Holyoke’s Socialist Member

by Laurel | January 8th, 2012

Note: Moritz E. Ruther ran for the office of Governor in Massachusetts in the 1909 election, representing the Socialist Labor Party. Sadly, Mr. Ruther died in 1914 at the age of 57 after a lengthy illness.

08 January 1899

Alderman Moritz E. Ruther

Sketch of the Man With a Pocketful of Orders

The chances are that if you were attending the meeting of the Holyoke Board of Aldermen you would choose many times before picking out as its socialist member the quiet, mild-looking man that occupies Alderman Goss’s old seat in the city government chamber. Whatever may be thought of socialists and socialism as an “ism” a few minutes talk with Mr. Ruther will convince you that he is very much in earnest. Yet in his work so far in the council chamber he has held himself well in restraint, except in one instance when he kicked over the traces in regard to the water department. There is yet such wide ignorance concening socialist that there were doubtless many who expected to see in Alderman Ruther a long-haired, frenzied man, with a dynamite bomb tucked under one arm, and manuscript speeches on anarchy tucked under the other.

Alderman Ruther does not aspire to be the leading socialist, and his political ambitions are not lofty. He is essentially a home-lover, and prefers rather, he says, to spend his evenings with his family at his pleasant cottage home in Elmwood. yet for the sake of the doctrines n which he believes, he believed it to be his duty to make a fight for the place in the board, and there to carry out, so far as possible, the socialistic ideas. His meeting at Elmwood for the purpose of discussing with the citizens of that section measures that he proposed to introduce, is the carrying out of the socialistic idea that the representative of those who elect him. Too often the expression of a few friends of the alderman govern him rather than the desire of the whole people; this is the mass-meeting of referendum seeks to avoid. His bombardment of the last meeting of the board with seven or eight orders was subject to some criticism, but the orders were not of the visionary character that some feared, and were received with respectful attention. Later there may be some sharp debate, but Mr. Ruther has been trained in debate, so that he will not fear it.

Mr. Ruther’s work on the board is yet too meager to form a proper estimate of its probably value. As yet, he has developed no symptoms of talking for talk’s sake. That he has a bitter wit that he can use when necessary is evidenced by his caustic statement that in his opinion the water board “smelled of Keough.” It is quite likely that any one who tries to run a tilt with the “socialist alderman” will find an antagonist not to be despised. Ruther speaks earnestly, at times almost passionately, when addressing the board. He has a pronounced German accent, but not enough to prevent clear enunciation. He uses few gestures and does not indulge in slang. When he is called upon to act as teller it is seen that he is slightly lame. His face at rest often wears that patient dreaming look that marks the idealist. His smile is pleasant and in his address he is affable and courteous, and it is evident that he is by nature a gentleman. His hair and mustache are dark, tinged with gray, and his face is of the floridity that is common to the Teutonic race in middle life. Mr. Ruther is 42 years old, and was born in German, coming to this country when 14 years old. He is a cigar maker by trade, and is employed in Michael Connor’s cigar factory. Holyoke has been his family home for many years, although he himself has lived here only six years. It was in New Haven that he first got an inkling of the doctrines of socialism , although in the Irish World of 20 years ago there were papers that set him thinking. In 1881 he joined the socialist labor party, and has remained with it ever since. He has read on the socialistic line widely, and has written much on this theme for the local press. He looks upon the formation of trusts as a natural sequence of things, and a step toward the acquisition of the means of production by the “co-operative commonwealth” that is the dream of the socialist.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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