Who Can Boss?
Roosevelt will fight the Trusts! So were the American people in particular and the civilized world in general told when he was put in power. Such of the American people as had knowledge smiled, if they did not, they should have done. The Beef Trust was impeached, and found guilty of conspiracy to fix prices, secure illegal rebates from the railroads, and stifle free competition. The United States Circuit Court of Illinois granted an injunction against the Trust on the foregoing counts. But the Trust did not worry—it simply continued in the same old way. On the 31st of January, 1905, the newspapers stated their belief that criminal proceedings would be taken against the firms constituting the Trust. Speaking an the following day at Philadelphia, Mr. Roosevelt urged, among other things, more federal control of commerce and particularly of railroads. “ Neither this people nor any other free people ” he declared, “will permanently tolerate vast power conferred by vast wealth in a corporate form, that does not lodge somewhere in the Government a still higher power of seeing that this power is used for and not against the people as a whole.” In New York, on the same day, a railroad Trust, believed in financial circles to be the largest of its kind, was brought into existence. Mr. W. H. Newman, president of the New York Central Line, was appointed president of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and S. Louis lines, popularly, known as the “big four.” This combination consists of nearly thirty distinct lines, and controls all the great routes from New York to Chicago, with the exception of the Pennsylvanian railway.
The final aim of the Trust is to make practically one system from the Atlantic to the Pacific and to form one huge combination with a capital of seven billion dollars (£1,400,000,000). On the following day a Cotton Trust was formed, with a capital of a hundred million dollars (£20,000,000). It comprises almost all the mills in Massachusetts and some in the other New England States. The reason given for its formation was that the northern mills could not compete with the southern and they had to amalgamate in order to exist. The paragraph significantly concludes thus: “The new Trust proposes to reorganise the business of the mills it takes over, on the basis of economical production and new processes of weaving. There will be economies effected in the labour and management of the mills.” Thus the Trusts show their contempt for the powers that be. Not a President goes to the White House without their permission. As Mr. William Allen White points out in the New York “Collier’s,” “The people howl for Roosevelt and whoop it up for reform, until the railroads begin issuing passes and contributing to the campaign fund. Then these same dear patriotic people get in special trains, eat free railroad grub, corrode their insides with free railroad liquor, and hurrah for “the old man ” who sees the railroads run the government.”
But, says the Britisher, this is all in America and it does not follow that similar things occur or could occur in England. We have no such Trusts. Let us see. On January 30th of this year, news was published of the amalgamation of two most important cotton-spinning associations. Between them they controlled over 30,000,000 spindles, out of England’s total of 45,000,000, the world’s total being 110,000,000. In October, 1904, the Scottish and North of England Iron and Steel Masters met and arrived at an understanding, the result of which was very soon shewn in a reduction of the wages of the employees of the firms concerned. Recently the Cornish producers of china formed themselves into an Association. Even the capitalist papers refer to the London Coal Trade as “the Coal ring,” whilst that of the Billingsgate Fish merchants is well-known. The American invasion to capture the Tobacco trade taught the English manufacturers that the only way that they could fight a Trust was by forming another and the Imperial Tobacco Company was the result. The Liquor monopoly is of course a Trust, the strength of which is largely due to the policy pursued by the lopsided “Temperance” reformers. At the present moment, the “one-man grocer” as he is called, is much agitated about the statement that the Mazawattee Tea Co. is about to open 300 to 400 shops in the country for the retailing of its tea and other commodities, but it is no trade secret that the vast proportion of the retail grocery shops belong to similar mammoth concerns. The provision shops, too, are often merely distributive depots for the wholesale houses, whilst few of the “master” bakers are other than managers for, or “tied” tenants of, the millers. Then we have the Wall-Paper Trust, the Type-Writer Trust, and so on. Here, as abroad, industry after industry becomes trustified. The only way in which the capitalists of any country can hope to secure and maintain a hold upon the World’s Markets is by these large combinations of capital, with their resulting more systematic methods of organisation and “effective economies in labour and management.”
This ever extending growth of the Trusts means a more and more precarious existence for the workers. The ever-improving machinery that these large capitals can operate should prove to the workers that they have no effective weapon with which to fight them and resist their aggressions. The Trade Unions with their few thousands of pounds cannot hope to successfully fight the Trusts with their millions. The power of the machine alone will almost crush them, but the machine and the large capital combined in the Trust they cannot fight. The lesson of the class war must be brought home to them. Just as in the United States the capitalist papers admit the control of the Government by the Trusts, so will it happen here in England. The only way of salvation for the workers lies in the transformation of these Trusts into national property and the organisation of industry on a co-operative basis of production for use and not for profit. No capitalist party will legislate for this— they dare not, on the pain of self-extinction. The only party that dare go to the legislative assemblies to do this is the Socialist working-class, organised on the lines of the class war, with its tactics and policy in accord with its principle, with a clear knowledge of the fact that rent, profit, and interest exist because the workers—the wealth-creators—are robbed of the wealth they produce, whether taken from them by private capitalists or by the capitalist state or municipality. A revolutionary Socialist party alone can act in the real interests of the workers, and for the workers of this country that party is The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
E. J. B. Allen