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INDUSTRIAL AND ECONOMIC PROBLEMS
Introductory Statement by the Chairman of the Division, Mrs. Florence Kelley, General Secretary, National Consumers' League, New York
The Division on Industrial and Ecoomic Problems based its program for the evening session on the service that the Conference can render by concentrating public attention on three great, persistent causes of poverty. These are (a) race prejudice, which closes many avenues to prosperity to masses of Negroes; (b) our crude form of land tenure, which gives rise to the debtor farmer, the tenant farmer and the farm laborer; and (c) the irresponsible organization of our great industries, which produces, inevitably and wholesale, underpaid, underfed, undereducated men, women and children, citizens of our Republic.
The speakers who presented these subjects—Mr. Ratcliffe outlining the inspiring program of the British Labor Movement, Mr. Weldon Johnson depicting the Changing Status of Negro Labor, and Professor Elwood Mead, of the University of California, dealing with land tenure —pointed each in his own field a road to liberty.
All the section meetings and several adjourned sessions of the business meeting dealt with practical relations of these three causes of poverty to the activities of social workers.
It is the conviction of the chairman of the Division on Industrial and Economic Problems that a continuing, unified policy of the Division, in the present crisis, may greatly help to a peaceful, lasting, and beneficent reconstruction. Without prompt and effective changes in our laws and usages in these three fields, permanent peace within our own borders is inconceivable. The world can never be safe for democracy while millions of Negroes, with farmers and laborers of both races, are objects of study and of solicitude, when they should instead be organized agents actively participating in the conduct of the political and industrial life of the United States.
THE BRITISH LABOR PARTY; ITS PROGRAM AND AIMS
S. K. Ratcliffe, Special Correspondent in America of the London Daily
An eminent American citizen said to me a short time ago, "It is the by-products of this war that are so amazing and in some ways so encouraging." The truth of this remark is illustrated in a striking manner by what has happened in England since 1914. The social and economic transformation brought about by the organization for war has been accompanied by a vast amount of forward thinking and by preparation for the new England that is to come with the peace. The work of national organization had not been going on for many months when reconstruction became the word of the hour. The work of the new and extended government departments to which so much power had been given, was not for the war emergency alone: it became more and more systematically directed toward the tasks and needs of the future. And war, we recognized, made the swiftest kind of movement possible.
Under the urgent demand of the nation in peril, a great many unexpected and revolutionary changes were accomplished. The fact that a thing had not been done before was no reason for its not being tried in war time. We were conscious of the obstacles under normal conditions, the difficulty of overcoming objections because reforms would be disturbing or costly. The war brought a wonderful revelation of what could be done under stress by the power of a common thought, emotion, and will. It brought, moreover, a revelation as to the use of public funds. If a thing was needed, if it was good, it could be obtained; and in the running of a modern war nobody is satisfied with makeshifts of the second-best. War demands the best possible product, at whatever cost. If, then, people began to ask, all these marvelous things can be done in the organization of destruction, why not for peace and for life?
Hence all parties and public agencies found themselves, while concentrating upon the urgent work of the moment for the war, doing it with an eye to the permanent values. The special training of workers in new directions was not for war only. The public control of industry and supplies was not for war only. The housing of war workers near shipyards and munitions towns was undertaken on a permanent plan. Mr. Fisher's education bill, framed during the third year of the war, is designed to meet the need of the generation still in infancy. Discussions of self-governing schemes in industry go forward along with the continually expanding state power. A Ministry of Reconstruction is engaged in co-ordinating all the various agencies that have come into existence within and without the government departments.
Inevitably this immense development has brought with it a new relation between government, capital, and labor, for England is now a country in which industry and commerce are almost completely controlled by the state. How, then, does organized labor stand toward the war government? There has been in America a great deal of misunderstanding on this subject. Since 1914 the labor forces in England have stood with the government in the carrying out of the war policy. A majority vote determined the position of the labor party in Parliament. The minority, a strong and compact body led by Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden, and others, has maintained a critical attitude in relation to the military and diplomatic policy; but in the English labor movement there has never existed a peace-at-any-price party. The minority leaders and the rank and file stand upon the formula of restitution and reparation; they have accepted the inter-allied statement of war aims, and have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Wilson policy. Where they have differed from the majority has been upon the question of a negotiated peace; but it needs to be said that, upon all the fundamental issues of the war, British labor is completely united.
The past year has seen a remarkable increase in the strength and influence of the labor party. Its power has grown through many influences, chiefly, of course, through the concentrated education of war time. We cannot, for instance, underestimate the effect of war profiteering upon the mind of the nation, on the complete results of the system of industrial conscription introduced by the Munitions Act. And since last summer there has been the widely educative effect of the discussions over the holding of an international labor and socialist conference at Stockholm. It will be remembered that after the Russian Revolution Arthur Henderson, the labor member of the War Cabinet, was sent to Russia as special envoy and that he returned in August convinced that the Stockholm conference ought to be held. The labor party supported him by an overwhelming vote, but his colleagues of the War Cabinet were hostile and Henderson left the government. At the moment this had the appearance of a severe defeat for the labor party and its leader; but events showed that it was far otherwise. The strength of labor was increasing rapidly.
No sooner was Henderson free from office than he set to work with his friends upon the task of framing a new constitution for the party and a declaration of war and peace aims. By the beginning of this year the whole scheme was ready. The revised constitution made room in the labor party for a membership representing all workers by hand or by brain. The memorandum on war aims endorsed by Lloyd George for the war government was identical in all essentials with the statement afterwards adopted by the Inter-Allied Labor Conference and with the aims stated by President Wilson. The party set to work upon its list of parliamentary candidates, making ready to contest some 300 or 400 seats at the next general election, when six millions of women will be entitled to vote. And, in addition, a pamphlet on Labor and the New Social Order is being made the basis of a nation-wide movement of education in advance of the general election.
In this notable manifesto, an eloquent document now being extensively studied in America, the structure of the future society is said to rest upon four pillars:
1. The establishment of the national minimum.
2. Self-government in industry.
3. A revolution in national finance.
4. The surplus wealth for the common good.
This is a program which will seem Utopian to many progressives, and Utopian of course it is. But the presence of war conditions has already carried England some distance along the road indicated. And it should be borne in mind that even if the labor party's program prove impracticable or unacceptable, England is destined to great changes. After the war the competition will be, not between reconstruction and inaction, but between rival schemes of reconstruction.
Two questions, among many others, are constantly asked by interested Americans. The first is, What danger is there of revolutionary Bolshevism in England? The answer is: None, if the problems of tomorrow are sincerely and intelligently met. The British labor movement has always been remarkably steady and responsible. The second question is, What of labor leadership, and the chance of labor being called upon in the near future to form a government? The answer to that challenging question is that the labor party has had many years of parliamentary and general political experience. It has a notably clean record; no graft scandals have stained it. And the developments of these years have brought great opportunities for the production of capable leadership. Its day of power and responsibility may not be distant. And in the meantime there is no room for doubt that the experience of the war has tended to create in England a far more intelligent and purposeful democracy than we have had hitherto.
THE TENANT FARMER AND LAND MONOPOLY
Elwood Mead, Professor of Rural Institutions, University of California,
A discussion of farm tenantry a few years ago would have aroused little interest. The program for its removal would have had few followers. Renting land was regarded as a stepping stone to owning land. Tenantry was looked upon as a temporary incident in a man's progress. There was free public land to be had for the asking. The great extent of the nation's resources made us careless of its disposal and of the conditions which might arise when free land was gone. Besides, this was a nation where every man looked out for himself. Community problems were ignored.
Today we face a different situation. The problems of agriculture and its importance have changed in recent years. We are thinking now of what democracy means. We are learning that men cannot do as they please, because their actions affect the welfare of their neighbors. We are learning that the Government can be made, and ought to be made, a greater instrument for serving the common welfare. This new idealism needs to take definite form and to be moulded into institutions and laws if this thoughtful and humane spirit is to be permanent.
Planning Rural Development
One of the things needed is a planned rural development. There are many things in country life that need to be eliminated, and some that ought to be created. Among those that ought to be abolished are land monopoly and farm tenantry. Among those that need to be created is a sentiment which distinguishes between home owning and land owning that will make men buy farms, not as a speculation, not to sell again as soon as there is an increase in price, but to buy farms as a place to live, to follow a vocation, to rear families, and to create homes for their children and their children's children.
In this country conditions which control the comfort and satisfaction of rural life change faster than men's ideas and understanding. When we had a great surplus of land everybody believed that the area a man owned was of no importance, that the earth was for those who were shrewd and strong enough to hold it and take it, and so the nation sold land and gave away land, and a very small fraction of the nation secured the ownership of all the soil. Now we are beginning to believe vaguely and uncertainly that the men who cultivate the soil ought to own it; that the men who do not live in the country ought not to control the conditions of those who do live there, and that those who do till the soil should not be made to pay tribute to anyone for this privilege. This new idea of land tenure and of rural democracy is beginning to prevail in a country where one-fourth of the land is owned by less than one-half per cent of the population; where over two hundred million acres is owned in tracts of over four thousand acres. With such ownership increase in tenantry is inevitable, and instead of being a nation of land owners we are a country in which four out of every ten are renters, and with the percentage of tenantry steadily and rapidly increasing.
In recent years tenantry is increasing because privately owned land has risen so rapidly in price that men with small capital are unable to buy, and this is making tenantry a permanent condition. The purchase of high-priced land is made difficult because this nation has done nothing in the way of Government aid and direction to assist and encourage the purchase of farms by men who have industry and thrift and but little else. Nearly all the foremost nations of the world, outside of this country, have