A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Chapter 42
It was at this time that Doyle showed his hand, with his customary fearlessness.
He made a series of incendiary speeches, the general theme being that the hour
was close at hand for putting the fear of God into the exploiting classes for all
time to come. His impassioned oratory, coming at the psychological moment,
when the long strike had brought its train of debt and evictions, made a profound
impression. Had he asked for a general strike vote then, he would have secured
As it was, it was some time before all the unions had voted for it. And the day
was not set. Doyle was holding off, and for a reason. Day by day he saw a
growth of the theory of Bolshevism among the so-called intellectual groups of the
country. Almost every university had its radicals, men who saw emerging from
Russia the beginning of a new earth. Every class now had its Bolshevists. They
found a ready market for their propaganda, intelligent and insidious as it was,
among a certain liberal element of the nation, disgruntled with the autocracy
imposed upon them by the war.
The reaction from that autocracy was a swinging to the other extreme, and, as if
to work into the hands of the revolutionary party, living costs remained at the
maximum. The cry of the revolutionists, to all enough and to none too much,
found a response not only in the anxious minds of honest workmen, but among
an underpaid intelligentsia. Neither political party offered any relief; the old lines
no longer held, and new lines of cleavage had come. Progressive Republicans
and Democrats had united against reactionary members of both parties. There
were no great leaders, no men of the hour.
The old vicious cycle of empires threatened to repeat itself, the old story of the
many led by the few. Always it had come, autocracy, the too great power of one
man; then anarchy, the overthrow of that power by the angry mob. Out of that
anarchy the gradual restoration of order by the people themselves, into
democracy. And then in time again, by that steady gravitation of the strong up
and the weak down, some one man who emerged from the mass and crowned
himself, or was crowned. And there was autocracy again, and again the vicious
But such movements had always been, in the last analysis, the work of the few. It
had always been the militant minority which ruled. Always the great mass of the
people had submitted. They had fought, one way or the other when the time
came, but without any deep conviction behind them. They wanted peace, the
right to labor. They warred, to find peace. Small concern was it, to the peasant
plowing his field, whether one man ruled over him or a dozen. He wanted neither
place nor power.