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Unless we take seriously to heart the education of ... the foreign-born, we shall sooner or later suffer the consequences.
GENERAL JOHN J. PERSHING.
PAUL ZONBOR, son of a Hungarian laborer, was born in a small village near the town of Temesvar, where German is the common tongue.
In his childhood, Paul went to the village school, where, as he saw it in after years, the chief subject of enlightenment was, in general, the greatness and glory of the reigning families of the Austro-Hungarian kingdoms, and, in particular, the names of each and every prince, duke, and baron of the Hapsburg Empire, their titles, their great services to the country, their still greater service to the world at large. Supermen, these all, as Paul and his mates were taught: gods on earth, to be feared and venerated.
At the age of twelve, Paul, taken from school, was sent into the fields, where, with other laborers, he worked
for a wage that barely bought food enough to maintain life, leaving the acquisition of clothing to kindly hazard.
As to the fields themselves, they belonged to a wealthy baron. His name the laborers knew, but not his face. What, indeed, should such a fine gentleman do, in a place so barbarous, so outlandish as this his estate on the Temes?
Still, it appeared he had need of whatever they could possibly make for him. So they went to work at sunrise. And when the sun stood over their heads, they stopped to eat their midday meal. And when the sun sank low, they stumbled home, dog-tired, to their rest, only to rise with the morrow's sun for another day like the last. The sky was their only clock, its moods their only variety.
Thus the years passed, until the time drew near when Paul must follow his brothers and his friends into the army, to serve his two years of compulsory training.
Now, the chief conscious grievance among the peasant inhabitants of the Temes district was that their sons were
forced to give two years out of their young lives for this same military training; forced to give two precious years to learn to defend with their own blood the lands of their princes and dukes; to learn to fight for their task-master's sake, whenever their task-master's lands or privileges might be endangered.
Further, the men conscripted from the Temes district must join a regiment officered by Austrians, who neither understood their men nor were in the least concerned about their lives or comforts. 'Hungarian dogs,' their expression ran, 'what are they fit for but cannon-fodder in case of need! Everything to its use.'
Then, when the young men came back to the village, the two years done, invariably they brought tales of brutal floggings undergone, of long sentences served in unspeakable prisons, of prodigious cruelties wantonly inflicted for offenses that, in the eyes of humane officers, would have passed unrecognized as offenses at all. Many wore disfiguring scars
the marks of willful blows
from Austrian officers. And so, as the time came near when Paul must stand his turn, his ever-present under-horror became a constant obsession, and his nightly dreams were of conscription, of Austrian officers striking him with swords, of hideous black dungeons in which he fought for his food, fought for his life, fought for his reason, against battalions of rats.
Then came a Sunday afternoon when an uncle visited the Zonbors' mean little cottage, bringing a letter from his son, Paul's cousin, who had dared the unknown and crossed the sea. The letter spoke of a new land of promise of a country of the free, where men earned more than a mere existing wage; a country where men were men, not mere slaves to the earth.
Thus it was that Paul Zonbor first heard of the United States of America.
And from that very Sunday he determined to leave to the Austrian officers one man less to maltreat to follow his bold cousin and to try his luck in the Country of the Free.
It was in the spring of the year 1906, to be exact, that a ship crowded with emigrants from Southeastern Europe, entering New York Harbor, brought as an atom among the horde this son of a Hungarian laborer, from the little village near Temesvar.
Once ashore, the atom shared a common lot - he was caught by one of the swarm of mercenary employment agents, who are always alert and eager to clutch any ignorant victim, to suck out his all.
These labor agencies are often owned and staffed by men born in Central Europe - men who, when first they set foot in America, were themselves helpless atoms in a helpless mass, and who themselves fell easy prey to the sharks. But, their own sufferings outlived, they draw from their scars no lesson of compassion lesson of compassion - nothing but a sinister shrewdness in doing as they were done by. Posing as friends of the stranger in the land, they exploit the ignorance of their own countrymen, and make a cannibal livelihood by skinning them alive.
But Paul Zonbor knew nothing of these things. And now, whether for good or for evil, he had arrived in the Promised Land. To-day, years later, — a point which should be borne well in mind throughout this account, today, years later, Paul Zonbor, looking back on these his first experiences, entirely forgets the nationality of those who skinned him, remembering only that it was in America, the Land of the Free, the Promised Land, that he was so skinned.
The job that he got from the cannibals took him into a night bakery, in the colossal city. Here again his mothertongue, German, greeted him - was the only language either spoken or understood; and during the period that followed, he not only worked, but lived, moved, had his entire being among a German-speaking, German-thinking population. Never did it occur to him
never was it suggested to him — to try to learn something about the strange country that he had so newly made his home. His work left him stupefied. He seemed to have neither will nor energy nor imagination, when it was done, to reach out beyond into the true meaning, whatever that might be, of the Promised Land. He did not even suspect that it had another aspect than that in which he slaved. To all intents, he was living in Hungary, under Austrian influences still.
But even to-day he does not realize this. He still thinks that America, the Promised Land, of her own deliberate greed and inhumanity shoved him into that hole.
Yet, through the haze in his dull brain, one longing did arise and grow a great and greater longing for open air. After the big skies of Central Europe, the long nights in an underground bakery, so suddenly assumed, were soon intolerable; and, after he had taken his necessary amount of sleep, the rag of daylight that remained was not enough. So, after a few months of stifling, the emigrant, bestirring himself, made shift for breath, and changed his vocation to that of laborer for a contracting company. You can see the like of him, any hour of any day, in any big city, handling a pick or shovel in the excavation for a new sky-scraper. And so, with no wider change, his life wound on.
But one morning came an incident: the man at the control carelessly pushed the wrong lever. Bang! Crash! A
cry - a moan silence. The crane had dropped its load. And two men who, a moment before, had been active bread-winners, lay motionless, crushed to death. The boss came along to gather the story, while the dead men lay at his feet.
'Oh, well- they 're only Hunkies!' he exclaimed, prefacing his orders with that one phrase of relief.
Paul Zonbor caught the words, and, by a perverse chance, he understood them every one. Through the fogs in his brain they took on life and glowed dully, with an evil fire. And they made his first clear picture of the concept that he was finally to call America.
America, he perceived, was a place where 'Hunkies' did not matter, alive or dead. American bosses, then, were merely Austrian officers in another guise. 'Only Hunkies' and 'cannonfodder' were synonyms.
The laborers had no right under the crane?
The incident was an exceptional one? Not more than one boss in a thousand is like the man that Paul heard speak?
True, true, true; and that thousandth boss was probably born anywhere on earth except under the Eagle of Liberty.
All true. Yet Paul Zonbor, living in the Promised Land, to this day thinks of that early boss of his as a typical American, and believes the typical American boss to be a cold-blooded slave-driver.
To be sure, he himself has since had bosses who have treated him in a humane and friendly way; but these, he is certain, must be the exceptions that prove the rule, as the only ones that he hears of aside from his own experience are described as slave-drivers and brutes.
Next, while Paul was working with the spade, came an opportunity to go to Pittsburgh, at better wages. He went.
Once arrived in the great iron centre, again he found whole communities living the only life he knew, speaking the only tongue he understood, and being the only things he imagined men to be. Here again, it was as if a piece of the Hapsburg Empire had been transplanted into the heart of the United States. Here, to such a community he naturally gravitated, and was at once submerged. Here, too, he met the woman he made his wife a woman differing in no degree or habit from the one he would have married had he never left his native land.
By and by bad times came to Pittsburgh-strikes and riots, want and misery. Men were tossed about, pawns in a game they did not understand. Thus we find Paul Zonbor, with a handful of his countrymen, again casting loose and moving with all their possessions this time to Buffalo.
Here Paul locates in a section of the city where he is able to buy all the necessities of life from stores owned by his countrymen; where the Austrians, the Southern Europeans, the Germans, have their own saloons, their own banks and clubs; where they never come into contact with English-speaking Americans outside their laboring hours.
And again Paul is swallowed up in a little Central Europe, under the spray of Niagara Falls!
Nevertheless, what with the passing of years, what with the evolution of natural character, Paul, for all the tightness of the shell in which he has lived, has grown. He has a certain quality now - and a heightened value. He can command steady work. In fact, he actually spent eight years under the same roof, in the great Buffalo plant that employed him. He has climbed upward in the respect of his community; has
become a leader, well-liked and trusted; is the elected chairman of the club.
Moreover, he has learned, or so he believes, about America. If now you were to ask Paul any sort of questions about present-day politics, you would find that he possesses an amazing familiarity with things about which he knows nothing whatever. His knowledge to-day includes a great deal more than the history of the Hapsburg dynasty. He is ready and glib in discussing Bolshevism, Atheism, Darwinism, Marxism, Prohibition, John Brown, or the Mayflower. The names of labor leaders the world over are common to his memory, and he can dilate on the particular creed and preaching of each
Where did he gain all this knowledge? In America?
Yes, surely, since the laborer of the Temes knew nothing of it.
Most emphatically, no! America has not concerned herself with the mental processes of Paul Zonbor. Using his hands as vital tools, teaching him at most a little English in order to direct these tools, she has taken no cognizance of his mental processes beyond those used in shop practice.
It appears, however, that some sort of power exists, has existed, that does see a use for Paul's mentality. This power manifests itself in several shapes. For example, it supplies Paul Zonbor with weekly newspapers printed in the language he best understands - German. It supplies him also with whatever books he may desire to read, all written in that same language. That those books heavily tend to certain main lines, are chosen with purpose, and that his desires are guided toward them; that his judgment is distorted by them, is not apparent to Paul. His horizon affords so restricted a vision, that variety of conditions and compari
son of values can play little part there as disputants of any systematic invader. And the actual invader is systematic indeed!
As has already been stated, Paul presides over a club. This club has a very considerable number of members, for Paul's class is large in the manufacturing city by the Falls. But the whole organization has not one real American member, and it would be strange to hear an English word spoken within its walls. It is, however, an exceedingly live and active centre. It has endless inner societies for all sorts of ends. But beyond that, it has an amazing lot of debates, meetings, lectures, concerts, where the proceedings, it seems, are stimulated by, and infused with a steady and consistent current from without.
Nothing that is done here in any way relates to America's America. Whether it be in songs, discussions, or teaching, the underlying trend is very strong and is always the same.
All the lecturers are 'sent' from some mysterious elsewhere. All lecture in German, and the majority of them state either that they are Russians or that they have been in Russia quite recently. Russia and Labor in that and other distant parts are, almost exclusively, the subjects of their talk. And never do they miss a chance to quicken their hearers' hatred against the employing classes of any country in the world.
Always they affirm that the laborers of other countries are ready to rise and salute Bolshevism, if only they can be sure that in the United States a majority will follow them. They tell how prosperous the Russians are, under their present rulers; how every man has to work for a living, — labor for a living, explaining that thus none has to work for more than six hours a day. They tell how, in Russia, all profits are shared, and thus all alike are wealthy;
and how more schools have been built by the régime of the last order than were built in a generation of Tsardom. And above all, always they beseech, nay, order, their audiences not to believe one word that is printed in the American press.
'All that it says is lies, damned, deliberate lies,' the speaker repeats, with a fire and an eloquence that drives his words deep. 'America the land of the free? Bah! Russia is the only free country on the face of the earth to-day. It is the only country that has rid itself of the High Capitalist of the High Capitalist - the gorging, wine-bibbing High Capitalist. He is your true enemy, with his wines and his women as bad, and a hundred times worse than the officers that you thought abused you in the old days at home. Why, look at the hugeness of the thing: the men you see around you— the plant managers, the foremen and whatnots are scarcely better off, in principle, than you are yourselves. They are only the tools of the High Capitalist. They are only slave-gang bosses, who have to drive you in order to keep their jobs. Pity them. The High Capitalists are nothing else than blood-sucking vampires, forever bleeding every man under their control, from the first down, in order to make a few more dollars to keep their palaces of wickedness.
'But our day is coming, mind you. Our plans are laid, our hour is close at hand. When the moment arrives, we shall strike in every country at the same time. Russia has already set us our example. Germany is on our side. Italy, Canada, France, and England will rise as one man when our leaders give the signal. Here in the United States we are well organized; but remember that each one of you has to spread our doctrine each hour of every day. So our victory is assured.'
What response does this teaching, preached day by day, year by year,