Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 38
"Come on, let's go down to the local."
So spoke Brissenden, faint from a hemorrhage of half an hour before - the
second hemorrhage in three days. The perennial whiskey glass was in his hands,
and he drained it with shaking fingers.
"What do I want with socialism?" Martin demanded.
"Outsiders are allowed five-minute speeches," the sick man urged. "Get up and
spout. Tell them why you don't want socialism. Tell them what you think about
them and their ghetto ethics. Slam Nietzsche into them and get walloped for your
pains. Make a scrap of it. It will do them good. Discussion is what they want, and
what you want, too. You see, I'd like to see you a socialist before I'm gone. It will
give you a sanction for your existence. It is the one thing that will save you in the
time of disappointment that is coming to you."
"I never can puzzle out why you, of all men, are a socialist," Martin pondered.
"You detest the crowd so. Surely there is nothing in the canaille to recommend it
to your aesthetic soul." He pointed an accusing finger at the whiskey glass which
the other was refilling. "Socialism doesn't seem to save you."
"I'm very sick," was the answer. "With you it is different. You have health and
much to live for, and you must be handcuffed to life somehow. As for me, you
wonder why I am a socialist. I'll tell you. It is because Socialism is inevitable;
because the present rotten and irrational system cannot endure; because the day
is past for your man on horseback. The slaves won't stand for it. They are too
many, and willy-nilly they'll drag down the would-be equestrian before ever he
gets astride. You can't get away from them, and you'll have to swallow the whole
slave-morality. It's not a nice mess, I'll allow. But it's been a-brewing and swallow
it you must. You are antediluvian anyway, with your Nietzsche ideas. The past is
past, and the man who says history repeats itself is a liar. Of course I don't like
the crowd, but what's a poor chap to do? We can't have the man on horseback,
and anything is preferable to the timid swine that now rule. But come on, anyway.
I'm loaded to the guards now, and if I sit here any longer, I'll get drunk. And you
know the doctor says - damn the doctor! I'll fool him yet."
It was Sunday night, and they found the small hall packed by the Oakland
socialists, chiefly members of the working class. The speaker, a clever Jew, won
Martin's admiration at the same time that he aroused his antagonism. The man's
stooped and narrow shoulders and weazened chest proclaimed him the true child
of the crowded ghetto, and strong on Martin was the age-long struggle of the
feeble, wretched slaves against the lordly handful of men who had ruled over