Studies in Communism
Trade Unionism And The Class War
cannot, therefore, absorb the surplus from all the skilled trades. Not only so, but to this surplus it would add an enormous surplus of its own. So that restrictive Unionism can only result in first deluding the working-class, then betraying it, and finally reducing the greater portion of it to blacklegs in the present and future.
(4) The menace of Trade Union Representation; A question of Labour Leading: —Trade Unionism embodies the menace of the representative system in its constitution no less certainly than the legislative machine. Its elected leaders conclude strikes and disputes by consenting to terms of compromise offered by Capitalistic Ministers for Labour, and Presidents of the Board of Trade. To pretend that such terms of agreement are antagonistic to capitalist interests, is to be disturbed by a bogey. On the other hand, for what does the strike-leader generally strive? To get his authority recognised. This is the first step to position and power. It is pretended that the greater the support given to the labour-leader the greater the concession he can wring from the capitalist class. It is forgotten that the greater the confidence reposed in him, the more effectually he can betray that confidence. Consequently7 your "official" strike-leader is always for "enthusiasm and earnestness" of the "slow and sure" variety. His plea is for caution7 which means that he is to be allowed to do the bargaining but not to be submitted to criticism. Criticism he regards as a menace to his authority. It certainly reduces his selling-out value.
(5) The initiative Absurdity: —The Trade Unionist argument that the unorganised worker suffers from not having the initiative is nonsense. Rather—if it really counted, which it does not—one's sympathy should be with the employer who uses it against the unorganised worker. In the case of the organised Trade Unionist, it should be with the worker who is menaced by having it used on his behalf by the labour leader who generally succeeds in misrepresenting him. Everyone knows that employers often throw the onus of initiative on the, worker. In a bargain both buyer and seller are anxious only to avoid it. "What do you want?" says the buyer. "That is not the question, what will you give?" replies the seller. Both parties are desirous of securing a bargain, and consequently avoid the initiative. It has no advantages although it operates very little one way or the other in the labour market. So that Trade Unionism has nothing to offer the worker in this respect.
On these counts, therefore, and for these reasons, Trade Unionism must go. The only hope of the workers on the industrial,, as on the political field, is Revolutionary Socialism.
THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION.
Much that has been urged in the present brochure has tended to negate the idea of majority rule, as also the representation principle. Like most rebels—and, for that matter, most students of history—I have no faith in the majority, less unbelief in the minority, and most reliance in the individual. Thomas Paine regarded Government as being, like dress, a badge of lost innocence. He also looked upon the abolition of formal government as the beginning Of true association. This seems to me to be incontrovertible. Consequently, if my opinion he correct, representation, as an expression of formal government, can have no weight, and must necessarily play a small part in the revolutionary birth- struggle of the proletarian commonweal.
To bring this theory down to the realm of the practical, I want the reader to consider the following case which has often been put to me in the course of debates and discussions in which I have played the part of principal. It has been said that if a certain individual was working in a shop where sixty men were employed, and fifty wished to come out on strike whilst ten wished to remain in, the author of this hypothetical case was in favour of coercing the ten and making them come out, whilst the fifty fought the "boss." Such coercion, it is urged, alone will rid the proletariat of their subjection to the capitalist and Capitalism.
From this opinion I venture to differ. Indeed, I repeat in print what I have often urged on the platform in reply to the hypothetical case already enunciated that the majority have no more right to coerce a minority than the minority have to coerce a majority. The fifty have no more right to coerce the ten, than the ten have to coerce the fifty, since in relation to society, the hypothetical fifty strikers are but a small minority, and if it be true that many are right where few are wrong, then the presence of seventy strike-breakers in the neighbourhood of the strike plus seventy soldiers, would entitle the "majority" of 150 men, as opposed to the minority of fifty, to "coerce them" out of the neighbourhood. Herein lies the capitalist apology for Mitcheistown, Featherstone, Homestead, Belfast, and every other scene of the patriotic murder of the working-class by the hired assassins of profit mongers. For it must be remembered, that we are not treating of the ethics of coercion in relation to oppressed minorities, but of the economics of apparent majorities' rights to coerce a minority.
If we were to consent to deal with probabilities rather than with fact, it would be urged that the one hundred and fifty men do not represent society, nor the whole working-class, for it is probable that the latter would stand by the fifty. Yet every worker, as also every employer, knows that the news of the strike could be flashed throughout the length and breadth of the land,
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