MINERS' NEXT STEP
Being a suggested scheme for the Reorganisation of the Federation.
Issued by the Unofficial Reform Committee, Tonypandy, 1912
A few words are necessary to explain how this pamphlet came to be written.
All the suggestions in the preamble, programme, constitution, and policy
have been sent from one lodge or another, through their districts to
the Executive of the South Wales Miners' Federation. The Executive appointed
a sub committee to sit on them and draft out a programme. This programme
was submitted to the Federation "Reform" Conference in March, 1911.
It consisted of a recommendation to increase the contribution to 2/-
per month, and a very worthless and highly bureaucratic scheme of centralization.
The people responsible for the resolutions from the lodges realized
that it was hopeless to expect any reform from that quarter, and in
the course of time they got together and held meetings in every part
of the coalfield. The net results of these meetings are contained in
the two following resolutions:-
- Realizing that no one lodge or district can be expected to devote
sufficient time to work out the details of such a comprehensive
scheme as the reorganisation of the Federation, this meeting decides
to give up its time to organise sections in every part of the coalfield
for the purpose of taking on this highly essential work.
- That a draft of our proposals be sent to each section in Monmouthshire
Eastern and Western Valleys, Swansea and district, Merthyr and Aberdare
and district, and the Rhondda districts. That they be asked to sit,
deliberate, and suggest improvements; hold a series of joint meetings;
and eventually to meet in conference at Cardiff, to submit their
findings, and to abide by the decisions the Conference will arrive
- For the last four or five months this has been done. Hundreds
of men (trade union officials, executive members, and workmen) have
given up their time and money to this work. It was soon realized
that an explanatory statement was necessary to accompany our proposals,
and so this pamphlet was written. No name appears on the pamphlet,
as it is not the work of any one man, but if it is criticized as
it ought to be, and no doubt will be, there will be no lack of men
to take up its defence. We venture to think this is a record for
a democratic work of an entirely voluntary character.
In conclusion, let us again
emphasise, as it is emphasised in the pamphlet, that this work is
not offered as a hard and fast, or dogmatic scheme, which the workmen
must accept. It is offered in the spirit of brotherhood, as a guide
to the workmen, in the necessary work of putting their house in order.
Hundreds of men all over the coalfield stretch out their hands to
the workmen and say:- "Here is the best product of our time and thought,
which we freely offer as an expression of our oneness of heart and
interest as a section of the working class. Do what you will with
it, modify, or (we hope) improve, but at least give it your earnest
OLD POLICY OUTWORN
The present policy of the Federation since 1900, may be called the
Conciliation policy. We have to briefly examine its usefulness as
a wage getting policy, for that is the best and the only real test
of any policy.
HAS CONCILIATION SECURED WAGES?
From the year 1900 there has been an enormous increase in the price
of coal, averaging nearly 6/- per ton. This would have in itself
automatically secured for us 60% on the standard, whereas we are
only paid 50%. The argument may be used that our policy of minimum
percentages has kept the price of coal up. This is sheer bunkum. Here
are two reasons sufficient to dispel that illusion. The owners are
more concerned to sell all their coal than to get exceptional prices
for some of it. To put it in a glaring way,
if they can sell 20 tons at 15/- per ton, and only 10 tons at 20/- per
ton, they will prefer to sell the 20 tons at 15/-, because it puts
more money in their pockets, and they will be called upon to pay less
out in wages. The second reason which also amplifies the first, is
that competition, and not the sweet will of the owners, fixes the
price of coal. If it were not for this fact the owners would be foolish
to wait for our minimum percentages before increasing the price of
their coal, and so putting huge profits in their pockets. They love
profits too well to wait for us to compel them to accept them. No!
No! they charge the highest penny that American and German competition
will allow them. If they put a higher price on their coal to-morrow
they will sell less than today. This is surely quite obvious. The
price of coal has increased from the same cause that has increased
all other goods, namely the cheapening of gold through richer yields
and labour saving appliances. Dismissing then the illusion that our
policy has kept up prices, how are to account for the 10% reduction we
have suffered? By the facts, and here they are. When Sir David Dale gave
his award in 1902, he increased the price which was the equivalent of 30%
(under the Sliding Scale) from 11/3 to 11/10. A direct reduction of over 5%
in all our standard rates. There goes one Chunk. When the last agreement (1910)
was arrived at we allowed 9d. per ton over 14/- to be free from percentages.
There goes another 6% (?) reduction. These are facts. It is a fact
(from reasons we have already explained) that the price of coal has
never gone down to 11s. 10d. since the great (?) principle of minimum
percentage was established. Thus, while we were clapping our hands
in enthusiastic joy over the securing of a great principle the employers
were quietly pocketing the 5% proceeds. This is a distinct feature
of our recent reductions. The other serious reduction was granted
on grounds, that if logically carried out, would mean the final end
of progress, and the commencement of a battledore and shuttlecock
game, of changing the persons to whom we were paying our reductions.
The owners said that the cost of legislative reforms had increased
the cost of production. So we relieved them to the extent of 9d. on
the ton after 14/-, i.e. 6%. This means that if we get any improvements,
we must pay for them. We can go on like this for centuries securing
great principles and legislative reforms, while all the time our pockets
grow emptier. This is a fiendish principle that no sane man can countenance.
Yet these are facts. That is one part of our indictment against the
policy of conciliation.
Space prevents us from going into exhaustive detail as to the "tying
up" and "delay" character of conciliation. But they are so well known,
that it is superfluous really to detail them. We shall briefly summarize
our objections. First the process.
A dispute occurs in a colliery. The ordinary lodge negotiations are
carried on, resulting in failure. The Agent is called in. Still failure.
The matter is sent to the Executive and finally the Board. Here it
takes its place with other matters on the agenda. In the course of
time, after some months of waiting, it is reached and brought up for
discussion. It is then referred to a sub-committee. These take time
to see the management, and the colliery. Then they negotiate. Sometimes,
as in the case of Rhymney, they negotiate for two years. Even then
the owner's side refuse to report failure to agree. Eventually this
may be done. Then, and then only, the colliery may give a month's
notice. Need we say anything more in condemnation of this? We think
BASIS OF CONSIDERATION
On the Board all things have to be considered from the employers'
standpoint. They alone have the inside information. We don't audit
their books, and we have no means of judging the truth of their assertions.
They say the colliery won't pay. We must accept their word. When we
are considering principles, they have only to show that some wretched
little colliery employing 10 men will have to close if we insist on
our demands. That silences us. The little colliery belongs to a method
of production that is almost a century old. Yet we must allow their
conditions to govern us. Reason in such a case means, in plain English:
the Employers' interest and outlook. After 10 years of such a game,
we find our customs broken down, and our price lists a farce, and
in the face of a very serious rise in the cost of living (which many
of us have nick-named prosperity) we have been reduced 10% in the standard
rates. Is this enough?
CONCILIATION AND LEADERS
Here is perhaps after all our strongest indictment. The policy of
"collective bargaining" will be dealt with later on. But we have here
to point out why there is discontent with "leaders." The policy of
conciliation gives the real power of the men into the hands of a few
leaders. Somebody says "What about conferences and ballots"? Conferences
are only called, and ballots only taken when there is a difference
of opinion between leaders. The conference or ballot is only a referee.
Can this be denied? In the main, and on things that matter, the Executive
have the supreme power. The workmen for a time look up to these men
and when things are going well they idolise them. The employers respect
them. Why? Because they have the men - the real power - in the hollow
of their hands. They, the leaders, become "gentlemen," they become
M.P.'s and have considerable social prestige because of this power.
Now when any man or men assume power of this description, we have
a right to ask them to be infallible. That is the penalty, a just
one too, of autocracy. When things go wrong, and we have shown that
they have gone wrong, they deserve to be, and are blamed. What really
is blameworthy, is the conciliation policy which demands leaders of
this description. For a moment let us look at this question from the
leaders' standpoint. First, they are "trade unionists by trade" and
their profession demands certain privileges. The greatest of all these
are plenary powers. Now, every inroad the rank and file make on this
privilege lessens the power and prestige of the leader. Can we wonder
then that leaders are averse to change? Can we wonder that they try
and prevent progress? Progress may arrive at such a point that they
would not be able to retain their "jobs," or their "jobs" would become
so unimportant that from their point of view, they would not be worth
retaining. The leader then has an interest - a vested interest - in stopping
progress. They have therefore in some things an antagonism of interests
with the rank and file. The conditions of things in South Wales has
reached the point when this difference of interest, this antagonism,
has become manifest. Hence the men criticise and are discontented
with their leaders. But the remedy is not new leaders. But - well, we
The year 1910 brought a seeming realization of this antagonism by
the men. Throughout the negotiations for the new agreement, the men
continuously insisted, more and more on having the controlling voice.
Early on it was laid down that plenary powers should not be given
to the leaders, but that the final acceptance of any agreement should
depend upon the ballot vote of the men.
Thus an entirely new principle was established, which took away from
the Leaders all responsibility for the terms
of the agreement, and
left only the responsibility for the conduct of the negotiations.
This, while representing an advance, is by no means a satisfactory
solution. It places the men in the position of a crowd at a football
match. The players, selected by the crowd have to outmanoeuvre their
opponents, while the crowd either cheer or criticize their efforts.
But of real
control, save in the matter of selecting the players,
the crowd have none.
This half-hearted establishment of the principle of direct control
by the men found expression again towards the end of the year by the
outbreak of the Cambrian and Aberdare disputes. A careful and dispassionate
survey of these historic struggles, will show that at every stage,
the interference of Leaders prejudiced the case of the men, and also
helped to tie their hands in their endeavour to settle the disputes
To the Leaders, everything seemed to be in the melting pot, because
the men insisted on taking a hand in the
conduct of affairs. There was much vain talk on the Leaders' side
about "the growing spirit of anarchy" which was bringing "chaos"
into the coalfield. And on the men's side, a growing distrust of leadership and
a determination to gain more control.
We had reached the half-way house between two methods of administration,
each of which negatived and stultified the other. To-day we begin to
realize that it is impossible to combine the two methods; and signs
are not wanting to show that if measures are not taken to crystalize
the new spirit, to give it proper methods in which to function, we
shall drift back to the old methods of autocracy.
It becomes necessary then to devise means which will enable this new
spirit of real democratic control to manifest itself. Which will not
the men, but which will encourage, nay compel
take the supreme control of their own organisation.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING OLD AND NEW
So long as the system of working for wages endures, collective bargaining
remains essential. From the men's side we cannot permit individual
bargains to be made. Such individual bargains have a tendency to debase
wages and conditions. On the employers' side there is no great desire
for change in this matter. As will be seen by recent speeches by Mr.
D. A. Thomas and Lord Merthyr, they realize its value, in its present
form, to them. They have no time to bother with individuals, but prefer
to purchase their labour power in bulk, on an agreed schedule. On
the men's side, however, it is being realized, that collective bargaining
can be made so wide reaching and all embracing, that it includes the
whole of the working class. In this form the employers and the old
school of labour leaders have no love for it. The employers, because
they realize its dangers to their profits. The labour leaders, because
it will degrade their power and influence by necessitating a much
more stringent and effective democratic control than at present obtains.
Let us, in order to clearly realize this, examine at close quarters
the labour leader and his functions.
ARE LEADERS GOOD AND NECESSARY?
This is not a double question, since if leaders are necessary, they
[are] perforce good. Let us then examine the leader, and see if he is
necessary. A leader implies at the outset some men who are being led;
and the term is used to describe a man who, in a representative capacity,
has acquired combined administrative and legislative power. As such,
he sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and
file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from
his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle
and causes confusion. His motto is, "Men, be loyal to your leaders."
H[i]s logical basis: Plenary powers. His social and economic prestige,
is dependent upon his being respected by "the public" and the employers.
These are the three principles which form the platform upon which
the leader stands. He presents, in common with other institutions,
a good and a bad aspect.
THE GOOD SIDE OF LEADERSHIP
- Leadership tends to efficiency
One decided man, who knows his own mind is stronger than a hesitating
crowd. It takes time for a number of people to agree upon a given
policy. One man soon makes up his mind.
- He takes all responsibility
As a responsible leader, he knows that his advice is almost equivalent
to a command, and this ensures that his advice will have been carefully
and gravely considered before being tendered.
- He stands for Order and System
All too frequently, "What is everybody's business is nobody's business,"
and if no one stands in a position to ensure order and system, many
things are omitted which will cause the men's interest to suffer.
- He affords a standard of goodness and ability
In the sphere of public usefulness there is a great field of emulation.
The good wishes of the masses can only be obtained by new aspirants
for office showing a higher status of ability than the then existing
leaders. This tends to his continued efficiency or elimination.
- His faithfulness and honesty are guarded
Hero worship has great attractions for the hero, and a leader has
great inducements on this side, apart from pecuniary considerations
to remain faithful and honest.
THE BAD SIDE OF LEADERSHIP
- Leadership implies power
Leadership implies power held by the Leader. Without power the leader
is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption.
All leaders become corrupt, in spite of their own good intentions.
No man was ever good enough, brave enough, or strong enough, to have
such power at his disposal, as real leadership implies.
- Consider what it means
This power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self respect
which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated
in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility,
their self respect becomes his.
- The order and system
The order and system he maintains, is based upon the suppression of
the men, from being independent thinkers into being "the men" or "the
mob." Every argument which could be advanced to justify leadership
on this score, would apply equally well to the Czar of all the Russias
and his policy of repression. In order to be effective, the leader
must keep the men in order, or he forfeits the respect of the employers
and "the public," and thus becomes ineffective as a leader.
- He corrupts the aspirants to public usefulness
He is compelled in order to maintain his power, to see to it that
only those, who are willing to act as his drill sergeants or coercive
agents shall enjoy his patronage. In a word, he is compelled to become
an autocrat and a foe to democracy.
- He prevents solidarity
Sheep cannot be said to have solidarity. In obedience to a shepherd,
they will go up or down, backwards or forwards as they are driven
by him and his dogs. But they have no solidarity, for that means unity
and loyalty. Unity and loyalty, not to an individual, or the policy
of an individual, but to an interest and a policy which is understood
and worked by all.
Finally he prevents the legislative power of the workers.
An industrial vote will affect the lives and happiness of workmen
far more than a political vote. The power to vote whether there shall
or shall not be a strike, or upon an industrial policy to be pursued
by his union, will affect far more important issues to the workman's
life, than the political vote can ever touch. Hence it should be more
sought after, and its privileges jealously guarded. Think of the tremendous
power going to waste because of leadership, of the inevitable stop-block
he becomes on progress, because quite naturally, leaders examine every
new proposal, and ask first how it will affect their position and
power. It prevents large and comprehensive policies being initiated
and carried out, which depend upon the understanding and watchfulness
of the great majority. National strikes and policies, can only be
carried out, when the bulk of the people see their necessity, and
themselves prepare and arrange them.
WORKMEN THE "BOSSES," "LEADERS" THE SERVANTS
Is it possible to devise such an organization as will bring the above
from the realm of the ideal to the realm of practicability? Those responsible for
this pamphlet, men who, residing in all parts of South Wales, have
given their time and thought to this problem, answer confidently in
the affirmative. In these chapters they present their scheme, believing
it to be not only possible, but the only practicable form of organization
for us to achieve. It is divided into four parts, each of which depends
upon the other. They are, the Preamble, which summarizes the needs
and indicates the requirements of such an organization. The Programme,
which states the objective - immediate and ultimate. The Constitution,
which gives the framework in which the real worker's organization
shall move, and the policy which illustrates the spirit and tactics
of that organization. A careful reading of this chapter will place
our scheme squarely and simply before you. Bear in mind when reading
and discussing it, the faults and failures of the old form of organization,
the abortiveness of all up to the present suggested improvements;
and endeavour to realize, as we have done, that a complete alteration
in the structure and policy of the organization is imperative.
PREAMBLE TO MANIFESTO
The present deplorable condition of the South Wales Miners' Federation
calls imperatively for a summary of the situation, in an endeavour
to discover where we stand.
The rapidity of industrial development is forcing the Federation to
take action along lines for which there exists no machinery to properly
The control of the organisation by the rank and file is far too indirect.
The system of long agreements, with their elaborate precautions against
direct action, cramp the free expression of the might of the workmen
and prevent the securing of improved conditions, often when the mere
exhibition of their strength would allow of it.
The sectional character of the organisation in the mining industry
renders concerted action almost impossible, and thus every section
helps to hinder and often defeat the other. What then is necessary
to remedy the present evils?
- A united industrial organisation, which, recognising the war of
interest between workers and employers, is constructed on fighting
lines, allowing for a rapid and simultaneous stoppage of wheels throughout
the mining industry.
- A constitution giving free and rapid control by the rank and file
acting in such a way that conditions will be unified throughout the
coalfield; so that pressure at one point would automatically affect
all others and thus readily command united action and resistance.
- A programme of a wide and evolutionary working class character,
admitting and encouraging sympathetic action with other sections of
- A policy which will compel the prompt and persistent use of the
utmost ounce of strength, to ensure that the conditions of the workmen
shall always be as good as it is possible for them to be under the
then existing circumstances.
We have endeavoured to suggest methods whereby such an organisation
might be formed. Appended will be found our draft proposals. We simply
ask that they may receive your earnest consideration, even if you
think they do not entirely fit the present situation. We feel
sure that they contain suggestions that will help in the solution
of some of our most pressing problems.
Comment on Preamble.
This surely explains itself. If anyone disagrees with this, then the
scheme itself will be condemned by him. While on the contrary everything
in the scheme is contained, in germ, in this Preamble.
One organisation to cover the whole of the Coal, Ore, Slate, Stone,
Clay, Salt, mining or quarrying industry of Great Britain, with one
That as a step to the attainment of that ideal, strenuous efforts
be made to weld all National, County, or District Federations, at
present comprising the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, into one
compact organisation with one Central Executive, whose province it
shall be to negotiate agreements and other matters requiring common
action. That a cardinal principle of that organisation to be: that
every man working in or about the mine no matter what his craft or
occupation - provisions having been made for representation on the
Executive - be required to both join and observe its decisions.
IMMEDIATE STEPS - INDUSTRIAL
- That a minimum wage of 8/- per day for all workmen employed in
or about the mines, constitute a demand to be striven for nationally
- That subject to the foregoing having been obtained, we demand and use our power to obtain
a 7 hour day.
That the organisation shall
engage in political action, both local and national, on the basis
independence of, and hostility to all capitalist parties, with an
avowed policy of wresting whatever
advantage it can for the working class.
In the event of any representative of the organisation losing his
seat, he shall be entitled to, and receive, the full protection of
the organisation against victimization.
Alliances to be formed, and trades organisations fostered, with a
view to steps being taken to amalgamate all workers into one National
and International union, to work for the taking over of all industries,
by the workmen themselves.
The Programme is very comprehensive, because it deals with immediate
objects, as well as ultimate aims. We must have our desired end in
view all the time, in order to test new proposals and policies, to
see whether they tend in that direction or not. For example, the working
class, if it is to fight effectually must be an army, not a mob.
It must be classified, regimented and brigaded, along the lines indicated
by the product. Thus, all miners, &c., have this in common, they
delve in the earth to produce the minerals, ores, gems, salt, stone,
&c., which form the basis of raw material for all other industries.
Similarly the Railwaymen, Dockers, Seamen, Carters, etc., form the
transport industry. Therefore, before an organised and self-disciplined
working class can achieve its emancipation, it must coalesce on these
It will be noticed that nothing is said about Conciliation Boards
or Wages Agreements. The first two chapters will, however, have shown
you that Conciliation Boards and Wages Agreements only lead us into
As will be seen when perusing the policy and constitution, the suggested
organisation is constructed to fight rather than to negotiate. It
is based on the principle that we can only get what we are strong
enough to win and retain.
The great merit of the minimum wage, is that it makes conciliation
unnecessary. A man either receives the minimum or he does not. There
is nothing to conciliate or negotiate upon. There is further in the
minimum wage two diverse tendencies. On the men's side it will tend,
as the organization developes [sic] its power, for the minimum to be so increased
as to become the maximum possible to be earned on the price lists.
On the employers' side the tendency will perforce always be to offer
some inducement to the men, to earn something above the minimum, in
order to expedite production and thus maintain profits.
There is little need to dilate upon the proposal for a seven-hour day,
conditional as it is upon the minimum wage being obtained. To those,
however, who would still be earning (on the price list) wages above
the minimum, it may be pointed out that this would supply the necessary
stimulus for further increases in the minimum. Reductions of hours
have always antedated increases in wages. The operation of the Eight
Hours Act will supply an instance. This present struggle for a minimum
wage is a direct outcome of that Act.
Political action must go on side by side with industrial action. Such
measures as the Mines Bill, Workmen's Compensation Acts, proposals
for nationalising the Mines, etc., demand the presence in Parliament
of men who directly represent, and are amenable to, the wishes and
instructions of the workmen. While, the eagerness of Governments,
to become a bludgeoning bully on behalf of the employers, could be
somewhat restrained by the presence of men who were prepared to act
in a courageous fashion.
-The organisation shall be called the "South Wales Miners' Industrial
Its Registered Office shall be as Conference decides.
-The organisation shall be composed of all workers engaged in, or
connected with, the mining industry.
-All power of legislation shall remain in the hands of the members,
through the lodge and the ballot vote.
-The Funds and administration of the organisation shall be centralised,
except in so far as is hereinafter provided for.
-The administration of the organisation shall be vested in the hands
of one Central Executive Council, who shall be elected annually
by ballot vote of the members. The method of election to be determined
by a conference called for that purpose.
-No agent or other permanent official of the Federation, shall be
eligible to a seat on the Executive Council.
-The President and Vice-President shall be elected by the Executive
Council, from amongst its own members. No person shall hold the
office of President for more than two years in succession.
-Executive Council Meetings shall be held every four weeks, oftener
-A Joint Delegate Conference of all the Lodges in the organization
shall be held monthly, oftener if occasion demands. Conferences
to be held alternatively at Cardiff and Swansea. (No new price lists
shall be adopted, until formally sanctioned by such Conference).
-All agents to be deemed equal in status and paid at similar rates, their
duties to be directed from Centre.
-Any agent who may be returned a member to Parliament, shall be required
to relinquish his industrial duties and position.
-No member of Parliament shall be eligible to seek for or retain
a seat on a local or National Executive Council.
-They shall attend, when requested, meetings of such executive in
an advisory capacity.
-On all proposed labour legislation Conferences shall be called to
discuss same and instruct our M.P.'s.
-Any Member of Parliament, as such under the auspices of the organisation,
shall at once vacate his seat if a ballot vote of the membership
1/- per adult member per lunar month, 8d. of which is to go direct to
Central Fund, and 4d. to be retained in the Lodge to defray Lodge
expenses, and form a local fund.
The Constitution provides
the corner-stone of the whole scheme; here is the machinery for a real
democriate [sic] organization. Let us examine the principles embodied in
-The Lodges have supreme control. -All the initiative for new proposals, policies
and tactics, remains with the Lodge. Nothing becomes law in the organisation
unless it receives the sanction of the Lodges, or a ballot vote
of the coalfield.
-The Executive becomes unofficial. -As has been shown before, democracy
becomes impossible, when officials or leaders dominate. For this
reason they are excluded from all power on the Executive, which
becomes a purely administrative body; comprised of men directly
elected by the men for that purpose.
or organisers become the servants of the men, directly under the control
of the Executive, and indirectly under the control of the men.
To illustrate the working by a given case, we will take a dispute at
a certain colliery. A seam has been opened out, and the employers
wish to have a price list fixed upon it. The men consult and decide
either to continue working it upon the basis of the minimum wage,
or draft a price list which they consider will be of advantage to
them. The Executive take up the conduct of the negotiations only
when the Lodge has failed locally, or at their request. They have
no power to vary the demands of the men. An agent is sent who will
have all information relating to this particular seam, and who will
be able to detail what conditions obtain in connection with it elsewhere.
If he is, as he should be, an expert in negotiation, he obtains the
utmost the employers are prepared to concede. If this is satisfactory
to the men, well and good, if not he reports back to the Executive,
who in conjunction with the Conference decide what action shall be
taken. Thus the workmen decide the principle, the Executive carry
it out. The agent provides information and negotiates. The Conference
finally ratifies or disapproves.
Its effect on Strikes
The effect of the Constitution would abolish sectional strikes. All
questions become, under this system, either question of principle,
which we are prepared to fight with the whole strength of our organization,
or questions which would be fought locally. We cannot afford to use
a steam hammer to crack a nut. Grievances are not questions with us
so much of numbers as of principles. It might, and probably would
be, deemed advisable to have a strike of the whole organization to
defend one man from victimisation, or an infraction of the minimum.
To-day we can see strikes caused by petty issues which in themselves
involve no question of principle, yet throw idle large numbers of
men. We must learn to conserve our strength and conduct our fights
on principles, not arithmetic. The 5% clause which now obtains is
a ridiculous absurdity.
Its effect on Solidarity
The unity of conditions that must necessarily follow, makes solidarity
a necessary sequence. The enjoyment of benefits derived from association,
makes an atmosphere in which non-unionism cannot live. All of which
means the raising the tone of the discussions in the Lodge to questions
of wide scope. A sense of responsibility, and a recognition, that
the Lodge meetings are the place where things are really done, together
with a realization of the importance of the issues involved, will
make the Lodges centres of keen and pulsating life sensitive and
responsive organs of a great organization.
It will raise the Status of the Workers
By giving them real powers in the Lodge room. It will stimulate every
available ounce of intellect to work full pressure. There the workers
will learn to legislate for themselves on matters which touch them
most closely. This will ensure the organization working all the time,
in getting the best possible obtainable conditions.
-The old policy of identity of interest between employers and
ourselves be abolished, and a policy of open hostility installed.
-No dispute shall be considered by the Executive Council until
after failure is reported by the Lodge affected.
-Lodges failing to settle disputes arising in their respective
collieries, must immediately report the same to the Secretary, together
with all information relative to the cause, and subsequent conduct
of the fight.
-The Secretary on receipt of such information, must immediately
call on the services of an Agent, the three parties to consult together,
with a view of arriving at a policy mutually agreeable.
-Failing mutual agreement on a policy, the Lodge must be allowed
to carry out their own, or the one favoured by them, until rescinded
or altered by a Conference, whose decision must be final.
-Any dispute not settled within 14 days after its report to the
Executive Council, the Council to have power to call a special conference
to deal with the same.
-Any Lodge desiring to bring any grievance before a Conference,
which has not been reported in the usual way, must first receive
the sanction of the Business Committee, who must have due regard
to its importance.
-For the purpose of giving greater strength to Lodges, they be
encouraged to join together to form Joint Committees, and to hold
-These Committees to have power to initiate and carry out any
policy within their own area, unhampered by Agent or Executive Council,
so long as they act within their own financial resources.
-Lodges should, as far as possible, discard the old method of
coming out on strike for any little minor grievance. And adopt the
more scientific weapon of the irritation strike by simply remaining
at work, reducing their output, and so contrive by their general
conduct to make the colliery unremunerative.
-Whenever it is contemplated bringing any body of men out on strike,
demands must be put forward to improve the status of each section
so brought out.
-Victimisation of all forms, whether persecuted by being prevented
from obtaining work, or prosecution in the courts, to be strenuously
resisted, even to the extent of National Action.
-That a continua[l] agitation be carried on in favour of increasing
the minimum wage, and shortening the hours of work, until we have
extracted the whole of the employers' profits.
-That our objective be, to build up an organization, that will
ultimately take over the mining industry, and carry it on in the
interests of the workers.
It will be seen that the
policy is extremely drastic and militant in its character, and it
is important that this should be so. No statement of principles, however
wide, embracing no programme however widely desired, and shrewdly
planned; no constitution, however admirable in its structure, can
be of any avail, unless the whole is quickened and animated by that,
which will give it the breath of life - a militant aggressive policy.
For this reason our examination of the policy must be minute and searching.
The main principles are as follows:
The Lodges, it will be seen, take all effective control of affairs,
as long as there is any utility in local negotiation. With such a
policy, Lodges become responsible and self reliant units, with every
stimulus to work out their own local salvation in their own way.
Centralization for Fighting
It will be noticed that all questions are ensured a rapid settlement.
So soon as the Lodge finds itself at the end its resources, the whole
fighting strength of the organisation is turned on. We thus reverse
the present order of things, where in the main, we centralize our
negotiations and sectionalize our fighting.
The use of the Irritation Strike
Pending the publication of a pamphlet, which will deal in a comprehensive
and orderly way, with different methods and ways of striking, the
following brief explanation must suffice. The Irritation Strike depends
for its successful adoption, on the men holding clearly the point
of view, that their interests and the employers['] are necessarily hostile.
Further that the employer is vulnerable only in one place, his profits!
Therefore if the men wish to bring effective pressure to bear, they
must use methods which tend to reduce profits. One way of doing this
is to decrease production, while continuing at work. Quite a number
of instances where this method has been successfully adopted in South
Wales could be adduced. The following will serve as an example:-
At a certain colliery some years ago, the management desired to introduce
the use of screens for checking small coal. The men who were paid
through and through for coal getting, e.g. for large and small coal
in gross, objected, as they saw in this, the thin end of the wedge,
of a move to reduce their earnings. The management persisted, and
the men, instead of coming out on strike, reduced their output by
half. Instead of sending four trams of coal from a stall, two only
were filled and so on. The management thus saw its output cut in half,
while its running expenses remained the same. A few days experience
of a profitable industry turned into a losing one, ended in the men
winning hands down. Plenty of other instances will occur to the reader,
who will readily see, that production cannot be maintained at a high
pressure without the willing cooperation of the workmen, so soon as
they withdraw this willingness and show their discontent in a practical
fashion, the wheels begin to creak. And only when the employer pours
out the oil of his loving kindness, by removing the grievance, does
the machinery begin to work smoothly again. This method is useless
for the establishment of general principles over the whole industry,
but can be used, like the policeman's club, to bring individual employers
Joint Action by Lodges
The tendency of large meetings is always towards purity of tone and
breadth of outlook. The reactionary cuts a poor figure under such
circumstances, however successful he may be, when surrounded in his
own circle by a special clique.
Unifying the men by unifying demands.
It is intolerable that we should ask men to strike and suffer, if
nothing is coming to them when they have helped to win the battle.
We have seen many fights in this coalfield, in which all sections
of underground workmen were engaged, but only to benefit one section,
i.e. on a haulier's or collier's question. We must economize our
strength, and see to it that every man who takes part in a fight,
receives something, either in improved conditions or wages as his
share of the victory.
The Elimination of the Employer
This can only be obtained gradually and in one way. We cannot get
rid of employers and slave-driving in the mining industry, until all
other industries have organized for, and progressed towards the same
objective. Their rate of progress conditions ours, all we can do is
set an example and the pace.
Nationalization of Mines.
Does not lead in this direction, but simply makes a National Trust,
with all the force of the Government behind it, whose one concern
will be, to see that the industry is run in such a way, as to pay
the interest on the bonds, with which the Coalowners are paid out,
and to extract as much more profit as possible, in order to relieve
the taxation of other landlords and capitalists.
Our only concern is to see to it, that those who create the value
receive it. And if by the force of a more perfect organization and
more militant policy, we reduce profits, we shall at the same time
tend to eliminate the shareholders who own the coalfield. As they
feel the increasing pressure we shall be bringing on their profits,
they will loudly cry for Nationalization. We shall and must strenuously
oppose this in our own interests, and in the interests of our objective.
Industrial Democracy the objective
Today the shareholders own and rule the coalfields. They own and rule
them mainly through paid officials. The men who work in the mine are
surely as competent to elect these, as shareholders who may never
have seen a colliery. To have a vote in determining who shall be your
fireman, manager, inspector, etc., is to have a vote in determining
the conditions which shall rule your working life. On that vote will
depend in a large measure your safety of life and limb, of your freedom
from oppression by petty bosses, and would give you an intelligent
interest in, and control over your conditions of work. To vote for
a man to represent you in Parliament, to make rules for, and assist
in appointing officials to rule you, is a different proposition altogether.
Our objective begins to take shape before your eyes. Every industry
thoroughly organized, in the first place, to fight, to gain control
of, and then to administer, that industry. The co-ordination of all
industries on a Central Production Board, who, with a statistical
department to ascertain the needs of the people, will issue its demands
on the different departments of industry, leaving to the men themselves
to determine under what conditions and how, the work shall be done.
This would mean real democracy in real life, making for real manhood
and womanhood. Any other form of democracy is a delusion and a snare.
Every fight for, and victory won by the men, will inevitably assist
them in arriving at a clearer conception of the responsibilities and
duties before them. It will also assist them to see, that so long
as Shareholders are permitted to continue their ownership, or the
State administers on behalf of the Shareholders, slavery and oppression
are bound to be the rule in industry. And with this realization, the
age-long oppression of Labour will draw to its end. The weary sigh
of the overdriven slave, pitilessly exploited and regarded as an animated
tool or beast of burden: the mediaeval serf fast bound to the soil,
and life-long prisoner on his lord's domain, subject to all the caprices
of his lord's lust or anger: the modern wageslave, with nothing but
his labour to sell, selling that, with his manhood as a wrapper, in
the world's market place for a mess of pottage: these three phases
of slavery, each in their turn inevitable and unavoidable, will have
exhausted the possibilities of slavery, and mankind shall at last
have leisure and inclination to really live as men, and not as the
beasts which perish.
If these proposals meet with your approval, move the following resolution
in your Lodge, to be sent on to District Meeting and Executive Council:
That this, the................... Lodge of the ....................................
is in favour of the draft scheme as contained in this pamphlet, *with
the following exceptions:-
and urges its immediate adoption by the Federation.
Signed on behalf of the above Lodge,
*If the scheme is approved as a whole, strike out these words, otherwise
mention clauses objected to, as thus, Preamble Clause II., Constitution
Clauses, III., V. and VII., etc.
Secretary of Reform Committee W. H. MAINWARING, 3, Llwyncelyn, Clydach
Vale, Rhondda, to whom also applications for Speakers, to further
explain these proposals, should be sent. Such Speakers would attend
for out-of-pocket expenses.