Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 13 March 1920
Unwise Methods of Labor
This phrase taken from the Confidential Letter to Employers, written to the Manitoba employers of labor, by the secretary of the Employers Association of Manitoba, is the real reason for the O.B.U.
We commend this whole series, which is to be found on our first page to the readers of the Bulletin and to organized labor all over Canada.
It was because there had come into being, in the organized labor movement of this continent, unwise methods, particularly on the part of the official heads of the Internationals that something had to be done by labor. The rank and file of labor had lost control. The officials were cooperating with the bosses and with the governments representing the propertied interests owned by big capital whether engaged in banking, production or distribution.
Then again the loosely federated craft form of the A. F of L, had long survived the changes in industry, which made its form of structure unsuited to function as an efficient machine to do the work which a union must do. Industry itself has changed. The owners of the plants changed into trusts and combines and the small employers came under the control and discipline of the banks and the large industrial capital with representation and directorate of the banks.
The relations of capital and labor have become acute. To present a united front to labor, capital is compelled to organize industrially. In the Winnipeg strike the workers were criticized and later indicted as criminals for venturing or daring to organize on an industrial basis. The general strike, the sympathetic strike, and old strike which results from the loyalty of the workers as a class is declared to be illegal. Socialism is illegal. The O.B.U. is illegal. Yet the development of industry dictates not only the form of organization but also the aims and ideas of the workers as it does also for the capitalists.
Haggarty’s wheel is one of the evidences of Bolshevism, of the tendency to sovietism, of the intention of the workers to overthrow the institutions of the land, yet, the Employers Association of Manitoba have classified the different industries on exactly the same principle as did Father Haggarty in the 90’s when he gave a “graphic” exposition of his plan of organization by means of the then prevalent disk method. Read on another page the heading of this association’s plan of classification “Classifies membership up to February 14th IN TRADE AND INDUSTRIAL GROUPS.” There you have Haggarty’s wheel reproduced by the Citizen’s committee institutionalized. The committees of the citizens committee were industrial committees and young soviets in themselves. The bosses are compelled to organize, thus, for efficiency. They could not do otherwise.
The Winnipeg strike may be said to have been the first direct encounter between the working class and the employing class in Canada. With this strike a new orientation came in among the workers. They fought for the principle of collective bargaining, which was challenged by the employing class, and they fought for it as a class with more determination than the masters had ever expected they would be able to show.
This was a very serious situation in the eyes of the master class. Petty strikes along craft lines never worry the masters, because after all is said and done they leave things very much as they were, but a strike of the working class in support of a principle of collective bargaining might if successful turn the workers from being humble, submissive individuals, fighting the bosses the obsolete craft union way, into self-reliant fighters with confidence in the working class. And this had to be prevented. That is the reason why the masters put so much energy into wrecking the strike and confounding the issue.
This was the first direct issue between the working class and the employing class in Canada, and it had our capitalists scared stiff.
After the strike was over it was to be publicly demonstrated that strike leaders who served the working class are seditious. To that end, the prosecutions were instituted and since the first day of the trial every bourgeois sheet in Canada has been devoting columns of editorial matter to create a public opinion against the accused strike leaders so that they can be sent to prison as a lesson to others. The Bourgeois press has written about labor’s men as if they were criminals. All manner of abuse and insinuation have been heaped upon them and their conduct of the strike.
Our Bourgeoisie is scared that “brother” labor shall grow too powerful and demand return of some of the ill-gotten gains. If labor were to be permitted today to challenge the “sacred right” of private capital to run the whole business, it might tomorrow take unto itself to challenge another so-called sacred right, that of private ownership of our socially operated industrial equipment.
The welfare of our Bourgeoisie depends upon private property. They rule because they own. Any challenge to their rulership is an indirect challenge to their ownership, and nobody understands this better than the Bourgeoisie themselves. Therefore they wish to see the leaders of any movement in which labor acts as a class, discredited and punished, and the Bourgeoisie will use any and all means to see this accomplished.
As George Brandes once said: “No animal is more ferocious than a Bourgeois touched on his pocketbook.”
Page revised: 3 August 2013Back to top of page