War of the Classes by Jack London (Heathen Edition)

War of the Classes

But in this struggle fair women and chivalrous men will play no part. Types and ideals have changed. Helens and Lancelots are anachronisms. Blows will be given and taken, and men fight and die, but not for faiths and altars. Shrines will be desecrated, but they will be the shrines, not of temples, but marketplaces. Prophets will arise, but they will be the prophets of prices and products. Battles will be waged, not for honor and glory, nor for thrones and scepters, but for dollars and cents and for marts and exchanges. Brain and not brawn will endure, and the captains of war will be commanded by the captains of industry. In short, it will be a contest for the mastery of the world’s commerce and for industrial supremacy.

Jack London (born John Griffith Chaney; 1876–1916) was a prolific American short-story writer, novelist, journalist, adventurer, and social activist, who pioneered accessible commercial fiction with two of his best-known works The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), which established him as one of the first highly successful American authors. Claiming neither to be a theorist nor an intellectual socialist, London’s brand of socialism grew out of his life experience, beginning with his scrappy, working-class youth spent hopscotching through myriad jobs in San Francisco and Oakland, to sailing the high seas, joining the Alaskan Gold Rush, and tramping across the United States – all before the age of 20. War of the Classes, the first of two essay collections espousing his views on socialism, presents the origins of his hard-won socialist philosophy and, when viewed through the lens of today, eerily prophesies the burning fuse of capitalism advancing toward the powder keg of our current international social strata.

So strongly about socialism did Jack London feel that he would sign his letters “Yours for the Revolution.”

Think about that for a second.

Let it sink in.

Imagine receiving an e-mail from someone today signed “Yours for the Revolution.”

Or maybe you just received one five seconds ago because we live in an age where someone somewhere is likely already capitalizing on that phrase to sell you stuff. Like a book.

Maybe that’s the problem with today’s world, it lacks that level of commitment to any problem: Yours for the Revolution.

If you were to judge us by what we sign off with most, we’re fully committed to 😂 👀. Because capitalism, right? The very thing London is warning about in these essays. Be careful he bellows from the cusp of the 20th century, yet here we are—well into the 21st—everyone communicating with emojis instead of words, as if our language is reverting to a primitive state. Evidence that capitalism is “Yours for the Devolution,” perhaps? Regardless the volution, London seemed sure of one thing: “…change of direction must be either toward industrial oligarchies or socialism. Either the functions of private corporations will increase till they absorb the central government, or the functions of government will increase till it absorbs the corporations. Much may be said on the chance of the oligarchy.”

Much, indeed. What with corporate lobbyists, court-approved monopoly-spawning mergers, no-bid government contracts, and primetime Senate hearings the line between which of the two has increased the most at present seems more blurred each day. That’s why these essays seem so prescient—not because sermons of equitability are still being preached, but because we’ve traded London’s Rockefeller and Morgan for our Bezos and Zuckerberg. Which is to say that while much in the world has changed since London originally penned these essays over a century ago, not much has changed at all.

When you consider these essays as a whole revolving through the View-Master® of now, maybe it’s not more socialism that we require, as London proffers, but less crony capitalism. Expanding on the main essays with asides like the shady dealings of a railroad magnate named Huntington and the origins of terms like Hooleyism makes you realize that observation was as true for London’s new century as it is for ours.

As for the text, London wrote for the masses so his text overall is a short, breezy read. However, he was still a writer of his time and his original text is peppered with the evidence, so we’ve updated a few instances of archaic and hyphened words to reflect their modern usage.

Simple though the text seems, the great majority of our work for this edition lies in its nearly two hundred footnotes. We resolved to leave no stone unturned as we cross-checked London’s vast array of sources and researched his long list of quoted names. His original text also included eight footnotes of its own and to differentiate between those and our numbered additions, we have set the originals out using asterisks.*

Finally, in case you’re not sure where we stand in this debate, we have prepared this rhyme: Heathens we be, capitalists all three.

P.S. Buy our book. Or read it online for free. Just read. #literaturepositive

  • Heathenry: A Note on the Text
  • Preface
  • The Class Struggle
  • The Tramp
  • The Scab
  • The Question of the Maximum
  • A Review
  • Wanted: A New Law of Development
  • How I Became a Socialist

“Mr. London, in the role of Socialist, will be a surprise to some of his readers. But, according to his own word, he has long been a Socialist. Whether he writes on socialism, or The Call of the Wild, Mr. London’s style partakes of the strength and buoyancy of his own young and vigorous nature.” —The Albany Law Journal

“As simple and straightforward as a grizzly bear.” —Julian Hawthorne, Los Angeles Examiner

“His work is as timely today as when it was first written. After a century, London would hardly have to change any of these prophecies to update his portrait . . . As loudly and clearly as anyone in his generation, he heard and responded to the call of socialism that was echoing around the world.” —Jonah Raskin, The Radical Jack London

“Mr. London’s book is thoroughly interesting, and his point of view is very different from that of the closest theorist.” —Springfield Republican

War of the Classes is no whit inferior in the vigour of its style and the sweep and rapid movement of its thought to any of Jack London’s work. Certainly no other American, and probably no English writer, has produced anything in the advocacy of socialism that can compare with it in forcefulness and literary merit.” —Robert C. Brooks, The Bookman

“Reading ‘The Tramp’ a century later, one can still appreciate the enormity of London’s ambitions for it.” —Jonathan Auerbach, Male Call: Becoming Jack London

“This new book is not so much an argument in favor of socialism as an attempt to show that we are rapidly coming to a socialistic state. Economically Mr. London is brilliant . . . He seems to be right in his belief that the trend toward socialism is remarkably strong just now, and certainly the financial, industrial, and political scandals of recent times are rapidly making socialists. Mr. London’s little book is well worth reading, and its closing essay is not the least significant chapter.” —Vogue

“It is a dismal but not fanciful picture of our ‘tooth-and-nail’ society which Mr. London has drawn . . . He is a powerful, impulsive writer, who is violent with a violence that comes from genuine indignation, and sensational because he seems to have known the sensations of bitter and intense experience.” —R.A. Scott-James, Modernism and Romance

“Jack London has the courage of his convictions; few men dare to say so plainly what they think of existing conditions and their outcome. Mr. London reasons clearly, and endeavors to show us just where the danger of the future lies, where we as a nation may stumble and fall, and how it is possible to get around this danger. The book is written with a purpose, strongly and vividly. It is not pessimistic, but tells the truth, in an effort to stimulate the world to think seriously and clearly, and then to act.” —C. Edna Bramble, Book News

“It would be easy to name a half dozen prominent writers of the last decade who occasionally admitted that they were socialists, but their socialism was generally of such a mild inoffensive sort that it didn’t hurt them much with their capitalist friends. London, however, is the genuine, old-fashioned, proletarian, class-struggle socialist.” —International Socialist Review

“We must commend Mr. Jack London for the perfect frankness with which he tells his audience what Socialism is, and what it aims to accomplish. He does not dissemble. He is not mealy-mouthed. He does not croak Socialism in timid disguises. He does not profess to regard it as a mere return to principle of the golden rule, or as a reform altogether beneficent that will harm nobody and make all the world happier. Mr. Jack London’s Socialism is a bloody war—the war of one class in society against the other classes. He says so. It is destructive Socialism. He glories in it . . . Very few socialists have Mr. Jack London’s courage.” —The New York Times

Heathen Edition #15: War of the Classes

Retail: $9.95
Published: February 6, 2022
Format: Paperback
Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.32 inches
Weight: 7.8 ounces
Cover: Matte Finish
Interior: Black & White on Cream Paper
Pages: 128 (+2 POD)
Language: English
Annotations: 183 Footnotes
Illustrations: 3

  • Title Page
  • Heathenry Flame
  • Honorary Heathen Headshot
  • ISBN-10: 1948316153
    ISBN-13: 9781948316156
    ASIN: 1948316153

  • Non-Fiction / Social Sciences / Social Classes
  • Non-Fiction / Social Sciences / Essays
  • Non-Fiction / Philosophy / Social
  • Author

    Jack London



    First Edition


    Heathen Edition

    February 6, 2022

    Page Count