Imatges de pàgina

tion. The theory that Labor produces recognized by the phrase 'producers everything and ought to have every- by hand or by brain,' whom the party thing seemed to be convincingly dem- claimed to represent 'without distinconstrated.

tion of class or occupation.' The ferment was further increased by the new theories superimposed on

IV the old ones, and actively spread by young intellectuals, drawn both from My excuse for recounting all this the trade-unions, through the Labor ancient history is that it is indispenCollege, and from the old universities. sable to a clear understanding and a balBoth have exercised a marked influence: anced judgment of subsequent events. the former by educating young work- I have cut it down to a minimum, but men in revolutionary theory and tac- have said enough, I hope, to show that tics, the latter by taking up the man

trouble was inevitable after the war, tle of Fabianism, permeating the Labor and that there were ample grounds for movement with new ideas, supplying it expecting more trouble than has actuwith arguments, and guiding its action. ally occurred. Any reader who puts

It is not surprising that in the excited together the several factors I have state of mind caused by the topsy-tur- enumerated can see how greatly the vydom of war, the feeling that society prospect of strife impending before the was ripe for a radical transformation war had been enhanced. The tradewas already gaining ground in 1917, unions had been schooled in it, and Mr. when the Russian Revolution occurred, Lloyd George himself had, in 1917, adand seemed to realize in a concrete form vised them to be 'audacious' in dethe half-conscious aspirations formed manding an after-war settlement. out of the elements I have indicated. My comment at the time was that A miscellaneous gathering of excited the advice was quite superfluous, and persons was hastily arranged in the that there would be more audacity name of Labor, and it was resolved to than he would like. The Left Wing establish soviets in Great Britain. felt that revolution was in the air, that Nothing came of it, but this incident is the trade-unions were attuned to their significant of the state of mind then purpose and that the end of the war prevailing. Things had got out of focus. would leave the field open to them and A good many labor men had lost their to class-war. They yearned to exchange heads, and others, who never had heads external for internal war, and the Arto lose, thought their time had come. mistice was no sooner concluded than

The Bolshevist Revolution followed they raised the cry - 'Get on with the and increased the confusion; it sobered only war that really matters the some, but deepened the intoxication of class-war!' Employers, on their side, others. The general stir going on in chafing under bureaucratic control and 1917 was further marked by the in- the excess-profits duty, resentful at their crease of strikes, journalistically labeled treatment by the Government, which ‘labor unrest,' by the rise of the Syn- had never consulted and flattered them dicalist shop-steward movement, and as it had the Labor side, were preparby an ambitious reconstruction of the ing to get their own back. Labor Party which was widened to in- The campaign was not long delayed: clude individual members, with special January, 1919, saw it opened by the facilities for the admission of women. engineers and the 'Triple Alliance, a The intellectual element was formally combination of miners, railwaymen,

and transport-workers, which had been of the 'hot-heads, who believe that set on foot in 1912, after the general they are fully qualified now, immediatecoal strike, and fully established at the ly, to take control of the mines, the railend of 1915. All came forward with ways, the shipyards, the factories, the large demands, behind which the mili

government of the country and the tant revolutionaries were busy stirring management of our international afup violence whereby they hoped to fairs. In this conceit of ignorance lies usher in the revolution they believed to the danger of the troubled time. The be imminent. Every pretext was seized wild men are using all devices of inciteupon, and every sort of provocation ment - not excepting a plentiful supbrought into play, to stimulate the ply of lying — to prompt them to inclass-war. The editor has relieved me stant revolt.' of the task of recounting events in de They tried it, as I have said, on tail, and it will be enough to summarize several occasions, but always failed. them.

Success depended on the amount of The year 1919 was marked by a support they could command from the series of attempts by the Left Wing to general body of men concerned, and in bring matters to a head, and they met every case the test of actual experiment with a certain measure of success. On proved that, though they had enough several occasions public order was influence to start trouble, they had not threatened, and some collisions actu- enough to carry it through. And each ally occurred; but they never got very successive failure weakened such influfar. The revolutionary gun went off at ence as they had and strengthened the half-cock, or misfired, every time. The forces of sobriety. public remained calm, though by no This is what I mean by saying that means indifferent, while the trade- the prospect has improved as each corunions refused to go beyond a certain ner has been turned. To observers at a point and showed a general disposition distance, it may appear that the state of to abide by constitutional methods. things here has progressively worsened.

The views held at this time by ad- On the surface, it has perhaps done so. vanced, but not the most extreme, men

The last three months have been econoin the trade-union movement were well mically the worst we have experienced. expressed by Mr. Cramp, of the Rail. They have been a climax, the severest waymen's Union, at the annual meet- crisis we have yet gone through; but ing of the society at Plymouth in June, the more decisive by reason of its 1919. "The centre of gravity,' he said, severity. And the issue confirms what ‘is passing from the House of Commons I wish to assert with all the emphasis to the headquarters of the great trade- at my command, namely, that superunions. . . . While social in outlook, ficial appearances are deceptive, and our ultimate aim is the control of in- that under the surface things have dustry.' But he did not advocate the steadily improved. forcible seizure of control; they must The set-back of the revolutionary first fit themselves for it by proper Left Wing is only part of the story; training. I do not think the ideas of but before going on to other considerawhat may be called the rational revo- tions, I will finish what I have to say on lutionary section can be better put. that head.

Commenting on Mr. Cramp's state- The organizations and agencies repment, the moderate Socialist paper, the resenting the Left Wing are many Clarion, contrasted his view with that in number and varied in complexion, but only two exercise any serious influence As for the political organizations, on workmen, and both of them have those that have drawn their inspiration arisen within the trade-unions. They from Moscow and pinned their faith to are the Labor College, at which young Bolshevism are sinking, with its failure, trade-unionists are schooled in Marxian into insignificance. They never had economics and sent out to spread those any hold over the general body of workdoctrines among their fellows, and the men, who have no use for revolution Shop-Stewards' Movement. The form- or the dictatorship of the proletariat'; er is an active and vigorous institution, and since the visit of members of the started in 1909, and it has produced a Labor Party to Russia in 1920, Bolnumber of young trade-union leaders, shevism has gradually, but steadily and who have become prominent in recent perceptibly, dropped into general disyears. It operates chiefly among min- favor in official trade-union circles, ers in South Wales and Scotland, where which once coquetted with it. The dethe gospel according to Saint Marx is cisive refusal of the Labor Party to adtaking the place of the old teaching mit Communists, in June last, put the among a temperamentally religious seal on a long series of rebuffs; for the people. Its influence has been con- Labor Party is more revolutionary in spicuous in the incessant turmoil in complexion than the trade-unions, the mining industry, culminating in which furnish the most solid and sober the great dispute of this year; but the part of it. termination of the conflict marked the The same tendency is seen in the limits of its sway, previously weakened gradual dropping of direct action,' by the breakdown of the Triple Alliance. or the attempt to dictate the public In both of these crucial cases the plain policy by such labor-organizations as sense of English workmen asserted it- the Triple Alliance and the Trade Union self against the adventurous policy of Congress, which was much in evidence the Left Wing; and that fact is symp- in 1919 and 1920, when it was believed tomatic of the present general trend of that the centre of gravity was passing events.

from the House of Commons to the The Shop-Stewards' Movement op headquarters of the great trade-unions.' erates chiefly among engineers and The 'Council of Action,' a self-conship-yard workers. Led by revolution- stituted and irresponsible junta of peraries, it is an attempt to turn an old sons overconscious of their own imtrade-union institution to revolution- portance and wire-pulled from Moscow, ary purposes. The Clyde is its home never did anything but talk, and has and headquarters, but it has been car- quietly faded into oblivion. All that ried by traveling agents to many cen- Bolshevism has achieved here is distres. Its constructive aim is not clearly cussion among Socialists. defined, but it is rather Syndicalist or In short, the traditional sobriety of Guildist than Socialist, especially among British workmen has been steadily vinelectrical engineers, though some pro- dicating itself, all through the alarums minent leaders profess Communism. and excursions of this trying time. In But here too the revolutionary influ- the end, it has always carried the day. ence has been waning, through the The great coal dispute is the culminatfailure of several abortive demonstra- ing demonstration of its slow-working tions, the general economic situation, but massive influence. I do not mean and the leaden weight of unemploy- merely the termination, in which the ment.

moderate element signally defeated

the extreme, but in the very demands of men to a state of subjection; and Bolthe Federation, and still more in the shevist aims, which have never been conduct of the dispute. The demands, concealed, have been furthered by and the tone in which they were made, much underground intriguing. But present a striking contrast to those em- neither are succeeding. These fears are ployed on previous occasions. Instead out of date on both sides. There is no of claims for ever more pay, less work, substance in them, and the campaign is and revolutionary changes, put forward kept up only by the ammunition which in imperative language, the Federation each supplies to the other. presented a reasoned case for modi- The truth is that the relations of emfying the proposed reduction of wages ployers and employed are undergoing universally admitted to be excessive a radical transformation, which amounts and inequitable. The policy of ruining to a revolution, peacefully and graduthe pits, advocated by the Welsh and ally accomplished. Once more the Scottish Left Wing, was defeated, and British - or perhaps I should say the the whole three months of idleness and English - people are displaying that privation passed without the slightest genius for stability in change, for move disorder, save for two or three trifling ment without losing balance, which incidents. Could that have happened has carried them safely through so anywhere else?

many revolutionary periods in the past.

I confess that I hardly expected it, so V

great was the turmoil and excitement But there is another and a positive at one time; but now I plainly see it goside to the story. It would be a great ing on. A test of extreme severity has mistake to infer from the failure of revo- been imposed by the artificial proslutionary plans and the subsidence into perity and demoralization due to wara calmer atmosphere that the Labor conditions and government control, movement is falling back into the old followed by the difficult process of unrut and yielding to reactionary influ- winding the chain, and, finally, by the ences. Not at all. It is moving for- unprecedented depression of trade, enward steadily and massively, after its tailing unemployment on a scale never wont. On the side of employers and heard of before and reductions of wages capitalists there has been a correspond- all round. ing struggle between the Right and But the country is standing the test Left wings; the Right Wing of modera- with increasing sureness. This has not tion and acceptance of change, the been visible on the surface, because Left Wing of dogged resistance and only one side of the account is presented pugnacity; and in this case, too, the to the public. Newspapers devote their Left Wing is being defeated. The revo- space to the exciting, not the humdrum lutionary press talks much of a grand events, and foreign correspondents are conspiracy against Labor and a plot particularly bound by this law. They to smash trade-unionism, just as the report strikes, disagreements, and disreactionary press talks of Bolshevist turbances, but say nothing - indeed, plots and a conspiracy to overthrow know nothing — of the peaceful prosociety and smash the British Empire. ceedings and the far greater mass of There is as much, and as little, in the disputes avoided

... one cry as in the other. There are reac- To deal adequately with this side of tionary employers who would like to the case would take a whole article; smash trade-unionism and reduce work- I can treat it only summarily here. During the present year reductions of During 1920 the Ministry settled 904 wages affecting some five million wage- cases: 265 by negotiation, 633 by arbiearners, distributed over nearly all the tration and six by inquiry. This work chief industries, have been arranged in proceeds almost unnoticed. the great majority of cases without any I must be content to mention two rupture. They have been effected by other highly important principles - a three different methods: (1) sliding minimum statutory wage, and insurscales in accordance with cost of living; ance against unemployment. Both (2) sliding scales in accordance with have been greatly extended. But of selling price; (3) negotiations between greater significance than any of these employers and trade-unions.

more or less mechanical institutions is 1. The Labor Gazette (official) for De- a change of attitude which has set in cember last gave a list of twenty-four among employers. They have begun industries having a cost-of-living slid- to take a new view of the wage-earners ing scale, and I have a further list of and to accord them a different position. sixteen. The most important groups

The idea has dawned that they are are railwaymen, textile workers of really partners in a coöperative entermany kinds, dyers and cleaners, police, prise. It is not profit-sharing, or even government and municipal services, copartnership in the old sense, but a civil engineering.

new conception of the true relationship. 2. The most important industry ap- It has not got very far and is not yet plying the selling-price method of ad- clearly perceived, but I see it emerging. justment is iron and steel, in which Employers are beginning to take their reductions ranging from 7 to 20 per men systematically into consultation, cent have taken place, affecting about and to give them an interest in the 125,000 persons.

common enterprise. It takes different 3. Arrangement by negotiation has forms in different conditions, but the been effected in ship-building, building, spirit is the main thing. mercantile marine, cotton, engineering, The scheme proposed by coal-owners, coal, and many other smaller groups. which was accepted before the stoppage

Several principles of the first im- and is the basis of the new agreement, portance have emerged from this time illustrates the spirit. Mr. Hodges, the of stress, greatly strengthened and ex- miners' secretary, has called it the most tended. I place conciliation by joint far-reaching proposal made in modern committees of employers and employed industry. It provides for a standard in the forefront. Long established and minimum wage, as the first charge on well tried in a purely voluntary form, the industry; then for a standard profit it was advancing in favor and useful- bearing a fixed relation to the aggreness before the war; but the Whitley gate of wages, and after that, for the Inquiry of 1919 resulted in a great ex- division of further profits in fixed protension of this principle. Under the portions. It is not so much profit-sharIndustrial Court Act, 70 joint councils ing as product-sharing, which has alhave been set up, and 140 district coun- ways seemed to me the true idea; and cils, where single boards existed before. the ascertainment of the amounts by a

Most of them have been active and joint audit of the books is a recognition efficient. The same act conferred pow- of partnership rights. ers of intervention on the Ministry of It is in this direction that the soluLabor by three methods: (1) Concilia- tion of our most difficult industrial tion; (2) Arbitration; (3) Investigation. problem is to be found — the problem

« AnteriorContinua »