Wm. Gallacher, The Worker, January 1916
Source: The Worker, No. 1, 8, January 1916, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Now that the confusion and excitement is over, the workers are vaguely wondering what all the fuss was about, and why the Right Hon. David Lloyd George troubled the Clyde with his presence at all.
Despite the loud-mouthed professions of economy that have been made by members of the Government, public money was squandered in the most reckless manner to secure a favourable reception to the author of the Munitions Act from the men whose liberties he has persistently attacked since the very commencement of the war.
Taxi-cabs unlimited were placed at the disposal of the Trade Unions’ Officials who were willing- to distribute tickets among their members for the St. Andrew’s Hall meeting. To their credit, be it said, out of the 24 or 25 Unions invited 20 refused to have anything to do with the wretched business. They weren’t concerned about maintaining the dignity of a falling Cabinet “star,” and that appeared to be the only reason for such desperate efforts to secure a meeting, regardless of what [line corrupted] messengers were engaged, telegrams went flying around like so much waste paper, and 6/- per head was offered to all who would attend and wallow in the wisdom of the wily Welshman.
If, as has been said, money is all powerful, the meeting would have been an enthusiastic demonstration in favour of the honourable gentlemen who endeavoured to address it instead of providing an opportunity to the Clyde Shop Stewards of venting their disgust and distrust for the legislation of the past 12 months and the further enactments that are impending. At a moderate estimate the visit, with its so-called Munitions Conference, would cost £5,000 in round figures, and the nett result appears to be the distinction that was conferred on the munitions depot at Houston, which was duly christened and honoured with the title of Georgetown. We wonder if the embryo community will throw off this incubus, when the workers awaken to the reality of the slavery that is being forced upon them, and drive this lawyer-hireling from public life.
Ostensibly the “affair” was arranged to impress on the minds of the Clyde workers “the imperative need for some measure of Labour dilution,” but as neither the Minister nor his advisers appeared to have the faintest shadow of an idea how the “dilution” was to be brought about, the workers were left with the impression that the “dilution of Labour” was simply a pretext for the “deluding of Labour,” an art at which the particular coterie of gentlemen could easily claim first place. We want big guns and small guns; the French want big guns and small guns; the Russians want big guns and small guns. This, with a plentiful supply of sentimental rhetoric, was the story Mr. George travelled all the way from London to tell the workers of the Clyde. The remarkable feature of the story was the emphasis with which he asserted that HE was going to let them have them. Oh, no; he isn’t an egotist, for a few minutes later he let the workers know where they came in. “If they don’t get them it is because you have failed them, and you will be held responsible.” It’s quite a nice arrangement. If they get all the guns they want and succeed in blowing the Germans across the Rhine, then, little Davie’s the man who did it, little Davey won the war; little Davey takes the credit – and the cash. Little Davey goes up on a pedestal. But, if anything should go wrong anywhere, who is going to take the blame. Little Davey! Not if he knows it. That’s where we come in. The politicians, press and pulpit will unite in a clamorous and lying attack on the “drunken, thriftless, shirking” workers who failed to support their brothers in the trenches, because, forsooth, they refused to sacrifice those liberties these same brothers in the trenches are presumably fighting for.
So far as little Davey is concerned, “it’s heads I win and tails you lose,” all the time. £100 per week for letting us know that guns are needed. What do we get for making them? Let each answer for himself.
Following the demand for guns came the demand for 80,000 skilled men. There was the “imperative necessity” for diluting labour. But what we all wanted to know was the very point the elusive Mr. George carefully avoided, to wit, whether the re-organisation of industry was to be placed in the charge of the Trade Unions, or left [line corrupted] making of profit. The only suggestion as to method was contained in his speech in the House of Commons on Monday, 20th December, when he advised the “Bosses” to go for the Trade Unions assuring them at the same that he would use the Law to club the militant unions into submission. There you have it. The same old stupid, senseless blundering chat has marked the pathway of the £5,000 per year men since the start of the war with such disastrous results. These lawyers don’t understand the workers, and therefore can never organise them.
If the best results are to be obtained, if the highest point in efficiency is to be reached, then the policy of the Clyde Workers’ Committee must be put into operation. Not only is it a sound and well-thought out scheme of industrial organisation, but it is the only scheme before the country.
At the St. Andrew’s Ball meeting Mr. George, according to the carefully prepared report that was issued to the press, made a brilliant hit, by what was noted as a “Dramatic Challenge.”
In answer to an interjector who said he wouldn’t get his 80,000 men he replied: “I have come here to face 3,000 engineers, will you go out and face 3,000 soldiers and tell them that.” When one considers that the 3,000 engineers were unarmed, that 300 policemen with batons at their hips guarded the sacred person of the minister, and that the further precaution of having the platform barricaded was taken, it will be readily agreed that the challenge was characteristic of a lawyer-politician.
But will Mr. Lloyd George accept a reasonable challenge? Will he allow the soldiers to decide the issue? If so, the C.W.C. will send out a representative to lay their policy of organisation as against his incitement to the bosses to burst the Unions. We know and he knows what the result would be. We know and he knows that it is the employers who stand in the way of industrial organisation and thereby prevent the maximum output being attained.
The workers hale to sacrifice everything to become mere parts of the machine, ready to be used wherever or whenever the bosses may desire them. But under no consideration must these individuals be asked to relinquish their stranglehold on industry.
“It would be a revolution,” said Mr. George in reply to the C.W.C. deputation, “and it can’t be done.” Why not? Simply because the employers would lose the war rather than lose their power over the workers. There is no other reason can be given for his emphatic “can’t be done.” It is for us as workers to take that power from them. The only way to do it is by organising. Our first business, therefore, is to strengthen our Unions, or better still, amalgamate them all into one powerful industrial organisation. When that is accomplished the victory will be ours. In the meantime every effort is being made to crush what organisation we have out of existence. It was in pursuance of this object that Mr. George visited the Clyde. He came to “spy out the land,” and his experience was such that he won’t want to come back again. It was borne in on him beyond the slightest chance of misunderstanding that the Clyde men could not be cajoled, and that they were determined to resist any further encroachment on their ??? liberties so this little demagogue hurried or scurried back to London and the Cabinet decided to play their last and dirtiest card for the subjugation of Labour. Conscription! This, if it is allowed to pass, means the death-blow to liberty. Conscription means a victory for Prussia, and the workers must fight it or go under. Of course, it is only the unmarried men they are after. This step is taken in the hope that the married men will play traitor to their fellows and assist the Northcliffe gang in their designs. But if they can use the married men now to make conscripts of the others, they can use the conscripts later on to enslave the married men in the industry.
Married or single we must resist it. They may even, for tactical reasons, exclude munition workers. If they do, don’t be deluded. Remember, you may be a munition worker to-day and a conscript to-morrow. It’s so easy for your patriotic employer to “release” you. Once released you automatically become a conscript.
Once a conscript you are a Slave, body and soul, and can used as the Minister of Munitions, plus the patriotic profiteers, may decide.
The workers on the Clyde and the North-East Coast backed up, as they certainly will be, by their allies on the railways, and in the mines of the country, can strike this evil thing from our midst. They can drive from office the gang of incompetent, blundering, re-actionary lawyer-politicians, who are being lashed to action by Northcliffe and his yellow Press.
Thousands of our fellows have sacrificed their lives fighting against the very Prussianism they now propose to foist upon us here. It will be the blackest day in our history if they succeed. The future, for the workers, will be hopeless. Think not of yourself for the moment, but think what a heritage of slavery you will bequeath to your children.
Workers of the Clyde, you must prepare for action. When this loathsome enemy of Freedom raises its head you must strike, and strike to kill.