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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 7 February 1920

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The Farmer and Labor

The United States Government through the post office sent out a questionnaire to the farmers, which brought in over 40, 000 replies. Fifty percent of these said that they were going to cut down their acreage or leave their farms. The farmers of Canada are also having similar problems. The causes given are the draining of the farmers’ children and the hired farm help into the cities. To this uncomfortable state of affairs the farmers have been indirectly putting another rod into their pickle which to beat their own backs by joining in the stupid cry against all foreigners, which has had the effect of creating in the minds of these people the idea that they are not wanted in America, thus producing among them unrest and a determination to return to Europe.

When the foreigner first arrived in America it was inevitable that he would, until he learned the language, have to do the unskilled labor. He worked on railroad construction, maintenance of way in the harvest fields, the coal mines, the lumber woods, and in the cities he dug the sewers, paved the streets and did the rough work in the manufacturing plants. The canals and large public works, the construction works of every kind, drew largely on foreign labor.

Because of this foreign labor filling these places, there was a chance for the farmer to secure some of the young men as they grew up and looked for their first jobs as wage earners.

Investigation of the economic relations between the farmers as an original producer, the packing plants and cold storage plants, as big capital organizations rejoicing in a new found field for the use of fluids in large scale business, and the middle men tied to the large scale packers and storage plants, has recently shown that the big fellows have been doing fine with the middle men, both buyers or gatherers and sellers, or distributors enjoying a prosperity and raking in money on a scale never before experienced. And this in the face of numerous commissions and boards armed with wide powers to investigate and curb profiteers of every brand and description.

Under such conditions the farmer’s lot is not a happy one. There is no solution for the farmer’s problems but those he will work out for himself. To work out a remedy the farmer must get into politics as a class, study their problem in a broader way than ever before, learn to see their position as a necessary and essential factor in the large scale process of producing and distributing the world’s goods. He must see that today production is a social work; that his bit is but part of the whole social process. He must see that the survival of the institution of private ownership applied to banking, transportation and large scale manufacturing has all the faults of its qualities and that by such ownership the power of predatory wealth leaves the unorganized producers but “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to the owners of billions on billions of capital.

He must see that the only remedy is in charge of institutions and that to make these changes much understanding and much organization must take place of old fossilized ideas and old methods of association. The work is so colossal that much time and energy is required, also it is that work of every well-wisher of the human race and above all the work of every farmer and wage worker and every producer and distributor taking part in necessary work.

Page revised: 31 July 2013

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