The trials of a noble experiment - Eugene Travaglio

Historical marker acknowledging the radical origins of Home, Washi

During its roughly 20 years of existence, Home Colony housed the only english-speaking anarchist newspaper in the United States as well as boasting frequent visits from such noted radicals as Emma Goldman and Bill Haywood. Written at the age of 90 from memory in 1966, this essay by Eugene Travaglio gives us a wonderful view into the most successful anarchist co-operative in Washington State's history.

THE TRIALS OF A NOBLE EXPERIMENT
by Eugene Travaglio

HOME COLONY – the promised land … If the success or failure of a social experiment depended solely upon either aesthetic or homely setting of it’s environs, HOME COLONY would have had a fair chance of healthy survival right from the outset, admirably situated as it is on one of the myriad emerald inlets of Puget Sound where the roots of stately firs almost dip into the sea as it wends it’s way on sandy beaches and retreats to complete its rhythmic tidal cycle. Above the shore, luxuriant plant growth, laden with foliage of variegated hues, gracefully spill over it’s sloping banks in charming confusion.

Then, to the East, a new vista is disclosed. Clearly outlined against a limpid blue sky, bathed in the sun, stand the lofty Cascades, with majestic Mt. Rainier towering above them all in its roseate grandeur. The alchemy of nature was unusually lavish when it produced this unforgettable panorama of rugged scenic beauty.

It is toward this primeval yet lovely spot that the first settlers (1) directed their steps
(2), seeking a haven remote from the exactions of state and capitalistic authority. The prospect of an existence in the raw, with it’s attendant hardships and discomfort, dismayed them not. For then it was to be a testing ground for a new and fuller concept of life, wherein each settler could satisfy his needs and aspirations without necessarily crushing another fellow being down. They meant to shape their own destiny, and to them difficulties were only a challenge – not a barrier.

Thus HOME COLONY was founded. Twenty-six acres of un-cleared land, with a waterfront along Joe’s Bay was purchased for a song (3). These pioneers wisely avoided the pitfalls inherent to most centralized cooperative enterprises wherein individual and social effort is ultimately destroyed by autocratic, inept and parasitical leaders infesting the body politic. Their aim was to associate for the purpose of obtaining land and to promote better social, economic and moral conditions for the individual. Accordingly, the land was parceled out in two acre tracts per member, any improvement made thereon to be considered personal property, but the land title itself vested within the scope of the Association.

Experimental cooperative colonies, of more or less socialistic tinge, were not new ventures in the southern hinterland of the Olympic Peninsula, but after a short and checkered career, they folded up, leaving much bitterness and disillusionment in their wake. Strange to relate, it was a goodly number of these disappointed wayfarers, attracted by the promise of a broader conception of personal freedom, who joined the new enterprise and became its most ardent supporters. The interest aroused by this unique experiment had already gone far afield.

In the course of time, the population reached over 100, and the village, sprawling over the hills, began to assume the semblance of a budding civilization. Timber being plentiful, the construction problem was easily and conveniently resolved. Though skill was lacking, and tools primitive, guided solely by trial and error, these neo-artisans made up these deficiencies by ample doses of will power and genuine good fellowship. They built for comfort and utility rather than for beauty’s sake. Nature filled the void; the sylvan setting of their surrounding lent a pleasing rustic appearance to their humble retreats.

As the food problem was of paramount importance, intensive cultivation of land was undertaken with a will and reaped a generous reward. Later, in addition of vegetables, yielding fruit trees and berry bushes began to supplement their food requirements. Fish from streams and bay, goeducks – that delectable and sizeable clam, the gastronomical delight of the Siwash Indian epicure – graced each table. Then, add an occasional domestic fowl, a plump quail or partridge, or a deer unwittingly flitting in and out the clearing – and not a damned game warden in sight!

The colonists, in their personal lives, observed no moral restrictions. They did what they jolly well pleased. In theory, they might live with one woman, two women, or a harem – or with none at all – and most of them did just that! As one settler facetiously remarked: “Bachelors are of two kinds, those who do not know women and those who know them too well!” HOME COLONY in love matters, lived it’s own life – without the “ifs and buts” of prudent morality. Like truth, it stood there in the light, naked and unashamed. But it was far from being the Roman carnival with its carnal orgy the press and pulpit would have the gullible believe. In fact, if the truth were known, its “moral” infractions were far less frequent than obtained among its outside detractors. And, ironically enough, it was among these very contemptible detractors that worldly Don Juans would make surreptitious journeys to the COLONY in quest of amorous adventures, and after being accorded frigid reception, returned to their bailiwicks by the next boat, utterly crestfallen.

Then came the blatant type of bogus moralist, the arrant hypocrite who flaunts his sanctimonious canons of holy matrimony before clubs, church gatherings, and newspapers, making personally conducted tours to HOME COLONY, accompanied by a dizzy blonde, or a ravishing brunette, or a tropical Titian-haired siren, as the case may be, disporting themselves at the fountain of love in blissful abandonment… and the colonists – judging not – smiled mischievously – and winked the other eye. Verily, by reflex action, in HOME COLONY’s mythological garden, Venus had more devotees than Mars!

Furtive love aside let us return to the daily pursuits of the colonists. With the rapid growth of the community, many improvements of diverse nature were undertaken by collective effort. Good roads, allowing each parcel of land to be accessible on two sides, supplanted the winding and narrow paths, often rendered impassable during the rainy season. Obviously, it wasn’t the intent of the colonists to lead an isolated existence. They accepted the benefit of civilization only insofar as they could derive material advantage from it – beyond that – no compromise. And with this objective in view, among their next projects they included the building of a wharf where small passenger and freight steamers could approach the shore with safety.

Visitors of various political and economic tinge began their pilgrimage HOMEward. Poets, writers, philosophers, professors and publicists, oily politicians, staid reformers and saviours,(4) some curious, some critical, came to get a glimpse of this strange aboriginal bourne of amoral practices and their reactions became a topical subject throughout the land. And then came those who were linked to this essay by a bond of sympathetic understanding, men who like the settlers had borne the vicissitude of life with fortitude, men who rejoiced at the thought that their innermost concept of freedom was at last given a practical demonstration. They came to give a tangible token of solidarity toward their brethren, and departed serenely into the night to resume the struggle.

As the influx of more or less well-meaning folks became increasingly frequent, the need for a meeting place capable of accommodating a fairly large audience became imperative, and forthwith Liberty Hall was erected. It soon proved to be the most indispensable institution in the Colony. Topical lectures, followed by lively discussions, disclosed many facets of communal life in an atmosphere of perfect cordiality. Only one rule prevailed: regardless of how unorthodox a dissenter’s opinion may have appeared, he was accorded full right to self-expression, provided that he, in turn, was disposed to face the articulate disapproval of his audience. Never were sociological problems more thoroughly discussed or minutely dissected than at these informative meetings. Often, well-meaning reformers of note essayed to dissuade these inveterate “sinners” from following the “wicked” path to perdition, only to come away if not convinced, at least with a modicum of comprehension of their aims – and a liberal education to boot.

And what the unwary visitors finally realized to their great amazement is that instead of finding a tribe of ignorant, uncouth and unkempt savages they were confronted with the intellectual impact of cultural and urbane farmers, well-versed not only in classical literature, but in the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire, Hegel, Darwin, Spencer, Marx, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Tolstoy, as well. It had not dawned upon them before that the aggregate number of solid books, on any conceivable subjects, in possession of the Colonists far exceeded those on the shelves of many metropolitan libraries.

Later, the ground fronting Liberty Hall was cleared for a large playground and park, and made suitable for outdoor gatherings and various sporting events. Young outsiders, still free from the political bias of their elders, looked forward, on holidays, to match their wits and prowess against local teams, and always departed with an affectionate regard for the splendid reception extended them by their young hosts.

The establishment of a local post office was a great convenience to the colonists, owing to the long distance they had to travel to gather their mail. This boon, however, proved to be of short duration. The postal authorities closed the Post Office charging the colonists of mailing seditious literature. Since then rural delivery service in that region was extended to include the colonists.

Besides the various innovations along practical and cultural lines, the Colonists, nearly all folks of uncommon intellectual attainments, had long held the education of children of paramount importance. The first teacher was a graduate of Toronto University (5), ably assisted by his personable wife (6), and gifted daughter (7) and between them, they managed to impart the rudiments of knowledge to an eager bunch of kids, from kindergarten to primary grades. Later, with the arrival of another honor graduate student from Harvard (8), the scholastic curricula was extended to meet high school requirements.

Obviously, the school adapted the most modern method of pedagogy stressing the value of integral education namely, physical, intellectual and ethical and the constant relation between these three faculties. In simple language, political myths were dissipated, economic panaceas riddled with holes, and the validity of bogus moral issues questioned, to the utter dismay of the State School Inspectors sent there to ascertain to what level of depravity the children had been subjected to by their teachers, and to what extent the children had been exposed to the ravages of virus radicalism of their elders. But, let it be said, truancy from this school was unknown.

As an indication of the mental processes of a youngster reared in HOME COLONY, who afterwards moved to the city to complete his studies, may be gleaned from the following episode:

A Superior Court Judge had been honored by an invitation to address the graduating class at Tacoma High School, and spoke eloquently and at length about the virtue of hard and unceasing labor. Later, when he was expecting to receive congratulations on his oratory, a gangling student from HOME COLONY walked up to him and drawled, “Judge, if hard labor’s the pleasure you say it is, how come you sentenced a guy to thirty days of it not to long ago – for punishment?”

At this point it may not be amiss to cast a cursory glance at the economic practices prevalent at the Colony. In truth, there were no hard and fast rules. Each one adopted his own measure of evaluating his services, and each method seemed to have staunch adherents and fluctuated accordingly to the mutual agreement of its participants. By and large, services were exchanged on the give and take basis, or voluntary effort, pure and simple. To some, the Proudhonian theory of exchanging labor on the basis of one hour per hour, had tremendous appeal, qualitative or quantitative measures being utterly disregarded.

The younger generation, feeling the need of having a medium of exchange acceptable to the outside world, where they sought avenues of amusement or to obtain small luxuries not available at the Colony, gave preference to a monetary wage system, wherein all services, skilled or unskilled, were remunerated at the rate of $2.50 per day of eight hours. By these arrangements, no particular method of exchange of service ever gained ascendancy over any other. The needs, whims, desires and dispositions of the contracting parties were the sole arbiters.

Naturally, there were many commodities the colony could not supply or manufacture, such as tools, appliances, victuals and clothing, and these had to be obtained elsewhere at the prices hardly within the reach of their slender means. This distressing situation was soon overcome by the founding of a cooperative store financed by shares of $1.00 each, payable in cash, commodities or service on easy installments. Here goods were sold at cost plus a minimum charge for operating expenses. The saving was enormous. Farmers from far and wide, while detesting the political heresies of the Colonists, were not slow to detect a good bargain. Ah, the wonders of “economic determinism!”

Moreover, the settler’s activities were not entirely confined to rendering the place habitable – it was not to be merely a field of neglected weeds for the mind. As a diversion from their arduous labors they found expression in the “NEW ERA” an eclectic publication of pronounced libertarian tendencies, launched by an itinerant compositor (9) who placed a small printing outfit at the disposal of the budding community, and their pens were wielded as deftly as their axes. No chanticleer crowed it’s glowing message so lustily, so exuberant with life and purpose.

This example was contagious – not even women were caught napping. Another paper came to light, “CLOTHED WITH THE SUN”. It wasn’t just balmy – it was scorching, it even blistered the type that printed it! Its editors, two ancient Syreus (10), who vicariously, of course, sought to replenish the trickling fountain of youth by delving into the sweet mysteries of life and love, minus the proverbial fig leaf. The local fauns were impassive, their eyes closed to the blandishments of these faded nymphs, their ears failed to attune to the strident notes of long ago. The Garden of Eden of a fertile imagination proved to be just a dismal swamp, and like the Arab of the legend, these wizened Syreus folded their tents, and resigned to fate, stole away to seek Nirvana elsewhere.

“CLOTHED WITH THE SUN” having gone the way of all flesh, “NEW ERA” (11) was made the target of the postal authorities and was summarily suppressed. The editor, after his trial, did not resume its publication. Undismayed by the turn of events the colonists launched a new journal with the significant title “DISCONTENT, MOTHER OF PROGRESS” (12), with a capable and seasoned editor at the helm. His trenchant and challenging editorials, penned with consummate skill, once again aroused the wrath of the postal authorities and immediate suppression followed. Resourcefully, the name was changed to “DEMONSTRATOR” (13), but its editorial policy was not altered one whit. Eventually, further harassments caused the paper to suspend.

The last journalistic venture was launched during the hey days of the I.W.W. and was named “THE AGITATOR” (14), an avowed exponent of “revolutionary” syndicalism, leaning, in theory at least, toward a more decentralized form of labor organization than it’s I.W.W. brethren. Despite this claim the outcome of the editor’s (15) policies culminated in a highly centralized dual union in a field where the I.W.W. already held sway – a questionable procedure engendering much strife and confusion among the loggers of the Northwest. In their bewilderment, these woodsmen resigned themselves to the acceptance of his guidance as he practically appointed himself on the board of numerous vice presidents of the union. But, giving the devil his due, let this be said in his favor: In time of stress, he rose to the occasion by defending colonists to the last ditch when they were again confronted with the merciless onslaught of the reactionaries. His article, “The Nudes and the Prudes” – a masterpiece of logic, humor and courage, won for him the badge of honor – six months in jail.

By this time HOME COLONY had assumed the semblance of a bustling community, and outside the original boundary land was eagerly taken up and intensely cultivated, with comfortable homes springing up in the clearings. This lovely spot, its libertarian spirit, attracted many sympathetic visitors from afar and held them spellbound. Almost every nationality under the sun was represented, and their personal views, their cultural background, were as varied and complex as their respective places of origin. Some hailed from large centers where they had enjoyed a comfortable standard of life, advantages due to their training in the arts and professions; while other, like the nomad of the plain, had tramped through life, and came bearing evidence of a harried man and a seared heart. But to these people, whether Slavs, Jewish, Nordic, Latin or Anglo Saxon as the case may be, whether to doctor, artisan or laborer, the prospect of breathing the moral ozone of a free atmosphere was equally alluring.

Among the colonists, who for their sense of humor and down right ingenuity deserve worthy mention, were two happy young Hollanders (16), who, like birds, lived in a diminutive cabin perched on a giant oak tree house whose limbs leaned over a swift running brook. Bent on saving labor so they could pursue their studies, they contrived a unique method of washing clothes and dishes by placing them in a metal screen and lowering it into the brook where the rushing water and the ravenous trout neatly performed the boring domestic task. When guests arrived impromptu, frying pan and trout had a glorious gastronomical reunion on their arboreal kitchen stove – a dish fit for gods!

Another exotic character who settled in the Colony in quest of freedom was a comely Cleopatra (17), dark and voluptuous, a figure of Oriental romance, professing to be in love with love. Though languid and often moody in temperament, her mind was as universal as her affections. Her social philosophy wavered between the sublime crescendo and the ridiculous diminuendo of an emotional chromatic scale, according to the political leanings of her lovers. When the sun set on her beauty, she discreetly linked her waning amorous fortunes to a top-commissar – a presidential candidate, with the glowing expectation of becoming First Lady of the land – that is if the enraged proletarians did not make a resolute attempt to upset their political applecart.

A cross section of HOME COLONY also reveals other unique and interesting personalities. We recall a capable mechanic (18) who gave up a lucrative employment so as to escape the moral ravages of the war, settling on two acres just across the Colony. Sparing in speech, under his seemingly rugged exterior he harbored a sensitive nature whose convictions partook the very essence of an animate being, strong and self reliant, seeking consistency in deeds rather than expectations and noisy oratory. Being more resourceful than affluent, he built himself a home out of salvage wood and iron material removed from the hull of a small steamer wrecked on the shore near by. To see him stripped to the waist, wading in the surf, defying the elements, working like a beaver from dawn to sunset, reminds us of the titanic efforts of Gilliatt in Victor Hugo’s “Toilers of the Sea”. His ingenuity knew no bounds. With a forge of his own making, he contrived to shape a stove, utensils, tanks, stairs, artistic iron scrollwork and even trellises for plants and flowers he loved so well. Such are the wonders of skill blended with a creative free spirit!

Having reached the zenith of its moral material development, what was in store for this noble experiment? Let us see. The Colony’s reputation, whether for ill or good, went far afield and became the topical discussion in unorthodox circles all over America and the transmigration of soul began in earnest. It soon became the Mecca for fast doctors, food faddists, faith healers, metaphysicians, spiritualists, pseudo psychologists, Christian Scientists, who were neither Christians nor scientists, purveyors of panaceas for the cure of social bellyaches, labor fakirs – all descended in swarms to pollute the social atmosphere of that seemingly happy bourne. Yes there was freedom for everybody – even those who availed themselves of libertarian processes to attain totalitarian and reactionary ends.

That the influx of this unsavory caravan of mountebanks, with their preposterous claims, should have gained ascendancy over a quasi-emancipated folk, surpasseth understanding. Let us search for the contributing causes of this ethical collapse. Nervous tension bordering on hysteria, engendered by the First World War became contagious, and not even HOME COLONY was immune from its baneful influence. Some of the colonists suddenly became aware that they had a fatherland to defend, and the clash of nationalities began with a vengeance. Then came the famous “Nudes and the Prudes” episode which further split the community into two belligerent factions. It was customary for the colonists during the summer months to bathe in the evening in a cave nearby, sexes adequately segregated. Candidly speaking, some of the bathers did dispense with their formal evening gown and dress suits while bathing. But hostile neighbors, ever watchful for moral infractions, pretended to be scandalized and promptly sought relief for their wounded sense of prudery by summoning the law, whose minions by an outraged public and a reptile press, reacted surely and swiftly. Numerous witnesses, some of them living five miles away, vented their spleen by testifying in court against the hapless bathers. Found guilty, they received a stiff fine, which meant the loss of their entire holdings. Dissensions then became rife, sordid mercantile competitors of the cooperative store fanned the flames of hatred and sowed the seed of discord for mercenary reasons.

A defiant note was sounded when a colony witness, testifying for the defense at this trial, was asked by innuendo whether his own marriage had been solemnized by church and state. He proudly replied to the prosecutor, “It’s solemn enough for me!” A Tacoma daily, in dealing with this episode, made a cynical concession that it was finally settled that anarchists DO take a bath!

At this juncture one may feel justified to ask this pertinent question: “how could a minor transgression of the canons of propriety wreak such havoc in a community which hitherto defied all the social conventions?” One reason may be ascribed to the different outlook or changed attitude of the latter-day settlers. What has been presented at the outset of this narrative were the positive and creative facets of HOME COLONY’s social life. The destructive factors came later with the constant fluctuation of its component elements. These newcomers, hailing for the most part from large industrial centers had been drawn to the enterprise by a surging desire to escape the monotonous slave tasks in dismal workshops, away from the accelerated tempo of modern production, and hoped to find in HOME COLONY the Promised Land, where a prodigal nature would shower upon them without effort on their part, the proverbial milk and honey. In truth, they held agricultural pursuits in abhorrence; the joy of making things grow had never appealed to them, and all illusions of a free life were soon dispelled. In their immaturity they sought to rest from life what they were not willing to put into it – and failure ensued. Then, frustrated and assailed by ennui and despair, they hastily disposed of their holdings to the first comer, without first ascertaining whether he would be fit material to appreciate the breath and scope of his neighbor’s libertarian ideology.

With this element not assimilable in its midst, Home began to change its ethical complexion. Mutual understanding, good fellowship was fast displaced by sordid behavior and shabby antipathies; moral suasion gave way to threats of bodily harm – even to the point of resorting to arson. World War I, with its attendant acrimony, not only created further breach in the realm of good faith and unity, but gain became the sole incentive of life. Shipyards were springing up like mushrooms around Puget Sound, and many of the colonists, attracted to the fleshpots of capitalism by the lure of fabulous wages, rendered yeoman’s service to Mars. There were laudable exceptions, of course, who for their steadfastness to their ideals, received ample share of abuse and ostracism besides.

These lamentable precedents became contagious. The second generation, already chafing at the bit in their seclusion, and having become unduly hypercritical of their elders’ queer notions, at last grasped the opportunity they long sought for to decamp for the enemy’s trenches. These prodigal sons returned, well groomed and well-heeled, belching their contempt for the noble experiment – a memory of their childhood of hardship and privation. At night, in their nostalgic mood, they would gaze eastward, beyond the mountains, where they beheld the alluring mirage of the distant city with its dazzling lights, its shams, its tinsel, its gay and carnal pleasures…

Sad to relate, among the youngsters who remained, some of them took to stealing from neighbors and from visiting excursion boats and boasted of their exploits. These offenses occurred in a community founded on moral trust, where no one ever dreamed of bolting a door or engaging the services of a constable!

The acme of depravity was reached when the son (19) and daughter of an early settler (20) left HOME COLONY to embark on a career of wild living and expropriation. The law soon caught up with their depredations, and the authorities who for obvious reasons were eager to enlist the services of scoundrels with radical connections, promised them immunity on condition that they “redeem” themselves by joining the political branch of the Secret Service. Among their nefarious exploits was the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the defendants (21) implicated in the LOS ANGELES TIMES explosion. It was these dastardly informers who helped to bring the Colony into disrepute by spreading fantastic stories of gross immorality and crime among the gullible folks of the adjacent settlements. This daughter later met her fate in an accident while carrying out a political assignment. Ah, here was one obituary we read with keen pleasure!

Captain Lawrence of the steamer TYRUS, which made daily round trips to Tacoma, a staunch friend of the colonists, was forced out of business by a local competitive enterprise conducted by the very same young people who had been riding gratis on his boat for two decades. In their callousness they forgot how he had befriended the colonists materially and morally in time of stress. They forgot the time when during the McKinley affair, Captain Lawrence, with the aid of a Protestant minister, succeeded in dissuading 300 enraged Tacoma citizens from seizing his boat, (which they loaded with firearms) and from heading to HOME COLONY on a mission of arson and murder. These two brave men aided by the boat crew prevented what might have been a forerunner of the melancholy tragedies perpetrated later against the I.W.W. in Everett and Centralia.

To further aggravate this disquieting situation, included in the unsavory crew of disruptors and plotters infesting the Colony, there were a few who were decidedly clever in their operations. One in particular is “worthy” of mention. He was not only astute; he was a genius in the art of histrionic deception. A glib speaker, exceptionally well informed on sociological matters, he would hold his audience spellbound by his eloquence and sound philosophy charmingly delivered in faultless English. Nearly all fell for him and his line – women especially. He made their hearts flutter – they simply went daft about him and no rhyme, nor reason, could recall them to reality. Repeated warnings of his dual role were of no avail, and even those who should have known better did not help allay any suspicion that he was only playing a sinister part bordering on tragedy. HOME had taken him to its bosom and fondly coddled him.

The mystery was unraveled where, war declared, he suddenly disappeared, but a chance meeting at an army camp revealed his (22) true identity – that of a colonel in the Intelligence Bureau. When hostilities ceased he had the brazen effrontery to bob up serenely in HOME COLONY once again scouting around for a desirable spot to settle and carry on his nefarious occupation. Among the choice places, the one that took his fancy was a lovely clearing with fruit, vegetables and flowers growing in profusion, and nestling among the trees a comfortable home fronted by a lovely sandy beach. The builder was a French settler (23) well versed in husbandry as well as in the libertarian philosophy. Owing to his extensive travels in Western Europe he was familiar with many languages and attracted to his home many brilliant personalities. Naturally, he did not want to part with the home he skillfully built with his own hand and beautified by his own artistry. Failing in his attempt to secure this coveted place the foul informer took revenge and forthwith denounced the settler to the authorities as a dangerous anarchist, and it took all our friend’s slender resources, and the sacrifice of his entire holdings besides, to extricate himself from the meshes of the law!

And what did all these misgivings portend? Sad to reveal, HOME COLONY, having reached the zenith of its physical development began to show the ominous signs of moral decay. As a cohesive unit it had ceased to function. It reverted to the law of the jungle – each man for himself – with its attendant revolting criticism. The worst feature was that the loyal ones were constrained to live in close proximity with their bitter enemies or decamp elsewhere, and many did just that. The Association was dissolved, each settler receiving individual title to the land he occupied. The State had already taken control of the schools, and foisted a constable to “safeguard” the destiny of the inhabitants. No one was immune from the despicable attitude of the reactionary latter-day saints, steeped as they were in the vulgar prejudices obtained in the Dark Ages. Yes, no one was spared – not even the innocent children – who, with a sweeping generalization – were referred to as “those damned little bastards!”

And now, gone are the hectic days of struggle. In its lovely setting HOME COLONY is placidly basking in the sunshine, smug and complacent. Its children have gone out into the world to seek that solace, that comfort they thought their parents denied them, and the few among them who have not gained a competence within the realm of their expectations, now feel prone to fish for caviar in the Russian rain barrel of credulity, snarling viciously at those libertarians who have not fallen for their political wiles. Old-timers, turned businessmen during the “prosperous” time of human carnage, have also returned to its fold to vegetate in supreme contentment.

A senile champion of labor – of others, of course – is compiling the history of American Labor – that huge dung heap which only serves to fertilize pecuniary and political ambitions of pink, red and yellow labor fakirs. Yes, in this restful old “soldiers” home there remains the scattered fragments of disillusioned radicals regretfully wondering why so hard the way, so dull the poor reward…

Civilization with all its “blessings” has finally taken root in HOME COLONY. There are more modern conveniences, more comfort, more peace, more prosperity, more conformity, more of everything – except the surging spirit of dare and do that gave it birth sixty years ago – that has passed into the night!

History is replete with noble and well-intentioned efforts to solve the social problem without reckoning the stern realities of life such as the weakness of the good cause and the strength of the bad cause. To the libertarian, life means growth; its very essence lies in free expression, which, in its positive aspect, leads to the quest for new forms, new vistas, new concepts and new discoveries. Accordingly, these social experiments are indicative of the surging desire for change, which lies deep in the well of human consciousness. They offer a testing ground for our spirit of initiative, and an outlet, withal, for our justifiable impatience to translate theory into practice, ideals into action.

In their negative aspects, however, these social experiments are merely induced by a deep yearning to free our selves from the constraints of a regimented civilization. To put it bluntly, they are an evasion – not a challenge. They offer their participants who have not yet shed the cloak of irresponsibility an alluring yet ephemeral ray of hope of personal deliverance, a glowing expectation that some mystical power beyond our selves will bestow upon us the blessings of peace and contentment.

But no matter what motive animates our choice, or what facet we observe, positive or negative, external or internal, essays of this nature cannot fail to meet the impact of a hostile environment, steeped as it is in the brew of abysmal ignorance, of abject brutality ever ready to assert its invasive prerogative against any refractory element that challenges it’s existence.

Let us confess it: Colonies do not offer a solution. At best they reveal an abounding faith in the infallibility of human behavior in this complex and confused world; where men are far from being amenable to sweet reasonableness; where men expand their minds only when impelled by mercenary incentives and then contract their hearts so they may not hear the groans of the victims they have crushed and the human spirit they have thwarted. In brief, in a shabby world where men have not yet learned how life should be lived, where the seed of human dignity finds but a barren field, where the ethical concepts of equity is contemptuously dismissed as vagaries of a morbid and impractical sentimentalist.

Do you think the trend of this narrative is disheartening? Not for us. In life’s rhythmic alternation of trial and error, victory or defeat, we will discover our real selves, provided, of course, we make our mistakes educational. “Ah! Sweet are the uses of adversity”, says the bard.

Again, do these considerations imply a complete resignation to the whims of fate? Not a whit! We either advance or retreat – stagnation is death. Let our destiny be to grapple with the stubborn circumstances of our existence. Let’s face them right here and now. And if in pursuing the road to freedom you should feel alone, and perhaps, misunderstood; if you should feel that the whole world seems arrayed against you, then take heart and be against the world – and you’ll be even. After all, tell me… isn’t it better to move alone than stand together?

And, now we are relentless, we declare that this social order is to be suspended by another social order, more integral, more just. We know the quality of your folly when you go about the street looking in the dust of noisy oratory for the free society. We know very well that when the free society appears it will be because you bring it to others, not because others bring it to you. And we know that you will bring it, not as a burden upon your back, but as something un-scrolled within.

-Eugene Travaglio

References….

1. George Allen, Oliver A Verity, Frank F. Odell and families
2. In 1897.
3. At $2.50 an acre
4. Emma Goldman, Ben Reitman, William Z. Foster, Elizabeth Gurly Flynn, “Big Bill” Haywood, Anna Louise Strong.

Also radicals of different philosophies – Elbert Hubbard, the essayist… poet Harry Kemp,…William Burns, detective – the Jay Edgar Hoover of that period.

5. George Allen
6. Sylvia
7. Grace
8. James F. Morton
9. Charles Goran
10. Hattie Penhollow and Lois Weisbrooker
11. 1897 - 1898
12. From May 1898 to Feb 1903
13. March 1903
14. In 1911
15. Jay Fox
16. Jack Kapella and Franz Erklinz
17. Esther Resnick (Mrs. Jay fox – then Mrs. W. Z. foster)
18. Paul York
19. Donald Vose, sister Bessie
20. Mother Gertie
21. Kaplan and Schmidt
22. Frank Pease
23. Gaston Lance
24. Written from memory in the city of San Francisco 1966 by Eugene Travaglio at the age of 90.

Posted By

WaterfrontWorker
Feb 4 2014 13:46

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  • “HOME is a community of free spirits, who came out into the woods to escape the polluted atmosphere of priest-ridden, conventional society.”

    Jay Fox

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