Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

He was one of the Republican senators to cross the floor in support of the new deal, in his case until FDR threatened to pack the supreme court. He was also isolationist, but I'm not sure if that's still the case ITTL. He supposedly opposed anti-immigrant legislation in his early years in politics but then flipped to basically championing anti-immigration bills, so he's certainly willing to be opportunistic with stuff like that. He also pushed for a lot of expansion of direct democracy in California, so, something that was actually pretty cool. Really have no idea what he'll do here, though, beyond mobilizing xenophobia to build his base.
 
Part 7: Chapter XXVI - Page 170
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Hiram W. Johnson, 31st President of the United States - Source: Wiki Commons

Chapter XXVI: Your Crown Lies Heavy: Progress Endangered, Traitors in Our Midst

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right
But when asked about something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet

You will eat, you will eat, by and by
In that glorious land in the sky, way up high
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die, that's a lie


Joe Hill, Preacher and the Slave, 1911

The body of Theodore Roosevelt was not yet cold when his lawful successor saw fit to cast blame upon certain segments of the country. President Hiram Johnson could have chosen to abide by the wishes of the departed leader, thereby following in the footsteps of the revered Progressive trailblazer and seek, first and foremost, a level-headed, wholly mediated solution to the tiresome national ills. Be it by nature or the conditions of the moment, Johnson elected not to calm the unruly winds through soft-spoken language. His first speech as the ascended president appeared to demonstrate the novel incumbent's plan to diverge course. As opposed to flatly laying out facts or quietly mourning Roosevelt's death, Johnson consciously motioned to so-called nefarious subversives. It was a loosely-defined "them", he put forward, the anarchists, the socialists, and the immigrants, who were truly responsible for the economic downturn, the sudden spike of influenza, and the passing of their hero-president.

This ethos, an us-versus-them paradigm, inherently characterized the initial months of the Johnson presidency. The people of the United States were not allowed time to process the tremendous loss of their leader. There was no time to grieve, claimed the new face of the federal government, not when hordes of undesirables were running rampant. "We must band together as Americans," the president declared, "and defeat those dark forces that seek to stain our legacy and bring ruin to our communities." Continuous use of words like, "foreign," "foreign-born," and, "un-American," drove-in further the suggestion that European migrants, above all else, were to be targeted. He never referred to any organizations by name but judging by his supreme distaste for 'radical' tendencies and second-wave immigrants, it is safe to presume that Johnson cared not for the affairs of the Industrial Workers and the Socialist Party.


Marks: The period from June 18th to about October 5th is commonly referred to as the Red Summer, as you know -"red," for more than one reason. I've found that it is more enlightening, however, to separate this four-month span into two halves. On the one half, from June to August, the 1918 Labor Rebellion reaches its height and plateaus while race riots rage in Washington D.C., Chicago, and in other cities. The splashdown of Serbian Flu and its subsequent protective measures in the United States also serve to envelope that summer's essence. Now, that right there constitutes three colossal issues, not even to touch on the advancing Great Migration or the recession - Surely more than enough to teach a semester-length course or write an anthology. It was Roosevelt's death which began the latter half of the Red Summer.
Dickinson: Without a doubt.
Marks: But this second piece to the puzzle, despite its epigrammatic nature, is no less significant to the political and social development of the early twentieth century. Hiram Johnson, inexperienced as an executive but very much a man familiar with the ins and outs of the far-reaching abilities of the federal government, comes to power and immediately issues a call to action. He refuses to cede an inch, even to men in his own party demanding institutional reform. That speech, as I'm sure you'll agree, John, fired off the loudest warning shot, though not the first, in what we today call Bloody September.
Dickinson: Yes, certainly. Words are words, though, and in a vacuum hold no innate power. Yet having learned his share of of wisdom from the Populists and the rise of President Hearst, Johnson was quick-witted enough to capitalize on an undercurrent of reaction. He embraced certain xenophobic red-baiting and adopted the convenience of scapegoating, finger-pointing. Riling up these folks earned him new allies, and in this case sidestepped the need to lean on Congress or the courts for assistance. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Columbian, of course, not a populist agitator by any means, but Johnson believed his predecessor's reliance on progress 'by the book' was much too slow to be of any use.
Dickinson (cont.): To secure the state and the economy [...] he rubber-stamped the ravaging of American laborers and defiling of countless households. Reading first-hand accounts of the brutality is frankly horrifying. One written by a young woman from Pittsburgh still comes to mind whenever I read or re-read these stories. Her father worked at a steel mill and was himself a member of the Sons of Vulcan. Their family struggled to get by with the mills closed. They survived on a pittance from the union, obviously the city did not spare a nickel, and in their spare time worked for a union-sponsored free health clinic. Anyway, this woman detailed from memory her father explaining the union's refusal to submit to Eastern American's offer to mediate exclusively with native-born skilled workers. "We are one," he said. "Like America, the union is indivisible." That man, Charles Gardner, and hundreds like him, lost his life on the picket line.
Historians John Marks and John Dickinson, 1918: Labor, Disease, and Blood: A Live Forum, Aired 2010

Whereas Theodore Roosevelt argued in favor of settled accords and greatly discouraged state governors from calling in the National Guard as a response to labor squabbles unless absolutely necessary to protect fellow countrymen from harm (an untested loophole in the American Safeguards Act ban on injunctions), Hiram Johnson wasted no time in demanding action. Inspired by the words of the new president, city sheriffs across the country deputized tens of thousands to assist in the clamping down of supposed seditious activity. Persons who once marched in Preparedness parades rejoined with their old cliques, often with now-engorged chapters of the Society for Americanism, to found Roosevelt Defense Leagues: Militant organizations self-tasked with defending the nation's precious lifeblood from, "the scourge of foreign ideologies." Such groups flooded the outskirts of steel plants, coal mines, textile mills, and other industrial worksites. Together with fellow anti-labor police units, Pinkerton agents, and unaffiliated opponents of workplace integration, these men launched an assault on the labor movement the likes of which had never been seen.

Skirmishes dwarfing those of the last few months erupted. Blood gushed and gunfire clamored. State police, when not directly involved in the bloodshed, typically waited on the sidelines to arrest union leaders, putting to rest any lingering questions of bias. Over time, as growing numbers of strikers faced extraordinary repression, many improvised their tactics and fought back as necessary (not unlike the strategy of Black Chicagoans in July). This was plainly counter to the nonviolent approach of the IWW and the SP thus far, with the exception of the armed labor conflicts in Appalachia, but union organizers and other notable figures of the movement like Haywood and Flynn could not preach peace while their comrades perished by the hundreds. Yet, outgunned and under a merciless (and lawless) onslaught, steelworkers in the Midwest, coal miners in the mountain states, and textile workers in the Northeast no longer possessed the drive to limp on. As the labor rebellion speedily fizzled and the leaders of the IWW found themselves ensnared by the justice system, picket lines shrunk. Violence had seemingly prevailed as the Steel Strike came to a de facto end on September 30th. All AA workers and a majority of SV members returned to work with their demands unmet. News of William Foster's arrest under federal charges dashed any lasting glimmer of hope for the strikers. Elbert Gary won the grisly battle for control of the steel industry, but, per O'Conner's A Radical History of American Politics, the reputation of the Steel Triopoly and that of the Johnson administration suffered tremendously.

"The downfall of the Chicago Strike," wrote O'Conner, "signaled a drawn-out, albeit steady decline in the rallies and picketing of the Red Summer. The recipe brewed in July, that of a disunified working class brought to heel by racism, may have ended once and for all the longevity and influence of the IWW. The old-fashioned tact of ferocious repression as utilized by President Johnson quickened the end of that seasonal uprising, but any critic worth his salt was now unable to cite inter-union disjunction as reasoning for their defeat." Johnson was no beginner to politics. He opted to scapegoat for the sake of regaining 'common sense' order. The year 1918 saw a greater number of labor strikes than any prior year in American history, though more than three-fourths ended before or during Bloody September. Johnson essentially accomplished what he set out to do, and by refraining from deploying the U.S. Armed Forces he considered his role bloodless, but his tossing out of the baby with the bathwater is undeniable. The federal government had condoned all-out barbarism and completely defiled its claim to impartiality. Meanwhile, the IWW remained infused in the construct of American labor, and its near-50% stake in all unions by the end of 1918 stayed unchanged by the events of Bloody September. In the words of Eugene Debs, "The spirit of organization cannot be crushed. Another day is dawning."
 
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Seems that the unions, despite very battered, managed to retain a good measure of institutional organization, with an angered and at least ideologically receptive population nationwide, instead of in certain pockets.

The situation is excellent.
 
Great update, I love the format experimentation with the section from a televised debate/discussion, it gives some great future context. It's great to see that the unions are by and large managing to maintain cross-racial and cross-nationality unity in the face of attempts at chauvinistic division. The IWW got the opportunity to learn the lesson of the cost of division, with the events of July, while still maintaining their breadth of membership - I only hope that they will indeed learn the right lessons, and in future be better equipped to counter attempts at division, whether racial, sectarian, or otherwise.

Next I have to wonder what approach Johnson will take regarding Canada - does he pull troops out of southern Ontario and maintain influence in less expensive, less direct ways? Has a socialist component developed in the occupation resistance? If so, would that drive him to maintain the occupation and stamp it out?
 
Has a socialist component developed in the occupation resistance? If so, would that drive him to maintain the occupation and stamp it out?
He mentioned people that would be cooperative commonwealth party members already, if that's not a chekhov's gun i'll be damned.
 
Seems that the unions, despite very battered, managed to retain a good measure of institutional organization, with an angered and at least ideologically receptive population nationwide, instead of in certain pockets.

The situation is excellent.
Worse, the moderates have been discredited, meaning next time it gets bad enough, the strike's gonna kick off big time, and with the lessons learned, well.... It could easily translate into a revolt.

Johnson's made a fatal error here; He forgot that the Unions have a voice to, and they learned that any war from now on's gonna be to the knife.

To whom do lions cast their gentle looks? Not to the beast that would usurp their den. The smallest worm will turn being trodden on, And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.
Lord Clifford, Henry VI Part 3
 
Great update, I love the format experimentation with the section from a televised debate/discussion, it gives some great future context. It's great to see that the unions are by and large managing to maintain cross-racial and cross-nationality unity in the face of attempts at chauvinistic division. The IWW got the opportunity to learn the lesson of the cost of division, with the events of July, while still maintaining their breadth of membership - I only hope that they will indeed learn the right lessons, and in future be better equipped to counter attempts at division, whether racial, sectarian, or otherwise.

Next I have to wonder what approach Johnson will take regarding Canada - does he pull troops out of southern Ontario and maintain influence in less expensive, less direct ways? Has a socialist component developed in the occupation resistance? If so, would that drive him to maintain the occupation and stamp it out?
Oh we will definitely be covering more of the developments in Canada soon :)
 
Part 7: Chapter XXVI - Page 171
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A Police Assault in the Closing Days of the Steel Strike, Homestead, Pennsylvania, September 1918
- Source:
The Great Steel Strike

Positively beaming in the glow of an assured victory, President Johnson strode ahead unperturbed. His focus was unmoving: To implement his vision as rapidly and efficiently as possible. His first official foray into managerial decision-making, controversial though it may be, was greeted in Washington as a superb and welcome deed. Unsubtly calling out supposed agents of rebellion and decimating the labor movement against its will played rather well in certain circles. Political bureaucrats and businessmen too viewed working class-consciousness as a menace, and were soon fed up with Roosevelt's incessant refusal to take organized labor's economic threats seriously. For them, in the words of Congressman John Elston (P-CA), "it is a fine whiff of fresh air, a calm on the river," for the country to have once more, "a man driven by rationality," in power. Moreover, as the new face of the Progressive Party and in recognition of the electoral consequences of alienating industrial workers entirely, Johnson did indeed make it a point to praise the handful of unions that rejected participation in the general strikes.

Soothing the national panic was not an objective attainable by any man alone. It took the entire administration, the media establishment, and the heads of several major industries to even begin the monumental task. New national standards concerning the transmission of the Serbian Flu were adopted across the 48-states by the end of the Red Summer (then enforced by municipal workplaces and private businesses), and the first phase of an anti-labor initiative was all but complete with the end of the Steel Strike. Two of Johnson's key collaborators which had assisted immensely in the carrying out of these tasks were Attorney General Palmer and the eternal president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers. Palmer was a no-brainer considering his friendship with the Californian and their shared admiration of now-defunct USIC policies, yet the former's increasingly prevalent role in the Roosevelt Cabinet almost certainly helped shape the direction of Executive-level policy and cannot be understated. Without the Attorney General's towering presence in the Cabinet room, some historians speculate that Johnson may have acted more cautiously.

Gompers, the visceral foe of industrial unionism and monarchical governor of the AF of L, found a kinship with the Progressives long ago. Like a majority component of the party, the union leader believed in reform-minded legislation and championed the creation of the Department of Labor as a masterful stroke of genius. Gompers initially opposed entrance in the war, but, like other Columbians, gradually came to support U.S. involvement for the sake of securing a prosperous, bountiful future for American workingmen. The IWW, with its staunch opposition to sluggish change-from-above and openness to workers of all creeds, colors, and languages, was Gompers' prime enemy. In this, he and Johnson concurred. Their mutual hatred for the socialistic union made the two more so allies rather than cordial friends, though this alliance was wholly symbiotic. The AFL president won a reliable assistant in his quest to rub out the dangerous IWW, and the newly-inaugurated U.S. incumbent secured an incredibly valuable partnership from a union he believed honest and respectable. It seemed to benefit both equally to reduce the number of radical agitators in order to regain their sense of societal order.

Congress was President Johnson's third titanic ally. Roosevelt, for all of his combative bluster and impulsive neck-wringing on the road to the Square Deal and the eventual war resolution, constantly battled an ever-rocky relationship with the legislative branch (due in part to the ousting of Speaker Cannon and the David Phillips fiasco). Comparatively, as Roosevelt blared the horns and rallied the troops, it was Johnson who worked to settle affairs in Congress. During his senatorial term he acted as a liaison of sorts for La Follette when a cooler head was needed to entangle with the opposition. Johnson, as such, retained positive relations with congressional leaders in the two dominant parties. Despite not holding onto a congressional majority in the upper house, the president concluded that these ties with the legislature would benefit his plans terrifically. One can always count on catching more flies with honey than vinegar.

Prior to and in the very early days of the 1918 labor rebellion, a select assortment of Socialist congresspersons with a smattering of Democrats and Progressives were knee-deep in an investigation on the advantages and disadvantages of adopting a permanent nationalization of the nation's railroads. Roosevelt had temporarily authorized total government control of the locomotive system for the purpose of simplifying the transport of war goods, but at the end of the Great War questions remained whether this, provenly more efficient, system was worth retaining in some regard. A loose coalition of Socialists, liberals, and union officials upheld a plan to enshrine federal ownership in accordance with a representative board of directors, and for a moment it appeared as though the proposal had adequate support for passage. This innovative idea coincided with dozens more put forward by similarly styled coalitions, including worker-oriented grievance committees and equal representation on corporate boards. Albeit a genuine opportunity to curb the power of corporate consolidation of the railroads, the purportedly anti-trust Roosevelt Administration did not stake a position on the matter. The measure stalled. Talk predictably faded fast when the general strikes broke out and violence captured the press.

Instead, the central focal point of the legislature shifted to a return of the anti-sedition Security and Loyalty bills. Congressional leaders begun work on designing a scaled-back version of the Hanley bills even before the ascension of President Johnson, but now the doors had swung wide open. Roosevelt was not amenable on the issue, but Johnson's political evolution made him far more susceptible to the whims of the party. Then-Vice President Johnson had thoroughly endorsed the use of existing law to criminalize so-called 'anti-American' demonstration as the subject of U.S. intervention rallied together competing pro and antiwar parades. His speech at the 1916 Progressive Convention indicated just how far and fast this evolution was moving. "Subversives," he exclaimed, "risk endangering American service to mankind." Thus, it was no shock when the second-in-command joined called for a nationwide law to combat the rise of the Movement for Peace in May of 1917. Now, even with the war over, the president re-affirmed his commitment to the idea. He planned to sign off on a bill mimicking that of California, where district attorneys were free to seek indictments and convictions based solely on accusations of a nebulous treason. Authorities working under Governor Stephens in the Golden State arrested over ten thousand on those pretenses, from taking part in labor stoppages to speaking out against funding anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia. If all went according to the president's plan, millions may have been arrested.

To the boundless disappointment of Johnson, Stephens, Palmer, Gompers, and the rest of the Progressive Right, the Judicial Branch had alternative plans. The Supreme Court was untethered by electioneering concerns as well as the changeable sentiments of the White House. Its composition fundamentally metamorphosed in the past decade with a majority of justices having been nominated and confirmed by either Hearst or Roosevelt. "The courts," wrote Ackerman, "kept the authentic Progressive Era alive in a way that the eponymous political party did not." In unanimous or near-unanimous decisions, the Supreme Court outright banned the use of child labor (1914, Jacobson v. Haverford), rejected a conservative challenge to the constitutionality of the American Safeguards Act (1916, White v. United States), and affirmed the legality of a New York law mandating all corporate donations to politicians be public (1916, Frich v. New York). Chief Justice Joseph Carey presided over one of the most progressive federal courts in history, but it did not proclaim itself an enemy of the Johnson agenda until November 1st, 1918, when a certain ruling effectively suffocated the drive for a revised sedition bill.


On March 6th, 1918, Katherine Becker, a schoolteacher from Bakersfield, California, was arrested and summarily discharged for disloyalty. Becker belonged to the Socialist Party and refrained from punishing a student for expressing doubts over the integrity of the U.S. Armed Forces in the World War. Per California Law as of 1916, Becker committed a state felony. Henry H. Roser, a Los Angeles-based labor attorney and former mayoral candidate, challenged the legality of the 1916 Sedition Act based on grounds of contradicting the First Amendment to the Constitution. Becker posed no danger to the United States, according to Roser, but the present interpretation of state law incorrectly penalized her with exaggerated charges. In his terms, it was a clear violation of the Constitution to either dismiss an employee or discipline a student based on his or her political opinion and affiliation. The case escalated to the Supreme Court. In a majority ruling, the court decided against the State of California.

Becker v. California: Decision 5-4
Chief Justice Joseph M Carey - Plurality
Justice Edward D White - Dissent
Justice William R Day - Dissent
Justice Emory A Chase - Plurality
Justice Marcus C Sloss - Plurality
Justice Louis Brandeis - Plurality
Justice Frederick W Lehmann - Dissent
Justice William H Taft - Dissent
Justice Benjamin Griffith - Plurality

Ronald L. Chapman, A Concise History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 2011
 
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Glad there is still some bastions of sanity left. I imagine these blowbacks against President Johnson will cause him to become more radical and I imagine their attempts to soothe over the American people won't go. Meanwhile, the progressive forces will likely began a growing pushback against Johnson since it's now clear that he's basically going to threaten anyone who speaks out against him and the "political elite."
 
A lot of bad stuff, but hey, at least the courts are doing the right thing. Regulating Child Labor 24 years earlier than OTL is great. But with how the courts are acting, I can imagine the idea of court packing is quite attractive to the Johnson Administration...

Nice update.
 
A lot of bad stuff, but hey, at least the courts are doing the right thing. Regulating Child Labor 24 years earlier than OTL is great. But with how the courts are acting, I can imagine the idea of court packing is quite attractive to the Johnson Administration...

Nice update.

Yeah, but them doing that would be basically giving the big flashing sign that they are corrupt. That they had tor esort to extortion, threats and so on to win.
 
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