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"The workingmen," he
explained, referring to this country, "have not won their higher wages
in the last decade, but have inherited them from their forefathers. They
were principally a result of the presence of splendid lands from which
every man who wanted to become independent got as much as he needed."

Then he proceeded to show by the statistics of the Department of Labor
that daily real wages, measured in terms of what they would buy, had
actually decreased for the majority of American workingmen during the
last decade. It is true, as Mr. Gompers replied, that the hours have
become somewhat less, and that therefore the amount of real wages
received _per hour of work_ has slightly increased, though there are few
working people who will count themselves very fortunate in a decrease of
hours if it is paid for _even in a part_ by a decrease of the real wages
received at the end of the day. And even if we compare _the early_
nineties with the _last years_ of the recent decade, we find that the
slight increase in the purchasing power of the total wages received
(_i.e._ real wages) amounted at the most to no more than two or three
per cent in these fifteen years. In a word, the disproportion between
the prosperity of the wage earning and capitalist classes has in the
past two decades become much greater than ever before.

The basis of the Socialist economic criticism of existing society--and
one that appeals to the majority of the world's labor unionists also--is
that while the proportion of the population that consists of wage
earners is everywhere increasing, the share of the national income that
goes to wages is everywhere growing less. There is no more striking,
easily demonstrable, or generally admitted fact in modern life. The
whole purpose of Socialism--in so far as it can be expressed in terms of
income, is to reverse this tendency and to keep it reversed until
private capital is reduced to impotence, as far as the control of
industry is concerned.

Contrast with the position of Gompers and Mitchell the chief official of
the German unions, Karl Legien, a relatively conservative representative
of Continental unionism.


"The unions," he says, "are based on the conviction that there is
an unbridgeable gulf between capital and labor. This does not mean
that the capitalists and laborers may not, as men, find points of
contact; it means only that the accumulation of capital, resting as
it does on keeping from the laborer a part of the products of his
labor, forces a propertyless proletariat to sell its labor at any
price it can get. Between those who wish to maintain these
conditions and the propertyless laborers there is a wall which can
be done away with only by the abolition of wage labor. Here the
views prevailing in the unions are at one with those of the Social
Democratic Party."

"The unions are chiefly occupied in the effort to use their power
to shape the labor contract in their favor, and do not consider it
as their task to propagate this view, but holds the propaganda as
being the task rather of the Social Democratic Party and its
organizations."


Even the struggle for higher wages and shorter hours carried on by the
unions, Legien says, is fought in the consciousness that it will make
labor "more capable of the final solution of the social problem." He
reminds us that the overwhelming majority of the German unionists are
Socialists, and says that the labor conflict itself must have led to
this result, though he does not want the unions to support the party as
unions. In other countries of the Continent, unionists go even farther.
In Austria, Belgium, and elsewhere the two organizations act as a single
body, and in France, not satisfied with working for Socialism as members
of the party, unionists also make it a declared end of their unions,
independently of all political action, and shape their everyday policies
accordingly.

It is only when we come to Great Britain that we find the unions in a
conciliatory relation with employers such as has hitherto prevailed in
the United States. The relation between the unions and capitalistic
"State Socialists" of Great Britain has been friendly. As I have already
noted, the enthusiasm of the British unions for the social reforms of
the Liberal Party and government has hitherto been so great that they
consented that the increase of the taxation needed to pay for these
reforms should fall on their shoulders, while the wealthy classes made
the world ring with epithets of "revolution" because a burden of almost
exactly the same weight was placed on them to pay for the Dreadnoughts
they demanded, and because land was nationally taxed for the first time,
Mr. Churchill himself conceded that his social reform budget "draws
nearly as much from the taxation of tobacco and spirits, which are the
luxuries of the working classes, who pay their share with silence and
dignity, as it does from those wealthy classes upon whose behalf such
heart-rending outcry is made."[249]

Perhaps the fact that the labor unions of Great Britain _up to 1910_
spent less than a tenth part of their income on strikes was a still
stronger ground for Mr. Churchill's admiration, since he had to deal
with the strikers as President of the Board of Trade. While the national
income of the country has been increasing enormously in the past two
decades, and the higher or taxed incomes have more than doubled (which
is a rate of increase far greater than the rise in prices), the income
even of unionized workers has not kept up with this rise. In a word, the
propertied classes are getting a larger and larger share of the national
income (see Mr. Churchill's language in preceding chapter). Now should
the unions continue in the moderation of their demands,--or even should
they obtain a 10 or 20 per cent increase (as some have done since the
railway and seamen's strike of 1911),--_the propertied classes would
still have been getting a larger and larger share of the national
income_. From 1890 to 1899 prices in England are estimated to have
fallen 5 per cent, while wages _of organized working-men_ rose 2 per
cent; from 1900 to 1908 prices rose 6 per cent, while these wages fell 1
per cent. A 7 per cent improvement in the first decade was followed by a
7 per cent retrogression in the second--_among organized workers_.[250]
There is then no probability that the British unions will check the
constant decrease in the share of the total wealth of the country that
goes to the wage earner, until they have completed the reversal of older
policies now in progress. That this may soon occur is indicated by the
great strikes of 1911 (which I shall consider in the next chapter).

The American unions also are beginning to take a more radical and
Socialistic attitude. At its Convention at Columbus, Ohio (January,
1911), the United Mine Workers, after prolonged discussion, passed by a
large majority an amendment to their constitution, forbidding their
officers from acting as members of the Civic Federation. This resolution
was confessedly aimed at Mr. John Mitchell, as Vice President of the
Civic Federation, and resulted in his resignation from that body. It
marks a crisis in the American Labor movement. The Miners' Union had
already indorsed Socialism, its Vice President is a party Socialist, and
its present as well as its former President vote the Socialist ticket.
Having forced the Federation of Labor to admit the revolutionary Western
Federation of Miners into the Federation of Labor Congresses, the
element opposed to Mr. Gompers and Mr. Mitchell's conservative tactics
has, for the first time, become formidable, embracing one third of the
delegates, and is likely to bring about great changes within a few
years, both as to the Federation's political and as to its labor-union
policy.

This action of the Miners was followed a few months later by the
election to office of several of Mr. Gompers's Socialist opponents in
his own union (the Cigarmakers). Then another of Mr. Gompers's most
valued lieutenants (after Mr. Mitchell), Mr. James O'Connell, for many
years President of the very important Machinists' Union, was defeated by
a Socialist, Mr. W. H. Johnston,--after a very lively contest in which
Socialism and the Civic Federation, and their contrasting the labor
policies, played a leading part. The old conservative trade unionism is
not only going, but it is going so fast that one or two more years like
the last would overwhelm it in the national convention of the Federation
of Labor and revolutionize the policy of the whole movement.

The change in the political attitude of the American unions has been
equally rapid. Until a few years ago the majority of them were opposed
to co÷peration with any political party. Then they decided almost
unanimously to act nationally, and for the time being with the
Democrats, and this decision still holds. More recently several local
labor parties have been formed, and the Socialist Party has occasionally
been supported. The only question that interests us, however, is the
purpose behind these changing political tactics.

It is natural that unionists on entering into the Socialist Party
should seek to control it. Socialists make no objection at this point.
The only question relates to their purpose in seeking control. A
prominent Socialist miner, John Walker, has frankly advocated a Labor
Party of the British type, while others wish to turn the Socialist Party
into that sort of an organization; while the Secretary of the Oklahoma
Federation of Labor, on joining the Party said: "Let us get into the
Socialist Party--on the inside--and help run it as we think it should be
run," and then gave an idea of how he proposed to run it by accusing the
Party of containing too many people "who are Socialists before anything
else." This is a common feeling among new labor-union recruits in the
Party. It is difficult to see the difference between those who share
Walker's view and want to carry out the present non-Socialist political
program of the unions through a non-Socialist Labor Party and those who,
like this other union official, expect to use the Socialist Party for
the same purpose.



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Keywords: prices, workers, british, capital, control, decrease, conservative, mitchell, britain, policies
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