The Passing of a Brain-Sucker
On the 12th of August the death of Andrew Carnegie was reported, and all the capitalist newspapers united to diffuse an odour of sanctity around the man whose fortune—like all other great fortunes—was built up by the sucking of other men’s brains.
It was on the shoulders of others that Carnegie climbed to affluence. Unscrupulous, alike in his dealings with his fellow capitalists and his workmen, he crushed out all who stood in his path, until he came up against a more powerful combination than his own, then he stepped quietly down and out of business, leaving Morgan, Rockefeller & Co. a clear field.
Carnegie came at the first flush of the era of speculation and “high finance” in America, and the tide swept him along with it. The keystone of his success was his ability in appropriating the product of other men’s brains (as well, of course, as the product of their hands), or, as he himself repeatedly expressed it in relation to his managers, finding better men to look after his interests.
The man who is set up as a model of “self-help” was helped by others all his life. The only direction in which he exercised self-help was in helping himself to the product of the work of others.
A quotation from the full-page effusion on Carnegie’s life in the “Daily Telegraph” (Aug. 12th) gives in a nutshell the story of his life and the cause of his success.
“He began the world without a penny. He retired from business sixty years after one of the richest men in the world—to put it no higher—with a fortune of some 90,000,000 . . . It was won by a man who had no training for his life-work. The greatest of iron masters knew nothing of metallurgy.”
(Italics mine.) No money—no knowledge of iron—yet the greatest iron master! How did he do it?
“To the progress of the industrial revolution, to the stupendous development of mechanical and scientific methods in manufacture, Andrew Carnegie owed his millions.”
Here we have it. Carnegie’s wealth was built up by the ingenious brains and hands of working men. In other words, the departed saint stole the product of others’ toil. And what of the workers and thinkers whose discoveries brought about the industrial revolution? The main figures in it—Crompton, Cartwright, Stephenson, Kay, Jacquard, Harrington, Lavoisier, Koening, Roberts, Trevithick, Gutenburg, Cart, Bourseul, and a host of others, either died in poverty after lives of struggle against starvation, or—in the case of a very few—gained a niggardly recognition when they were on the brink of the grave.
Now let us see where the self-help came in. Carnegie’s first “start” in life was due to another person. To quote again from the “Daily Telegraph”:
“And now came the tide in Carnegie’s life which, taken at the flood, led on to fortune . . . It was Col. Scott who first taught the youth how to make money earn more money . . . His mother mortgaged their house, into which had gone all the family savings. With the $600 thus raised Andrew bought Adams Express Stock, on his astute employer’s advice.”
Of course the stock paid well: Scott was in the “swim.”
Carnegie’s next step was to introduce to the Pennsylvania Railroad, through the agency of Scott (who was president of the company) T. T. Woodruff’s invention of a sleeping berth (the forerunner of the Pullman car). He borrowed the money for his shares, and was “let in on the ground floor,” “but the cars afterwards paid handsome dividends!” “Thus,” he wrote, “did I get my foot on fortune’s ladder. It was easy to climb after that.”
Thus did he vindicate the glorious principle of self help! I may add that I find no record of Woodruff’s name as one of those who got their feet on fortune’s ladder. No doubt he went the usual way of inventors.
During the Civil War Carnegie’s pal Scott (now Assistant Secretary for War) found him a lucrative job in the service of the Northern wage slave owners, and at the conclusion of the war he utilised the wealth he had acquired to go in for oil and “struck it rich.”
Like Mr. Rockefeller, he was in at the start. In 1862, with several associates, he purchase the Storey Farm, on Oil Creek, Pennsylvania for $40,000. It proved what prospectors call a bonanza, and in one year paid $1,000,000 in cash dividends.
Having gained the early plums of the oil trade, the “self-made man” in the making turned his attention to steel. On a visit to England he saw the steel rails that were the result of the new Bessemer process (a process discovered by one of Bessemer’s workmen whose name even is not known!) introduced them into America, and another chunk was added to his fortune.
The process of the Trust in which Carnegie had the preponderating influence was largely due to the valuable patents which they controlled. The men who were responsible for the subjects of these patents, however, were but pawns in the hands of the financiers.
Working men have proverbially short memories, yet the name “Homestead” should suffice to recall to the mind the bludgeoning and shooting of working men that took place at Carnegie’s works during the “Homestead” strike, when Pinkerton and his gunmen were called in. Though daily waxing richer Andrew the philanthropist (!) was not satisfied, and laid plans to increase the working hours. The men organised to resist the project, so he retaliated by refusing to employ any but non-union workers. According to the “Telegraph” “the strike was soon the crux of one of the ugliest scenes in all the bloodstained history of American labour quarrels.” The military (to the number of some 8,000 soldiers) were eventually sent to the vampire’s assistance “to restore order”! And such was the man who professed to be the ardent anti-militarist and apostle of peace, and who presented to the world the “Palaces of Peace.” Like others of his kidney, he did not want war when it interfered with his accumulation of wealth, but when it suited his purse (as when he took part in the Civil War) his objections vanished.
By the irony of circumstance, the same day the papers were applauding the incarnation of self-help and genius in the shape of Carnegie, they devoted a few lines to recording the tragic death of poor Blakelocke, the American landscape painter. His life “was the story of genius doomed to poverty,” says the “Evening News” (13.8.19). His greatest works were sold by him for a few paltry pounds to keep his wife and family from starvation. The same works were afterwards sold for hundreds of pounds. The same paper further states: “Worry and the hard struggle for existence eventually produced a break-down, and he was removed to an asylum.”
Blakelocke is now looked upon as one of the greatest landscape painters of America, but his genius only brought him poverty and the lunatic asylum.
What a contrast! The unscrupulous and slimy Carnegie dies in the midst of vast riches, while the fine artist dies in the asylum! Self-help, forsooth!
After officially stepping out of business (although still drawing his dividends), Carnegie set out to make a name for himself in a new direction. He made arrangements to distribute libraries in various places to assist in the education of working men. It appears strange that one who was such a determined antagonist of his employees should suddenly blossom forth as their benefactor. The strangeness, however, disappears as soon as we look below the surface. Carnegie and his class require workpeople who have sharp brains and a good technical knowledge, as these make the most efficient wage-slaves—hence the library stunt.
Since 1901 Carnegie has been throwing millions away and doing his damnedest to spend his money, but all to no purpose: he dies worth nearly as much as in 1901! What a power of wealth this one man must have robbed the workers of, and yet they try to kid us that we do not produce enough!
Away with dreams and delusions; let us wake up and produce for ourselves. Perish the parasites and vampires.