Friday, March 08, 2019

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International-Take Six- Chicago 1919

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International-Take Six- Chicago 1919           

William Z. Foster (nobody ever called him Bill, not even his closest drinking companions) was his angel idol. Yes, ever since Jim Gladstone had started working for William Z. he had hung on his every word, whether that word was right, or wrong. And he had to pinch himself  because there he was sitting in same room as William Z. planning out strategy for the next steps in the strike struggles that William Z. was organizing in Chicago just that 1919 year, just that year when the hellish war over in Europe was over and working men could go back  to work, and go back to work for better pay now that everybody had done his or her patriotic duty by not squawking when the bosses keep piling up the dough and the workingman had barely enough to live on. But William Z., one smart cookie, and one hell of an organizer would put things straight. Hell he had even got the white guys down the steel plants and meat butchery places to stick up for the “colored” workers, for a while anyway.

Yes, one smart cookie and Jim Gladstone was glad that he had hitched his star to William Z’s. Moreover William Z. had been smart, smart as hell, to keep clear of guys like that Socialist Debs and their ranting and raving about President Wilson getting America all gummed up in that European war. All it got Debs was some serious jail time and no chance to work the tide sweeping working man America looking for a little more in their pot and some respect. Yes, Jim Gladstone had it all figured, workingman figured. Out of the nasty Chicago cold water tenements, out of that twenty languages yakking ethnic squalor and onto easy street with a nice cushy job in some union office and who knows maybe more. His mother, mother of nine, and without a rolling stone father’s help (father last heard from out in Eureka in California looking for gold or something, more likely women and whiskey from his track record), was proud of him, proud that he was making something of himself although she would have been just as happy if he had steady work over at the steel mill. Jesus, mothers sometimes. No sweat and grime for him, him and Anna whom he intended to marry just as soon as the strike was settled and he became a permanent union official.

Then something happened, something that not even the smart as a cookie William Z. could have figured on. The bosses dug in their heels, dug them deep, started to call everybody reds and anarchists, started bringing the coppers in, and before long the rank and file, those squawking twenty languages, were ready to throw in the towel and the deal went down, went down badly. William Z. thereafter went about his business without one Jim Gladstone.

But here is the funny part, although there was nothing funny about the circumstances. Jim had in the aftermath of  the strike defeat done a certain amount of soul-searching since he, ah, had plenty of  time to walk Division Street and other haunts of the Windy City. He contacted a friend, a friend who had left from Chicago and gone to New York and had joined up with some radicals in Greenwich Village.

His friend and his radical friends were all huffed up about what had been going on in Russia since the war was over and the Bolsheviks were still fighting a civil war against the White Guards and needed help, and about the new organization that the Bolsheviks, the government in Russia was forming with kindred spirits throughout the world, a new international they called it (although truth to tell Jim didn’t know there was an old one needing replacement), the Communist International. And they were going to need trade union organizers to help organize the unions to fight for power everywhere. Jim perked up when he heard this news and got in direct contain with William Z. (or rather his assistant) to tell him of this new opportunity. William Z. nixed the idea, didn’t want to publicly get involved with reds and that was that. But Jim Gladstone still in need of a job, still in need of showing his love for his Anna by a little marriage and a white picket fence house got himself a train ticket for New York…

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