« AnteriorContinuar »
millennium. With the knowledge that the past tells us of the slow progress of the ages, of trial and travail, mistakes and doubts yet unsolved; with the history of the working class bedewed with the tears of a thousand generations and tinged with the life blood of numberless martyrs, the trade unionist is not likely to stake his future hopes on the fond chance of the many millions turning philosophers in the twinkling of an eye. Much of our misery as enforced wage-workers springs, not so much from any power exerted by the 'upper' or ruling class, as it is the result of the ignorance of so many in our own class who accept conditions by their own volition. The more intelligent, realizing their inability to create a millennium, will not descend to trickery or juggling with terms. They seek to benefit themselves and their fellow-men through trade unions and trade union action, and, by bearing the brunt, be in the vanguard in the cause, and hasten on the process of education that will fit humanity even to recognize the millennium when it arrives. Each ism has stood but as an evanescent and iridescent dream of poor humanity groping blindly in the dark for its ideal; and it has caused many a heart-wrench to relegate some idealism to movements which do not move, to the dead ashes of blasted hopes and promises. Throughout all these dreams and hopes and fears and attacks, vituperation and misrepresentation, the trade unionists have plodded along their weary way since the miner of Laurium, three thousand years ago, laid down his pick; and, though phantasmagorias and dreams have lived and died, the wage-earners, with pick and shovel, with hammer and saw and plane, with hands on the lever of the highest developed machines, kept, and keeps, organizing and plodding along toward better conditions of life.”
One of these isms we have with us today is State Socialism. Its principles, in the abstract, are as old as the seven hills of the Eternal City ; but the modern creation of DeLeon et al., is very far from the primitive ideal. It stands now as the antithesis of trade unionism ; it is antagonistic to individual liberty, and progresses along lines parallel with plutocracy.
Plutocracy, by favored legislation, and the conception of an oligarchy of politicians by a bureaucratic form of government, are identical so far as the ultimate object may be. Nor would the world be better off with either; for now if those who will not, or can not, accept the views of DeLeonism must submit misrepresention and villification, in lieu of honest argument, what would be the effect if these men had power to enforce their dictums ex cathedra?
Between State Socialism and Trade Unionism that lies a vast gulf that all the sophisms of the world can not bridge. The latter seeks through liberty of thought and action to instill self-confidence, through its educational work; it imposes
individual responsibilities, and seeks the betterment of the mass by elevating the atoms.
Modern State Socialism has its bosses, its pagod things of lingual sway; the cast-iron rigidity of its dogmas never relax; from its decrees there is no appeal; its votaries must yield blind obedience to a programme that had its origin in the diseased brains of erratic individuals long since returned to unpalpable dust, but deified by antiquity, while those who dare doubt its immaculate conception must face the vilest abuse. Its bigoted intolerance is a noted symptom of the disease, and for this reason has ruined every trade union into which it has fastened its poisonous fangs.
The State Socialist is never radical; he is simply unique. Individual liberty is his bete noir. His dream is of a bureaucratic oligarchy formed upon political machine methods, the most damnable system ever conceived in the puzzled brain of a fanatic.
It is to belie human nature to suppose that with one taste of power the “machine operators ” would not seek to perpetuate that power ; their merit system would soon fall into disrepute. Bellamy's ditch-diggers would always remain ditchdiggers; a DeLeonite would always hold his hand onto the throttle of the machine, for, yea, these many generations.
Every State Socialist organization is today a fair example of this fact. In theory it is the dream of elysium; in reality it is the quintessence of tyranny ; it is the debasement of the intellectual to thé brute nature; its votaries would exchange the blessings of liberty for the curse of slavery with a full stomach guaranteed-and the deification of DeLeonism as a "chaser."
The present system is not one over which to fall in ecstacies of delight, but rather would I accept it today, with all its fullness of possibilities of a ' Cæsar's Column,” and break a crust with thee, O Liberty, than live off the fat of the land, well-fed and sleek, it may be, but a machinized automaton, doing the everlasting lock-step of State Socialism.
Trade Unions: Their Achievements, Methods
By SAMUEL GOMPERS. After eighteen hundred years the most eminent of the world's scholars have not hesitated to write "Explanations and Defenses” of the Christian religion. The trade unionist need not therefore wonder that he, too, while defending a cause which dates back still further in the past, should be called upon again and again to give reasons for the faith within him, and reply to the new skeptics every generation produces. Long before Peter trod the streets of Rome or Paul addressed the people of
*A paper read before the American Social Science Con. gress Sept. 2, 1891, and published here by request.
Athens, the workers, the artisans of both Rome and Greece, had been forced into combinations.
At that day religion and politics were one; there was no line of separation between Church and State. Slavery was the normal type of those who labored; yet, as civilization spread and cities rose, luxuries grew in demand, and with demand arose a new class, that of free artisans, skilled in all the arts of their various callings. But whether in combinations of the captured and doomed to slavery, or in protective associations of freemen, dire necessity alike compelled unity of action. The rapacity of the rich, the unbridled licentiousness and cruelty of the age, made the life of the toiler a dark and dismal one. Yet in spite of all threats and punishments, or rather because of them, the oppressed grew closer together, and silently whispered their grievances and their hopes. The history of the ancient guilds, their federation for mutual support, their pious care of the sick, and provision for the burial of the dead, are matters well known and which I need not here enter into.
In speaking of their aims, what I chiefly desire to emphasize is the fact that wherever a union of the toilers has come into existence it has arisen from a necessity to combat oppression. A free people never rebel. Before a man can become rebellious to existing circumstances, he must have grievances; and it is only when these eat into his soul, and goad him on to either desperation or retaliation, that concert of action is instinctively felt essential. Their aim was ever the sameprotection and mutual assistance under adverse conditions. But, it may be asked, if their aims are the same as over two thousand years ago, wherein has there been any progress, if the producers of the world's wealth are still contending against injustice and combining to redress grievances ?
The conditions are vastly changed from those of preceding centuries. In Christian lands chattel slavery has ceased. The taint of labor no longer carries with it legal servitude. Yet in what manner can trade unionism claim aught towards this achievement? In the first place, it can be confidently asserted that whatever tends to produce solidarity aids progress; for it is by tbe union of people for a common purpose, the subordination of personal to general aims, that a higher standard of social morality is attained, the sympathetic nature of man quickened, and the human brought into greater prominence over the selfish animal nature. · The history of England and France illustrates in a marked degree the influence of unions upon human progress. While England presents the battlefield where the guilds have uninterruptedly continued their warfare for centuries, and have done much to establish the sturdy independence of the toilers, France no less illustrates the influence of the spirit of industrialism.
When the first wild cry for the Crusades rang throughout Europe, civilization itself seemed to be in its midnight hour. The downfall of the Roman Empire, the repeated invasions of the Goth, Hun, and Vandal, the growing strength of Moor and Moslem, the constant wars of proud baronial lords, the abject condition of the serfs, the superstitious dread in high and low of all that indicated change, seemed to prophesy the fate of the empires of the East for the future of Europe. But the crusaders built wiser than they knew. As the exigencies of the later day brought emancipation to the black race in the South, so did it then to the serf. For centuries the serf had toiled in the same weary rut worn by his ancestors. Attached to the soil, and sold with it like the oxen he drove before the plough, unable to learn the state to which he belonged, his knowledge of the world was limited to the visible horizon. But in taking up the cross of the Crusade he became a freeman. For two cen. turies the contest was waged to rescue the Holy Land; and, though the Moslem remained in its possession, the battle was not lost. For during these two centuries there was a constant return of emancipated pilgrims-men who had seen other lands, other civilizations, strange arts and luxuries of which they were hitherto ignorant. New desires, new wants, arose; and in every city of France skilled artisans were called upon to supply them. Within the walled city, the Commune of France, against the rapacity of the feudal baron with his armed retainers were pitted the industrial organizations, whose very existence demanded peaceable conditions. There more than anywhere else was most clearly seen that struggle which characterizes civilization-on the one side, militant measures, relying upon the past, and on the other, industrial measures, looking forward to the future. The king possessed but little real authority; but, allying his own cause with that of the artisans in these walled Communes (a strange alliance of king and toiler), the proud baron was over and again defeated, and the feudal tyranny supplanted.
As in earlier history the two opposing systems were slavery and trade unionism-the one compulsory servitude, the other voluntary co-operation-so here we find the guilds strengthening the hands of order in the interest of peace.
Louis IX, Saint Louis as he is termed, in return for the aid thus rendered to the crown, whereby France was enabled to escape from the tyranny and horrors of feudal rule, formally recognized the unions, and granted them privileges unknown in any other country. In short it may be confidently asserted that the growth of the French nationality, the solidifying of divergent interests, culminating in the Golden Age (as it is termed) of Louis XIV., was due chiefly to the organized artisans of that country. The student of history will not pause to consider whether such an alleged “Golden Age" was a perfect one or not, but he will realize the point I wish to emphasize: that the impetus given by the co-operation of king and guild tended to progress, annihilated feudal disorder, and furthered peaceful evolution.
On the one side, the past was represented by the mailed knight, intent on private revenge or plun• der, carrying with him terror and desolation into countless homes; his only productive skill consisted in creating widows and orphans. On the other side, the future loomed up in the form of youthful industry, to whom liberty and peace were as essential as air to lung-breathing animals. And yet but for organization these efforts would have been fruitless, and chaos and disorder would have remained. It is true that authority finally gained the upper hand, and forgot the debt of obligation due to these humble allies; but in the seed sown a spirit grew which culminated in the French Revolution, and has changed the face of the political and social world.
While this was accomplished by the French artisans through the causes and means mentioned, it must be conceded to the English that they made the most heroic and stubborn fight for industrial liberty. The laws in England for centuries continued so oppressive that even witbin scarcely more than a century the condition of Scottish miners was really that of serfdom. An author of repute states: “They were obliged to remain in the pit as long as the owner chose to keep them there; and they were actually sold, as part of the capital invested in the work. If they took work elsewhere, their master could always fetch them back, and flogged as thieves for having robbed him of their labor” (Trant). The power of the justices to fix wages continued even so late as 1812. In the fourteenth century all organizations of workman were prohibited as "conspiracies.” In fact, less than a hundred years ago, until 1795, no workmen could legally travel in search of employment out of his own parish. But restrictive laws and enactments to fix wages always end in failure. The day had passed when toilers could patiently submit. As W. T. Thornton tersely says: “Men are seldom collected together in large masses without speedily discovering that union is strength; and men whose daily avocation obliged them to be constantly using, and by use to be constantly sharpening their wits, were not likely to be backward in making this discovery.” As a result of this determined opposition of the British workmen, trade unions are now legal societies there, with due protection given to their funds, thus becoming constitutionally incorporated as institutions of that country.
To sum up their achievements in a sentence we may briefly say that, wherever the people enjoy most liberty, there trade unions are most formidable. On the contrary, in those countries where long hours prevail, where poverty sits in
stalled at the domestic hearthstone, where want and misery preside over the household economy, and hope is but a barren mockery and a dream, there the trade union is not. And it is from these lands that our plutocratic adorers of abstract liberty seek to import“hands,” numbering them with a tag, to supplant the labor of those whose brawn and muscle have won for them the liberty they delight to praise so vociferously on each recurring Fourth of July.
I have said that in those countries where economic and social misery abound and are the rule trade unions do not exist. Permit me to add that as in physical life the germs require natural conditions to their full development, so in the economic struggle for better and more humane conditions of life, the first seeds of discontent must make themselves manifest. In other words, a spirit of greater independence and awakening intelligence is essentially prerequisite to the organization of the trade union.
But their methods are revolutionary, we are told. Yes, in a sense they are. Today, as in the past, unity of action is the result of necessity. Conditions have changed, it is true; but the fight must still be waged, though it be on other grounds. The religious and political issues of the past no longer enter into the contest, but year by year the issue is more clearly seen to be purely an economic one. The workman no longer tolerates religious dissension in his craft guild; to do so would be to thresh past century straw. The devout and undevout meet together without knowing each other's religious preferences. In the modern union religion is a matter of conscience, which each must settle for himself, acting upon his own responsibility. But trade matters, questions of wages, hours, working rules (which, by the way, when enforced without or against the voice or consent of the toilers, are more tyrannical and bear worse upon him than all the laws of country or State), and other conditions of labor involve a common interest, and upon these accord is found. Political issues, purely as such, likewise find the union barren ground for sowing. There has been a steadily growing conviction among organized toilers that political aims can not settle economic demands. In spite of present efforts to unite the toilers of the land, both in factory and farm, upon a platform of political demands, I think I am right in asserting that the unions--as such-will not be found committing themselves to any such programme. Individual members in large numbers undoubtedly will, but it will be as a citizens rather than trade onionists.
And I may be here pardoned for a digression in connection with opposing methods in organizing toilers. One hundred years ago nothing was more common than bitter animosity between trades; battles between the journeymen of one and those of another were of frequent occurrence in the streets of London and Paris. Self-preservation was instinctively felt to be protection of trade privilege. Today how different is the situation! Increased personal liberty has widened human fellowship; and in the Federations of Labor here and abroad the interests of the whole are seen to be best subserved in the welfare of each.
In our country the general support given to the carpenters in their struggle for shorter hours is an example-an instance which that splendid body of independent toilers will more than cheerfully reciprocate to whichever of their allied brethren will next assume the banner at the front. Nor need we rely on this movement that the carpenters have made or other trades may make, as an example of the solidarity of feeling and concert of action resulting from the separately organized unions. Every day, in city, town, and village, the same spirit and action are manifested in instances of heroic and temporary self-sacrifice that are made to advance the interests of those working at one trade-in the hope, yes, the knowledge, that by such assistance the best interests of the entire grand army of labor are promoted.
On the other hand, we are met with a siren song, which, promising an “ideal” (some might say idealistic) organization, virtually disrupts trade lines and destroys autonomous action, by subordinating independence to obedience to central authority. As trade unionists, we know nothing of mixed unions; we ask, in the warfare for greater industrial independence, that each combatant march under his own banner, where united action is final and obligatory upon those who may be selected to lead. In short, we oppose all effort to introduce militant measures issuing from the center outward, and favor voluntary organization, preserving the autonomy of each trade. In other words, we prefer actions to promises, deeds to words.
In the half hour alloted to me it is impossible to present more than a general outline of a subject that is more important in its bearing and influences on human progress than all other questions combined. Yet, at the risk of denying myself the opportunity of a better presentation of our cause, I feel it incumbent upon me to briefly refer to the question of strikes.
Generally, the view is held that strikes form the sum total of the efforts and results of the trade union movement, when, as a matter of fact, a strike is but one of the manifestations of it. A strike necessarily exhibits antagonism, and being a public act, it attracts general attention, and, whether successful in attaining the purpose for which it was inaugurated or otherwise, a judgment is formed: it is praised or condemned according to the result. But should strikes be condemned by thinking people? Together with those who love their fellow men and who endeavor to aid in the solution of this great labor question, I believe that strikes should be avoided
whenever and wherever possible. I ask myself, however, and I ask you, Will denunciation of strikes prevent them? Should the workers suffer their already scant means to be curtailed? Would you advise them to bear all the taskmaster's oppression, his insults and injustices, without protest? Shall the natural desire for improvement in his social and economic condition be curbed upon the only ground that he is a wealth producer, a worker? I say, No, a thousand times no. Rather would we suffer the pangs of hunger for a time, when we are convinced that our temporary pain will give us at least a little relief from the overbearing tyranny, and a better opportunity to help in the struggle for amelioration in the condition and final emancipation of the toiling masses. Thanks to our trade unions, however, through the accumulation of a good fund in our treasuries, we need not enter into a strike as often as we otherwise would be compelled to, in order to resist oppression or secure improved conditions; nor need we suffer the pangs of hunger when engaged in a strike.
Strikes, as I have said, are but one of the mani. festations-aye, only the outward manifestationsof the trade union movement. Inquire from corporations and employers generally. Apply for the information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the trade unions, and, with strange accord, answers will come that the greatest work is accomplished, and that matters of wages, hours, rules, and other conditions of labor, are secured without resort to strikes. These concessions, wrested from the employing and capitalistic class every day, are ever going on, unheeded and unheralded, and form the great evolutionary force that builds up and develops a sturdy and a nobler manhood.
I have used the word “combatants.” Such, indeed, we are in all that the word implies. Against us we find arrayed a host guarded by special privi. lege, buttressed by legalized trusts, fed by streams of legalized monopolists, picketed by gangs of legalized Pinkertons, and having in reserve thousands of embryo employers who, under the name of militia, are organized, uniformed, and armed for the sole purpose of holding the discontented in subservient bondage to iniquitous conditions.
Already in many States the skirmish lines have met, again illustrating the fundamental fact of all progressive civilization; that the battle formerly drawn between religious and political opponents is, in our time, to be fought to a finish upon purely economic grounds. And in these sporadic skirmishes we again face old foes in new uniforms; the oppressor relying upon militant measures, which differ only in kind from those maintained by his mediæval prototype, the male baronial lord, -while the oppressed, forced by adverse circumstance to unite for self-protection, calmly present a solid front, and refuse to do their enemies' bidding.
Combatants? Yes, self defense is ever a virtue, and only such acts as are forced upon us do we accept; but it is a contest in which the industrial army knows no surrender. It is needless to dilate upon the time-worn calumny that we are opposing capital. On the contrary, we only regret that capital is so hedged in with monopolistic privilege, utilized to oppress, that the toiler is forced into economic subjection to its legalized holders. Trusting to the valiant spirit of the industrial army, a spirit born of everlasting Zeitgeist, -the genius of age-knowing that we are carrying the standard for which men in all ages have suffered exile, imprisonment, and death by rack and stake and gibbet-we still press on, holding a higher vantage-ground than ever in the past, and determined to “fight it out on this line” 'till the last enemy of industrial freedom is routed, and economic emancipation secured to a free and independent people, who, knowing their rights, will dare defend them against lords of either high or low degree.
While mistakes may be made and too often hasty action taken, as is ever the case in great contests, it is not our duty to carry aid and comfort to the enemy by prematurely condemning our over-zealous videttes. The struggle, as I have tried to show, is not of today only, but the bequest of time; and in taking up the burden laid upon us we should ever, while protecting our present interests, have the glorious vision of the future which even ihe present organization of the American Federation of Labor but dimly outlines.
Finally, unity of action we have; determination and grit have been manifested; fixity of purpose is our bond of federated union. What more do we require? Nothing but to maintain the same zeal and an intensified earnestness in the knowledge of the justice and ultimate success of our common cause, when
“Each man finds his own in all men's good,
And all men work in noble brotherhood." Then, paraphrasing the words of a popular play,
representing, directly, about 150,000 miners spread over 35 trade unions-and indirectly, over 400,000 mine workers. Benjamin Pickard, who presided, is a veteran in the cause of trade unionism. He commenced to work in the pits at the age of twelve and had risen to be secretary of the Yorkshire Miner's Association in 1873, when he was 31 years old. Later he became President of the Miner's Federation, which position he still holds. The House of Commons has claimed part of his time since 1885, and he sits there as representative of a Yorkshire mining constituency. His is a fine record; he has attended eighteen British Trades Congresses and has been the organizer of six International Miner's Congresses, held in different countries of Europe. He was a member of the Deputation on Peace to President Cleveland in 1887, and is a permanent supporter of the Peace Society's propaganda.
But to come back to the Congress under notice. The delegates decided that the Workmen's Compensation Act required pretty considerable amendment, especially in the direction of new clauses admitting workers in all trades to benefit. There were in the United Kingdom during the year 1898, an awful total of 70,691 workers injured whilst following their occupation, and 3,689 killed outright. A very large proportion of these, perhaps half, are not entitled to indemnity under the act of July, 1897.
Another point dealt with by the convention was the question of boy and girl labor in mines. Children can at present start to work in the mines at the age of 13, and a motion was down to get this legislatively changed to 14 years of age. A great contrariety of opinion, however, manifested itself and the question has been referred back to members.
It was agreed to press vigorously forward with the Mines Eight-hour Bill during the coming session.
But the greatest feature of this conference was the admission of the new Welsh Miners' Association (an organization with 60,000 members) into the Federation, bringing the total of federated miners up to about 210,000. Benjamin Pickard is to write to the remaining isolated miners' unions, asking them to attend a conference of all the miners of the country.
So much for a federation that is in operation and for a greater and grander one that is to be. The conference to discuss the national federation of all trade unions met for three days in Manchester, January 24, 25, 26. Nearly three hundred delegates were present, representing nearly a million workers. W. J. Davis, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Brass Workers, an 11,000 strong society, was appointed chairman. The conference opened with a fraternal reference to the lamented illness of William Inskip. All private schemes of federation were set aside and the debate on the proposed amendments to the official scheme (the plan fathered by a committee appointed for that purpose
* The World is
Labor in the British Isles. Special Correspondence AMERICAN FEDERATIONIST. LONDON, February 4, 1899.—This has been a month of federation congresses, and out of the earnest discussions that have taken place great good for Labor, organized and unorganized, is going to result. Through the last few years a process of evolution and an amount of pioneer work has gone on, and out of the turmoil there has risen an influence for greater unity, an influence which is now materializing and which before long has passed will have remodelled national industrial conditions very greatly for the better.
The annual meeting of the Miner's Federation of Great Britain was held at Edinburgh on January 10, and the following days. Fifty-five delegates