Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
To the Retainers
(From “Socialism and Success”)

By W. J. Ghent

(American Socialist writer, born 1866)
YOU retainers and servitors of the men of wealth—you who from rostrum, pulpit and sanctum, from bar and bench, defend the existing régime and oppose the struggles of the working class for a better life; you whose business it is to find a practical, a judicial, an ethical and even a spiritual sanction for things as they exist, and who devise the cheap moralities which are the reflex of the interests of the class that employs you—there is a word to say to you which needs to be spoken. Upon those who take part in the forward movement of the time no more pressing duty is laid than that of telling you in plain words what millions of men are thinking of you.…  1
  With what eager impulse and with what compliant will do you make yourselves the defenders of the present scheme of things and the assailants of the coming order! Now that in every civilized land the working class, sick of the reign of cruelty and wrong, is awakening to a consciousness of its power, and to a determination to ordain a fairer life, you take upon yourselves the mission to ridicule its aims and ideals and to discredit its leaders.  2
  It is only the unsuccessful, you say, who attack our existing institutions. You cannot understand, such is your subservient complacence, that multitudes among this revolutionary working class are proud of their unsuccess and wear it as a badge of honor. Pray you, under the existing scheme of things, how many, and what quality of men achieve “success,” and what must they do to achieve it? It is not, except in rare cases, probity, honor, truthfulness, nor humaneness, nor fellow service, that wins this fallacious good. It is, in the majority of cases, grafting and lying, fawning and cringing, selfishness and brutality, restrained only by that Chinese ethical standard, the necessity of “saving your face,” that give victory in the struggle. And the men who are seeking the overthrow of this system disdain to make use of these means. They leave that function to you. They do not, like your bishops, lend their presence to chambers of commerce at banquets, and give to the gamblers in the world’s wealth the benediction of divine favor. They do not, like your Board of Foreign Missions, solicit the profits of law breaking and theft for their propaganda, and promise an intercession at the throne of grace. They do not, like your college heads, prescribe the dainty punishment of “social ostracism” for the world’s robbers, crying out from their gables, “Bring on your tainted money!” Nor do they, like your journalists, make themselves the servile lackeys of the ruling class; nor, like your economists, constitute themselves the secular priests of capital, perpetually renewing their character of “pests of society and persecutors of the poor.” Many of them might be “successful” if they chose to do these things. Rather they chose, like Francis of Assisi, the bride of Poverty, instead of the harlot Success. And so you are right in your statement. But you utter your own condemnation when you speak it.  3

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