 1894, the industrial battle entered into another phase. The field was now filled; the number of really effective competitors in each industry was so small that the imminence of possible destruction and deglutition became evident to all. So the profit seekers decided to hunt in packs instead of as individuals, and the trust appeared as a dominant figure of industry. The creation and filling to repletion of the national market brought about a situation similar to that existing in the South before the war. There was a demand for expansion. The Spanish American War, the invasion of China, the Panama Canal, the ransacking of the dark corners of the earth for trade opportunities, followed.

      The century-long march across the continent was ended. The frontier of unoccupied land was no more. With the birth of the factory system at the close of the Napoleonic wars, American society turned its face inward. Now having conquered the continent and arisen to another stage of development, the curve of the ascending spiral swung once more outside of national boundaries and became involved in the sweep of international forces. That this movement was that of a spiral rather than of a pendulum is shown by the fact that this second entry into international politics was with a wholly different attitude than that which had been left behind when American capitalism broke loose from Europe.

      In these earlier days American society was but a plaything of forces outside its own boundaries, owing its existence as a nation as much to conflicts and jealousies between other nations as to its own power of assertion.


      Now it returned to become one of the most powerful factors in the struggle for worldwide commercial domination.

The Rise of Labor

      When the multitude of workers were released from military service, and returned to industrial life, they were confronted with a transformation that had been wrought while they fought. The individual employer had largely given way to the corporation. Great masses of workers were selling their labor to a common master. The railroads especially were creating and demanding a body of fluid labor power drawn hither and thither in search of employment.

      The Civil War had abolished the system by which the master hunted down the slave. Those who had fought that war returned home to find a society, one of whose new and most striking features was a body of workers hunting for masters. These new conditions affecting men so many of whom were familiar with the effectiveness of military discipline could not but produce an organized labor movement. Many of the powerful "International" unions of to-day were born in the decade following the surrender at Appomattox.

      These first unions were soon drawn together in the National Labor Union, that held its first convention in September, 1866.1

      After a couple of years of growth this party was weakened by being drawn into a "Labor Reform Party,"

1 "Documentary History of American Industrial Society," Vol. I, p. 227.


which was seeking to represent the interests of the small capitalist and the working class, without any very clear understanding of the interests of either. The "hard times" of 1873, therefore, found the working class almost completely unorganized. The first move of the employers, affected by the crisis, was to reduce wages. The unorganized workers could offer no effective resistance, and the return for labor was forced lower and lower until in 1876, when the Centennial of American Independence was celebrated, the American workers were suffering beneath an industrial tyranny worse than any imposed by English kings, and, in many ways, worse than that endured by the negro slaves in the South before the Civil War.

      So helpless were the workers that when, in 1877, the Pennsylvania railroad announced a still further reduction of 1o per cent in the already less than living wage, there was no organized body to resist. While there were grumblings and threatenings of revolt, the day set for the reduction came and went with no action on the part of the workers. Another day came and went, and the crew of a train running into Martinsburg, West Virginia, left their posts as they drew into the division end and walked out, declaring it to be no worse to starve idle than to starve working. Then one of those strange waves that seizes those on the verge of desperation swept across the country. The spirit of revolt leaped along the telegraph wires from city to city, until from the Mississippi to the Atlantic the wheels of industry were almost paralyzed. Then Labor learned one more reason why great capitalists wish to control a powerful, unified national government. For the first time in American


history workers in uniform shot down workers in the grimy garments of toil that profits might grow and wage slaves be kept in submission.

      The slaves had not yet learned the uselessness of violent resistance to organized power, and for a time they fought back. In Pittsburg they momentarily overcame some companies of militiamen, but the battle quickly ended. The workers were shot and bayoneted and clubbed back to defeat and submission. But Labor is born of the earth, and when crushed to earth draws new strength and new weapons from its very defeat. In 1869 a little band of workers, having discovered that open organization only invited the vengeance of the new form of outlawry, - the blacklist, - met at Philadelphia, and under the cover of secrecy, formed a society whose very name was never written, but was indicated by five stars whenever it was necessary to refer to it with pen or type. This society grew slowly, but steadily, until the strike of 1877, but it was not large enough at that time to play any important part in that struggle. The strike and its momentary defeat so suddenly and dramatically impressed the need of organization upon the workers that vast numbers flocked to this new organization. This sudden influx of members rendered the extreme secrecy of earlier years both impossible and unnecessary, and the mystical five stars were discarded and replaced by the words "Knights of Labor."

      At this time the spirit of the American labor movement was as thoroughly filled with the great revolutionary tendency of the times as that of any country in the world. The pioneers in its organization were largely German refugees of 1848 and the succeeding years. Many


had been connected with the International Workingmen's Association (the "Old International" founded by Marx). The whole ritual, literature, and spirit of the "Knights of Labor" was permeated with vague socialism. This spirit now found expression in the eighthour crusade that swept the laboring masses of the country with a sort of religious enthusiasm. This movement, like the "Knights of Labor," had started shortly after the close of the Civil War, and had remained dormant until about 188o. Then it gathered momentum until by 1885 it had become nation-wide and taken on more and more the character of a religious crusade. In some way the impression became general that the first of May, 1886, had been fixed upon as the day of the millennial dawn of the eight-hour heaven on earth. No organization of any importance fixed this date. The "Knights of Labor," whose members had grown so rapidly that its general officers were refusing to charter new locals, lest the organization become unmanageable, especially disavowed this date as being set for any action.

      Yet the movement grew, and reached such proportions as to threaten a serious reduction in the share that Capital was taking of Labor's product. Something like a panic seized upon the ruling class. Men elected to office by laborers were deliberately counted out in Chicago. This caused some of the leaders of labor to lose their heads and talk vaguely of violence. Then some one, whether fool, fanatic, or police spy, we shall probably never know, threw a bomb into a detachment of police who were breaking up a meeting on Haymarket Square in Chicago - a meeting that the mayor of that


city but an hour before had declared to be wholly peaceable.

      Then all the fiends of vengeance, controlled by the powers of plutocracy, broke loose. Few would deny to-day that evidence was manufactured by wholesale by the Chicago police and newspapers, or that even class law was stretched to the breaking point that the leaders of labor might be brought to the scaffold. They were brought to the scaffold, and the exploiters of labor rejoiced that resistance to exploitation was crushed. There was more reason for rejoicing than ever before. The appeal to violence and anarchistic individualism set back for many years the intelligent defense of Labor's interest. The American labor movement, hitherto inspired and largely dominated, even if in a somewhat indefinite manner, by the spirit of intelligent class revolt, now fell largely under the control of its most reactionary and short-sighted element.

      Organized labor in the United States became separated from all political action or social philosophy save that of expediency and opportunism, and the road was thrown wide for corruption and confusion. There were many causes for this, but it is doubtful if this period of isolation and partial sterility in the broader fields of action would have come, had it not been for the opportunity for judicial murder and popular prejudice created by those who appealed to anarchy and condoned violence.

      But no power on earth can permanently crush Labor. Gradually its revolt has grown conscious. Gradually it has evolved its philosophy in common with those of other nations. Slowly at first, but with ever increasing


speed, it has been translating its economic interests into political and industrial action.

      Like the commercial and plantation interests that brought about separation from Great Britain and formulated the Constitution, like the chattel slave owners that controlled the government and molded it for two generations, like the capitalist class that rode into power amid the blood and fraud and terror of civil war and Reconstruction, the working class has become in its turn the embodiment of the spirit of social progress, and is fighting for victory with a certainty of success before it.

      Every class that has controlled the powers of government has used these powers to create a society after its own image. The workers will do the same. While history may appear to have nothing to do with the future, it is impossible to draw the lines of social forces through all the perspective of the past and then stop them short at the present.

      The same forces that have operated in the past will continue in the future. New and more effective machines will be invented and hitched to more powerful and yet undiscovered sources of energy. Concentration and ownership of these instruments and forces will proceed while they remain private property. Labor will grow farther and farther away from the possibility of ownership of those things to which the lives of laborers are attached.

      Out of these facts the workers of the world in pursuit of their class interests have evolved a line of action that leads to organization for the attainment of political power. Labor, like the merchant class, chattel slave


owners, and capitalists, is fighting for political power. It will use that political power to obtain control of the instruments essential to the lives of the workers. That ownership cannot be individual. Industry cannot be disintegrated back to the stage of individual ownership. It must be still further integrated into common ownership by a democratically controlled government of the workers.

      Labor is certain of victory in this last struggle. All other classes have gained power only as they have persuaded, bribed, or terrorized workers into fighting or voting for them. Now that the working class is fighting its own battles, there is no possibility of defeat.

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