The Worker January 1916

The Spirit That Wins

Source: The Worker no. 4, 29 January 1916 p. 6, by J.T. Aitken;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

“Ah ! take the cash in hand, and waive the rest,
Oh, the brave music of a distant Drum.”

A thought such as this cannot be regarded as a stimulant to urge a fighter to greater effort. It would be better described as a narcotic, insidious in its action, going right down to the fighter’s vitality, breaking his power of resistance, and inducing him to meet failure more than half way. If a comrade, here and there, following the dictates of an incorrect audit drops out in the struggle it does not necessarily follow that the Drum’s brave music is on the wane. The struggle may ebb and flow but new fighters are always coming forward. Both camps can make the same statement, no doubt, but there is this vital difference. In the workers’ camp the fighters are bound together by principle and common interest, whereas the Capitalist camp is composed of mercenaries with self-interest as their password.

One is forced to think that the comrades who drop out of the fight carry the cause of their failure and disappointment within themselves. They fail to realise how great is the task that they have volunteered to assist in. When first they strike their heads against that barrier rock, that apathetic mass of indifferent workers, which lies between organised labour and the realisation of its ideals they begin to see things without the rose-Coloured glasses of enthusiasm. The reaction, from their early confidence, is too much for them and, foolishly weak, they fall back to that state of indifference, from which their one little effort enabled them to rise for a time. They no doubt did some good work while making their effort. No directed effort can be without effect as I hope to show.

As an example of how an idea can spread let us go back a few years to the time when Industrial Unionism was first spoken of in Glasgow. It was accorded the usual treatment that most new ideas receive, bitter antagonism. The comrades who first endeavoured to propagate this higher unionism soon found an obstacle in the form of Trade Union prejudice, but with courage that comes from sure conviction, they tried to combat this prejudice with reason. That Trade Unionism was a barrier may not be apparent to some, but the fact is clear to any person of intelligence, that the multiplicity of unions must necessarily involve a multiplicity of interests. Interest not always confined to purely Union matters, but often personal to individual members.

The public aspect of this propaganda practically ceased, but judging from expressions heard on all sides, the seeds sown have not all fallen on barren soil. Many of those seeds are now germinating and the prospects of a great harvest seem very good. It is very evident that there is a growing desire for a form of organisation really economical, mobile, and adjustable, saving in time, finance, and temper, giving at the same time a more clear perspective to the real issues. What appeared at first to be a great objection was not that the principle of the idea was wrong but that its propagation was premature, the time not yet ripe for it. But despite a period free from public controversy the idea is growing and developing to a position of public acceptance that will remove from it the suspicion that always attaches itself to anything in the nature of a novelty. This is all to the good, because, as we emerge from the melting pot in which this European war has placed all interests, the fight between Capital and Labour must become more severe, and more direct, demanding a consolidation of Labour in a manner that no previous period has done, and Labour is meeting the demand more than half way. The point I wish to draw is this, no directed effort is wasted. Be the effort great or small, it becomes a part of that great building process, slow but most sure of success, and less easily overturned through reaction. Let us adopt that spirit that cannot see good effort as wasted effort; that spirit intense and strong, which will continue to put forth good effort even though the results are not apparent The emancipation of the worker is the only fight the worker can justifiably engage in and the more he rallys round his own flag the nearer and yet more near will the Drums and their brave music be.