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(4) The recent Minority Report of the Committee on Shipping Rings stated that the result of the Eastern Shipping Conference on the trade of Singapore had been that the freight is now 15s. to New York, 50s. to London, 57s. to Glasgow, and 55s. to Liverpool.'
(5) A case came before a chamber of commerce in which the New York shipper had sent cotton goods via Liverpool to Shanghai at a little over half the price the Liverpool merchant paid.
(6) The Leeds Chamber of Commerce found bottles from Germany to New Zealand were charged 22s. 6d. per ton, as against 42s. 6d. per ton from England.
(7) The Glasgow Chamber of Commerce reported on soft goods of all kinds from Hamburg to the Colonies via London that there was a differential freight in favour of Germany of upwards of 50 per cent., and that such differential rates are iniquitous, and seriously detrimental to the interests of British manufacturers and shippers.'
(8) The Government of Hong Kong complained of foreign companies competing to England charging exactly the same freight as the P. and O., but lower freight to the Continent. The Chairman of the P. and O. seemed to think that the nation should rest satisfied with his statement that his company did not charge lower freights to the Continent, although the companies with which he had agreements did.
(9) The British Iron Trade Delegation which visited the Continent in 1895 lay the greatest stress on the higher range of transportation charges in Great Britain. This is described as ' undoubtedly the greatest factor in favour of the foreign producer.' Figures are given to prove that Continental rates are generally at least one-half the rates charged for long distance traffic in this country. It is added that the Belgians can send their iron one hundred miles to Antwerp by rail, and thence by sea to London for considerably less than is charged by rail from Staffordshire to London. 'Not only have Continental manufacturers cheaper transport from works to ports by railway, but they also have. cheaper freights by steamer from the ports of Antwerp and Hamburg to outside markets, and even to our own Colonies and India.'
The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
to return unaccepted MSS.
In spite of the many columns that have appeared in the daily papers upon the coal crisis, the public does not appear even yet to have fully realised all that is involved in the attitude taken up by the Miners' Federation. It is mainly because the situation is a new one. The conception of the general strike' is a quite modern development in the trade-union movement. Until this conception was borrowed from the Continental syndicalists, English trade unionists were content to use the weapon of the strike to hit particular enemies against whom they had a particular grievance. If a firm or group of firms refused an advance of wages, or took some other course of which the union disapproved, a strike was decreed against that firm or group of firms, and unless other employers made common cause with those firms and ordered a lock-out, the strike remained localised. The new development consists in striking against all the employers because of a quarrel with some employers.
The first complete revelation which the country received of this new method of industrial warfare was last autumn, in
VOL. LXXI-No. 421
connexion with the railway strike. Here the point at issue was the recognition' of the trade unions by the railway companies. Most of the companies refused to grant recognition, and therefore in this case the strike would have been extensive, even on the older principles of trade unionism. The significant fact was that the strike was declared not only against the companies which refused recognition, but also against the one companythe North Eastern-which had already granted recognition. On the surface nothing could be more absurd than such a proceeding. The servants of the North Eastern Railway Company had no quarrel with their employers. They had secured the very object for which the servants of other companies were asking, and according to the older conception of trade unionism their duty was to continue at work and to help their less fortunate comrades by subscribing liberally to the strike fund. By this means increased pressure would have been brought upon the other railway companies to follow the example set by the North Eastern, which, for the sake of argument, is here assumed to have been a good example. Why, then, was this rational and traditional method of trade-union warfare abandoned? The answer is, because the new conception of a general strike had become the basis of trade-union policy. The essence of that conception is that the strike must be so general, so widespread, as to terrorise the whole nation. Therefore good employers must be attacked as well as bad employers. Those firms which have conceded every demand of the trade unions must be treated in the same way as those which refuse to make any concession. The purpose to be accomplished is not the punishment of particular firms, but the holding up of the industries of the country on so gigantic a scale that the nation may be cowed into immediate surrender.
This is the true meaning of the railway strike last autumn, and of the threatened coal strike in the present spring. The deliberate purpose of the authors of these movements is to hold the nation to ransom, and the important question for the nation to decide is how it proposes to meet this new danger.
One thing at any rate is certain: that the danger will not be obviated either by appeals for pity or by expressions of moral indignation. The men who are responsible for the policy of the general strike will not be deterred from their purpose by being told that its execution will bring ruin and misery to tens of thousands of persons who have no share in the original cause of dispute. This is exactly the object of the general strike. The more widespread the misery threatened, the more likely is the nation to succumb in a panic of terror to the demands of the strikers. Nor is it in any way profitable to point out that
such a policy involves the negation of most of the virtues which the human race has hitherto respected. The men who organise general strikes are at war with society as now constituted, and would probably argue that they are morally justified in adopting any methods which would be employed by belligerent armies. In the United States, trade-union leaders of the new type have even gone to the length of organising dynamite outrages. There is happily no sign yet of any such extreme development in our own country, nor is there any evidence that the trade-union leaders have personally encouraged criminal violence or intimidation. They have, however, displayed a laxity with regard to the observance of agreements which can only be explained on the supposition that they hold that in time of war it is legitimate to deceive an enemy. Their ethical outlook is, in fact, so remote from that of the average English citizen that it is useless to employ arguments which would be applicable to any ordinary political or social movement.
Nor is there much, if anything, to be hoped from Government intervention. On the contrary, there is good reason to believe that the present epidemic of strikes is very largely due to the constant intervention of the Government in industrial disputes. Certainly in the case of the railway strike last year, if the Government had stood aside, the strike organisers would have received so severe a rebuff from the railway workers themselves that the popularity of the general strike as a weapon of industrial warfare would have been greatly diminished. There is, indeed, always the danger that when the Government intervenes it will be actuated by political motives. Those who remember clearly the history of last autumn's strike will not dispute the statement that the action of the Government was determined rather by the necessity of conciliating the Labour party in the House of Commons than by the desire to avert a national disaster. As regards more general action on the part of the State, the results have been, if possible, even more disastrous. On all sides it is agreed that the unrest among the coal miners throughout the kingdom is largely the consequence of the Eight Hours Act which was forced through the House of Commons in obedience to the demands of the Socialist party. On this point an illuminating passage appears in the Daily Chronicle of the 21st of February. In support of a suggested scheme for a Government guarantee against any losses which mineowners might incur by conceding the minimum wage, this paper wrote:
A few years ago the State enforced on the coal-mining industry an eight hours' working day. Eight hours is quite enough for a man to spend underground in the laborious and hazardous occupation of mining; but it is
undeniable that the adaptation of working conditions in the mines to meet the requirements of an eight hours' day has, in the transitional period, meant new difficulties and extra cost of working to the management. So far as the miners themselves are concerned, the eight hours' day has also produced inconveniences. If the State can now help to mitigate the effects of past State action, it is bound in honour to do so.
This gem, culled from an extreme Radical paper, sufficiently illustrates the mischief which can be done by Parliamentary interference with the organisation of industry.
The essence of the present situation is that the coal-miners now, like the railway workers last autumn, are threatening by their collective action to deprive the nation of the necessaries of existence. It is a conspiracy so gross in character that almost any action for the effective defence of the community would be justifiable. They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' It would, however, be a grave mistake to rush into a panic and to adopt measures for dealing with this particular evil which might afterwards be misused for the destruction of the legitimate liberties of the subject. As long as the coalminers give the agreed strike notices before leaving their work they are within their legal rights, whatever the motive of the strike may be. It is true that the exercise of a legal right by a number of persons in combination may become an illegal act. For example, every man has a legal right to walk up and down the Strand, but if a thousand men agree together to exercise that right simultaneously they would become a public nuisance, and could be restrained by legal process. Conceivably the same principle of law could be applied to the men who organise a national strike. But it is not desirable so to apply it; for the result might be to prevent workmen from using the weapon of the strike in perfectly legitimate circumstances. It is far safer to maintain the principle that any number of workmen may agree together to hand in their strike notices for whatever reason they choose to adopt, or for no reason at all. This is one of the British workman's most valuable liberties, and no temporary danger ought to make us even consider the possibility of withdrawing it. We must find other ways of dealing with the general strike.
At the back of the present strike epidemic there is the desire on the part of a large section of the working classes to improve their economic position. It is not only a legitimate, it is a laudable desire. Indeed, the pity is that the desire is not more widely felt and expressed. The mass of the worst-paid workers and semi-workers, the alleged thirteen millions on the verge of starvation,' submit to their lot with regrettable apathy. The