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Dawn Fraser: Echoes From Labor's War

The Case of Jim McLachlan

(A story told the children by an old man in the year 1994)

Listen, my children, and you shall know
Of a crime that happened long ago,
In the dark and dismal days of old
When the world and all was ruled by Gold,
When the earth was a rich man's institution—
That was before the Revolution
When the gold was dug by the toiling masses
But stolen from them by the master classes.
Yes, men went way down under the ground
And hunted and toiled till the gold was found;
And it sometimes happened to these men
That the earth fell in and buried them,
But still others toiled on, both young and old,
Working, working to get the gold.

But there was another class, I recall,
Who never did any work at all
Sat in rich offices 'bove the ground,
Yet they got all the gold was found.
How did they get it? You want to know
Were they stronger than those who worked below?
Did they beat in combat the other men?
No, dear, the gold was handed to them.
Yes, the workers who dug in every land
Crawled up and laid the gold in their hand,
And the reason they did it was because
There was a thing they called "the laws";
And the law was, in these days of old,
That the lazy men owned all the gold
And all the minerals in the ground
Belonged to them, wherever found;
And these rules, of course, were made because
'Twas the lazy men who made the laws,
And they were given this easy job
By the very men they used to rob.

Yes, children, it's hard for you to see
How such conditions could ever. be,
But I have seen Election Day
When working men would shout “Hurray!"
Would vote, would argue—yes, and fight
For the Hon. Carroll and Hon. Kyte.
They would choose these men to make the laws
That acted against the workers' cause,
And once when there was a strike in town,
These men sent soldiers to ride them down.

Thus the lazy bosses piled up their gains
'Til the workers began to use their brains;
Very slowly it dawned on them
That the lazy ones were cheating them
And robbing them of the treasures they found
By working so hard beneath the ground.
And after a time the working mass
Spoke of these thieves as the "Capitalist Class"—
Certain workers saw through the plan,
And Jim McLachlan was such a man;
He told the men they were being fooled
By the other Capitalist Class that ruled;
He organized workers and trained them well,
And he told the bosses to go to hell.
Ah! he was an honest, fearless man,
And he fought the bosses when trouble began.

Oh, yes, it's true—I should have told
That the workers were given a little gold;
Yes, every week, on a certain day,
They were given something was called their "pay"—
'Twas a very small part of the gold they found
By working so hard beneath the ground.
I have said that the world was ruled by gold,
And it was for it that goods were sold—
Food and clothing and everything
Was bought for gold, and gold was king;
So the workers were given a little.
Why? If they didn't have food of course they'd die;
And if the working class was dead,
How would the capitalist class be fed?
That was the reason they gave them pay,
To keep them alive from day to day,
With strength enough to dig the ground
So the master class could bum around.

Well, as long as they had enough to eat,
The workers toiled on with weary feet,
Like faithful horses or patient saints,
Without demands or without complaints:
Day by day they would toil and strive,
Satisfied just to keep alive.
And as I have said, on election night
They would cry, "Hurrah for Carroll and Kyte!"
And send these men to Ottawa
To tinker 'round about the law,
And year after year, each law they'd pass
Tightened the chains on the working class.

So the capitalist class owned all the gold,
And they also owned the goods that were sold,
Controlling the workers in every way,
And they grew greedier day by day;
'Til they thought of a little scheme was good—
They raised the prices of all the food,
So that the workers with pay they got
Couldn't pay for the goods they bought;
Couldn't pay for the bread and meat
That they and their families needed to eat;
Though they worked long hours and longer yet,
There were things they needed and couldn't get;
But the capitalist class had many things—
Motor cars and diamond rings—
Yet all these riches, wherever found,
Were dug by the workers from the ground,
Were stolen from them by this thieving band—
Such was the law in all the land.

Now, of all the bosses that e'er were cursed,
Roy the Wolf was called the worst,
He was the leading parasite
That fed on the workers day and night;
Greedy, growling wolf for more,
He stole the bread from the workers' door,
Grew fat on starving children's cries
And filled the papers with foolish lies—
That his company couldn't afford to pay—
Yet he got three hundred dollars a day
For doing nothing but looking wise,
Starving kids and telling lies;
Thus he promoted the capitalist game
'Til babies were taught to curse his name,
And Roy the Wolf and his thieving band
Spread distress throughout the land.

But Jim McLachlan and other men
Saw that something must be done,
And they started one of the many fights
For labor's cause and labor's rights,
And they called on Roy the Wolf to give
More of the gold that they might live,
More of the gold they had to pay
To meet the prices from day to day;
And they got a little more gold for the men,
But then the prices went up again,
'Til the workers began to blame the laws
That acted always against their cause;
And they blamed the men at Ottawa
Who were sent up there to fix the law.
They organized and made a fight
Against the members, Carroll and Kyte,
And the very men they used to cheer
Were greeted now with a hiss and a jeer.

And they thought that maybe to change the law
They would send McLachlan to Ottawa;
And thus when another election came,
The working men got into the game.
McLachlan was fighting and running strong,
And but for a cowardly, cruel wrong,
When somebody told a lot of lies
To fool the workers and blind their eyes.
There used to be men, and there are still,
Who never had brains and who never will;
So believing these lies, the working men
Voted for Carroll and Kyte again—
Electing the men who made the laws
That acted always against their cause;
And McLachlan lost when they counted the vote,
And capital still was at labor's throat.

But brave McLachlan was not dismayed,
He knew the game and how 'twas played,
Never yellow and never sore,
When they had him down he fought the more;
Struggling always for labor's cause,
Fighting against the rich man's laws,
Exposing the capitalist parasite
That fed on the workers day and night;
And he told the workers, man to man,
That Roy the Wolf and all his clan
Were a lot of idle, thieving knaves
Who held the workers the same as slaves,
That even Negro slaves of old,
Who were peddled 'round and bought and sold,
Who were never given any pay,
Were better off than the men today.
The cruelest driver of workers knows
That slaves must have shelter, food and clothes—
Yes, and they used to get them.
Why? If they didn't eat, the slaves would die;
And as Negro slaves belonged to the boss,
Of course their death was a serious loss.

It's the same with a man who owns a horse—
He gives him food to eat, of course,
If he wants him to breed and haul and drive,
He has to keep the horse alive.
But the capitalists have a cheaper plan
In their scheme of things with the working man,
He does not really belong to the boss,
So if he starves he is no real loss,
Or if he's killed while digging the ground
Another slave is easily found;
To recruit new workers from every nation
They encourage a thing called "IMMIGRATION".

All this McLachlan told the men,
And the battle was renewed again;
Bravely still the workers fought,
Fighting for every crust they got;
Prices went up from day to day,
Still the bosses wanted to cut the pay.
A strike was pulled by working men,
And brave McLachlan fought for them;
He pulled the cleverest trick of the age,
The bosses called it "SABOTAGE".
Biggest and last of labor's trumps,
It took the workers off the pumps,
It drew the timber-men from the mine,
And all who worked in every line.
Now, where these tactics are employed,
Of course the mine will be destroyed,
The master class will lose their hold,
The capitalists will lose their gold.

Then Roy the Wolf began to weep,
His tears fell fast, his groans were deep—
"I don't care what you do to me,
But, oh! protect my property!"
All this was music sweet to Jim,
McLachlan only laughed at him;
Says he, "It's no affair of mine,
Go ahead and save your mine;
You never saved a worker's child,
In your damn mine good men have died,
Good men were crippled—yes, for life,
So that your children and your wife
Might live in comfort, ease and health,
Enjoy the luxuries of wealth.
Your children pass their time in schools
Learning new tricks to trap the fools;
Some day they will help to make the laws,
New rules to cripple labor's cause;
Labor must nurse this parasite,
Her future enemy in the fight.

"Listen, Wolf, when I was nine,
I trapped a door down in a mine,
I never knew a childish joy,
A slave while still a little boy.
They took me and my humble friends
And picked our bones for dividends.
Why should I save your property?
I tell you it don't interest me.

"Go, wake your boy, your pride and hope,
And lead him to yon lonely slope,
Some morning chill, ere dawn appears,
And laugh away his childish fears;
Tell him to guard yon trap-door well,
Then chase him down, half way to hell,
Leave him on some dark headway,
To cry his eyes out half the day,
Let him hear the pillars groan
As he crouches there alone,
'Til some passing miner's light
Half relieves his childish fright.
Feeble light soon disappears,
With the dark return his fears;
Leave him there for seven hours,
Treat your child the same as ours;
Leave him weary, cold, half-fed—
Do you wonder we see red?
If you want to save your mine,
Here is a paper you must sign;
Sign this contract for to give
Wages that will let us live,
Food and clothing, shelter too,
And we will work our best for you.
You may keep your ill-got gains—
Labor now is used to chains.
While your family sports around,
We will toil beneath the ground;
But, failing this, now hear me well,
You and your mine can go to hell!"

But, children, perhaps I weary you—
A little more and I'll be through.
I know it's hard to understand
How evil men owned all the land.
How did they get it all? you say—
The government gave it away;
You see, the men who made the laws,
Were friendly to the capitalist cause;
They were all college chums, you see,
And owned stock in the company.
They raised an awful howl then
About McLachlan and his men—
Called them traitors and everything,
Said they plotted against the King;
And they even had the unlimited gall
To say the mines were not theirs at all
It served their purpose then, you see,
To call them the people's property;
Yet while men toiled in peaceful times,
Roy the Wolf owned all mines.
Oh, they were a precious pack of knaves
Who held the workers the same as slaves.

Yes, Roy the Wolf had many friends
To do his bidding and serve his ends
Judges, lawyers and politicians
Favored him always with decisions—
You see they belonged to the lazy breed
Who never work but who always feed—
And many of them had stock, you see,
With Roy the Wolf and company.
So they gathered up a lot of bums,
Crooks and drifters from the slums,
Dressed them pretty and soldier-like,
And sent them down to break the strike;
Called them police—oh, it was shame—
A stain on any government's name.
For one Sunday night in a certain town
This mob beat people and rode them down—
Helpless people who all unarmed
Thought they might walk the streets unharmed.
Oh, it was a shame that a peaceful land
Should be given over to such a band.

What occurred on the city street that night
Spelled defeat for Carroll and Kyte,
Though they made excuses and often ran,
They got no more votes from the working man.
Now, McLachlan wanted everyone
To know what these mongrel police had done,
So he sent a letter around the land
Warning the workers on every hand
To beware of Armstrong's evil band.
This Armstrong was the governor stern,
And he had a henchman named O'Hearn.
And they had a crony who was a judge,
And they held in common a kind of grudge
Against McLachlan, and they said
He was an agitating Red;
All the trouble was caused by him,
So they framed a plot to get poor Jim.

O'Hearn sought many a mouldy book,
Scanning the law with saintly look—
Read through all the ancient pages,
Records of the darker ages;
Records that were quite revealing
(They used to hang a man for stealing)
And farther back than that he saw
To tell the truth was 'gainst the law,
And so a warrant was sworn and given
For Jim McLachlan, dead or living;
He was arrested and lodged in jail,
The crony judge refused him bail.
Now, would you think that could be done
Anywhere beneath the sun?
It's truth I tell, it happened so,
And not so very long ago.

The papers all had held a piece,
How men were beaten by the police;
Every father, mother, brother,
Had told the story to each other.
Yes, everywhere about the street,
Any man that you would meet,
Would tell the truth—could not be hid—
An awful thing those policemen did;
Story was told, re-told, attested,
But McLachlan only was arrested;
Yes, he and just one other man
Whom the workers called "Red Dan".
But soon O'Hearn let Dan go,
Which only served to better show
How all the tyrants' hate was sped
At noble Jim McLachlan's head.

Much of the trial I need not tell—
'Twill be reviewed some day in hell;
McLachlan sat with lofty scorn
And heard his enemy, O'Hearn
Repeat the joke of all the time—
To tell the truth was foul crime.
Truth divine to justice cause
Must be enslaved to capitalist laws.
Yes, "It's a fact," O'Hearn said,
Or from some foolish paper read,
How in some cases that he saw,
To tell the truth was 'gainst the law.
I've heard a witness for Jim,
When he was being sworn in,
Asked the judge what he should do,
For if he told him what was true,
If he told them what he saw,
Perhaps it would be against the law.
Some truths it seemed that he might tell,
But others must be hidden well.
The information that he sought
Was what to tell and what to not.

No, of the trial I will not tell
It has a most unpleasant smell;
Too often evil will prevail
They sent McLachlan back to jail.
They could as easily shot or strung him—
The wonder is they never hung him.
Children, I'm old, but in my time,
I've never heard of such a crime.

The day that Jim McLachlan fell
The workers should have tolled a bell,
Well might they weep, ah, bitter tears,
Their cause went back a hundred years.
Ah! starving, patient, helpless men,
You'll never find his like again.
Bend, Labor, bend; pick up your cross;
Bend, break and bleed to feed the Boss;
Bend, break and bleed? Ah, damn it, NO!
Fight on, fight on; let's go, LET'S GO!

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