Slike strani

Every careful observer must have noticed many points of resemblance between the caste system of India and certain tendencies of modern trade-unionism. In fact, many castes in India are virtually fossilized and hereditary unions, whose members not only inherit the right to the trade but also have the right of excluding others from competition. It has, however, been left to the Legislature of New Zealand to frame, and to the courts of New Zealand to interpret, a law which gives trade-unionists a legal status similar to that of members of a caste. The compulsory arbitration act of 1894 was first entitled "An Act to Encourage the Formation of Industrial Unions and Associations and to Facilitate the Settlement of Industrial Disputes by Conciliation and Arbitration.” This law can be invoked only by the

" workingmen who are organized, the unorganized have no rights under it. For the purposes of the act the country is divided into six districts, each of which has its Board of Conciliation. In case of a dispute, it is the duty of the Board of Conciliation to try to effect a settlement; if this is impossible the case then goes up to the Court of Arbitration of the whole colony to be disposed of. Whenever a dispute arises regarding wages, either party can, if organized, go to the Arbitration Court and demand a decision. In this case neither employer or employee is allowed to stop work, until the Court has had its say. There is no compulsion to continue work after the decision has been rendered, but if the employer desires to keep his establishment open, he must pay the wages prescribed in the award.

This system is highly praised by Mr. Henry D. Lloyd in his recent books on New Zealand, because its effect is to practically do away with strikes and lock-outs and prevent these serious interruptions of production. But one result of the law has shown itself which may be even more serious than an occasional strike. From the beginning the courts have assumed the responsibility of giving preference to members of tradeunions; that is, they can force an employer against his will to employ a trade-unionist, if equally qualified to do the work, in preference to one who is not organized, as they can also force him to divide the work up among a number when work is slack, and to give a preference to residents as against outsiders. As

an offset they also require the unions to take in all applicants on compliance with certain simple conditions. But even with this qualification such a policy is naturally distasteful to the employers, and an attempt was, therefore, made last fall to secure by means of a mandamus, issued by the Supreme Court of the colony, an order preventing the Arbitration Court from showing this preference. In order to test the law, the master plumbers and gas fitters at Christ Church united in an application to the Supreme Court. Not only did the bench unanimously uphold the decision, but the Chief Justice, Sir Albert Stout, went so far as to assert that non-unionists were altogether outside of the act. He said that the act must be obeyed, even though it might be contrary to what was deemed natural justice. In effect, he said that the act abolished "contract" and restored "status."

This might, he acknowledged, be a reversion to an earlier state of things, but he claimed that the power of the legislature was sufficient to revert to this state if it chose to. Mr. Justice Williams said, “The Act conferred no status on a workingman who was not a member of a union; it was not intended that they should be represented, nor did it contemplate that a decision giving preference to unionists should affect any legal right of non-unionist workingmen. The non-unionist had no legal right to demand employment; he could sell his labor at what price and on what terms he chose, provided he could find an employer able and willing to accept his terms; but he had no right to demand that there should be an employer able and willing to accept his terms.”

As shown by Consul Dillingham, who has reported this decision to the State Department, it would be easy if two men, a unionist and a non-unionist, applied for work and the employer gave the preference to the non-unionist, for the unionist to set the law in motion, make the preference of the non-unionist an industrial dispute, and put the employer to the trouble and expense of justifying his action. While, therefore, the decision does not absolutely' forbid a unionist from working, it virtually makes his ability to get work dependent upon the consent of organized workingmen who are his rivals and competitors, and who are not likely, if we may judge from past experiences, to temper what they consider


justice with mercy. This is not the caste system, pure and simple, inasmuch as the law does not recognize the hereditary right to a trade, but it is a long step in that direction. It may possibly be the best method of introducing the Golden Age of Industry, but those who advocate it should understand that it is not the perfect flower of democracy but a denial of its fundamental principles and the return to a system of status and caste which has not only been tried in countries like India, but which pervaded the guild system of the Middle Ages, and was abolished as a form of privilege by the modern democratic movement in Europe. It is interesting to note in this connection that the trade-union leaders of the United States have been far-sighted enough to appreciate this fact, and in the Chicago Conference on Arbitration distinctly repudiated the compulsory arbitration advocated by a New Zealander.

Fraternity is a fundamental principle of socialism. But the problem seems to be insoluble, as yet, how to secure enough of it and not too much. Practical socialist experiments have often been wrecked by an initial excess or a subsequent failure of fraternity, while socialist political parties have almost universally hitherto been either broken in pieces or seriously crippled by internecine quarrels. The most recent illustration of the former rule is the collapse of the “Christian Commonwealth" of Georgia. Its founders were doubtless noble and heroic souls; they proposed to "obliterate the dividing line of ‘mine and thine' between themselves and the rest of God's poor”; they adopted as the sole constitution of the colony the Law of Love; they maintained an "open door" for whomsoever would enter (see the Social Incarnation, by Ralph Albertson). The result was, that numerous incompetent and intolerable people—some vagabonds among them—sought their loaves and fishes; narrowness and clannishness developed within; a “forced, mechanical, unreal equality" left them “without leadership”; the enterprise was swamped; and its founders—from whose pathetic statement these words are quoted—were forced to confess that “love, or the desire to serve, must add to itself wisdom—there are economic laws and conditions which must be regarded” (The Commons, Jan., 1901).

But in socialist politics no such fatal overplus of fraternity is apparent.

There are three such factions in the United States—the Socialist Labor Party, with headquarters in New York; the Social Democratic Party, with headquarters in Springfield, Mass., and another Social Democratic Party, with headquarters in Chicago. These are entirely agreed in principle, viz., that the state should own and operate all the instruments of production and exchange; and they all clamor for unity. But see how they speak of one another. Says the People (Dec. 8,

. 1900): The sole possible basis of unity is the “soundly poised, intrepid and unterrified Socialist Labor Party; whoever, whatever, fits there is unitable, and will eventually be united; whatever does not fit there is un-unitable, and—all glue phrases to the contrary notwithstanding—will never gather but to scatter." But the New York Vorwärts (Dec. I, 1900) says: “Nowhere in the world has any socialist party had so many dissensions, so much open and secret dissatisfaction, such unworthy methods of mutual espionage, and—as the cause of all this—such miserable arbitrariness, as has the old 'clear-cut,' 'uncompromising' and absurdly centralized Socialist Labor Party.” The partisans of the Social Democratic Party call Mr. De Leon a "trickster," a “tyrant,” an “infamous scab agent”; Mr. De Leon's friends retort that the Social Democratic Party "has raked the country from one end to the other to gather up practically every discredited member of the labor movement; practically every man who has ever been expelled from the Socialist Labor Party has found a pleasant refuge in the Social Democratic Party; every reformer who at one time pulled an office out of the Populist middleclass movement, has cast his lot with the Social Democratic Party" (quoted from a letter).

A convention was held in Chicago, January 16-18, for the purpose of devising plans for bringing about fraternal relations, or organic union, between the several factions. On this occasion it was decided, after stormy debate, to propose to the several socialist organizations of the country the holding of another convention, for the same purpose, at Indianapolis, in the early autumn. But we venture to guess that no real union will be brought about. Three sets of difficulties are in the way: the idiosyncracies and mutual antipathy of the leaders; the differing tactics preferred; and, above all, the manifold historical, racial, social, political and psychical causes of difference that exist. As the St. Louis Arbeiter-Zeitung points out, socialists are of many sorts and have arrived at their convictions by many paths. There are the "old line” German socialists; the "De Leonites”; the members of the former Socialist Labor Party who opposed De Leon and broke away from his control in 1899; those who, like Mr. Debs, came into socialism through infelicitous experiences with the trade-unions; the former Populists; and a group of younger men, like Dr. Herron, who have been brought into the party not through economic reasons or the Marxist propaganda, but by ethical and Christian considerations. These several groups are not agreed, except superficially, and they cannot, therefore, walk long together.

The most important point of difference is perhaps the relation of political socialism to trade-unions. The present Socialist Labor Party is bitterly opposed to the "pure and simple” tradeunions, as mere palliatives at best, and as now largely controlled by “labor fakirs” and “capitalist lieutenants” in the interest of the money power. Hence, there was organized in 1895 the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance—a labor movement based unequivocally, like the social democratic Gewerkschaften of Germany, on the socialist and “class-conscious” program. The Social Democratic Party, on the other hand, is friendly to the labor-unions of the British and American type. We do not see how this fruitful “root of bitterness" is to be plucked up.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »