Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 17 April 1920
The Defense Conference
The Defense Conference met last Sunday and adjourned. The workers, outside of Winnipeg had been looking to this meeting for a lead. The practical results of the conference are nil.
A dead-set was made on labor all over the continent. The workers grouped themselves together for Defense. It now remains, as a first duty, to find out where we are at. This is more especially imperative since sinister elements are at work within the defense organizations themselves.
Labor, all over the continent, has been subject to a change in legal status. In Canada a labor organization which fights the boss by the strike is illegal, and sedition laws are now in existence which can be used to strangle education and propaganda. Tame, servile labor has, through its predatory and traitorous officials, compounded its differences with capital, and now lies prone under the master’s feet, a subject class of slaves prepared to accept the slave’s portion and the slave’s status.
The workers who have been students of the social sciences, who regard society as dynamic and, therefore, continuously in process of flux and change, are not prepared to cease the struggle to better conditions, are not prepared to compound their differences with the masters who have enslaved them for over twenty centuries, are not prepared to take the thirty pieces of silver, and all because of class-consciousness and the shift of loyalty from the national objective to a new objective resting on the working class of the world.
It is a law of physics that equilibrium is obtained when a force or system of forces are equal to the sum of the resistances, otherwise, movement is in direction of the lesser force. To carry on the struggle, therefore, the class-conscious workers must acquire strength. To do this two things are needed, organization and education. It is unusual to put education first, but where the means comes to be taken to be the end, the jaw-whacker and the artist in the yaw-yaw and the yaa-yaa game imposes himself on the movement and occupies the stage to the one end that confusion is triumphant. What is above all things necessary is a line-up and a separation of the sheep from the goats.
All this was apparent some time ago and a trades union organization whose structure was not a killing handicap was brought into being so that these functions of organization and education could be used as ways and means to obtain equipment to be used in the struggle.
Defense has deflected and diverted our forces. It now strikes us, as the result of mature consideration, that the proper thing to do at present is to put the Defense matters on such a footing that they will run themselves, and devote every resource and every capacity and ability at our command to carry out the work of organization.
The example of the loggers is before us. During all these months when the town workers were looking after defense, their camp delegates have been out with application form and sharp pencils and have been rolling up membership. It is easier to educate a card-man than a non-card man, along sound economic lines.
Without fighting the boss in such a way that he can use his new-found law to put us in prison, let us gird up our loins and go out after every worker who is not a crook or a reactionary. Get them into the organization if sound sense, patience, and perseverance will turn the trick. Surely, the experience which we have just gone through is sufficient to show any worker the necessity of standing together in well-ordered organizations. Surely the treachery of international officialdom is sufficiently apparent. Then fight the enemy for two reasons. Self-defence is often best served by an offensive. Discipline is doing things, and, organizing campaigns to win victories are necessary preparation for future campaigns. The coming provincial elections give us a strategic field where we can unite our forces and make the campaign yield both education and organization. On to the fray.
Wages and Prices
Popular misconceptions die hard. And while they are entertained they work all kinds of mischief. Such a popular misconception is at present abroad as regards wages and prices. The idea that every time wages go up prices are bound to follow, is being is being insidiously foisted onto the readers of the Bourgeoisie press, and the object is obvious. If they can instill this misconception into the minds of the workers it will act as a deterrent in asking for higher wages and as a promoter of all kinds of attempts at low prices and cheap living. By having this monstrosity of a doctrine preached early and late, the capitalist class has succeeded in reducing the standard of living of the working class and exaggerated a formerly known tendency to amongst the workers to live cheap, to eat cheap, and to demand as first consideration for any article they wish to purchase that it “must be cheap”.
In trying to hold our own and if possible better our standard of living, the class-conscious worker constantly meets the fool who argues that if wages go up prices will follow. The logic of which would also be that if we offered the boss to work for him for 25 cents a day, prices would come down, so go and try it.
The point that wants to be nailed down in every worker’s brain, is this: Commodities exchange at their value. And if you cannot explain the workings of capitalist society on this basis, you cannot explain it at all. A pair of boots cost a hundred times less than a cottage because there is a hundred times less social labor necessary to make a pair of boots than what is required to build a cottage, and the capitalist makes his profit by selling commodities at their value.
Then, how can wages affect prices? The answer is easy: They don’t.
What happens is this: When labor receives more in wages, capital gets less in profit.
The workers make the product and receive wages. The product belongs to the boss and he sells it in the market. The difference between what the boss paid out in raw material, wages, rent, etc., and what he takes in the market when he sells the product, is profit.
The higher wages the boss has to pay, the less his surplus. The lower wages, the bigger the gain.
And this is why the boss is so anxious at all times to keep wages down.
Why You Should Join the One Big Union
Mr. Workingman: Do you know that your boss has organized into the ONE BIG UNION? If you are not aware of this fact it is time you should become acquainted with this important event.
According to the prospectus of the Manitoba Employers’ Association, published in the Bulletin of the 13th of March, the bosses of this province are organized so as to go hand in hand in ONE BIG UNION. They intend to have united action in order to check action by organized labor and radicals against them.
In all the other provinces there are similar organizations of the bosses.
The Canadian Manufacturers’ Association co-ordinates all these provincial “ONE BIG UNIONS” throughout all Canada.
Do you realize the significance of such a union organized by Capital in Canada and America? Now what are you going to do to combat it, in order to maintain some degree of respectability?
There is just one thing you can do, and that is to beat the boss at his own game, by organizing into ONE BIG UNION yourself that is militant enough to meet the boss in the workshops and factories whenever the emergency arises.
The capitalists have at present ten thousand advantages over us. They own and control all the sources and means of wealth production. They are masters of the tools; they act together. They control all the powers of government. They can by their own will shut down the mills and factories and mines, and they can wait patiently weeks and months and even years, until the impoverished workers become hungry and are glad to be taken back at any terms. And they will stop at nothing in order to keep the working class divided.
There is but one hope, and that is in the economic and political solidarity of the working class. One big union and one workers’ party. It is for this reason that the ONE BIG UNION, an economic and political organization, has been launched and now makes it appeal to you as workers aspiring to be free. You cannot be satisfied with such a slavish lot and now is the time to change it. In your heart you feel the thrill of the new born joy. You will join the ONE BIG UNION that proposes to unite all the workers, that all of them might act together in harmonious co-operation for the good of all; a union that recognizes no aristocracy but the whole working class; that insists that each member shall have all the rights that are accorded every other; a union built upon the class struggle, appealing to all workers to get together on the right side of that struggle and achieve the emancipation of their class.
But you may say this is impossible, that the job is too large. We agree that this is a stupendous task; that there are great opposing forces; that every falsehood that can be devised will be put in circulation to defeat the object of the ONE BIG UNION, but nevertheless, those of us who have left the old unions and are organized into the One Big Union have done so with the determination that no matter what opposing forces may be set in operation, we will stand together side by side in the true spirit of class conscious solidarity; we will move forward, step by step, in one solid body; we will speak the truth as we see the truth, and defy all opposition that may be brought to bear against the ONE BIG UNION by all the capitalist class and all its emissaries.
Page revised: 3 August 2013Back to top of page