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workmen have mistaken the dictum of a Minister for truth, and thought that patriotism demanded of them the surrender of judgment and conscience at the bidding of some statesman who had outraged both. It may be frankly admitted that the constant beating of the war-drum has for the moment caught the ear of the crowd, and at election times they are most useful. But the crowd does not ultimately govern. Experience shows that what is called working-class opinion in England is not obtained by a counting of heads, but by collective expressions from organized bodies. Thus we are said, and rightly, to be the stronghold of trade unionism, and yet only about one in every five of the male population is a member of a trade union. But that minority, even when less powerful, has inspired and given shape to industrial legislation. Nor has it done this contrary to the general desire of the majority. Outside the sphere of organized labor, but in close touch with it, is a large number of workmen, the agricultural laborers forming the chief group. For my immediate purpose these may be included in one section. Both have sufficient cohesion on the one hand and distinctive individuality on the other to be able to form a volume of public opinion capable of being analyzed and labelled. But these do not exhaust the divisions of the working classes. There is the unattached—not merely those who do not form part of any definite organization, but who lack any of those distinguishing features necessary to give them a distinctive place in public opinion. These do not argue about right or wrong. They simply accept the dogma that whoever is against the Government cannot be for his country. But this can no more be regarded as working-class opinion than that of any other section. To obtain what is likely to be the enduring verdict of British workmen, we must go to the accredited mediums by which it is invariably conveyed.
One of the most important of these organs of industrial opinion is the Trade Union Congress. This body fights shy of anything of the nature of party politics, and, as the war comes within that category to some extent, there was hesitation to allow it to be introduced. In the end, a resolution was carried protesting against asserting the British demands by force. Much of the value of this pronouncement was lost on account of the debate taking place when so few delegates were present. This was not the fault of Mr. W. C. Steadman, M. P., who moved the motion, and there is little doubt that a still better
result would have been obtained if the discussion had taken place earlier. Then the London Trades Council, the mouthpiece of the organized workers, skilled and unskilled, of the metropolis, where jingoism always begins first and ends last, has ranged itself on the side of peace. But in many respects there is no better test of organized working-class opinion on a political question like the war than the attitude of the labor members of the House of Commons. They are all trade unionists, but have no definite organization in Parliament. Each pursues his own course, and therefore they cannot be accused of acting together like machine politicians. Further, they represent various schools of thought. There is Mr. Thomas Burt, a Radical, who declines to adopt the special badge of labor, while Mr. John Burns calls himself a Socialist, and does not act officially with the Liberal party. Mr. B. Pickard is the uncompromising advocate of State-regulated hours of labor in mines, which Mr. John Wilson as resolutely opposes. Side by side are Mr. C. Fenwick and Mr. S. Woods, the latter having beaten the former for the post of Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress. Without any party ties or any arranged action, every workman member of the House of Commons, with one solitary exception, condemns the policy which led to the war, and has marked this disapproval by his vote. This solidarity is significant, and to many of us is the sure indication of the ultimate verdict of the democracy.
It may be worth while examining the ground of this opposition to the war policy, which is common to the entire body of working-class opponents. To begin with, they are not pro-Boers. These Dutch farmers are regarded as reactionaries—Tories, in fact, of the old school-and it is felt that it was inevitable that the new conditions resulting from the mining industry should cause trouble. Therefore, the Uitlanders' grievances have not been denied, but the British workman fails to see why the doctrine of patience, so persistently preached to him during this century, while he has been agitating for reforms, many of which are still denied him, should not be applied to the gold seekers of the Transvaal, especially as they were foreigners in an independent State. Take the question of the franchise which was selected by Sir Alfred Milner, with the approval of Mr. Chamberlain, as the test reform. These Uitlanders, many of whom were not British, have only endured their disabilities for some ten years. This seems to work
men in England a very short period in the history of reform. Why, they remember that it was not until 1832 that any attempt was made to enfranchise the people, and that what is called the great Reform Bill left untouched entirely the masses of the population. It was this bitter disappointment that gave strength to, if it did not originate, the Chartist movement. The work-people had not to wait ten years only for the next step in the widening of the franchise, but thirty-five years, the interval being filled in with much suffering and persecution of the men who led the agitation for popular representation. And then, when the artisans of the towns did obtain the vote, it was so hampered with conditions as to make it largely inoperative. But the bill then passed left some two millions of Uitlanders in the country districts, who were for all practical purposes as much outside the commonwealth as though they had been aliens. Again a weary period of waiting followed, and it was some seventeen years before the agricultural laborer and other workers were admitted to the franchise. What adds to the irony of the situation is the fact that the very statesmen who are so zealous for the enfranchisement of the Uitlanders of a foreign country bitterly opposed the endowment of their own countrymen with the full rights of citizenship. But even now, after a century's agitation, manhood suffrage has yet to be gained, and our registration laws are designed to make it difficult for poor men to secure their votes. By the present system, many of those entitled to be on the register cannot get their names inserted, and, for a variety of reasons, not applicable to other sections of the community, it is calculated that there are no less than two millions of workmen who are excluded from the franchise. It is in this way that the working-class leaders look at the demand of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal. They do not blame them for seeking political power; nay, they are with them in their attempt to secure it. But they strongly object to assist them with the military forces of the nation to become citizens of another country, thereby renouncing their own nationality. In all the grievances set forth by the Uitlanders, workmen fail to find any which time would not have certainly remedied, and that at no distant period. They have waited for generations for reforms of the most equitable kind, and for some they still wait. Why, then, should South African millionaires not be called upon to exercise that patience preached so long as a cardinal virtue by the ruling classes in
England ? This represents the attitude of organized working-class opinion to the alleged wrongs of the Uitlanders.
But it is not the details of diplomacy nor high questions of international law which appeal with much force to the democracy. These are shrouded in mysterious language, though the independence of the South African Republic stands out clear through all the fogs generated by the endless discussions in and out of Parliament. The appeal of Mr. Chamberlain to President Krüger to spare the lives of the principal actors in the Raid settles once for all in the minds of plain men the internal independence of the Transvaal. These things, however, do not go to the root of the mischief. The war is regarded as the outcome of a capitalist conspiracy. This is the conviction which shapes the action of the working-class leaders. Mr. John Burns voiced it in his able speech in the House of Commons, and it is shared by Radical and Socialist alike. They believe that it was not a desire for political power, but for Stock Exchange purposes, that the agitation against the Boer Government was started. For this view the Rhodesian capitalists are responsible. They have made it plain that to them the war has a commercial value. Mr. Hays Hammond, the engineer of the Consolidated Gold Fields Company of South Africa, estimates that the companies on the Rand will add two and a quarter millions annually to their dividend, his own company netting over a million of this extra profit. If this result is to be obtained from improved government, all well and good, and no reasonable man would object; but the source from which these increased dividends are to come is made clear. This same Mr. Hays Hammond, addressing the Consolidated shareholders, used these words:
"With good government there should be an abundance of labor, and with an abundance of labor there will be no difficulty in cutting down wages, because it is preposterous to pay a Kafir the present wages. He would be quite as well satisfied-in fact, he would work longerif you gave him half the amount."
To the British workman this is not pleasant reading. He does not like to think that the veldt has been dyed red to make it easier for a small clique of capitalists, in which the German Jew is conspicuous, to grow rich at the expense of the wretched Kafirs. But how is the native to be exploited ? This is not left in doubt. Mr. Albu, a leading Johannesburg capitalist, gave evidence before the Transvaal Industrial Commission, and he was asked this ques. tion: "Is it in the control of the mining industry to regulate the wages of Kafirs ?” His reply was conclusive: "To a great extent it is, provided that the Government assists us in bringing labor to this market.” The Boer Government would not make itself a labor master to the capitalists, but would insist upon an eight-hour day in the mines, forbid Sunday labor, and would not allow the compound system to be set up. Franchise was as nothing to this unpardonable offense of the Boers. To these high-minded patriots Kimberley, with its overworked and low-paid black labor, and its state of semi-slavery, whereby the Kafir belongs to his employer during the whole of his contract period, is the paradise of their hopes, and the war may realize them. To the British democracy, such objects are altogether alien to the principles of liberty, but that is not all. The capitalists of South Africa have as little respect for white labor as black. They have not even a color pridenothing but a passion for profit. This is how an Uitlander put it in the columns of the Mining World:
“White wages have not been reduced in the past, because the Uitlanders desired to work together for political salvation, and any attack upon the white laborer's pay would have caused a split in the ranks. However, when new conditions prevail, white wages must come down."
This lacks nothing in frankness, whatever one may think of its morality. In face of such avowed objects as these, is it strange that workmen in England are not at all anxious to see those "new conditions” brought about? They will be scarcely sufficient compensation for the awful loss of life and treasure of this war. If it has to be Krüger or Rhodes, British Trade Unionists prefer the old Dutchman, with all his faults, who, at any rate, is a better friend of white labor than the millionaires in a hurry to be rich, who reduce everything to the level of dividends. This is not the blind, class-war feeling indulged in by the State Socialist, nor hostility of the employed to the employer, but a deep-seated distrust and dislike of the international financier, often the enemy of the honest trader. To the representatives of labor the trail of these Shylocks of a gambling commercialism is apparent right through the devious tracks which led to the war.
In spite of the ease with which democracies can be misled by a false cry, the history of this century is a splendid tribute to the chivalry and unerring judgment of the masses of the British people, when once they realize what the issues of a great struggle be