ANUMBER of protesting and sometimes angry letters have been received in answer to Douglas Hyde's recent article in which he argued that the industrial militancy of Mr. Cousins as leader of the great Transport and General Workers'. Union is playing into the hands of the Communists.
The point is made in various letters that now at last the leaders are expressing the real views of the rank and file and thus creating a more orderly situation than in the days when responsible and moderate leadership constantly led to unofficial strikes. Writers also blame the Government for creating inflation and adopting measures, such as the Rent Act, or the withdrawal of food subsidies, which worsen the position of the worker in the face of rising
It seems to us that any increased or undue industrial restlessness and militancy must necessarily play into the hands of Communists. Indeed, for many years the Communist policy has been deliberately to promote such restlessness for it is only in such a situation that they can hope to make any effective headway in the country. It is, the climate for which they always work, whether in this country or abroad.
One cannot, of course, argue from this fact that the Trade Union leaders must never take action which would have disturbing industrial effects in the country. Where there is plain injustice, it may well be their duty to do so.
But the fact that the Communists will thrive on these effects remains an important factor in the situation that must be considered among the relevant factors in the light of which decisions have to be made. And unless militant action is really inherently justified, the fact that it will always play into Communist hands should always be a strong deterrent against any such action.
In this country we can, thank God, take it for granted that the vast majority of even the more militant trade unionists are utterly opposed to the increase in political and industrial power of those who betrayed the workers of East Europe to Communist tyranny and recently jack-booted the workers of Hungary.
THE real question is whether the policy of a Mr. Cousins, as opposed to that of a Mr. Deakin,, is justified—for it is quite certain that if it cannot be morally justified then it must in the long run lead to disaster, not only because it will play into Communist hands, but because it will ruin the delicate national economy on which the workers are most nearly dependent for their present standard of living.
In this matter, it seems to us
that some very plain-speaking is needed, for the gist of letters received from Catholic tradeunionists suggest that even they are content today to echo the parrot-calls of blind leaders.
We may take it as basic that no Catholic, reasonably informed of the Church's social teaching, desires anything but an increasing standard of life for the working people of the country. Every wage-rise and every extra social service is, in itself, welcomed, for it is the material means for fuller and better human lives.
But it is equally true that all wage-rises for which the country and community as a whole cannot pay in anything but new paper-money is another step along the vicious circle which profits no one for long and gravely and unjustly injures very many of our neighbours. Furthermore, the later effects of such inflation are universally disastrous, not only because money becomes valueless, as happened in Germany, but because the foreign trade upon which we mostly live must depend on a sound currency.
Now the perfectly plain fact is that with full employment in
a strongly and even militantly organised industrial trade union structure, there is nothing to stop an ever-recurring use of blackmail methods to raise wages. "We most have more or we strike". The two alternatives offered are equally disastrous for the community as a whole. And, we repeat, the workers themselves will suffer most from such consequences.
It is argued that the Government has failed to keep down prices by controlling them. It is argued that the Rent Act has suddenly put a new burden on many. It is argued that the rich are doing well out of the inflation and that plenty of people are getting swollen salaries. Why should the workers alone be held down?
We do not deny that conditions all round might he made more equitable, though if we take taxation into account and compare money values today with money values before the war, the ceiling of spending power derived from income and wages is pretty low.
As for price controls and the evening-out of absurd artificialities in rents, such measures, whether right or wrong, are tiny matters compared with the figures involved in the present inflation an inflation whose very nature it is to multiply its own disastrous effects year by year until ruin faces all except the spivs in all classes. People say that the cry " Wolf I wolf I " has been heard too often to remain impressive. But it is not to what happened yesterday that we must look, but to what will happen tomorrow.
Unless we profess an economic egalitarianism, against which any successful and careermaking worker would be the first bitterly to object, we have got to accept the fact that a minority of the population will be relatively rich and that a number of jobs demand prolonged education and special qualifications consonant with very high salaries. If such salaries are not forthcoming nor will be the men to do the job, And in the complexity of modern economy there will always be abuse.
BUT the really urgent problem with which we are all faced today is not the salaries and incomes of the minority, for all these added up together make a relatively low national figure. We are faced with the many millions of pounds which, unless they are earned by more efficient work, have to be printed to meet the small demands of vast numbers of workers.
It has been established that rises granted during the last year amount to substantially more than the rise in cost of living. And had those rises been given to all the working population— and this would only have been fair, since there should be equal pay for equal work—the amount would have vastly exceeded the rise in the cost of living, though not for lone These are simply facts of life about which no government, unless it takes over dictatorial powers, can do anything.
The militancy, of which we spoke at the beginning, is really nothing more than a form of blackmail in the interests of a section of the people, a blackmail made possible by the great blessing of full employment.
There are cases, as the Government recognises, when justice demands rises in wages, but the policy of regular wage rises ahead of increases in the cost of living is, without doubt, the fatal factor in our present mounting inflation, and it is, in our view, totally unjustified.
It seems to us that Christian and Catholic trade-unionists and workers at least should take cognisance of the facts—of the facts of, life today.
The present policy of the militantly-led Trade Unions will most certainly play, into the hands of Communists, but even more important is the fact that it will lead most quickly to the ruin of the workers who so blindly acclaim the little paper rises in pay which the policy temporarily obtains.