« AnteriorContinuar »
who will always abide at the lowest level at which life can exist. What will you do to cure this? Whatever you propose, it must mean some form of combination.'"
It is not necessary to dispute the power, or even, for certain purposes and within certain limits, the beneficence of labour combinations in order to dissent from the assumption that the lack of such combinations is the cause of the complicated and obstinate evils which are familiarly described as ‘the sweating system, or to reject the proposition that by labour combinations those evils may be destroyed. Canon Scott Holland himself hints at a more formidable fact than lack of organization as the true fons malorum—the inexorable fact of population. That fact is the rock upon which the attractive proposals of Socialism, whether Christian or not, are invariably wrecked. Labour combinations extended to the utmost could only present the same portentous problem in a slightly different form. By rigorously prohibiting work to all non-Unionists, they could define the area of incompetence, and hand over the incompetent to be maintained, or executed, by the State. But they could not stay the causes which create incompetence. Over-population—the tendency inseparable from human progress for the race to multiply beyond its means of subsistence—unites with moral and physical deterioration to create the social problem. Canon Scott Holland will certainly not deny that there are moral as well as economic elements in the sum of circumstances through which the social quagmire engulphs thousands of men, who, but for conditions created by their own characters, might have held their place in the ranks of society. Trade organizations can no more provide work than labour combinations can deal with the idler, the drunkard, the thriftless, and the lawless. Let exclusion from the Trade Unions mean exclusion from all means of subsistence save those of the workhouse and the gaol, and what them? The burdens of society are not removed, but slightly redistributed. In effect, what will have been gained 2 The skilled, temperate, industrious workman will be secured in his position, so long as there is demand for his work, but that is substantially his case now. In the future, as in the present, the unfit, guiltless or guilty, will suffer, whether in the poverty-stricken haunts of the “sweated,’ or in the prisons of the State.
Labour combinations, moreover, have dangers of their own which may well make the reflective citizen pause before he assists in extending their range and power. It may be true that membership in a ‘new Union’ confers what may be called ‘economic liberty’ upon the individual workman. He is enabled to make terms with his employer which, standing alone, he might not have been able to insist upon. It is, however, not less true that this “economic liberty’ will be purchased by a considerable forfeiture of civic freedom. The ‘new Unionism ' does not confine itself to the negotiations of the labour market. It professes to be a religion, and claims on that score to direct the entire life of its votaries. Of course, where it is really this to any man, it compensates for the violence by providing the consolations of fanaticism; but otherwise, it is an onerous and pervading tyranny: and this is the common case. The admitted difficulty of holding the Unions together in time of economic peace very largely springs from the resentment with which the best, because the most independent and intelligent, of their members regard their irritating and arbitrary interferences in the ordinary concerns of civic life. It is difficult to over-estimate the mischief thus inflicted on society. The educating influence of local politics is destroyed when all elections are treated, as it is the avowed purpose of the Labour leaders to treat them, as mere elements in a wider political contest, Civic harmony, which is the natural result of neighbourhood, is rendered impossible when the kindly influences of neighbourhood—mutual knowledge, common interest, sympathy, agreements in taste, in opinion, in religion—are set aside for the requirements of some central and alien body, which issues mandates not less contemptuous of local needs, and even more regardless of personal inclinations than those of an Oriental despot. Those who know the working classes well know also that the principal affliction of their lot is not the insufficiency of their wages, but the insecurity of their tenure of work. A great and, it would appear, an increasing proportion of artisans is continually shifting from place to place as the stream of work requires. Thus they are never able to form the ties of normal citizenship. This inability is more severely felt wherever the workman is gifted with the civic temper. Fixity of tenure in the matter of employment, far more than increase of wages, is the real want of great sections of English working men; and the new Unionism is, in reference to this, in direct opposition to their interests. The Unions desire to have their members so completely under control, that at very short notice they can organize pressure upon employers: it is their policy, as fighting organizations, to have their forces ready for action. Thus they regard with marked disfavour schemes for lengthening contracts, which would tend to remove the workman from under their control, but would contribute far more stability to his position. Apart from this grave divergence of interest, the new Unionism is committed to methods of warfare which hardly commend themselves to the approval of reflective citizens. Boycotting is not the exception, but the rule. It is used vindictively when the battle is over, as well as during the progress of the fighting. In districts where the bulk of the population consists of working men the pressure which can thus be brought to bear upon shopkeepers is indeed cruel. A direct result of the dominance of the new Unionism is civic hypocrisy. We notice with regret that Canon Scott Holland permits himself to use the odious term ‘black-leg, applied by the trade-unionists to those fellow-workmen who, often for the most excellent and honourable reasons, decline to accept the control of the Labour leaders. Boycotting, indeed, may be said to be recognized, though it is not practised, by one branch of the Christian Social Union. The Oxford University Branch, of which Canon Scott Holland is President, and Mr. Gore one of the Vice-Presidents, endeavoured to provide “for the use of members’ a ‘list of Oxford tradesmen who not only keep the laws affecting the comfort and welfare of the working people, but also recognize the reasonable rules of the Trade Unions.’” The reference to the trade-unions was originally more direct, their rules being proposed, without the saving condition of reasonableness, as equally binding with the law upon the tradesmen of the University city. The proposition, even in its mitigated form, was sufficiently monstrous. Our principal objection, however, lies against the implied sanction of boycotting. We have no doubt that the members of the Union repudiate boycotting; indeed, Leaflet No. 11 warns us that ‘black-listing' is ‘a more than doubtful method.” But the experience of Ireland has established the practical identity of ‘white-listing' and ‘black-listing.’ It equally brings unfair pressure upon the individual, whether he is proclaimed a scoundrel or excluded from the authorized list of homest men. No ill-consequences followed the boycotting procedure we have censured; because, as we understand, the preparation of the proposed “white-list’ was abandoned as impracticable, owing to the difficulty of procuring reliable information. But one thing is plain. The principle thus affirmed by the Christian Social Union is capable of very wide application, and has before now produced results which no Christian man can contemplate without abhorrence. The abandoned rule of the Oxford Branch originates in a disposition, apparent in all the publications of the Union, to magnify unduly the power of circumstance. Even the Bishop of Durham, whose moderation is in marked contrast with the tone of several members of the society over which he presides, seems to speak of circumstance in terms which hardly match with the tradition of a Church which has canonized the Martyrs. He seems to assert that there are social surroundings which make Christian discipleship impossible:—
* “Economic Review,’ vol. ii. No. 4, p. 451. assists
* Christian Social Union. Oxford University Branch. Memoranda. results * “Incarnation and Common Life,' pp. 67-8. to * The Social Doctrine of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 12. t ‘Incarnation and Common Life, p. 59.
‘I do not suppose that material improvements can regenerate men, or that outward well-being can satisfy them. . . . I do say that certain outward conditions must be satisfied before a true life can be enjoyed; that our life is one and that each part affects the whole; that if the conditions of labour for the young are such as to tend necessarily to destroy the effects of a brief and crowded education, if the energies of men are exhausted by a precarious struggle for food and shelter, if there is no quiet leisure for thought, if the near future is clouded as often as thought is turned to it, it is vain to look for a tital welcome of the Faith which deals with the Future through the present, and claims the life that now is as well as that which is to come. *
Certainly, if this were the case, there would be no need to discuss the inability of the Church to “reach the masses.’ The multitude live, and have always lived, ‘from hand to mouth’: their future is ever ‘clouded' by the uncertainty of provision which that condition involves. It would follow from the Bishop's dictum that “a vital welcome of the Faith' is not to be looked for from most men: but against that conclusion the experience of every Christian generation cries out, and no one who has studied Dr. Westcott's writings will for a moment suppose that this is the conclusion to which he would lead us. He would be the last to encourage a belief that material poverty constitutes a hindrance to discipleship, when both the New Testament and Christian experience show that it facilitates it. But Dr. Westcott's words are certainly open to misconstruction, and his apparent meaning is expressed by lesser members of the Union in more positive language. Even Mr. Gore, whom we have ventured to call the philosopher of the Christian Socialist movement, declares that “every Christian ought to be able to claim... a real opportunity of work and remuneration according to his faculties, of spiritual knowledge, of legitimate education, physical and moral’: nor is he to rest content with the bare assertion of his rights:—
‘Till this is secured in the Christian society in its completeness, and in society as a whole as far as it falls within State functions, the Christian must not rest. But that gives us a great deal to do, through Parliament, through County Councils, as also by more directly ecclesiastical methods.’”
A favourable social environment being thus connected with discipleship as scarcely, if at all, less than its necessary condition, it follows logically enough that the Church ought to devote herself with assiduity to the cause of social reform. This duty is indeed declared to rest upon the Christian as such ; but it is repeatedly asserted, and everywhere assumed, that it more directly rests upon the Christian minister. It is of some importance to appreciate the task which it is proposed to entrust to the clergy.
The Bishop of Durham declares that “the obligation of bringing the great truths of our Faith to bear on the trials and duties of every day . . . lies on the layman no less than on the clergyman’; but since the latter has “exceptional knowledge of the poor, and through that knowledge exceptional motives for endeavouring to secure them a stable and honourable position,’t he is primarily responsible. However, as nothing useful can be undertaken without ‘full knowledge of the facts, ascertained by thorough and honest inquiries, which laymen and not clergymen (for they are “already overburdened') are to undertake, it is not very evident why the Bishop should hold the clergy primarily responsible. Ultimately his Lordship exhorts them to promote mutual understanding between different classes,’ to form “little bands of Christian workers united for common service, and, if they are shareholders, to “apprehend and enforce, as far as they are able, a juster view of the obligations of shareholders.' The Bishop has more in mind than the words seem to suggest. He advises, and the counsel is the more weighty as it comes from one who has done more than any man living to promote the study of theology, that the clergy should bring to bear the results of their studies on the solution of social problems. Thus, at the Hull Church Congress, he read a paper on Socialism, in the course of which he begged the younger clergy