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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. Therefore, Mr. Gompers,
quite logically, does not see any necessity for an aggressive attitude.

"Labor unions," says Mr. John Mitchell, who takes a similar view, "are
_for_ workmen, but _against_ no one. They are not hostile to employers,
not inimical to the interests of the general public. They are for a
class, because that class exists and has class interests, but the unions
did not create and do not perpetuate the class or its interests and do
not seek to evoke a class conflict."[245] Here it is recognized that the
working class exists as a class and has interests of its own. But, if,
as Mr. Mitchell adds, the unions do not wish to perpetuate this class or
its interests, then surely they must see to it, as far as they are able,
that members of this class have equal industrial opportunities with
other citizens, and that its children should at least be no longer
compelled to remain members of a class from which, as he expressly
acknowledges, there is at present no escape.

Both Mr. Gompers and Mr. Mitchell have gone to the defense of the
leading anti-Socialist organization in this country, Civic
Federation--and nothing could draw in stronger colors than do their
arguments the complete conflict of the Gompers-Mitchell labor union
policy to that of the Socialists. Mr. Gompers defends the Federation as
worthy of labor's respect on the ground that many of its most active
capitalist members have shown a sustained sincerity, "always having in
mind the rights and interests of labor," which is the very antithesis to
the Socialist claim that nobody will always have in mind the rights and
the interests of labor, except the laborers--and least of all those who
buy labor themselves, or are intimately associated with those who buy
labor.

Mr. Mitchell says that through the Civic Federation many employers have
become convinced that their antagonism to unions was based on prejudice,
and have withdrawn their opposition to the organization of the men in
their plants. No doubt this is strictly true. It shows that the unions
had been presented to the employers as being profitable to them. This,
Socialists would readily admit, might be the case with some labor
organizations as they have been shaped by leaders like Mr. Mitchell and
conferences like those of the Civic Federation. To Socialists
organizations that create this impression of harmony of interests do
exactly what is most dangerous for the workers--that is, they make them
less conscious and assertive of their own interests.

The Civic Federation, composed in large part of prominent capitalists
and conservatives, endeavors to allay the discontent of labor by
intimate association with the officers of the unions. Socialists have
long recognized the tendency of trade-union leaders to be persuaded by
such methods to the capitalist view. Eight years ago at Dresden, August
Bebel had already seen this danger, for he placed in the same class with
the academic "revisionists" those former proletarians who had been
raised into higher positions and were lost to the working classes
through "intercourse with people of the contrary tendency." It is this
class of leaders, according to the Socialists, which, up to the present,
has dominated the trade unions of Great Britain and the United States
and occasionally of other countries.

No Socialist has been more persistent in directing working-class opinion
against all such "leaders" than Mr. Debs, who does not mince matters in
this direction. "The American Federation of Labor," he writes, "has
numbers, but the capitalist class do not fear the American Federation
of Labor; quite the contrary. There is something wrong with that form of
unionism whose leaders are the lieutenants of capitalism; something is
wrong with that form of unionism that forms an alliance with such a
capitalist combination as the Civic Federation, whose sole purpose is to
chloroform the working class while the capitalist class go through their
pockets.... The old form of trade unionism no longer meets the demands
of the working class. The old trade union has not only fulfilled its
mission and outlived its usefulness, but is now positively reactionary,
and is maintained, not in the interest of the workers who support it,
but in the interest of the capitalist class who exploit the workers who
support it."

In a recent speech Mr. Debs related at length the Socialist view as to
how, in his opinion, this misleading of labor leaders comes about:--


"There is an army of men who serve as officers, who are on the
salary list, who make a good living, keeping the working class
divided. They start out with good intentions as a rule. They really
want to do something to serve their fellows. They are elected
officers of a labor organization, and they change their clothes.
They now wear a white shirt and a standing collar. They change
their habits and their methods. They have been used to cheap
clothes, coarse fare, and to associating with their fellow workers.
After they have been elevated to official position, as if by magic
they are recognized by those who previously scorned them and held
them in contempt. They find that some of the doors that were
previously barred against them now swing inward, and they can
actually put their feet under the mahogany of the capitalist.

"Our common labor man is now a labor leader. The great capitalist
pats him on the back and tells him that he knew long ago that he
was a coming man, that it was a fortunate thing for the workers of
the world that he had been born, that in fact they had long been
waiting for just such a wise and conservative leader. And this has
a certain effect upon our new-made leader, and unconsciously,
perhaps, he begins to change--just as John Mitchell did when Mark
Hanna patted him on the shoulder and said, 'John, it is a good
thing that you are at the head of the miners. You are the very man.
You have the greatest opportunity a labor leader ever had on this
earth. You can immortalize yourself. Now is your time.' Then John
Mitchell admitted that this capitalist, who had been pictured to
him as a monster, was not half as bad as he had thought he was;
that, in fact, he was a genial and companionable gentleman. He
repeats his visit the next day, or the next week, and is
introduced to some other distinguished person he had read about,
but never dreamed of meeting, and thus goes on the transformation.
All his dislikes disappear, and all feeling of antagonism vanishes.
He concludes that they are really most excellent people, and, now
that he has seen and knows them, he agrees with them there is no
necessary conflict between workers and capitalists. And he proceeds
to carry out this pet capitalist theory, and he can only do it by
betraying the class that trusted him and lifted him as high above
themselves as they could reach.

"It is true that such a leader is in favor with the capitalists;
that their newspapers write editorials about him and crown him a
great and wise leader; and that ministers of the gospel make his
name the text for their sermons, and emphasize the vital point that
if all labor leaders were such as he, there would be no objections
to labor organizations. And the leader feels himself flattered. And
when he is charged with having deserted the class he is supposed to
serve, he cries out that the indictment is brought by a discredited
labor leader. And that is probably true. The person who brings a
charge is very likely discredited. By whom? By the capitalist
class, of course; and its press and pulpit and 'public' opinion.
And in the present state of the working class, when he is
discredited by the capitalists, he is at once repudiated by their
wage slaves."[246]


Mr. Debs's attitude toward Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Gompers is by no means
exceptional among Socialists. Mr. Gompers visited Europe in 1909, spoke
at length in Paris and Berlin, and was viewed by the majority of the
European Socialists and unionists almost exactly as he is by Mr. Debs.
Among other things he said there, was that the very kernel of the
difference between the European and the American labor movement and the
reason why the wages are so much better in America than in Europe was
the _friendlier_ relations between the government and the working people
in this country--this after all the recent court decisions against the
unions, decisions which, even when outwardly milder, have precisely the
same effect as the hostile legislation and administration of the
Continent. Mr. Gompers, while in Europe, said that it was unnecessary
that governments and the working people should misunderstand one
another, and asked, "Is there not for us all the common ground of the
fatherland, of common interest and the wish that we feel to make our
people more prosperous, happier and freer?" "I do not know what I will
see there [in Hungary]," he continued, "but this much I will say, that I
know that nothing will convince me that this readiness of the workingmen
to fight against the government and of the government to fight against
the workingmen can bring anything good to either side."[247]

Such expressions naturally aroused the European Socialist and Labor
press, and Kautsky even devoted a special article to Gompers in the
_Neue Zeit_.[248] It was not necessary in a Socialist periodical to say
anything against Gompers's preaching of the common interests of capital
and labor, since there is practically no Socialist who would not agree
that such a belief amounts to a total blindness to industrial and
political conditions. But Kautsky feared that the German workingmen
might give some credit to Gompers's claim that the non-Socialist policy
of the American unions was responsible for the relatively greater
prosperity of the working people in America.



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Keywords: officers, workingmen, opinion, members, interest, organizations, european, something, through, discredited
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