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He writes: "I wish it to be understood that this
refers only to the immediate policy of the unions. One cannot see what
the future of the dominant parties in the United States will be, and
should it come to pass that the two great American political parties
oppose labor legislation, as they now favor it, it would be the
imperative duty of unionists to form a third party in order to secure
some measure of reform."[241] Certainly both parties are becoming more
and more willing to grant "some measure" of labor reform, so that Mr.
Mitchell is unlikely to change his present position.

Whether the unions form a separate party or not, is to them a matter not
of principle, but of ways and means, of time and place. Where they are
very weak politically they seek only to have their representatives in
other parties; where they are stronger they may form a party of their
own to co÷perate with the other parties and secure a share in
government; where they are strongest they will seek to gain control over
a party that plays for higher stakes, brings to the unions the support
of other elements, and remains in opposition until it can secure
undivided control over government, _e.g._ the Socialist Party. Whether
the unions operate through all parties or a Labor Party or a Socialist
Party, is of secondary importance also to Socialists; what is of
consequence is the character of the unions, and the effect of their
political policy on the unions themselves. In all three cases the
principles of the unions may be at bottom the same, and in any of the
three cases they may be ready to use the Socialist Party for the sole
purpose of securing a modest improvement of their wages--even
obstructing other Party activities--as some of the German union leaders
have done. They may also use a Labor Party for the same purpose--as in
Great Britain. Or they may develop a political program without really
favoring any political party or having any distinctive political aim--as
in the United States.

The labor unions, even the most conservative, have always and everywhere
had some kind of a political program. They have naturally favored the
right to organize, to strike and boycott, free speech and a free press.
They have demanded universal suffrage, democratic constitutions, and
other measures to increase the political power of their members. They
have favored all economic reform policies of which working people got a
share, even if a disproportionately small one, and all forms of taxation
that lightened their burdens.[242] And, finally, they have usually
centered their attacks on the most powerful of their enemies, whether
Emperor, Church, army, landlords, or large capitalists.

In economic and political reform, the American unions, like those of
other countries, support all progressive measures, including the whole
"State Socialist" program. As to political machinery, they favor, of
course, every proposal that can remove constitutional checks and give
the majority control over the government, such as the easy amendment of
constitutions and the right to recall judges and all other officials by
majority vote. Like the Socialists, they welcome the "State Socialist"
labor program, government insurance for workingmen against old age,
sickness, accidents, and unemployment, a legal eight-hour day, a legal
minimum wage, industrial education, the prohibition of child labor, etc.

The unions and the parties they use also join in the effort of the small
capitalist investors and borrowers, consumers and producers, to control
the large interests--the central feature of the "State Socialist"
policy. But the conservative unions do not stop with such progressive,
if non-Socialist, measures; they take up the cause of the smaller
capitalists also _as competitors_. The recent attack of the Federation
of Labor on the "Steel Trust" is an example. The presidents of the
majority of the more important unions, who signed this document, became
the partisans not only of small capitalists who buy from the trust, sell
to it, or invest in its securities, but also of the unsuccessful
competitors that these combinations are eliminating. The Federation here
spoke of "the American institution of unrestricted production," which
can mean nothing less than unrestricted competition, and condemned the
"Steel Trust" because it controls production, whereas the regulation or
control of production is precisely the most essential thing to be
desired in a progressive industrial society--a control, of course, to be
turned as soon as possible to the benefit of all the people.

The Federation's attack was not only economically reactionary, but it
was practically disloyal to millions of employees. It applies against
the "trust," which happens to be unpopular, arguments which apply even
more strongly to competitive business. The trust, it said, corrupts
legislative bodies and is responsible for the high tariff. As if all
these practices had not begun before the "trusts" came into being, as if
the associated manufacturers are not even more strenuous advocates of
all the tariffs--which are life and death matters to them--than the
"trusts," which might very well get along without them. Finally, the
Federation accuses the "Steel Trust" of an especially oppressive policy
towards its working people, apparently forgetting its arch enemy, the
manufacturer's association. It is notorious, moreover, that the smallest
employers, such as the owners of sweat shops, nearly always on the verge
of bankruptcy and sometimes on the verge of starvation themselves, are
harder on their labor than the industrial combinations, and that in
competitive establishments, like textile mills, the periods when
employers are forced to close down altogether are far more frequent,
making the average wages the year round far below those paid by any of
the trusts. The merest glance at the statistics of the United States
census will be sufficient evidence to prove this. For not only are
weekly wages lower in the textile mills and several other industries
than they are in the steel corporation, but also employment year in and
year out is much more irregular. Here we see the unions adopting the
politics of the small capitalists, not only on its constructive or
"State Socialist" side, but also in its _reactionary_ tendency, now
being rapidly outgrown, of trying to restore competition, and actually
working against their own best interests for this purpose.


A writer in the _Federationist_ demands "a reduction of railway
charges, express rates, telegraph rates, telephone rates," and a
radical change in the great industrial corporations such as the
Steel Trust, which is to be subjected to thorough regulation.
Swollen fortunes are to be broken up, together with the power of
the monopolists, of "the gamblers in the necessities of life,
etc."[243] In this writer's opinion (Mr. Shibley), the monopolists
are the chief cause of high prices and the only important
anti-social group, and all the other classes of society have a
common interest with the wage earners. But business interests,
manufacturers, the owners of large farms, and employers in lines
where competition still prevails, would also, with the fewest
exceptions, take sides against the working people in any great
labor conflict--as the history of every modern country for the past
fifty years has shown. It is not "Big Business" or "The Interests,"
but business in general, not monopolistic employers, but the whole
employing class, against which the unions have contended and always
must contend--on the economic as well as the political field. Mr.
Gompers and his associates, like Mr. Bryan and Senator La Follette,
demand that the people shall rule, but they all depend upon the
hundreds of thousands of business men as allies, who, if opposed to
government by monopolies, are still more opposed to government by
their employees or by the consumers of their products, and are
certain to fight any political movement of which they are a
predominating part.


The American Federation of Labor, and the majority of the labor unions
comprising it, are thus seen to have a political program scarcely
distinguishable from that of the radical wing of either of the large
parties,--for it seeks little if any more than to join in with the
general movement against monopolists and large capitalists in a conflict
that can never be won or lost, since the leaders in the movement are
themselves indirectly and at the bottom a part of the capitalist class.

The President of the American Federation views this partly reactionary
and partly "State Socialist" program as being directed against
"capitalism." "The votes of courageous and honest citizens in all
civilized lands," says Mr. Gompers, "are cutting away the capitalistic
powers' privilege to lay tribute on the producers. Capitalism, as a
surviving form of feudalism,--the power to deprive the laborer of his
product,--gives signs of expiring."[244] Democratic reform and
improvement in economic conditions are apparently taken by Mr. Gompers
as a sign that capitalism is expiring and that society is progressing
satisfactorily to the wage earners. Although the constitution of the
Federation says that the world-wide "struggle between the capitalist and
the laborer" is a struggle between "oppressors and oppressed," Mr.
Gompers gives the outside world to understand that the unions have no
inevitable struggle before them, but are as interested in industrial
peace as are the employers. He has expressed his interpretation of the
purpose of the Federation in the single word "more." He sees progress
and asks a share for the unionists as each forward step is taken. He
does not ask that labor's share be increased in proportion to the
progress made--to say nothing of asking that this share should be made
disproportionately large in order gradually to make the distribution of
income more equal. A capitalism inspired by a more enlightened
selfishness might, without any ultimate loss, grant all the Federation's
present demands, political as well as economic.



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Keywords: competition, monopolists, interests, production, reactionary, struggle, trusts, capitalist, progressive, purpose
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