“Trade Unionism As I Understand It” by Joseph Labadie

Trades unionism as I understand it is a co-operative effort on the part of wage earners to better their economic conditions in a special way. It is one of the many ways pointed out by social and political economists for the betterment of the race. It is not its province to attempt to do everything that is good, any more than should one person attempt to do all the things that it is possible for one man to do. We have learned by experience that it is more economical, more effective, for each person to do one particular thing than it is for each person to do everything that is necessary to be done, if that were not possible. There was a time when almost every person was Jack of all trades and master of none, but that time has long since gone by. The division of labor has made it possible for one person to be master of one trade, or at least one branch of a trade, and the result is that the productivity of labor has increased to a wonderful degree. This specializing of efforts has taken place in almost every avenue of life, and so far has been one of the greatest actors in progress and civilization.

There is a tendency among trades unionists to fly in the face of this law of progress, and to have the trades unions take upon themselves multitudinous functions. It seems to me that a trade union should confine its efforts strictly to those things that are peculiar to the trade of which the union is formed…The failure of the K. of L. {Knights of Labor] to succeed on trade lines was largely because the members of one trade attempted to settle disputes in other trades, instead of letting each trade settle its own disputes.

Trades unions are so named because they were intended, and rightly so, to do that for the tradesman which a mixed body could not do so well, and which is peculiar to the particular trade organized. Those things which are not peculiar to any particular trades have no right to be introduced into a trade union. Hence no political or religious problem has any business in a trade union, because these are questions which affect the whole body of citizens, whether they be tradesmen or not….We must separate the trade organization from the political or the religious organization to be in harmony with the law of progress and to invite the largest degree of success.

Because this is so does not preclude workingmen from taking political action, if they so choose, but they must organize for that especial purpose. And I question the policy of organizing for political action on class lines. If the lines between the three classes of society–workingmen, beggarmen, thieves–were clearly drawn and easily recognized by the mass of the people this doubt would not exist, but it requires no argument to prove that this is not yet so…

“Uncle Sam the Real Culprit” by Joseph Labadie

I hope that it is true that the Knights of Labor had nothing to do with the brutal massacre of the Chinese in Rock Springs, Wyoming…It is my opinion that this cry against foreigners is redounding more to the benefit of the capitalist and monopolist classes than it is to the working class. If our masters can only keep up the race prejudices, and pit us against the foreigners in the scramble for the dear privilege of using Nature’s bounteous gifts, which, under existing law, are absolutely under their control, there is little fear that their unjust privileges will be questioned in such a manner as to endanger them…It is the right of every human being to live wherever he chooses on this earth. There is a good deal of nonsense in the idea that this is “our” country. Who are “we,” anyway? Are we not “foreigners,” or the direct descendants of foreigners? No more of this earth rightly belongs to any individual or set of individuals than is necessary for the maintenance of their own existence. There is room in America for a hundred times more people than are now here. But monopolists would make us believe that these poor wretches–who are brought here by themselves [the monopolists] for their own ignoble purposes, by the way–are responsible for our poverty. This is not true. No one who is willing to work and earn his own living can be the cause of another’s poverty. He who stands between the laborer and the natural means of producing wealth is the real cause of poverty. We are wont to look upon Uncle Sam as the protector of the poor, of the laborer. This is a Great Mistake. Uncle Sam is the aider and abettor of the robbery that is continuous and that keeps you and me living from hand to mouth. Does not Uncle Sam uphold landlordism in all its injustice and brutality? Does not Uncle Sam sustain a law of his own making that no individual or set of individuals shall exercise the right of issuing notes as money who has less than fifty thousand dollars? Does not Uncle Sam establish agencies all over the world that induce laborers to come here who are cheaper than those at home to work for his privileged class? Does not Uncle Sam put on a high duty to prevent you and me from buying goods wherever we can do the best, thereby forcing us to buy of his pet robbers? Uncle Sam is really at the bottom of nearly all this misery and degradation, and a great deal of t would be abolished if he would only withdraw the suppose of his big strong arm from these pickpockets…If we could only get the old man out of the way, class conflicts, race conflicts, economic injustice, and social degradation would gradually die out. This kind of talk may be treason to Uncle Sam, but it is patriotism to the human race.

“What is Socialism?” by Joseph Labadie

What is Socialism?  There have been so many definitions given of it that the minds of those who are not persistent in its study become confused, and they finally cry out in despair: “What in the world do these people want anyway?–what in the world is Socialism?”  One school calling itself Socialist wants to abolish the State, and contends that government is tyranny; another school wants the State to assume control of all the means of producing and distributing wealth and give to each according to his deeds; and still another wants all property to be common and each to receive according to his needs.  One wants cooperation by the State, another wants absolute free competition.  One wants all taxes raised on land values, and the taxes so high as to absorb rent; another wants to abolish taxes entirely, and contends that rent is robbery…

The principal source of difference between the two most conflicting schools, or in fact the two great sub-divisions of Socialists, is in the methods of reaching the greatest happiness.  The anarchists believe in absolute personal liberty and that the institutions of society should conform to the individualities of persons; and the State Socialists believe in the authority of the majority and that the individual should conform to the institutions of the State and that the State shall be an absolute democracy.  They all agree that the resources of nature–land, mines, and so forth–should not be held as private property and subject to being held by the individual for speculative purposes, that use of these things shall be the only valid title, and that each person has an equal right to the use of all these things.  They all agree that the present social system is one composed of a class of slaves and a class of masters, and that justice is impossible under such conditions.  But when the questions are asked: “How are these conditions to be changed?” and ‘What will we substitute for the present system?” their answers are as much at variance as are the forces of cohesion and repulsion…

Anarchism, as I see it, is a beautiful theory, and even if not capable of complete realization the grandest of human aspirations.  But I doubt whether man will ever be far enough removed from the tadpole to enjoy it as it is dreamed of.  I believe, though, that the Labor movement in its entirety is moving towards the ultimate of absolute, personal freedom…I hope to see the day when the right to labor will be recognized and a much larger share of the products go to the producer than now.  It is possible the powers and functions of the State will increase and methods be adopted largely influenced by the doctrines of Karl Marx and Henry George.  State authority and State control over industry are taking strong hold of the popular mind and…will possibly have to spend itself before any large number of people will seriously consider that there may be other and better ways to establish equity than by centralized authority…

Between absolute autonomy and majority rule there is no middle ground.  However much I may sympathize with those who seek to harmonize these two conflicting elements, yet reason tells me that…one or the other must be extinguished.  Sooner or later this truth will become clear to every social reformer, and the time will come when he will have to take his stand either on the one side or on the other…

There is a possibility that, as it is darkest just before dawn, the nearer we get to anarchy the more completely will the individual become the child of the State.  The State Socialist wants the land nationalized; the Anarchist wants it individualized.  The State Socialist wants money nationalized ; the Anarchist wants it individualized.  The State Socialist wants governmental co-operation; the Anarchist wants individual competition, the object in both cases being to make cost the limit of price, and, as I see it, both methods capable of accomplishing that result if only carried out consistently.  If the people can be persuaded through the State, or forced by the majority, to do those things that are best for all, there may come a time when they will do these things because it is best…may it not be possible that Anarchism will be the result of State Socialism, or, in other words, is not State Socialism only another way of reaching Anarchism?…