On the Building Strike

Back in January last the London Master Builders’ Association, together with certain building firms outside the Association, placed before their “hands” a form with the following words inscribed thereon:

“I agree if employed by you, to peacefully work with my fellow employees (engaged either in your direct employment or in that of any sub-contractor) whether they are members of a Trade Society or not, and I agree that I will not quit your employment because any of my fellow employees is or is not a member of any Trade Society ; and I also agree that if I commit any breech of this agreement I shall be subject to a fine of Twenty Shillings, and I also agree that the amount of such fine may be deducted from any wages that may be due to me.”

The reason the masters issued this form was, on their own showing, that great disturbance ia caused to their business by the “down tools” policy of their men to make non-unionists join the respective unions of their callings.

Now, as the masters say in the document: “to work peaceably with my fellow employees,” evidently peace is what the masters want—in order to get on with the business. And peace they will probably get, for that gaunt spectre, Starvation, is at work for them in the ranks of the struggling toilers.

The average trade-unionist thinks it is pos­sible to get almost every worker into a trade union either by coercion or by peaceful means. This idea is totally wrong. When the basis of the capitalist mode of production is understood this becomes apparent. The means and instru­ments of wealth production and distribution are owned by the capitalist or master class, and it necessarily follows that production is to be in their interest. Hence an army of unemployed workers is an advantage to them as exercising a powerful influence in keeping wages down. It follows that those who have a hard time of it will in many cases leave the trade unions and take any job that offers, whether it is under the T.U. standard or not.

The class-conscious worker sees no enemy in the non-unionist, but sees the capitalist whip of hunger which sets worker against worker.

The trade-unionist and the non-unionist are alike in this—they support capitalism by send­ing the master class into power time and time again. It is as plain as a pikestaff that the trade-unionist will presently be agitating for the amalgamation of trade unions, in order to try by “solidarity” to improve their conditions. For, sad to say, it seems so easy to try every method but the right one.

The great fault is that the toilers as a class see no other system than the wages system, and for that reason they play into the hands of the masters in their every action. After every strike they go back (if allowed) chastened, even if not beaten, and commence again with sullen energy to produce wealth for their masters, and in return got a bare subsistence.

It is a mad condition of social life.

The life of the working man, oven when he in regularly euployed, is a rotten one, and his poverty is only intensified when he “downs tools.” “You must not quit work,” say the masters, “because of men not holding a ticket,” but you must quit when the masters have no further use for you, and then come the penalties of unemployment—sickness, starvation, worry. There is a far worse document than this one of t!he Master Builders’ Association which the workers have signed, and have signed willingly. That is the document at the polling booth—a document that gives the masters political power to keep going this hellish system of society, that spells poverty to the workers, and untold wealth to those who employ the slaves of industry.

“A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” says the ticket workman. There cannot be any such thing as a fair day’s work until throughout society all able-bodied human beings perform their portion of the work of society. Then, and then only, will society see how it pays to have all work, and therefore all enjoy the social pro­duct of mankind’s energy used in a sane man­ner. Until that time comes—the day of the awakening of the working class— there will be a large number of officials to bleed the ticket men. These officials will endeavour to make it appear that the unions have won victories ; they will cry “organise ! Organise !” and will call the non-unionists scabs and blacklegs ; and all the time they will support this rotten social system, which produces scabs, blacklegs, and hirelings who will preach anything that will give them some advantage over the average wage slave.

So, then, you of the building trades who are suffering from the lockout, realise now that the masters are still masters and you are wage-slaves. With all the tickets you have handled, there still remains to be taken up, the ticket of the class-conscious worker—the ticket of the man who has discovered that the working class will not achieve their emancipation until the capitalist class are wiped out.

Good nature will not do it ; the clapping of hands will not accomplish it. The worshipping of heroes will not bring better times. You must think for yourselves.

It must be the workers as a class who must gain working-class emancipation, by their world­wide collective energy, intelligently used to capture Political power, to make it law that the means of wealth production and distribution shall belong to the people.

S. W.

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