12 THE REVOLUTIONARY AGE July I919 Labor is Not a Commodity SAMUEL GOMPERS has fought to. years for legal recognition of the fact that Labor Is Not a Commodity or Article of Commerce. At the Thirty Ninth Annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor just ended, Mr. Gompers proudly proclaimed from the platform that he had written this sentiment into the Peace Treaty at Paris. It developed that after the American delegates left Paris the provisions of the International Labor Charter had been somewhat weakened according to a cablegram from President Wilson himself, and the sacred sentiment itself had been changed to read Labor should not be regarded merer as an article of commerce.
Andrew Furuseth said that it was as if he had demanded a declaration stating Andrew Furuseth is not a scab and instead, they had put it, Andrew Furuseth is not merely a scab.
In the great white hall out at the end of the Steel Pier at Atlantic City, with the heavy surges running underneath, and the sea wind sweeping over, six hundred delegates of the American Labor movement met in the reconstruction convention. Said one delegate.
in a spread eagle speech, Reconstruction? We don need any reconstruction in this glorious country. All we need is a few slight reformsl. No one suddenly dropped down in that hall would have guessed that this was the annual meeting of delegates from all sections of one of the most powerful labor movements in the world. Portly figures, good clothes, expensive cigars, diamond rings and pins in abundance, buttons of lodges and fraternal orders Elks, Masons in whose ranks these workingmen hob nob with business men.
manufacturers, members of commercial clubs and Chambers of Commerce. Few workingmen here. It looked like the Democratic Na: tional Convention but a little more prosperous looking; or like the annual Congress of the Dress Goods Manufacturers.
And it run: like that. This convention was composed of persons with a commodity to sell; and the commodity was Labor. Moreover, Labor was sold there in hundreds of different ways.
Let us make a rapid survey of what was done by the Thirty Ninth Annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor: Sentenced Torn Mooney to life imprisonment, by condemning the July 4th General Strike, and ferociously denouncing the International Workers Defense Union. Oflicially denounced the One Big Union movement, and all forms of industrial union15m. Approved of the Initiative and Referendum in politics, and disapproved of It in the American Federation of Labor. Ignored the Winnipeg strike, and, in a speech by Gompers from the chair, ridiculed the Seattle strike. Refused to endorse the Labor Party and advised against it although. owing to tltc strength of the movement, the Federation declared that it would not interfere with the affiliated national and international unions in this matter. Requested the Government to recognize the Irish Republic and not to recognize the Soviet Republic. Condemned the Russian people to starv ation wholesale by refusing to ask for the lifting cf the blockade. Voted down a resolution demanding the release of political prisoners, and declared By JOHN REED.
Impression: of the of Convention.
that many of the sentences imposed were fully jtlstifif Decided to organize the Steel Industry. 10. Passed a resolution condemning the abuse If judicial powers in construing the law. and advising workers to disregard injunctions in industrial disputes.
11. Voted down a proposal to change La l:or Day to May Ist, and another to arrange it that all contracts expire May Ist because the International Labor Movement of Europe Twhich is revolutionary celebrates on that ay.
12. Requested the President to dismiss Postmaster General Burleson from office. 3. Voted down a proposal that the workers demand the right to elect their foremen. Nhy, said Matt Woll, speaking on this motion, that is the business of the employer not the worker You might as well have the workers elect the Board of Directors I4. Endorsed the bill in Congress to restrict foreign immigration for a term of years including Mexican immigration.
15. Refused to support Soldiers and Sailcrs Councils, and in particular, the Soldiers. Sailors and Marines Protective Association.
16. Refused to take a stand against the deportation of radical aliens.
17. Requested the Government to repeal the Espionage Act. but only after peace is signed, when it will automatically cease to function anyway.
18. Endorsed the Labor Carter attached to the. Covenant of the Leagu of Nations hich has been denounced by the Labor Movemerits of every civilized country on earth and gave its qualified approval to all the words and deeds of Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party.
The report of the Resolution Committee recommended that the Executive Council give their early attention to considering ways and means to get a new trial for Mooney. Then it launched into a bitter attack upon the International Workers Defense League, accusing the League of attempting to break down the Trade Union movement by taking a strike referendum of the organization. Irresponsible groups of men, it said, found in Organized Labor a rich field for exploitation. An attempted general strike would, in the words of the Committee, seriously injure the effort to secure a new trial for Tom Mooney.
The report ended. The Committee would be remiss in its due ties if it failed to call attention to the fact that representatives of the International Workers Defense League who are its agents soliciting funds for Mooney defense are doing him an incalculable injury and also creating internal disturbances within the Trade Union movement through their continuous attacks, unjust criticisms and misrepresentations of the American Federation of Labor, its officials and the officials of affiliated organizations.
Patterson, of the Defense League, was given the floor. In a passionate speech he pointed out that for two years various labor leaders had been going around the country whispering that Mo oney was guilty; that repeatedly he had offered theSan Francisco Labor Council and the San Francisco Building Trades Council full charge of Mooney defense, and offered to turn over to Organized Labor all funds and machinery and that both the American Federation of Labor and the great InternationalUnions had refused to do anything to help Mooney, nor had the convention done anything.
Concerning the Committees recommendation against the initiative and referendum in the. of L, interviewed Frey. His argument was that if there were initiative and referendum in the Federation, some outside organisation would surely be able to get hold of the membership and break down the or ganization. He admitted to me that the masses of the membership could not be trusted to make laws for themselves without the interposition of some deliberate body, and some rule which provided for a period of deliberation. l he recognition of the Irish Republic was the price paid by Gompers to the Sinn Feiu politicians in the, convention, in return for which they agreed to throttle Soviet Russia and support the League of Nations. This action was on a par with the deeds of the chekho Slovaks, who, to gain their own independence, sold their arms to the Allied Imncria ists for the black purpose of destroying the freedom of the world workers. Anyway, it meant nothing nothing but words; and even then, the United States Senate has demanded practically the same thing.
The Committee objection to recognizing Soviet Russia was, according to Frey, because it was not democratic. As far as can understand it, he said. it is a government of the workers, and theworkers alone. Therefore we cannot recog nize it!
The proposal to terminate all contracts with employers on May first. and to change Labor Day from September first to May Day, was voted down for two reasons: first, because May Day was celebrated by European Labor and Socialism and second, because if the, workers of the United States celebrated on the day following the abrogation of their contracts.
they would be too excited! We don want to have a Labor Day when every body is hotheaded, explained Frey.
Thursday, June 19th, was taken up with the report of the Committee on Executive Council Report. At 30 Louis Morones was seated as a fraternal delegate from the Mexican Federation of Labor. At 11. 30 Matt Woll read the report recommending the exclusion of foreign immigration, which was quickly amended and passed to apply also to exican immigration. saw Morones afterward. He was pale, and very much agitated. What effect, asked him, will this have upon the Pan American Federation of Labor Convention, which is to meet in New York in July? Ie. wiped the sweat from his forehead. Disastrous! he said. In the present moment, when the great American interests are urging the invasion of Mexico, the Mexican rworkers believed that they could; rely upon the American Federation of Labor to oppose these plans of annexation. They will ndt now be so sure.
When the question of the League of Na tions came up, Andy Furuseth made a violent attack upon the Labor Charter in the Peace Treaty. He declared that it had been altered by the diplomats after the American delegation left Paris, and that it provided, anyway, that the League of Nations would be able to interfere in the daily life of every worker in the world. He said that a clause against human