Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

LABOR UNREST.

The recent proposal, which must be social system whatsoever. One of its taken as seriously meant, that a Royal most remarkable manifestations is the Commission should be appointed to in- frenzy of the hammer-bearing Maequire into the causes of social and in- nads, who seek to enter paradise by asdustrial "unrest" is one which, if taken sault, through the splinters of shopin a limited sense, may be useful; but windows. These women and their if its sense is extended beyond limits leaders for the most part belong to the which are very strict and definite, it is affluent or comparatively affluent more suited to the atmosphere of .one classes. Many of them are rich. Many of the political burlesques of Aristo- of them, in addition to riches, enjoy phanes than to that of serious politics. all the advantages of position which As I propose to point out briefly in the are generally the sedatives of disconfollowing pages, the causes of this un. tent. And yet the "unrest" of these rest are not only various in their de- persons is in its essentials hardly distails but are also various in their char- tinguishable from that of the Welsh acter; and certain of them and these rioters who, by way of compelling the the most important-are such that, if coalowners to revise their rates of made the subject of official inquiry of wages, wrecked the premises of the any kind at all, are more fit for the tradesmen who supplied them with investigations of the confessional or their tobacco and their daily bacon. It the psychological laboratory than for is evident, therefore, that the social those of a Parliamentary chairman and "unrest” of to-day has other causes bea committee of officials and politicians. hind it in addition to those associated That such is the case is made suffi- with direct economic pressure.

Ecociently evident by facts which are fa- nomic pressure, as experienced by the miliar to everyone.

Those who pro- poorer sections of the community, is pose that the causes of social “unrest” one of the causes, and will presently be should be subjected to an official in- considered here, when it will be shown quiry are no doubt thinking primarily that its actual operation as a disturbof the wage-earning classes of this coun- ing element differs widely from the try, the conditions under which they popular conception of it; but those work and live, and their annual in- causes shall be considered first which comes as compared with the cost of liv- are of a more general kind, and we will ing and also with the position of those begin with one which is affecting all whose earnings or whose means are classes alike. larger. Here no doubt are questions The late Mr. Phelps, for many years into which a Parliamentary inquiry is American Ambassador in this country, possible; but social “unrest" is a phe- when I was once walking with him on nomenon which is not by any means a lonely road in the neighborhood of confined to those in whose case it can the Highland Railway, said suddenly possibly be attributable to the pressure after a long silence, “The Devil never of economic want, or the anxieties inci. found a truer note for his voice than dent to the avoidance of it. Un- the railway whistle.

There it goes, der different forms it betrays it- from one end of the country to the self in the lives of those whose other, crying to all the boys and girls, means are far in excess of anything "Come away, come away, come away.' that could possibly be the lot of the And when they go, they find the place majority of the human race under any they have gone to better in no way

than the place they have left behind.” things can render this change so vivid In these few words we have a pro- as do the parks and pleasure-grounds found analysis of a large part of that of such of our old country-houses as contemporary unrest which is com- still preserve externally what was monly supposed to be confined to the their aspect in the eighteenth century. ranks of Labor. It is not so confined. The classical or the Chinese pavilions, It affects all classes alike. As we know which are one of their distinctive feafrom Lucretius and from Horace, it was tures-often within a stone's-throw of latent in the ancient world, ready to the house and rarely more than a mile become acute under the stimulation of from it-were the goals of excursions congenial circumstances. But such which, with the simple feast accomcircumstances were then those of the panying them, were the adventures fewest of the few only-of the few and the excitements of a day. For who possessed, in addition to their Ro- Miss Austen's heroes and heroines a man palaces villas so numerous that it journey to Box Hill from the adjacent was a labor to choose between them; borders of Kent was the exploration and chariots which would whirl the of an unknown wonderland, to be anowners from one of these to the other. ticipated and looked back upon for But even so their unrest, if we may months. judge from the words of Lucretius, did How constantly is the remark heard not carry them outside what, in the from the lips even of seasoned language of the modern cabman, was a travellers, “I never can see a train twelve-mile radius from the Charing without wishing that I was going by Cross of Rome. The railway to-day it.” For the rich this wish is charged has a similar and yet more disturbing with the subconscious feeling that any influence on all classes alike. The place would be more pleasurable than humblest laborer can, for a penny or

that in which they actually are. For twopence, travel further in twenty the poor it is charged with a feeling minutes than the trampling team of of a like kind, that any change in the Lucullus would have carried him be- conditions under which they now work tween dawn and sunset; and he can do would be a change for conditions unso in a vehicle, in comparison with inaginably different and unimaginably the ease and comfort of which the hum. better for themselves. In their case blest laborer would denounce the cha- this feeling achieves perhaps its most riot of Lucullus as a “bone-shaker." definite expression in the tendency to Every Bank Holiday carries its mil. leave the villages for the towns. lions of excursionists to seashores so far as our own country is concerned, remote that Horace would have superficial observers are accustomed to called them "fabulous"; whilst the ef- represent this tendency as the result fects on the rich of these increased of our insular land-system of the facilities for travel have developed so tyranny of great landlords, or at all rapidly, even during the last thirty events of the fact that the majority of years, that English watering-places our agricultural population are not which once were the haunts of fashion themselves the owners

of the have witnessed the scattering of their land they till. In this contenpatrons of the older class along the tion there may, or again there may not shores of the Mediterranean, the be, a certain element of truth. But banks of the Nile and Ganges, the whatever truth there may be in it, it southern extremity of Africa, and the affords—and this is ins sole point islands of the West Indies. Few here-a very partial explanatiou of the

So

phenomenon here in question: for pre- majority to which there has been no cisely the same tendency is observable parallel in the mental conditions of the in other countries where the pecu- few. For the few, from time imliarities of our own land-system are memorial, there has been a continuous most conspicuous by their absence. congruity between their education and That the magic of ownership will not their general circumstances, which has anchor the small cultivator to the rendered the one as much a matter of country is shown in Belgium by the course as the other. They have been fact that the number of peasant educated up to a standard of expectaowners of from 242 to 12 acres de- tions and appreciations which, from creased by 16 per cent. between the their youth up, have been eatisfied in years 1880 and 1895. In France, which the persons of those around them, and has been the classic home of peasant which in the natural course of things ownership for a century, the towns are would presumably be satisfied in their now growing at the expense of the own. For them education, as such, rural districts. Between the years has never possessed any of the ex1900 and 1910 the working agricultural citements of novelty. It has never population had declined by nearly disturbed them, as a class, with a 70,000 persons.

The attraction of the sense of new and untried powers. It towns, even in Australia, is exerting has come to them merely as the ordia similar influence. A morement so nary and indispensable equipment for general evidently cannot te due to any kind of life amongst their equals, economic conditions of any one par- let the talents and career of the indi. ticular kind. It is rather due to the vidual prove to be what they may. disturbing effect on the imagination of But with the masses—and more paran enlarged vision of conditions which ticularly with that section of the are continually increasing in variety, masses which, under any social sysany one of which our increased facili- tem, must always be the most numerties of movement tend to present as ous-namely, those engaged in the possible, and which are bewildering by exercise of manual labor—the case has their competing promises-promises been widely different. The whole idea never fulfilled, or fulfilled but to some of education for the people, ever since mall degree.

such an idea began to be practically Causes of unrest such as these may popularized, has been derived from the be called the automatic education of kind of education traditional amongst circumstances. But there is a further a limited class, and devised with a cause of a more specific kind, the oper- view to circumstances peculiar to such ation of which is less general but more class only--circumstances which definitely disturbing in proportion to may, indeed, be rendered impossible the limitations of the area of its in- for anybody, but can never be common fluence. This is the development of to all, or even the majority of the hueducation in the narrower sense of the

race. Whatever may be the word. Throughout the civilized world merits or demerits of the kind of edufor more than two generations, an edu- cation in question, it has had for its cation in many respects novel has been object and result the equipment of inflicted on classes a large portion of those receiving it for the positions they whom, even fifty years ago, were inno- have been destined to occupy, or for cent of the art of reading; and a the class of occupations by means of change has consequently been brought which they have been destined to supabout in the mental conditions of the port themselves. The future diplomat,

a

man

for example, has been grounded in the tasks distasteful does nothing to classical, and made proficient in diminish their necessity, or in any way modern languages, with a view to en- to alter their character, by enabling dowing him with those cosmopolitan those who perform them to perform accomplishments in the absence of them with greater ease.

Without im. which no diplomat can be a successful puting to Mr. Lansbury unduly luxuricitizen of the world; but in so far as ous tastes, we may assume that when an education devised after this model the weather is cold one of his normal is inflicted on that majority of the hu. requirements is a fire; and that a pork man race whose livelihood depends on chop, a herring, a slice of cod, form no those tasks which are commonly called infrequent articles of his diet. But in "labor," education becomes in one re- order that Mr. Lansbury may be warm spect a radically different thing. Be- whilst he elaborates expositions of Sotween it and their practical circum- cialism, somebody must be a hewer of stances there is no similar connection. wood, or-more literally--of coal; in In the case of an Ambassador a knowl- order that he may eat his chop the edge of French has a direct bearing on hands of some of his comrades must the performance by him of his distinc- be red with the blood of pigs; and in tive functions. But a similar knowl. order that by his morning fire he may edge would have no similar effect in have a "bit of fish” for his breakfast, the case of a coalhewer, a tiller of the other comrades must toil all night soil, or a dairymaid. Of course it may amongst the tempests of the North be argued that any kind of general Sea. Does education, in the sense of culture, by widening the minds of such general culture, make fire and food persons, increases their capacities of less necessary for Mr. Lansbury himenjoyment; but it would do nothing to. self? Or does it in any way modify wards so developing the coalhewer's the circumstances under which they special efficiency that from earning are obtainable for him by the efforts seven shillings a day he may rise to of others? Does make coal-getting earning fourteen; nor would it render a process as easy as the picking of the dairymaid a better maker of but- buttercups? Would it enable the ter, or the husbandman a more pro- sticker of pigs to substitute for his cusductive cultivator. Instead of being tomary bloodshed some "death by a aids to work, it would constitute a dis. rose in aromatic pain"? traction from it.

amount of general culture enable the The general fact here indicated is, North Sea fisherman to calm the waves indeed, widely recognized, and at his will, and reduce his calling to pecially by many who claim, in the a pastime like that of catching carp in extremest sense, to be the mouthpieces a marble basin at Versailles ? of popular aspiration. Thus the Labor So far as labor in general is conMember, Mr. Lansbury, declared not cerned, the only kind of education long ago that much of the modern "un. which equips the laborer for the perrest" in the labor world is due to the formance of it is purely technical, and fact that education has made the consists mainly of the performance of laborer impatient of such tasks as "the such labor itself and the knowledge hewing of wood, the drawing of and dexterities thereby acquired. It water," and so forth. But what Mr. often does not even require any masLansbury and others omit to notice tery of the art of reading. But al. is this—that education, in the sense of though education, in the more general general culture, whilst rendering such sense of the word, results in no such

Would any

es

а

enlargement of the laborer's productive rized in definite form by Karl Marx efficiency, it tends to produce in his in the year 1865, and subsequently remind an illusory consciousness that it pudiated, or at least very greatly does so: that hence he deserves a cor- modified, even by the more thoughtful respondingly increased reward, and Socialists in this country, in Germany, that, failing to get it, he suffers some and in America. For purposes of correspondingly increasing wrong. popular agitation, as distinct from

In other words, the modern experi- those of serious discussion, Socialists ment of applying to the masses at large of all types have nevertheless con. a system of education modelled, so far tinued to make use of it. Whilst reas its general character goes, on that jecting it in their formal treatises, they which had previously been applied to have stimulated their propagandists to a limited class only, has had on the make use of it at the street corner; majority thus far, all over the world, and now a certain section of the the effect of increasing their expecta- Anglican clergy have made a new detions without doing anything to in- parture by fishing it out of the gutter crease their industrial power of satis- for themselves. fying them.

In an article on the statistics of SoThis is the point which persons such cialism, published recently in this Reas Mr. Lansbury and others neglect, view, this statement, as set forth in and it is the cardinal fact of the situa- detail by the two most eminent writers tion. It will be referred to again whom the Socialistic movement has presently.

produced, was submitted to sysBut a further cause of unrest (or tematic analysis: each of the separate rather an alleged cause) remains to be clauses into which it divides itself was considered first. According to most tested by reference to definite official agitators it is the principal cause, and statistics covering a period of more consists of the fact that alike in this than a hundred years, and every one of country, and in all others with a sim- these clauses was shown to be not only ilar industrial system, every increase not correct but a grotesque inversion in national wealth is absorbed by a of the specifically ascertainable truth. small minority, and that the income of There is, however, an aspect of the the rest of the population, relatively to question (hitherto altogether neglected) its number, not only does not increase which did not fall within the scope of but absolutely grows less and less; so the article just referred to—an aspect that, to quote the words of a recent of the highest importance-and with Socialist manifesto, "Labor Unrest, in- which I shall deal now. A considerastead of originating in official trade- tion of this will incline us not indeed union agitation, is (on the part of the to modify our views as to the fallacy rank and file) in the last analysis an of the Socialist position, but to recogappeal for life." These words are nize that it has some foundation other taken from a petition drawn up re- than ignorance, or the desire to focently by the Executive Committee of ment class hatred. We shall find that the Church Socialist League, for pres- though tho actual changes which have entation to the Convocation of the taken place in the distribution of Provinces of Canterbury and York, by wealth are the very reverse of what is the Bishops of Birmingham and Wake- asserted by such persons Karl field. This is simply a reproduction by Marx, Henry George, by the Bishop of certain clerical and episcopal gentle.

1 "Socialistic Ideas and Practical Politics," men to-day of assertions first popula. by W. H. Mallock, The Living Age June 8, 1912

as

« ElőzőTovább »