Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- June 14, 1875Labor Mass Meeting
A mass meeting was held yesterday afternoon at the Bohemian Turner Hall, on West Taylor Street near Canal Street. The smallness of the hall made it difficult to accommodate the huge crowd. Mr. Jeffers was the chairman and Messrs. McAuliffe and Schlueter functioned as secretaries. The agenda was: "The position of the coal miners in Pennsylvania and the striking coal handlers and wheelers, as well as the brick and lumberyard workers in Chicago". [Translator's note: The Union's resolution, appearing toward the end of the article, shows that "the striking coal handlers, or shovelers, and wheelers," refers to workers in Chicago.]
The proceedings were of a highly exciting nature. The speeches were given in English, German, and Bohemian.
Mr. Simmen, as first speaker, explained the purpose of the meeting. He 2spoke in English, launching into a mighty tirade against capitalism and then drifting into a discussion of politics. He closed his speech with the following words:
"The ballot box in America has become a tool by which a band of thieves endeavors to enrich itself. In such a dishonest game, where conniving crooks have stacked the cards beforehand, the workers cannot participate. The universal, equal franchise, that holy institution, the ballot, so coveted by many nations today, has degenerated into a farce, to the dismay and disgust of the honest citizenry. Yes, this is the pass to which we have come in this country. And who dishonored and prostituted the ballot in this manner? We, the workers? Indeed we did not! Let those who created these Augean stables clean them. Let those who so defiled our sacred heritage re-create the ballot box. We have other matters to consider. You have to think of bread for yourselves and your families, and you will never find it in the voting booth.3
"Are you familiar with Ferdinand Lassalle's speech of May 19, 1863, at Frankfort am Main?
"'If the ruling class threatens to suffocate the labor movement....we must....face a....proletarian revolution within a few decades and the terrors of the June uprising will be....repeated. It must not--shall not be!'
"Lassalle belonged to the higher economic strata, and as arbiter between labor and capital earned only calumny and hatred from his equals, while his love and devotion for the cause of the workers caused his death.....The safety valves he tried to open were kept closed and the present machine of state must eventually explode!
"Don't our local powers see the misery which afflicts our people here? Can they not perceive that the split between capital and labor is constantly widening? And what are they doing about it? Greater injury is being 4inflicted; capital tramples on labor remorselessly, constantly widening the gaping rift until--I cannot speak of it!
"Yes, they know it well enough, are fully aware of it, but they desire it.
"Someone once said (I cannot recall the name): 'Labor is a sort of vermin which must be exterminated from time to time.'
"Obviously, our capitalists act according to this principle. Now they let you suffer the pangs of hunger, and later when, driven by spotted fever, you find it necessary to fight for bread, then--you will note--what starvation has not accomplished will be achieved with bullets.
"But look how they are already making preparations for the coming anticommunist agitation; perceive how they train their uniformed servants. And you, you sleep and are unconcerned!"5
Then Mr. Simmen spoke of the Labor party organ, the Vorbote (Harbinger), which, according to Mr. Simmen, represents the only reasonable point of view; and he exhorted the assembly to support it.
The next speaker was McAuliffe, who harangued the crowd in his usual somewhat monotonous manner. He advised them to use force against capitalism and thus earned hearty applause. In his speech he made indiscriminate reference to the city fathers, Mayor Colvin, Beecher, the Y.M.C.A., etc.; referred to the stuffing of the ballot box and diverse election frauds, castigating all in a characteristic manner. The failure of even a single coal shoveler to appear aroused McAuliffe's displeasure in particular; after all, the meeting was called chiefly for their benefit.
Winnen spoke with moderation. He admonished the workers to be staunchly united and asked for support of the Vorbote.6
The most provocative and violent expressions were indulged in by Mr. Pflugrad, who spoke in German. He was adequately rewarded, since his speech was repeatedly interrupted by applause.
The following resolution was then read in German, English, and Bohemian and unanimously accepted by the assembly.
"Whereas, The coal miners of Pennsylvania, the coal shovelers, wheelers, and laborers in the various woodyards in Chicago have been compelled by arrogant capitalism's unwarranted wage cuts to suspend working operations, and
"Whereas, The interests of all workers are identical throughout the world; therefore be it
"Resolved, That the striking coal miners in Pennsylvania, the coal shovelers 7and wheelers and the laborers in the various woodyards in Chicago are assured of the sympathy of all workers assembled here today, at West Taylor Street, and that the aforesaid laborers will be given moral and material support in the fight against capitalism, the subjugator of all workers; and be it further
"Resolved, That the unification of all workers of America into a single labor party is a vital necessity fully recognized by us, and that we shall bend our efforts toward the attainment of that goal without delay."
In order to give due emphasis to these resolutions, a collection was started forthwith in behalf of the coal miners of Pennsylvania.
A committee of four was nominated for this purpose and when these gentlemen became aware that the word "collection" caused a rapid exodus they deemed it expedient to post themselves at the exit and thereby succeeded in garnering $35.50.8
The money will be sent to the General Council of the International Workingmen's Association in New York, with the request that the fund be forwarded to the miners.
The meeting was then adjourned.
I D 2 a 4, I D 1 a, I D 2 a 2, I D 2 a 3, I E, II D 10
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