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IN 1910 the late Hubert Bland was writing newspaper articles under the heading 'The Labour Sphinx.' In 1914 members of a Borough Council were brought before a magistrate 'for telling the People that in time of war they were told they were good boys, and sent out to fight, while in time of peace they were locked out for twentyseven weeks.' To-day we are constantly hearing such questions as:


1. What are the grievances and aims of Labour?'

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2. What are the views of Labour on excess profits, profiteering and food shortage?

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3. Why does Labour distrust not merely the Government but also its own leaders?'

4. 'What influence have Syndicalism, Socialism and Pacificism on the mental attitude and activities of Labour?'

5. What is Labour's attitude on the War? What influence is being exercised by the Shop Stewards?'

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6. What is the explanation of the general tendency to break away from Trade Unionism?'

Labour has never been understood by its rulers. Today, though certain of its members have at least a voice in the government of the country, it is less understood than ever it was. Much redundant mental energy and pounds of good printers' ink have been spent over discussion of the psychology of the child mind; little or no serious effort has been made to comprehend workingclass mentality. Deep down even in the best minds among us there exists a tendency to regard the term 'misfortune' as synonymous with 'inferiority.' Here it is of the utmost importance that there should be no failure, on the part of either the unfortunate or the fortunate, to comprehend the position. An ideal Government would understand every section of the governed, and would permit itself to be in some sort dominated by unalterable world-conditions, this submission arising out of its own wide knowledge. The more nearly our rulers approach a state of omniscience, the better will they govern, provided they be honest. Yet, if questions similar to those set forth above are actually being discussed, it seems to be clear that our Government

does not understand the working classes. Nor is it easy to see where, in past times, whole-hearted effort has been made to arrive at any such understanding. On the contrary, we find that Government after Government has encouraged the Capitalist Press in its continued policy of deceiving the general public with libels concerning Labour, while suppressing Labour's reasoned answers to such libels.

Every section of the community has its grievances, its aims and its opinions. So deep and real are the grievances of Labour that it is not remarkable to find its ambitions too exalted. Yet, so sound is the common-sense of Labour that, given correct premises, its opinions are trustworthy. Unfortunately, the reading public is given very little opportunity of realising how grossly it has been deceived by the Press in these matters. The demagogue whose avowed object it was to anger the crowd never accomplished that end with the thoroughness constantly achieved by our daily papers. Should there be a revolution within the next ten years, it is safe to predict that it will be brought about by the Capitalist Press.

Let us take the above-mentioned questions in order. 1. What are the chief grievances of Labour? Four of preeminent importance may be considered here: the working hours are too long, the pay is too low, the education provided is defective, and there is generally complete failure on the part of more fortunate persons to realise that working men and women are human.

In normal times the hours are long because the pay is low. A week's holiday in adult life is a fiscal impossibility for the very great majority. Evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sundays are, more often than not, spent in some form of irregular employ that a little extra money may be earned or some expenditure avoided. The pay is so low that 'suspension' is a real punishment and charity a necessity. The extravagance of the poor is infinitesimal when compared with that of the well-to-do. In each generation a small percentage of workers manage to save enough to maintain them when past work, but almost invariably it will be found that this struggle has resulted in permanent injury to health. Labourers are forced to retire at a much earlier age than are Cabinet Ministers, Judges and others in the educated upper classes.

That the education provided is inadequate, every employer will testify and almost every Education Bill demonstrates. Such Bills deal as a rule with everything except education, and much of the education now supplied is useless to the ordinary man. With all respect to learning, it is surely a mistake to throw open the avenues leading to it to children who have no chance of following them up. Only sound elementary education should be offered to the majority for a generation or two. Before everything else, soundness and real utility should be insisted upon.

That Labour is not generally considered human is indicated by many facts-the treatment of domestic servants and artisans as though they were unbreakable automata, the contempt felt and sometimes shown to that vast army whose members labour among dirt that the rest of the community may be clean, and so on. Nor, in this connexion, must we forget some of the after-war suggestions which have been put forward and welcomed in higher circles, notably those relating to the widespread introduction of Mass Production, which, if adopted, will degrade human beings to the condition of attachments to automatic machines, attachments more cheaply replaced than parts composed of iron or steel.

What, then, are the aims of Labour? They are essentially human; sometimes mean and paltry, generally a little selfish, occasionally noble. What, in fact, are the aims of the average man in any class? To better his lot in life, to provide adequately for his natural dependants, and to strive that the lot of his children shall be as happy as circumstances will allow; these, too, are the aims of Labour. But there the similarity ceases. Labour can show a greater justification since its claims meet with less recognition. Law and custom combine to provide the majority with less fresh air, less open sky, less leisure, and nothing to look forward to in life. It is true that there are those among them whose only aim in life is drink, and whose main achievement it is to bring misery on the few and undeserved opprobrium on the many. With this small minority the Law should deal.

Even so brief a consideration of the aims of Labour cannot be completed without reference to the methods adopted in the attempt to further those aims. Great

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effort and sacrifice have been made to return Labour Members to Parliament, and there is every indication that these efforts will be redoubled in the near future. One may doubt the wisdom of this course, if only for the reason suggested above-that Government is by no means a natural function of the least well educated. Moreover, something at least should be learnt from past events. Labour Members have been openly accused of 'aping Dukes,' Voting in support of the Government and against their own amendments,' 'Being flattered by other Party Leaders,' 'Dining and wining with Capitalists,' 'Touring the world while the unemployed starve at home,' and so forth. Supposing that in future they do none of these things, and that their Parliamentary utterances are always sound and loyal to their constituents, still the Capitalist Press may be relied upon to curtail, even to distort, their speeches. Surely a wiser course and a simpler would be for Labour to insist on being neither libelled nor completely smothered by the Press. Many years must elapse before Labour will accomplish much without a solid backing of public opinion.

2. Working-class views on excess profits and profiteering may be said to concern themselves chiefly with matters relating to increased prices of food and fuel, together with strong opinions as to the method which should be adopted when dealing with profiteers-method, because the general opinion is that such offenders should be charged with nothing but assisting the enemy. Labour's impatience with the Government in this matter is not difficult to understand when one looks back upon certain occurrences in their chronological sequence. For example, in January 1915 there was evidence before the country of wheat-cornering and of excessive freight charges. In February of that year the quartern loaf was retailed at a price fifty per cent. above the pre-war figure. Some three weeks later the London County Council set an enquiry on foot as to the possibility of compelling retailers of bread to deliver full weight. On the question of inflated freight charges, though responsible persons have more than once assured the Government that such statements were without foundation, yet it is noteworthy that in January 1915 a Gas Company was called upon to pay 13s. 6d. per ton for coal freight,

though one ship-owner was satisfied on a basis of 5s. per ton for similar service. Three months later, April 1915, we find the same Gas Company employing its own colliers. The fact seems to be that at the outbreak of war, and for some months after, ship-owners were permitted, without interference, to reap a wonderful harvest. There was no Government control until the owners had demonstrated the flabbiness of their patriotism. Free competition among them meant the neglect of essential commodities in order to earn the higher rates offered for the carrying of other goods.*

Unfortunately the ship-owners were by no means the only offenders. When London freights fell from 15s. 6d. to 88. per ton, in March 1915, the cost of coal to the consumer underwent no reduction; and at the end of May Mr Runciman was still carrying on negotiations with coal-owners that pit-head prices might be fixed. Later we find another Gas Company raising the price of gas and running its own boats. In August 1915 the Chairman of one Coal Company denied that there had been any increase of profit owing to the war, while the Company was suffering very badly from the want of men.' Yet there was a profit of more than 40,000l. on the year's working-the first credit balance on the profit and loss account since the Company had commenced operations. In July 1916 a barge purchased for 5l. was being let on hire for 30s. a day.

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In June 1917 one of the Gas Companies referred to as owning its own boats issued an illuminating circular to the Press and its customers. The following extracts are noteworthy as showing what Labour knows and is compelled to think:

"The price of gas to ordinary consumers will be raised to 3s. 1d. per thousand cubic feet, and in the same proportion to the consumers by slot-meters.' . . . 'Freightage during the past twelve months has risen enormously, the present market rate being 208. per ton as compared with 3s. in the year 1914.' 'Under the sliding scale the shareholders' dividend will be automatically reduced, while the employees' copartnership bonus will, for the time being, disappear.' (Italics are ours.)

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*Westminster Gazette,' Feb. 5, 1918.

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