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laborers, even the hardened ones that have been imbruted by the fierce fight with poverty in the "casual” ranks. Ringing in my ears now is the hoarse whisper of a prisoner in the exercise yard of Pentonville—“Stick to the unemployed, John; work is our only hope.” From the depths of the criminal habit into which poverty and want of work had plunged him, he saw instinctively the remedy for his failing, and the means of his rescue, and to find it is the duty of all reformers, present and to come.
The unemployed laborer to-day is not a replica of the out-of-work of a few years back. With the restless and ever-changing spirit of the times, he has altered greatly. His predecessor was a patient, longsuffering animal, accepting his position as beast of burden with a fatalistic taciturnity, looking upon his enforced idleness as inevitable, and with blind submission enduring his lot. His poverty and credulity were often exploited by rival politicians, his disorganisation used for the advertisement of fiscal nostrums; and when his distress had been gauged, tabulated, discussed, and partially relieved with charitable
les or "The House," a slight revival of trade disposed of him until the next winter or depression set in, when again the same philan. thropic opiates were administered to keep him quiet. In the past he was, whenever possible, deliberately, yea scientifically, ignored. As part of the body politic he was never considered. Statisticians befogged him and each other as to the amount his class and the nation had saved whilst he was starving. Political economists pointed out the impossibility of relieving his distress by spending money in useful public works instead of useless pauper
tasks, or sagely informed him that the depression from which he suffered was due to "vagaries of fashion in dress," whilst he was nearly naked, or to “spots on the sun," when he was enduring the pains and penalties of the nether kingdom. Mute, inarticulate, unenfranchised, he escaped observation because he had no vote, no political, no municipal influence.
The extension of the franchise, education, trade unionism, Socialist propaganda, the broad and rising Labor movement have altered all this. The unemployed worker of to-day is of different stuff. He has a grievance, and thinks he has a remedy. Laying aside his tools with reluctance, embittered by the belief that organisation could prevent his impending misfortune, with genuine sorrow he gives up his time-ticket, and feels, as he takes the last week's wages to his wife, that his little home may have to be parted with bit by bit, and with it the independence of character he loves, sapped by the greater or lesser stretch of enforced idleness that society disorganised imposes upon him with a cruel disregard of his claims. Having experienced the lot of the workless worker, I believe, with Carlyle, that
a man willing to work and unable to find work is, perhaps, the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under the sun." Pathetic it is to see the laborer, strong in limb, healthy in mind and morale, willing to work, but compelled reluctantly to be numbered with the ever-increasing legions that machinery, invention, competition, and monopoly recruit for idleness in this big city. But the first step necessary to a change is his own awakening, and that at last has come. His eyes are now open, and the Samson of labor
has pulled from them the bandage that class rule, apathy, and his own ignorance and drunkenness had placed upon him. He sees that the soil after its crops lies fallow and is fed. The trees, after their fruitful loads have gone, rest and recuperate. The rich go to other climes to rest, or hibernate in slothfulness at home. But he, the worker and producer for them all, is linked to an idleness that worries and fatigues : "his limbs are rusted with a vile repose." The opportunity of using them is denied him. The city his hands have helped to make rich and beautiful has nothing to offer him, not even the chance of further work—the little all he modestly craves, and in refusing which the community robs itself and leaves him poorer still.
But even more pathetic than the unemployed male worker and industrial nomad is the workless woman or girl in search of work in a city of great distances. Trudging from shop to factory with thin boots and thinner clothes ; with little food, without the support that trade unionism gives to men, lacking the stimulant of association, isolated by her sex, with no organisation, often the victim of bogus registry offices, friendless and alone, she searches for work that slowly comes. Before her the workhouse or the street, she bravely suffers in silence, and has no alternative to starvation but the eating of the crumb of charity or the loaf of lust. The industrial Andromeda that want of work has chained to a life she loathes incarnates all the poignant sorrow and desperation of the merciless struggle for existence amongst the poor, against which virtue, honor, and labor fight often in vain.
Whatever the movement amongst the workers may be, whether it is the demand for legislative reduction of the hours of labor, now demanded by the miners, railway men, cotton operatives, and the Trades Union Congress, or the abolition of overtime, which all the unions are fighting for now, the inspiring motive at the bottom of them all is the problem of disposing of their unemployed, the slaying of the monster that the fruitfulness of their own labor has created. Disguise it how we will, hide it though we may, looming up is the great, the all-absorbing question for all countries and governments to face—how can the honest worker be provided with work uncontaminated with pauperism's degrading taint and charity's demoralising aid ? The glib quotation of figures showing that official pauperism has decreased only insults the genuine worker who asks for work, so that it may be reduced further still. But even the official statistics, when shorn of all their complacent optimism, reveal the real nature of the problem. The fact that a cruel administration of the Poor Law, which mixes honest and criminal together, has reduced official pauperism from 46 to 20 per thousand, is cold comfort to the men who, by physical necessity or want of work, are compelled to be of the twenty. The growth of trade unionism, friendly, sick, loan, co-operative, and other agencies that the workers resort to in times of distress, is not recognised as a factor in reducing the distress which, in the absence of such agencies, the Poor Law would have to meet. Exploiting the ever-increasing repugnance amongst the genuine poor to pauper relief, the officials representing the laisserfaire middle class are determined to throw the support of the workless, that the rich and poor now sustain, on the poor exclusively, who voluntarily, taxed as they are, cannot carry further burdens.
Outside the official pauper class, as Mr. Charles Booth proves, there are hundreds of thousands of people whose standard of life and comfort, from the point of view of food, clothing, and house accommodation, is lower than that of the pauper or criminal, yet these people will not accept relief, but struggle on in the vain hope of work that never comes, and which, if it did, would find them too low to perform it. The fact is the virtue-or vice-of thrift and independence amongst the pick of the working classes, which well-fed reformers contend is applicable to all, is being abused and exploited. When the poor refuse Poor Law relief, it is construed as proof that its abolition is justifiable. When, as a better alternative, the poor man asks for work, he is told that that is pauperism in another form. When he becomes ill through neither relief nor work being offered or accepted, or, as a last resource, thieves and goes to prison, he has to be kept, after his health and morals have been shattered, till he dies. The fact is, the workless man has to be kept in one of three conditions : living on the rates as a pauper in a non-productive capacity, earning nothing and costing the country a large sum in officialism ; as a criminal kept in prison-the worst possible fate for any man; or as a wanderer about the streets, sponging upon his fellows or the charitable rich, forced to live like a vagrant camel upon the hump of his own melancholic poverty, slowly getting physically exhausted, morally and mentally degraded, till the manhood is crushed out of him, and he becomes one of those fearful wrecks to whom death would be the greatest relief. I believe that the cheapest, best, and safest way of all to prevent the idle man, the potential loafer, pauper, or criminal, from being a burden is to provide him with work which will be his salvation and the community's gain.
But how is this to be done? It may not be so easy as many imagine, but certain it is that the solution of the question must be attempted by the adoption of proper measures, insignificant, perhaps, in themselves, but as a whole tending towards the industrial reorganisation of society.
In attempting to deal with this unemployed problem, it must be admitted that whatever is done under a competitive form of society can only be palliative and not permanently remedial. In fact, the commercial classes must be told, if they do not know it already, that to a great extent the existence of an unemployed contingent of workers is a necessary corollary of the existing almost unrestricted competitive system, in which production for profit by a class is carried on irrespective of the social consequences to the community and the producers. And whilst keeping in view and adopting all practical remedies, the fact must not be lost sight of that the basis of our social, economic, and industrial life is anarchic and unsound, and must be either slowly or suddenly revolutionised. The harshness of Capitalism has been tempered, however, in England for many years by the socialistic Poor Law, and by much voluntary charity for the relief of the distress incidental to the present form of wealth-production and its alternating cycles of depression, poverty, and prosperity. The immediate question we have to discuss is how best can this money and existing charitable and relief agencies be concentrated, economised, and utilised for the prevention of further additions to the army of paupers, and the perpetuation of a pauper class. And before this question is answered, let us say, in the light of experience gained by the Mansion House Fund in 1886, that all charitable schemes for the relief of the unemployed who are able to work have only one end, and that end the demoralisation of the donors and the degradation of the recipients. Wherever money is, there the loafer, the lazy, and the undeserving will be found. Worse than this, when society suffers from a spasm of charity, is the creation of paid philanthropists by, proxy who revel in the notoriety which their sense of vanity and love of patronage craves, who cannot give personal service, time, and attention-always the better half of charity -with the result that failure attends invariably their crude and immature schemes. For the weak, the sick, the physically unfit, food and sustenance must be found; but this should be undertaken by the proper authorities and existing paid officials in such a way as to confer no obligation or patronage, and then only as a means of helping the recipients to that condition of health and strength necessary to the performance of labor, and which when reached should lead to employment on useful work, the real and only antidote to all the ills that laboring flesh is heir to. That these authorities have not done their work well, and are unsympathetic, is a reason for alteration, but is no justification for all the quack remedies that neurotic Christians and fanatical faddists, combining universal brotherhood with incompetence and good salaries, try to impose upon us.
The provision for the aged, sick, and destitute, the finding of employment for the able-bodied, is not the work of religious proselytism or of the individual, however benevolently disposed. It is a collective, social, and municipal duty in which the minds, principles, energies, and organised sympathies of all men, absolutely non-religious and impersonal
, should be embodied by and through governmental and administrative agencies that should consciously carry out the scientifically ordered benevolence and desires of the community. Strong men may be held responsible for carrying out the objects that the community decide upon; but in the end society will find that no single man nor any coteries of self-appointed cliques can cope with an evil that is universal, and which must be faced by society, through its elected institutions, organised and equipped for its removal. This brings us to the practical remedial measures that could be undertaken for the unemployed.
First, the present system of ascertaining the number of men out of work should be improved, or a new system established. Essential to all remedies is the truth. The only basis and method of enumeration, apart from the Poor Law, which is utterly useless for this purpose, is the Labor Department of the Board of Trade that gets its statistics from the trade unions, mainly the skilled. Even this limited work is inefficiently done, through no fault of Mr. John Burnett, as the trade unions do not respond as they should, and nervously hesitate to give the exact numbers out of work for fear that their position should become known to the employers, who, they assume, would exploit their necessity by reducing wages or by some other encroachments. The figures given generally underestimate, because they give the members only of trade unions in receipt of out-of-work benefit, taking no notice of those out. They give only the average of all, and not the percentage of each trade, a method that gives no idea of the number out of work and the corresponding distress. Societies that do not give unemployed benefits are roughly estimated, whilst the unskilled and unorganised trades can only form rough calculations, often influenced by the social and political views of the enumerators. As for the women, there is practically no attempt to ascertain the number who require work, whilst their organisation is only a name. The result of all this anarchy and disorganisation is the frequent hearing of late, even from members and officials of trade unions, of absurdly high estimates of the numbers of the unemployed, some going so far as to say that there were more out of work than there were actually in the whole trade, and in the following week finding out their mistake and going to the opposite extreme. Then, again,
we have charitable schemers, as of late in London, deliberately exaggerating the distress and want of work, in order to induce the credulous rich to subscribe to the particular charity they run. The fact is, outside Mr. Charles Booth, the Fabian Society, and a few trade unions, there are no official and reliable agencies for collecting statistics upon which reliance can be placed. Even the Poor Law authorities are without statistical data of any degree of accuracy relating to pauperism besides the unemployed.
The only way, after all, to obtain reliable labor statistics is to establish in every district council, parish, or vestry area a completely equipped Labor Bureau, situated in the Town Hall. There the unemployed should be able to register themselves, and the trade unions should be urged to regularly post or file, for official use if necessary,
their numbers out of employment. The whole arrangements of simple tabulation and indication of where employment could be found should be done in a business-like way, by a competent official. The bureau should be the medium of communication between the men seeking work and the employers, and at the same time eliminate the loafer, to whom little consideration should be shown. If this is not done the continued disappointment of employers through his inability to stay at work will result in their losing confidence in the genuine unemployed, to the latter's detriment and to the discredit of the bureau. In spite of what some advocates of work for the unemployed may say, I contend, as a Socialist, basing my belief on an unequalled experience of the largest meetings of unemployed that have ever been held, and as spokesman on every occasion for deputations on this subject to Government departments in the past ten years, that until the differentiation of the laborer from the loafer takes place, the unemployed question can never be properly discussed and dealt with. Till the tramp, thief,