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And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
My beautiful Annabel Lee ;
And bore her away from me,
In this kingdom by the sea.
With Poe literature was a religion, and as such to be treated with the greatest respect. He never forced his gift ; even when he was in dire penury, at a time when he could sell anything he wrote--albeit for a beggarly pittance-he never yielded to the temptation-probably he never even felt the temptation—to publish anything of which his critical sense did not approve. He wrought slowly, and, all too often in sorrow and in pain, he forged the links in the chain that have made his fame immortal. He had his weaknesses—as what man has not ?-but he was as true to his ideals of literature as, so far as his poor erring humanity allowed, he was to those of life.
THE UNEMPLOYED' POINT OF VIEW
EARLY and comprehensive legislation in the special interests of the unemployed is now promised on high authority. The public conscience is at last stirred, and the State seems resolved to succour, if possible, the victims of industrial fluctuations. In these circumstances some reasonable idea of the range and extent of unemployment, a correct conception of the needs and conditions of the real unemployed, a just estimate of the sham unemployed, and an adequate appreciation of the rights of the general community become imperative. Despite all that is said and written about unemployment, it is evident that many dangerous fallacies concerning this great industrial and social canker are entertained by statesmen, politicians, and reformers-fallacies which, if they are not dispelled, may lead to the application of some costly and mischievous treatment. It is high time to indulge in plain speaking.
The statements and suggestions I have to make on this huge, tragic, and much misunderstood problem may not be in strict accord with commonly accepted theories--they are certainly not put forward in the interests of any party or school of thought—but they are based upon the facts and actualities of unemployment. My evidence is that of an eye-witness ; my experience is that of a victim ; and my proposals are made to meet the needs of the genuine unemployed without subsidising the wastrel, and without encroaching upon the rights of the rest of the community.
The first point to be kept in view, if we are to do more than tinker and experiment at unnecessary cost with unemployment, is that the problem, as a problem, cannot be absolutely solved. Unemployment is an indispensable corollary of civilisation. It is foolish to offer to solve this problem. That is the bed-rock fact upon which our unemployed legislation must be founded, unless such legislation is to fail. All we can do with success-certainly all we need attempt-is to lessen unemployment and mitigate, within reasonable limits, the sufferings of the genuine victims. The ideal of 'work for all, with overwork for none,' is impossible of realisation, and until we recognise
its impossibility and absurdity our efforts at reform will not be very successful. While human industry rests on its present foundations, while the seasons remain, while fashions are liable to change, and while man is able to invent new appliances, we must, at all times, have some unemployed somewhere. That is no reason why we should have too many unemployed, nor is it any excuse for the slow starvation and deterioration of the unemployed. The problem before us is not how to abolish unemployment, but how to confine it within reasonable limits, and how to feed the victims.
The unemployed-at any rate, the real unemployed are not a mere by-product of a faulty industrialism. The unemployed are not a quantity that would vanish if the wicked capitalists were eliminated. The unemployed are an integral part of our industrial organisation, and as such they need consideration and wise treatment. It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that the unemployed (some of them) are essential to enterprise and progress. Unless we have a reserve army of idle workmen to draw upon at will our industries must lose the power of expansion. The "right-to-work ’ doctrine is an egregious fallacy. We might as well insist upon our soldiers having the right to fight !--that is, to be constantly fighting. The bona fide workman unemployed needs two things--in his own interest and in that of the community-first, food ; next, a job in his own line as soon as the exigencies of industry permit. Industrialism both creates and requires a reserve of idle labour; therefore, this reserve army of industry must be kept efficient, respectable, and within call. But if you seek to abolish this reserve army by "right-to-work'schemes--if you take the suspended workman out of the ordinary labour market, and out of reach of the employer who may need him at a moment's notice-you are going to injure, if not paralyse, the nation's legitimate industries. For example, if you take all our unemployed men away to some farm colony, how are some of our ordinary industries, which may require many hands one day and only a few the next day, to be conducted ? Unless men are available employers will be deterred from entering into contracts, and our industrial system must fall to pieces. That ought to be plain to anyone of ordinary intelligence ; yet we have gentlemen claiming to be authorities, and leaders of public opinion, suggesting all manner of artificial relief work in competition with, and at the expense of, natural industry, proposing measures which, if they could be carried out, would denude the ordinary labour market and stop the supply of the prime essential of industrial and commercial activity. These quack unemployed schemes designed by dreamers and advocated by cranks would, if put in operation, disorganise industry, destroy enterprise, demolish progress, drain the nation's resources, and demoralise the workers—they would prove a curse to the community and a derision to the workers.
Nothing proves more conclusively how mistaken some of our
would-be reformers are than the fact that farm colonies and suchlike schemes are seriously suggested as remedies for unemployment. From practical knowledge I declare, with all the emphasis at my command, that no scheme of relief work has yet been suggested in this country that would do more than touch the fringe of this problem. The real unemployed neither need nor desire pauperising relief work of any kind or description. If they did they ought not to have it. Tax and rate subsidised schemes of relief work in competition with natural industry must, always and everywhere, do more harm than good. Apart from the questions of damaging private enterprise and taxing the community involved in these relief schemes, we must recognise that to make such schemes successful, even in themselves, regular labour—to say nothing of skilled and well-fed labour-is essential, whereas the problem of the unemployed is a problem of irregular labour. The unemployed man is not always unemployed. The employed man is not always employed. Some men are out of work this week ; other men next week. The bona fide workman, when dismissed or suspended, has no idea, as a rule, how long he will be idle—whether a month, a week, or only a day--and it is this absolute uncertainty which would render practically worthless all the fancy unemployed schemes, if adopted. All the best of the unemployed would rigorously boycott these schemes of relief work. The workman of the ordinary type (I write from painful and bitter personal experience) would not consent to appear before a committee of strangers, answer a hundred and one questions, acknowledge himself a dead beat,' and then be exiled to some farm or other labour colony, while there remained as in the case of the real work-seeker there always remains—the possibility, or the hope, of getting employment in his own line, and on his own account, at any moment. If he fails in his search for work of an honourable kind to-day, he hopes to succeed to-morrow; if he fails again to-morrow, then he will still have hopes of success the next day. This is the type of man we ought to consider--the silent and patient work-seeker who will not parade himself before any public relief committee-instead of which reformers generally put forward schemes which, if adopted, would be embraced by few but the charity-seekers.
Nearly all the great advocates of unemployed schemes-even the * Labour Party-seem to ignore some of the most vital points in this problem. I have no recollection of ever reading a speech, article, pamphlet, or book on unemployment by any great leader of public opinion (and I read them all) without being impressed with the idea that its author had a remarkable misconception of the problem. These gentlemen seem to imagine that our unemployed army is a fixed and regular quantity, always composed of the same units. Certainly these would-be reformers talk, and write, and propose as though they had a fixed idea that all the men who are out of work to-day are the same individuals who will be unemployed to-morrow, next week, next
month, and next year. All their schemes, so far as I can make out, are based upon this absolutely false assumption. Even the ‘Labour' ' Party talk about 'organising,' ' registering,' and 'classifying' the unemployed, and then providing suitable work for them. This is simply impossible in the case of the best of the unemployed. If a man knew that he would be unable to secure bona fide employment within a reasonable time of his dismissal or suspension, he might possibly apply for any relief work available while efficient; but if he is a real work-seeker this is exactly what he does not know, and therefore he shuns public relief and relief committees and goes on from day to day looking for ordinary employment on his own account. He suffers meanwhile in silence and secrecy, steadily losing his strength and efficiency. To this vital aspect of the problem our would-be reformers seem blind. I respectfully advise these gentlemen to try and understand the unemployed the real unemployed--- before they dabble in unemployed schemes.
It is contended, and readily believed, that our distress committees and similar bodies have gained considerable knowledge of the unemployed recently, and there is a growing disposition to base legislation upon this knowledge. Herein lies danger. Our distress committees, Charity Organisation Society, and relieving officers very seldom come in contact with the real unemployed; their dealings are mostly with a type which is little less than a libel on the genuine unemployed. Those who come into the open and parade themselves-those of whom distress committees have experience--are more often the professional charity-hunters and expert whiners and wastrels than the bona fide employment-seekers. The genuine type of a British workman (save in exceptional cases) will not consent to appear before a committee of strangers and submit to an elaborate and painful examination in order to become pauperised while he retains an atom of efficiency, a spark of dignity, or a ray of hope of helping himself. The best of the unemployed keep in the background; they sell their furniture, pawn their clothing, get into debt with the small shopkeeper, and frequently suffer hunger until able to obtain work again in the ordinary way. These are the men who merit consideration. Legislation must not be based upon the experience of distress committees and public officials. I have had as much experience of unemployment's horrors as any man, but I never courted the favours of distress committee, Charity Organisation Society, guild of help, or relieving officer. I am personally acquainted with as many working men as anyone, but I have never yet known a first, or even a second rate workman parade himself before a public relief committee. I protest against the adoption of any scheme founded entirely upon knowledge gained by these bodies—knowledge, mainly, of the sham unemployed and the unemployable.
See Labour Party's Unemployed Workmen Bill.