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by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle Chapter 29 Summary
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The speaker concludes, and Jurgis feels stunned with the truth of what he has heard. Jurgis feels free. He will be able to bear any suffering now that he has heard this new message of labor uprising. Jurgis can take control of his own fate. After the meeting ends, Jurgis sits impatiently through the question and answer period. What's the point of talking when they should be getting out there and doing stuff? Jurgis feels that he has found a family again. Jurgis seeks out the speaker after the meeting has ended. Jurgis thanks him for the speech. The speaker asks Jurgis if he wants to know more about socialism. Jurgis answers that he didn't know that was socialism, but yes, that is what he wants. The speaker is exhausted and cannot explain personally to Jurgis. Still, he introduces Jurgis to someone who can: Comrade Ostrinski, a Polish man who speaks Lithuanian. Jurgis tells Ostrinski his whole life story, and Ostrinski promises that they will help him. Ostrinski invites Jurgis to sleep on his floor for the night, and the next day, they will find something better. Ostrinski lives in a tenement building. He works at a clothing factory, and is very poor. Ostrinski explains the problem: in a capitalist system, poor people have to compete with one another to make money. Whoever works the cheapest and the fastest will get the wages. This means that older workers or people who get sick are immediately left out in the cold. By keeping workers competing against each other, many workers don't think to organize or to look out for the interests of workers as a whole. This is why the only tool against this kind of enforced competition is "class consciousness" – being aware of the needs of laborers as a group, rather than as individuals. Meanwhile, the people who own these factories and don't have to compete; they just profit from cheap labor and mark up prices on the products their workers make. Chicago is the industrial center of the United States, which is why the unions are strong. The problem is that the employers – the meatpacking companies – are also organized. They work together to break strikes and to fix prices. Fortunately, the union workers who have suffered from strikes getting broken up are coming over to the socialists. The Socialist Party has chapters in every city and town, with over a million and a half books and pamphlets published every year. The growth in the party has really spiked over the last few years. Ostrinski was a socialist agitator back in Silesia in the 1870s. (Silesia is a province of what used to be the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck. After World War I, parts of Silesia were divided into Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany.) Once he came to the U.S., he had to start all over again. When he first arrived in America, most workers really believed that all Americans were free. Yet, over the past few years, conditions at the stockyards and in other factories have become so awful that many workers have realized the need for socialism. Jurgis feels a sense of almost religious inspiration to learn that there are workingmen like him throughout the world, struggling against the Man. Ostrinski assures Jurgis that the Socialist Party is not like other political parties. There are no back room shenanigans or party bosses. It is totally controlled by its membership. And the Socialist Party is the only really international party. Its goal is to establish real freedom and brotherhood for all mankind – much as Christ promised nineteen hundred years ago. Jurgis sees that the Beef Trust has about as much care for its laborers as it does for the hogs and cattle it slaughters. What's more, the Chicago government is just one more tool of these millionaire businessmen. The job of socialism is to teach the working people of the city how to take control of these factories for themselves.
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