William Ross Knudsen: How I Became a Rebel

“How I Became a Rebel. A Symposium. Part 1.” The Labor Herald, June 1922, pp. 23-24.

By Wm. Ross Knudsen


FRESH out of High School, with a bourgeois psychology and fame as a roller-skater, well dressed and with a beautiful crimson necktie as a headlight, I put on my best efforts and strolled into San Diego, California.

There was a free speech fight on, but of it I knew nothing. Suddenly a policeman’s hand shook my shoulder, and when, insulted, I resisted, I was slammed in the jaw; completely subdued, I was brought before the police sergeant, absolutely in the dark as to what was the cause.

“Here’s another Red, Sergeant.”

Completely bewildered, I looked about in a frightened manner. Those ahead of me were questioned regarding Socialism, Unionism, I. W. W., etc. I thought I was in a bughouse.

“Where are you from?” “Who are you?” “Are you an I. W. W.?”

I tried to answer questions that I did not understand. “What are you wearing that red necktie for?” I finally convinced them that I was a poor “boob” and gained my freedom.

Once outside I began to puzzle my mind. Socialism? Unionism? Red neckties? and while still trying to connect them together, I suddenly came upon a radical hall. In I went and was soon buying all the pamphlets and literature in sight. As I turned to go with my arms full, a sudden commotion broke in upon my thoughts. A raid upon the hall was being made, and again I faced the sergeant.

This time I failed to explain, and into the tank I went. Here I found men talking, arguing, and singing. Next thing I knew, the fire hose was turned into the tank. I tried hard to away from the water; cracked in the back with the full force of the stream from the hose, I fell a moment later in some feet of water.

The brutal actions of the police, the confinement with these rebels, and my mental reactions to all this, caused me to have a great interest in learning what it was all about. I investigated. I read all the literature I could get. Reading and thinking produced the result–a Red.

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