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Newspaper Page Text
SATURDAY, JAN. 1, 1021.
Just Before Dawn
By Carl Cohen
As the year 1920 fades away, I sing this re
quiem to its memory. Three incidents of the old
year, which I experienced, will, I think be, of es
pecial interest to "Toiler" readers; for they are
episodes with which we are all familiar, and pres
ent a problem that sooner or later, we must face.
(1) While waiting for the train at Kenton,
Ohio, I noticed an almost sightless old man. He
was evidently very poor as his clothes were be
draggled and shabby. One lense of his glasses was .
painted red; his only eye peered weakly out of the
other. But in spite of his miserable appearance I
remember what this tottering derelict said to me,
when the witticims of the wealthy retired farmers
of Kenton have been forgotten "I was work
ing here in the nickel smelting plant. The hot
acid flew up and my eye burnt and crackled like
frying grease I think doctors are the most
despicable class of people. He could have saved
my eye, but he wanted the one hundred and fifty
dollar fee so he removed it. He had no business to,
I was only sent there for treatment No, I
am not working at the plant now. They told me it
was dangerous to stumble around the fires. They
give me eight dollars a month damages, but the
president of the company told me last week that
he could not promise that it would continue much
longer. I dont know what I'm going to do".
(2) And now I am in Crooksville talking to
a gaunt miner, who is old but fired with the spirit
of disatisfaction and revolt. His brother was work
ing a few feet from him one day in the mines
when suddendly his life was crushed out by tons
of falling coal. His son had been killed three years
ago decapitated by a freight car."
"I was there at the time", he says. "I loaded
the car that killed him. The cry went up man
killed', the super' ran out of the office and yelled
'Was the pony hurt'. Lord! It would be better for
us to be born donkeys, or negro slaves we would
be more valuable to the masters then.
(8) Half-way across the continent, d I am
in the visitors room of one of the large prisons of
the world. Across from me at the long table, at
which prisoners are lined on one side and visitors
on the other, alts a curly headed lad of nineteen
or twenty. The guard has placed us at the cud
seats, so close to him that my hands rest on his
blotting pad. The conversation is necessarily some
what general. The "criminal" is studying beet
culture in his spare time. His bond has been placed
at three thousands dollars, but the people of Kan
sas are too patriotic to put up such a sum for a
citizen who has dared to join the I. W. W. (his
only offense). However my friend tells methat he
knows his countrymen pretty well and he is stoic
ally preparing to spend his third consecutive
Christmas behind the bars as a slave of Uncle Sam .
These are not isolated cases, fellow workers.
There are millions of such people as the above
three. Our jails are overcrowded with the cream
of American thinkers and doers. Workers are
maimed and killed by the thousands from unneces
We all know that such conditions exist. That
America has become a country of grasping prof
iteers and degraded slaves a country of putrid
morality. Why do we not see the facts clearly?
Why do we tolerate such conditions ? Because the
masters think for us through the press, pulpit
and movie. Because we, the workers, are afraid....
Afraid for our wives and children. Wc would
rather be spiritual prostitutes and have barely
enough of the physical necessities than to face
the realities of life frankly and bravely. When
things become acute we will starve anyhow, and
our bellies will tell us to revolt. That is why the
most misserable element of society gives greatest
promise for the future.
To these unfortunates, these despairing out
casts, and desperate revolutionists, the new year
will owe its hope and inspiration. The fact of their
presence, of spiritual agony everywhere, cries
stronger than a million voices.
"The old year is rotting away. We are done
with bestial ignorance, prisons, disease of mind
and body. We, the most distressed victims of the
old order will be the bulwark of the new state. We
will be the virile element which, when theoretical
reformists fail, will successfully uphold the pro
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