THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 10, August, 1933
(Pages 462-466; Size: 15K)
(Number 19 of a 57-part series)



AMERICANS having some knowledge of Karma have been given much lately to sad speculation over that focal point, the cancer center for the progressive breakdown of American civilization -- Chicago. No one knows what may have been the dark history of that area, buried in the night of pre-Columbian times; but certainly it has left its vestigial relics. It is not for nothing that the greatest slaughterhouses on the planet are located there; nor that pure Theosophy has never yet been able to gain sufficient foothold in that region to make itself publicly known.

But even for Chicago the event of some months past, an open and abject capitulation to criminal terrorism, was shocking. A group of important and influential witnesses asked that a trial be called off -- their nerves were breaking under the menace of criminal machine guns! And the authorities obliged, releasing the accused, whose guilt no one doubted, scot-free! Since then matters have gone from bad to worse.

Prohibition is now known to be doomed. The criminal gangs who were born from its womb and nursed upon its poisonous alcohol, are using the respite afforded by legal technicalities to entrench themselves in business and politics. Not only in Chicago, but in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other centers are gang leaders openly declaring that "no longer will we work for the politicians; now the politicians will work for us!" And in Chicago, as might be expected, it has so come to pass.

The "Union Labor Racket" of today forms one of the most direct studies in Karmic reaction visible anywhere in the world.(1) The methods by which the criminals work are so simple and direct as to be appalling. Their agents walk into Union headquarters and demand of the officers that the official positions and the union funds be turned over to them. What follows in case of refusal has been exemplified many times. Burrell, Secretary of the Truck Drivers' Union, was kidnapped and held for fifty thousand dollars' ransom. At a meeting of the police officials and the "vigilante" bodies the Union was advised to pay the ransom, and did.

The latest development was a demand upon Steven Sumner, Secretary-Treasurer of the Milk Wagon Drivers' Union. Sumner decided to fight; and all the remaining courageous elements of the city rallied about him, realizing that his death or defeat would be the end. At the present writing he is holding out; and the means taken to do so cause one to wonder just what age of the world we are living in. The Union headquarters are lined with steel; the windows are unbreakable glass covered with steel-wire screens, doubled. The doors are of sheet steel with bullet-proof lookout windows. Each door has a round hole opposite the heart of a man knocking for admission.

A troop of picked police are established in a house across the street, armed with machine guns, armored cars, shielded motorcycles, and bombs.

In America! In the Twentieth Century!

Now for the Karma of it. Chicago is one of the most highly unionized cities in the United States, and at one time Union tyranny went to the length of forbidding a man to nail a plank upon his own house. The Union, of which Sumner is an officer, numbers drivers receiving two hundred dollars a month. This is about twice the average industrial income during the most prosperous years; about the average income of skilled labor, and higher than the average wage of draftsman and engineers. Milk delivery in Chicago, thus completely unionized, is under the control of men receiving an exorbitant wage for simple services; a wage which bears hardest upon the poorer classes, and especially the poorer children, of the city. This union is a very wealthy one, like many others in the city, and so forms a tempting mark.

The standard system of infiltration by the gang is either to "pack" union meetings and elect its own officers; or to terrorize the officers into turning over their positions by one means or the other. This being accomplished, the usurpers approach the delighted employer with an offer to cut wages. This being accepted, the new officials demand tribute -- so many dollars per day per truck, for instance, under penalty. The disillusioned employer quickly finds himself paying out more in tribute than the wage cut amounted to; while the workmen on the other hand are equal sufferers. The demands then increase crescendo as employers become further terrorized and the criminal grip on the union is tightened. All this has been accompanied by the rise and multiplication of "skeleton" or fraudulent unions of purely criminal origin. The sinister weaving of the Karma of the thing from top to bottom is set forth by Collier's author as follows:

Make no mistake, business men in Chicago are not blameless for this new development. Very early, before he saw where his actions were leading him, the business man who felt he needed "outside help" was not unwilling to enter into business deals, especially those having to do with business competition, that involved the use of gangsters....

"This Collusive-agreement racket," Colonel Randolph told me, "is comprised of four elements. The first element is the business man, or association of business men. Second, the leader or leaders of organized labor. Third, the criminal underworld. Fourth, the politician." Colonel Randolph says that the business man fits into the picture as follows:

"He seeks to create and maintain for himself and a favored few a monopoly in his particular field of service or trade. He seeks, through the pressure that can be brought by politicians in the misapplication of the law and through the withdrawal or withholding of labor by union leaders, to embarrass his competitors to the point that they will either recognize and abide by racket rules and edicts or quit the field of competition. He seeks to maintain a high and often artificial price for his commodity or service through forcing universal recognition of his particular notion of what constitutes a commodity price. He seeks to dictate the enactment or application of laws that govern his business.

"The leader of organized labor seeks first a monopoly of control over the workmen engaged in a given trade. This insures to his union the dues of all men of that trade, or a situation by which he may dispense the right to work under the permit system at so much per man per day.

"Moreover, it enables him to manipulate his man-forces to the advantage of his co-conspirators, the business man or the politician, or both, or to the discomfiture of business men exercising independence of the racket.

"The politician in paralyzing the hand of the law is, of course, looking to campaign contributions and votes at election time and occasional participation in the profits of the conspiracy.

"The criminal underworld finds it lucrative employment to bomb, to commit arson, to slug, maim and kill; to terrorize an entire community into staying away from the polls at election time.

"In short, this collusive-agreement racket may be described as a combination of business, labor unionism, politics, and the criminal underworld that is running the whole gamut of crime, the purpose of which is exploitation through circumscribing the right to work and do business."

In other words, it is a comprehensive picture of all-inclusive and equal guilt. Three classes of "respectable" society have invoked out of their own insensate greed a demon from the pit which is taking them down to mutual destruction. And the bitter fact is that this open criminality is nothing but the inevitable outcome of the whole philosophy of American life for years past. Half the advertisements in respectable magazines are as cynically dishonest as the methods of any "racketeer" -- with the advantage of a certain courage and lack of hypocrisy on the part of the latter.

It is touch and go whether American business in the great cities can now save itself; or whether it must go fatally and forever under the rule of powerful criminals, as did the whole Occident subsequent to the fall of Rome. However, there are some signs of a perception of the underlying Law and a move to reform accordingly. When asked what might be the "road back," a director of the Chicago Employers' Association replied:

By recognizing, first of all, that crime in various forms has crept into the philosophy of American life today and must be rooted out -- from fixing traffic tickets through the whole gamut of racketeering to the farthest reaches of fraudulent finance. Gangsterized industry is a typical development of the picture, but it is a symptom, and not the disease. It could not appear on the business surface without poisonous infection at work below. The infection, the real disease, is the fact that we have shirked our responsibilities as citizens.

We are awakening to a humiliating discovery -- that our folly has delivered us to the hoodlum, his lawyer and his political alliances. We have paid the price of greed by delegating our responsibilities, delivering our freedom, to a group of people professionally interested in electing their own kind to public office, or electing those amenable to their control. If we get a governor in any state whose previous record in public office was a stench in the nostrils of decency, if our cities get mayors whose money is apparently a gift from Santa Claus, if we get public prosecutors whose staffs all belong to the Order of the Chisel, if we get state legislators whose motto is "Public Office is Public Plunder," we get only what we ourselves have invited by our supineness, cupidity or cowardice.

Perhaps one of the strangest strokes of Karma involved in the whole nightmare, is that the embattled Union leader, Sumner, travels in an armored car formerly owned by the financier Samuel Insull, fugitive from myriads of enraged stockholders who were easy victims to his promises of something for nothing. And at the height of his operations Insull was worshipped as a demi-god by aspiring American business men, and was received cordially in the highest circles!

So far, so wide, and so deep has been the corrosion of the disease of dishonesty whose painful extirpation we are perchance only beginning to witness!

Of what "practical" value is Theosophy? Verily, should it succeed ultimately in popularizing a spirit of plain, common, honesty, nothing more, it will be able to point to a nation saved.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Nor would the ways of karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways ... would surely disappear if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbors will no more work harm to us than we would think of harming them, two-thirds of the world's evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for nor weapons to act through.... We cut these numerous windings in our destinies daily with our own hands, while we imagine that we are pursuing a track on the royal high road of respectability and duty, and then complain of those ways being so intricate and so dark.... But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or another life.... The western Aryans had every nation and tribe ... their Golden and their Iron ages, their period of comparative irresponsibility, or the Satya age of purity, while now several of them have reached their Iron age, the Kali Yuga, an age black with horrors. This state will last ... until we begin acting from within instead of ever following impulses from without.... Until then the only palliative is union and harmony -- a Brotherhood in actu and altruism not simply in name.

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(1) Collier's, November 26, 1932.
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