The Trade Union Congress

The Trade Union Congress opened at Nottingham with a notable address from the chairman. Let the Daily News speak :—

”Mr. Shackleton’s address was largely occupied with the great social problems of the country at large—the drink question, the education question, the care of old age, and even dangers in foreign policy. On all of these joints he took a strong and definitely Liberal position.”

And that’s all that requires to be said for it. Mr. Shackleton made it quite clear that he had not a glimmer of an idea of the working-class position in relation to any of the questions touched upon. Either that, or he was concerned to obscure his knowledge. Mr. Shackleton, we are constantly informed, is the “strong man” of the Labour movement. He is. His strength lies in the definitely Liberal, and therefore pro-capitalist, and therefore anti-working-class, position he may be relied upon to occupy.

For example :

Mr. Shackleton thought the fact that Trade Unions’ returns shewed 8.2 per cent. of skilled workers unemployed in July of this year as compared with 3.7 last year, was one—calling “for the serious consideration of the Government” ! He affirmed that “the great political and social measure of the Session was undoubtedly the Licensing Bill” ; that the great question which is on everybody’s lips is what will the House of Lords do “when the Bill came before it” ; and that “Labour was prepared to fight the Lords on the Drink evil.”


“The outstanding feature of a notable speech was the appeal to the Government to convene in London an international conference on labour.
He cited the precedent set by the German Emperor eighteen years ago. Since then the spread of the international character of the labour movement had been the most striking feature in the Trade Union world, and the time had come for another conference.”—Daily News.

Verily a strong man. A man head and shoulders above all the hosts of Israel. He would refer the unemployed problem to a government of capitalists who depend upon the maintenance of the unemployed problem. His most important Bill of the Session is the Licensing Bill which doesn’t matter a brass farthing to the working class. And the scintillating darling of his genius for statesmanship is an 18 years old proposal of that earnest and far-sighted labour leader, the German Emperor of that day, for an international conference on labour, to “include representatives of the European and United States (capitalist) Governments” who are opposed by the nature of their interests to the interests of the working class !

Evidently the fraternal delegates from America were impressed. “When Mr. Shackleton was in America,” said Mr. Creamer, “he described Mr. Gompers as a, ‘grand old man.’ I cannot do better than describe Mr. Shackleton as a ‘grand young man.'” Mr. Creamer doubtless meant that Mr. Shackleton was following in Mr. Gompers’ footsteps. Those who know Mr. Gompers as the chief labour lieutenant of the capitalist class in America, and know the work of Mr. Shackleton in England, will doubtless agree that Mr. Creamer “could do no better” in the way of accurate description. Mr. Gompers is at present actively engaged in assisting Mr. Bryan, capitalist candidate for the Presidency.

The same Mr. J. J. Creamer in the course of his address said: “In the Southern States the movement against child labour was growing and he hoped ultimately that all children and married women would be excluded from the mills.” He continued: “I want to congratulate this Congress . . . particularly on its president” (Mr. Shackleton). It is not recorded that Mr. Shackleton, the champion of child labour in mills, blushed noticeably. This is a real test of greatness !

With such a brilliant lead from such a brilliant leader the Congress settled down to its work, and notwithstanding the difficulties of the position, managed to follow the line marked out for it, with wonderful restraint, if not lamb-like docility. There was a full week of dull and stodgy talking, only lightened here and there by the contributions of such advanced thinkers as Mr. Harvey, M.P. Speaking on the motion that the Congress do all in its power to restrict Sunday labour, in the future, to the narrowest possible limits, this worthy person said : “Working men are not wholly free from blame. They are too much inclined to ask for Sunday excursions. I believe that the strength of our family and national life lies in the keeping of the Divine commandments.”

These selfish, luxury-loving working men, spending their substance in riotous living, and rushing about the four corners of the globe on a Sunday, instead of remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy ! But who is this cheerful Harvey and who let him out of the museum of Mediaevialities ?

Once or twice proceedings threatened to grow stormy, as when somebody wanted a public enquiry into the methods of the Salvation Army’s “elevator” work, but as the Salvation Army is the one institution we cannot do without (according to Mr. MacDonald); the organisation upon which the “Labour” Party in the House relies for its information on working-class affairs, “the tumult and the shouting” died down into an agreement to leave the matter in the hands of the Parliamentary Committee.

Against this one organisation that the “Labour” Party cannot do without, shameless and unblushing sweating, undercutting and black-legging, have been alleged and proven to the satisfaction of most men outside the Salvation Army’s own ranks. (In the ranks, probably, lying to the glory of God, is pardonable and permissible). The Parliamentary Committee will “deal” with this ; but the supply of blacklegs through other agencies, to fill the places of Continental workers on strike, is a matter reflecting upon the international credit of an imperial race—and so forth.

With these occasional breaks in the monotony everything went through “swimmingly,” and everybody appears to have been satisfied. Sheaves of resolutions were disposed of in a “business-like” way by talking on them for an hour or so and finally referring them to the Government who won’t do anything, or to the Parliamentary Committee who can’t. This, of course, is of no great consequence, as nine-tenths of the resolutions didn’t matter, and those that did the delegates seemed quite incapable of handling.

Such, incapacity is quite understandable when it is remembered that the delegates are, unfortunately, representatives of constituencies of ignorance. While that ignorance persists, we shall have the mortification of witnessing our own class annually wasting its money and its strength in Congress meetings, that do nothing quite as well as they demonstrate to the world of capitalism that the day when the profit-monger shall fear for his hoard is not yet.

For ourselves, there is nothing we can do except that which we have consistently done from our inception until now,—point out the futility of anything less than Socialism and urge the necessity for working-class organisation in industry as in politics, for the establishment of Socialism. That is the message our men have to carry to they who sit in darkness inside and outside Trade Unions—anywhere in fact where the workers do most congregate. In order to do it we must expose fraud or foolery, even though it is expressed through the workers’ most revered leaders.

That is a thankless task for which we shall probably continue to reap for some time more kicks than ha’pence. But as there is no other party in the country to do it, and as it must be done, we are not deterred by present contumely or indifference. Sooner or later the policy of the Socialist Party of Great Britain must win. We are in the Party that cannot lose ; working for the cause that cannot fail. If the workers or their leaders don’t like the truth we cannot help it. Children don’t like medicine, but when their case gets parlous they have to take it. The truth about the present Trade Union Congress is that it is a ghastly farce, a waste of time and money, and only of advantage to the delegates who, through it, get an annual junket at the workers’ expense.


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