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Of a new love-God knows how true and pure !
“ Father, when just my weaker soul had grown
“ Father, the years have passed. I thought that I
“ Father, he lives—my husband. And his love
There was a long, long silence as she knelt,
Came to her softly.
“Daughter, be thou still
Daughter, go home. It were not well to stay
She moved, she rose, and passed out from the place
It was the silence only and his God
“ Into Thy hands, my God! the gate is past-
PROBLEMS OF CIVILIZATION.
BY THOMAS HUGHES.
In my last address we had already heard Paris workman holds it—the right “to the sound of those much-feared and much- live working, or die fighting.” I do not abused words, the organization of labor." care to consider curiously why it is that Turn them into French, and they become we have no such memories to brood over, at once terribly suggestive. Vague ghosts but would for myself earnestly deprecate of Communism and Socialism rise up the tone of complacency in which our before us, till timid folk feel inclined to press too often takes up this tale ; and put their fingers in their ears, and run thanks, not God, but our remarkable naaway shrieking for the police. Unhappily tional characteristics—our reverence for for unhappy France, they are, inseparably the constable's staff, our distrust of ideas, I fear, connected there with terrible me- and the rest—that our people are not Red mories—with bitter class hatreds, unclosed Republicans, Socialists, Communists
, or social wounds; with blood-stained bar- even as these Frenchmen. We have a ricades, and armed men behind them, as- sorrowful enough record in the past, of serting against society, in blind but deadly bitterness and unwisdom—an anxious earnest, the first “right of labor,” as the enough present, with our South Wales strikes, agricultural laborers' unions, and although beaten in 1852, has gone on drinking ourselves out of the Alabama in- steadily gaining power and numbers ever demnity in one year—a future enough since. There were then some 11,000 overcast, to keep our attention sadly and members, belonging to 100 branches in earnestly fixed at home. We shall want Great Britain and Ireland, and the funds all our breath to cool our own broth. of the society at the end of the great strike When such a serious changes are going on went down to zero; in fact, it came out in the structure” of the society to which he of the contest in debt. There are now belongs, it is only the eyes of the fool that upwards of 40,000 members, nearly 300 are in the ends of the earth.
branches, which are spread over all our The “organization of labor" in this colonies, the United States, and several kingdom has gone on in two parallel lines European countries, and the accumulated for the last twenty years and more, and at fund amounts to more than 150,000l. The a rate as remarkable as that of the increase example of the engineers has been followof our material riches. If Mr. Gladstone ed, as we all know, by almost every other had added to his statement, as to what the great industry. The Boilermakers' Union, last fifty years have done for us in this the Masons' Union, the Amalgamated direction—that in the organization of Carpenters and Joiners', and the vast ironlabor, and the consequent change in the workers and coalworkers' unions, in condition of the working classes, the same England, Scotland, and Wales, are the period had done more than the 300 years best known. Each of these is growing since the first Statute of Laborers—or steadily, and aims at absorbing the whole indeed than the whole of previous English trade. And not only are the unions of history-he would have been making a the separate trades federated in great statement even more certain, and more amalgamated societies, but these societies easy of proof, than that which he did are again in federation. They hold a make. Let me very shortly make good Congress at the opening of each new year. my words. It was not until the year 1825 It sat at Leeds at the beginning of this that the laws prohibiting combinations of year, when another step in advance was workmen were repealed. They had lasted proposed, being nothing less than the insince the early Plantagenet times. Un- corporation of all the unionists in the der them no open combination of artisans kingdom into one vast society. or laborers, such as the Trades Unions posal was indeed rejected; but even as it which we know, was possible. There is, for all practical purposes the unions were unions, indeed, but they met as throughout the country are allied in a secret societies, and worked by secret federation, which promises to be drawn penalties and terrorism. After 1825 they closer and closer every year, and to became at once into the light, and there was come more and more powerful. Such a remarkable decrease, indeed almost a have been, shortly speaking, the results of cessation, of those sanguinary crimes con- the twenty-five years of federated unionism, nected with trades' disputes which had And now let us look, as fairly as we can, disgraced the previous quarter of a century. at this “ problem of civilization,” and ask It took another quarter of a century to
what it means and where it tends. That effect the next great change. From 1825 unionism is a great power, and likely to till 1849-50 may be called the period of become a greater one still, no one will local Ünionism. In the latter year it deny. That it is an army, by which I entered on a new phase, that of federa- mean an organization for fighting purposes, tion. The first sign of the change was goes without talk. That nearly all unions the great strike of the engineers at Christ- have their sick and provident funds, and mas 1851. Public attention was drawn their benefits of one kind and another, is to this struggle, involving as it did the perfectly true; but these are not their prosperity of the most skilled, and most vital function. They are organized and thoroughly national, of our great indus- supported “ to speak with their enemies tries, and the country was startled to find in the gate,” and to fight whenever it may that a league of upwards of 100 local be thought advisable. And when it comes unions, all federated in one amalgamated to fighting, they may use every penny of society, were sustaining the local contests the funds (as the Amalgamated Engineers in Oldham and London. This federation, did in 1852) without a thought of the
provident purposes contemplated by their use it at all. I shall be glad to see the rules. You can't have armies and battles day, and I fully believe it will come, when without training professional soldiers. Trades Unions will have played their part, They must come to the front as naturally and become things of the past. But they as cream rises if you let milk stand; and have still a part to play, and until they are the Trades Unions train leaders who are superseded by other associations, founded essentially fighting men.
I do not use on higher principles and aiming at nobler the word as implying any censure. Many ends, their failure and disappearance would cruel and unfair attacks have been made be a distinct step backwards—an injury, on these men as a class with which I do not an advantage, to the nation and to not in the least sympathise. Many ac- civilization. cusations have been brought against them What hope, then, is there of the rise of which I know to be untrue. There are other associations amongst our people of good and bad amongst them, as in all nobler aim than their Trades Unions ? I other classes; but, on the whole, they said just now that the “organization of have done their work faithfully, and with- labor” had been going on amongst us by out giving needless offence. Indeed, I means of two parallel movements. Of have often found them far more ready to one of these—the Trades Union, or fightlisten to reason, to negotiate rather than ing movement-I have already spoken; fight, than their rank and file. They have and we now come to the Co-operative supported the attempts to establish Courts movement, to which I have looked for of Arbitration and Conciliation, and are, five-and-twenty years, and still look with as a rule, honest representatives, and in increasing hope, for the solution of the advance of their constituents. But the labor question, and a building up of a fact remains—they are fighting men, at juster, and nobler, and gentier life throughthe head of armies; and their business is out this nation. The present Co-operative constant watchfulness, and prompt action movement is not thirty years old. The whenever a fair opportunity occurs. They store of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers, accept and act on the principles of trade which has become world-famous now, was which they have learnt from their employ- established in the year 1844 by a few ers and see proclaimed in all the leading laboring folk, of very small means and journals. Their business is to enable their very high aspirations. Their first venture members to sell their labor in the dearest in goods, not amounting to more than some market, and to limit and control the sup- 201. worth, but all that they could comply. “ Morality," they maintain with mand, was trundled in a wheelbarrow to their betters, " has nothing to do with buy- the little room in Toad Lane, where they ing and selling.” They have nothing to started on the trifling work of making trade do with the question whether their action honest, and delivering their brethren of is fair or just to employers, or whether it the working class with themselves from the will bring trouble and misfortune on work- bondage in which they were held by the men outside the union. Employers and credit system, by thriftlessness, by intemoutsiders must look to themselves; what perance. On the 28th of September, 1867, they have to see to is, that every unionist I had the pleasure of attending a great gets as much and gives as little as possible. gathering of Co-operators at Rochdale to No one can doubt that this is a most celebrate the opening of their new central serious business, and that organizations store. This new central store is only their such as these do threaten the prosperity of chief place of business. It is a fine buildour industry. Nevertheless, for my own ing four stories high, and surmounted by a part I accept unionism as on the whole a clock with a bee-hive on the top of it. benefit to this nation. Without it our The building cost 10,000l., and—besides working classes would be far less powerful giving ample room and convenience for than they are at present, and I desire that their great trade in the shape of shops, ofthey should have their fair share of power fices, store-rooms, workshops, committeeand of all national prosperity. The free rooms on the third story there is a library and full right of association for all lawful with an area of 150 square yards, and a purposes is guaranteed to all our people. news-room containing an They had better use it now and then, un- square yards; and on the fourth floor, one wisely and tyrannically, than be unable to large room for lectures and meetings, capable of seating 1,500 persons comfor- men, these weavers, cobblers, laborerstably. The number of members exceeded have deliberately and steadily repudiated 7,000, the business reached 60,00ol, a the current commercial principles and quarter, the profits 40,000l. a year, and the practices. They are societies for fellow assets of the society 120,000l.
work and mutual help.
They have But I am running away from my text. fought no battle for high or low prices, There have been other examples in plenty, and have no such battle to fight. They as remarkable though not so well known claim to stand on the principle of combinas that of Rochdale; but it is with the ing the interests of producers and conmovement as a whole, not with individual sumers; they hold, one and all, as their discases, that we are concerned. It may be tinctive doctrine, that inasmuch as the .life said to have begun, then, in 1844. For of nine-tenths of mankind must be spent the next few years it struggled on slowly in labor-in producing and distributing, but surely. The first meeting of repré- buying and selling-moral considerations sentatives of the different stores and as- must be made to govern these operations ; sociations met at Bury, and afterwards in and anything worth calling success in Manchester, in 1851, to consult and take them must depend, not upon profits but measures for obtaining legal recognition, upon justice. For the ideas “cheapness” and for concerting joint action. There and “ dearness,” they have deliberately were forty-four societies represented, and substituted “fair prices,” and their whole the delegates drew up rules for the gui- life has been a struggle, not, of course, free dance of the Co-operative movement. To from backslidings and falls, to reach that these rules—this first public statement of ideal. the objects of the Co-operative Parliament I mentioned the first Congress of 1851 -I must return presently. The incon- just now. At that gathering the followvenience of having to carry on trade with- ing resolution was carried unanimously out a legal status was remedied in the next and by acclamation, after a number of year by the passing of the first Industrial others, in not one of which is there any and Provident Societies Act, which gave mention of profits.
It runs :
“ That the a corporate existence, and powers of suing various Co-operative stores of England and being sued, to all societies of persons should use all their efforts to prevent the carrying on their trade in common who sale of adulterated articles, inasmuch as chose to register under it. From the time the Co-operative movement is by its very of its legal recognition the progress of the constitution open and honest in its dealmovement has been as rapid as that flood ings; and that any departure from the of riches of which I spoke in my former strictest honesty in dealing is a gross viopaper. The Government Returns for lation of the principles and intentions of 1870—only eighteen years from the pass- Co-operation.” Now, just compare this ing of the first Act-show that in that year first public announcement with the prothere were upwards of 1,500 registered spectus of an ordinary trading company, societies, numbering some half-million of silent as to everything but profits, and I members (each of whom, we must recol- think you will feel that the atmosphere is lect, is the head of a family). These different. But it is one thing to pass virsocieties distributed amongst their men- tuous resolutions, and another to live up bers more than 8,000,000l. of goods, and to them. How far have the Co-operators returned to them 467,1641. in bonuses on been able to do this? Here again I can their purchases.
answer, consistently, and on the whole But here we are met by the old ques- successfully. Their system has been, on tion. This mere progress in numbers and the whole, faithfully worked by men who wealth is nothing to the purpose in itself. have devoted their lives to it, and have It may well have demoralized and divided, remained as poor as they began. They instead of strengthening and uniting, and have never lost sight of or lowered their then it had better not have happened at original aims. One striking contrast beall. How is this? Well, in this case I tween the ordinary trade system and theirs am glad to be able to answer confidently will be worth yards of talk. We all know and hopefully. The wealth has been well how up-hill, almost desperate, a battle the earned, is being well spent. From the founder of a new business has to fight in very first the Co-operators—these poor the competitive world. Every neighbor