American Front

American Front by Harry Turtledove Read Free Book Online

Book: American Front by Harry Turtledove Read Free Book Online
Authors: Harry Turtledove
here in the United States but also in Germany and Austria and in France and England and even in Canada and the Confederacy?—yes, I dare say that, for it is true,” she went on over a chorus of boos, “have struggled shoulder to shoulder to achieve? I say we cannot. I say we must not. If you believe the sacred cause of labor is bound up in the idea of world politics without war, give generously to our cause.” She pointed down to a washed-out peach tin, the label still on, that sat in front of her crate. “Give for the workers who harvested that fruit, the miners who by the sweat of their brow dug out the iron and tin from which the can is made, the steelworkers who made it into metal, the laborers in the cannery who packed the peaches, the draymen and drivers who brought them to market. Give now for a better tomorrow.”
    A few people stepped up and tossed coins into the peach tin. One or two of them tossed in banknotes. Flora had plenty of practice in gauging the take from the racket the money made. She would have done better today working in a sweatshop and donating her wages to the cause.
    She thanked the small crowd less sincerely than she would have liked, picked up the can, and started down the street with it toward Socialist Party headquarters. She’d gone only a short way when a beer wagon full of barrels pulled by a team of eight straining horses rattled out of the Croton Brewery and down Chrystie Street. It got more applause than she had—seeing a load of barrels was supposed to be good luck—and would make far more money for its firm than Flora had for the Socialists.
    The thought depressed her. The Party had been educating the proletariat all over the world, showing the workers how they could seize control of the means of production from the capitalists who exploited their labor for the sake of profit. They’d made progress, too. No civilized government these days would call out troops to shoot down strikers, as had been commonplace a generation before. Surely the revolution, whether peaceful or otherwise, could not be far away. What sort of weapon could the plutocrats devise to resist the united strength and numbers of the working classes?
    Her lips thinned into a bitter line. How simple the answer had proved! Threaten to start a war! All at once, you estranged German workers from French, English from Austrian, American from Confederate (though the Rebels also called themselves Americans). Few Socialists had imagined the proletariat was so easily manipulated.
    Tenth Ward party headquarters was on the second story of a brownstone on Centre Market Place, across the street from the raucous market itself. A kosher butcher shop occupied the first story. Flora paused for a moment in front of the butcher’s plate-glass window before she went upstairs. Some of her dark, wavy hair had come loose from the bobby pins that were supposed to hold it in place. With quick, practiced motions, she repaired the damage. Inside the shop, the butcher, aptly named Max Fleischmann, waved to her. She nodded in reply.
    Fleischmann came out and looked down into the peach tin. He shook his head. “You’ve made more,” he said in Yiddish, then reached into his pocket and tossed a dime into the can.
    “You didn’t have to do that.” Flora felt her face heat. Her eyes flicked to her reflection in the window. She couldn’t tell if the flush showed. Probably not, not with her olive skin. “You’re not even a Socialist.”
    “So I voted for Roosevelt? This means my money isn’t good enough for you?
” Fleischmann’s wry grin showed three gold teeth. “If you people go bankrupt and have to move out from upstairs, who knows what kind of crazy maniacs I get right over my head?”
    “When we moved in, you called us crazy maniacs—and worse than that,” Flora reminded him. She stared down into the can of peaches. That charity dime made the day’s take no less pathetic. Shaking her head, she said, “The whole world is

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