The Soul of Jack London (II)
by Dietrich Wolf
We saw in the first part of this study that virtually all of Jack London's writing, even his earliest work, gave explicit expression to his strong racial consciousness. Despite his otherwise very healthy racial and philosophical views, however, London's understanding of the Jews required a long time to mature.
He was certainly well acquainted with members of that race through the radical socialist circles to which he belonged, where they abounded. He viewed them as clever, aggressive, and hard working, as well as dedicated leaders in the struggle for the betterment of the proletariat, and so it was difficult for him to think entirely ill of them. Later, however, his disenchantment with the socialist movement seemed to proceed apace with the growth of his understanding of the true nature of the Jew.
At the beginning of his writing career London established a close intellectual relationship with the Jewess, Anna Strunsky, whom he met in the socialist‑Bohemian circles of San Francisco. Jack described her as "a Russian Jewess who happens to be a genius." She had immigrated with her Red‑activist parents from Czarist Russia. Jack and Anna eventually became close friends, and it seems that he was briefly on the verge of falling in love with her, while still bound in his unhappy first marriage to Bess Maddern.
Anna, however, never had any romantic inclinations, and the relationship remained strictly platonic ‑‑ an affair of the minds only. Once divorced from the bland Bess, Jack soon married the more fun‑loving and independent Charmian Kitteridge; and Anna remained as she always had been ‑‑ a woman with whom he could argue intelligently.
Jack and Anna were two opposites, in both race and mind, and the fair Teuton and the dark Jewess argued greatly on all subjects. Among other things, Anna scolded Jack for his accumulation of material possessions and for his brash statement that he would write for money and show the capitalists a thing or two. Anna, who was from a well‑to‑do family and would eventually marry millionaire socialist William Walling English, ironically argued that no real socialist could hoard up his money until he had a fortune, because his compassion for the less fortunate would force him to give it away as soon as he earned it.
By late 1900 their letters arguing the nature of love evolved into a literary collaboration. Jack, using the nom de plume "Herbert Wace," would discuss love from the biologi‑cal viewpoint. And Anna, writing as "Dane Kempton," would argue love from the emotional perspective. The Kempton‑Wace Letters was published in 1903, and it remains one of the oddest books ever written.
A personal incident a few years later, in 1910, gives us some insight into the changed attitude toward Jews which London had been developing in the interim. After being beaten up by a San Francisco bar owner as the result of a misunderstanding, he brought charges against his assailant, but they were thrown out of court by a Jewish judge, George Samuels ‑‑ who just happened to own the land on which the bar stood. Infuriated, London denounced Samuels as "a dark, sinister Hebrew judge who...[draws] his inspiration from the cruelty of the old scriptures."
In a letter to Charmian, referring to Judge Samuels, Jack wrote: "Dear Woman, the more I think of that cowardly, oily Jew, the angrier do I get about it." And in a letter to Samuels himself he wrote: "You played the cheap, unfair, bullying game that police judges and magistrates have played in the Anglo‑Saxon world for a score of generations before you and yours entered said Anglo‑Saxon world and embraced its unfair practices." Jack reiterated his attack in another letter to Charmian, referring to the judge as "Samuels, a sheeny shoe peddler."
That his understanding of the Jews still had not crystallized, however, and that he still was not ready to acknowledge fully and forthrightly at an intellectual level the visceral antipathy he felt for that race and had manifested in his reaction to Samuels, is illustrated by something he wrote the following year. The September 22, 1911, issue of The American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger ran an article entitled "The Jew in English Fiction," which was a symposium of letters solicited from a number of prominent authors on the subject of their depiction of Jews in their writing. The Jews were up to their age‑old game of "sensitizing" their Gentile hosts. In this case the implied suggestion was that, in order to be fair, Gentile writers should bend over backward to avoid any negative portrayal of a Jew. London had been asked to contribute to the symposium, and he sent the following response:
"I have no recollection of having made a Jew serve a mean fictional function. But I see no reason why I should not, if the need and the setting of my story demanded it. I cannot reconcile myself to the attitude that in humor and fiction the Jew should be a favored race, and therefore be passed over, or used only for his exalted qualities...I am a terrific admirer of the Jews; I have consorted more with Jews than with any other nationality; I have among the Jews some of my finest and noblest friends...it is as unfair for a writer to make villains of all races except the Jews, as it is to make villains only of Jews. To ignore the Jew in the matter of villainy is so invidious an exception as to be unfair to the Jews."
Actually, London already had portrayed the Jew in a despised or villainous role in some of his works, and he would do so with increased frequency and conviction in the years to come. The outstanding example is The Mutiny of the Elsinore, in which he appropriately cast the scheming Semite as the sinister foe of the noble Aryan.
London wrote his two best and most important racial‑ideological novels during the last four years of his life. The Valley of the Moon, published in 1913, and The Mutiny of the Elsinore, published in 1914, are powerful literary works whose theme is the uncertain future of the White race. It was during these last years of his life that race became an overriding obsession with him. During the same period he also achieved a mature understanding of the Jew's role in the world.
The idea of the unconquerable Teuton projected in the much earlier A Daughter of the Snows is replaced in The Valley of the Moon and The Mutiny of the Elsinore with the recognition that the White race is not invulnerable and that it is granted no divine guarantee of survival. London, in deteriorating health, had become aware of his own mortality by this time, and this may have awakened him to the mortal threats to the race itself.
In The Valley of the Moon the heroine is Saxon Brown. Her first name was intended to symbolize the purity and strength of her ancestors. When Saxon first meets her future husband, Billy Roberts, they talk about their racial heritage. Billy remarks that "Saxon" is a peculiar name. Saxon responds:
"My mother gave it to me...The Saxons were a race of people ‑‑ she told me all about them when I was a little girl. They were wild, like Indians, only they were white. And they had blue eyes, and yellow hair, and they were awful fighters...We're Saxons, you an' me, an' Mary, an' Bert . . . ."
As Saxon looks through a scrapbook of her mother's, containing depictions of historical paintings, one of the paintings reminds her of the similarity between her Teutonic ancestors and the man who will become her mate: "Between bold headlands of rock and under a gray cloud‑blown sky, a dozen boats, long and lean and dark, beaked like monstrous birds, were landing on a foam‑whitened beach of sand. The men in the boats, half naked, huge‑muscled and fair‑haired, wore winged helmets. In their hands were swords and spears, and they were leaping, waist‑deep, into the sea‑wash and wading ashore. Opposed to them, contesting the landing, were skin‑clad savages, unlike Indians, however, who clustered on the beach or waded into the water to their knees. The first blows were being struck, and here and there the bodies of the dead and wounded rolled in the surf. One fair‑haired invader lay across the gunwale of a boat, the manner of his death told by the arrow that transfixed his breast. In the air, leaping past him into the water, sword in hand, was Billy. There was no mistaking it. The striking blondness, the face, the eyes, the mouth were the same...Somewhere out of the ruck of those warring races had emerged Billy's ancestors, and hers...
In the novel London attacks the socialists as dreamers and foreigners. Billy says, "I for one won't stand for a lot of fat Germans an' greasy Russian Jews tellin' me how to run my country..."
Democracy also is attacked, as being "the dream of the stupid peoples": "...[D]emocracy is a lie, an enchantment to keep the work brutes content, just as religion used to keep them content. When they groaned in their misery and toil,they were persuaded to keep on in their misery and toil by pretty tales of a land beyond the skies where they would live famously and fat while the clever ones roasted in everlasting fire. Ah, how the clever ones must have chuckled! And when that lie wore out, and democracy was dreamed, the clever ones saw to it that it should be in truth a dream, nothing but a dream."
The Valley of the Moon is a novel about blood and soil. Saxon and Billy are the descendants of a great people, but they are trapped as members of the working class in the young Industrial Age. Newly married and entangled in labor problems, Saxon decides that they must flee the city of Oakland to escape the spiritually unhealthy urban environment and the massive influx of non‑White labor from Asia and the increased numbers of Mediterranean types from southern Europe. She realizes that they must return to the soil for their racial and spiritual rejuvenation: "Her mind was made up. The city was no place for her and Billy, no place for love or for babies. The way out was simple. They would leave Oakland. It was the stupid that remained and bowed their heads to fate. But she and Billy were not stupid. They would not bow their heads. They would go forth and face fate. Where, she did not know. But that would come. The world was large...The world was free to her and Billy as it had been free to the wandering generations before them. It was only the stupid who had been left behind everywhere in the race's wandering. The strong had gone on...
Always had her race been land‑hungry, and she took delight in believing she had bred true; for had not she, despite her life passed in a city, found this same land‑hunger in her? And was she not going forth to satisfy that hunger, just as her people of old time had done, as her father and mother before her?"
Saxon and Billy settle on a farm in the Valley of the Moon, an exceptionally scenic gorge on the American River, a few miles south of San Francisco, which was the site of London's own ranch: the place where he himself had returned to the soil. When the novel ends Saxon is heavy with child, symbolizing hope for the future of the race.
But London expresses his uncertainty about that future in the following, as Saxon recalls a lithograph that she had seen when she was a young girl: "It was of a Plains Indian, in paint and feathers, astride his horse and gazing with wondering eye at a railroad train rushing along a fresh‑made track. The Indian had passed, she remembered, before the tide of new life that brought the railroad. And were Billy and his kind doomed to pass, she pondered, before this tide of life, amazingly industrious, that was flooding in from Asia and Europe?"
The Mutiny of the Elsinore, which followed The Valley of the Moon by only a year, is a starkly foreboding novel depicting the struggle for survival of the Aryan in the face of the revolt of the world's Untermenschen, led by the Jew. The ship, the Elsinore, named after the tragedy‑ridden castle in Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a microcosm of the world. The blond Aryans comprise the heroic officer class of the ship, while the darker breeds and degenerate blonds comprise the crew. The Aryans must withstand a mutinous revolt, led by a Semitic‑Mediterranean trio from New York City.
The latter are introduced early in the book as they board the ship. One of them, "Nosey" Murphey, has the following encounter with the Aryan officer, Mr. Pike: ""What's your name ‑‑ you?" Mr. Pike barked at the first of the trio, evidently a hybrid Irish‑Jew. Jewish his nose unmistakably was. Equally unmistakable was the Irish of his eyes, and jaw, and upper lip. Bert Rhine, "in whose veins ran God alone knows what Semitic, Babylonish, and Latin strains," and "who looked the admixture of all that was Mediterranean and Semitic," is the leader of the trio. The third member, "Kid" Twist, is "a dark‑eyed, olive‑skinned fellow...from southern Italy ‑‑ from Naples, or even Sicily."
The only other Semitic character in the story, and one who will side with the mutiny, is introduced in the following: "One more, sir, a sheeny. I didn't know his name before, but Mr. Pike got it ‑‑ Isaac B. Chantz. I never saw in all my life at sea as many sheenies as are on board the Elsinore right now. Sheenies don't take to the sea, as a rule. We've certainly got more than our share of them."
The story is written through the eyes of the young Aryan officer, Pathurst. He makes the following observation, voicing the theme of the book and London's own racial concerns: "Every one of us who sits aft in the high place is a blond Aryan. For'ard, leavened with a ten per cent of degenerate blonds, the remaining ninety per cent of the slaves that toil for us are brunettes. They will not perish...they will inherit the earth...
And I look at the four of us at the table ‑‑ Captain West, his daughter, Mr. Pike, and myself ‑‑ all fair‑skinned, blue‑eyed, and perishing, yet mastering and commanding, like our fathers before us, to the end of our type on the earth. Ah, well, ours is a lordly history, and though we may be doomed to pass, in our time we shall have trod on the faces of all peoples, disciplined them to obedience, taught them government, and dwelt in the palaces we have compelled them by the weight of our own right arms to build for us."
Captain West is referred to as "the blond Aryan master, the king, the Samurai," while the crew is described as being "a nightmare spawn of creatures, assumably human, but malformed, mentally and physically, into the caricatures of men."
Pathurst relates his racial pride when Mr. Pike fearlessly rescues two of the crew during a severe storm: "I knew augustness and pride as I gazed ‑‑ pride that my eyes were blue, like his; that my skin was blond, like his; that my place was aft with him, and with the Samurai, in the high place of government and command. I nearly wept with the chill of pride that was akin to awe and that tingled and bristled along my spinal column and in my brain. As for the rest ‑‑ the weaklings and the rejected, and the dark‑pigmented things, the half‑castes, the mongrel‑bloods, and the dregs of long‑conquered races ‑‑ how could they count? My heels were iron as I gazed on them in their peril and weakness. Lord! Lord! For ten thousand generations and centuries we had stamped upon their faces and enslaved them to the toil of our will."
Pathurst again lauds Mr. Pike, much later, with: "How Nietzsche, with his eternal slogan of `Be hard! Be hard!,' would have delighted in Mr. Pike!"
Events of the voyage bring Pathurst's ancestral past to the fore: "It is nothing new. I have been here before. In the lives of all my fathers have I been here. The frost is on my cheek, the salt bites my nostrils, the wind chants in my ears, and it is an old happening. I know, now, that my forebears were Vikings. I was seed of them in their own day. With them I have raided English coasts, dared the Pillar of Hercules, forayed the Mediterranean, and sat in the high place of government over the soft, sun‑warm peoples. I am Hengist and Horsa; I am of the ancient heroes even legendary to them."
Bert Rhine and his cohorts, the "ripened product of the New York City inferno," organize and maintain the mutiny, which achieves a peculiar result. The Aryan officers manage to hold off the dark horde and maintain control of the "high place," and thus the steering of the ship. And the mutinous crew controls the deck, and thus the motive power.
Near the end of the book, Bert Rhine, the Semitic mongrel and leader of the revolt, sneeringly suggests to Pathurst the possible fate of his beautiful Aryan woman, the daughter of Captain West. Pathurst's response is the most revealing and most moving passage in the book: "And I knew anger. Not ordinary anger, but cold anger. And I caught a vision of the high place in which we had sat and ruled down the ages in all lands, on all seas. I saw my kind, our women with us, in forlorn hopes and lost endeavors, pent in hill fortresses, rotted in jungle fastnesses, cut down to the last one on the decks of rocking ships. And always, our women with us, had we ruled the beasts. We might die, our women with us; but, living, we had ruled. It was a royal vision I glimpsed...It was the sacred trust of the seed, the bequest of duty handed down from all ancestors.
And I flamed more coldly. It was not red‑brute anger. It was intellectual. It was based on concept and history; it was the philosophy of action of the strong and the pride of the strong in their strength. Now at last I knew Nietzsche. I knew the rightness of the books, the relation of high thinking to high conduct, the transmutation of midnight thought into action in the high place on the poop of a coal carrier in the year nineteen thirteen, my woman beside me, my slant‑eyed servitors under me, the beasts beneath me and beneath the heel of me. I knew at last the meaning of kingship.
My anger was white and cold. This subterranean rat of a miserable human, crawling through the bowels of the ship to threaten me and mine! A rat in the shelter of a knothole making a noise as beastlike as any rat ever made!"
Shortly after this incident, Bert Rhine, the Semitic rat, has a bucket of sulfuric acid tossed in his face. His resultant excruciating torment makes exceptionally delightful reading.
The book ends with the Elsinore nearing port, the rebellious crew eager to reach shore, and Pathurst eager to see them in jail. The Aryan has survived, at least temporarily. Many good members of the race have died in the struggle, however, and there seems an infinite supply of rats and lesser‑breeds for future confrontations. Pathurst and Margaret, the daughter of the dead captain, have decided to marry in the face of an uncertain future. London summarizes the pessimistic but heroic outlook in the following thoughts of Pathurst: "Yes, I am a perishing blond, and a man, and I sit in the high place and bend the stupid ones to my will; and I am a lover, loving a royal woman of my own perishing breed, and together we occupy, and shall occupy, the high place of government and command until our kind perishes from the earth."
In 1915, the year before London's death, The Star Rover was published. It is an interesting novel, in which London relates the harshness of prison life. It is written through the eyes of the character Darrell Standing, a former professor of agronomy at the University of California who is serving a life sentence for the murder of a fellow professor, committed during a surge of anger over some private matter. To escape the pain and confinement of prison, he has developed the ability, real or imagined, to remove his spirit from his physical body and rove the stars, transcending both time and space.
In one such roving he travels back in time to the period of Christ, as Ragnar Lodbrog, a Teuton captured and made slave by the Roman legions, eventually to become a freeman and a Roman soldier. He travels to Jerusalem to witness the religious madness of the Jews and meets with Pontius Pilate, whom he had known before the latter became the "procurator over the Semitic volcano of Jerusalem." The piece is essentially an attack on Judeo‑Christianity, illustrating the foreignness of Levantine thought to the European peoples. Darrell Standing describes his journey in the following: "It was my observation that it was the custom of the country for every man to call every other man a madman. In truth, in my judgement, they were all mad. There was a plague of them. They cast out devils by magic charms, cured diseases by the laying on of hands, drank deadly poisons unharmed, and unharmed played with deadly snakes ‑‑ or so they claimed. They ran away to starve in the deserts. They emerged howling new doctrine, gathering crowds about them, forming new sects that split on doctrine and formed more sects.
"By Odin," I told Pilate, "a trifle of our northern frost would cool their wits. "...Never were such troublemakers. Everything under the sun was pious or impious to them. They, who were so clever in hair‑splitting argument, seemed incapable of grasping the Roman idea of the State...In Jerusalem, that last time I rode in, it was easy to note the increasing excitement of the Jews. They ran about in crowds, chattering and spouting. Some were proclaiming the end of the world. Others satisfied themselves with the imminent destruction of the Temple. And there were rank revolutionists who announced that Roman rule was over and the new Jewish kingdom to begin."
Ragnar encounters Miriam, a Jewess who "was an aristocrat by nature." The Teuton develops something of an affection for her, although they spend all of their time arguing their two very different views of life, seemingly mimicing London's own earlier closeness to the Jewess Anna Strunsky. Miriam asks him where his spirit will go upon death, which sparks a conversation that emphasizes the differences of character and soul between the Teuton and this Jewess who is the embodiment of Judeo‑Christian thought:
"As I have said, Valhalla," I answered. "And my body shall be there, too." "Eating? ‑‑ drinking? ‑‑ fighting?" "And loving," I added. "We must have our women in heaven, else what is heaven for?" "I do not like your heaven," she said. "It is a mad place, a beast place, a place of frost and storm and fury." "And your heaven?" I questioned. "Is always unending summer, with the year at the ripe for the fruits and flowers and growing things."
I shook my head and growled: "I do not like your heaven. It is a sad place, a soft place, a place for weaklings and eunuchs and fat, sobbing shadows of men. "...My heaven," she said, "is the abode of the blessed." "Valhalla is the abode of the blessed," I asserted. "For look you, who cares for flowers where flowers always are? In my country, after the iron winter breaks and the sun drives away the long night, the first blossoms twinkling on the melting ice‑edge are things of joy, and we look, and look again. "And fire!" I cried on. "Great glorious fire! A fine heaven yours where a man cannot properly esteem a roaring fire under a tight roof with wind and snow a‑drive outside...We build roof and fire to go forth from into the frost and storm and to return to from the frost and storm. Man's life is fashioned for battle with frost and storm."
Their differences pronounced, the Teuton leaves the Jewess and departs the land of the Jews. Ragnar remarks: "Quickly enough will come the dark, and you depart for your coasts of sun and flowers and I for the roaring table of Valhalla."
Jack London was a fervent and active member of the American socialist movement for many years. He, however, possessed a radically different interpretation of socialist doctrine from that of the mainstream of the movement. Frederick Palmer, who served with him as a war correspondent during the Russo‑Japanese War, described him in his autobiography, With My Own Eyes, as: "...the most inherently individualistic and un‑Socialistic of all the Socialists I have ever met...[H]e preferred to walk alone in aristocratic aloofness, and always in the direction he chose no matter where anybody else was going. He had his own separate mess and tent: general and private of his army of one, he rode in front of his two pack‑donkeys, which jingled with bells, the leader bearing an American flag.
For London, socialist internationalism extended only to the brotherhood of the White man. On his return from the Russo‑ Japanese War he delivered a tirade against the Orientals in an address to the Oakland chapter of the Socialist Party. One of the auditors, Edmundo Peluso, recalled the event: "With evident pleasure, he described the wiliness of these "human burnt candles," as he called the officers of the Japanese General Staff, and used stronger expressions with regard to them. But his gorge rose not only at the Japanese General Staff; he cursed the entire yellow race in the most outrageous terms. Some of the comrades present were somewhat embarrassed."
The struggle against race prejudice, especially against hatred of the "yellow" races, was part of the daily work of the socialist branches on the Pacific Coast and it was hard to conceive of Jack London, one of the foremost members of the branch, evincing race chauvinism.
Convinced that there was some misunderstanding, one of the comrades began talking to him about classes that exist in Japan as everywhere else. Another called his attention to the slogan decorating the wall over the portrait of Marx: "Workers of all countries, unite!" But this did not touch him in the least and only served to increase his passion. Pounding his fist on the table, Jack met their arguments with, "What the devil! I am first of all a white man and only then a Socialist!"
His socialist friend, Cloudesley Johns, criticized London for his combination of racialism and socialism. London refuted Johns' criticism with the following letter, dated June 23, 1899, in which he very succinctly defines his interpretation of socialism:
"Socialism is not an ideal system, devised by man for the happiness of a life; nor for the happiness of all men; but it is devised for the happiness of certain kindred races. It is devised so as to give more strength to those certain kindred favored races so that they may survive and inherit the earth to the extinction of the lesser weaker races. The very men who advocate socialism may tell you of the brotherhood of all men, and I know they are sincere, but that does not alter the law."
Johns continued to argue the matter, which brought another frank response from London in a letter dated December 12, 1899: "I do not believe in the universal brotherhood of man. I think I have said so before. I believe my race is the salt of the earth. I am a scientific socialist, not a utopian..."
Despite London's maverick views and continual embarrassment of the socialist movement, his fellow socialists could not resist the temptation to capitalize on his immense popularity as a novelist. And he wrote vast quantities of socialist propaganda for them. But here, as elsewhere, his outspoken views on race and eugenics are blatantly evident. The following is from his article entitled "What Communities Lose by the Competitive System," published in the November 1900 issue of Cosmopolitan: "The stronger, the braver, the more indomitable, are selected to go to the wars, and to die early, without offspring. The weaker are sent to the plow and permitted to perpetuate their kind. As Doctor Jordan has remarked, the best are sent forth, the second‑best remain. But it does not stop at this. The best of the second‑best are next sent, and the third‑best is left. The French peasant of to‑day demonstrates what manner of man is left to the soil after one hundred years or so of military selection. Where are the soldiers of Greece, Sparta, and Rome? They lie on countless fields of battle, and with them their descendants which were not. The degenerate peoples of those countries are the descendants of those who remained to the soil.
London expressed his concern about human intervention interfering with natural selection on the human species in the article "Wanted: A New Law of Development," published in the August 1902 issue of The International Socialist Review. He foresaw a time when the progeny of men of lower and higher quality would possess an equal opportunity for survival, which would allow for the devolution of man. He expressed the hope that under socialist rule a premium would be placed upon the strong and efficient so that man might continue on the upward path. And in other works, such as "The Tramp," (published in The Advance, San Francisco, January 25, 1902) he attempted to distinguish between the hereditary inefficients and the worthy yeomanry that together comprised the working class.
The Iron Heel, published in 1907, was London's most important and most militant socialist literary work. The novel has been labeled as both a "blueprint for Fascism" and a forerunner of George Orwell's 1984. London took his theme from W. J. Ghent's Our Benevolent Feudalism, which described the integration of capital into a dictatorship. The book purports to be derived from a manuscript discovered in a hollow oak tree, seven centuries in the future. It is written by Avis, the wife of Ernest Everhard, the leader of the socialist revolution in America, and covers the struggle from 1912 to 1932. "The Iron Heel" is the term London applies to the oligarchy of American capitalists who seized power early in the 20th century, when a socialist victory at the polls seemed a real threat to them.
Even in this most important work of socialist propaganda, London's unconventional socialist views show. In the first few pages of the book, Ernest Everhard, the socialist hero, is given the following introduction to the reader: "I have said that he was afraid of nothing. He was a natural aristocrat ‑‑ and this in spite of the fact that he was in the camp of the non‑aristocrats. He was a superman, a blond beast such as Nietzsche has described..."
With growing unrest occurring in the socialist camp, the oligarchy begins to crack down. Vigilante groups destroy the socialist presses and disrupt radical meetings. Strikes are suppressed by the police and the military, with thousands herded into concentration camps. The population is gradually enslaved, with no protest from the press, the churches, or the universities.
Meanwhile, the socialists and trade‑unionists naively maintain their faith in the electoral process, despite Everhard's warnings that they must be prepared for revolutionary action. The labor movement, weak from inner divisions, is crushed, its leaders jailed and secretly executed. The Iron Heel stamps out all opposition with the aid of the Mercenaries, a professional military corps. Everhard then leads the socialists in a campaign of terrorism.
The socialist revolution is drowned in blood, Everhard is executed, and the Oligarchs rule for 300 years, until their own internal decay and a new uprising by the proles brings about the final triumph of socialism in the 22nd century AD. The Iron Heel was never a success in the United States. The book was denounced by the American socialist movement, which claimed that its harsh and bloody scenes would discourage the proletariat. The International Socialist Review stated that the book was "well calculated...to repel many whose addition to our forces is sorely needed."
The Iron Heel was followed in 1909 with another major socialist novel, Martin Eden. Written as an indictment of extreme individualism, it too drew fire from the socialist camp for its unflattering portrayal of the socialists. The novel's protagonist is, ironically, the extreme individualist Martin Eden, a disciple of Nietzsche and Spencer who rejects socialism ‑‑ and whom London created in his own image. For, more than any of his other novels, Martin Eden is autobiographical ‑‑ and more than any other, its hero manifests the divisions in London's own soul.
The following excerpt from Martin Eden, a description of the hero's reaction to a Jewish socialist speaker, seems to say much about London's own conflicting feelings toward the Jews. Remember, it was written at a time when his intellectual estimate of them still was changing, from that of a race of idealistic benefactors of mankind, whose socialism was purely altruistic, to that of Aryan man's natural enemy, who merely used socialism as a means of organizing the Untermenschen against their natural superiors. It was the latter estimate, of course, which coincided with the gut reaction he always had felt toward them: "The speaker, a clever Jew, won Martin's admiration at the same time that he aroused his antagonism. The man's stooped and narrow shoulders and weazened chest proclaimed him the true child of the crowded ghetto, and strong on Martin was the age‑long struggle of the feeble, wretched slaves against the lordly handful of men who had ruled over them and would rule over them to the end of time. To Martin this withered wisp of a creature was a symbol. He was the figure that stood forth representative of the whole miserable mass of weaklings and inefficients who perished according to biological law on the rugged confines of life. They were the unfit. In spite of their cunning philosophy and of their antlike proclivities for cooperation, Nature rejected them for the exceptional man. Out of the plentiful spawn of life she flung from her prolific hand she selected only the best."
Perhaps one of the most disturbing items for London's socialist friends was his plan for the construction of "Wolf House," an impressive, castle‑like residence, which brought protests that he was setting himself up as a feudal baron. Indeed, he intended that the house, which was being built in a redwood grove on his 1500‑acre ranch overlooking the Valley of the Moon, would house a London dynasty.
London had returned to the soil, just as his characters in The Valley of the Moon, leaving the outside world and creating his own. He envisioned a utopian revolutionary community arising on his ranch. He hoped that it would become self‑sufficient and would sustain his colony of relatives, guests, and workers. The community was to have its own school; and a non‑profit general store, slaughterhouse, and refrigeration plant.
Wolf House was built on a huge, floating slab large enough to support a 40‑story building, as an anti‑earthquake precaution. Redwood logs, maroon volcanic rocks, blue slate, boulders, and cement were chosen as primary building materials. Large redwood logs with their bark intact formed the carriage entrance, the pergolas, and the porches. The logs in the gables and balconies were interlaced with fruit twigs, providing a natural, earthy effect.
By August 1913 the magnificent structure was completed. On the night of August 22, a few weeks before the Londons were to move in, Wolf House burned to the ground. All that remained was the outer stone shell. The cause of the fire has never been conclusively determined. Jack believed that it was set by some hysterical socialist who did not wish to see the plans for Wolf House realized.
By this time London was growing frustrated, especially with the socialist movement. He had abruptly ceased vigorous socialist activism after 1909 to devote his time to the development of his ranch. He had turned to agrarianism for his spiritual replenishment, and he was traveling the road further with Nietzsche and with the ideology of race. In notes for a book he scribbled, "My religion ‑‑ not deep and learned and philosophical ‑‑ but going Nietzsche‑like to the root of things."
On March 7, 1916, London tendered his resignation from the Socialist Party, realizing that there was no longer a place for him in the movement. In the closing of his letter of resignation he wrote: "My final word is that liberty, freedom, and independence are royal things that cannot be presented to, or thrust upon, races or classes. If races and classes cannot rise up and by their own strength of brain and brawn wrest from the world liberty, freedom, and independence, they never, in time, can come to these royal possessions ‑‑ and if such royal things are kindly presented to them by superior individuals, on silver platters, they will know not what to do with them, will fail to make use of them, and will be what they have always been in the past ‑‑ inferior races and inferior classes.
Despite his troubles with the American socialist movement, London has enjoyed immense popularity in the Soviet Union. With the outbreak of revolution in Russia in early 1905, he became a propagandist for the struggle, signing a proclamation calling on American socialists to support the revolution and lecturing in various California cities on the subject. The Soviet government in turn has translated his books into 32 languages and printed more than 30 million copies of them. A complete set of his works, consisting of 24 volumes, was published in the U.S.S.R. between 1928 and 1929. In 1956 an eight‑volume edition of his works, with a printing of 600,000 copies, was reported to be completely subscribed to within five hours of the announcement of publication.
It would be easier to understand the Soviet government's enthusiasm for London if none of his books had ever been published in the Soviet Union. As his colleague Frederick Palmer noted, he was the most unsocialistic of socialists ‑‑ if one thinks of socialism in the Marxist sense ‑‑ and this fact was nowhere more apparent than in his books.
Even The Iron Heel, the most militantly "socialistic" of his books, does no more than pay a cursory lip service to Marxism, by enunciating Marx's theory of surplus value. In the book there is both a grudging admiration for the Oligarchs of the Iron Heel and a hardly concealed revulsion for the mindless and ignoble proletarian masses. The book is anti‑capitalist and pro‑revolutionary, but not egalitarian and certainly not Marxist, except as noted.
What is easy to understand is London's hatred of the capitalist system and what it has done to the spirit of our race. If nothing else, his own experiences as a child of the oppressed proletariat, working 12 hours a day as a teen‑ager for a wage of ten cents an hour, led him to support the socialist movement. But it never made a true Marxist of him.
Jack London's socialism, in fact, was National Socialism, although it was not known by that name during his lifetime. Had he lived another 20 years he himself would have proclaimed the fact to the world, and had he still been writing he would have been a far more fervent propagandist for Hitler's National Socialist revolution in Germany than he had been earlier for Lenin's communist revolution in Russia. The tragedy of his life is that he was a revolutionary idealist born a generation too soon, and so blundered into the wrong revolution: a revolution in which he was never spiritually at home.
By 1916 Jack was in worsening health, his condition having steadily declined during the last two years. He suffered from failing kidneys, and the resultant uremia sent him into long bouts of pain and disability. He was a changed man. He had become old and tired at the age of 40 from an accumulation of injuries and physical self‑neglect during an incredibly fast‑paced and adventurous life.
On the morning of November 22, 1916, Jack was found in his bed in a coma. After repeated attempts to revive him had failed, he died that evening. It has never been conclusively determined whether his death came from the accumulation of poisons from his inoperative kidneys or from an overdose of morphine taken to relieve the pain ‑‑ or to deliberately end his life.
The funeral and burial were conducted as Jack had requested ‑‑ simple and with no prayers. His ashes were buried on a knoll above his ranch house, admidst a grove of white oaks and manzanita. A giant volcanic boulder from the building of Wolf House was then rolled over the grave. No inscription marks the site; his life and work would speak for themselves.
Charmian, Jack's wife, would quote him as saying, "Mate‑Woman, I tell you I am standing on the edge of a world so new, so terrible, so wonderful, that I am almost afraid to look over into it." The world that Jack London envisioned differed markedly from that of his socialist contemporaries. Years after Jack's death, an old socialist mentor would remark that, from 1899 on, Jack "stood with one foot in social democracy and the other in the philosophical teachings from which have sprung Fascism."
Jack London was a remarkable man. With keen perception he attempted to determine what was right and true in charting his own course, and he was honest enough to alter that course when the evidence warranted it. His combative and adventurous spirit, genuine concern for the well‑being of his people, and instinctive striving for truth set him far above the common run of men. The Aryan spirit so perfectly conveyed through the racialist and Nietzschean themes of much of his writings and manifested in his personal life should serve as a strong source of inspiration for every intelligent, racially‑conscious member of the White race.
Jack London's personal credo provides a fitting finale for the story of his life and work: "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."