Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

Jimmie Higgins

Ben Hanford

(A New York printer who literally gave his life for the Socialist movement, dying of consumption caused by overwork. He was the party’s candidate for Vice-president in 1904)

A COMRADE who shall be called Jimmie Higgins because that is not his name, and who shall be styled a painter for the very good reason that he is not a painter, has perhaps had a greater influence in keeping me keyed up to my work in the labor movement than any other person.

Jimmie Higgins is neither broad-shouldered nor thick-chested. He is neither pretty nor strong. A little, thin, weak, pale-faced chap. But he is strong enough to support a mother with equal physical disabilities. Strong enough to put in ten years of unrecognized and unexcelled service to the cause of Socialism.

What did he do? Everything.

He has made more Socialist speeches than any man in America. Not that he did the talking; but he carried the platform on his bent shoulders when the platform committee failed to be on hand.

Then he hustled around to another branch and got their platform out. Then he got a glass of water for “the speaker.” That same evening or the day before he had distributed hand-bills advertising the meeting.

Previously he had informed his branch as to “the best corner” in the district for drawing a crowd. Then he distributed leaflets at the meeting, and helped to take the platform down and carry it back to headquarters, and got subscribers for Socialist papers.

The next day the same, and so on all through the campaign, and one campaign after another. When he had a job, which was none too often, for Jimmie was not an extra good workman and was always one of the first to be laid off, he would distribute Socialist papers among his fellows during the noon hour, or take a run down to the gate of some factory and give out Socialist leaflets to the employees who came out to lunch.

What did he do? Jimmie Higgins did everything, anything. Whatever was to be done, THAT was Jimmie’s job.

First to do his own work; then the work of those who had become wearied or negligent. Jimmie Higgins couldn’t sing, nor dance, nor tell a story—but he could DO the thing to be done.

Be you, reader, ever so great, you nor any other shall ever do more than that. Jimmie Higgins had no riches, but out of his poverty he always gave something, his all; be you, reader, ever so wealthy and likewise generous, you shall never give more than that.

Jimmie Higgins never had a front seat on the platform; he never knew the tonic of applause nor the inspiration of opposition; he never was seen in the foreground of the picture.

But he had erected the platform and painted the picture; through his hard, disagreeable and thankless toil it had come to pass that liberty was brewing and things were doing.

Jimmie Higgins. How shall we pay, how reward this man? What gold, what laurels shall be his?

There’s just one way, reader, that you and I can “make good” with Jimmie Higgins and the likes of him. That way is to be like him.

Take a fresh start and never let go.

Think how great his work, and he has so little to do with. How little ours in proportion to our strength!

I know some grand men and women in the Socialist movement. But in high self-sacrifice, in matchless fidelity to truth, I shall never meet a greater man than Jimmie Higgins.

And many a branch has one of him.

And may they have more of him.