Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dead King Watch: Henry V

Apparently when the current Queen saw that Henry V didn't look anything like Kenneth Branagh she was not amused.

Yep, another Dead King ('Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more'). King Henry V died on August 31st 1422, which makes today the 584th anniversary of his death.

He was born at Monmouth, Wales, in either 1386 or 1387, the son of Henry of Bolingbroke, who in 1399 became Henry IV, and Mary de Bohun. Henry IV's reign was troubled, and the young Henry grew up fighting various rebels against his father. Indeed, in 1403, the sixteen-year-old prince was almost killed by an arrow which became lodged in his face. After his father Henry IV died on March 20, 1413, Henry V succeeded him to the throne.

Henry was lucky in that he came to power at a time of rare social peace at home - and so took the opportunity to do what all powerful rulers tend to do at such times - wage war abroad. In 1415, he invaded France but his campaign was a complete disaster - and his army was saved only from total annhilation when the French lost the tactical battle at Agincourt (October 25), probably one of the most famous battles in English history. Today, that battle is held up by right wing historians to show how glorious history can be. David Starkey would doubtless see this battle as one episode of which English people should all be proud. Writing in July 8th's Daily Telegraph, Starkey writes that 'Liberty is something more than an aspiration, it is something which if you are British or English is built into your ancestors. They fought for liberty, they died for it, they struggled for it and we should be doing the same'.

The lines given to Henry V on the eve of Agincourt by Shakespeare certainly make this King sound cool.

'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.'

But 'liberty' had nothing do with any of this. In 1417, Henry returned to France and this time he strategically outwitted the French and in two years had reached Paris. The French collapsed, and Henry ruled as King of both England and France until his death. If he is to be remembered, it should be as a tyrannical leader who liked to wage bloody wars of aggression abroad. Thank goodness, over five hundred years after Henry V's death, modern rulers are so different today.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

An announcement

This blog is due to get rather quieter for the next few weeks or so, as I am on holiday of sorts. I doubt my break will be as historically thought-provoking as occasional Histomat reader isakofsky's clearly was, but who can tell?

In the meantime, I will plug a few things that I would read on the net if I wasn't busy writing about Dead Kings and organising to bring down Blair, etc.

Paddington's novel Drift, which I am plugging here to try and assuage the guilt I sometimes feel for not yet having found time to read it.

Edward William's Reading Lenin in America blog, which I am plugging in part to try and assuage the guilt at not engaging with his arguments but instead just quoting Lenin at him after he commented here one time - and in part because it looks a quite interesting blog.

The debate between Marxist historians Chris Harman and Robert Brenner on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, which is online here.

Edited to add: A quote from George Orwell, which was highlighted recently by Lahai J Samboma, and seems quite relevant given the current propaganda offensive against the people of Iran:

'Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.'


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Spotted here, but see also here.


Reid-Churchill - Hero of the pro-war 'Left'

On Reid, who fancies himself as the 'strongman' the British people apparently are crying out for, see here


Solidarity with Tommy Sheridan

'I have in mind a new movement that would continue the battle for the vision we all hold dear - of an independent socialist Scotland free from poverty and want, of internationalism, of freedom from environmental destruction, of opposition to Bush and Blair’s imperialist wars.'

From an interview with Sheridan after his triumph over the Murdoch Empire in this week's Socialist Worker.

Edited to add this. It looks like the new party is called 'Solidarity - Scotland's Movement for Socialism' or something. Solidarity with Solidarity.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dead King Watch: Richard III

The late great Peter Cook as Richard III (yes, I know, I have used this picture on my blog before)

Richard III died on 22 August 1485, killed by the army of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth, which makes today the 521st anniversary of his death. Richard appears in the 2002 List of '100 Great Britons' (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public) though the BBC History Magazine lists him under 'doubtful entrants, based on special interest lobbying or "cult" status', and comments: 'On the list due to the Ricardian lobby, but a minor monarch'. The Ricardian lobby? Eh? Who the hell are these guys? And why have they formed a cult around someone who died 521 years ago? Well, this is apparently a frequently asked question on their site...

Q:Why do you believe Richard was a good king?

A: 'As king, Richard attempted to provide justice for all, including the poor and the vulnerable and this was demonstrated in his parliament. Richard understood the value of peace and trade, and he encouraged foreign trade and immigration of skilled craftsmen. He had an open mind with regard to invention and innovation and he encouraged the fledging printing industry. He was a talented administrator and following his elevation to the crown established the Council of the North to govern his former palatinate, an organisation that was so successful it was retained by the Tudors and survived until the mid-seventeenth-century. As duke, Richard had a reputation for being good and fair in his dealings but his reign as king was too short for his potential to be fully realised.'

Well - I am no medieval historian, and while it is true that if Richard III did encourage the immigration of skilled craftsmen to England he was a braver man than most of today's politicians, overall this is about as convincing as the stories - given colour by Shakespeare - which simply portray him as an evil 'poisonous hunch-backed toad'.

Richard was born in 1452 at Fotheringay Castle, the eighth and youngest and fourth surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, and there had therefore been no thought of him ever becoming King. However, his Dad did have a minor claim to the throne and when he was just three years old, the Wars of the Roses began - between his dad and the House of Lancaster - another noble family over this. When his father was killed in 1460, at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard's older brother, the 18 year old Edward, took charge of the Yorkist forces and led them to victory at the battle of Towton in 1461 - claiming the throne in the process and becoming Edward IV.

At this time, Richard was just nine years old and, bless him, he didn't really have a clue what the fuck was going on. One moment he was told that his dad and one of his brothers had been killed and their heads placed on spikes for the public to see at York - and the next moment another of his brothers was declared the King of England. Richard spent much of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, under the tutelage of his uncle Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick - a family friend.

During the reign of his brother, King Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty as well as his skill as a military commander. He was small, stocky but a good jouster. He was rewarded with large estates in Northern England, and given the title Duke of Gloucester and the position of Governor of the North, becoming the richest and most powerful noble in England and a loyal aide to Edward IV. By contrast the other surviving brother, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was executed by Edward for treason.

By 1471 - the Lancastrians - and others who had stood in Edward's way like Warwick - were completely crushed. Henry VI was murdered in order to make sure of their defeat - and the only rival left was Henry Tudor - in exile abroad. In 1472 - at this time of peace, Richard married Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter and a childhood friend. He lived in York.

Then in 1483 - his brother Edward died, leaving his sons age 12 and 9 the heirs to the throne and Richard as Lord Protector. However, Edward's wife - their mother - Elizabeth Woodville - did not want Richard around exerting influence while the boys were growing up, so Richard had the Woodville's executed and the boys imprisoned in the Tower of London and then murdered. Richard was now King. When one of his supporters - Lord Hastings - thought Richard was in danger of becoming a tyrant, Hastings too was arrested and executed. This act of despotism horrified even his closest supporters like Buckingham - but when Buckingham rebelled he was also executed on the orders of Richard.

As AL Morton notes, Richard's struggle with the nobles who had helped him to power was an 'inevitable struggle [which] involved all the kings of the period in a contradiction that remaned insoluable till almost all the great families had become extinct.'

Rather like Stalin later on, even Richard's family were now stressed by the whole power struggle thing. Richard's son died in childhood in 1484, and the sadness of this prompted his wife, Anne to illness and also death. Richard was now completely alone - and deeply unpopular - save for a few sycophantic hangers on.

The exiled Henry Tudor now saw his chance to return to England and place his claim to the throne, promising to marry the daughter of Edward IV and so unite the Houses of York and Lancaster in peace if he won. Richard stood only for eternal war - he wanted his enemies and rivals destroyed.

As Morton notes, 'When Henry Tudor, who produced a remote claim to the throne, landed at Milford Haven, the treason and desertion that had been a constant feature of the age reasserted itself and Richard found himself almost without supporters. The Battle of Bosworth field, fought on August 22nd, 1485, by a mere handful of men on either side, ended the Wars of the Roses and with them a whole historic epoch in Britain.'

In the battle, Richard led his 120 strong hand-picked mounted bodyguard into a suicide attack in order to try and reach Henry Tudor and kill him, and in doing so achieve an instant victory. Richard cut through Henry's men but at the crucial moment was let down by the Duke of Northumberland, who refused to join battle and help him out. Richard was cut down crying 'treason, treason' to Northumberland - making him the only King to have been killed in battle. The battle stopped and the Crown was placed on the head of Henry Tudor.

According to local tradition in Leicester, Richard had gone to see a seer in the town before heading off for the Battle of Bosworth Field. She told him 'where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return'. On the ride into battle his spur apparently struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge. Afterward, as his naked dead body was being carried from the battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone and was broken open. With all due respect to the people of Leicester, this story strikes me as being complete and utter bollocks. Richard's corpse was then left exposed in a house by the river for two days so all could see him, before it was placed in an unmarked grave.


Blessed are the colonisers

'Colonization appears as a wonderful work of patience, great courage and brotherly love. No nation and no race has the right to live in isolation. Colonization is based, not upon brutal domination, but upon the principles of high morality, full of feelings of love, peace and brotherhood. The Catholic Church has always supported colonization, provided it was carried out by an honest and humane system and without using force. Therefore we feel its tremendous beauty and grasp its terrific force.'

From L'Osservatore Romano, official organ of His Holiness Pope Pius XI, 24 February 1935.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Did Someone Say Careerist Bastard?

For the files...

Exhibit #1: Peter Hain, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

1983: Hain says: 'The more direct action there is against nuclear weapons in Britain, the greater the freedom a Labour government will have to get rid of them'.

2006: Now we have a Labour Government, Hain clamps down on anti-war campaigners using direct action to highlight the arms trade.

Exhibit #2: Shahid Malik, New Labour MP for Dewsbury.

12 August 2006: Malik joins Muslim leaders in signing a letter to Blair which notes'The debacle of Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in that region, it is also ammunition to extremists who threaten us all.'

20 August 2006: Malik pens an article with the following statement: 'Out of touch with reality, frightened to propose any real solutions for fear of "selling out", but always keen to exact a concession — a sad but too often true caricature of some so-called Muslim leaders'.

This series may well be continued...


George Jackson, Black Revolutionary (1941-1971)

Thirty five years ago today, on 21 August 1971 George Jackson was gunned down in the prison yard at San Quentin prison in what officials described as an escape attempt. In 1960, when only eighteen, George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars. As the black Marxist writer Walter Rodney put it, 'He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the enemy.'

The best introduction to his life are the powerful and fierce letters he wrote from various US prisons, collected in Soledad Brother, which track his political radicalisation inside as the civil rights, anti-Vietnam War and Black Power movements erupted outside. He linked up with these movements from inside, joining the Black Panthers. His murder at the hands of the US State sparked a series of riots across the US prison system, and culminating in the Attica prison riot of September 1971. Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States takes up the story:

'The most direct effect of the George Jackson murder was the rebellion at Attica prison in September 1971-a rebellion that came from long, deep grievances, but that was raised to boiling point by the news about George Jackson. Attica was surrounded by a 30-foot wall, 2 feet thick, with fourteen gun towers. Fifty-four percent of the inmates were black; 100 percent of the guards were white. Prisoners spent fourteen to sixteen hours a day in their cells, their mail was read, their reading material restricted, their visits from families conducted through a mesh screen, their medical care disgraceful, their parole system inequitable, racism everywhere. How perceptive the prison administration was about these conditions can be measured by the comment of the superintendent of Attica, Vincent Mancusi, when the uprising began: "Why are they destroying their home?"

...The official report on the Attica uprising tells how an inmate instructed sociology class there became a forum for ideas about change. Then there was a series of organized protest efforts, and in July an inmate manifesto setting forth a series of moderate demands, after which "tensions at Attica had continued to mount," culminating in a day of protest over the killing of George Jackson at San Quentin, during which few inmates ate at lunch and dinner and many wore black armbands.
On September 9, 1971, a series of conflicts between prisoners and guards ended with a group of inmates breaking through a gate with a defective weld and taking over one of the four prison yards, with forty guards as hostages. Then followed five days in which the prisoners set up a remarkable community in the yard. A group of citizen-observers, invited by the prisoners, included New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, who wrote (A Time to Die): "The racial harmony that prevailed among the prisoners-it was absolutely astonishing.... That prison yard was the first place I have ever seen where there was no racism." One black prisoner later said: "I never thought whites could really get it on.... But I can't tell you what the yard was like, I actually cried it was so close, everyone so together. ..."
After five days, the state lost patience. Governor Nelson Rockefeller approved a military attack on the prison (see Cinda Firestone's stunning film Attica). National Guardsmen, prison guards, and local police went in with automatic rifles, carbines, and submachine guns in a full-scale assault on the prisoners, who had no firearms. Thirty-one prisoners were killed. The first stories given the press by prison authorities said that nine guards held hostage had their throats slashed by the prisoners during the attack. The official autopsies almost immediately showed this to be false: the nine guards died in the same hail of bullets that killed the prisoners.'
Yet despite this massacre, other prisoners were inspired to organise.

As for Jackson, this extract from his prison letters dated April 17 1970, give some idea of the mind the US state had to stop working - and perhaps are still of some relevance today as Bush and Blair declare they are at war with 'extremism':

'I am an extremist. I call for extreme measures to solve extreme problems. Where face and freedom are concerned I do not use or prescribe half measures. To me life without control over the determining factors is not worth the effort of drawing breath. Without self determination I am extremely displeased. International capitalism cannot be destroyed without the extremes of struggle.'

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Friday, August 18, 2006


The full transcript of George Galloway hammering a Sky News presenter a few days back is available here, but I will put up the end of it:

'Sky News presenter: I want to ask you one final question. Do you think that the the four weeks as we've seen that you've mention, the 28 days of this crisis, has set back Hezbollah's ambitions, not only on Israeli soldiers on the border...

Galloway: Hezbollah is winning the war you've just reported...

Sky: Let me finish! Let me finish! Would you mind let me finish, please! Not only on Israeli soldiers over the borders in sizable numbers but also there claims to be a good political organization to help a democratic Lebanese government with the Syrians who've also now left, an independent state. That's also come to blows as well!

Galloway: What a silly question! What a silly person you are! Hezbolah is winning the war, you could see on the other half of the screen. Hezbollah is more popular today...

Sky: (interrupting) That does not answer my question!

Galloway: Hezbollah is more popular today in Lebanon amongst Christians, amongst Sunnis, amongst Shiite, amongst all Arabs, amongst all Muslims that it has ever been! It's Israel who's lost the war, and Bush and Blair for politically organizing the war who've lost politically. This is a defeat of Bush and Blair and Israel. Everybody but you can see it!

Sky: Let me separate out that question then. Is it a setback given that Hezbollah was set up in order to get Israeli soldiers off Lebanese soil, but there are now more [Israeli] soldiers on Lebanese soil than there were 26 days ago?

Galloway: Well, they seem to be getting a bloody good hiding on the other side of the screen I am watching. Maybe you can't see it, but I'm watching them getting a bloody good hiding! So, if that's a success, I'm not sure what failure would look like! The reality is that this conflict would go on. The United Nations resolutions solve nothing! Gives Lebanon nothing! Gives prisoners in Israeli dungeons nothing! And as [Anne Clywd MP] my erstwhile colleague was just saying, Israel has just kidnapped even more Palestinian politicians, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, and thousands of others held in Israeli dungeons. This war will continue until the overall settlement is reached. That settlement must mean Israel withdrawal from all occupied territories that it currently hold since the war in 1967, the release of all political prisoners, and a state for the Palestinians with East Jerusalem as its Capital. No justice, no peace! You're not going out as a newscaster in Jerusalem anytime soon, believe me.

Sky: Well, as usual it prompted a huge email response for and against you Mr Galloway, so we'll leave it there. I have to say that some people might find it offensive when more families are mourning their dead to hear you say that it was a bloody good fight and so!

Galloway: You don't give a damn! You don't even know about the Palestinian families! You don't even know that they exist! Tell me the name of one member of the seven members of the same family swatted on the beach in Gaza by an Israeli warship! You don't even know their name, but you know the name of every Israeli soldier who've been taken prisoner in this conflict because you believe whether you know it or not that Israeli blood is more valuable than that the blood of Lebanese or Palestinian! That's the truth! And the discerning of your viewers already know it!'

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Yes Minister

'Britain should always be on the side of law and justice, so long as we don't allow it to affect our foreign policy.'

Foreign Officer Minister David Triesman has claimed that 'British foreign policy is not "anti-Islamic"', despite the fact that it has killed tens of thousands of, er, Muslims. 'Our commitment to helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan achieve a better future is worthy of support, whether or not you agreed with our interventions in the first place'. Or, as an American general once put it during the Vietnam War - incidently a war David Triesman was rather vocal in opposing - 'It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it'. Today it is necessary to destroy Iraq and Afghanistan in order that their people might have a better future...

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Labour's deputy leader caught in 'telling truth' scandal

The British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has had to strongly deny growing speculation that he had a recent 'dangerous liason' with the truth yesterday.

In what looks like another damaging affair with reality, it is reported that 'Prezza' described US President George Bush as 'crap'. Mr Prescott has since described the idea that as a New Labour politician he might tell the truth as being 'inaccurate'. 'This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view' he said last night.

However, this does not look like being the end of the matter, by any means. Crucially, Mr Prescott, 68, refused to accept damaging further allegations that in him describing any other political figure as being 'crap', he was guilty of the charge of gross hypocrisy. Prescott is also accused of the latter charge of hypocrisy for describing President Bush as being merely a 'cowboy with his stetson on'. Mr Prescott recently returned from a trip to America where he enjoyed dressing up as er, a cowboy with his stetson on.

Mr Prescott has recently argued that the idea that anyone should criticise the likes of Bush and Blair at this most crucial moment in the battle against international terrorism was 'almost beyond belief' and 'undermined unity' at a time 'when we should all stand united'. Whatever our other misgivings about John Prescott, let there be no doubt that Histomat completely endorses this statement.

John Prescott surely represents the best of the British bull-dog spirit in the face of adversity, and it is imperative that everyone rallies around Bush and Blair at a time when their number of enemies seems to be growing in strength every day. Indeed, it might be argued that with his love of calmly playing croquet while evil foreign terrorists gather their forces and threaten invasion that John Prescott is arguably following in the traditions of the mighty Drake, with his love of boules, at the time of the Spanish Armada. 'There is plenty of time to win this game, and to trash the Spaniards too' Francis Drake so memorably said. However, we can be thankful that while in the days of old the likes of Drake had to lead from the front, today our dear beloved rulers no longer have to risk combat themselves but can simply send British working class kids to go and fight and die on their behalf. This is called 'Progress'. The modern soldier's motto was aptly summed up by Rudyard Kipling: 'Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die'.

After all, why would American and British soldiers today ever need to question anything about the 'war on terror' - when there are intellectual and physical heavyweights of the stature of John Prescott, and model democratic leaders (so unlike the bloated plutocrats of old) like George Bush and Tony Blair, around to do all the thinking for them?

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The spectre of revolt in the Middle East

In this week's Socialist Worker, Anne Ashford has an interesting look at the possibility of Hizbollah's heroic resistance to Israel's barbarism throwing not only the Israeli regime but also other Arab Governments into crisis. Histomat also recommend's reading Seymour Hersh's article on Bush's role in the recent war, which has been usefully digested by Doug Nesbitt.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

19. In Conclusion.

'WE can now pause to summarise the whole of our lessons, make a mental stocktaking, and in retrospect retrace our journey —a Journey through the long avenue from prehistoric time, "a time when no man knows," to the known, experienced events of modern days. The evidence accumulated and pieced together by arch groping in the past, misty traditions of ancient peoples, and the surer written records of later times have all lent us their aid. Brief references were made to the Stone and Iron Age, the coming of the Aryans east to Europe, of how our own particular country emerged upon the stage of written history with the coming of the Romans, and of how Saxon, Dane, and Norman followed, and finally lost their racial identity in later times. The geologist told us of the struggle between the elements in the earth’s formation. The biologist showed how individual animals and species struggled with each other. And we passed on to sociology and witnessed a struggle still proceeding.

In this struggle the new class and the old class were engaged, and out of it came the evolution of society. We followed "the chain of change" from mark to manor, from tribal communism to slavery, from slavery to feudalism, and then onwards to manufacture and machinofacture and our own industrial system. The evolution of the warrior, the merchant, the guildsman, and of the industrial capitalist, with his inevitable companion the wage-worker, has engaged our attention.

The growth of trade, the division of labour, the rise and fall of handicraft, the division between town and country, the development of the local, the national and (with the discovery of new continents) the world market, the dawn of the new day of science after medieval night —these and many other things figure upon our Syllabus. The attempts of each rising class to gain political power, the different phases passed through by Capitalism, the beginning of permanent organizations by our own class, with the success and failure which attended its attempts, all formed subjects for later lessons. We have watched new orders and relations arising out of the old; and have seen that the triumph of each class, as well as its birth, always coincides with the development and progress of material conditions. Every system in its maturity also contained the germs of its own decay. From being a helper the particular system becomes a hinderer. Instead of being revolutionary and a useful aid to production, it becomes reactionary and a useless fetter upon production. Then comes into play the new class which the old has begotten and carries forward the banner of progress. Therefore, using history as a touchstone, and recognising that new ideas, new codes of morality, new laws, etc., have their origin in changing economic conditions, we are now in a position clearly to examine the economic factors at present at work, to act in accordance with their evolution, and take up our stand with the new class in its forward march.

The Logic of the Machine.—This is a term often used to describe the economic factors which are inherent in capitalist production, and which, as we have seen, especially since the Industrial Revolution, have been compelling the working-class to take up arms in its own defence.

Right at the beginning of this book it was shown that man only differed from the animal in his power of tool-making, which of course predicates a corresponding development of the thinking faculty, and this again would be closely connected with a vocal language; tool-making, thinking, and talking being inseparable and correlative in their growth. Man has in common with the animal "the will to live," but he has something else, viz., "the will to live better." Now the economic needs of man for food, clothing and shelter are satisfied by contact with Nature, i.e., the soil, fruit-trees, and all the earth’s contents and inhabitants. Moreover, these bodily needs must be satisfied before he can indulge in art or any other spicitual needs which in later development may be his. Naturally, man tries to satisfy these former needs with the least possible exertion. But he can only continue "to live better" by constantly developing and improving his tools. For here, with the making of the first tool, begins the great gulf between man and the animal. The animal acts directly upon Nature; but man interposes between himself and Nature a tool— an action mighty in its consequences, as we shall see. For example, a dog and a rabbit scratch and burrow the ground with their paws; but man makes a sharpened stick, a spade, and in time a steam plough, and successfully, by means of his tools, honeycombs even the rocks of the earth in search of minerals. The fox jumps for the grapes; but man, as a result of his improved technique, thinks of a ladder. When even the eagle’s eye fails to pierce the distance, man’s telescope is more successful. Man’s power over his natural environment results from this interposition. A fish out of water has become proverbial as an instance of an unsuitability to environment which spells death. Likewise, a bird cannot live under water. But man, with his technique, becomes a fish in his submarine and a bird in his aeroplane. The dense forests are cleared; the jungle inhabited; the ocean spanned; the deserts irrigated ; the microbe-infested fever swamps made healthy, and the mountains bored, because man increases his science, harnesses natural forces to do his bidding, and is ever perfecting his tools and machinery.

There is another aspect of the important results of the tool, and that is the consequences arising from its ownership by particular persons. Jack London, in his pamphlet, The Strength of the Strong, tells in a simple, picturesque fashion the story of these results. To cut a long story short, it can be said:—The class of persons owning the tools or the means of production is the ruling class. In the realm of biology there is a very obvious division of labour based upon physiological grounds,. e.g., that of sex. It is impossible for the queen bee, the worker bee, or the drone to do each other’s work. But in sociology, with the coming of tools, a new division of labour, based upon economic grounds arises. It has already been shown that man, unlike the animal, is not physically changed by his environment, but that he able, by changing and improving his tools, to overcome it. First came a difference between man and man, based upon tool-using; in modern life the difference between a miner and an engineer, a painter and a plumber, is in the different tools they use. Physically, a capitalist and a wage-worker, a queen and a washer-woman, are alike. Neither has an arm, an eye, or a leg more than the other. The difference is one of economic position which is based in this case upon tool- ownership. Technique has developed to the extent that a leisured class is possible, i.e., a class which appropriates the surplus labour of another.

The breakup of the tribal community of pauperism, the rise of private property and the State, the division of society into classes, and the use of slaves, have been noted by us previously. Out of slavery came Feudalism. Then, the land was the chief means of production, and as the fighters became its owners, they were the ruling class. Gradually we saw trade and the merchant class increase. From handicraft evolved manufacture. New means of production dwarfed the importance of the land. The old relations were broken down, and a new class rose to power. We witnessed how it asserted its strength upon the economic field first, and then later, in a political revolution, but how the industrial capitalist was never all-powerful until he possessed the machine. The following is a bare enumeration of some of the effects of the operation of its logic. In dealing with the results of the Industrial Revolution we have had occasion to notice them before :—

(1) The machine breaks down all barriers of age, sex, and race. The use of machinery destroyed much of the laborious, heavy work, and thus made possible its performance by women and children. The merciless exploitation of the child slaves of the factory has not yet faded from our memory; and, though restricted, it has not even now disappeared. The "breaking up of the home" —that anti-Socialist bogey— has already been in many instances accomplished.[See Mary Marcy’s leaflet.] While women’s entrance into industry may —especially if the male workers do not tackle the problem intelligently— at first have disastrous results, still, if she fmally gains economic independence and becomes the true equal and comrade of man, undreamt of beneficial results will accrue.

Again, the possibility of sharing the Imperialist’s ideas of there being "superior" and "inferior" peoples is clearly revealed if we recognise that the difference between lesser and more developed peoples, just as between man and the animal, is one of more or less developed technique. One need not be very well versed in world politics to notice demonstrations of how the capital and commodities of the more advanced countries, by investment and export, beget their like in all the ends of the earth; and of how the so-called backward countries are reproducing the industrial systems of the forward ones, and following practically the same lines of development.

(2) In the wake of the machine comes the crisis, the growth of large production, and the increasing of the rate of exploitation of the worker. There is no need to elaborate these points, as they have already been dealt with. They occur as the inevitable outcome of the inherent laws of the capitalist system and were given as the fundamental cause of the Industrial Unrest in Outline 18.

(3) Born before the machine, yet made doubly necessary by its coming, trade unions commenced striving to retain by collective effort the imperilled status and livelihood of their members. Individual bargaining having failed, workmen formed local trade clubs. From these grew national clubs or unions of each separate trade. These again formed into federations and congresses to gain strength. Some attempts were made tp form international unions between like trades, and national delegates were appointed at some of the congresses to to express the international unity of Labour, which was being already realised.

Our recent lessons have indicated how the logic of the machine has destroyed the craft basis of the oldest unions by destroying handicraft and introducing unskilled labour —the machine minders and "hands" of modern production. Changing circumstances thus caused the basis, aim and policy of the unions to be revised. The members of an industry union now aim at controlling industry through their organizations. Having understood the logic of the machine, they seek to master it. To do this, they have first to shape their own union, control its policy and representatives, and convert their organization into a fighting machine capable of efficiently waging war on the industrial and political fields.

Before our lesson finishes an endeavour will be made to direct attention to the theoretical weapons already at hand, which will give the worker a clear understand ing of his proper aim, and stimulate him to practical work and to solve the question of ways and means to attain that desired end.

The Rise of Scientific Socialism.—Since we have been discussing the machine and the effects of its private ownership, it is only proper that we should turn to a proposed alternative economic system, the founders of which for the first time in history, laid bare the forces making for the dissolution of the capitalist system. It has been well said that though the machine has no voice, its victim has one, and that this victim is forced to cry out in protest and cherish ideas of revolt. Another writer has well described Capitalism as being to the worker a chair with spikes in it, which will not allow him to sit content until they are removed. And thus, in spite of conservative forces and the power of traditian, the worker will be forced to face "things as they are" and alter them. "Labour, the Atlas of the capitalist system, is destined to become its Nemesis."

Socialism is a word which came into general use in the third decade of the 19th century, and it has always heen understood to signify a new state of affairs in opposition to Capitalism. The adjective "scientific" is used to distinguish this Socialism from the schemes of these Utopians and idealist Socialists who based their plans for a new state of affairs upon abstract principles, rather than upon the logic of the machine and the historical growth of society resulting from the friction between rival classes.["The Utopian is one who, starting from an abstract principle seeks for a perfect social organization." —Plekhanov].

Many great thinkers in the past, dissatisfied with the conditions of their times, had drafted out plans for a re-modelling of affairs. Some of them put their p1an into practice and experimented with communal colonies. Plato’s Republic, More’s Utopia, Cabet’s Icaria, St. Simon’s Industrial System , Fourier’s Phalanstery, and Robert Owen’s New Moral World are the best known examples.

Scientific Sociaiinn can only be understood by knowing the conditions of its birth and the experience of its founders. At the close of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, society in the two most advanced countries, France and England, was passing through a change. And the Socialism fathered by that change was based, not upon ideals, wishes, or a subjective change in men’s heads, but upon the objective processes of society. None of the Utopians saw Socialism as an historic necessity, or recognised the class struggle In which the workers were the true bearers of progress. The real test of Scientific Socialism is that it explains itself; for its theories clearly came out of the material conditions of the times. The French Revolution, "promising the reign of reason, had brought the despotism of the factory." The French section of the capitalist class triumphed, and the feudal nobility were sent packing. But the proletarian element in the Revolution remained unsatisfied. A new, distinct class could be clearly seen for the first time, for whom the Revolution did go far enough, and who, in the 19th century, made many revolts against the bourgeoisie. In England, too, a revolution of another sort was taking place. The rapid introduction of machinofacture revolutionised the old methods of production and caused immense misery among the working class, making it feel and express its antagonism to the capitalists here also. To explain these new social facts, new theories were required and these theories were expressed most clearly by Marx and Engels, the acknowledged founders of Scientific Socialism. As these men happened to be born in Germany, their theories are sometimes dismissed as being "foreign" by people (e.g., the Fabians) who claim to have distinctly British (!) economic theories. As if there was anything national about a scientific theory or as if Socialism was determined by geography! The foolishness of the objection becomes more apparent when it is realised that the forty years of research embodied in Capital were spent in England, the classic land of Capitalism. Owing to Germany’s then backward state, the conclusions could never have been arrived at there.

Marx was born in 1818 at Trèves. He studied law, history, and philosophy at the Bonn and Berlin universities. His Radical opinions spoiled his chance of appointment as lecturer on philosophy at the former, and he became editor of the Rhenish Gazette in 1842. This being suppressed, he went to Paris in 1843. Here he met Proudhon and Heine, and began his famous collaboration with Frederick Engels. Being expelled from France, he resided in Brussels. With Engels he produced, in 1848, the famous Communist Manifesto. After the failure of the uprisings in the same year, he finally settled in London in 1849, and died there in 1883.

Engels (1820-95) was the son of a wealthy cotton spinner and was destined for a commercial career. But he too became interested in philosophy, and contributed to the Rhenish Gazette. In 1842 he came to Manchester and became connected with the Owenite and Chartist movements. After 1844, he and Marx were in constant
touch with each other, and their work became inseparable. Engels, with becoming humility, always gave Marx the chief credit, as the following passage written by him at the death of Marx shows:— "I cannot grasp the thought that this genius should have ceased to fertilize with his powerful thoughts the proletarian movement of both worlds. Whatever we all are, we are through him; and whatever the movement of today is, it is through his theoretical and practical work; without him we should still be stuck in the mire of confusion." Alone, either of these men would have made a mark. Combined, they left behind them works whose true insight and value have not yet been fully appreciated.

The poverty and sorrows of Marx, of his family, and of his fellow-exiles, his activities in the formation of the first International —for neither Marx nor Engels were closet philosophers— his herculean theoretic labours, his disdain of popularity, his hatred of phrasemongery and his many other distinguishing traits may be read of in the biographies which exist. As Wilhelm Liebknecht put it:—

Today Marx’s Capital dominates social and political science like Darwin’s works in the science of natural history. And there is no thinking proletarian in all the countries of the globe who does not know that Capital is an armoury filled with "mental weapons" that, wielded by the proletariat, will ensure its emancipation.

The same writer, in the same book, Karl Marx:Biographical Memoirs, wrote:-

On Capital he was at work forty years—and how he did work! Only a Marx can work so. And I am not exaggerating when I say: The worst paid day-labourer in Germany has received more wages in forty years than Marx did for a salary, as an honorary fee for one of the two greatest scientific creations of the century. The other one is repre ented by Darwin’s works.
"Science" is not a market value. And can we expect that human society would pay a decent price for the execution of its own death warrant?

Liebknecht for twelve years shared Marx’s exile in London, and the following is a glimpse of how they spent their time: -

About this time the magnificent reading-room of the British Museum, with its inexhaustible treasures of books, had been built—and thither, where lie passed a certaiis time every day, Marx drove us; Tn learn! To learn! This was the categorical Imperative he frequently enough loudly shouted to us, but it also was expressed by his example, yea, by the sole aspect of this forever strenuously working mind.

Here he mentions the wild plans and hopes of other fugitives, and in contrast to this he says :—

We...were sitting in the British Museum and trying to educate ourselves and to prepare arms and ammunition for the battles of the future. Sometimes we would not have had a bite, but that would not prevent our going to the Museum —there were at least comfortable chairs to sit down on, and in winter a cheering warmth— which were missing at home, if one had any "house" or "home" at all.

The Marxian Theories.—From the men to their message. The Marxian Theories can be well compared to a triangle, with the Labour Theory of Value, the Theory of Surplus Labour, and the Materialist Conception of History as its three sides. In our lessons, we have had chiefly to do with the latter, though the two former are bound up with it, and would also repay investigation and test. The M.C.H. was first formulated in the Communist Manifesto:— "The history of all hitherto existing society (i.e., all written history) is the history of class struggles." And in later works the theory was enlarged and applied to the history of different nations. The historic mission of the working class, the true nature of the State, and the real, underlying factor beneath all changes in ideas were roughly perceived even when the Manifesto was penned in 1848. "History for the first time," wrote Engels, "was placed on its real foundation; the obvious fact, hitherto totally neglected, that first of all men must eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, and therefore must work before they can struggle for supremacy and devote themselves to politics, religion, philosophy, etc.—this obvious fact at last found historical recognition."

As we have already dealt with the logic of the machine, and seen how social relations are based upon tool-ownership and that the class which owns the tools is very different from the other class that is forced to use those tools in order to get a living— besides having consistently used this theory right throughout our lessons— there is no need to dwell upon it further. Though the expectations and prophecies of the historic Manifesto were not fulfilled, yet the theory explains in a scientific manner its own mistakes, and, as a method of looking upon society and explaining its evolution, it is unparalleled.

There is one other matter that should be mentioned before our conclusion. When giving particulars concerning the lives of Marx and Engels, we found that both took up the study of philosophy, in which branch of learning at that time Hegel was the leading figure. It is some times alleged that the work of Marx is vitiated by this Hegelian influence, and that he lacked the insight into society which Darwinism later brought. Apart from this mixing up, in an "organic" view of society, of biology and sociology, this misconception of Hegelianism (for it taught evolution in general before Darwin gave it individual specific proof in biology) and this false assumption that Marx did not know and appreciate Darwin’s work, there is also a sad neglect of the vital difference between the philosophy of Hegel and Historical Materialism.

There is room here only for a brief reference to that difference. Hegel, living in revolutionary times, with his "dialectic method" saw movement through inherent struggle. But he was misled by the ideological form wbich the contest took. To him it was "the Absolute Idea" coming to recognition in the minds of men. For example, Feudalism broke down because feudal ideas became obsolete in the face of new; Socialism from the Hegelian viewpoint will come because old ideas are displaced by new. In later reactionary times Hegel’s tame political conclusions and his glorification of the State made him popular with the ruling powers. Bernstein, in his Ferdinand Lassalle as Social Reformer shows how the works of Lassalle— "the man who forged the sword of Social Democracy in Germany" —were vitiated by his adherence to the Hegelian "idea" as a cause of progress.

The mysticism of Hegel and his "Absolute Idea" were attacked by the left wing of his school, which accepted his method but rejected his conclusions. With Hegel the world stood on its head, i.e., on the idea. Marx stood it on its feet, and showed that ideas were generated in material conditions. "With me," wrote he (p. 30, Capital), "the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind and transformed into forms of thought." The relations between ideas and the conditions which generate them are more fully explained in the Preface of The Critique(1859).

The Future —What of it? Will our lessons help us to face it? If they do not, they have failed. The sole object of our studies is to get a knowledge of past events and of theories which truly explain the facts of our working life, and which will guide us in future practice. Our classes are connected with an institution which had its birth in the Industrial Unrest. The C.L.C. was founded in 1909 out of the most unique strike on record. [See Plebs Magazine, (Vol.1) and What Does Education Mean to the Worker? (Plebs Pamphlet.)] It aims at spreading independent working-class education, and upon its curriculum figure the truths arrived at by these two German thinkers, who gave themselves so wholeheartedly and "wholeheadedly" to the workers’ cause. As W.W. Craik finely puts it: "The good they did was not interred with the bones of Marx at Highgate, nor lost in the sea into which the dust of Engels was thrown, but lives on and fertilises in the conquering army of an intellectual Labour Movement by the side of whose cradle Marx and Engels stood at the dawn of a new day."

Vain are the hopes of an industrial peace. Like snow upon the mountain side they will vanish before the sun of economic heat. In every country Capitalism begets its gravediggers. In its endeavour to increase its profits it will force the workers to take up a militant attitude upon the industrial, political and educational fields, and progress will be accelerated until the workers of the world will unite and their emancipation be accomplished. To the Day!

Books—Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs (Leibknecht). Karl Marx(Spargo). Books and pamphlets by Marx and Engels are too numerous to list, and are obtainable at cheap rates from the S.L.P. and 20th Century Press. Ramsay Macdonald’s Socialism and Societyand The Socialist Movement contain good accounts of the Utopians, though somewhat spoilt by the "organic" view of society above-mentioned. Other general and particular histories of Socialism are available.

Particulars of PLEBS Publications are announced in
Monthly, 2d.; post paid, 2.5d. Annual postal sub., 2/6. Six months, 1/3.
Articles on Labour-Educational questions, Reviews, Correspondence, Class Notes, and Reports, etc.

The circulation of the PLEBS has more than doubled during the last two years, and is increasing monthly. Educational classes are being formed in all parts of the country, and the question of Independent Working Class Education becomes more and more important to the organized Labour Movement. Since 1908 the PLEBS has been working "to further the interests of Independent Working Class Education as a partizan effort to improve the position of Labour in the present, and ultimately to assist in the abolition of wage-slavery."

From Secretary, Plebs League, 176, Springvale Rd., Sheffield.'

From A Worker Looks at History, by Mark Starr.


18. The Trade Unions from 1900-1916.

'WE have followed the trade unions in their progress from illegal secret societies, with their hand against every man, to legally recognised law-abiding bodies, with sane and responsible leaders and policies; from wild schemes of general unions, with revolutionary aims,- to the "model" unions with their huge reserve and benefit funds and their highly centralised structure.

We have seen how changing material conditions destroyed the anti-strike policy, and the "no politics in the union" stage of the organizations, by reviving the hostility between the two classes; how the alarmed capitalist class used their legal and political power to hamper the growth of the unions, thus forcing them to take up the issue in the political field; how these conditions produced the "new unionism," differing in policy and structure from the ol; and how new schools of thought and propagandist bodies, working through the trade unions, gave fresh aims and new ideas and methods to the trade unionists. An explanation as to why militancy was so long delayed was also offered. The first years of the 20th century were chiefly occupied with the political phase of this militancy, and for very good reasons.

Political Activity.—Undoubtedly it was the backwardness of the craft unions which caused so much faith to be placed in political action. The new unions openly adopted it, and one by one the older unions saw its usefulness. Many of the workers hoped to achieve a unity and independence upon the political field which the craft unions and their policy prevented them from getting on the industrial field. Many of them, too, being State Socialists, had hopes of electing sufficient Labour M.P.’s to be able to "legislate in" in a new state of affairs, which would bring for the worker surer, morelasting, and better conditions than those obtained by him in his industrial efforts. As if political unity and strength could be obtained before industrial unity and strength! Laws are not the horses of the chariot of progress; in actual fact, the politicians are ever striving with their measures and constant amendments to catch up to industrial development.

Yet, in dealing with the breakdown of peace between the workers and their employers and its industrial and political manifestations, it should be remembered that progress was slow. New ideas, generated in new conditions, filtered but slowly into the heads of the workers; ideas stubbornly persist long after development has made them obsolete. The independence of Labour was realised only in a nominal fashion. Only the more advanced few of the workers recognised the divorce of interests between the old parties and the new one.

For numbers and names of Labour representatives, from 1874 till 1910, the reader should consult Part III of the Labour Year Book (1916). The Labour Representation Committee, which in 1906 became the Labour Party, was formed in 1900 by trade unions, Socialist and other kindred organizations. The alliance of the older unions to form the Labour Party resulted, not from a general conversion of their rank and file to Socialism by the propagandist bodies —though this may have been a contributing factor— but, as in their previous history, they were again forced into politics in order to safeguard their own position.

The employers were disturbed at the aggressive policy of the militant New Unionism, which carried on vigorous attacks upon non-unionism. In 1898 the Allen v. Flood law case showed how they endeavoured to limit the growing powers of the Trade Unions. Two non-unionists, discharged by their employers at the suggestion of a union official representing their fellow-workmen, who otherwise would have struck, brought an action against Allen, the union official. The magistrates decided that he had "maliciously induced the emp1oyers to discharge them," and awarded damages to Flood and Taylor. This decision was, however, reversed by the House of Lords.

Another case, Quinn v Leatham, in 1901, did not end so favourably for the unions. The well-known Taff Vale Case was the occasion of another adverse decision which made instant action necessary by the Trade Unions. The Taff Vale Railway Company were granted damages against the A.S.R.S. because some of its members, acting upon official instructions, had "watched" and "beset" blacklegs, thus preventing them from entering into the service of the railway company. "The result of this decision was that the funds of the unions became liable for damages for the wrongful acts
of their agents; the damages and costs of the action cost the union over £46,000, and trade union officials and labour leaders were astonished and dismayed at the result." The Trade Unions were left in a dangerous position; they could not take legal action against their members, yet they could be sued for the doings of those members, and their accumulated funds were now in peril.

The political activity and agitation caused by this situation had its effect in the Trades Disputes’ Act of 1906. This Act made "peaceful picketing" lawful, took away the right of the capitalist to recover damages for loss of trade in a dispute from the funds of the union, and prevented a trade union being sued for the acts of its members.

However, another attempt was made, in 1908, to find "a weak spot in the armour of the trade unions" by the famous Osborne Judgment. This case challenged the right of the Trade Unions to meddle in politics at all, and decided that a union could not make a compulsory levy for Parliamentary representation. Injunctions were granted against many of the Unions, and the position was only remedied by the Trade Union Act of 1913, which recognised the right of the unions to use their funds for political purposes, but ordered that that such funds should be kept separate, and that any person having a conscientious objection to paying for benefits received by him, should, by filling up a form, have the right of exemption. The unions so far have not been strong enough to secure compulsion in this matter; the battle is unfinished.

The Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1897, the Miners’ Eight Hour Bill and 0ld Age Pensions of 1908, and the Minimum Wage and National Insurance Acts of 1912 were events of this period. Before turning to the industrial activity which followed the disappointment of the high hopes of 1906, it should be noticed that the failure of the craft union outlook revealed itself upon the political field. No party can be "forrarder" than its members, and the workers, as a whole, do not possess that class-consciousness which is necessary to successful action upon both fields. When that is achieved, the Labour Party will no longer be emasculated by reformism, and content to be the useful ally of another party. Parliament can afford to disdain the protests of a Grayson or a Lansbury, just because these protests are not backed by industrial might. The M.P. of the future, having this, will compel attention; "the scaffolding" of the industrial commonwealth must needs be built.

Labour Unrest.—While there are many contradictory explanations of the Industrial Unrest, which lasted from 1906 to the outbreak of the European War, its existence is admitted by all. Before investigating its causes, we will enumerate some of the chief incidents in which it was manifested. In 1906 and 1907 there was a series of local strikes in South Wales over the non-unionist question; and in the latter year the "all-grades movement" of the railwaymen threatened a stoppage, only avoided by the intervention of Mr. Lloyd George with his Conciliation Boards machinery.

A fifteen years’ peace was broken in the cotton industry in 1908 by a seven weeks’ strike, followed by another in 1909. In the same year, contrary to their officials’ advice, the N.E. engineers struck, and in 1910 the Boilermakers won a contest in spite of the stubborn resistance of the employers, and also the opposition of their own officials.

The year 1911 saw a brief strike among the railway—men and successful agitation by the transport workers. The M.F.G.B. secured in 1912 the minimum wage principle by a six weeks’ national strike. 1,462 disputes, involving 677,254 workers, took place in 1913, one of which was the famous Dublin strike. The outbreak of the war curtailed a prolonged dispute in the London building trade, where the employers had locked out their men for refusing to work with non-unionists.

False "Causes."— To explain and understand the cause of a disease is to make the first step towards its cure. Many explanations and cures were put forward in relation to this undeniable disease of the 20th century, Industrial Unrest.[For more recently assigned causes and cures, consult Reports of Commission of Enquiry into Industrial Unrest (1916),. No. 7 (South Wales) being especially interesting.] Some of the attempts at explanation need not detain us long. We can afford to quickly dismiss the theory advanced by the conservative person who thinks that the present discontent is the result of the workers having lost their respect for their betters, and who sighs for the "good old days" when children were not sent to school till they were thirteen years of age. True, education of the right sort is a lever of progress, but much that is now taught in the schools has to be deliberately unlearnt in later life, and, only in an indirect fashion is general education the cause of industrial unrest.

Time would also be wasted in dealing at length with the theory which ascribed the growing unrest to the increase of selfishness; whose advocates advance an ethical solution to the problem. The sufferings in the industrial warfare and the beauties of peace are enlarged upon by these pacifists. But they ignore the present hard situation. Classes cannot love each other while one of them is busy not praying for but preying upon the other.

Another theory attributed the cause of unrest to climatic conditions. Workmen felt disinclined to work in the hot summer days, and it was supposed that it only needed a trifling dispute to provoke a stoppage. Though this theory is not so high up in the clouds as the former one, yet it located the cause of the disturbance far enough away to be out of man’s reach. Its superficiality is obvious; a strike is a grim holiday. Behind strikes there is an economic heat, engendered by the friction between master and man, of which learned writers are unaware. Not having had any experience of the class-struggle, they doubt its existence.

The Great Man Theory was also brightened up to do duty on this occasion. Able agitators, with their inflammatory speeches and writings, were said to be the cause of the trouble. But though able speakers and writers do considerably help to awaken industrial unrest, they only focus attention upon facts; they cannot create them.

False Cures.—Many cures were put forward as certain remedies. The boasted panacea, Free Trade, having failed to prevent unemployment - the unemployment returns of the Trade Unions in 1908, for example, rising from 4.3 to 9.1 per cent— a return to tariff protection was proposed. Those who would build up a tariff wall around the nation forgot, however, that there is "an enemy within the gates," i.e., the capitalist; who, though he points out how national trade is decreased and unemployment created by the free imports produced by machinery and cheap foreign labour, has no scruples about introducing machinery and cheap labour himself, if he has the opportunity.

Other cures coming from the bourgeois physicians, were schemes of profit-sharing and co-partnership, which claimed to unite master and worker in one common interest and prevent all further unrest. These schemes have, on the whole, failed; they have been well likened to a rider, seated upon the back of a donkey, who enjoys a speedier transit by enticing the beast to travel at a faster rate in order to gain a carrot which its rider for ever dangles ahead of its nose.

Another "red herring" was the attempt of the Workers’ Educational Association to revive the old ideology of the 1850—70 period, when it was believed that it was only necessary for master and man to understand each other’s viewpoint and they would recognise their identity of interest and become the best of friends. Even Gibbins’ text-book-—excellent in many respects— may be disagreed with on this point. (See pages 220 and 231). An organization thus foolishly hoping to accomplish the impossible, to reconcile the irreconcilable, is not to be trusted with the teaching of the social sciences to the workers. Testimonials to the success of the W.E.A. as an antidote to industrial unrest, from opponents of this unrest, are not hard to find.

Minor consequences arising were Governmental inquiries into methods of conciliation and arbitration adopted by other countries to settle industrial disputes. Beyond the creation of an Industrial Council, no attempt was made to embody the result of these inquiries in any legal enactment. Labour Exchanges and the Insurance Act but tinkered with the real problem.

True Causes.— Having "cleared the ground," we can estimate the true causes; they were:—

(1) A rise in the cost of living. The "mitigating factor" which had delayed militancy now ceased. Real wages diminished from 1897 onwards. Prices rose, and the workers, then as ever, stood to lose in a rising market because they cannot quickly raise their wages to follow the soaring prices.

One important factor which caused prices to rise was the cheapening of gold resulting from the application of sience and machinery to goldmining; the amount of the annual output has risen from £20,00O,00O to £90,000,000.[As explained by the Labour Theory of Value the process takes place thus: The gold, containing less labour, would be of less value; therefore it would need more gold to purchase the same amount of other commodities than before, provided, of course, that the value of these commodities had not also been decreased in the same way. Hence the purchasing power of the workers’ wages would be smaller.]

The costs of Imperialism, by raising taxation, also increased the cost of living. "The closest and most malign influence," says Gibbins, "was that of the South African War (1899—1903) which, after at first giving an impetus to the trades supplying the munitions of war, left behind it a legacy of debt, increased military and naval expenditure, and widespread depression in trade, with consequent unemployment during the ‘lean years’ which followed. The National Debt in 1898—99, before the outbreak of war, stood at £638,000,000, but had risen by 1903—4 to £798,000,000, or to the level of 1870, thus wiping out in four years the laborious debt reduction of more than thirty years." The verdict of future historians upon modern events, when the ravages of war-fever have subsided, should be interesting.

(2) The further introduction of machinery, with all its accompanying intensification of labour, growth of unskilled processes and unemployed workers. The forces which became prominent in the Industrial Revoltion have not ceased their operation. The concentration of capital, the growth of the big business and the need for larger starting capitals may all be noted. Capitalism proceeds to its dissolution.

(3) Another true cause of Industrial Unrest, and one arising out of the general laws of capitalist production, is the fact that, besides the decrease in real wages and the growth of unemployment, as outlined above, the relative wages of the labourer decrease also. The rate of profit may be less, but its mass is greater. The contrast between luxury and poverty becomes more glaring. The luxury motor in the street, the display in the shop windows illustrating the heights reached by modern production, and the dress and leisure of the well-to-do - these are things which emphasise the worker the poverty of his own position.

The True Cure.—To sum up the causes of Industrial Unrest, it might be said truly that it is the logical outcome, the inevitable result, of the development of the capitalist system. Passing on to deal with its consequences upon the policy, and structure of the Trade Unions, we shall see the true cure and the solution to the problem in the making.

The strongest tendency in the modern Trade Union movement is one to secure unity; amalgamation is the order of the day. The unions are being driven to revise their basis, policy and structure by necessity born of experience. Different ideals as to their importance in the future society prevail from those which obtained when Collectivism and political activities were predominant.

The policy of diplomacy and skilled bargaining becomes more out of date. The lengthy agreement makes way for a shorter.

The old bureaucratic centralisation is found to be a hindrance to mass action. We noticed, in some of the unofficial strikes, friction between the leaders and the led. The problem is to secure democratic control without sacrificing efficiency; to get all grades and sections of the industry into the Industrial Union without getting any of the sectional interests snowed under. Some of the unions have already tackled these problems. The need for efficiency necessitates alert intelligence.

When the union is no longer a sick and death club, when the class antagonism is clearly understood, and when craft-consciousness has made way for class-consciousness, then the aim of the unionists will be to give "the knock-out blow" to the true cause of industrial unrest.

Despite all the prophecies we hear from the pacifists of the finish of war upon the industrial field, the effects of the present crisis will be to hasten and not change the development of the forces which we have seen are immanent in the capitalist system. The shortage of male labour has stimulated rather than started the dilution of labour and the use of labour-saving machinery. Our newspapers and illustrated papers contain ample evidence of the rapidity of this process. The true meaning of State control has been forcibly learnt. In its two centuries of life, Trade Unionism has fought its way upward into importance, in spite of the obstacles placed in its way. And who shall say what it will accomplish in its future? The class which has opposed it will, when the workers have the power to think and the will to do, be deposed by this its conquering rival.

BO0KS.—Gibbins, Period V. Craik’s Modern Working-Class Movement, Sections VII.-XI. Cole’s World of Labour, for details of the present state of Trade Unionism, abroad as well as at home. The Miners’ Next Step (1912) attracted much attention in Parliament and elsewhere on its publication. Issued by an Unofficial Reform Committee inside the S.W.M.F., it deserves the attention of the student as a clear statement of the aims and policy of the advanced section of trade or industry unionism. Mr. W. H. Mainwaring, the Committee Secretary, confesses to only one effective criticism :— "It is not so much a 'step' as a whole 'staircase.'"'

From A Worker Looks At History, by Mark Starr.


17. Trade Unionism from 1830 to 1900

'THE history of the Trade Unions will now be taken up where it was left in Outline 14. In the various phases of Trade Unionism can be seen mirrored all the developments of England’s Industrial History in the 19th century. Mention has already been made of how the condition of the workers depreciated from that of their Golden Age; of the distress and the high prices of food—wheat, for example, being 105/- per quarter in 1795— and of the social discontent, which honeycombed society with secret organizations and found expression in riotous disturbances and political agitations (at first mercilessly suppressed), that existed in the troubled years which followed upon the Industrial Revolution in the first quarter of the century.

Thorold Rogers tells us that the destruction of the iron lace-making frames at Nottingham, in 1811—12, by the displaced hand-workers, was punished by sentences
of death, and other similar instances could be quoted. Assessments of wages by quarter sessions and compulsory apprenticeship were finally destroyed in 1814. The
same writer informs us that, while the workers were in a desperate plight, "wealth was never more rapidly accumulated than in Yorkshire and Lancashire in the years 1800 to 1840"; and that, while the Factory Acts "were believed to be the deathblow to English manufacture, they have made labour more efficient, more intelligent, more decent, and more continuous, without trençhing on profits."

The Trade Unions were able to come into the daylight after the Repeal of the Combination Act in 1824; and in their subsequent revival they attempted to make good for the long years of suppression, with the result that some of the old restrictions were reimposed by the alarmed employers.

Attempts at Federation.- After the failure of many of the unions to weather the crisis of 1825, Trade Unionism became active once again. Recognising that sectionalism had been a source of weakness, plans for its removal were made. From the local trade club began to develop the national trade union; and attempts were made to federate various trades. The material conditions for these new developments were a general expansion of capitalist production and the great improvements in transport and communication. The unity of the workers was born of necessity. Collective bargaining had come to stay and increase, until membership of the Trade Union became a compulsory condition of employment.

Contemporaneously with this boom in Trade Unions vigorous political agitation continued up to the Reform Bill of 1832, which gave the middle-class their desired triumph over the landed aristocracy, and left many of the workers disappointed.[ "When the middle class got their £10 franchise they did not see what the working class needed with votes." —G. J. HOlyoake]

The following are examp1es of these early unions :— The Grand General Union of the United Kingdom, formed in 1829 by the Lancashire textile workers; The National Association for the Protection of Labour (connected with the name of Doherty), a federation of 150 trades, which lasted two years from its start in 1830; and the Builders’ Union (1832—4), a federation of the building trades, especially strong in the Midlands and Liverpool which was broken up by the frightened master-builders by means of the "document" and the lock-out.

The Owenite Period.—In this period occurs the best known attempt at federation. It centres round the year 1834, and derives its name from Robert Owen. Born at Newtown in Montgomerys in 1771, Owen was a man of high intelligence, and a pioneer who laboured hard in the cause of progress. He had risen from a draper’s assistant to a factory owner, and in his factory at New Lanark he showed his fellow-capitalists the advantages of treating their employees with consideration, instituted a system of co-partnership, and provided some wonderful schools for their education. His failure to arouse his middle-class associates—partially caused by his openly declared religious scepticism— drove him to the side of the wage-workers. He was one of the prime movers in the agitation which secured the first Factory Acts.

The federation which he formed in 1834, the Grand Consolidated Union of Great Britain and Ireland, was more ambitious in its aims than any of its predecessors. Its founders hoped to supersede the capitalist economy and the State, and carry on production by means of this great union of workers. The disappointment of many of the advanced workers with the results of the 1832 Reform Bill caused them to join the Owenite movement, in order to try and win by industrial means what they had failed to win by political action.

Over half a million persons enrolled themselves in the G.N.C.; but few of them understood or shared the aims of its leaders. The general strike was to be its chief weapon. But though it possessed such magnificent ideals and roused such bitter animosity in the minds of the employers, the G.N.C. disappeared with its mission unaccomplished.

The reasons for its failure are not hard to discover. Its temporary success was due to the misery of the times, and not to an intelligent endorsement of any scheme. When dealing with the rise of Scientific Socialism, we shall endeavour to show that economic conditions were not ripe for the realisation of Owen’s scheme, and that, however admirable his Utopia was, the logic of the machine had yet to complete its work before society could give birth to a new order emerging from the old, and not from the heads of idealists, however sincere those idealists might be.

After all, the G.N.C. was only a loose federation attempting to unite at the top. It indiscriminately opened its arms to all corners. Rival unions in the sametrades, and unions as diverse as those of the agricultural labourers, the chimney sweeps, the Operative Bonnet Makers, and the Female Tailors all found a place in its ranks. Sectional interests demanded sectional strikes, and when these failed disaffection ensued. A lasting unity became impossible; the general strike, which was to usher in the "New Moral Era," and "the Villages of Harmony," began to appear an unlikely event. Thus the G.N.C. went down before the onslaught of the opposition which it aroused. The fierceness of this opposition is typified in the case of the Dorchester labourers, six of whom were transported for seven years on the charge of administering unlawful oaths. Those who seek "to falsify history in order to fortify reaction" endeavour vainly to make deadly parallels between the failure of the G.N C. and the failure which awaits the claims and efforts of Industrial Unionism. But the intervening years have not been empty; the past has its lessons. Unity must begin, not at the top, but at the bottom. The amalgamation of all rival unions in the same industry must precede that greater unity and progress which Owen desired.

The rise of the Chartists, the beginning of the Co-operative Movement by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, and the triumph of the Corn Law League in 1846 have received previous treatment.

Chartism might be described as part of the travail by which machinofacture was delivered. In the prosperous years of "the grand era of capitalist expansion" which followed, it died away; and the workers, discarding all their former revolutionary hopes, settled down to build up stable, national organizations in their separate trades.

The "Model Unions."- In the first half of the century wages fell steadily. Then, out of their increased profits, the employers, in order to retain their workmen, paid better wages. After 1848, revolutionary methods were discredited, and, disappointed by the failure of the Chartist movement, many of the more militant workers emigrated.

Now, the trade unions, shelving all their former schemes for general unity, became a recognised part of society, trying to show the reasonableness of their claims. Ceasing to look to the past, not yet compelled to look toward the future, the unions modestly claimed "a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work" and reconciled themselves to the present.

The "model" unions were highly centralised. The right to strike and the control of policy and finance were placed in the hands of permanent officials. This bureaucratic control made for the aggrandisement of the leaders and the forcing of the masses into inactivity. The diplomacy of the leaders, in negotiation with the employers, settled the disputes, while the rank and file remained in the background. Lengthy contracts were the order of the day. The friendly benefit side of the organization was enlarged at the expense of the trade side. Huge reserve funds were built up. Outside thinkers tried to prove the harmony of interests between employers and workers. The Fixed Wage Fund theory was believed in.[According to this theory, £100 of wealth is produced; the cost of the raw material, wear and tear of machinery, and the profits of the employer are paid out of this, perhaps leaving only £20 as a wage fund. More than this the labourers could not get. All they could do was to keep, if they possibly could, the supply of labour low so that the £20 would yield larger individual shares to the fewer workmen.] Thus the unions subsidised their out-of-work members, provided in some cases emigration funds, tried to abolish overtime, and restricted the number of apprentices.

The employers, having at last recognised that the trade unions had "come to stay," found it convenient to deal with the union through its all-powerful executive, who, after a little negotiation, would bargain away the collective rights of the union members to make new wage claims for a lengthy period.

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers served as a pattern to other unions of the highly-centralised "new model unions." Allan and Newton were the chief spirits in getting together the eight unions which formed it in 1861. The Carpenters and Joiners followed the A.S.E pattern in 1861. Other unions adopting the same policy and structure were the Compositors, the Flint Glass Makers, Bookbinders, Ironmoulders, and the Potters.

Between 1841 and 1848 attempts were made to link the miners into a national union. We are told of the doings of "the miners’ attorney-general," W. P. Roberts, in connection with the association which was then started, only to die out in 1848. In 1860 the Yorkshire miners won the right of appointing a check-weigher. After two other attempts had been made, the M.F.G.B. was formed in 1888.

Trades’ Councils.—While national unions in particular trades were being started, the branches of these unions often joined with each other to carry on local confficts or agitate for the removal of some legal barriers; for though the model unions frowned upon strikes, these still took place; and though, remembering the failure of the Chartists, the workers were still in the "no politics in the union" stage, adverse judicial decisions and the need for protection of their funds drove the unions into politics.

Soon, in several of the big towns, permanent councils of the trades grew up, which served as rallying points for the agitation and "lobbying" that was necessary to secure legal recognition in 1871. "The movement for the amendment of the Master and Servant Law was initiated by the Glasgow Trades Council, and resulted finally in the passing of the Master and Servant Act of 1867."

The London Trades Council was especially prominent, because working through it was the "Junta," or "Cabinet," of the Trade Union Movement. Several of the important unions had their offices in London, and the permanent paid officials of these centralised unions were able to work in close touch with each other. When the Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into Trade Unionism in 1867, they were able to secure the appointment of Frederick Harrison and Thomas Hughes (two prominent middle-class friends of Trade Unionism) upon it, and to supply them with information which largely influenced the findings of the Commission. At this time the employers were making strenuous efforts to smash the growing power of Trade Unionism by exploiting the public feeling excited by the Sheffield outrages, where a local union had resorted to "rattening" non-unionists and exploding cans of gunpowder. Also, the Lord Chief Justice, in 1867, had ruled that the Trade Unions, being illegal associations, could not take legal proceedings to prosecute any official if he absconded with union funds. The Junta, the most prominent figures in which were Allen (Engineers); Applegarth (Carpenters); Guile (Ironfounders); Coulson (London Order of Bricklayers), and Odger (connected with a small shoemakers’ union), directed a counter agitation; and their efforts secured a legal status for the unions, and legal protection for their funds, in the Bill of 1871. While this Bill secured full recognition and expansion of the friendly side of the unions, it was accompanied by another stringently enforcing severe penalties against
"picketing," "intimidation," etc., which hampered all trade unions — strikes under such restrictions being still practically impossible. Further agitation secured the repeal of this measure in 1875, peaceful picketing then becoming permissible, and also in the same year the Master and Servant Act was repealed and another placed in its stead, giving both worker and employer the right of suing each other in a court of law for breach of contract.

The Trade Union Congress.—The need for common action by the unions and the Trades Councils gave birth to the Trade Union Congress. The Councils sent delegates to the Congress up to the year 1895, when their representation was destroyed, to prevent duplication of membership. The Congress was first held in Manchester in 1868, and was convened in London by the Junta in 1871 to help in the Repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Its Parliamentary Committee superseded the Junta, and the Congress became a regular institution. Thus in time, from the Lobby, Labour tried to go inside to make its influence more directly felt in politics. The Reform Bill of 1867, the Ballot Act of 1872, and another Reform Bill in 1884 helped to increase the political power of the working class. Congress sanctioned Parliamentary candidates in 1874, and Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt then entered Parliament.

The Awakening and its Cause.—However, it should be clearly understood that these political activities were made necessary in the seventies by the activity upon the industrial field which had excited the employers’ hostility—expressed in judicial rulings and legal restrictions. For in the years 1871—5 there was a great extension of Trade Unionism. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants saw the light in 1871. In 1872, led by Joseph Arch, the agricultural labourers formed a union (which finally collapsed in 1894). The Engineers and Builders fought for a nine-hour day. On the other side we hear of the National Federation of Employers in 1873.

Tile slump 1876—9 caused only a temporary disappearance of this militancy; and in the eighties the "new unionism" comes into prominence, spreading among unskilled workers, hitherto unorganized, and often despised by the aristocratic craft unions.

Before noticing the difference between the model unions and the new unions a survey of England’s industrial position will help us to grasp the true cause of this militancy. The splendid start England had received from the Industrial Revolution and her consequent prosperity have already been pointed out. While trade went ahead by "leaps and bounds" the capitalist could afford to let a few crumbs fall to the workers from his well-spread table. But when the British capitalists were losing their unchallenged supremacy, when their competitors —chiefly American and German—were catching up to them, then the employers were forced to cut down expenses, and were less disposed to listen to the demands of their employees. Even during the years of rapid expansions, crises had not been absent; but now they became prolonged in their effects. The capitalists of other nations, too, sought for markets in which to dispose of their surplus prnducts. Capitalism like a huge banyan tree, strikes its branches down into the soil of every land, and each branch taking root, itself becomes a part of the tree, sending out still more branches in search of foothold. The country, which to-day is a market, by to-morrow will have imported machinery and become a rival competitor, needing markets herself.

From now on to the end of the century a change can be seen coming over the structure and policy of the trade unions. The new unions organized the growing mass of unskilled workers who had no craft to preserve. They had a lower scale of benefit, and ordinary contributions and smaller reserve funds, and relied upon fighting rather than conciliation to gain their demands. The policy of the model unions was founded upon the recognition of the essential goodwill of the employer; but the increased friction undermined the old ideas of harmony between master and man, though these old ideas even persist in our own day, and the breaking away from them is often performed unconsciously.

With the change in policy, the disappearance of lengthy contracts, and the decrease of reserve and benefit funds, came a change in the structure of the unions. The highly-centralised union, dominated by its officials, who relied upon diplomacy and negotiation, did not respond quickly enough to the feelings of the rank and file. The leaders of the new unionism tried hard to stir the leaders of the old unions from a "craft consciousness" to a "class consciousness." "John Burns and Tom Mann were among the foremost critics of the 'aristocratic' organizations, with their high contributions and lack of militancy, with their miserly solicitude for funds and exclusive attention to friendly benefits, and their apathy and lack of vigour with respect to advancing the industrial position of the wage-labourer-—especially that of the unskilled working men and women."[W.W. Craik, in Railway Review.]

In 1887 the Dockers’ Union was born, and in 1889 the famous Dock Strike in London occurred. Ben Tillett has described how the "docker’s tanner" was won, and how the horrors of the terrible system of the "call on" were removed by this strike, in his Brief History of the Dockers’ Union. Previous to this, in 1888, with the help of Mrs. Besant, the match girls of Bryant & May successfully struck to better their conditions. The Gas-workers’ and General Labourers’ Union won an eight—hour day for the London gas stokers.

Trusting the reader will look up the excellent books, now easily available, for further particulars of the advances made in this period, brief mention will be made, before concluding this Outline, of the propaganda bodies which at this time came into existence. Formerly the unions strove only to remove legal restrictions by their political action, their leaders being impregnated with the individualism of the times; but new conceptions were abroad regarding the way out. The aim of the trade unions, "a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work" was altered by the influence of new ideas, which were collectivist rather than individualist. The impossibility of getting "a fair day’s wage" and the need of a more fundamental change began to be recognised. The wide circulation of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty played a part in the creation and discussion of new ideas.

Propaganda Bodies.— "In the year 1881, an attempt was made," wrote Bax and Morris, "to federate the various Radical Clubs of London under the name of the Democratic Federation. Part of the heterogeneous elements, mainly the mere political Radicals, of which this was composed, withdrew from it in 1883; but other elements connected with the intellectual and literary side of Socialism joined it, and soon after the body declared for unqualified Socialism, and took the name of the Social Democratic Federation." The S.D.F. reduced the Marxian theory of development to a "rigid orthodoxy." The backward state of the Trade Unions gave it no hope from that quarter; and though it joined the Labour Party whén the latter was formed, it soon broke away because the trade unionists were not advanced enough to share its views.

The Fabian Society was another Socialist body started in 1884. Mostly composed of middle-class people, it helped to permeate Liberalism with collectivist iaeas. It was frankly opportunistic; out to "break the spell of Marxism"; and distinctly British in its economics. It "glossed over the class struggle," and attempted to organize society from a consumer’s point of view. With its excellent literature it has paved the way for the coming of State Socialism.

The Independent Labour Party, formed in 1893, came more into touch with the trade unions than any of the preceding propaganda bodies. Since their formation the New Unions had been active, and the I.L.P. was a manifestation of this new spirit on the political field. It was an attempt to permeate the Trade Unions with Socialism and create an independent political party to displace the Lib-Labs of the Broadhurst, Burt and Fenwick type. The Swansea Congress of 1887 was the scene of a conflict between the new and "the owd gang," personified respectively in Keir Hardie and Henry Broadhurst.

The End of the Century.—Owing to the fall in the cost of living, due to improvements in production and national competition, the industrial unrest was delayed for some time. The end of the century saw the number of trade unionists gradually increasing; the 4 millions of 1898 increased to nearly 2.5 in 1910.

Gibbins speaks of the disastrous cost of the South African War (1899—1903). The General Federation of Trade Unions began in 1899 to attempt to realise its ideal of a million members and "a gigantic central fund," proving that the moneybags method survives, though obsolete.

In 1898 occurred the strike out of which emerged the South Wales Miners’ Federation. Prior developments to this event are as yet unrecorded, and their tale should be told while some of the people who took an active part in them, and who remember even farther back, are still with us. From the local craft unions (e.g., hauliers’ nd hewers’) and the individual colliery owners or small companies came the need of a definite united organisation on both sides. The men financially helping that section of their fellows who were out of work by fighting for the wage advance, formed contacts which he to clear the way for larger unity.

The spirit of revolt against the old structure, the friction between the leader and the mass, and the continued activity on the industrial and political fields were general characteristics of the trade union movement which did not cease with the century.

Books.—Gibbins, Period V. Craik’s Modern Working-Class Movement, Sections III. IV., and VI. Trade Unions, by Jos, Clayton (People’s Books) contains in a condensed, readable, and cheaper form much information for which the student generally consults the bulkier volumes of Webbs’ The History of Trade Unionism and Industrial Democracy.'

From A Worker Looks At History, by Mark Starr.