Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Seven - The Church of the Social Revolution

Mother Earth

And nowadays we have the Socialist and Anarchist agitators, following the same tradition, possessed by the same dream as the ancient Hebrew prophets. I have mentioned Emma Goldman; it may be that the reader is not familiar with her writings, and does not realize how very Biblical she is, both in point of view and style. Let me quote a few sentences from a recent issue of her paper, "Mother Earth," on the subject of our ruling classes and their social responsibility:

Yes, you idle rich, you may howl about what we mean to do to you! Your riches are rotten and your fine clothes are falling from your backs. Your stocks and bonds are so tainted that the ink on them should turn to acid and eat holes in your pockets and your skins. You have piled up your dirty millions, but what wages have you paid to the poor devils of farm hands you have robbed? And do you imagine they won't remember it when the revolution comes? You loll on soft couches and amuse yourselves with your mistresses; you think your art "it" and the world is yours. You send militiamen and shoot down our organizers, and we are helpless. But wait, comrades, our time is coming.

Doubtless the reader is well satisfied that the author of this tirade is now in jail, where she can no longer defy the laws of good taste. They always put the ancient prophets in jail; that is the way to know a prophet when you meet him. Let me quote another prophet who is now behind bars - Alexander Berkman, in his "Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist," discussing the same subject of plutocratic pretension:

Tell me, you four hundred, where did you get it? Who gave it to you? Your grandfather, you say? Your father? Can you go all the way back and show there is no flaw anywhere in your title? I tell you that the beginning and the root of your wealth is necessarily in injustice. And why? Because Nature did not make this man rich and that man poor from the start. Nature does not intend for one man to have capital and another to be a wage-slave. Nature made the earth to be cultivated by all. The idea we Anarchists have of the rich is of highwaymen, standing in the street and robbing every one that passes.

Or take "Big Bill" Haywood, chief of the I.W.W. Hear what he has to say in a pamphlet addressed to the harvest-hands he is seeking to organize:

How much farther do you plutes expect to go with your grabbing? Do you want to be the only people left on earth? Why else do you drive out the workers from all share in Nature, and claim everything for yourselves? The earth was made for all rich and poor alike; where do you get your title deeds to it? Nature gave everything for all men to use alike; it is only your robbery which makes your so-called "ownership.", Capital has no rights, The land belongs to Nature, and we are all Nature's sons.

Or take Eugene V. Debs, three time candidate of the Socialist Party for President. I quote from one of his pamphlets:

The propertied classes are like people who go into a public theater and refuse to let anyone else come in, treating as private property what is meant for social use. If each man would take only what he needs, and leave the balance to those who have nothing, there would be no rich and no poor. The rich man is a thief.

I might go on citing such quotations for many pages; but I know that Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and Bill Haywood and Gene Debs may read this book, and I don't want them to close it in the middle and throw it at me. Therefore let me hasten to explain my poor joke; the sentiments I have been quoting are not those of our modern agitators, but of another group of ancient ones. The first is not from Emma Goldman, nor did I find it in "Mother Earth." I found it in the Epistle of James, believed by orthodox authorities to have been James, the brother of Jesus. It is exactly what he wrote - save that I have put it into modern phrases, and changed the swing of the sentences, in order that those familiar with the Bible might read it without suspicion. The second passage is not in the writings of Alexander Berkman, but in those of St. John Chrysostom, most famous of the early fathers who lived 374-407. The third is not from the pen of "Big Bill" but from that of St. Ambrose, a father of the Latin Church, 340-397, and the fourth is not by Comrade Debs, but by St. Basil of the Greek Church, 329-379. And if the reader objects to my having fooled him for a minute or two, what will he say to the Christian Church, which has been fooling him for 1,600 years?

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