Communards in California
The Workingman’s party was an early-American version of fast-track communism which had no time to waste in advancing the revolution. This report from California lays to rest the idea that ethnic hatred and violence was somehow centered in the American South.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Communards in California:
"(in the mid-1870’s)….San Francisco was undergoing a major social upheaval. Trade unionism and radical reform were taking over. Practically everyone with a wage-earning job was unionized, and the unemployed were gathered under the banners of the Workingman’s Party, which proposed that the 116,000 Chinese, largely imported to build the railroads, be run out of the country because they were willing to work harder for less than Caucasians, and that capitalistic institutions be destroyed. One of the most eloquent and artful agitators ever to rise from an American soapbox had taken over leadership of the party. He was David Kearney, a young Irish drayman…(who exhorted the unemployed) "to lynch and burn out the thieving millionaires, the hell-born villains, the bloated bondholders," by which he meant such exemplars of free enterprise as George Hearst…Leland Stanford…and others who had enriched themselves in the mines and on the railroads. Early in 1877 Kearney began leading marches…(and shouting)…"Judge Lynch will decide the fate of capitalism."
Every member of the Workingman’s Party was urged to arm himself with a rifle. The State legislature was to be reorganized by hanging most of its members from lamp posts. Bundles of dynamite were to be gathered and stored against the day when they would be dropped on Chinatown from balloons. "Disloyal"—by which Kearny meant fainthearted—members of the Workingman’s Party were to be executed by their brothers. It was obvious to the men of power and wealth, huddling in worried councils in the libraries of their mansions, that San Francisco might fall to the same fate as had Paris a few years earlier, when the Communards threw up their barricades and took over much of the city."
(Ambrose Bierce, A Biography, Richard O’Conner, Little, Brown & Company, 1967, pp. 106-107)