Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

    First of all, if you wish to read this book, I do not recommend the Dover edition. For some unknown reason, they have chosen not to include the Forward, and without it, one really cannot completely understand the rest of the book. I recommend reading the free eBook from Project Gutenberg, either online or on an eReader or downloaded onto your computer. I have included the Forward at the bottom of this page.
    It was first published in 1907, and is a dystopian novel, hailed by George Orwell as "a truer prophesy of the future than either Brave New World or The Shape of Things to Come." It is a book about a worldwide socialist revolution that covers the period between 1912 to 1932, and though it is extremely disturbing, perhaps because there is too much truth in it, it is not futuristic and sinister like Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four.
    The book is based on a fictional discovered manuscript by Avis Everhard, revolutionist and wife of one of the revolutionary leaders, Ernest Everhard. It ends abruptly—mid-sentence, in fact, not because Jack London died, as in Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, when Dickens really did die. (Jack London died in 1916, long after the publication of this book.) In this case it is a dramatic ending which signified the capture, or perhaps assassination of Avis, after she managed to hide the manuscript for posterity. What the Forward tells us is that seven centuries have passed since the Revolution began, and continued for three more centuries. Posterity indeed! It is written by Anthony Meredith, in the city of Ardis, in the year 419 B.O.M. (Brotherhood of Man). There are copious footnotes throughout the story, "written" by this fictional character, Anthony Meredith, offering further explanation from a historical perspective. Without reading the Forward, the footnotes don't make as much sense. For instance, the dates are referred to as AD, rather unusual in modern times.
    Of course, in real life, the story isn't a look into the past but a look into the future! Some of the footnotes are true, about real people from the era, but many are fictitious. Whew! It all seems complicated, but reading it is not. Though it tells of the events leading up to the Revolution, and is frighteningly accurate about social conditions, it is as much a story of a hero in the eyes of a lover.
    As mentioned above, the story is in the form of a manuscript written by Avis Everhard chronicling the years preceding the Socialist Revolution and its early years. As with many books of this type, it is partially a story and partially a doctrine of the author's (London's) political philosophy. He apparently believed that this was the ultimate end to all the planet's social and political challenges, and while I am not a supporter of a Socialist society, I certainly agree with his loathing of Capitalism. Back in 1907, the same greed and corruption obviously existed as it does today, and his projection of this vampiristic system into the future was frighteningly accurate. This is one of those books where there is so much material to discuss that attempting to write a review that fully represents it is difficult indeed. Therefore, I will just provide a brief outline and highlight a few major events.
    Avis is a young woman who lives with her loving and open-minded father, a university professor at Berkeley, California in physics, with interest in a great many areas of life. He does original research and writes books, and surrounds himself with many different types of people. When Avis first meets Ernest, it is at a dinner given by her father which he has dubbed "preacher's night," and includes members of the clergy, including their special friend, the gentle Bishop Morehouse. Avis finds Ernest both attractive and perhaps a little frightening as he proceeds to undo all the basic foundations of the Church's philosophy and practice, in particular the hypocrisy of the rich and easy life led by these men while the working class suffers in poverty. The only one who takes him seriously is Bishop Morehouse, as we shall see as the book progresses. After the guests have left, Dr. Cunningham has a good laugh at the way Ernest has unseated the clergies' comfort.
    After this meeting, Avis finds herself constantly in the company of Ernest, and after a brief period of mixed feelings—both fascination and repugnance—she realizes she is in love—and so is he. She reads his materials and at first cannot believe that what he says is true. So she does her own investigating, beginning with Jackson, who lost an arm in an accident at the factory where he worked, and now barely survives in severe poverty, making rattan works to peddle. He gets no compensation from the company, and, as Avis finds to her distress as she continues her research, it is the high-paid lawyers of the company who keep it free from responsibility to all the employees who have been maimed or killed (including children) while on the job. The foremen with the company, of course, are forced to testify against the workers in court. It is all a corrupt sham, and what is even worse, Avis and her father make good money from the stock of this company, Sierra Mills. It marks the beginnings of both her and her father's moral conflict between their comfortable life and the source of that comfort. As the book progresses, both of them and Bishop Morehouse find it ethically impossible to continue their lives under the present conditions. Avis and Ernest marry, and eventually Dr. Cunningham loses his job at the university and also loses his house when a fraudulent unpaid mortgage suddenly appears. They move to a slum. Bishop Morehouse, meanwhile, has decided to take literally the message of Jesus about feeding his flock, and he is promptly diagnosed as insane and put into an asylum. After he is released, he briefly plays the conventional game again, but suddenly sells his palace and disappears. He reappears in the same slum where Avis, her father, and Ernest live.
    When the full-blown Revolution finally breaks out, it is not a simple "us vs. them"—the working class against what Ernest calls the Oligarchy, or the"Iron Heel" that crushes all dissenters under its weight. Much as today—here in 2015, when people speak of the 1% (them) vs. the 99% (us), black and white divisions such as that couldn't be more inaccurate. In the story, there were the poverty level working class people, and as today, a smothering disintegration of the middle class. But certain labor unions found themselves powerful and favored, and did quite well, again as many people today. But when all-out violence and undercover stifling of those working against the system breaks out, (again, though many don't want to face it, that is also happening today, as our military and police force are being trained to kill their own people without trial), there was another group in the story—the Mercenaries—ordinary people hired to kill their own, and they become the most dangerous threat.
    As an aside, from my own point of view, there are several aspects of this story that differentiate it from what is becoming our present reality. One is that Ernest was dead-set in scientific, physical laws, whereas today, we are more and more realizing that much of what science has taught us is false. In addition, today we have this unstoppable movement toward consciousness and enlightenment, an inevitable advancement in humanity as a means to finally break away from the controlling Matrix, which takes our present situation and impending future into a totally different direction than the one London envisioned. The last point of course, must be that fact that our physical earth is heading—accelerating every day—toward the inability to support life at all, between chemtrailing, Fukushima, GMOs, global warming, and unprecedented drought all over the world juxtaposed against massive flooding in other parts. So, though London's story looks back seven centuries, we will not be here seven centuries from now. At the rate we are going, life as we know it may end any day (which is why the consciousness movement is so important, because it will take us into a new physical mode of operation). But that, of course, is my own opinion based on the research I've done for 35 years.
    The Iron Heel is not a pretty story, in fact it is downright alarming, as London I am sure intended it to be. Nevertheless, I highly recommend reading it because there is just too much in here that has come to be reality. Knowledge is power, and not to be feared or shunned.
    Below is the Forward as mentioned above, which Dover did not include in their edition. If you do read the Dover edition, make sure you read this first.

    It cannot be said that the Everhard Manuscript is an important historical document. To the historian it bristles with errors—not errors of fact, but errors of interpretation. Looking back across the seven centuries that have lapsed since Avis Everhard completed her manuscript, events, and the bearings of events, that were confused and veiled to her, are clear to us. She lacked perspective. She was too close to the events she writes about. Nay, she was merged in the events she has described.
    Nevertheless, as a personal document, the Everhard Manuscript is of inestimable value. But here again enter error of perspective, and vitiation due to the bias of love. Yet we smile, indeed, and forgive Avis Everhard for the heroic lines upon which she modeled her husband. We know to-day that he was not so colossal, and that he loomed among the events of his times less largely than the Manuscript would lead us to believe.
    We know that Ernest Everhard was an exceptionally strong man, but not so exceptional as his wife thought him to be. He was, after all, but one of a large number of heroes who, throughout the world, devoted their lives to the Revolution; though it must be conceded that he did unusual work, especially in his elaboration and interpretation of working-class philosophy. "Proletarian science" and "proletarian philosophy" were his phrases for it, and therein he shows the provincialism of his mind—a defect, however, that was due to the times and that none in that day could escape.
    But to return to the Manuscript. Especially valuable is it in communicating to us the FEEL of those terrible times. Nowhere do we find more vividly portrayed the psychology of the persons that lived in that turbulent period embraced between the years 1912 and 1932—their mistakes and ignorance, their doubts and fears and misapprehensions, their ethical delusions, their violent passions, their inconceivable sordidness and selfishness. These are the things that are so hard for us of this enlightened age to understand. History tells us that these things were, and biology and psychology tell us why they were; but history and biology and psychology do not make these things alive. We accept them as facts, but we are left without sympathetic comprehension of them.
    This sympathy comes to us, however, as we peruse the Everhard Manuscript. We enter into the minds of the actors in that long-ago world-drama, and for the time being their mental processes are our mental processes. Not alone do we understand Avis Everhard's love for her hero-husband, but we feel, as he felt, in those first days, the vague and terrible loom of the Oligarchy. The Iron Heel (well named) we feel descending upon and crushing mankind.
    And in passing we note that that historic phrase, the Iron Heel, originated in Ernest Everhard's mind. This, we may say, is the one moot question that this new-found document clears up. Previous to this, the earliest-known use of the phrase occurred in the pamphlet, "Ye Slaves," written by George Milford and published in December, 1912. This George Milford was an obscure agitator about whom nothing is known, save the one additional bit of information gained from the Manuscript, which mentions that he was shot in the Chicago Commune. Evidently he had heard Ernest Everhard make use of the phrase in some public speech, most probably when he was running for Congress in the fall of 1912. From the Manuscript we learn that Everhard used the phrase at a private dinner in the spring of 1912. This is, without discussion, the earliest-known occasion on which the Oligarchy was so designated.
    The rise of the Oligarchy will always remain a cause of secret wonder to the historian and the philosopher. Other great historical events have their place in social evolution. They were inevitable. Their coming could have been predicted with the same certitude that astronomers to-day predict the outcome of the movements of stars. Without these other great historical events, social evolution could not have proceeded. Primitive communism, chattel slavery, serf slavery, and wage slavery were necessary stepping-stones in the evolution of society. But it were ridiculous to assert that the Iron Heel was a necessary stepping-stone. Rather, to-day, is it adjudged a step aside, or a step backward, to the social tyrannies that made the early world a hell, but that were as necessary as the Iron Heel was unnecessary.
    Black as Feudalism was, yet the coming of it was inevitable. What else than Feudalism could have followed upon the breakdown of that great centralized governmental machine known as the Roman Empire? Not so, however, with the Iron Heel. In the orderly procedure of social evolution there was no place for it. It was not necessary, and it was not inevitable. It must always remain the great curiosity of history—a whim, a fantasy, an apparition, a thing unexpected and undreamed; and it should serve as a warning to those rash political theorists of to-day who speak with certitude of social processes.
    Capitalism was adjudged by the sociologists of the time to be the culmination of bourgeois rule, the ripened fruit of the bourgeois revolution. And we of to-day can but applaud that judgment. Following upon Capitalism, it was held, even by such intellectual and antagonistic giants as Herbert Spencer, that Socialism would come. Out of the decay of self-seeking capitalism, it was held, would arise that flower of the ages, the Brotherhood of Man. Instead of which, appalling alike to us who look back and to those that lived at the time, capitalism, rotten-ripe, sent forth that monstrous offshoot, the Oligarchy.
    Too late did the socialist movement of the early twentieth century divine the coming of the Oligarchy. Even as it was divined, the Oligarchy was there—a fact established in blood, a stupendous and awful reality. Nor even then, as the Everhard Manuscript well shows, was any permanence attributed to the Iron Heel. Its overthrow was a matter of a few short years, was the judgment of the revolutionists. It is true, they realized that the Peasant Revolt was unplanned, and that the First Revolt was premature; but they little realized that the Second Revolt, planned and mature, was doomed to equal futility and more terrible punishment.
    It is apparent that Avis Everhard completed the Manuscript during the last days of preparation for the Second Revolt; hence the fact that there is no mention of the disastrous outcome of the Second Revolt. It is quite clear that she intended the Manuscript for immediate publication, as soon as the Iron Heel was overthrown, so that her husband, so recently dead, should receive full credit for all that he had ventured and accomplished. Then came the frightful crushing of the Second Revolt, and it is probable that in the moment of danger, ere she fled or was captured by the Mercenaries, she hid the Manuscript in the hollow oak at Wake Robin Lodge.
    Of Avis Everhard there is no further record. Undoubtedly she was executed by the Mercenaries; and, as is well known, no record of such executions was kept by the Iron Heel. But little did she realize, even then, as she hid the Manuscript and prepared to flee, how terrible had been the breakdown of the Second Revolt. Little did she realize that the tortuous and distorted evolution of the next three centuries would compel a Third Revolt and a Fourth Revolt, and many Revolts, all drowned in seas of blood, ere the world-movement of labor should come into its own. And little did she dream that for seven long centuries the tribute of her love to Ernest Everhard would repose undisturbed in the heart of the ancient oak of Wake Robin Lodge.
    ANTHONY MEREDITH
    Ardis,
    November 27, 419 B.O.M.

All material on this site copyright © 2015 by Laughing Crow.
This site designed and written by Laughing Crow.