20 September 2014

Upton Sinclair: The Brass Check

These quotes are from The Brass Check which was written by Upton Sinclair in 1919.

A brass check was a token purchased by a customer in a brothel and given to the woman of his choice. Sinclair saw the moneyed interests of his day holding brass checks with which to purchase politicians, journalists and their editors, and other thought leaders of the day.

For twenty years I have been a voice crying in the wilderness of industrial America; pleading for kindness to our laboring-classes, pleading for common honesty and truth-telling, so that we might choose our path wisely, and move by peaceful steps into the new industrial order. I have seen my pleas ignored and my influence destroyed, and now I see the stubborn pride and insane avarice of our money-masters driving us straight to the precipice of revolution.

What shall I do ? What can I do — save to cry out one last warning in this last fateful hour? The time is almost here — and ignorance, falsehood, cruelty, greed and lust of power were never stronger in the hearts of any ruling class in history than they are in those who constitute the Invisible Government of America today.

Imagine, if you can, the feelings of a workingman on strike who picks up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and reads:
'We have a flabby public opinion which would wring its hands in anguish if we took the labor leader by the scruff of his neck, backed him up against a wall, and filled him with lead. Countries which consider themselves every bit as civilized as we do not hesitate about such matters for a moment.' 
Year by year the cost of living increases, and wages, if they move at all, move laggingly, and after desperate and embittered strife. In the midst of this strife the proletariat learns its lessons ; it learns to know the clubs of policemen and the bayonets and machine-guns of soldiers.

Day by day the money-masters of America become more aware of their danger, they draw together, they grow more class-conscious, more aggressive. The [first world] war has taught them the possibilities of propaganda ; it has accustomed them to the idea of enormous campaigns which sway the minds of millions and make them pliable to any purpose.

American political corruption was the buying up of legislatures and assemblies to keep them from doing the people's will and protecting the people's interests; it was the exploiter entrenching himself in power, it was financial autocracy undermining and destroying political democracy.

By the blindness and greed of ruling classes the people have been plunged into infinite misery ; but that misery has its purpose in the scheme of nature. Something more than a century ago we saw the people driven by just such misery to grope their way into a new order of society; they threw off the chains of hereditary monarchy, and made themselves citizens of free republics.

And now again we face such a crisis only this time it is in the world of industry that we have to abolish hereditary rule, and to build an industrial commonwealth in which the equal rights of all men are recognized by law.