Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 5 June 1920
The Duty of the Provinces
The story that comes from Matewan, West Virginia, of a battle between the operators of the Baldwin—Felts Detective Agency and an infuriated mob of citizens and strikers who had seen the sheriff shot down in cold blood by these thugs, is all of a piece with the activities of the criminal detective agencies wherever these are used in labor affairs. It is the constitutional duty of the province to maintain law and order and to keep control of the machinery and to direct it under all circumstances wherever trouble arises, or is likely to arise. To delegate the powers of preserving law and order to any other parties, whether to the Dominion authorities, or, to the illegal private detective agencies, is to fail in the duty imposed on the provinces and the various states. The province of Manitoba is as derelict in its duty in this respect as is the state of West Virginia. It was complete surrender of provincial rights and a failure in provincial duty when the province of Manitoba spinelessly allowed the Dominion Government to assume the control of the late trials and to pay the money which the province should pay. The farmers who were on that jury should have had the prospect before them of having to pay for the enormous costs of the trials out of provincial taxation. Labor demands that the Manitoba Government reassure its functions in this regard and cease its illegal and criminal toleration of any private or governmental activities by any other parties whatsoever.
The Painters and the Joint Council of Industry
The O.B.U. Painters brought the first reference before the Joint Council of Industry. While the O.B.U. has no use for a butinski commission of any kind whatsoever, yet the O.B.U. knows that everything on the planet has the faults of its qualities and the qualities of its faults. A rump organization of the painters that was in existence only to maintain an International charter had had some relations with a Fair Wage Board of some kind or another in the city. This Fair Wage Board (?) had placed the rate of painters at 87 ½ cents. The rump organization, of course, is bound by that rate. The O.B.U. Painters are not bound by that rate. Therefore, the O.B.U. saw that they could use the Joint Council of Industry to give publicity to the whole matter. The O.B.U. also wanted to reveal, in practical manner, the futility and uselessness of any board to intervene between any group of buyers and any group of sellers. The principals in a bargain are the only ones to decide on the terms. The Joint Council of Industry can be nothing other than a lot of fussy, meddlesome, interfering people, necessarily ignorant of the matters that they are attempting to handle. So long as the economic system remains what it is, it must remain the price system, the property system and the competitive system, and the system must follow the laws which are inherent in the system. Any interference with these laws resolves itself into a common nuisance, and should be subject to indictment as such.
Speaking About Dogs
A Canadian lap dog was sold the other day for $2,000. It was a very small dog, not much larger than a rat. In reading about this remarkable animal we were informed that the art of breeding small dogs has always been cultivated among the “better classes,” but not with the same success as it seems that the smaller the dogs are bred, the easier do they succumb to disease. But it was pointed out that in Mexico and in China the breeding of these animals had been carried to the best possible results.
In Mexico and in China! The two countries in the world where labor power, speaking historically, has had the least possible value, where the fruitfulness of the soil and the rich climatic conditions have made it easy for the people to gain their livelihood and were slaves, as a result, ere so cheap that a well-to-do member of the leisure class could own thousands of them and could have hundreds of them working at fanciful occupations. Mexico and China, two countries which in their times have seen the most powerful leisure class and the most abject slave classes of any parts of this world, in these two countries some of the monkey business which the rich undertook in order to kill time and to keep their slaves occupied consisted in breeding miniature dogs.
For any society to go in for miniature dog breeding just for the fun of it, labor power must be dirt cheap. We do not know what these dogs were worth in the days of the prime of the leisure classes in Mexico, and in China, but we do know that the slaves who did the useful work those days were worth next to nothing.
We also know that a miniature dog, bred for the entertainment of the leisure class of Canada can fetch a price of two thousand dollars. One dog worth more than a year’s wage for the average worker. Wage slaves evidently must be cheap and the supply plentiful.
The Trouble With Ireland
This evening Jack Jones delivered a characteristically witty and sensible speech.
“The trouble with Ireland,” he said,” is its place on the map. If it could be transplanted to the other end of Europe it would be entitled to self-determination, no doubt.
“If Ireland is anarchistic it is because it has an anarchist Government. It is ruled not by the dictatorship of the proletariat, but by the dictatorship of alien capitalists. Are not the Irish entitled to the recognition of nationality as well as Serbians and Czecho-Slovakians?”
Jones warned the Government that its Irish policy is not merely making Sinn Feiners and revolutionists in Ireland. It is making them in this country too.
Who Should Be Hung
Remarkable statements concerning an anti-nationalisation book issued to members of Parliament and circulated free in thousands throughout the country were made by Mr. John Robertson, M.P., in a discussion on nationalization at the Scottish miners’ conference.
This book, he said, was part of the opposition propaganda, and in it the author asserted that the nationalizers were rebels who were treated too kindly by the Government. The writer advocated that rebel nationalizers should be hung.
Mr. Robertson wondered what would have happened if Frank Hodges had advocated in his book that coal owners should be hung. Probably Hodges would now have been in prison.
It was a dangerous policy for the coal owners to countenance, because if nationalization was to be settled by hanging, there would be ample lampposts, and to spare, on which to string up the coal owners, while there would not be enough on which to hang the nationalizers.
The miners’ policy was not to hang their opponents- but was to drive them from economic and political power.
War to the Knife
A new defensive attitude on the part of the employing interests was given the frankest expression during the jubilee convention just closed of the National Manufacturers’ Association, held in the Waldorf Astoria. One thousand of the country’s important manufacturers adopted a platform openly declaring war on the union shop, on collective bargaining, on labor’s participation in politics, on strikes, on immigration of any but docile Europeans, and on the payment of war bonuses. There appeared none of the benevolent phrases of former years, urging closer co-operation between the employer and his men; no suggestions as to “welfare work” and the “human touch,” and no appeal to the patriotism of the workers. The platform was very frank. It will be submitted to the Republican and Democratic conventions for incorporation in their national platforms.
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