Jack London’s Endless Journey | The Village Voice

Socialism leaves little room for tragedy — ­that’s partly the point of it — and London was in love with the tragic. A socialist world, as he envisioned it, wouldn’t be much to write about. “The Strength of the Strong” (1911), which London wrote explicitly as a defense of socialism, features a group of trib­al types sitting around bemoaning their inability to band together. Thanks to this lack of solidarity, they are always being de­feated. But some day, Long Beard says at story’s end, ”all the fools will be dead and then all live men will go forward. The strength of the strong will be theirs, and they will add their strength together, so that, of all the men in the world, not one will fight with another.”

Some day. Meanwhile, the passions that kept London traveling wouldn’t let him an­chor in socialism. The tension between the individual and the collective — between London and the world — that propelled his journey would have to be resolved elsewhere.

London sought the elemental, and the elemental qualities he located in American life were not the inevitability of socialism but selfishness and death. In “The Minions of Midas,” an exceedingly elemental story, the titular minions are a cabal of workers who blackmail a capitalist. He must give them $20 million, or they will kill people. They are, they explain, tired of being drudges and need capital to win life’s battle. The capitalist stands firm; the minions murder innocents steadily and with impuni­ty; the capitalist kills himself. The minions declare their intention to continue killing until the last capitalist generation. And there the story ends.

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