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The Impossibilists by Larry Gambone (continued)

Selected articles from the press of the
Socialist Party of Canada and the One Big Union, 1906-1938

[Return to Part One]

Strikes and Struggles
Long forgotten labor battles are discussed in Law and Order In DrumhellerNova Scotia Miners Put Down Lewis Tyranny, and The Anyox Civil War.  The fight for democracy and women's rights are examined in The Sons of Freedom and Reflected Glory of Males.

Law And Order In Drumheller, OBU Bulletin, November 29, 1919

Americanism Rampant on British Soil

In District 18 that was Americanism 100% efficient, has shown its sinister front on British soil. The story is only being told in part after some months of suppression by the kept press. Below are some of the stories of the victims of the illegalities:

Robert MacDonald made the following statement: “I was a member of the United Mine Workers and with the big majority of the members of our local I voted in favor of withdrawing from the international and becoming part of the OBU.” “About seven o’clock on the evening of Saturday, August 9th, I was on the street in Drumheller when I saw a number of men coming towards me. One of these men I had seen cleaning windows around the town but I did not know his name.

He said to the others, “Here’s another OBU guy, take him away.” They hustled me into a car driven by one of the officials of the Standard Bank…. One man showed us a handful of loaded shells and another said, as he pointed to a beam, “We are going to hang you all from that beam.” Another said, “I wish we had some bombs, we’d damn soon clean out the valley.”

“A bunch of the men drew off in the corner of the barn to have a consultation. After they had their talk they hustled each one of us into a car. They put me in a car owned and driven by J. H. Eakin, manager of the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Drumheller, and on the seat with him was William Henderson, owner of the Jewel and Western Glen Mines. There was a man on each side of me. The car drove at high speed to Munson, twelve miles, then about eight miles further, when they said to me, “Unload and keep going.” It was early Sunday morning when I reached home and found my wife in a state of collapse.

“About noon a neighbor woman came in and said that the news had gotten round that I was back and they were coming to get me. That again frightened my wife, so I arranged to get out, walked across country to Bainton, and Caught the train to Calgary.”

John Kent, secretary of the Wayne Local, made the following statement:

“Together with the entire membership of our local, I voted for withdrawing from the United Mine Workers. It was about two o’clock Monday morning, August 11, that I was awakened by my wife and told that men were surrounding the house. There was a knock at the door and I asked what was wanted. There was no answer, but I heard someone say: “Snatch that screen door off.” I grabbed an axe and asked them to come in. They did not come in so I went out on the step with the axe in my hand and saw a number of the men, several of whom were pointing revolvers at me. I stepped back into the house and at least six of them followed me. My wife, badly frightened, was standing in her night dress, but that made no difference to the housebreakers. Threatened as I was with guns, there was no use offering resistance , so I put on my coat and vest and went with them. They marched me down the track, some of them constantly showing their revolvers. They did not attempt to strike me or ill-use me.

We waited a few minutes and another gang came with President Christophers, and a few minutes later with Albert Young. They marched us up to the hill where there were a lot of waiting autos. I was out in the first auto and taken to the Veterans Club in Drumheller. This was about half past three in the morning. I should judge there were about seventy men in the hall and John F. Gallagher was made chairman. He made a speech denouncing Christophers and myself and was particularly hard on me because I had been the chief witness against him in court when he was charged with having sold foodstuff which was the property of the Wayne local. He said that I was the leader of the Bohunks, an OBU man who had been putting stuff into men’s heads and getting them out on strike.

Then they made me stand and asked me if I would go back to the United Mine Workers. I told them how the international had acted in 1906 and again in 1911. Someone shouted, “Give him the full penalty.” After they went at Young and Clapham. Shortly after ten we were placed in charge of five guards with revolvers and ordered to march. They took us in the direction of Munson and showed us a hill and told us to get over that”

Thomas Patterson Thompson made the following statement: On the evening of Saturday August 9th, I was at the Drumheller Cleaning and Dye Works, when Sam Joffe and Tom Boyce came in and told me that about 200 men were looking for me. A few minutes later a number of men came in the front door and some others in the back door. A man called William James said I had to get out of town. I tried to argue but the men behind me pinioned my arms and I was rushed out the front door. They pushed me into an auto belonging to Cameron, a job painter. They drove to the barn at the Manitoba Mine and there found J. O. Sullivan and Bob MacDonald in charge of the guards who were acting under A.J.Briggs. I asked him what the matter was and he told me they were rounding up all the “Scotch renegades.”

The men were all exited and ugly and someone suggested that we should be hanged. Gibson, a former bank manager came in and looked us over and seemed much pleased. A man named William Himmelman brought in another miner in his big green car. I noticed in the barn, W.E. MacDonald a grocer from Midlandvale, Charlie Stanley, head mechanic at the Manitoba Mine, William Henderson, owner of the Western Gem Mine and another man I had seen at the Bank of Commerce and had been told he was the manager. The Drumheller justice of the peace, Sibbald, was there. While I was in the car with a man on either side of me, Henderson came up and shook his fist at me. He said: “Thompson, didn’t I tell you we would get you?” He further said: “Hanging is too good for you.” He seemed much excited and at one moment I thought he was going to smash me with his cane. They took me toward Drumheller. While in the car they started to go through my pockets. I resisted. They held my arms and took some letters from my mother and other articles from me. After they had looked them over they seemed disappointed and one of them said: “Chuck them in the road.” About half way over the Red Deer bridge one fellow suggested that they blindfold me and they bandaged my eyes. They asked me how much money I had and I relied: “I have a couple of dollars, I reckon.” They held my hands and found something over $25 dollars in my watch pocket of my trousers.

After a while they stopped the car and unbandaged my eyes. I saw that W.W. Madison, real estate agent, was also in the front seat. Maddison told me: “Never come back to Drumheller, or the next time we will take you out in pieces.” I then said to Maddison: “If you are a gentleman you will make them give me back my money as I wanted to send some of it to my mother.” He told them to give me back my money and one of them handed me some bills. I started away from the car and counted the money and only found four dollars. One of them said: “If you say I’ve got your money I’ll smash your face.” They then started toward Drumheller and I walked all night till six the next morning, when I reached Delia and took a train to Calgary.

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Nova Scotia Miners Put Down Lewis Tyranny, OBU Bulletin, April 11, 1929

The miners of Nova Scotia are again in a state of revolt against the dictates of the district officers. The rank and file are determined this summer to dispose of the Lewis dictatorship and to put a stop to the compulsory check—off that J. L. Lewis and his gang are most concerned about. The conditions that these workers had to tolerate, as a result of the tyranny of Besco, the UMW and the Nova Scotia government, is acknowledged to be disgraceful throughout the universe.

The rank and file in their locals are supporting a resolution demanding a referendum on secession from the UMW. This resolution has been supported by the majority of locals in the district. Individual locals have decided if the District Executive refuse to grant a referendum, each local will act in its own interest and follow the policy outlined to them by the One Big Union.

The OBU is the organization that the workers have to build, and once established will function in the interests of all the workers. The agitation by the OBU has brought results to the Building Trades workers in most of the towns in the province, an increase of 10% having been gained. The laborers on the highway have got a five cent per hour increase and a nine hour day in place of the ten hour day. The private contractors in Glace Bay reduced the pay of their slaves from $3.25 to $3.00 a day. A number of the men met and decided to put on a campaign of organization for the OBU. As a result they had the 25 cents a day immediately restored. The effects of the work of the OBU are now bearing fruit in all parts of Nova Scotia. There is no doubt but we shall make great headway during the coming summer as the men are dissatisfied and determined to change things for the better.

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The Anyox Civil War by T.E., OBU Bulletin, March 9, 1933

As Told by Reporters to a Mass Meeting at Prince Rupert

For years the Granby Company has been operated by American interests: for years huge profits have gone to the States from this Canadian mine. Now copper is so cheap the American interests want the Canadian government to subsidize them. The following will show what the B.C. government is doing.

During the last six months the miners have received a cut in wages amounting to $1.50. Last week the men asked for a raise and a reduction of 10% in the price of food sold in the company stores. This being refused, the miners held a meeting and decided to strike.

On Friday, February 3, the men gathered for a march to the beach to meet the men working there and make the strike complete. The miners having heard of the police “billies” took the precaution of wearing their miner’s hats. In order to reach the town it is necessary to cross a narrow bridge. On arrival at the bridge the men were stopped by eight police, who demanded that they return. Well, the men at the back, not seeing what was taking place at the front just pushed ahead, and the men at the front were pushed into the police, who, without hesitation, commenced to beat up everyone within their reach. A free for all took place, the result being that three miners and two police were sent to the hospital and one of the miners may lose an eye as a result. When the strike was declared the Anyox hospital was cleared of all patients: the condition did not matter—out they had to go. Why? Read on.

On Saturday no less than five planes were speeding to the smelter town, and one gunboat, all bearing armed forces. These were quickly dispatched from Prince Rupert, and we got a glimpse of how quickly a force could be gotten together. By Sunday night a force of about 70 men was patrolling the town to settle the dispute between masters and men.

The miners received the sum of $2.75 a day. Out of that $40 a month is deducted for board, compensation, income tax etc. The camp is overrun with bedbugs and when one man complained to the clerk about such conditions he was fired. The company pets must be protected. It was suggested that the armed force would do more good if they cleaned out these pests, and no one would kick if they took some with them on their departure.

Well, that is the story to date with the men standing out. A few days ago, however, a bunch of active men to the number of eight were placed aboard the company freighter, Griffco, in an apartment six by nine feet, and were kept there for sixteen hours before being released for exercise. By the time more leaders were picked up, numbering 32 men, who were then shipped to Prince Rupert with orders never to return. These men were not given time to collect their belongings and were not given the pay that was due them. They arrived in Prince Rupert with only what they stood in. That, comrades, is the answer of capitalism to the workers—machine guns, airplanes and bayonets. Will the workers ever get wise to themselves?

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The Sons Of Freedom, OBU Bulletin, August 29, 1929

The Doukhobours are in trouble again and are threatening to go on the rampage clothed in nothing but the garb of righteousness. The Sons of Freedom, as they call themselves, are Christian communists, who do not believe in war, exploitation or government. They hold that the earth is for man’s sustenance and that all should have access to the wealth Mother Nature provides. One of the reasons they get in bad with the authorities is because they refuse to allow their children to be educated and they decline to pay taxes -they want to be free.

One may have sympathy with their ideals without endorsing the particular method they adopt of accomplishing what they have in view. They object to government and their instinct is correct: government implies a governed, and no one governs others for their own good. Government was first introduced to enable rulers to rob: the state and the slave appear on the pages of history at the same time. The state is the club, the power that compels obedience and was originally designed to keep slaves in order to enable their masters to take from them what they produced. There are those who hold that this is its main function today.

Our friends the Doukhobours may try to resist what our masters have decreed shall be, but eventually they will be compelled to yield to the commands of the authorities. They object to their children being educated on capitalist lines and we do not blame them for this. They realize that when the agents of the capitalist class get their work in, the children will leave the land and go to the cities.

The master class, however, claim their slaves and demand the right to educate them and train for exploitation the children of those they hold in bondage. The Sons of Freedom will not be permitted to exempt themselves from exploitation and will be eventually compelled to permit their youngsters to be doped in the orthodox manner. We can understand and sympathize, but they are in the same boat as ourselves and freedom for us we know to be impossible until the system of capitalism goes by the board.

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Reflected Glory of Males, by “A Woman” OBU Bulletin, May 25, 1933

How often have we heard it said that women cannot be organized in a working class movement: that you cannot get them to meetings. So many demands are made by the home that the unpaid mother is justified perhaps in saying she is too tired to rush out and come home to get supper ready.

But last week the conclusion was forced upon me that women are not always to tired to attend meetings, for I found that when the advertising Johnny was slick enough to give a handout of some of his wares on a draw ticket, with a cup of tea thrown in, the women were there like flies around a honey pot.

On two different occasions recently, I attended (at the urgent request of friends) two meetings. My name was supposed to swell the number of names required to make these particular meetings a success financially. As it happened, one name would have not made much difference because the place was crowded—about 400 women were present. The afternoon was warm and sunny and both meetings were in the basement, so there was no attraction to stay indoors. Some mothers had taken the children not of school age along, too.

The performance was from 2:30 to 5 o’clock. During that time you sat and listened to the merits of the goods displayed—flour, soap, varnish and other commodities by speakers employed by the firms represented. In each case the emphasis was laid upon the fact that the goods displayed were made in Winnipeg, that by buying these goods you were helping some poor, needy person, whom you perhaps knew to retain his job.

A check-up of the wages given to workers in our city might not make good advertising for Winnipeg products. There must have been working women among the listeners whose daughters could not support themselves on the wages given by firms in our “fair city”.

Let me give an account of two other meetings I attended, in direct contrast. Both meetings were for women, the subjects being “Unemployment and Its Causes” and “Unemployment and Its Cure”. The meetings, speakers and subjects were extensively advertised. There were present about 20 women at one place and 30 at another.

It is surely a reflection on our intelligence as women that a subject of such vital importance as unemployment and the educating of ourselves to discuss and solve our own problems should be left in the hands of men. Women are still, I fear, the reflected glory of their male relatives. Their public efforts seem still to be directed towards electing men to public office. Women have to organize themselves and think for themselves, not only on their own behalf, but for the betterment of the children they have born, the children who are undernourished, who have no future as far as working for a living is concerned.

Women can turn out in hundreds for a draw ticket, women must turn out in thousands on their own behalf before conditions will be changed. Knowledge and organization will do much toward that end. Time should not be wasted on individualism or political jobbery. They should organize for themselves and their children and be ready to meet conditions. They should take time to attend meetings that teach the class struggle.

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