‘Industrial Unionism in Great Britain’ by William D. Haywood from the International Socialist Review. Vol. 11 No. 6. December, 1910.

Mann addressing Liverpool strikers, 1911.

On an extended tour to Europe, Haywood reports on the meets Tom Mann and reports on the movement in Britain.

‘Industrial Unionism in Great Britain’ by William D. Haywood from the International Socialist Review. Vol. 11 No. 6. December, 1910.

INDUSTRIAL unionism is the question of the hour in Great Britain. It is creating more interest in working class circles than all other matters combined. Everywhere I speak there are questions on Industrial Unionism, the informal after-meetings have been devoted to this subject, which is now approached with some understanding and a manifest desire on the part of all for something that means solidarity.

The general condition of the work people of this country is mean and miserable in the extreme, and the extent of unemployment and pauperism is a glaring disgrace. This is a state that America is rapidly declining toward. The misery here continues to grow worse, in face of the fact that the trade unions of Great Britain are twice as strong in numbers as in the United States and they have only one-half the population to deal with.

But here is the significant thing. The employers are organized industrially and politically, while the workers are divided into as many sections as the semblance of a trade or craft will permit. The utter foolishness of craft distinction among workers who are absolutely dependent upon each other is now being realized, as is evidenced by the action of the recent Trades Union Congress held at Sheffield, when the following resolution was adopted by a vote of 1,175,000 for, and 256,000 against:

“That in the opinion of this Congress the present system of sectional trade unionism is unable to successfully combat the encroachments of modern capitalism and, while, recognizing the usefulness of sectional trades unionism in the past and present, the congress realizes that much greater achievements are possible and the redemption of the working class would be hastened if all the existing unions were amalgamated by industries, one central executive elected by the combined unions, and, with power to act unitedly whenever. there is a strike or lockout in any industry, thus making a grievance of one the concern of all. The congress therefore instructs its Parliamentary Committee to put themselves in communication with all the Trade Unions in the country to ascertain their views on the above question, also to promote a general scheme of amalgamation and make a recommendation on the matter to the next Congress.”

This resolution shows that even the British leaders of labor, who usually wake up last, are now aroused to the ineffectiveness of trade unions against the encroachments of capitalism.

It is a long call from the Erfurt Congress of June, 1872, where the following resolution was unanimously adopted:

Tom Mann addresses workers at Broken Hill near Adelaide, South Australia in May 1909.

“In consideration of the fact, that the capitalist power equally oppresses and exploits all workingmen, no matter whether they are conservative, progressive, liberal or Social Democrats, this congress declares it to be the sacred duty of the working men to lay aside all party strife, in order to create the conditions for a vigorous and successful resistance on the neutral ground of a united trades union organization, to secure their threatened existence and to conquer for themselves an improvement in their class condition.”

It is rather remarkable that the aims and sentiments of the Erfurt program are now expressed in the Trade Union Congress of Great Britain. Still more remarkable would it be to trace the development during the lapse of years it has required, “Made in Germany” has never been a recommendation for anything in this country. So the Erfurt program is accepted only when it is hoary with age, having traveled along the halls of time, percolating on its way through the brains of the workers of America and Australia. The Knights of Labor recognized “that the capitalist power equally oppresses and exploits all working- men” and met “on the neutral ground of a united trades union organization.”

Out of the loins of the K. of L. came the Western Federation of Miners, its members one and all feeling and breathing the class struggle. The spirit of the K. of L. was incarnated in the Western Labor Union. Then came the American Labor Union to create a still more “vigorous and successful resistance” against “capitalist power.”

Accepting the words of Bebel that, “membership in a labor union is a necessity of life for every workingman.” To render it possible for all workers to become members of a labor organization and avail themselves of a “necessity of life,” the most progressive and militant labor organizations of the United States in July, 1905, merged into the Industrial Workers of the World. The manifesto of this organization carried conviction, as it conveyed the truth of the class struggle and a hope to all oppressed and exploited. It reached across the waters of the Pacific to Australia, was adopted in the antipodes, and now Tom Mann brings it to England. Who is he? An industrialist— that is enough. If you would know more, here it is:

“He was born in Foleshill, a mining district of Warwickshire, in 1856. At the age of nine years, he was put to work on a farm. Two years later, he was sent to work down the mine and on the pithead. At 14 years, he was apprenticed to engineering in Birmingham. In 1877, he settled in London. In 1881 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and has been closely identified with the trade union movement ever since. In 1885, becoming a Socialist, he joined the Battersea branch of the S.D.F., and, in that year, assisted John Burns in his Parliamentary candidature for West Nottingham, an occasion on which the redoubtable John polled 598 votes out of an aggregate of 11,064.

“Mann took an active part along with John Burns and Ben Tillett in the memorable Dock Strike of 1889, and became president of the Dockers’ Union. He was appointed, subsequently, as a member of the Royal Commission to investigate the conditions of labor.

“His advocacy of Socialism resulted in his arrest in Hamburg in 1896, and his expulsion from Paris in May, 1897. He became, in later years, a prime favorite at miners’ annual demonstrations, and ad- dressed the Fife miners at a gala day celebration fifteen years ago. In 1900 he left for Australia. In that colony he continued to pursue his advocacy of Socialism and was so successful that at Broken Hill, N.S.W., he was arrested, about a year ago, charged with having fomented a strike and caused a riot amongst the miners. Knowing that no Broken Hill jury would ever convict Tom Mann, the authorities had the trial fixed at the town of Albury, 1,000 miles away, a place populated and owned by rich sheep farmers. He was acquitted, however. He returned to England in the spring of the present year. He immediately joined the Social Democratic party, and is pursuing a vigorous campaign and is drawing huge audiences. A feature of his work is his advocacy of the consolidation of Trade Union forces, urging the unorganized to organize, appealing to the organized to federate and to display a spirit of solidarity, taking for his motto ‘Each for all and all for each.’”

He speaks for himself, and here are his views on industrial unionism:

“It is in the ascendancy, and it is well that all reformers and revolutionaries should therefore be alive to what it means, and if it ought to be killed, to take action to kill it, but if it should be helped, to act accordingly.

“My industrial and political faith is as follows: 1st. Industrial solidarity is the real power to effect economic changes, by this I mean that even though resort be had to Parliament, it is only effective when the demand is made as the result of intelligent and courageous industrial organization. It was thus that the factory acts were obtained and all other legislation that in any degree is economically advantageous to the workers. 2d. The chief economic change must be the reduction of working hours. All through our industrial history nothing stands out more clearly than this, that the reducing of working hours is a genuine method of raising the standard, economically and ethically correct. 3rd. By a drastic reduction of working hours, we can absorb the unemployed. The cure for unemployment is the chief concern of Revolutionaries and Reformers, and the most natural, most simple and most effective of all methods is, by absorbing them into the ranks of the employed so apportioning the work to be done over the total number to do it. 4th. By removing competition for work we gain the power to get higher wages. 5th. It is necessary for every worker to belong to a union and for every union. to unite with every other union in the same industry. 6th. Unite to fight, fight to achieve your economic emancipation. 7th. Under existing circumstances it is not desirable that membership of an industrial organization should pledge one to specific political action. 8th. Parliamentary action is secondary in importance to industrial action; it is industrial action alone that makes political action effective, but with or without Parliamentary action, industrial solidarity will ensure economic freedom, and therefore the abolition of capitalism and all its accompanying poverty and misery. 9th. To ensure industrial solidarity it is necessary that the finances of the unions should be so kept that the Friendly Society benefits should be kept entirely separate from the industrial; so that every union on its industrial side may amalgamate with every other union in the same industry.”

The National Union of Ship’s Stewards, Cooks, Butchers & Bakers, have held a meeting and decided to take part in a Congress to be held in London, November 10, to amalgamate all now affiliated Transport Workers, a total membership of 262,450.

November 26 a conference will be held in Manchester for the purpose of hearing and giving opinions on Industrial Unionism. In the meantime the subject is being discussed in newspapers, from the platform, with a general distribution of pamphlets. If this good work is augmented and vigorously continued, these chaps may yet sing “Britons never, never, shall be slaves.”

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v11n06-dec-1910-ISR-gog-Corn-OCR.pdf

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