Berkman Shoots Frick

Berkman Shoots Frick

Alexander Berkman may have been the trigger man, but The Nation says the blame for the shooting of Henry C. Frick falls directly on the Homestead strikers.


The attempt to assassinate Mr. Frick is a natural result of the attitude taken by the Homestead strikers. His assailant appears to be one of those “cranks” whose mental weakness makes them the easy prey of the preachers of anarchy, and whose love of notoriety is quite as strong as any desire to help the cause of “Labor.” There seems no ground for supposing that the Homestead men had any direct connection with his crime, but the leaders who organized the attack upon the Pinkertons three weeks ago, and who have never expressed any regret for the act, are morally responsible for Berkman’s performance. The leaders of the strike attacked the watchmen sent by the manager of the mills, and killed as many of them as they could; he simply tried to kill the manager who sent the watchmen. If it was right to murder the Pinkertons — and nobody among the strikers, from O’Donnell down, has ever admitted that it was wrong — it was right and logical to try to kill the employer of the Pinkertons.

The weakness of the strikers’ position has never been so fully exposed as in the pro-nunciamiento of the “Advisory Board” which appeared almost simultaneously with the attempt to murder Mr. Frick. “Capital” has never presented so one-sided and illogical a claim as this declaration of “Labor” that all the obligations in the relation of employer and employee are on the part of the former; that, while the employer cannot hold the em-ployee in his service an hour longer than the latter is satisfied, the workingman has the right to demand continuous employment at wages which he himself fixes. All that is necessary to show the fatal weakness of such an assumption is that people shall stop and think about it, and Berkman has made this certain. It is easy to talk about arbitration of labor disputes, but there can be no arbitration when one side takes such a position as this and declares that it will never abandon it. If the Carnegie firm had announced that the condition precedent to any arrangement was an agreement by their employees to remain permanently in their service, the workingmen would have rejected the proposi-tion as absurd and the public would have sustained the men in refusing it. In like man-ner the employer must reject the proposition that the workingman has a right to remain continuously in his service while owing a higher allegiance to the Amalgamated Asso-ciation or any other authority, and the public will sustain him. The real trouble at Home-stead is that the Amalgamated Association has become an intolerable tyranny. Mr. Car-negie himself has more than once yielded to unreasonable demands from it, when other employers, less anxious to curry favor, were ready to stand out against it. O’Donnell and his associates evidently thought they needed only to “put on the screws” and they could extort what they wanted once more. Mr. Frick recognized that the time had at last come when there must be a change, or else the management of the mills must be turned over to O’Donnell & Co.

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