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and unsatisfactory. The power of the employer to boycott and to blacklist will be unimpaired, and the resources of legal art, always at the disposal of wealth, will be ransacked for weapons to be used against the wage-earner. By means of the strike the workman can improve his condition only at the risk of dislocating industry and of imperilling the very existence of his family. The strike is a method of barbarism; and the right to strike is a survival of the individualist view of society which looked upon trade disputes as private matters between employers and employed. For Socialists, industry and industrial affairs are the intimate concern of the nation. We propose to bring industrial disputes under the authoritative arbitration of the State. We aim at the establishment of fixed minimum standards of wages and conditions of employment by means of collective agreements between employers and employed enforced by the whole power of the law. In other words, we would adapt to Great Britain the labor legislation which is so successful in Australia and New Zealand. Given for each trade a board of representatives of employers and employed with a chairman chosen from among the trained official arbitrators of the Board of Trade, working on the instruction that it was not to allow the degradation of the standard of comfort, strikes would be useless and unnecessary. Every question which can arise between capital and labor, wages, piece rates, overtime, hours, conditions of work, non-unionist labor, rights of union officials, is solved peacefully at the Antipodes. If we have the will we have the power to achieve the same results here. These are the true lines of advance; the reversal of the Taff Vale judgment is but an incident in the campaign.
The Minimum Wage. Of far greater urgency and importance is the need for a minimum wage by law. In spite of the declaration of the Liberal Ministry of 1892-5 that the State should be a model employer, large numbers of workers in the public service are still in receipt of a wage too small to keep them physically efficient. The "fair" or "standard" wages clauses in government contracts do not protect from sweating the workers in those occupations where combination is weak or nonexistent. Every worker in a civilized state must receive a wage high enough to give him the food, clothing and house-room neces. sary to physical health and efficiency, and nothing short of that can be accepted by a Labor Party in earnest. The researches of Mr. Charles Booth and Mr. B. S. Rowntree make it deplorably probable that there are some five millions of men, women and children living in families whose wage is below this minimum. The wage-earners of these families are engaged in trades which suffer from the blight of sweating in its many forms. The one effective and speedy remedy for this evil is to make employment under sweating conditions penal.
The first step towards this end should be the determination of a real minimum of food, clothing and housing by an authority appointed by the government. The money equivalent of this minimum, in its variations in different parts of the country, could be settled by town and county councils. Then the government should be pressed to put its own house in order by the institution of a minimum wage in the public service throughout the kingdom. A Minimum Wages Bill should follow, bringing all sweated trade: within the scope of the law, and punishing all employers who, after a certain date, pay less than the legal minimum. For settling piece. work rates in conformity with the minimum wage, the proportion of boy and girl labor to be employed, and similar trade questions, special boards should be appointed. For the due enforcing of the law there would be required a staff of factory and workshop inspectors.
An effective Minimum Wage Act would be a complex measure, and one at first difficult to administer ; but it must be remembered that measures equally complex, dealing with wages and fixing industrial minima, both direct and indirect, are in successful operation in Australia and New Zealand. There is no good ground for fear that we are less capable than are our colonies of framing and administering industrial laws. One thing is certain : five million persons insufficiently organized, improperly fed, clothed and housed, can never, by voluntary action, raise the material standard of their life. The one remedy for their lamentable state is larger incomes ; the one effective means of obtaining that remedy is a national legal minimum wage.
The State and the Railways. The reorganization of the means of transit is second in importance only to the readjustment of production itself; for of production transit is a vital part. He who says transit says railways, for rail. ways have become the King's highway: The private companies to whom the nation stupidly entrusted the control of transit in days gone by have failed to prove themselves worthy of the trust. They have not kept pace with the times, and they treat us as though they had an absolute and perpetual property in their lines. The nation must now make good its right to the railed highways. It is idle to manufacture goods which cannot be efficiently, cheaply and quickly conveyed to the consumer. A network of transit facilities must be organized by the State, which will carry boots from Northampton to Nigeria as swiftly and with as little boggling as the Post Office carries the letters. Every form of transit, tramways, canals, railways or ships, comes rightly and inevitably within the purview of a Labor policy. The loss occasioned by bad railway management is enormous, and until the railways are nationalized we shall still be bled.
The transfer of the railways to the State is not a matter of stupendous difficulty or of alarming expense.
The nominal capital of British railways in 1902 was £1,216,000,000. Of this 189 millions was watered stock, the net nominal capital being just over 1,000 millions. This nominal capital does not represent either the money actually subscribed by the first shareholders or the capital profitably expended, or the market value of the railway as a going concern, or even its earning capacity. In taking over the railways the nation should pay no respect either to the fancy or to the stock values, but only to the proportion to which the shareholders are honestly entitled. An equitable basis of purchase may be found in Mr. Gladstone's Act of 1844, which enables the Treasury to buy out the shareholders of lines built since that date at 25 years' purchase, calculated on the earnings of the previous three years. The price of the railways need not be an insuperable or even a serious difficulty in the way of national possession of the means of transit.
We must not stop at the railway termini at our ports. Just as the goods must be carried in national railways, so in course of time must they be transferred to a national mercantile marine; and sooner or later, at every port to which British ships carry their merchandise, a government agent will arrange that exchange of goods which is the very essence of international trade.
The control of the foreign trade is as important and as necessary to the community as the control of the home trade; for, although our home trade is ten times greater, our relations with foreign countries depend largely upon our commerce. The consular service in the future must be so developed that our international exchange shall strengthen our good relations with the foreigner, and shall not be, what they too often are now, a constant source of peril and provocation.
To Fight is to Win. At the present moment the Labor Party fills a place in the public mind out of all proportion to its actual electoral achievement, notable though that is. It is treated with almost exuberant politeness by the opposition; it is patted on the back by the Liberal chiefs; it forms the principal topic of the political leader writers of both parties; it looks like becoming the spoiled darling of parliament. So far as the government is concerned it would seem as though the Labor members have only to ask, to have. All goes as merrily as a marriage bell.
No one who knows and appreciates the strength of the forces which Socialism is challenging is in the least likely to be deluded by the immediately apparent rosiness of the outlook. The Labor Party in the House of Commons is as yet not disliked only because as yet it is not feared. Until it has made itself both disliked and feared it will be far short of having fulfilled the objects of its very existence. It is not saying too much to say that in the very near future the measure of the Labor Party's effectiveness will be its unpopularity in the House of Commons. Acrimonious as are the feelings often evoked by political controversies, they are urbanity itself as compared with the passions aroused over economic issues. The limits of Liberal concession must needs soon be reached. The Liberal-Labor candidate is but a transient phenomenon of our time, and with his disappearance the storm will break.
To mince matters, to seek to conceal or only to half reveal the facts were mischievous as well as stupid. Inasmuch as nothing short of an economic revolution can vitally or permanently improve the
wage-earners' condition, it is at an economic revolution that a Labor Party must aim, and a revolution is none the less a revolution because it takes years or even decades in the accomplishing. Years and decades of hard work, of tireless activity, of small triumphs and dismaying defeats lie before the Labor Party inside and outside the walls of parliament, and they must be years and decades of revolutionary activity and of nothing less than that. In the course of a revolution somebody must needs suffer in mind, body or estate. Thanks to our constitutional system and to our widely extended franchise Labor can work out its own salvation without injury either to the sanity or to the skins of those who shall seek to hinder it. But the estates must be attacked, and attacked with vigor and despatch. A Labor policy which hurts nobody will benefit no one.
Meanwhile, the Labor members in the House of Commons would do well to avail themselves to the fullest possible extent of the conciliatory temper discovered on the government and opposition benches; confident that such concessions as they can extort will be due much more to fear of their potentiality than to belief in their power. They can always be outvoted, but their supporters in the constituencies cannot, and practical politicians are acute enough to see that a thoughtless snub to Labor in parliament is more than likely to be followed by an accession to its ranks in the country. That is by far and away the most hopeful aspect of the present position of Labor. Defeat by the mere weight of numbers inside the House will do well nigh as much as success itself to recruit its forces outside. It stands to win as much by disappointment as by hope.
The Labor representatives already elected are after all little more than pioneers in the campaign of Socialism against Capital. It is in the constituencies that the work worth doing must be done. Nothing short of a political earthquake is likely to drive the present administration from office. Surprises there may be in store for us, but the repeal of the Septennial Act will not be one of them. There lie before us, then, we may be sure, six years in which to organize a victory compared to which the successes of 1906 should be but the smallest affair of outposts. In the course of these years (and of nature) seats will fall vacant. There will be few of them which a prudently chosen Labor candidate will not have at least some chance of filling, a chance that will be immeasurably improved if only it be made clear to the wage-earners of the constituency that every Labor member, out of 670, sent to parliament is one more nail driven into the coffin of the Capitalist system.
Once more it must be insisted : the policy of Labor is the policy of Socialism ; the majorities of Labor candidates at the polls will have real and lasting value just in as far as they have been achieved under the inspiration of the Socialist idea; it is thanks to the spread of that idea among the workers in the past ten years that we are at long last enabled with truth to declare that, although Capitalism is not yet dead, the feet of the young men who are to carry it out to burial are already upon the floor of the House of Commons.
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