Red Web - Blair Coan

Red Comrades With a Purpose

It has heretofore been emphasized that the determination of the reds and their pink dupes and sympathizers to "get Daugherty" was by no means a personal matter, but emphasis upon this point bears reiteration. To be sure, there was a certain element of hatred of the man, but this was due more to the fact that he symbolized the virility of the law-enforcing department of the federal government—the Department of Justice—than to any other cause. They were not so much interested in him as an individual, but they were tremendously interested in him as the directing head of a Department of Justice that was functioning so efficiently that a plot to bolshevize the key industry of the country—the transportation systems—by the intimidating processes of force, violence and destruction, was nipped in the bud. As the demoralization of the Department of Justice had been one of the main objectives from the outset, so it was after the injunction proceedings in the railroad strike of 1922 had been instituted, the only difference being that the natural enemies of the Department of Justice became all the more determined in their purposes.

Weeks before the filing of the government's bill in equity in the federal court at Chicago, September 1, 1922, the factors behind the railroad strike and the processes by which they operated were subjects of a widespread investigation by the Department of Justice; since, naturally, the government could not take so drastic a step without being sure of its ground. Seldom does the Department of Justice, when it is functioning efficiently, take a step when it is not sure of its position, and that is why the government so seldom loses cases it takes to court. The investigation of the railroad strike being under way during those weeks prior to the filing of the case in court, secretly conducted though it was, was not so profound a mystery that those concerned for the success of the conspiracy were not measurably cognizant of the fact. So that the attempts to intimidate the directing head of the Department of Justice did not begin with the Keller "impeachment" by any means. They began a long time before that, and during the summer of 1922 there were repeated "rumors" that Daugherty was to be "impeached." The "impeachment" of Daugherty was in contemplation many weeks before it was actually attempted, but until it finally came about threats of it were the means by which the intimidation of the Attorney General was sought.

Impeachments of federal officials must originate in the House of Representatives. They must be tried in the Senate. As Keller was the tool picked to institute such proceedings in the House, so was there a tool in prospect for an outstanding role in the Senate. I am not prepared to say how definitely the plan to "get Daugherty" had been worked out before the Congressional elections of 1922, and in the light of subsequent developments this is not of great importance. But the man who, in due season, essayed the role of tool for the ted enemies of the Department of Justice and their pink accomplices and sympathizers; the man nominated for the Senate by the red and pink radicals who had captured the Democratic party organization in Montana in 1922; the man who had been the beneficent friend of reds in 1917 and 1918, and who had been their candidate for governor of Montana in 1920, became their hero and their champion in 1922, and was the man counted upon to "do his duty" when the "impeachment" should reach the Senate. This was Burton K. Wheeler, political comrade in 1922 as well as in 1920 of William F. ("Big Bill") Dunne and other reds almost, if not quite, as notorious as this avowed communist and official agent of the Moscow Internationale.

Of course, as is well known, the "impeachment" of Attorney General Daugherty never reached the Senate—which accounts for the desperate situation with which Wheeler was confronted after he became a Senator, pledged as he was to "get Daugherty" and counted upon to redeem the pledge. It accounts also for the desperate and daring program which he and his backers adopted to accomplish their purpose. The details of this program it is, of course, my intention to lay before the reader in succeeding chapters of this book, but most important to an understanding of the processes that operated for the carrying out of the program are the motives underlying it. These motives become conclusively evident, it seems to me, upon examination of the political career and political affiliations of the outstanding genius of that program, Senator Wheeler himself.

It is not important to go further back than the year 1917—a year in which Senator Wheeler was United States district attorney for the Montana district, a year in which he made so much money that he paid an income tax of $1,500 and thereby prompted a former attorney general of Montana, D.M. Kelly, to inquire somewhat curiously "how do you do it?' Wheeler had been something of a protege of Senator Thomas J. Walsh, and it was Walsh who had obtained the federa! attorneyship for him. The manner in which Wheeler functioned as United States attorney for the Montana district during the years 1917 and 1918 is enlightening in that it affords the best explanation of the passionate allegiance bestowed upon him subsequently by the lawless reds of his state when he sought, with their support, the gratification of higher political ambitions.

"Big Bill" Dunne, a red by boast, preference and chief occupation long before he ever made the acquaintance of Wheeler, was booted out of Canada in 1916 because his chief occupation was antagonistic to Canadian interest in the outcome of the World War. This same "Big Bill" Dunne—none other than the "Big Bill' Dunne who is now one of the leading spirits of William Z. Foster's majority faction of the communist organization in America; none other than the "Big Bill' Dunne who was among the seventeen communists captured in the raid on their underground "convention" at Bridgeman, Mich., in August, 1922,—this same "Big Bill' Dunne took up his abode and place of occupation in Seattle, Wash., upon decamping from Canada in 1916, but from Seattle he adjourned to Butte, Mont., by way of Helena, in 1917. His departure from Seattle was precipitate and necessary, for reasons similar to those which prompted his poste haste trip out of Canada.

To "Big Bill" Dunne, Butte was a haven, as it was to all other reds in 1917, and the great state of Montana was the same thing in six letters, h-e-a-v-e-n. The heavenliness of Montana, so far as "Big Bill" and his fellow reds were concerned, was due not exclusively but in a very large measure to the fact that the Montana unit of the federal Department of Justice was not functioning for the benefit of the United States government, but rather for the protection of its avowed enemies and professional detractors. The head of that unit was United States District Attorney Burton K. Wheeler.

So flagrantly and frankly was Wheeler arrayed with the reds against the government whose interests he was paid to protect that his behavior was a state scandal, and had it not been for the presence in the state legislature of a considerable number of legislators owing their political preferment to radical constituencies the legislature unquestionably would have gone on record as demanding the resignation or removal of Wheeler from public office. As it was, thirty members of the legislature voted on February 25, 1918, for a resolution embodying such a demand, and the resolution was lost when three more than that number opposed the resolution, many of those opposed evidently taking the position that interference in a matter that should have been attended to by the executive branch of the United States government was not within the province of a state legislative body.

The State Council of Defense, however, took it upon itself to hail Wheeler and a group of his red admirers, including "Big Bill' Dunne, into a "court" of its own, and at the conclusion of a hearing lasting five days the membership of the State Council of Defense voted unanimously that Wheeler had been guilty of close affiliation with I.W.W. and other seditious elements and of refusal to prosecute them for acts of violence and other manifestations of lawlessness. The conclusions reached by the State Council of Defense prompted it to recommend to President Wilson the removal of Wheeler from office. A state meeting of County Councils of Defense, held later, with only three dissenting votes adopted resolutions similar to those voiced by the State Council, and a state gathering of Democrats, held at Helena, voiced its disapproval of Senator Walsh's continued approval of Wheeler.

It is small wonder, then, that Wheeler drew unto himself an admiring following in the radical movement of Montana, and that he was welcomed into the councils of it by such leaders as "Big Bill" Dunne.

Another notable red who joined Dunne in the reception of Wheeler into political comradeship was D.C. Dorman, a big chief in the councils of the Non-Partisan League of Montana. Dorman achieved the position of national manager of the Non-Partisan League, subsequently became a member of the National Council of La Follette's People's Legistlative Service, and later we shall hear of him again as the secretary and treasurer of the Montana unit of the Conference for Progressive Political Action.

"Dorman swore that he did not believe in the Constitution and was opposed to the flag of the United States; that the flag was nothing but a rag, or words to that effect, and that the government was no government at all and should be destroyed."

Dorman had been a follower of the red flag of international socialism for years when he affiliated with Dunne and Wheeler in the radical politics of Montana. He participated in the political activities of the Socialist Party in Minot, N.D., a dozen years ago, and once was the party's candidate for state senator in the Minot district. He too, like Dunne, was familiar with the interior decorations and routine of jailhouses, having spent some little time in one following participation in red riots at Minot.

Both Dunne and Dorman, as outstanding leaders of the Montana radicals, organized their forces behind Wheeler in 1920 to make him governor of the state. The state convention of the Non-Partisan League was held in Lyceum Hall, Great Falls, and it was none other than Dunne who took the floor of the convention and placed the name of Wheeler in nomination for the governorship. Wheeler, of course, accepted the nomination and he himself made a speech in which he is quoted by the Great Falls Leader as having said "I will run on the Republican ticket, the Democratic ticket, or any ticket this convention may pick." For the Non-Partisan League was following then, as it has since, the Townley system of "boring from within," and the radicals of the Montana organization were at that time in a fair way to capture the party machinery of the Democratic party of the state—a feat they accomplished two years later, to the utter disgust of Senator Myers who, seeing which way the political winds were blowing in his party, gave up the struggle for genuine Democratic representation of the state in the Senate of the United States and retired from politics, no longer able to stomach the advancing power the radicals in the party that had sent him to the Senate.

Wheeler was the candidate of the reds for governor of Montana in 1920. But the time was altogether too soon after the events of 1917 and 1918 which brought about his retirement from the office of United States district attorney under fire. He was defeated by 37,000 votes. The two years that followed, however, were made ample use of by the reds and the near reds that had sought to elect him. The "boring from within" system was worked to a finish in the Democratic party, and when 1922 with its Congressional elections rolled around the system had made sufficient strides to make the nomination of an avowed radical possible.

"Big Bill" Dunne had moved again, this time to New York. The Workers' Party had been organized by the committee to camouflage their underground organization, of which Dunne was an important member. He blossomed forth as the Workers' Party candidate for governor of New York. He had climbed considerably in the councils of the bolsheviki of America, and had been sent by them as a delegate to one of the Comintern Love-feasts held in Moscow. He had attended the secret and illegal convention of the communists near Bridgeman, Mich., in August, 1922, made a speech there, and had been among the seventeen arrested.

Dunne was elated that his radical cohorts had been so successful in attaining such a powerful position in the party machinery of the Democratic party in Montana, and particularly was he elated over the nomination of his friend and comrade of the campaign of 1920, Burton K. Wheeler as the party's candidate for the Senate. He was perfectly familiar with the workings of Wheeler's mind, and like all the rest of the reds who acclaimed Wheeler's nomination, he felt certain that Wheeler's election would be an important stroke in behalf of "the cause" in the United States. Having been released on bond, following his arrest in Michigan, Dunne was on hand in Montana to do his share toward accomplishing the election of Wheeler. He was welcomed with open arms by his comrades in Montana. He was counted upon to deliver that hotbed of reds, Silver Bow County, for Wheeler, and this he declared he could and would do.

The paramount issues of the campaign of Wheeler for the Senate were "free speech" for seditionists and revolutionary agitators, the termination of "persecution" of red radicals by the Department of Justice, and the "Get Daugherty" slogan born of the Department's prosecution of the railroad strike injunction suit in the federal courts.

"I'll get Daugherty. I'll drive him from the Cabinet," Wheeler told the Montana radicals in speeches he delivered in his own behalf as a candidate for the Senate. Those may not have been his precise words, but those words express the substance of what he said, according to the sworn evidence of three witnesses whose affidavits are to be found among the appendices of this book. These words constitute the essence of his pledge. They are the key, or rather they are among the several keys, to an understanding of the genuine motives behind his subsequent acts as a United States senator in this particular connection.

Wheeler's outstanding pledge was to the red radicals of his state, and it amounted to a pledge to the entire radical movement of the country, for there was plenty of help from outside the state for his candidacy besides that afforded by "Big Bill" Dunne, the communists' candidate for governor of New York. It was a pledge that carried with it, if not a definite agreement, a very well grounded understanding, certainly, that in other ways he would, if elected to the Senate, serve the cause of those elements that had done the most for him in the furtherance of his political aspirations.

But if Wheeler was the candidate of the reds, how could he have been elected? Can it be that the majority of the voting population of Montana was of red persuasion in that year, 1922?

The answer to both of these questions is simple. A negative answer must be given to the second one. To the first the answer is this: but thirty percent of the qualified voters of Montana elected Wheeler, and only thirty-four percent of the voting population went to the polls. The reds and the pinks went to the polls in full force—they always do. Wheeler was elected by a noisy and radical minority, and by the passive and indifferent failure of a conservative majority to find its voice and let it be heard.

Except the inarticulate and inactive majority, conservative in thought and at heart true to their flag and country, Wheeler the detractor and destroyer, the champion of Red Russia and the political comrade of avowed apostles of bolshevism and followers of the red flag of international socialism, could not have been elected to the United States Senate.

But he was elected, along with a group of fellow reds and pinks of similar persuasion and of similar following, in the Congressional election of 1922, and the election of all of them may be traced without difficulty to the same causes.