Saturday July 16, 1904
Recommended Book for All Hellraisers: Unionism and Socialism by Eugene Debs
We highly recommend this book to all Unionist and Socialist, and we are pleased to be able to present a few pages from the beginning of the book:
UNIONISM AND SOCIALISM
By EUGENE V. DEBS
The labor question, as it is called, has come to be recognized as the foremost of our time. In some form it thrusts itself into every human relation, and directly or indirectly has a part in every controversy.
A thousand "solutions" of the labor question find their way into print, but the question not only remains unsolved, but steadily assumes greater and graver proportions. The nostrums have no effect other than to prove their own inefficiency.
There has always been a labor question since man first exploited man in the struggle for existence, but not until its true meaning was revealed in the development of modern industry did it command serious thought or intelligent consideration, and only then came any adequate conception of its importance to the race.
Man has always sought the mastery of his fellow man. To enslave his fellow in some form and to live out of his labor has been the mainspring of human action.
To escape submission, not in freedom, but in mastery over others has been the controlling desire, and this has filled the world with slavery and crime.
In all the ages of the past, human society has been organized and maintained upon the basis of the exploitation and degradation of those who toil. And so it is today.
The chief end of government has been and is to keep the victims of oppression and injustice in subjection.
The men and women who toil and produce have been and are at the mercy of those who wax fat and scornful upon the fruit of their labor.
The labor question was born of the first pang of protest that died unvoiced in the breast of unrequited toil.
THE LABOR MOVEMENT
The labor movement of modern times is the product of past ages. It has come to us for the impetus of our day, in pursuit of its world-wide mission of emancipation.
Unionism, as applied to labor in the modern sense, is the fruit and flower of the last century.
In the United States, as in other countries, the trade union dates from the beginning of industrial society.
During the colonial period of our history, when agriculture was the principal pursuit, when the shop was small and work was done by hand with simple tools, and the worker could virtually employ himself, there was no unionism among the workers.
When machinery was applied to industry, and mill and factory took the place of the country blacksmith shop; when the workers were divorced from their tools and recruited in the mills; when they were obliged to compete against each other for employment; when they found themselves in the labor market with but a low bid or none at all upon their labor power; when they began to realize that as toolless workingmen they were at the mercy of the tool-owning masters, the necessity for union among them took root, and as industry developed, the trade union movement followed in its wake and became a factor in the struggle of the workers against the aggressions of their employers.
In his search for the beginnings of trade unionism in our country, Prof. Richard T. Ely, in his "Labor Movement in America," says:
I find no traces of anything like a modern trades union in the colonial period of American history, and it is evident, on reflection, that there was little need, if any, of organization on the part of labor at that time." * * *
This was the general condition from the labor standpoint at the close of the eighteenth century. But with the dawn of the new century and the application of machinery and the spread of industry that followed came the beginning of the change. The workers gradually organized into unions and began to take active measures to increase their wages and otherwise improve their condition. Referring to this early period in the rise of unionism, the same author records the incident of one of the first strikes as follows:
Such manufacturing, as was found, consisted largely in the production of values-in-use. Clothing, for example, was spun and woven, and then converted into garments in the household for its various members. The artisans comprised chiefly the carpenter, the blacksmith and the shoemaker; many of whom worked in their own little shops with no employes, while the number of subordinates in any one shop was almost invariably small, and it would probably have been difficult to find a journeyman who did not expect, in a few years, to become an independent producer.
Something very like a modern strike occurred in the year 1802. The sailors in New York received ten dollars a month, but wished an increase of four dollars a month, and endeavored to enforce their demands by quitting work. It is said that they marched about the city, accompanied by a band, and compelled seamen, employed at the old wages, to leave their ships and join them. But the iniquitous combination and conspiracy laws, which viewed concerted action of laborers as a crime, were then in force in all modern lands, and "the constables were soon in pursuit, arrested the leader, lodged him in jail, and so ended the earliest of labor strikes."
This sounds as if it had been the occurrence of yesterday, instead of more than a hundred years ago. The combination and conspiracy laws have been repealed, but the labor leader fares no better now than when these laws were still on the statute books. The writ of injunction is now made to serve the purpose of the master class, and there is no possible situation in which it can not be made to apply and as swiftly and surely strike the vital point and paralyze the opposition to the master's rule.
We need not at this time trace the growth of the trade union from its small and local beginnings to its present national and international proportions; from the little group of hand-workers in the service of an individual employer to the armies of organized and federated workers in allied industries controlled by vast corporations, syndicates and trusts. The fact stands forth in bold relief that the union was born of necessity and that it has grown strong with the development of industry and the increasing economic dependence of the workers.
A century ago a boy served his apprenticeship and became the master of his trade. The few simple tools with which work was then done were generally owned by the man who used them; he could provide himself with the small quantity of raw material he required, and freely follow his chosen pursuit and enjoy the fruit of his labor. But as everything had to be produced by the work of his hands, production was a slow process, meagre of results, and the worker found it necessary to devote from twelve to fifteen hours to his daily task to earn a sufficient amount to support himself and family.
It required most of the time and energy of the average worker to produce enough to satisfy the physical wants of him self and those dependent upon his labor.
There was little leisure for mental improvement, for recreation or social intercourse. The best that can be said for the workingman of this period is that he enjoyed political freedom, controlled in large measure his own employment, by virtue of his owning the tools of his trade, appropriated to his own use the product of his labor and lived his quiet, uneventful round to the end of his days.
This was a new country, with boundless stretches of virgin soil. There was ample room and opportunity air and sunlight, for all.
There was no millionaire in the United States; nor was there a tramp. These types are the products of the same system. The former is produced at the expense of the latter, and both at the expense of the working class. They appeared at the same time in the industrial development and they will disappear together with the abolition of the system that brought them into existence.
The application of machinery to productive industry was followed by tremendous and far-reaching changes in the whole structure of society. First among these was the change in the status of the worker, who, from an independent mechanic or small producer, was reduced to the level of a dependent wage-worker. The machine had leaped, as it were, into the arena of industrial activity, and had left little or no room for the application of the worker's skill or the use of his individual tools.
The economic dependence of the working class became more and more rigidly fixed-and at the same time a new era dawned for the human race.
The more or less isolated individual artisans were converted into groups of associated workers and marshalled for the impending social revolution.
It was at this time that the trades union movement began to take definite form. Unorganized, the workers were not only in open competition with each other for the sale of their labor power in the labor market, but their wages could be reduced, and their hours of labor lengthened at will, and they were left practically at the mercy of their employers.
It is interesting to note the spirit evinced by the pioneers of unionism, the causes that impelled them and the reasons they assigned for banding themselves together in defense of their common interests. In this connection we again quote from Professor Ely's "Labor Movement in America," as follows:
The next event to attract our attention in New York is an address delivered before "The General Trades Unions of the City of New York" at Chatham street chapel, on December 2, 1833, by Eli Moore, president of the union. This General Trades Union, as its name indicates, was a combination of subordinate unions "of the various trades and arts in New York City and its vicinity," and is the earliest example in the United States, so far as I know, of those Central Labor Unions which attempt to unite all the workingmen in one locality in one body, and which have now become so common among us. The address of Mr. Moore is characterized by a more modern tone than is found in most productions of the labor leaders of that period. The object of these unions is stated to be "to guard against the encroachments of aristocracy, to preserve our natural and political rights, to elevate our moral and intellectual condition, to promote our pecuniary interests, to narrow the line of distinction between the journeyman and employer, to establish the honor and safety of our respective vocations upon a more secure and permanent basis, and to alleviate the distresses of those suffering from want of employment."
This is a remarkably clear statement of the objects of unionism in that early period, and indicates to what extent workingmen had even then been compelled to recognize their craft interests and unite and act together in defense thereof.
So far, and for many years later, the efforts of trades-unions were confined to defensive tactics, and to the amelioration of objectionable conditions. The wage-system had yet to develop its most offensive features and awaken the workers to the necessity of putting an end to it as the only means of achieving their freedom; and it was this that finally forced the extension of organized activity from the economic to the political field of labor unionism.
As the use of machinery became more general and competition became more intense; as capital was centralized and industry organized to obtain better results, the workers realized their dependence more and more, and unionism grew apace. One trade after another fell into line and raised the banner of economic solidarity. Then followed strikes and lockouts and other devices incident to that form of warfare. Sometimes the unionists gained an advantage, but more often they suffered defeat, lost courage and abandoned the union, only to return to the scene of disaster with renewed determination to fight the battle over again and again until victory should at last perch upon the union banner.
[emphasis and photographs added]