Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 29

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Chapter 29

  • 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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