The Worker January 1916

The Workers in the Workshops

By W. Stewart

Source: The Worker, No. 2, 15, January 1916, p. 1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

I am asked to write a few lines for the organ of the Clyde Workers’ Committee, and I notice with interest that the first number of the paper is called The Worker. What its name may be this week or the next I don’t knew, for in these days of police raids and D.R. prosecutions, a weekly transformation trick may be advisable. The British authorities having adopted the methods of Russian despotism, British workers may have to understudy Russian revolutionary methods of evasion. The Worker, however, is a good name for a worker’s paper. I used to edit a paper of that name, the first I think in Scotland. It ceased to exist many years ago, but here is The Worker once again, symbolical of the fact that the cause of Labour can never be suppressed. It may be, and has been, bamboozled, hoodwinked, side-tracked, and misled; it may be brow-beaten, persecuted and driven underground; but it: cannot be killed; and just when its enemies think they have finally subdued and made an end of it, it emerges more virile and vigorous than ever. That is what has happened now. The Munitions Act was designed to bind Labour hand and foot. The Defence of the Realm was designed to stifle Labour’s voice and leave it without any means of expressing itself. Just the opposite is happening. Labour is snapping asunder the new chains which have been forged for it and in the process will break in pieces some of the old chains with which it had carelessly allowed itself to be girt about. When this present struggle comes to an end organised Labour will stand up freer, stronger, more self-reliant, than ever it has done in its whole history. And the Clyde workers will have played a great and historic part in producing that result. I cannot presume to give the Clyde Workers’ Committee any advice. They evidently know their business, and all I can do, as a Socialist, is to give them thanks and encouragement. They have realised that the struggle between capitalism and Labour must, in its present phase, be fought out in the workshop and on the industrial field. The ruling classes have deliberately chosen the field of battle, and the Clyde workers have, no less deliberately, taken up the challenge. More power to them! The Government have unwittingly made the issue clear. They have told the workers, what they never told them before, that they are indispensable to the business of the nation. They have decided that the immediate business of the nation is war. But that, though a bloody business, is only a passing phase. When the nation resumes its normal business the workers will remember what the ruling classes told them in time of war; that they are indispensable; that they, in fact, are the nation. And they will demand; are already beginning to demand, that the organising, guiding and directing of the nation’s work and the nation’s destinies will be in their hands instead of in the hands of an idle, superfluous and incompetent class. That is the issue now raised, and the solution of it is of more importance to humanity than the war in Europe for with the right solution of that issue military war will be forever impossible.

When Lloyd George told the Welsh munition workers that this was a war between the mechanics of Britain and the mechanics of Germany he gave the show away. The mechanics of these two countries have no quarrel with each other, and they know it.

They have been jockeyed into the position whereby the productive skill of the one is pitted against the productive skill of the other for their mutual destruction; but they could not have been jockeyed into that position if they had had control of their own Labour power. To obtain control of their own Labour power is what the workers must seek for, work for, and fight for. When they have achieved that, the rest will be comparatively easy. It is to prevent the workers from achieving control of their own Labour power that the ruling classes want conscription. They are not going to get it.

They may pass their Bill. They may set up their tribunals, They may invest their Court Martials with civil power; but they will still have to reckon with the workers in the workshops. And the workers in the workshops can crumple up their elaborate conscriptive machinery like so much tissue paper.

The existing of the Clyde Workers’ committee is the guarantee that this is what the workers in the workshops will do when the moment for action comes. If the Government want to give the signal let them go on with their conscription.