Brotherly Love in the U.S.A.
Mr. Sinclair Lewis, the author of “Babbitt,” “Main Street,” and other widely read novels, dealing with life in the U.S.A., was on the spot during the recent embittered struggle between mill-owners and cotton workers at Marion, North Carolina, one of the new industrial areas in the Southern States. He was inspired to write a pamphlet, “Cheap and Contented Labor,” in which he tells of some of the incidents of industrial conflict as it is waged in America. It is written in simple, direct language, and is a powerful indictment of the unrestrained brutality of the employing class when they believe their interests to be endangered.
The operatives were on strike for an increase in their wages of 13 dollars a week—a starvation wage at American prices.
No sooner had the workers struck than all the forces of capitalist suppression were turned against them. Armed militia fired upon them on the least provocation. Hospitals refused to tend their sick and wounded. The law courts discounted their evidence, and charges were fabricated in the favour of the employers. Parsons ranted and demanded public whipping posts as a punishment for the “agitators.”
General housing and social conditions in Marion are appalling, and call to mind the conditions of the mining and cotton districts of England in the early days of English factory development. Mr. Lewis, who has visited the Lancashire cotton districts, says that the condition of the workers there “is the abomination of desolation,” but, he adds, these are “some three or four hundred per cent. superior to those of the workers in Marion.” To any who are acquainted with the cotton districts of England such a comparison is enough.
We are also told that the conditions of the mill-workers of Marion are representative of scores of mill towns in America.
However, America still is a land of “prosperity and golden opportunities”—for the Capitalist. For the workers—slavery.
Mr. Lewis wants to abolish this slavery, although in this pamphlet he does not tell us what are his own views on the method of doing it.