The iron heel by jack london


IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT THE Everhard Manuscript is an important
historical document. To the historian it bristles with errors- not
errors of fact, but errors of interpretation. Looking back across
the seven centuries that have lapsed since Avis Everhard completed her
manuscript, events, and the bearings of events, that were confused and
veiled to her, are clear to us. She lacked perspective. She was too
close to the events she writes about. Nay, she was merged in the
events she has described.
Nevertheless, as a personal document, the Everhard Manuscript is
of inestimable value. But here again enter error of perspective, and
vitiation due to the bias of love. Yet we smile, indeed, and forgive
Avis Everhard for the heroic lines upon which she modelled her
husband. We know to-day that he was not so colossal, and that he
loomed among the events of his times less largely than the
Manuscript would lead us to believe.
We know that Ernest Everhard was an exceptionally strong man, but
not so exceptional as his wife thought him to be. He was, after all,
but one of a large number of heroes who, throughout the world, devoted
their lives to the Revolution; though it must be conceded that he
did unusual work, especially in his elaboration and interpretation
of working-class philosophy. 'Proletarian science' and 'proletarian
philosophy' were his phrases for it, and therein he shows the
provincialism of his mind- a defect, however, that was due to the
times and that none in that day could escape.
But to return to the Manuscript. Especially valuable is it in
communicating to us the feel of those terrible times. Nowhere do we
find more vividly portrayed the psychology of the persons that lived
in that turbulent period embraced between the years 1912 and 1932-
their mistakes and ignorance, their doubts and fears and
misapprehensions, their ethical delusions, their violent passions,
their inconceivable sordidness and selfishness. These are the things
that are so hard for us of this enlightened age to understand. History
tells us that these things were, and biology and psychology tell us
why they were; but history and biology and psychology do not make
these things alive. We accept them as facts, but we are left without
sympathetic comprehension of them.
This sympathy comes to us, however, as we peruse the Everhard
Manuscript. We enter into the minds of the actors in that long-ago
world-drama, and for the time being their mental processes are our
mental processes. Not alone do we understand Avis Everhard's love
for her hero-husband, but we feel, as he felt, in those first days,
the vague and terrible loom of the Oligarchy. The Iron Heel (well
named) we feel descending upon and crushing mankind.
And in passing we note that that historic phrase, the Iron Heel,
originated in Ernest Everhard's mind. This, we may say, is the one
moot question that this new-found document clears up. Previous to
this, the earliest-known use of the phrase occurred in the pamphlet,
'Ye Slaves,' written by George Milford and published in December,
1912. This George Milford was an obscure agitator about whom nothing
is known, save the one additional bit of information gained from the