1900s >> >> no-25-september-1906

Editorial: The Trade Union Congress

The so-called “Parliament of Labour” that will take place during the week following the publication of this number, will be larger than ever according to the statement of the Liberal M.P. who is its secretary. The usual resolutions which have been moved every year are to be moved yet again, amid the usual clamour of self-advertisement. In point of futile resolutions and wasted words the Congress compares unfavourably with even the tower of babble at Westminster.

A Congress that is supposed to represent and express the aspirations of over a million and a half of working men should (it would seem) enunciate a definite and logical working class policy; it should break down the barriers between union and union and bring about the economic unity of the workers, and should be itself to the fore energetically and unequivocally battling for the interests of the toilers against the class who prey upon them. But the Congress does none of these things. It is rather in the position of the poultry in William Morris’s fable, who spent their time discussing with what sauce they should be eaten, and who sent in resolutions and deputations to the farmer’s wife and the head poulterer regarding this vital question, but who were horrified at the revolutionary suggestion of a battered looking and middle aged barn-door cock that he did not want to be eaten at all.

The aimless resolutions that are passed by the Congress in the intervals of junketing, the deputations and petitions that are sent to the class in power regarding the weight and shape of the shackles that are worn by the workers, the praise and advertisement that are given to the assembled delegates by the enemies of the working class, all demonstrate the uselessness and impotence of the Trade Union Congress. The reason for this impotence is, however, not difficult to find, and it illustrates the supreme importance of the work that we are doing—the propagation of the principles of scientific Socialism to the workers who are within and without the trade unions. The Congress is impotent because the majority of the workers within the unions are as ignorant of their real interests and as blind to their historic mission as are those who are contemptuously dubbed “blacklegs”. And the leaders of the blind—even those who see clearly—have in the main no desire to awaken their followers to their class position and rightful aim; they have little desire to break down sectional divisions and ignorant prejudice among the rank and file; for if the workers were brought together as a class upon the economic field, if the workers became aware of the meaning and importance of the class struggle, and consciously pursued their revolutionary aim of the conquest of political power and the democratic control of industry, why then many of the leaders would lose their soft jobs, and many would have to abandon once and for all their hope of attaining to the flesh pots in the gift of capitalism.