Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1924 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. external link Learn more
Image provided by: Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Newspaper Page Text
SATURDAY, NOV. 13, 1920.
Another Letter On Trade Unions
By M. P. Black.
Editor of the Toiler:
I am sure that every reader of the Toiler is as
delighted as I am to note that in your last issue
you opened a discussion on Trade Unions with in
vitation to your readers to take part. Your answer
to Comrade Cole was a splendid beginning for so
timely a symposium. The subject reveals a large
field for working class thought.
Since the Russian Revolution the popularity
of the Soviets or workers Councils has become
universal. We have seen in the last German
and Hungarian Revolutions as well as in the recent
Italian uprisings that these councils of workmen
played a prominent role. In England the Shop
Stewards movement and in Scotland the Scottish
Workers Committees have been constantly de
veloping. Due to the similarity of industrial con
ditions there is no doubt that this country too
will, before long, witness the birth of this move
ment. Trade Unions And Shop Committees
What relation then will the Trade unions
bear to the shop committees? Will the shop com
mittees displace the Unions? To answer these
questions definitely would be mere prophecy. But
by tracing the origin and development of both,
and, by observing what conditions have obtained
in countries where examples are more complete,
some light can be thrown on their logical course.
So far, the trade Union movement has shown
itself to be an organization for the protection of
the daily interests of those portions of the work
ing class, which, being related by craft, have band
ed themselves together. The mission of the trade
unionis is to increase the pay, shorten the hours
and to better the conditions of the working class.
Because of the failure of the Trade Union
Movement to adapt itself to the changing con
ditions of industrial development, and its failure
to discern the sharp contrasts and the irrecon
cilability of class interests, it has allowed itself to
be dominated by a traitorous and pernicious labor
bureaucracy. Such reactionary leadership has tend
ed to nullify the true purpose of the movement.
While trade unionism flourishes mostly in
times of comparative peace between capital and
labor, shop committees have their birth and thrive
best in moments of greatest crisis. When Capital
ist oppression and "sabotage" is at its height, when
the working masses are faring worst, then it is
that the workers' not along craft lines, but along
industrial lines voluntarily organize into vshop
Purpose Of The Shop Committees.
Is it then that the Shop Committees will be
merely a new form of organization striving for
the same things the trade Unions presume to of
fer? No. The mission of the shop committees is
more than that.
The disintegration of Capitalism, resulting
from the inherent contraditions within it, and
hastened by the late war, has caused the cap
italists to attempt, more strenuously than ever
before, a new lease on life. Already in this country
the owners of industry are adopting more and
more the methods used by capitalism in Europe.
They seem to find it more profitable to close down
production to force acceptance of their terms on
the working class, than to continue producing at
a loss. They lay off their help and rehire them
more cheaply. They fail to invest their capital at
the time when prices are highest. This is Capital
All this, the trade unions, due to their reaction
ary leadership and their innefficient organization,
are unable to meet. The workers must give resist
ance to these new and more vigorous class attacks.
Since their struggles must be directed against the
employers, they find themselves voluntarily or
ganizing in their particular shops, regardless of
political opinion, craft or nationality.
The owners are more economically fit to en
dure a long drawn out strike of the folded arm
than the workers. The slaves are driven to des
peration. There is only one thing to do con
trol the factories. But in doing this they meet the
powerful opposition of the state. They are set face
to face with armed authority. Then comes the pol
itical struggle. The shop committees are foived in
to open opposition to the Bourgeois State.
From this we see that the mission of the
shop committees is workers' control of industry.