Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 18 October 1919
The Work to Hand
The days are full. The times are pregnant with great events and still greater possibilities. The new culture has disciplined the peoples of the earth and is still doing its work with greater acceleration of its moments, as the days and the months of the years go by. The placid stream of the yesterdays is running bank-full. The banks crumble; great inundations take place; new channels are cut; new currents flow.
To us of the working class who live in that geographical terrain which is known as Canada, our work lies to our hand. As part of the great social complex which has no boundaries, because of the spherical form of our earth, our only home, our only country, we take up our work and recognize our duties. This work, these duties, are conditioned by the fact that the present makes the close of a long fevered epoch in the history of the human race. The advent of new relationships, new and more complicated institutions requires that these be adjusted, and perfected, and rendered efficient by the only means that man has even been able to use for such work, trial and error. We, because of our native endowment, our human nature, may not know the uncharted fields that are to take form and surface as the results of the necessity that is now upon us. But we do know that the required alterations in our relations and in our institutions are, as in all history, to be simply a means towards an end, the means by which mankind secures the goods that satisfy the desires and gratify the wants, made imperative by the instinctive proclivities, dispositions and aptitudes, which are the human endowment, the heritage of man acquired by organic evolution. The direction and extent of the changes required grow also out of the limitations and maladjustments of our present relationships and institutions in their failure to furnish the goods.
The history of man, whenever a call has come to scrap his old institutions, has been ever the same. Always he has had only a guide, as criticism, his instincts, always he has been bound in chains by the toughness, the resistance, the conservation of the old culture. History records many more cases of societies where the obstacles were impossible to be surmounted in time to save themselves alive, than those that were able to issue triumphantly out of the milling of their troubled institutional situations.
History also records that the work of securing new and more suitable institutions can never be entrusted to those who have managed and directed the old. Summon a few pictures from our own past history; look upon the shade of Cromwell gazing upon the bloody head of Charles I lying in a basket; see the palid [sic=pallid] and despondent countenance of James II as he flees to an asylum in a foreign land; behold entry of the foreigner, William of Orange, into the royal palace of the Stuarts. Also have in memory the incidents of more recent times. How prospers it with the Czar of all the Russians?
How fares that Imperial figure of yesterday, William the Second of Germany, who with the assistance of God was going to impose his Junker militarist culture on all men in all lands? See the futility and failure of the conquering diplomats and statesmen at the Peace conference bringing to birth that misshapen abortion, the League of Nations. Consider their attempts at reconstruction in all the lands, resulting in even greater and greater confusion and entanglements in the economic affairs of the social world.
Out of this welter of confusion and inefficiency there is but one straight and narrow way. The task is the task of the workers. On the results of their efforts the race will write either success or failure. The technology of the race requires, now, a social product. Our laws, our political institutions, our social relations are those of the days of individualism and further back those of autocracy. Both or either of these principles means failure to progress in social achievement and in well doing in the well being of the inhabitants of earth. Let the workers draw together with the common aim, in their social groups, determined that the achievements of science, the triumphs of technology, the efficiency of social-team work will be made immediately available for the common-weal, and in our own day.
First then, the workers must purge their own institutions, their unions, from all self-seeking individualism and autocracy. In their own unions must first be worked out that principle of full and free democracy which will make these institutions subject to the rank and file—those who do the work. Not until this is done is the ground cleared for progress of any kind or in any direction. “Workers of the world unite,” is a futile, empty slogan until this first, and perhaps the greatest of all our tasks, is accomplished.
Overalls: Their Fate
It is reported that during the recent railroad strike in Great Britain that certain noble personages were in qualifying for overalls by undertaking duties in running the trains and keeping the wheels of transportation going. The Noble Lord became a stoker on the engine, the Duchess a ticket seller, other titled personages swept the platform or acted as porters etc., etc.
Somewhat prophetic of this are the lines from that amusing and satirical musical comedy, “The Gondoliers,” by Gilbert and Sullivan, as many who are familiar with it will recall. The verses are appended herewith:
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