Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Case of Heresy

Cartoon from The Liberator, March 1918
I love old editorial cartoons.  It's a little like an archaeological expedition trying to unpack what the artist was trying to convey given the context of the day.  In this case, this is a treatise arguing against the supression of Socialist ideas by the joint efforts of the church, the universities and the press.  The Press character is attempting to steer a character named Schwab to the book, but he's looking away, holding  a sheet of paper, presumable some sort of newspaper or other document.  Press also has a scarf covered in $ signs.

Above the large central figure, presumably the High-Priest of Capitalism, judging from the $ signs on his scarf and his monumental size, are the words "The Syste[m]" (the "m" being obscured by the curtain).

The text in the book reads:
  • Praise be our Property Rights
  • Yea Verily, let the Prosperous Rule
  • A man is known by the dollars he keeps
  • To have and to hold Fast
  • Business individualism is noble, Socialism is an abomination
  • So saith the profits
  • The poor and the meek get their rewards in Heaven -- Not here...
And the sheet in hand reads
Some people call it Socialism others call it Bolshevikism.  It means but one thing and that is the man who labors with his hands yet does not posses property is the one who is going to dominate the affairs of the world.  --Charles M. Schwab

Charles M. Schwab
Charles M. Schwab in 1901

Schwab lived hard, and died in poverty. You might be surprised that he had a significant impact on the development of the steel industry in the United States.  Born to German immigrants in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, early in his career he worked for Andrew Carnegie.  Eventually, striking out on his own, he founded Bethlehem Steel and later invented the H beam, precursor to the I beam and the key to the development of the skyscraper.

Ultimately the stock market crash of 1929 and his hard living lifestyle wiped out his personal fortune.

He ended up living in a small apartment when he could no longer afford the taxes on his lavish mansion.

But in 1918, Schwab was flying high.  And he recognized the changing social order. In a speech transcribed by Baltimore magazine, Schwab had this to say.
"We are on the threshold of a new social era. This new order of things may work great hardship for many of us. It is going to come upon us sooner than we expect. It is the social renaissance of the whole world. Some people call it Socialism, others call it Bolshevikism. It means but one thing, and that is that the man who labors with his hands, who does not possess property, is the one who is going to dominate the affairs of this world; not merely Russia, Germany and the United States, but the whole world. 
"This great change is going to be a social adjustment. I repeat that it will be a great hardship to those who control property, but perhaps in the end it will work inestimably to the good of us all. Therefore, it is our duty not to oppose, but to instruct, to meet and to mingle with the view of others. 
"The translation from the old to the new order of things will be so gradual that we will hardly realize that it has occurred. The pendulum will swing so far that you and I may find it hard for a time, but there will be an adjustment. * * * 
"The aristocracy of the future is not going to be the aristocracy of wealth; it is going to be the aristocracy of men who have done something for their country and for the world at large. Such men will lie true aristocrats.  * * * 
"I am not sure that this coming change in society will be better for you and me, but whether it will or will not, we must be prepared to accept it, for it is coming, and it is nearer than we think.'' 
—Charles M. Schwab, from Baltimore, Volume 11 no 7, April 1918
 If only his prediction had come true.

Baltimore, incidentally, is the oldest continuosuly published city magazine in the country.  First published in 1907, it is still in press today.

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