Trade Union Notes. I By Trade Unionist. I The most startling event in the Trade Union world during the past few weeks was undoubted- ly the strike of South Wales colliery examiners. It was, moreover, quite an unexpected affair. Although it was known that they had tendered notices in September, and had subsequently been postponed, by arrangement, until October, it was xot seriously contemplated by anyone that a stoppage would result. The cause of the stoppage was, as is well known, the desire of the examiners to have their union recognised by the employers. One can well understand the oppo- sition of the employers to such a proposal, be- cause there is a considerable difference between the examiners as employees and the bulk of col- liery workmen. They have always been closely associated with the managerial side of colliery work; they have large numbers of men under their control; men whose work they have to order and supervise. They have also, in the past, ¡been of considerable service to the employers during industrial troubles, as they were expected to do any and every work which was necessary to keep the collieries open. In this respect they have always been the right hand men of the em- ployers, and have without doubt been the means of preventing much loss to them. No wonder the employers kicked. But for many years now, more and more work, more and more responsibility, has been put upon the shoulders of these men. In days long gone by, the examiner or fireman as he is generally called, did nothing more than examine the work- ings, and generally look after the safety of the particular district assigned to him. His sole responsibility (and it was 3, large one) ended there. But, as time went on and the craving for large and increased outputs became more pro- nounced, the fireman was transformed from one who looked after the safety of the mine to a traffic manager. He was. to see that the output of coal was kept up, and should there be a de- creased output on any day he had to give an ex- planation to the manager, and one can quite realise that the poor man would often be blamed and severely censured for not being able to ac- complish the impossible. He became a hustler. He was more concerned about keeping the wheels turning," than about the safety of the mine. He was terribly hard-worked and had a load of responsibility put upon him which was more than he could reasonably bear. In addi- tion to all this he was responsible' for the accu- rate keeping of the time worked by every work- man in his district. The examiner began to feel that if he was to have his interests attended to he would have to organise, and for many years now an Associa- tion of Firemen has been in existence. It is only within the last four or five years, however, that the Association has been able to induce the men in any large numbers to join up. As soon as they became fairly well organised they began to make their influence felt, and several reforms in their conditions of employment and increases in their wages have been the result of their efforts. But their union was not recognised, and it is their determination to secure recognition which precipitated last week's stoppage. It is evident that the firemen are realising that they are held in bondage, because of their classifica- tion as 11 officials," and are determined to free themselves from such bondage, by the ordinary working-class method of combination; in other words, they are beginning to realise that they must be less closely associated with the managerial side, and more closely associated with the workman side of colliery work. « :•< Their decision to return to work, pending ne- gotiations upon the points in dispute. was as un- expected as their decision to strike. I sincerely hope that they will be able to come out on top, and that the employers will have to climb down. As for the future, I am of opinion that the ex- aminers' union should affiliate with the miners' organisations upon such conditions as will not only strengthen the position of the examiners, but also make it impossible for the employers to ufce them in future industrial disputes to bring about the defeat of the workmen. To say the least, the signs are propitious. :í: Another matter upon which the Trade Union world, and, indeed, the whole country is much concerned is the ballot of the South Wales miners upon the down tools policy in case the comb-out should be proceeded with. As was expected the results go to show that 70 per cent. of the coalfield is against the policy. There is great jubilation in the Jingo press over the re- sult, but it would be well to remember that it does not follow that the workmen are in favour of the comb-out scheme. They might be against the scheme, but not prepared to oppose its opera- tion. by refusing to work. The comb-out will now be proceeded with, and the 1914 men will have to leave the mines for the army, those of them who are fit. These are not many in number, and then will begin the combing-out of young un- married men between 18 and 41 years of age. This latter fact, has, I am afraid, been over- looked by large numbers of miners, who were under the impression that only 1914 men were affected. V The Chancellor of the Exchequer has consented to receive a deputation of the Parliamentary "Committee of the Trades Union Congress, the Executive of the Labour Party, the Executive of the Triple Industrial Alliance, and the War Emergency Workers' National Committee on the 14th of November, on the important matter of the conscription of wealth. I wonder how their proposals will be welcomed? They are going to urge that inasmuch as the Government has not shrunk from compulsorily conscripting men, that they should not any longer finance the war by borrowing capital at interest, but should immediately conscript the wealth of the country that a. suitable measure -would be .the immediate imposition of a gra- duated levy on all capital wealth on a basis of the existing death duties. They will further urge that, in order to effectively organise the productive resources of the nation, the control which the Government is now exercising over Capitalist interests in the railways, canals, mines, armament and munition works, etc., .should be converted, under equitable conditions, into Government ownership. Mr. Bonar Law is not likely to give sympathetic consideration to such revolutionary proposals, but let the workers, in particular such of them as are sup- porting the continuation of the war, remember that unless they are adopted and applied, an in- tolerable burden will have to be placed upon them when the war is over. The importance of insisting in the most strenuous fashion upon the above proposals is "ernph,a-,ised by the fact that the large employers' associations are concerting together in order to look after their particular interests. They are evidently getting alarmed at the situation; they are afraid that Labour, both in the industrial and political field have designs upon Capital and that it is becoming more powerful than ever. They have, therefore, concluded an agreement which provides, among other things, for the setting up of an authority designed to review the conditions of work (hours and wages) with- out Government interference. Large bodies of workmen continue to demand substantial increases in wages. The engineering and foundry trades for the whole kingdom are demanding an increase of 4d. per hour. The matter is to go to arbitration. Again, a joint application from the shipbuilding trade all over the country, for an increase in wages of 20 per cent., and a 50 per cent. curtailment in food prices is being considered by the Committee of Production. Increased wages are all very well and very necessary, but I am convinced that if the unions were only as energetic in pressing the Government to try and secure,, the war objects by negotiations rather than by fighting, as they are in pressing for increased wages, the result would be much more beneficial to the workers.
Blackwood Miners and the Comb-Out. CONDEMNATION OF EXECUTIVE LEADERS. OVERWHELMING VOTE FOR CONFERENCE DECISION. Under the auspices of the Tredegar Valley District of Miners, a mass meeting of the Black- wood men was held in the Council Hall, Black- wood, on Tuesday (Oct. 30th). Mr. R. Lundgan (President of the District), was in the chair. Mr. Charles Edwards (acting miners' agent) and Mr. Oliver Harris (E.C. member) addressed the gathering and explained the comb-out scheme, with the recommendation of the Execu- tive Council to vote against the down tools policy. Both leaders, though apparently lacking in the spirit which moves men in their advocacy of a wroihy cause, emphasized the recommenda- tion of the leaders to consider the men in the trenches before voting on such a drastic policy as "down tools." Mr. Harris condemned war as the maddest of all mad things," but this war, having been started by Germany must be fought out until the German people were pre- pared to negotiate. Mr. George Davies was the first to raise oppo- sition to the views of the leaders, and in a few scathing remarks pointed to the reactionary policy adopted by the leaders during the 1915 struggle for the new agreement up to the pre- sent time. Councillor Sydney Jones followed and ex- pressed his disposition to respect the responsible leaders of the Federation, but at the same time he was bound to condemn their present policy, like their past ones, as inimical to the best in- terests of Labour and the future of Democracy. He pointed out how the press, platform and poli- tical schemes had, during the last three years, carried into effect the motto of the Capitalists to e( Divide and Conquer." The workers need only think for themselves a few moments and they would be able to analyse the position. The process of dividing had been going on very plausibly. First it was the attested and unat- tested; secondly, the married and unmarried; thirdly, and now, it was the bona-fide miner" against the 1914 men. Could anyone (he asked) who was not duped by the machinations of the Capitalist press and benighted leadership fail to see the object of such cowardly tactics P Coun. Jones quoted a statement made in the House of Commons in 1915 by a responsible army officer who termed trade unionism as "that refuge for slackers and shirkers; martial law would cure it." Great applause greeted Coun. Jones' cri- ticism and condemnation of the Government, the profiteers and their satellites. The fight for small nations had developed into a fight to win at home. Mr. Jones expressed his sorrow for the leaders who failed to learn anything after three years of war. To them there were no democratic leanings toward a saner policy in any other country but Britain. This was hypocrisy or ignorance. The endeavour to divide the bona- fide miners and the 1914 men was an endeavour to rouse the prejudices and passions of men of the same class to destroy their interests. The miners looked at their political interests as distinct from their economic interests. Here was a field for the militarists to exploit. The time was here and now to take the line of ad- vantage and least resistance. INTX. Jones ap- pealed to his fellow-workers to look all round the question; to consider the new war aims; to look at the pawns in the game. At this stage an "attested man warned the meeting to beware of the pacifists, I.L.P.ers, and irresponsibles, but he was quickly replied to by Mr. Jones, who drew his atttention to his "Bolos and the line of least mental resistance. This retort was received with loud cheers, and the Jingo dupe was a. crestfallen man. A resolution was then moved to accept the re- commendation of the Executive Council and to vote against the down tools policy. This was promptly opposed with an amendment to stand by the decision of the conference held on Octo ber 8th expressing dissatisfaction and even disgust with the leaders and the Capitalist press in their attitude towards the delegates at that conference. This amendment was ably seconded by Mr. Ronald Griffiths (secretary, Markham's Lodge), who referred to past decisions of na- tional conferences as being, in the opinion of cer- taiin leaders the "opinion of the rank and file." A motion that no vote be taken" was put, but quickly negatived. The original proposition and amendment were then put, and amid great enthusiasm and deter- mination was carried by a very large majority. The vote having been taken the chairman de- clared the meeting closed with expressions of opinion that it was the best meeting ever held in the town and a proof of the coming dams. It is significant to note that the Jingo inter- rupter had his great mental strain reported in the Capitalist press, but not a, line of the speeches made by others. Several voiced the opinion that Coun. Jones' speech ought to be published as propaganda for the new movement in the coalfield.
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» The International Outlook. I BY THE HON. BERTRAND RUSSELL. I One of the advantages, of war, from the stand- point of Governments, is that it enables them to conduct their most important business in secret and so to escape from all criticism. We are ac- customed to the speeches of our "never-endians" telling us that it is impossible to contemplate peace until Germany has been defeated in the field, that Prussian Militarism is the enemy, and can only be destroyed by military disaster to the Germans. Whatever the Germans may say in the diagption of seeking peace, we are assured is a trap, a mere means of securing a breathing space to prepare for the next war. And we are invited to suppose that it is better the war should continue for ever than that it should stop .and break out again a generation hence. This is the picture presented to the general public. Meanwhile strange glimpses of quite another order of facts are allowed us at intervals, pre- sumably by inadvertence. Cotnmon-Sense of October 27th, and the "Manchester Guardian" and Daily Telegraph a few days before relate a story which, whether or not it is accurate in all its details, is certainly not without founda- tion. It appears that during the month of Sep- tember Monsieur Briand, the late French Prime Minister, had interviews in Switzerland with some eminent German-Prince Buelow, accord- ing to one account—in which the whole question of peace was carefully discussed and a German offer was made. As regards the Western Powers we are told that Germany offered to restore com- plete independence to Belgium, to give back Al- sace-Lorraine to France, and to cede Trieste to Italy. These sacrifices were to be compensated by German acquisitions at the expense, of Rus- sia, but what these were. to be has not been dis- closed. This offer was rejected, and, according to the "Daily Telegraph," the responsibility for its rejection falls upon the British Government. In the Secret Session of the French Chamber on October 12th, Monsieur Ribot, the .Foreign Min- ister, confessed that something of the sort had taken place, but stated that the German offer had been summarily rejected. The Chamber has since forced his retirement from the French Gov- ernment, largely it would appear because of his refusal to entertain the idea of negotiations on the above basis. If it is indeed the case that Germany in Sep- tember was willing to make peace on such terms, we can well understand the unwillingness of our Government to allow the truth to become known. France and Italy would have obtained all that they wanted and we should have secured whatever can be regarded as legitimate in our war aims. France is very weary of the war and beginning to suffer a serious depletion of man- power. Italy has a growing and powerful peace party. We do not know whether this fact has any connection with the feeble resistance which, we are told, was offered by the Second Army on the occasion of the recent disasters in the Alps. Russia, which would presumably have suffered territorially by the acceptance of the German offer, has such an imperative need for peace as to be probably willing to accept even very dis- advantageous terms. If the Russian Revolution is to be saved, if democracy in Russia is not to degenerate into anarchy, accompanied by wide- spread starvation and ending in a military dis- tatorship, an early peace is absolutely impera- tive. We are said to be fighting for democracy, and yet every month that the war is prolonged places democracy in Russia in greater jeopardy. But such considerations, it would seem, weigh not at all with our militarists, who, relying upon America, appear only anxious to keep, the war going until American strength can make itself felt, that its for another two years, at least. Democracy in war time is, of course, a farce. An enormous proportion of the democracy of every belligerent country is in the trenches. The men in the trenches are carefully prevented from knowing the facts and from expressing political opinions. They have only one privilege, the privilege of dying for objects which are concealed from them, and which many of them would view with abhorrence if they knew them. Those who arrogate to themselves the name of patriots hfeve indulged in one plot after another to prevent the passage of the Reform Bill which gives votes to soldiers and sailors. The last of these plots is the sudden proposal for redistribution in Ire- land, adopted by the Government after some vacillation and affording good ground for hope that the next Parliament may have to be elected before our soldiers and sailors acquire the right to express their opinions by means of the ballot box. Those who stand for peace by negotiations are constantly being accused of being traitors to the men in the trenches. The truth, of course, is the exact opposite. It is they who are the friends of the men in the trenches; it is they who have at heart the objects with which men enlisted in 1914, while the Governments are al- lowing the slaughter to continue for ends which they will not avow. Mr. Bonar Law has now stated in the House of Commons (October 29th) that the Allied Conference which is about to, take place is not to concern itself with war aims but only with the military situation, and Lord Northcliffe has been telling the Americans that the war is likely to continue for a long time yet. Certainly he ought to know, since it is he who controls our destiny. Meanwhile the opportunity which existed in September has been allowed to pass. It is to be feared that the German Government, in the midst of its spectacular victories over the Italians, will forget the desire for peace which was forced on it by public opinion and the Reichstag, and will find less difficulty in keeping the German public patient through the coming winter. One of the most hopeful of recent move- ments, the rebellion of the Reichstag against the Pan-Germans, and its attempt to democratise the German Government, is likely to be nipped in the bud. The victory of the Allies, which has been said to be imminent ever since the war be- gan, recedes once more into the background. In view of the speech of Count Czernin on disarma- ment and of the German Government's accept- ance of similar views, it is practically ce?,rt,?in that the idealistic part of our nominal war aims- could have been obtained in September. All that we should have had to forego would haye been certain territorial acquisitions and the ex- ultation of victory. Is it for these things that we are really fighting? Even now the democracy of Great Britain could, if it chose, compel the Allies to state their war aims. It Has been hoped that the Allied Conference would do this, but this hope, like many others, has grown dim. Meanwhile ruin and starvation are marchmg upon all the nations of the world, belligerents and neutrals alike. An unparalleled disaster is threatening to overtake all' mankind. It seems that the Governments have not the power to avert the calamities which they foresee. It is time that the peoples came to the rescue to save mankind from the effects of incompetence and madness in high places.
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Is Political Action Worth While ? I SUCCESSFUL YNYSHIR DEBATE. The crowded hall and the keen interest re- vealed by the intelligent applause of the audi- ence demonstrated on Sunday week last at Ynyshir the importance of this much-discussed question of tactics. It was not the first time that the two debaters—each wejl-known in his own sphere—had engaged in mental combat; progressives in the Rhondda still recall the tussles over the Ruskin College v. C.L.C. con- troversy some years ago. Both Mr. Ablett and Mr. JUardy Jones were in fine form. The rapid extempore reasoning of Ablett, with its apt il- lustrations and clever sayings, brought the house down. While the well-prepared case of Mai'dy. given in a somewhat different manner, also re- ceived merited appreciation. The following are only a few of the points made in the wordy war-i fare. In leading off, Ablett quoted Marx on the need for the working-class movement to be con- stantly criticising itself and overhauling and re- valuing its weapons and retracing its footsteps in the light of its own experience. According to him, politics and parliaments were essentially Capitalist. Political rights had been given to the working-class by the Capitalist class in order to complete the defeat of the landed aristocracy. Political action was not revolutionary. The edu- cationist, the journalist, and all other hired hacks of Capitalism saw to it that the working- class was diverted from the things which really mattered by indulging in useless political squab- bles and by a. bogus political equality. The people who hoped to elect a majority of workifig- class political representatives were chasing a shadow. Votes were playthings to keep children quiet. If ever the playthings were used in a dangerous fashion, then, as in Germany and America, redistribution of votes and the dis- covery of flaws in the elections were made. Even granting the possibility of getting a majority, would then the capitalists "hand over on re- quest would a speech sound the death-knell of their power But even if thus political organisa- tion could accomplish the downfall of Capital- ism, it would be completely unable to carry on after. In to-day's fight, in the industrial organisation of the workers, was being formed the structure of the morrow. In politics things were done for the workers; in industrial matters they were, from the bottom up, beginning to do things for themselves and to form an industrial framework functionally fitted to carry on pro- duction. The weapon of political action was a speech, its end hot air in a gas-house on the way (vide Morris) to become a dung-heap. In the withdrawal of his labour the worker had more forceful arguments which in their perfec- tion would enable him to win control and lock out the shirker. Political constituencies had a geographical basis and contained mixed ele- ments. In previous ages, the worker with a dangerous idea in his head had the idea and the had forcibly removed at once. Now, the "free" wage-worker's head is stuffed with illusions about his political rights and lie is allowed to argue violently over Dis-estaolishinent and Free Trade. Because of all the above reasons and be- cause unity was achieved easier on the industrial field, the "working-class, neither for destructive or constructive purposes, had any use for a poli- tical organisation. Jvír. Mardy Jones began his case by telling the fable of the mice who wished to bell the cat, and the trend of his arguments went to show the difficulty of. this operation. He' thought his op- ponent had underestimated this difficulty, and had failed to clearly show how the Capitalist I cat was to be robbed of its dangerousness. Poli- tical and industrial organisation were necessary. Control by the industrial union was right and proper, but ownership and the safeguarding of the consumer would be still vested in the State. Not only in the future Industrial Commonwealth but now, the cross on the ballot-paper (denoting at any r21,teas much intellectual advancement as the shout for down tools") would play a use- ful part in the desired overthrow of the Capital- ists. Out of sixteen millions, only four millions of the workers were organised, and that in over a thousand unions. ViThat of the other twelve? Many of the latter in sweated trades, lacking the self-respect necessary to the formation of de- mands and organisation, could be reached by Wage Board Acts and their feet placed upon the ladder. Degrading poverty did not generate ideas of revolt; they came from workers who had already tasted a higher state of life. The strike and the vote were useful. How otherwise could 1 the State forces be controlled? If one country was advancing faster than the others the Capi- talists of the former would invite the help of their friends in the latter to crush the working- class movement. The votes of the workers were the result of a bloody struggle and not a gift from above. A Labour majority was possible, and one which could nationalise the mines, the factories, the railways and all the other means of production and utilise them, not for profit- making, but for the good of all. Again this majority could control foreign policy, destroy secret treaties and establish a League of Nations. Political organisation recognised the strength of nationality, a mighty factor, ignored somewhat by his opponent, yet capable of being exploited by press, platform, and pulpit to hinder and split the progressive movement if nations were not recognised and welded into an International. 111 the second round" Ablett replied that the industrial union souglrt control of industry to use it for the good of the community; owner- ship was an unnecessary relic of the past. The industrial union did not need the backing of a political organisation, therefore it was foolish to swim the river to fill the bucket on the other side. The introduction of the machine was a greater educator than Wage Boards. He, too, was anxious about the twelve million unorgan- ised workers, and he advocated the sending of missionaries to tell them, not how to vote, but how to organise industrially. It was national- ism and nations which kept the workers apart and resulted in wars; patriotism should be dis- placed by class-consciousness. An international industrial organisation recognising neither race, creed, sex or colour was superior to a League of Nations. Politics produced only reforms, obtain- able by quicker methods, and tended to disunity. In his turn Mardy said that industrial move- ments were forced to find political and legal ex- pression, e.g., the 1912 Minimum Wage Act of the miners. Thus, the change desired could be hastened by legislation. Ireland, Poland and Russia proved that the trade union movement could not develop while national questions block- ed the way and that political action did bring about revolution. Free speech and press could be protected and foreign questions dealt with. The State was a community. The Capitalist class used both weapons. The dual nature of the Labour Movement demanded the industrial or- ganisation to represent the consumer. Ablett wound up the debate in a final five minutes. The Irish and Russian agitations he dismissed as Capitalist revolutions. In 1912 the Miners' Federation did not find the political party of use in commanding the attention of Cabinet Ministers, and with larger alliances political action would become even less useful than in the past. The trade union movement, no longer regarded as the affair of a moment or a day, and confined to petty questions of hours and wages, stood out clear as the structure of the Industrial Commonwealth. M.S.
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