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Manitoba History No. 89
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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 6 March 1920

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Working-Class Tactics

The tactics of the workers are and will be dictated by the ends which are the ideals sought. The means by which these ends are to be attained are governed by more than one determining factor. The workers are now the mud-sills of society, the foundation on which our civilization is built. That civilization which satisfies its wants through an economic system which is based on the exploitation of labor by the owners of capital, an economic system which is, at the same time, the pecuniary system, the competitive system and the price system and which measures success or failure in terms of money, necessarily dictates the objects of working class activity. Plainly stated the workers want to be on an equality with all others in society, which means that all must do their bit, all must share and share alike in duties, responsibilities, and in the actual work of production. This aim is democracy, a word which has an evil smell these latter days, because of the hypocritical drivel of our masters.

However controversial the means of attaining this end may be, the end itself will be readily conceded. The ways and means by which labor is to free itself from class domination and class exploitation cannot be foretold. There are too many factors in the calculation to predict results; and there are the unknown changes which are constantly coming into the problem and affecting the relations of men, which make the role of the prophet mere foolishness. But some of these factors can be taken to be, for all practical purposes, unchanging. One of these is human nature, another is the end aimed at, a third is that the workers, the mud-sills, are to remain mud-sills until they themselves emancipate themselves. With these three factors fixed we can say a few words on tactics.

Briefly, then, any tactics are good tactics which give to the workers superior weapons, or advantages of position, or better understanding of their relative positions with that of the enemy, the exploiters of labor. First, understanding must precede action. Therefore, a sound knowledge of economics, of culture, is required. Economics is well understood by those who take the pains to make use of the means at hand. Culture is not so well understood. To understand culture is to know why one group of people hold one set of principles (habits of thought) while another group hold entirely different principles diametrically opposed to those of the first group or to those of all other groups. When one understands culture he knows why the Citizens’ Committee is so savage in its relentless pursuit of the Winnipeg strikers. To the student of social science this state of affairs was inevitable.

Possessed of this knowledge and knowing the direction and extent of the malevolence of the enemies of labor, the tactics of labor consist at the present time, largely, in building up and disciplining its organizations. The one must go on concurrently with the other. The immediate aim of this system of tactics is to fit the workers to take charge of industry. They must, therefore, consolidate their position by getting into their organizations every one who is essential to the management and planning of affairs. All the engineers and scientifically trained technicians are necessary and must be brought into the fold. To gain discipline and experience the masses must be brought again and again into the fight with the enemy. Today the fight is in a municipal election, tomorrow it is for possession of the seats of the Provincial Legislature, the day after a test of the industrial strength for better conditions or higher wages. Always it is to be remembered that the human animal responds to mass action only when idealism takes the form of emotion and passionate struggle. The tactics of the present has for its object, teaching the workers to organize so as to win victories. Any field, Political, economic, or industrial, is good so long as the required discipline is had.

“Pep”

About the cheapest commodity in the market is pep.

A farmer sells grain, a butcher meat, a tailor clothes; but a worker sells pep.

Pep is the stuff the boss buys off the worker for wages, and pep is a funny commodity.

Pep is concealed in the worker. It is developed in his body, and when applied to the instruments of production will transform itself into other commodities.

These commodities belong to the man who buys the pep off the worker. In return for parting with his pep, the worker receives wages, much as a mule receives oats.

Pep develops like wool on a sheep.

The boss loves the pep, but he cares nothing for the worker.

Every worker can produce a certain amount of pep. Most workers produce the limit.

The foolish worker sells all his pep without reserve and as a result he becomes barren at an early age. He is then consigned to the scrap heap.

To fool the worker into extravagant pep-producing the boss’ servants have coined many cunning words and phrases. A good one reads thus: “Hard work (pep) never killed anybody.”

Which may be true. But many an extravagant pep-producer has landed on the scrap heap, and the hard work done for the boss never fed him either.

A wise worker conserves his pep, knowing that it is impossible to get a job without there being prospects of pep-exploitation from a boss.

If a worker expects to live till old age, he must also conserve his pep for that age, for old age with no pep and no job is no fun.

The bosses are in constant search for pep. They pit the native against the foreigner and the Jew against the Christian in a desire to get all the pep possible out of the workers.

Pep is the secret of the bosses’ profits.

The pep of the workers is what makes it possible for the rich to reap where they have never sown.

P.S. “Freedom must remain a fraud as long as the best presses and the most abundant supplies of paper remain in the hands of the capitalists”- N. Lenin.

Sabotage

Last Friday the Free Press was out with another of its most stupid editorials under the caption of “Preserving the Balance.”

“The world suffers for lack of food and clothing and shelter,” whines this hypocrite, and says that we must work longer hours and work harder to get these things. One thing the Free Press recognizes. It says that “The social and economic machinery that has been depended on to do the work was lying in bits.” What is this but a complete break-down of private ownership of the means of wealth production to get us our goods.

There “is” only one reason why there is not plenty in the world today, of wrought goods and houses, and that is, that credit has broken down completely. Of food there is plenty, if credit was in existence to supply transportation and payment, either in cash or commodities. To say that it is because slaves will not work hard enough is to lie about the workers. All the workers want a chance to work. The overtime hog is still in our midst.

Also, because of the credit situation, the banks are pulling off one of their periodical squeezes, that is, the banks are sabotaging industry and the owners of the large scale industries are helping them in doing it. A train pulled into a town west of here, the other day, with more than half its wheels flattened from skidding. Why are the men not taken on to fix up the rolling stock?

Dixon’s Acquittal

The acquittal of Fred J. Dixon, M.L.A., on the charge of seditious libel, throws the whole strike-trial business of Winnipeg into a curious position. A few weeks ago R. B. Russell was convicted of participating in a seditious conspiracy, and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. The trial of seven other strike leaders is still in progress, and is expected to last for a fortnight longer. Dixon was not in the same position as most of the other men now on trial. He was not a member of the strike committee and not a member of the Trades and Labor Council. The charge against him was based on three published articles dealing with the strike and the consequent riots. Directly, there was no connection between him and Russell; but it was apparent during the course of the trouble in Winnipeg that Dixon was in active sympathy with the strikers and their leaders. A feature of the trial was the masterly defense put up by Dixon without the aid of counsel. He conducted his own case in such a way that even the Justice, who showed not the slightest indication of agreement with any of Dixon’s writings or activities, complimented him on his exposition of the evidence. What effect the decision will have on the already hazy minds of the Winnipeg populace, and on the trial jury now sitting on the cases of the other seven men, remains to be seen. One thing is becoming plainly evident, and that is that no matter what the result of the proceeding trial may be, the general public will not even then be certain in their minds as to whether or not the Winnipeg trouble was a strike or an attempted revolution. The results would have unquestionably been more satisfying if the plea of the defense for a change of venue had been listened to and the trial conducted in some center which had not been stirred to the depths by the bitterness of the struggle between the striking workers and the forces of the administration. -- Turner’s Weekly.

Ourselves

The O.B.U. Bulletin has grown faster than any other labor paper in Canada. It is today on a paying basis. The Bulletin has, so far, been produced by one man, without assistance. The time has come when the readers of the Bulletin demand more than they are getting. They want reports of meetings, full accounts of the trials of other important happenings in the labor world. Bricks cannot be produced without straw. More help must be had.

The readers of the paper are now asked to lend a hand. The subscription list inside the organizations is fairly well attended to, but outside of the units the circulation is relatively small. In neighboring cities many subscribers can be obtained for the asking. Labor needs the aid and sympathy of the farmers who are producing the world’s goods co-operatively with the workers of the mines, mills, shops, railways, and steamships. A great future lies before this paper, following along the lines of its present principles, but to secure the results desired there must be enthusiastic work on the part of all who believe in the principles of the workers.

Send in news letters of your city, your district; get application blanks and boost the circulation. On our part we promise to build up a staff that will attend to all details and that will be qualified to give a better and still better paper.

Page revised: 3 August 2013

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