22 JANUARY 1921, Page 19


the International Labour Organiza- tion set up by Article 427 of the Treaty of Versailles are fully explained in an important new book edited by Mr. Solano. As this organization will probably have a more direct influence on the well-being of industrial workers than the League of Nations itself, its methods deserve serious attention. The book consists of a series of essays by authoritative writers. Mr. Barnes leads off with a general statement of the policy, and Professor Shotwell, of Columbia, explains the significance of the new organization in contrast with the various Socialist and revolutionary " Internationals." Mr. W. A. Appleton, on the other hand, commends the International Federation of Trade Unions as an independent and cautious body which may render valuable assistance to the Governments in their new course. Mr. Minoru Oka and M. Vandervelde follow with chapters on Labour problems in Belgium and Japan respec- tively. Miss Sophie Sanger, who has studied the subject for years, defines the practical problems to be faced. M. Fontaine reviews the progress made before the war. Mr. H. B. Butler describes the work of the Washington Labour Conference of last year. Finally, M. Albert Thomas, the Director of the International Labour Office, explains how his bureau at Geneva means to set about its work. The appendices contain the `Labour as an International Problem. Bdited by E. Jobe Solano. London: [186. seta draft conventions adopted at Washington and, more recently, at Genoa for ratification by the member-States, which include Germany and Austria but do not include the United States or Russia.

The general idea of the International Labour Organization is to level up the conditions of labour in all countries, and thus not only to benefit the industrial workers, but also to eliminate very grave causes of international disputes. It is obvious that a highly developed industrial State like ours, where almost every- thing possible is done for the health and comfort of the workman, may well resent the competition of backward communities whose manufacturers can produce more cheaply because they underpay and overwork their employees. Such resentment often finds expression in protective tariffs which are a source of international quarrels. Moreover, industrial reform is prejudiced and hampered by the fact that it imposes disabilities, real or apparent, on those who practice it most faithfully. Before the war there was no remedy for these disadvantages, except in occasional conferences which might or might not agree upon uniform measures to be adopted by all the States represented. The Allies at Paris thought that a better way might be found through a permanent body representing all nations. This Organization consists of the Office or secretariat conducted by M. Thomas, and of a Conference meeting yearly or more often. Professor Shotwell gives the British Labour Delegation at Paris the credit of suggesting this plan, and also of supplying the details. Now the Conference is not merely composed of Government officials from the various nations. Two of the four delegates from each country, it is true, are officials ; but the other two are to be a representative of the employers and a representative of the workmen, selected in agreement with the industrial associations. Similarly, the Governing Body, which, like the Council of the League of Nations, will meet at frequent intervals, is to comprise twelve officials—eight for the chief industrial States and four for the smaller States—and twelve non-officials ; and these twelve non-officials—six of them representing employers, and six workmen—are to be elected by the employers' and workmen's representatives at a Conference. The result is that the Labour Conference is not likely to become a mere official gathering. The delegates are not required to vote by nations, but may vote as individuals. Mr. Barnes predicts that the workers' delegates, acting together, will often exert a decisive influence at a Conference, and this seems to have been the case at Washing- ton and, still more clearly, at Genoa, where the conditions of seamen's labour were specially considered. The Labour Con- ference promises to become a very potent instrument for effecting social reforms, because projects to which it agrees by a two- thirds majority must be submitted to the Parliament of each country within a year or at most eighteen months. The trade unions in each country will see that such Bills are not quietly droPPed- The Washington Conference of 1919, it may be recalled, agreed upon a draft convention for enforcing by law the eight- hour day and the forty-eight-hour week, with exceptions for India, Japan, and other Eastern countries. It also adopted a convention regarding unemployment, by which each member- State is to set up free labour exchanges and to collect informa- tion about the unemployed ; the Conference recommended, but did not insist, that each State should establish a system of unemployment insurance. Further, the Conference accepted valuable draft conventions restricting the employment of women before and after child-birth and forbidding the employ- ment of women or young persons in factories at night, and prohibiting the employment of children under fourteen in mines or factories, except in India and Japan. If we compare the results of the Washington Conference with the very small outcome of international labour legislation conferences before the war—which yielded only agreements to restrict women's employment at night in factories and to prohibit the use of white phosphorus in match-making—we shall sec that this new international agency has immense possibilities. In all the countries represented at Washington, the Parliaments will now have to consider Bills for enforcing the draft conventions on the vital topics enumerated, and good cause will have to be shown if these Bills are delayed or rejected. The secretariat under M. Thomas will of course keep a watchful eye on the progress of the required legislation, and the States which fail to fulfil their implied obligations will have to face much criticism. Provided that the Conferences do not want to go too fast and

too far, it seems to us that they will serve a most useful purpose in spurring on the laggard nations and keeping the advanced nations up to the mark. The old bogy of foreign competition by sweated labour will gradually fade away if the International Labour Organization fulfils its purpose, and international trade will benefit by the increased prosperity of foreign working people.