Studies in Communism
Trade Unionism And The Class War
the Unionist claims that he does them no real injury in preventing them from competing with him for employment. He only saves himself from being brought down to their level. He does no wrong by entrenching himself behind a barrier to exclude those whose competition would bring down his wages, without more than momentarily raising theirs.
Again, even were it to be shown that Trade Unionism did not increase the nominal rate of wages, it has to be admitted (says the Unionist) that it is able to do much by raising the actual rate of wages. Its least accomplishment is to successfully resist irritating, arbitrary, and oppressive conditions of employment.
But the power of the organisation of labour in this direction turns upon its recognition. In times of dispute there may be room for negotiations between employers and employed upon the question of maximum or minimum demands. For the Trade Union to be effectual there can be no room for compromise on the question of recognising the Union and receiving the Union official representatives. This limits all need or apprehension of a strike to such recognition. So that the right of combination recognised, the men's demands become a matter of amicable arrangement.
Such is the case for Trade Unionism. We now propose to expose its fallacies, and lay bare its hypocrisies.
111.—THE WORKERS' CASE AGAINST TRADE UNIONISM.
The reply to the argument which I have developed in defence of Trade Unionism in the foregoing section, naturally divides itself into the following division: —
(1) The operation of the economic law against the possibility of palliation, so far as the entire working-class is concerned : — Although it is true that the law of supply and demand does not fix the terms of any particular bargain, the operation of that law does not finish with the conclusion of that particular bargain. This has been clearly demonstrated by Cree in his reply to Mill. According to whether buyer or seller secures what is termed "a bargain," demand or supply is checked or stimulated. This applies to the Dutch Auction Fish Sale. A sale of 20s. would tend to stimulate future supply and check demand. The consequent tendency would be towards a fall in price. A sale of 18s. would tend to bring out more buyers and reduce the inducement to go to sea. The consequent tendency would be towards a rise in price. This would bring out more sellers and reduce the number of buyers once more. This is true also of the wages of labour. Higher wages bring out more workers but reduce the employer's profits. So that the employer becomes less anxious to secure workers. A lower wage has
the reverse effect. The worker now becomes less anxious to be employed. But the employer is more willing to employ. Once more there is repetition. Working by tendency only, the economic law approaches exactitude over a multiplicity of cases, but not in any particular case. The means of the oscillations of price is now an exact point, not a range of prices. The terms of any particular bargain are, consequently, only of the most transient importance even to those immediately concerned. But they are of little or no importance to the workers or employers as a class, since they are constantly being brought back to their true economical point. The compensating influences being inevitable and automatic, it will be seen that, in its position as a class, the working-class has nothing to gain from Trade Union Palliative activity. Its only practical hope, as well as its beautiful day-dream, is, first, last, and all-the- time, Socialism — the Communal Individualism of which Oscar Wilde made himself the prophet in that magnificent book, The Soul of Man.
(2) The impossibility of raising actual wages without regard to nominal wages: —Mayor has put the case in a nutshell. If a reduction of the hours of labour results in decreased production, wages will fall, other things 'being equal. If reduction of hours results in maintenance of production per man there will be no additional employment, other things being equal. The equality of other things turn upon the law of supply and demand which palliative combination does not effect. Consequently, Trade Unionism can neither effect wages nor yet the question of employment.
(3) The impossibility of organising the whole of labour on the basis of Trade Unionism: —The Trade Unionist, when excluding the blackleg and manufacturing him, pretends to look forward to a 'complete federation of labour. But if all labour stands upon the platform of palliative combination — a very different thing from revolutionary solidarity—the effect will be nil, in 'view of the opera ions of the law of supply and demand. A union of all labour is as good as no union at all from the palliationist viewpoint. Even a "minimum wage" of higher rate than at present established means only the decreased purchasing power of money. Between labour-power as a commodity and other commodities there exists a definite ratio of exchange. So that a "minimum wage" is meaningless. But a union of all labour on the basis of Trade Unionism is impossible. With all trades organised on a restricted basis it would be impossible for any trade to rid itself of its surplus by causing them to be absorbed into any other trade. But for Trade Unionism to succeed — with the increasing use of machinery and the consequent reduction of skilled to unskilled labour—it must also organise unskilled labour. Such organisation to succeed must be even more restrictive than in the case of skilled labour. Unskilled labour