The Worker, January 1916

Our Case in Brief

Source: The Worker, No.1, 8, January 1916, p. 2, by J. W. Muir;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The first issue of The Worker comes out in troublous times and in very trying circumstances, and we make no apology for this number falling short of our original intentions. From week to week we hope to improve on it and make it a paper which the workers in the various industries will be loth to miss.

There can be no doubt as to the need for a workers’ paper absolutely free from party bias, and unshackled by Trade Union rules and regulations which at a time like the present, when the whole British constitution is in the melting pot, rise up bogey-like and terrorise our officials to such an extent that they take action the very reverse of what our interests demand. In this connection and in the first issue of our paper it will be as well to contradict a statement made by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons on the report stage of the Munitions of War (Amendment) Bill. He stated:— “The revolt was far more against the official leaders of Trade Unionism than against the Government.” That is, to put it mildly, absolutely untrue.

Our position has been perfectly clear all along. We hold the view, extraordinary perhaps to Mr. Lloyd George, that the Trade Union Officials are the servants and not the masters of the rank and file, and that they require some pressure at times to move them on the path the rank and file desire them to tread. The Clyde Workers’ Committee exists for the purpose of preventing the rank and file efforts being dissipated through lack of organisation.

Furthermore, the fact that each official represents one trade, and is concerned with the interests of that one Trade Union only, narrows his view so much that official action is at times positively detrimental to the members of his own society. Knowing that unity of action between all workers of a given industry is more effective than sectional action, and knowing that such unity can be real and lasting only if it comes first through the fraternising of the rank and file of the various trades, the Clyde Workers’ Committee have set themselves the task of co-ordinating the forces of Labour. Mr. Lloyd George may think that he will “divide and conquer” if he can get us to direct our attack against the Trade Union Officials and can get them to retaliate. But he is not going to succeed.

Our policy is not to fight the officials from any motives of jealousy, but to back them with all the power and influence at our disposal when they act rightly, and when they fail to act in the right way to make the pace ourselves. It is “up to” the officials to set the pace, knowing as they do the present temper of the workers!

On the broader issue of the Munitions Act, dilution of Labour, high food prices, conscription and the endless demand for sacrifices on the part of the workers our position is equally clear. We are up against the Government on these matters!

Mr. Lloyd George is reported to have stated in the House of Commons that the only alternative to military discipline in the workshops was the Munitions Act. While he was in the Clyde district he had it hammered into his head that there was another policy which was not coercive and consequently was free from any “taint of slavery,” and which would promote the harmony and efficiency which is absolutely essential to .get the increased output of munitions asked for by him.

That policy is that the Government must take over all the industries and national resources and give organised Labour a direct share in the management down through all the departments.

As next week we intend to give a full statement of this case as the Clyde Workers’ Committee presented it to Mr. Lloyd George at an interview with him in Glasgow, we shall only say that it is our fixed determination to force the Government to face the issue. It is the only safeguard for us against intensified slavery in the future, and we would be unworthy of the name of men if we allowed the chains to be rivetted tighter upon our necks.

The next few weeks may decide the fate of democracy in this country, and it is the duty of every freedom loving man and woman to resist all coercion and demand co-operation on equal terms.

The modified conscription measure now before Parliament is only the thin end of the wedge of industrial slavery – military control of the workshops.

We must resist it and force the Government to adopt the Clyde Workers’ Committee policy which would make compulsion unnecessary. Our own interests, the interests of the men who will come back from the various fields of war, and the interests of posterity demand that we should acquit ourselves as real men and women, regardless of the consequences to ourselves as individuals.

Men and women of the Clyde ! The time for action has arrived!!

You have given us a good deal of support up till now. We ask you to rally all the forces for this crisis and, assured as we are of the co-operation of our fellow-workers in other parts of the country, we can kill conscription and all other coercive legislation and make this country something approaching a real democracy. Decide now for Industrial Conscription or Freedom!