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FOR OURSELVES OR FOR THE ENEMY?
For all these things the remedy is in the hands of labor, and the curious fact is that labor can not only put an end to its own troubles by doing a very simple thing, but it can also put an end at the same time to that menacing situation for the whole country caused by the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, a trouble that appealed so movingly to the author of “ The New Freedom” so long as he was merely a candidate and not a President.
The way labor could do this is by uniting.
Now an impartial observer might think this a thing so obvious that it is silly to talk about it.
The Parasites that live upon labor and declare great dividends out of labor's poorly paid toll they do not need to be encouraged to unite. They are firmly united already.
No one needs to suggest to the gentlemen that are riding upon your backs that their in
terests are identical. They know that anyway.
Nobody ever heard of rival organizations of the exploiters getting in one another's way; it is only the exploited that do that.
The riders are harmonious; it is the ridden that quarrel and are divided.
When the railroads are trying to put over a fraudulent increase of freight rates, notice how absolutely they stand together. One works for the others and all work for one in a way that is beautiful to behold. Or when they are trying to prevent their employees from getting an increase of wages, what harmony prevails! Or observe how carefully they guard one another's interests in the matter of blacklisting. Any man anywhere that is found to be an agitator or active in forming labor unions or prominent in a strike, is quickly known by name to every railroad in the country and cannot get work from any of them.
So late as 1903, for instance, the men that took any prominent or active part in the great railroad strike of 1894 were blacklisted and unable to get employment on any railroad in the country. They had worked against the interest of the railroad combination and must be punished and made an example of.
In the same way, any man that attacks organized wealth anywhere is boycotted everywhere. If he offends the banks in Oshkosh he offends them also in Spokane and Baraboo.
Everywhere Greed preserves an unbroken front. It is only Need that stops to quarrel about trifles and while it quarrels Greed picks its other pocket also.
Suppose there was a fort held by five hundred men and five thousand men were trying to capture it. And suppose that every day the besieging army sent fifty men to make a charge against the fort. How long do you suppose the besiegers would be in capturing that position?
If the whole five thousand went in one united body they could take the place without half trying. So long as they think more about bickering among themselves than they think about assaulting the common enemy, the enemy, though few in numbers, will win. So long as the besiegers advance in detachments they might as well give up and go home.
Two or three years ago there was a strike among the shop men of what is called the Harriman system of railroads, the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Illinois Central and some others.
It is certain that the railroad managers expected the strike and welcomed, if they did not secretly instigate, it. They desired a chance to crush union labor and were fully prepared to do so.
For weeks before the strike was actually declared, work trains manned by union men were engaged in hauling lumber for shacks and stockades to house strike-breakers and scabs. Union carpenters were engaged in erecting such shacks and stockades. When the strike was declared union engineers, union firemen, union conductors and union brakemen carried to the shop towns thousands of strikebreakers and union switchmen helped to operate the trains that bore these enemies of theirs. Not willingly, any of them, of course; they knew what was on foot and knew the use that was being made of them to defeat their brother workers. But they were helpless. They belonged to separate unions. Each union had made a separate contract for itself with a separate date of expiration and this contract withheld it from giving to another union any effective support.
If the engineers could have struck with the shopmen, if the firemen could have refused to haul strike-breakers, the strike would have been won in twenty-four hours or less. But because
of the division into separate unions, the rest of the army of labor was obliged not merely to stand by and see their brothers beaten but actually to assist in beating them.
In other words, it was the old story of advancing in detachments and being defeated in detail.
The same illustration was repeated in the case of the strike of the pressmen and stereotypers in Chicago in the spring of 1912.
Here was one of the greatest battles that labor ever fought and only prevented from being one of labor's greatest victories by the failure of the compositors to join hands with their fellow workers. With the assistance of the compositors the strikers would have been invincible and could have dictated their own terms. But the compositors were helpless, being tied up with a separate contract made with their separate union and having a long term to run. They were obliged to stand by and help to issue the newspapers
that feating and defrauding the workers.
Such things have been repeated so often that they are perfectly (and painfully) familiar to every person that has observed the course of the labor struggle in America. If there is a strike of miners, the engineers in that mine con