There are many useful lessons to be learnt from the recent strike on the N.E. Ry. First the spontaneity of the whole business. No violent declamation, no working up to a sticking point by “loud-mouthed agitators,” no stupid warning of the enemy by protracted threats marked the brief revolt against intolerable conditions. The Company’s officials were so generous, so open-handed, so eager to meet the men—as they must be when a strike of any magnitude comes on them without warning. Railways are the blood vessels of the body economic. A stagnating life-stream is a wonderful promoter of generosity in those dependent upon it. Whatever the causes underlying the upheaval, and despite its brevity, it contrived to earn the highest praise a working-class rising can receive: condemnation by the Labour Party.
In this the question of right or wrong was not commented upon. It was sufficient for Barnes & Co
. that the men had not foredoomed themselves to failure by consulting their “leaders.“ “Once bit twice shy” saith the voice of antiquity, and the men’s experience of following leaders could hardly be reassuring when they ruminated on the joys that Conciliation Boards had brought them. In view of the fact that this boon was almost entirely the work of “leaders” the following admission by one of them is illuminating:
We object to the tyrannical attitude of the officials in every department in cutting down expenses to the detriment of the working man. We have unanimously decided to demand the withdrawal of the Woodhouse award and the abolition of the Conciliation Board, which we find has worked very detrimentally to us.