The New York Communist Why Political Democracy Must Go Why Political Democracy Must Go.
URING the War the American stor Umons were attacked under the pretense of military necessity, their union regulations broken down, and results of years of organization wiped out. Pleading patriotism, the employers associations represented in the Council of National Defense and other bodies secured the suspension of labor legislation in some states. Men who were istentl active in labor organization, or who ailed to buy Liberty bonds or contribute to the Red Cross, were thrown out of work, and rendered liable to the Army draft. Whole striking factories were threatened with instant conscription into the Army. In some parts of the country such workers, not only for opposing the war, but even for opposing the ruthless profileering of employers, were blacklisted by the Councils of National Defense.
At the same time private police and detective organintions, composed of business men and manufacturers. and authorized by the Department of Juss lice. used their power to crush labor organization whu evrr possible.
The Comment created a joint body of workers and employers re resentatives called the War Labor Board, to sett e industrial disputes. In many cases the awards, presumably binding upon the employers, were either accepted and not applied, or else partially disregarded. The most powerful corporations, such as the United States Steel Corporation, which has always resisted with terrorism and brute force all attempts of its lay es at organization, the War Labor Board di not dare openly to affront.
Protects of the workers against unfair awards of arbitrators during the War were met by defiance and threats from Government oflicials such as the flat refusal of Charles Piez, Director of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, to reconsider the Macy award to the Shipyard Workers of Seattle, and his ferocious. denunications of the men.
These measures proceeded from an Administration which Organized Labor had united almost solidly to elect, and whose leader President Wilson had flattered the vanity of the workers by reviewing the Labor Day parade with Samuel Campers in 1916; and during a War which Organized Labor in America had voted overwhelmingly to support in the name of democracy. t ion sufferer durin the War was the Madiinists Union. The empfoyers discovered that a drilled, highly paid machinist was a useless luxury.
Four unskilled workers could be taught each one art of a machinist job, in a very short time.
are four comparatively unskilled workers could do the work of four machinists, and do it much diaper thus destroying the union wagescale.
and throwing the skilled workers on the street.
It is interesting in this connection to quote from an article in Fincher Trailer Review, written by William Sylvis, the first great Americal labor leader. in 1863, describing the saute process applied to the Stove Moulders. Simultaneous with this was introduced the 22: ryuem. the slaves were cut up, that is.
man made one piece. Thus this system went on until it became necessary for each man to have from one to live boys; and. prices became so low that men were obliged to increase the hours a labor, and work much harder; and then could scarcely obtain the plainest necessities of It was directly from thee conditions that the first powerful national labor union sprang«the Molders International Union. Likewise. it was the replacing of skilled men with young apprenticeboys. at starvation wages, which was the chief ievance resulting in the. second great union the fiational Union of Machinists and Blacksmiths, undo the leadership of another of the famous early American labor leaders, Jonathan Fincber.
1be beginning of the Civil War, with its indu trial paralysis and widespread unemployment, wiped out whatever tentative labor organization had begun, exce for the two great national unions above mentioned. But in 1862 the Government began its issuance of hundreds of millions of dollars in greenback. which, accompanied by the high war tarid and the tremendous demand for army supplits, caused a hectic revival of industry, sad laid the foundationsvfor a class of capitalist employus. As in the European War just concluded, all classes profited except the wage earners; for while wages in 1861: had risen 30. the average of retail prices had ris 70. Maas meetings of warkingrnsn to protest again the Civil War were held in Philadelefia. heading. Norfolk, Peterborough and Richmond. Va. cinnati, St. Iowa and Iouisville, Ky. at which latter place a resolution was adopted declaring that workinnnen bad no real or vital issue in the mere abstract questions used to divide the masses. national convention of waken in Philadelphia in toloppoae the War.
By John Read The frightful pressure on. the working clans at this time led to an era of labor union organization, most of the unions being local, and afiliated in trades assemblies, which supported one mother in strikes and boycotts. The local and scattered character of these small unions corrsponded exactly to the conditions of productionat the time. But by the end of the war the manufacture of standardized products,, and the establishment, though the new railroads, of national markets, created rapidly, one after another, the great national unions. This was the real birth of the American Labor Movement.
Before the Civil War the Government was controlled by the Southern slave holding class. This control was challenged by the small capitalina of the North, opposing the interests of wage labor to those of chattel slavery. It was as representative of this small property holding class that Abraham Lincoln was elected to the Presidency, and as a rep resentative of this class that he conducted the war.
He feared the growing ruthless power of Wall Street, and warned against it again and again. And when the war was ended, with the slave power dcstroyed, he wished to see Reconstruction in. the Souh proceed rapidly and generously, so that the rising class of small property holders there could unite with the same class in the North to keep control of the Government. But Lincoln was assassinated, and there is no small evidence to prove that the bullet which killed him was fired from the direction of Wall Street. And the capitalists, sailing control of the Federal Government, prooeedcd to loot the South, and to create there such bitter sectional and racial antagonism, that it made co.
operation between the small property holders of the North and South impossible and enabled a small group of capitalists to settle themselves firmly in the saddle. Finally, abandoning the ruined South, the ruling class turned its attention to looting the public domain, natural resources, and the Cavemment State and National. Great political machines were built up throughout the country, resting on political patronage and Governmental graft, whose power to this day has never been shaken 03.
Before the Civil War there were no great capitalists. Industry was largely localized, the products being consumed where they were manufactured.
There was plenty of free land in the West to which the exploited could go, and the workman could always become a small manufacturer and merchant on his own account. Literally speaking, there was no wage earning working class as such in the United States. But the free workingmen of America who enlisted or were drafted into the Union armies, leaving a society in which the manufacturer came to them, returned after the war to find gigantic new centralized industrim, to which they must travel and beg for work. With the development of power, transportation and great factories, industry after industry left the country and moved to the city; and the worker was forced to follow. This concentration in the cities was intensified by the waves of immigration from Europe.
Free land was gone; not even the Homestead lnw, breakirlg u the great land holdings and creating millions small land owners, could prevent the growing concentration of labor power and capital.
In fact, the new free holst were at the mercy of the railroads, marketing facilities and banks, which were already in the hands of the great capitslists.
From before the Civil War to this day, the psychology of the American worker has beat the psychology not of a class conscious laborer, but of a small property holder. The evolution of industrial society in America has been so swift, that the American worker still has in his mind the idea that he may climb into the capitalist class.
Why?
Not the least of the reasons is, that two or three generations before Labor in other countries had received the first rivilege for which it fought, the American worker ad been ivenr the political vote.
The first manifestations of his class consciousness were political manifestations. In spite of nnendin disappointments, in spite of the hollownebs of al his egislative victories, the American worker eontinues to believe the promises of the capitalist political parties, and vote, vote, vote. Itistobenoticedthatthebeginninga ofAmeri: can economic labor organization were dictated by the necessity for dc ense of his class interests never clause. The Knights of Labor was founded to delend standards of living; the American Federation of Labor was formed to defend Labor inter: ests. Exec comparatively lately, as partially in the American has never sup.
ported any economic organization with a political object that is to say, with the obieu of gaining control of the State. Its efforts at political conquest of germ email have been in the form of political action and this politL cal action has never been. clmonsciotla proletarian movement, but always the joining of forces with the small property holders, in their efforts to conquer power. Such was the Union labor Party, the Greenback Labor Party, the Populists, the Bryan Free Silverites, the Progressives, and finally the Wilson Democrats. And, as we have noted in a preceding installment, these movements, which in essence were nothing more than revolts of debtors against the strangling greed of the great capitalists, failed utterly. The control of Government by the great capitalists was too strong to In all these debtor revolts, the farm. who feels the pressure the most severely, was the most prominent element. Union labor followed the farmer not as the propertyless industrial worker, but as the owner, or rospective owner, of a little property.
The latest these revolutionary movements of small property holders is the Non Partisan Lea with its program of State banks, Statecontro led elevators and transportation lines, and its combination of the farmer with Union Labor in the cities to wrest control of the State from the great financial interests. It, too, will fail.
For more than half a century American Labor has turned its attention alternately from politics to economic organization. Says John Commons, in his Historyof American Labor. The repeating cycle of politics and trade unioniln, political struggle and economic struggle, political organization and economic or anizat be of mi. Mary of my; ion, mai ou the course ln the last two decades before the European War, Union Labor, disenchanted with the failure of political action, adopted the course of adjuring pplitics, and developing the economic organization it one.
In the last decade before the European War, Houses (of Congress, and was using the Courts to the Employers Association had captured both Houses of Congress, and was using he Courts to revwe conspiracy charges against labor organizations, and to defeat them by means of the in junction, turned its attention to olitics in order to protect its economic action. olitical pressure was brought to bear upon legislatures; lobbies were maintained at Washington and in the State legislatures; the policy of votin for our frimds and defeating our enemies was argely practised; Mr. Samuel Gompers and other labor leaders were familiar figures in Congressional Committee rooms.
arguing for or against such and such a bilL The legislative achievements of Union Labor are impressive. Department of labor in Washington, and State bureau in almost every State; eighthour. laws in Govm nment work, on the railways, and in many States; Federal Boards of Arbitration and Conciliation; Workmen Compensation laws in most States; restriction of foreign immigration, and exclusion of Oriental laborers; Factory laws of all sorts, le lative safeguards, and legalization of strikes an picketin. and the Clayton An, which declares that labor is not a commodity, and professa to abolish the use of injunction in industrial disputes a law which Mr. Gompaa hailed at the new Magna Charts.
But in the last analysis, what does all this come down to? The Department of labor in Washington represems nothing but the interests of the upper strata of skilled workers; it is headed by a former workingman, William Wilson, who am Epicure: in the persecutions of miking miners by e copper barons of Arizona, and defends the doportation from the country of foreign era active in sbor or anization, on the ound that they are Bolahevi in other war. it faithfully serves the ca italist Governmt. Long before the EightHour aws were enacted, it was recognised by the more intelligent capitalist employers that they would increase the dici of workmen; and arm now they are not obeyed y en stions whose interests they do not serve. of Arbitration either arbitrate in favor of the ampleyen, who will not relinquish an atom of their powa, or fail.
Most Worlrmen a Computation laws are subject to decisions of Industrial Commis ions, or similar Samurai at Indie? and to appeal liln the capitalist courts. actory awa are era dis at and strikes, and picketin. strbughylegdnugifi atill tactically outlawed the police The Clayton is not worth. the pa it is printed on.
In spite of the phuiommialflgrowth of the American Federation of labor. and its increase of pm.
nevertheless industry has grown faster. yet. Ev before the war, that great achievt mm of the Ammican Federation of Labor, the trade t, a sort of partnership baween organ labor and capital, in which contracts were signed betwem bargaining groups to cdvu a period of time had been abolished in the largest companies, ouch as the United States Steel Corporation. Little by little