The Scab


After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a ropelong enough to hang his body with. Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab does not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas sold his Savior for thirty peices of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a commission in the british army. The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself, Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country; a scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.

This very short, yet extremely powerful essay sums up, in a few simple sentences, the opinion of most working people towards scabs. The dictionary definition of a scab is any person who selfishly chooses to take the job of a worker who is on strike. But, the words of this essay tell the true “story behind the story”.

The first known printing of this essay was in the October 1924 issue of the Oregon Labor Press, a monthly publication of the Oregon branch of the American Federation of Labor. Unfortunately, no author was listed or cited, and so, his (or her) name is lost to history. Shortly afterward, for whatever reason, this short and inspiring commentary became a nearly immediate sensation. It was reprinted in hundreds, if not thousands, of union newspapers, magazines, stickers and leaflets, as well as in sympathetic journals and books regarding the struggles of working people to build a better life for themselves, their families and their community. This essay remains popular today, many decades after its first publication.

The essay is often mistakenly attributed to the famous adventure novel writer Jack London, but he is not the author. It is highly likely that the main reason why this essay has become (incorrectly) associated with him is because of the fact that, in 1904, he wrote an article with the title “The Scab” for The Atlantic magazine..

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