William English Walling, the son of Willoughby Walling, was born in Louisville in 1877. The son of a rich Kentucky former slaveholding family and the grandson of William Hayden English, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1880. (1)
Willoughby Walling, one of the city's leading physicians, opened a pharmaceuticals business with the support of his wealthy father-in-law. His mother, Rosalind English Walling, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1885 Walling was appointed consul in Edinburgh.
In 1887 the Walling family were in London and the ten-year-old watched from the window of his hotel a demonstration held by the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) on 13th November, 1887 in Trafalgar Square. Walling saw the demonstrators being attacked by the police. It was claimed that the events of what became known as Bloody Sunday, had a deep influence on his political development.
Walling attended Trinity Hall, an Episcopal school for boys near Louisville. He was an outstanding student and his headmaster commented: "English acquits himself in his studies with the usual credit... the boy is a constant delight. My laborious and responsible avocation is in the large a thankless and discouraging one, but the burden is always the lighter for such boys as yours." (2) Walling told his father that he had scored 500 in arithmetic and "500 is perfect and I am the only boy in school who got perfect in anything." (3)
His grandfather died while Walling was studying at the University of Chicago. He received a lump sum large enough for an income of ten thousand dollars a year. James Boylan, the author of Revolutionary Lives (1998), has argued: "He did particularly well in mathematics, with an A-plus in calculus. He encountered either heavier going or tougher grading in political science and economics. Or perhaps he was already formulating dissenting views that were less likely to earn high grades." (4) He studied under the radical economist, Thorstein Veblen. During this period he became a socialist.
After graduating in 1897 he joined the Hull House Settlement in Chicago and committed himself to live on the equivalent of the wages of a laborer. He also did postgraduate work in sociology with John Dewey. Walling was employed as a factory inspector. According to one source an inspection of a biscuit factory resulted in him never "eating Fig Newtons again". (5)
With his brother, Willoughby English Walling, he established his own self-financed investigation into corporations. N. I. Stone, a young economist was recruited as staff statistician. He later recalled: "The two brothers attracted attention wherever they appeared. Both tall, erect, lean, handsome... they looked like twins. Both had a lively sense of humor, a smile that lit up their faces and with their lively interest in public affairs, conversation never lagged and was always bright and sparkling." (6)
In April 1902, Robert Hunter was appointed as head worker at the University Settlement, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Hunter offered Walling a post at the settlement: "I wish I might hope to have you come to the Settlement. At present we are overcrowded here but I hope that within a month of so, I shall be able to make arrangements for more room." (7) He rejected the initial offer and did not arrive in New York City until November. A fellow worker, Ernest Poole, commented: "Walling... was of the high-strung sensitive kind, quick to grow indignant or angry, and so truly exciting at such times that when the glad news went down the hall." (8) He also worked closely with Lillian Wald, the founder of the Henry Street Settlement. In 1902 he visited England where he met Mary MacArthur, head of the Women's Protective and Provident League.
In November, 1903, Walling attended the American Federation of Labour (AFL) annual convention in Boston. He met Mary Kenney O'Sullivan and told her about Britain's Women's Protective and Provident League. He invited her to Hull House where she met other women interested in trade unionism. This included Jane Addams, Mary McDowell, Alice Hamilton, Ida Rauh, Florence Kelley, Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Crystal Eastman and Sophonisba Breckinridge. The group established the Women's Trade Union League and Walling became its first secretary. He recruited Leonora O'Reilly to run the organization.
William English Walling now decided to become a muckraking journalist. He wrote to his father on 11th March 1904: "The two articles printed this month in the World Today and the Independent both received favorable comment from the press. I am learning how to get more red and yellow in as the World Work advises without endangering my reputation for fairness." (9) He told his father that he intended to become as good as Ray Stannard Baker, who wrote for McClure's Magazine: "I really believe I will pass Ray Stannard Baker one of these days and he is the only man well ahead of me in this work." (10)
James Boylan, the author of Revolutionary Lives: Anna Strunsky & William English Walling (1998) points out that the two men often covered the same stories: "In technique if not in substance, English was far outdone. English's first article, The Great Cripple Creek Strike, was matter-of-tact in tone, impartial while somewhat legitimizing the miners' position, comprehensive in scope but stumbling in presentation; it reflected neither the turbulence nor the passions of the little labor war. Baker's narrative was at the same time more skillful and less direct: positioning himself as a witness passing moral judgment on behalf of the public, he was critical of all parties. He decried the abuses of strikers' civil rights under martial law, but in the end managed to load onto the union the bulk of the blame. English's second article could be read as a response to Baker's; it largely absolved the union and argued that martial law was a strike-breaking device. In fact, martial law did ultimately crush the strike." (11)
After the 1905 Russian Revolution several left-wing activists established a branch of the Friends of Russian Freedom in San Francisco. Members included Walling, Anna Strunsky, Jack London, George Sterling, Cameron King and Austin Lewis. Strunsky became chairman and produced a leaflet calling for "sympathy and help" for the Russian people. Walling, who was just about to leave for Europe sent her a note: "I almost shouted with delight at the dash with which you have under taken your Russian movement. Your leaflet is the best yet." (12)
William English Walling visited Paris in the summer of 1905. While in the city he met sixteen-year-old, Anna Berthe Grunspan, a recent arrival from Russia. He asked her if she was an "Hebrew". When she said she was, he replied that he was "very fond of Hebrew ladies". According to his biographer, James Boylan: "She recently had left school to become a shop girl. She lived with her family in quarters so humble that, she recalled later, she tried to keep Walling from paying a call. He began to see her several times a week, then every night. They entered a sexual liaison that, in his account, began within a few days... Her persuaded her to quit her job, assuring her that he would give her money equivalent to her pay." (13)
Walling took her on holiday to Germany. In order to get a room in a hotel in Berlin he was forced to claim that Anna was his wife. She later claimed that she assumed that they now were engaged to be married. (14) However, Walling claimed he told her the relationship was over and took her to the railway station and "with great difficulty" put her on the train back to Paris. He also supplied her with money so that she could go to London where she could receive training in English secretarial skills." (15)
In November 1905 Walling wrote to Anna Strunsky that he intended going to St. Petersburg to witness the impact of the 1905 Russian Revolution, he sent her a telegram inviting her to join him. "I intend to preach (in American publications) the necessity in Russia of: (1) The stirring of the masses to revolt - of the lower orders, to the utmost (2) Widespread battle against Cossacks and police and execution of bureaucrats (3) The most complete political revolution, perhaps a republic." (16)
Anna and her sister Rose Strunsky, took up the offer and arrived in December, 1905: "He (Walling) met us at the train, dressed in a big Russian coat and an astrakhan cap. I kissed him." Strunsky was excited by the revolutionary atmosphere of the city. "On the streets, they were selling pamphlets, the covers of which were decorated with the portraits of Karl Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin. In the windows of book shops were displayed photographs of Sophi Perovski, who was executed for taking part in the assassination of Alexander II; of Vera Zassulich, the first to commit a deed of violence for political reasons in modern Russia; of Vera Figner, whose resurrection from the Fortress of Schlusselburg had just taken place... More astounding... were the cartoons which appeared several times a day were bought as quickly as they could be had - cartoons portraying the Czar swimming in a sea of blood, mice gnawing away the foundation of the throne... Was I dreaming? Free press, free speech, free assemblage in Russia." (17)
Anna Strunsky was shocked by the level of violence that she saw. She was in a restaurant when they were singing "God save the Czar!". However, a young man sitting with his mother and girlfriend, refused to join in. An officer at a nearby table walked over to him and commanded him to rise. When he refused, he shot him dead. She wrote to her brother, Hyman Strunsky about how the incident drew her closer to Walling: "On New Year's Eve we saw a student shot to death in a cafe for refusing to sing the national hymn, and our love which had been filling our hearts from the hour of our meeting suddenly burst into speech. It was baptised in blood you see, as was fitting for a love born in Russia." (18) Anna also wrote to her father admitting her love for Walling: "I found Russia in the same hour that I found love. It was fated. Russia had stood for quite other things, but the man I love and who loves me, so tenderly, dear, as tenderly as mother, and as deeply has opened vistas before me and changed the face of things forever." (19)
On 26th January, 1906, Walling wrote to his parents about the woman he intended to marry: "She is considered by Mr. Brett the manager of Macmillans as nothing less than a genius in her work as a writer. She is the most known speaker on the Coast. She is loved, sometimes too much, by everybody that knows her - literary men, Settlement people, Socialists. All my friends know her. She is 26 and very healthy and strong... Of course she is a Jewess and her name is Anna Strunsky (but I hope to improve that - at least in private life - but we haven't spoken much of such things). (20)
Strunsky wrote to her father: "We are in the city where you have spent so many happy and so many bitter years... I found Russia in the same hour that I found love. It was fated. Russia had stood for quite other things, but the man I love and who loves me, so tenderly, dear, as tenderly as mother, and as deeply has open vistas before me and changed the face of things forever." (21) She confided in her diary: "Henceforth I am no longer alone. I am more afraid of this than a sick child alone in the dark."
William English Walling was very keen to persuade his mother that he had made a wise choice of partner: "Everyone loves her at once and forever. I study - she writes. I know something of the sciences, she a great deal of literature. She is as democratic as I, as given to sacrificing the present for the future (to her not the future but an ideal). She is as determined to work and to make her work count. She loves the beautiful and scorns luxury. She loves people and is bored by 'society' - in fact like myself has nothing to do with it. She is convinced like myself that we have a right to love and enjoy life only to serve the people and we already know that we know how to succeed at this - our work. (22)
Anna Strunsky was unwilling to have a conventional marriage. She told Rosalind English Walling: "Neither English nor I belong to any creed, and a religious ceremony would be farcical to us, at best something less than sincere and beautiful. A greater reason still is that according to the law of Moses I cannot marry English at all, and there is no Rabbi in the world who could listen to our troth without committing sacrilege! From the standpoint of the faith in which I was born I must be stoned to death for what I was about to do. My parents are very liberal yet I have heard them say they would rather see me dead than marry a Gentile. I should not record this at all for their attitude towards English is perfect... The Jewish religion would unite us only if English became a Jew, and another form of religious marriage is equally impossible for me. It would mean conversion on my part to have even a Unitarian minister officiate, and it would literally kill my mother." (23)
Walling explained to his mother why they decided to marry: "We are together all day and half the night in the same Hotel. We ought to be married. If we went back to be married it would... immediately result in a host of complications, inconveniences, heartburnings, strains and smaller little nuisances that puts it almost quite out of the question... Both of us believe thoroughly in romantic love (one love) in marriage and in all reasonable restraint. We shall marry sensibly and not hastily and we shall not behave as if we were married before we are. Outwardly we have broken most conventions. We go down the streets hand in hand, we kiss one another in the sleigh, we live in one another's sitting rooms and sometimes go into one another's bedrooms." (24)
Walling and Strunsky left Russia in May 1906. They arrived in Paris on 2nd June 1906, and married at the end of the month. The San Francisco Call newspaper carried the headline: "Girl Socialist Wins Millionaire". (25) Another newspaper, The Chicago American stated: "Socialism Finds Bride for a Rich Yankee in Russia" and compared their marriage to those of Graham Stokes and Rose Pastor and Leroy Scott and Miriam Finn, two rich men who married left-wing Jewish immigrants. (26)
Anna Strunsky explained to her brother it was not going to be a conventional marriage and that she refused to change her surname: "We got legally married, because we did not believe it best to run in the face of the world on this matter. But now that we have got married we don't talk of it. We don't like to remember that the law gives us a right over each other. Our love is so strong that we are not in the least afraid of being bruised by the legal form or any other bondage the world may lay upon us, but yet it is better not to remember too much the vulgarity and the meaninglessness of the promises we made to each other before the Mayor. (They were in French, and said too quickly, for us to understand.) I had to sign a paper regarding some property of English's and I signed Anna Strunsky Walling, my legal name-but all my other letters and writings I sign Anna Strunsky." (27)
Anna Strunsky and William English Walling arrived back in New York City in November. They were interviewed by several newspapers about their views on the 1905 Russian Revolution. In one interview, Walling said: "The Russians are likely soon to become the chief inspiration of other nations, a position recently lost after having been held for a century by the United States." (28)
However, it was her decision not to take her husband's name that caused the most interest. On 1st December, 1906, The Chicago Daily News reported: Shocked Chicago society, nursing its conventional ties all the more tenderly since shafts were thrown at them by the advocates of probational marriage, and other isms that have for their purpose a revolution in marriage customs, received another staggering blow today when Mrs. William English Walling announced that to her friends she is still Anna Strunsky. She abhors the prefix Mrs. and the name wife, Mrs. Walling declares, because the appellation carries the sting of implied ownership. She refuses to be known as Mrs. Walling because she objects to surrendering her individuality in obedience to the command of what she calls conventionality."
The article quoted Anna Strunsky as saying: "This taking of her husband's name by a woman when she marries is one of the symbols of the merging of her individuality into his. It is a convention against which I protest. In conventional circles I allow the calling of me by the name of Mrs. Walling to pass unchallenged. The people would not understand even if I explained to them. But in my work I desire the use of the name that means me." (29)
In October 1907 Strunsky and Walling returned to Russia. Soon after arriving in St. Petersburg they were arrested along with her sister, Rose Strunsky, who had been living in the country since December 1905. "When I opened the door of our apartment, I found a Chief of Police, gendarme spies, the proprietor of the hotel, and servants. The contents of our trunks lay scattered on floor, chairs and bed. The desks were littered with books and manuscripts. They were reading my letters, scrutinizing my photographs... When I entered the room and saw the confusion of clothes and papers, my checks flamed with anger and horror." Strunsky claimed they asked her: "Where do you hide your revolvers and dynamite." She told the interpreter. "Tell him that we are writers, and when we use weapons we use pen and ink and not arms." (30)
Other journalist friends such as Harold Williams and Ariadna Tyrkova, were also detained. All five were accused of writing articles supporting the revolutionaries. The American newspapers soon took up their case. The Boston Herald headed its story "Czar's Police Jail Harvard Men." (31) The The Chicago American reported that Elihu Root, the United States Secretary of State, had already protested about the behaviour of the authorities. (32) They were soon released but were deported.
Anna Strunsky was heavily pregnant and decided to have her baby in Paris. It was born on 8th February, 1908, but died five days later: "When our first-born died and lay a little corpse on my breast, English not knowing she was still there and that nurse had not taken her away, flung himself full length on me, his arms around me, his tears falling full on my face and sobbed: Let us not wash away our grief in tears! This is a grief for all our life: Let us not feel it all at once!" (33)
At first Anna blamed her nurse, Miss Plumb, for her baby's death: "We trusted our darling into the hands of a friend. It seems as if the hand of God held us from snatching the child away from her, for none of us liked her, all of us now remember that she filled us with dread, that she was coarse and queer and eminently out of place amongst us, trusting and fond hearts that we are, and yet none of us drove her from the house." (34) This appears to have been a temporary feeling and she wrote in less vengeful tones to her mother-in-law: "It is twelve days since my baby died-the exquisite, beautiful, perfect little child that we were allowed to keep for only five days!... I called her 'my little International' - the beauty and loveliness of every country in Europe entered in the making of her." (35)
On their return to the United States both Anna Strunsky and William English Walling worked on books about the 1905 Russian Revolution. Anna's book remained unfinished but Walling's book, Russia's Message: The True World Import of the Revolution, was published in June 1908. He admitted that he had "not dwelt on personal experience" and owed "little to writers of books and much to active leaders of the movement". The book was mainly made up of hundreds of interviews with officials and revolutionaries, peasants and workers, priests and politicians. This included Leon Trotsky and Lenin who he described as "perhaps the most popular leader in Russia". (36)
The book managed to obtain some good reviews. Walling reported that 27 out of the 30 newspaper reviews were favourable. The Nation praised him for his treatment of the peasants and said that his book was the only one to rank with the work of the British scholar Bernard Pares. However, he did come under attack from his uncle, William English, because of his negative comments about his friend, Albert J. Beveridge, the Republican senator from Indiana and his book, The Russian Advance (1903). English also disliked what he considered was "socialistic" propaganda. "The book will do one good thing certainly in any event and that is you can never go back to Russia... For which all of us are thankful." (37)
On 14th August, 1908, Walling and Strunsky heard about the Springfield Riot in Illinois, where a white mob attacked local African Americans. During the riot two were lynched, six killed, and over 2,000 African Americans were forced to leave the city. Walling and Strunsky decided to visit Springfield "to write a broad, sympathetic and non-partizan account". When they arrived they interviewed Kate Howard, one of the leaders of the riots. Walling later wrote: "We at once discovered, to our amazement, that Springfield had no shame." He and Anna were treated to "all the opinions that pervade the South - that the negro does not need much education, that his present education even has been a mistake, that whites cannot live in the same community with negroes except where the latter have been taught their inferiority, that lynching is the only way to teach them, etc."
On 3rd September 1908, Walling published his article, Race War in the North. Walling complained that "a large part of the white population" in the area were waging "permanent warfare with the Negro race". He quoted a local newspaper as saying: "It was not the fact of the whites' hatred toward the negroes, but of the negroes' own misconduct, general inferiority or unfitness for free institutions that were at fault." Walling argued that they only way to reduce this conflict was "to treat the Negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality".
Walling argued that the people behind the riots were seeking economic benefits: "If the white laborers get the Negro laborers' jobs; if masters of Negro servants are able to keep them under the discipline of terror as I saw them doing in Springfield; if white shopkeepers and saloon keepers get their colored rivals' trade; if the farmers of neighboring towns establish permanently their right to drive poor people out of their community, instead of offering them reasonable alms; if white miners can force their negro fellow-workers out and get their positions by closing the mines, then every community indulging in an outburst of race hatred will be assured of a great and certain financial reward, and all the lies, ignorance and brutality on which race hatred is based will spread over the land."
Walling suggested that racists were in danger of destroying democracy in the United States: "The day these methods become general in the North every hope of political democracy will be dead, other weaker races and classes will be persecuted in the North as in the South, public education will undergo an eclipse, and American civilization will await either a rapid degeneration or another profounder and more revolutionary civil war, which shall obliterate not only the remains of slavery but all other obstacles to a free democratic evolution that have grown up in its wake. Yet who realizes the seriousness of the situation, and what large and powerful body of citizens is ready to come to their aid. (38)
Mary Ovington, a journalist working for the New York Evening Post, responded to the article by writing to Walling and inviting him and a few friends to her apartment on West Thirty-Eighth Street. Ovington was impressed with Walling: "It always seemed to me that William English Walling looked like a Kentuckian, tall, slender; and though he might be talking the most radical socialism, he talked it with the air of an aristocrat." (39)
Also at the meeting was Charles Edward Russell. He argued: "Wittingly or unwittingly, the entire South was virtually a unit in support of hatred and the ethics of the jungle. The Civil War raged there still, with hardly abated passions. The North was utterly indifferent where it was not covertly or sneakingly applausive of helotry... The whole of the society from which Walling emerged was crystallized against the black man; to view the darker tinted American as a human being was not good form; to insist upon his rights was insufferable gaucherie." (40)
They decided to form the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). The first meeting of the NAACP was held on 12th February, 1909. Early members included Walling, Anna Strunsky, Mary Ovington, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Lillian Wald, Florence Kelley, Mary Church Terrell, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, George Henry White, William Du Bois, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, William Dean Howells, Fanny Garrison Villard, Oswald Garrison Villard and Ida Wells-Barnett.
Anna Berthe Grunspan moved to New York City and on 21st February, 1911, the New York Times reported: "Anna Bertha Grunspan, a Russian girl, who spent most of her life in Paris, told a Supreme Court jury before Justice Giegerich yesterday the story on which she hopes to recover $100,000 for breach of promise from William English Walling, the wealthy Socialist and husband of Anna Strunsky Walling, a settlement worker and writer on Russian politics. Walling denies that he ever promised to marry Miss Grunspan, who now lives at 245 East Thirtieth Street." (41)
Miss Grunspan told the court: "He told me that I was the sweetest and dearest woman on earth and that he ought to know, because he had been all over the world. He said I would make him the happiest man in the world if I would marry him. He said he was rich and that it was criminal for me to work when he had so much money." On 29th July, 1905, in the company of her parents "put a new ring, with a design of three leaves and studded with two pearls and a diamond, on her finger".
The New York World reported that: "Mrs. Walling - Anna Strunsky, authoress and revolutionist - was present in court... Several hundred comrades, men and women, packed the big courtroom. At the recesses they formed excited groups and discussed the trial in many languages." Strunsky also gave evidence in the case. Her mother-in-law, Rosalind English Walling, later recalled: "I think Anna's corroboration of her husband's testimony was good, and she said just what she ought to have said." (42)
During the trial Anna Berthe Grunspan attacked the behavior of Walling in the court: "Oh, that man, that man, I can't stand the way he's looking at me. His look goes right through me, and it's the nastiest kind of a look. It gives me the horrors. And then, too, the way he and that woman, his wife, chuckle and laugh together." Grunspan also complained about Strunsky smiling and laughing in court. (43)
The all male jury found Walling not guilty. However, the trial did have an impact on his image. Fred R. Moore, the editor of the New York Age, wrote: "We hope that no colored man or woman will in the future disgrace our race by inviting Mr. Walling in their home or ask him to speak at any public meeting." (44) There were also complaints by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and although he remained on the board he rarely attended meetings.
William English Walling was a supporter of the Socialist Party of America (SPA) but he did not join. He explained to Eugene Debs his position: "I have been working for years on a book, not on Socialism but on the Socialist movement. If this book is to be read by a non-Socialist public, which is exclusively the one to which I am addressing myself, it would have to be written either by a famous Socialist like yourself, or else by one who could claim to be strictly non-partisan in his attitude... I feel that I have a moral right to complete the work and put it before the public as non-partisan, and that I can best serve the Socialist cause in this way." (45)
A small group in the SPA favoured closer links with American Federation of Labor and the development of a mass political party such as the Labour Party in Britain. This included figures such as John Spargo, Victor Berger, Morris Hillquit and Robert Hunter. On 19th November 1909, Algie Martin Simons, the editor of the Chicago Daily Socialist, a member of this group, sent Walling a letter on this issue. Walling was totally opposed to any measures that would merely moderate the capitalist system. Walling now published this letter and described it as an example of a right-wing conspiracy within the National Executive Committee.
This action created a "near-riot" in the SPA. (46) Simons was appalled by Walling's actions. He wrote to Walling a few days later: "The thing that shocked and pained as nothing I have had happened to me during my work in the Socialist movement, is the terrible revelation of the character of one in whom I have always had the most complete confidence." (47) Spargo was especially upset by Walling's actions: "Mentally unbalanced, erratic in his movements, Mr. Walling is one of the most pathetic figures I have ever encountered." (48)
William English Walling joined the Socialist Party of America in February 1910, to join the struggle against the moderates. However, elections for the National Executive Committee that month returned those who Walling had been attacking. Walling was dismayed and wrote to Eugene Debs complaining that the results showed "a large part of the rank and file of the party are fools." (49)
Walling published Socialism As It Is: A Survey of The World-Wide Revolutionary Movement in April 1912. He looked at the growth of socialist parties in Europe such as the Labour Party and the German Social Democratic Party that had obtained legislation on social issues. Walling argued that reforms such as old age pensions, designed to soften the impact of capitalism on workers - as calculated merely to reinforce the system. He also dismissed the government ownership of major components as an advanced, transitory stage of capitalism. No society, he maintained, could be considered socialist until it reached "equality of opportunity" Walling insisted that the major problem of the capitalism was its educational system: "The most anti-social aspects of capitalism, in its individualist or collectivist form, are the grossly unequal educational and occupational privileges it gives the young." (50)
In 1912, Walling's friend, Max Eastman, became editor of the left-wing magazine, The Masses. Organised like a co-operative, artists and writers who contributed to the journal shared in its management. Walling joined the team as did Floyd Dell, John Reed, Crystal Eastman, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Amy Lowell, Louise Bryant, John Sloan, Dorothy Day, Cornelia Barns, Alice Beach Winter, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, K. R. Chamberlain, Stuart Davis, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.
In his first editorial, Eastman argued: "This magazine is owned and published cooperatively by its editors. It has no no dividends to pay, and nobody is trying to make money out of it. A revolutionary and not a reform magazine: a magazine with a sense of humour and no respect for the respectable: frank, arrogant, impertinent, searching for true causes: a magazine directed against rigidity and dogma wherever it is found: printing what is too naked or true for a money-making press: a magazine whose final policy is to do as it pleases and conciliate nobody, not even its readers." (51)
Walling was given the job of writing a column about worldwide socialism. Anna Strunsky also wrote for the magazine. She tried to persuade Jack London to supply articles: "Max Eastman mailed you yesterday the three copies of The Masses that have so far appeared. We are all quite mad about this publication, and we want something from you, if it is only a paragraph. Eugene Debs wrote a letter - do the same, if you are not inclined to write anything more at the present moment, but a word from you at this critical juncture in the infant life of the magazine we must have." (52) However, London had lost interest in socialism and he did not reply to the letter.
William English Walling, like most of his friends, was totally against war. He wrote that he supported "not only the ordinary Socialist opposition to all wars, but the taking of the most desperate means to prevent them". (53) However, on the outbreak of the First World War he changed his mind on the subject as he agreed with H. G. Wells that the conflict would lead to a revolution against Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II. (54)
Walling wrote to Jack London in 1915: "I am an ultra-optimist about the war. I think it is altogether going to eclipse the French Revolution and have an infinitely greater result for good in all directions - before we are through with it... the everlasting smash of German civilization and all it stands for is worth almost any price." Walling added that "practically all of the men in the Socialist movement in the different countries are, to his mind, pro-Germans and pacifists, peace-at-any-price men." (55)
Anna Strunsky disagreed with her husband over this issue of the First World War. Whereas he urged President Woodrow Wilson to join on the side of the allies, Strunsky joined the Women's Peace Party and argued for a negotiated peace. Other women involved in the organization included Jane Addams, Mary McDowell, Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, Anna Howard Shaw, Belle La Follette, Fanny Garrison Villard, Emily Balch, Jeanette Rankin, Lillian Wald, Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Mary Heaton Vorse, Freda Kirchwey, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Crystal Eastman, Carrie Chapman Catt and Sophonisba Breckinridge. Walling described the activities of these women as "bourgeois pacifism". (56)
Max Eastman, the editor of The Masses, disagreed with Walling and argued that the war had been caused by the imperialist competitive system. Eastman and journalists such as John Reed who reported the conflict for The Masses, argued that the USA should remain neutral. Most of those involved with the journal agreed with this view but there was a small minority, including Walling, Graham Stokes, John Spargo and Upton Sinclair, who wanted the United States to join the Allies against the Central Powers. When Walling failed to convince his fellow members he ceased to contribute to the journal.
William English Walling now began to attack those in the the American Socialist Party who opposed the war as really being secret supporters of Germany. Emma Goldman wrote to Anna Strunsky: "I hope you and the children are well and that English is not quite as rabid on the war question as in the past. It is absolutely inexplicable to me how revolutionists will become so blinded by the very thing they have been fighting for years." (57)
Walling was even more critical of his former comrades in private. In a letter to his father he wrote: "A Washington friend on the inside told me today he expected that Germany would declare war on us after we had taken certain hostile commercial action. I expect this too - within a few weeks. I desire it - because of pro-Germans, wild Irish, Catholics, anti-Japanese, peace fanatics, treasonable Socialists and the armament trust in this country. Only that will silence them all." (58)
After the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 Anna Strunsky supported armed struggle to protect the gains of the revolution. Walling wrote to Strunsky in March, 1917: "Of course I think your proposal to attack in the back those who are giving up their lives for democracy, peace, and anti-militarism is criminal to the last degree. But the world is moving in spite of all you do to help the militarists and reactionaries. You are their accomplice and neither I nor mankind, nor the genuine idealists and revolutionaries of the world will ever forget or forgive what your kind has said and done in this great hour. If I fight it will be against the traitors to internationalism - I trust you will not be among them." (59)
Strunsky replied that women tended to value peace more than men: "Ever since Rosalind English was born I have seen everybody as a little baby shining on a pillow or on a mother's breast; I have had a mother's tenderness towards the world of men and women; I could always see everybody as they were born to be, not as they were." However, she had changed her mind about the use of violence because of events in Russia: "A Revolutionist believes in the people and opposes the established order - my faith in the people and opposition to establishment law and order are deep and integral with my whole being. I am not a Junker because I not only give my consent to the rioters of the streets of Petrograd for what they did, but had I not you and our children I would not have hesitated, even at this distance to join them and fall by their side for a regenerated Russia. As it is, rich and wonderful as my life is with you and my children I do not at all feel that I belong wholly to myself and the time may come when I, the most passionate lover of life ever born, may go out to meet death for my Cause - as gallantly as any soldier ever did - but I will make sure that it is my Cause and not the Cause of my enemy... I have capitulated to your point of view about this War. What else can we do with the enemy at the door of the Russian Revolution but give him battle and rout him? Until the German people revolt we have to repel their advance upon freedom and democracy with the edge of the sword." (60)
William English Walling feared that the Provisional Government in Russia would negotiate a peace settlement with Germany. Walling joined forces with Graham Stokes, Upton Sinclair and Charles Edward Russell, to send a telegram to Alexander Kerensky, the Minister of War, warning against a separate peace. (61) William B. Wilson, Secretary of Labor, suggested to President Woodrow Wilson that Walling should be sent to Petrograd to negotiate with Kerensky. "I know of no Socialist in this country who has been more in touch with the Socialistic group of Russia or understands them better than Mr. Walling." (62)
Emma Goldman was furious with Walling and other pro-war socialists and wrote in Mother Earth: "The black scourge of war in its devastating effect upon the human mind has never been better illustrated than in the ravings of the American Socialists, Messrs. Russell, Stokes, Sinclair, Walling, et al.... As to English Walling, he was the reddest of the red. Though muddled mentally he was always at white heat emotionally as syndicalist, revolutionist, dissenter, etc... One might overlook the renegacy of a Charles Edward Russell. Nothing else need ever be expected from a journalist. But for men like Stokes and Walling to thus become the lackeys of Wall Street and Washington, is really too cheap and disgusting." (63)
William English Walling and his left-wing friends who argued for intervention on the side of the Allies formed the Social Democratic League of America (SDLA). Early members included Graham Stokes, John Spargo, Upton Sinclair, Charles Edward Russell, Algie Simons, William James Ghent, Allan L. Benson, Frank Bohn, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius and Alexander Howat. Stokes claimed that the SDLA had a membership of 2,500. However, Kenneth E. Hendrickson, has argued that outside the leadership "the organization must be said to have existed on paper only." (64)
One of the main objectives was to join forces with pro-war forces in Britain. Spargo, who had been born in England, visited London and had a meeting with Henry Hyndman, the leader of the Social Democratic Federation. Although the Labour Party had given support of the war, and its leader, Arthur Henderson, was a member of the government, and in August, 1917, he made a speech in favour of the proposed Stockholm Peace Conference. Spargo was also concerned about the growth in support for Ramsay MacDonald and his peace group.
It was not long before Walling began falling out with other leaders of the SDLA. He objected to the idea that John Spargo should become president of the organisation. He particularly disagreed with Spargo's tolerant position on wartime dissent. Graham Stokes tried to negotiate with Walling about his relationship with Spargo but ended up frustrated with Walling's inability to compromise. Stokes told Walling: "You sometimes make it terribly hard for your friends to work with you." (65) Spargo eventually resigned from the SDLA accusing Walling of believing that "practically all of the men in the Socialist movement of the different countries are, to his mind, pro-Germans and pacifists, peace-at-any-price men." (66)
William English Walling was an avid supporter of the Espionage Act that was passed by Congress after the United States entered the First World War. It prescribed a $10,000 fine and 20 years' imprisonment for interfering with the recruiting of troops or the disclosure of information dealing with national defence. Additional penalties were included for the refusal to perform military duty. Over the next few months around 900 went to prison under the Espionage Act.
Walling had now abandoned his beliefs in socialism. In an article published on 10th November 1917, he made a savage attack on Socialist Party of America. Entitled "Socialists: The Kaiser-Party" it argued that the party was under the control of "several million German-drilled voters". Walling called for the suppression of dissent: "We must isolate it, brand it and set the rest of the nation against it... we can be certain of nothing unless we take the offensive against these Allies of the Kaiser - and take it now." (67)
Walling had moved so far to the right he accused the Woodrow Wilson administration of being infected with bolshevism: "The evidence from public expressions of influential friends of Mr. Wilson is sufficient enough to make a book to prove the pro-Bolshevist tendencies of our government... I really believe that every revolutionary movement in Europe from the mild and revolutionary Socialism of Arthur Henderson to Bolshevism has been largely sustained by the Wilson appointees with the full knowledge of Mr. Wilson himself." (68)
In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson appointed A. Mitchell Palmer as his attorney general. Palmer claimed that Communist agents from Russia were planning to overthrow the American government. On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists were arrested. Palmer and Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large number of these suspects were held without trial for a long time. The vast majority were eventually released but Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Mollie Steimer, and 245 other people, were deported to Russia.
This was the beginning of what became known as the Red Scare. Walling welcomed this development. He supported the decision of the House of Representatives not to allow the socialist, Victor Berger, to represent the people of Milwaukee. On 5th January, 1920, the New York Assembly did the same for Socialist members elected in New York City. In a letter to the New York Tribune, Walling welcomed this move. (69) He was immediately attacked by John Spargo who asked how it was possible for anyone who considered himself a democrat could support such an "outrageous assault on parliamentary government". (70) Upton Sinclair, another former member of the Social Democratic League of America, also disassociated himself from Walling. (71)
Another former colleague, Walter Weyl wrote an article attacking Walling: "I once knew a revolutionist who thought that he loved Humanity but for whom Humanity was merely a club with which to break the shins of the people he hated. He hated all who were comfortable and all who conformed. He hated the people he opposed and he hated those who opposed his opponents in a manner different from his. Zeal for the cause was his excuse for hating, but really he was in love with hate and not with any cause. The war came, and this vibrant, humorless man, this neurotic idealist who was almost a genius, found a wider vent for his emotion. His hatred, without changing its character, changed its incidence. He learned to hate Germans, Bolshevists, and radicals. He completed the full circle and soon was consorting most incongruously with those whom he had formerly attacked. Today nothing is left of his radicalism or his always leaky consistency; nothing is left but his hatred. At times he hates himself. He would always hate himself could he find no one else to hate. He is becoming half-reactionary, half-cynical. He will end - But who knows how anyone will end? (72)
The relationship between William English Walling and Anna Strunsky became very difficult after their political differences during the First World War. Walling left the family home and in 1932 filed for a Mexican divorce, but Anna refused to recognize the end of the marriage. Anna wrote to her son-in-law Rifat Tirana in November 1932: "English promised me he would come back when he left me. Eventually he will keep that promise... He has made mistakes and so have I, and for the most part each was the cause of the other's mistakes... Now we have come to an impasse, because I look upon my life with English as a collaboration. He cannot ask me to write the wrong ending to the book we have been writing all these years. All he can do is suspend publication - which is exactly what has happened." (73)
On 27th September, 1933, Strunsky wrote in her diary: "I was wrong when I fell in love with him and began my life with him. I was never safe in his hands. He worked against me in the dark with my children, his mother, so passionately dear to me, my friends and family. He did worse - he worked against me in the dark with himself, in his own heart, for he never gave me a chance to explain, to defend myself." (74)
Strunsky's old friend, Leonard D. Abbott, asked her to marry him. James Boylan, the author of Revolutionary Lives (1998), has pointed out: "She loved him (Abbott), she told herself, but she did not admit him to the status of lover. She remained always radical in public, Victorian and bourgeoisie in private." (75)
William English Walling died of pneumonia in Amsterdam on 12th September, 1936. On his bedside table was a new edition of Michel de Montaigne, with a passage marked: "Do not be afraid to die away from home, do not abandon travel when ill or old."