• I came to the big fork in the road and bailed out on graduate school at the very end of the 1980s. Not sure if that was a good move or a bad move (it actually might shock you the way that History PhDs are treated by universities these days and the USSR and the Know Your Enemy Industry, she ain’t what she used to be), but it was a move.
I ended up taking over the family business, a small shoe store. The job is okay, its greatest benefit is that it allows a large amount of free time — although the three day workweek that we all enjoyed for about 10 years has lamentably given way to a 3-2/3 day workweek (a rotating 3 day week among 3 people) in the aftermath of my divorce.
Why the change? The rate of exploitation had to be ramped up to redeem my ex-wife’s half of the store. It’s a pity, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to survive, Rule No. 1 of capitalism… If business ever starts to really crank again (a seemingly unlikely prospect for small bricks-and-mortar retailers in the internet age), a return to the 3 day week will be one of first things that happens. It’s that important.
When the socialist movement eventually recovers That Vision Thing™ that it has misplaced, shortening the work week to four days for all working people — at a true living wage — has to be at the very top of the new agenda. Speaking from first hand experience: chopping off a day from the work week makes a gargantuan difference in one’s mental well-being and the quality of one’s life. Chopping off two days beefs up the effect even more — at that point a person is spending more than half their life living rather than selling their labor-power to some schmuck like me who is making money off it — but baby steps, baby steps.
Debs lived in the era of the six day work week and was involved in the struggle to reduce each of those days to eight hours, from a prevailing ten hours on average. Urban millworkers had it worse. To top it off: on Sundays, the only free day, most people went to church.
It is hard to imagine how crappy life must have been for working people.
• My friend Marty Goodman found this drawing of Debs in the May 1904 issue of The Comrade, an illustrated socialist magazine that he’s getting ready to re-scan. The original scan is by Google from a copy in the Princeton University Library and is of better quality than their usual fare. It’s probably something we can use at the appropriate juncture in Volume 2 but we’ll almost certainly work fresh with a new scan from an original issue if we do use it.
Theoretically use of this scanned image in a book is copyright clear, since precedent has held that “slavish reproductions” of copyright-clear originals are not themselves copyrightable. (Yeah, Marty paid a lawyer to learn that fact a while back.) Still there’s no doubt additional resolution to be garnered from a clean start on a good scanner. The original issues are very rare, however, so we might not be able to pull that off. Marty is an obsessive bulldog about scanning from originals whenever possible and I’m not gonna bet against him given the 18 months we have before we’d actually need the final image.
• The Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine articles continue to be mowed down. I’ve got another 7 weeks in which to finish and probably 5 weeks’ worth of work remaining — which will work out just about right with a planned stay at the Oregon coast that will blow up one of these weeks. I’ll probably spin microfilm of correspondence to fill the other, if the free time actually materializes.
Looks like my earlier projection of 560,000 total words of editable text is also on the low side — a total topping 600,000 words now seems pretty inevitable.
Discussions about what to do with the text not used in the Haymarket book continue.
• My library acquisitions tend to cluster around after the middle of each month. My credit card “cuts” and I greenlight another shopping basket that I’ve been accumulating over the previous four weeks at ABEBooks. Then I wait for the media mail to roll in. To these purchases are added eBay acquisitions, which are sporadic. These all depend on what comes up on the market and whether I’m successful in buying it.
In addition I make a few direct purchases from a few of the radical booksellers in the US and the UK, which are even more irregular in timing. I’m trying to patronize Bolerium Books of San Francisco more regularly since I think they’re the cat’s meow.
In any event new stuff comes in constantly, but with the end of the second week of each month a predictable high water mark.
• Since it doesn’t look like the new stuff will be here ahead of this blog posting, I’ll pull a volume off my stack and will let fly. I’m not sure how long I’ve had H. Wayne Morgan’s Eugene V. Debs: Socialist for President (Syracuse University Press, 1962) — several years at least. I thought it was going to be very solid based on the publisher. It proved to be a lame-o 250 page Introduction for Imbeciles that quickly found a spot in the deep corner of the dank shoe store basement amidst the “mistakes.” I’m sure there were a couple of classes of college students that were taught the book early in the 1960s, but there’s little of use to contemporary scholarship.
Imagine my surprise to learn recently that H. Wayne Morgan is regarded as one of the really important historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in America of his generation. I decided to give it another try and dug the book out of storage…
Nope, it was just as bad as I remembered it was. Cracking it to a random page right now by way of example, we find:
“Debs especially disliked Roosevelt because of the popular President’s influence with the ‘parlor socialists,’ and because he honestly believed that the President was merely trading on the progressive spirit of the times for votes.” (pg. 109) — That’s complete malarky, as if Debs was a run of the mill electoral politician primarily interested in winning votes by discrediting rivals. He and the bellicose militarist and saber-rattling imperialist Roosevelt hated each other mightily as arch ideological foes. Roosevelt famously proclaimed the Socialists to be “undesirable citizens” and considered Debs among the least desirable of all. For their part, the left despised Roosevelt — from the so-called “parlor socialists” on the right to horny-handed immigrant millworkers on the left and encompassing every shade of radical in between.
It’s just an absolutely ridiculous line — and remember, that one was just plucked at random from Morgan’s copious stockpile of intellectually challenged propositions.
Morgan’s tome is essentially an introductory level political science tract which treats the SPA as a regular vote-chasing political party and Debs as its ego-driven standard-bearer. It misses both the point of the Socialist electoral efforts and the flavor of Debs and is virtually unreadable disappointment, a vapid failure of a book.
• A couple of nice microfilm runs are en route from my eBay source in Alabama. One of the universities digitized all their film with high speed automated scanners and dumped their film holdings to a local guy who seemingly on a whim bought it in one lot. Thousands and thousands of dollars of university library film was sold for pennies on a penny to a dollar.
From him I have coming a nice 17 reel run of The Century, a mass circulation monthly features magazine (1881-1906); and a 15 reel run of The Dial (1880-1928), which started as a religious philosophical magazine which went political in the 1880s and which Thorstein Veblen wrote for in the years around World War I. Then it was sold and became a modernist literary magazine, which is of interest in and of itself. Total tab for 32 reels of film — $41, postpaid.
That film probably costs about $100 a reel if a person wanted to go buy it from the commercial manufacturer, and it doubtlessly still is for sale. That’s how little anyone cares about microfilm today. I feel like an 8-track tape collector…
• “Locomotive Engineers and Federation” — Nov. 1890 article — 1,950 words
• “William P. Daniels, the ORC, and Locomotive Engineers” — Dec. 1890 article — 2,725 words
• “William D. Robinson” — Dec. 1890 article — 2,975 words
• “Protection” — Jan. 1891 article — 1,075 words
• “Fair Wages” — Jan. 1891 article — 1,350 words
• “The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Supreme Council” — March 1891 article — 575 words
• “‘Hero Worship’” — March 1891 article — 1,410 words
• “Labor Organizations and the Labor Press” — March 1891 article — 1,875 words
• “The Farmers’ Alliance” — March 1891 article — 1,600 words
• “Edward Bellamy Launches The New Nation” — March 1891 article — 460 words
• “Mankind in a Bad Way” — April 1891 article — 1,800 words
• “The Almighty Dollar” — April 1891 article — 2,075 words
• “Labor Leaders” — May 1891 article — 1,660 words
….Word count = 445,875 words in the can + 21,530 this week = 467,405 words
• 7 more Saturdays to go until the July 1 target for the end of output of editable text. There are still 126 article pdfs remaining to be processed (or rejected at second reading).