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Labour History & Unionism The Scab

By Jack London
SITE SOURCE: Labour History

The Scab

After God had finished with the rat and the snake, 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-sogged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue.Where other people have hearts, he carried a tumour of rotten principles. When a Scab comes down the street other men turn their backs, the angels weep tears in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.No man has the right to scab as long as there is a pool of waterdeep enough to drown his body or a rope long enough to hang his car-case with.Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a Scab, for, afterbetraying his master, he had enough character to hang himself; but aScab has not. There is no word in the English language that carriesso much hatred, scorn, loathing and contempt as the term Scab. Oncebranded, a man is marked for life. There is no escape. It is infinitelyworse than the brand that was’ placed upon Cain. It goes with theman everywhere. It shadows his footsteps. It never dies, and nowonder, for it. is a synonym of all that is mean,, contemptible, unmanly. It designates the loss of dignity, honour, principle and manhood. It signifies that it is impossible for its owner to descend to lower depths. He has tried to undermine men who are battling for the bread and butter of their wives and little ones and rivet the -chain of oppression around them; he has sought to defeat his fellows.Judas Iscariot would never have sunk so low. The criminal fromthe penitentiary may to some degree, rehabilitate his character, butthe Scab is an eternal fixture, a living monument of self-inflicted shame, a reproach to honest men, a something that bears an outward resemblance to man, but from whom the dignity of man has departed forever.
As men shun the leper for fear of physical contamination, so they shunthe Scab for fear of moral contamination. When a man has descendedso low as to deserve this term, it is as eternal as though graven onmarble tablets or plates of brass. It never deserts him; it even descends with him to the grave”.