20 NOVEMBER 1926, Page 4

Disarmament in Industry

INDUSTRY is in just as much need of disarmament as the rest of the world. It is a strange fact that those members of the minority movement in industrial politics who day in and day out foment class warfare are professed pacifists in international relation- ships. Why they should preach in one sphere What they denounce in another is a mystery which perhaps they themselves can explain, but certainly no one else can. Now that the most ruinous strike in the history of British industry has virtually come to an end, we must nurse our wounds and learn, if we can, how to -.avoid such insane warfare for the future. We say " virtually ended " because, although we write before a formal end has been reached, the dispute, whatever happens, cannot be carried on very long. If the Miners' Federation does not accept the Government's terms, the men will return to work in any case, getting the best conditions they can through their district associations.

Warfare like that which has been waged in Great Britain for nearly seven months is ruinous to every class and interest ; it is useless to talk of winners or losers when everybody is a loser. Some valuable attempts to estimate the loss have been made during the past few days, and it will be helpful to glance at one of these, as it is only by a profound recognition of the folly which has been committed that we can hope for wiser methods in future. One of the most surprising facts about the coal stoppage has been the manner in which the nation has managed to carry on with very few outward signs of paralysis or want. But though this must be mentioned as an introductory note to any estimate of loss, and must be recorded with gratitude, the harm which has been done directly and indirectly has none the less been appalling. In his very temperate article in the 1Vestminster Gazette of Monday, Professor A. L. Bowley remarked that the great powers of resistance and recuperation shown by the national organism cannot disguise the lamentable truth. He estimates that the direct loss to industry caused by the coal stoppage, apart from that of the mines themselves, was about £70,000,000 in six months. The loss to the mines for the six months was about £96,000,000. The loss to the shipping industry, owing to ships having to sail with ballast instead of with cargoes of coal, was about £10,000,000. These are the main sums which can be directly traced, though, of course, losses great or small were caused in every industry in the land. A very large part of this burden, as Professor Bowley points out, is borne by the miners themselves. They have squandered their savings, obtained credit as far as possible, and have as a result lowered their standard of living. That is what always happens at the end of a big industrial dispute. Industry in general moves for some time afterwards on a lower level.

We have chosen Professor Bowley's estimate for mention partly because it comes with great authority and partly because" it is the most consoling we have read. Others would put the bill much higher. For instance, the Home Secretary said that the coal dispute was more expensive than the South African War, and had involved the country in a loss of well over £400,000,000. Whatever the exact estimate of loss ought to be, it has all been spent for nothing—indeed? for less than nothing, since the miners could have got much better terms seven months ago.

Is it not time that Englishmen, if they wish to keep their reputation for sanity, should determine that this industrial warfare shall cease once and for all ? The wage-earners must choose between a harum-searnin minority leader like Mr. Cook and the much better balanced brains of the moderate Labour leaders who have been in control of the Trades Union Congress. What apparently stands in the way of the inauguration of a reign of good sense is the belief of the left-wing Labour leaders and their followers that to co-operate willingly with capitalists is indefinitely to postpone Socialism. There could not possibly be a greater delusion. Exactly the reverse is true, as Mr. Snowden has pointed out again and again in speeches and articles. If Socialism is to come at all, it can only be by an orderly progression of events. It cannot be introduced suddenly as a superstructure upon chaos. The more efficiently capitalism is working, the easier will it be to manage the transitional stage between the one method and the other. Yet as a preparation for something better, or at all events more to their own liking, left-wing Labour leaders have been spreading desolation throughout the land. If they had deliberately wanted to ruin the men who, with a pathetic but loyal complacency, followed their lead, they could not have had a more sinister success. There is only one comforting thought when one looks back upon these past months of humiliation —and that is that the money which has apparently been thrown away will not really have been wasted if wisdom succeeds insanity. In this happy event we must be content to add the cost of the stoppage to the subsidy paid by the Government, and say that the total amount has been spent on educating the nation. A very expensive education, certainly, but one which had to be gone through.

Mr. J. H. Thomas, speaking at Blackpool last Sunday, directed a few words to the address of the employers. " There never was a time so much as the present when the big thing ought to be done, or when employers in the districts should realize that they have a double responsibility. We shall not have industrial peace if hundreds of thousands of men go back to work feeling that they have a grievance and are not getting fair play. I believe that we can have a big thing—a big spirit on the part of big people. - That I know will be responded to by the humblest workers of the country." It is an invitation which requires prompt acceptance. Assuming good will on both sides, Mr. Thomas thought that all the signs pointed to. a trade revival.

Of this expectation, however, it is desirable to speak with a certain caution. A period- of destruction is necessarily followed by exceptional activity during the process of repairing the immediate damage and supplying the immediate wants after a long-endured scarcity.' A "fictitious boom must not: be mistaken for the real thing. After the War that mistake was notoriously made, and the subsequent collapse was felt all the more bitterly. because it was generally unexpected. With this reservation, however, we can heartily agree with Mr. Thomas that the signs are really good for a revival.: .

Now is Mr. Baldwin's opportunity. During .the stoppage he has suffered, as was inevitable, from a reflected discredit. All Governments suffer in this way more or less during a serious trade dispute. But there is every reason to believe that the nation as a whole wants as much as ever the programme of industrial conciliation and constructive co-operation which Mr. Baldwin preached to such an attentive and appreciative audience when he took office. He was welcomed as the author of a truly national programme. He need not be dispirited. If he preaches the same doctrine again will meet with the old response.

Further, we are convinced that if the wage-earners ask to be taken more into the confidence of the employers they will not be refused. The most enlightened employers will set the example, and do it gladly. All the financial cards ought to be laid upon the table. The worker should be given an opportunity of examining the profits of industry. In this way he will also learn its difficulties and its risks. By co-partnership or similar means he should be given a direct reward corresponding to his efforts. There should be an open door for merit, and the old barrier between the wage-earner and the manage- ment should be broken down. Prosperity awaits those who will grasp it, and it is prosperity alone that will engulf the destructive and barren doctrines of Mr. Cook and his like.