A Poor Wise Man by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Acting on Willy Cameron's suggestion, Dan Boyd retained his membership in the union and frequented the meetings. He learned various things, that the strike vote had been padded, for instance, and that the Radicals had taken advantage of the absence of some of the conservative leaders to secure such support as they had received. He found the better class of workmen dissatisfied and unhappy. Some of them, men who loved their tools, had resented the order to put them down where they were and walk out, and this resentment, childish as it seemed, was an expression of their general dissatisfaction with the autocracy they had themselves built up.
Finally Dan's persistent attendance and meek acquiescence, added to his war record, brought him reward. He was elected member of a conference to take to the Central Labor Council the suggestion for a general strike. It was arranged that the delegates take the floor one after the other, and hold it for as long as possible. Then they were to ask the President of the Council to put the question.
The arguments were carefully prepared. The general strike was to be urged as the one salvation of the labor movement. It would prove the solidarity of labor. And, at the Council meeting a few days later, the rank and file were impressed by the arguments. Dan, gnawing his nails and listening, watched anxiously. The idea was favorably received, and the delegates went back to their local unions, to urge, coerce and threaten.
Not once, during the meeting, had there been any suggestion of violence, but violence was in the air, nevertheless. The quantity of revolutionary literature increased greatly during the following ten days, and now it was no longer furtively distributed. It was sold or given away at all meetings; it flooded the various headquarters with its skillful compound of lies and truth. The leaders notified of the situation, pretended that it was harmless raving, a natural and safe outlet for suppressed discontents.
Dan gathered up an armful of it and took it home. On a Sunday following, there was a mass meeting at the Colosseum, and a business agent of one of the unions made an impassioned speech. He recited old and new grievances, said that the government had failed to live up to its promises, that the government boards were always unjust to the workers, and ended with a statement of the steel makers' profits. Dan turned impatiently to a man beside him.
"Why doesn't he say how much of that profit the government gets?" he demanded.
But the man only eyed him suspiciously.
Dan fell silent. He knew it was wrong, but he had no gift of tongue. It was at that meeting that for the first time he heard used the word "revolution."