WHY do strikes occur, are they justifiable, and if so can no better means be found of attaining the same ends ?

Were the question asked abruptly, · Why do men go on strike?' the average employer would probably reply, • Because they are discontented,' while the typical working-man might answer, . To get fair play.' Each of these answers seems to bear a little hardly upon that section of the community to which the speaker does not belong. It is the point of view which counts. The following remarks, made from the working-man's point of view, are the result of observation and (may one say ?) internal conversations among working men throughout a period of nearly ten years. An opportunity like the present is seldom given the working man, for two reasons; he is

; but half articulate, and his point of view is the wrong one-wrong because it does not appeal to the educated, who very naturally do not appreciate the mass of detail which renders the lot of the working man so much less happy than it might be.

This reasonable ignorance is unfortunate for the working classes in many ways, and is not to be dispelled by the ordinary methods of the journalist or philanthropist, for any attempt to acquire information' soon betrays itself and creates an unnatural atmosphere. In practice the working man or his wife being interviewed-however informally-will always paint working-class conditions very much better or very much worse than they really are. There appears to be no middle

urse in this connexion; and grave misapprehensions arise, damaging the cause of the wage-earners.

All working-class grievances (hence practically all the economic unrest through which we are passing) are due mainly to the fact that working men consider there is a want of logic in the attitude of society towards its hewers of wood and drawers of water. There is still a reluctance on the employer's part to realise that his · hands' can reason and are quick to trace to its source any specific grievance which, in their opinion, would not exist were a clear statement of the facts made public This alleged want of logic produces two main results

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from which all legitimate working-class grievances spring. First, the hours of the wage-earner are too long, and second, his pay is inadequate.

Consider the so-called eight-hour day. This would be more accurately described as the nine-hour day, because, for five days a week the working hours are usually eight and two-thirds in number. If the expression eight-hour day be insisted upon, then, as a matter of simple arithmetic, there would be no Saturday half-holiday in the forty-eight hour week; and the forty-eight hour week is the shortest within the general knowledge of the working classes. Terminological exactitude' is of something more than academic importance here, because working men may, with some show of reason, point to its absence as an indication of the spirit in which matters concerning them are discussed. It has been contended that, * 'In many fields of intellectual work men frequently take no account of time, but go on as long as may be necessary to complete some task, and much longer than any workman is ever called upon to exert himself. Some intellectual workers habitually do it—there are numerous classical examples—and even in ordinary professional life it is not uncommon. The head of a business often works longer than anyone in his employ.' This is only incontrovertible if we assume that the bootmending, plot-cultivation and so forth, which actual necessity imposes on the worker, are not work. Employers seem unable to realise that the vast majority of their more poorly paid hands have to toil for very many hours, week in week out, to bring the works or official pay up to a living wage. Further, the working man does for himself and his family very many of those things which members of the more fortunate classes pay domestic servants or others to do.

Again, it is generally accepted as a fact beyond dispute that mental work is more fatiguing than mere bodily labour. Yet the working man in Government employ knows that he will be compulsorily retired at the age of sixty-five,f while he is also aware that Judges, Cabinet Ministers, High Commissioners and others whose work is on the highest mental level may, and very frequently do, continue their labours to a much greater age. May not the labourer, worn out at sixty-five, contend that his toil must have been harder than that of the Judge still working at seventy-five, eighty or ninety? One who had earned his pay at both brain work and labour said not long ago, The truth is that, whereas mental work fatigues the brain only, manual labour fatigues the body and the brain too.'* It is matter of everyday experience

* The Times,' Aug. 19, 1910 : Mental and Manual Work.'

+ Ordnance Factory rule 70, 'In any circumstances workmen, whether entitled to superannuation or not, are compulsorily retired on attaining the age of sixty-five.' The rule also states that a workman may be retired on the ground of age at sixty.

' that the man with a tired body can do no useful work, mental or manual-cannot even derive profit from reading —though the mentally tired man may do good bodily work and find therein recreation.

Up to this point our comparison of working hours has been confined almost exclusively to the notion of hours per diem, but it must not be forgotten that the working man will probably never have one entire week for his own until he is deemed past work, unless, in the wearisome years between schooldays and his premature old age, sickness or other misfortune befall him. Is he so much to be blamed if he sometimes compare his statutory holidays with the wider and more frequent breathingspaces allowed to others? and is it not clear that his hours of work, reckoned throughout the year, are very much longer than those of his superiors ? Monotony and constant subordination too bring in their train an awful cramping of spirit quite unknown to the brain-worker.

Recent railway disasters have brought out in a painful manner the fact that monotony of work tends to subconscious performance, and we know that any action performed subconsciously is liable to be forgotten on occasion. Major Pringle, enquiring into the disaster which occurred at Waterloo Junction on Oct. 25, 1913, asked a witness whether men did not take things too much for granted sometimes.t


• When a man,' was the reply, 'is kept a long time in the box he gets so used to the work that it comes to him quite

* The Times,' March 31, 1911 : ‘Labour and Brain Work.' + The Daily Mail,' Nov. 6, 1913. The witness was himself a signalman, * The so-called 'Saturday afternoon strike' in Sept. 1913 was largely due to the bath difficulty.

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naturally. What would you suggest as an alternative

' move a man?' 'It would do him a bit of good sometimes.' •You think that being in one box for a long time a man becomes less careful?' 'Not less careful, but they do the work and a minute or two afterwards do not think what they have done. They do not think enough about it.'

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But the soul-destroying monotony with its attendant catastrophes is for our purpose a side issue. The important points are three: the manual worker is worn out at an earlier age than is the brain-worker, and the man on the lower rate of pay will be compelled to put in very many hours per week at some form of drudgery which it is not usual to consider when reckoning his hours of toil, while of holidays throughout adult life he has practically none. By what standard then do we measure if his hours are not too long?

Secondly, the manual worker's pay is inadequate. It might be argued that our Alms-houses, Hospitals and Workhouses, together with the Old Age Pension Act, are all standing monuments to the inadequacy of the working-man's pay. Though such a contention is by no means the exaggeration it may seem to many, it is certainly sweeping, and we willingly abandon it with the remark that, if there were no charity in the world save charity in thought, our civilisation would be upon a higher plane.

There are certain things which the working man can never do because his pay is insufficient. He can seldom or never afford to occupy a house in which there is a bath

The story of the bath used as a receptacle for coal is familiar, and no doubt true, but it scarcely furnishes good proof that working men would not appreciate fitted baths. On the other hand, it brings out the fact that even the more provident of our poor are compelled to purchase coal extravagantly-by the cwt. or half hundredweight-because their homes have not the storage accommodation for larger and more economic purchases. The working man who is determined to be clean must either spend a great deal of his spare time (when he is not working), carrying pails of water about,* or he must pay at the public Wash


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houses' for the risk of innumerable chills. Further, though the working man may lay no exclusive claim to inability to afford illness, yet illness bears much more hardly upon him and his than upon his social superiors; and he may contend with absolute truth that the few days' rest which might stave off a severe illness is a luxury beyond his means—he must go on, taking the risk. It seems at best a paradox that the less a man is paid the greater is the physical endurance demanded of him; in other words, the man worst fed, housed and clothed is called upon to run the greatest risk of physical injury. That the working man cannot afford holidays is made clear by the practice of the punishment known as suspension. Could he afford it, it would be no punishment at all, but the mere granting of an unexpected holiday, for nearly all working-class holidays are days upon which there is neither work nor pay. Superior persons who work fewer hours and for higher pay suffer no deduction in respect of statutory holidays.

The average working man holds very decided opinions concerning his own and other people's holidays: How is it,' he asks, that the more important a gentleman's work is in the place, so much the longer is the period for which he can be spared from it each year, and things -including his pay-go on just as though he were there? How is it that, though I may be entitled by rule to a few days' leave each year, of course without pay, yet, when I have a single one of those days, there is generally a fuss ? And why, if my time is of so little value, must it be checked to the half minute, while the man whose time is paid on a very much higher scale may wander in half or three quarters of an hour late daily? It is a crime for me to lose half a minute (valued at a fraction of a farthing) once a year, while the other man may lose his shillings' worth every day. I pay heavily for the small loss, he pays nothing for the greater.'

Fortunately it is within the power of anyone interested to draw up an imaginary balance sheet of working household expenditure if he will but take the trouble to enquire into the question of rent (as a rule the working man earning twenty-five shillings a week pays no less than six shillings in rent), and will also bear

Vol. 223.—No. 443.

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