5 AUGUST 1916, Page 6


THE Demobilization Committee of the Social Welfare Association for London are to be congratulated on the Memorandum they have drawn up on the reinstatement in civil employment of demobilized sailors, soldiers, and munition workers. As they point out, the problem is not merely to find work at the end of the war for three or four million soldiers and sailors, but to provide for some two million muni- tion workers as well. The latter include large numbers of women and boys and girls. Whether the end of the war be distant or near, we must not fail to be ready with a scheme. Otherwise the two streams of the returning fighters and of the outgoing workers who have been doing the temporary work required by the war will collide. There must be some controlling influence to prevent a riot of disorder—something comparable, on a higher scale, to the action of the police who form crowds into queues and keep streams of traffic in separate channels. Our plans must be laid as though the war might end at any moment. We must on no account be caught asleep. On the other hand, we should be just as careful to lay foundations for the rescue of our industries on the assumption that the war may still last several years. We must be prepared for anything and everything. After stating the broad nature of the problem, the Memorandum goes on to lay it down that the process of reinstatement, to be successful, must be carried out by Capital and Labour acting in partnership under the authority of the Government ; that no existing body, official or voluntary, can deal with the problem ; and that therefore the responsibility should be placed on a Central Committee, appointed not by any single Government Department, but by the Government as a whole, and instructed to work through local administrative Com- mittees in all the local government areas. The aim of a Local Committee should be not merely to register names, but to put the sailor or soldier in touch with " friendly advisers " who will make it their care to restore him to his position as a productive member of the community. It is suggested that the Central Committee might be constituted as follows :- " Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen (one an employer chosen by the employers on the Committee, the other a representative of Labour chosen by the Labour men); five representative employers of labour (to include two business men of wide commercial experience); five representative Trade Unionists; two experts in municipal govern- ment ; two experts in social work ; two Colonial representatives; two representatives of voluntary societies procuring employment for ex-sailors and soldiers ; two representatives of women's employment ; one representative of juvenile employment ; representatives of the Admiralty, War Office, Board of Trade, Board of Agriculture, Board of Education, and Local Government Board."

The Local Committees would be appointed by the local authorities in accordance with the general ideas of the Central Committee. It is suggested that the following should in any case be included in the membership : employers of labour and Labour representatives, and representatives of the Territorial Force Association, of the local Labour Exchange, and of any local Regimental Association and any approved Military Employment Agencies. The Local Committees would of course work in close co-operation with the Labour Exchanges. The Central Committee would endeavour to procure the co-operation of Employers' Associations and Trade Unions, with the aid of the Government if necessary, in defining the broad principles determining wages and condi- tions of employment. Finally, it would be desirable to co- ordinate the work of the Local Committees with that of the War Pensions and Disablement and other existing Com- mittees by the institution of a Council of representatives of all approved bodies, official, industrial, and philanthropic, working in the area.

This broad scheme inspires our confidence because it is conceived in the right spirit ; it is practical and humane, and it has no absurdities of rigidity and dogmatism. The scheme has been drafted by men who are blown to understand the crotchets and the prejudices as well as the great qualities of our soldiers and sailors. If the interest and responsibility of a particular Government Department require to be empha- sized, no one could be in doubt in naming the War Office as the Department most intimately concerned in this business of reinstatement. It is a comfort to reflect that at the War Office there is a man who is exceptionally well fitted to deal with soldiers returning to civil life ; one who has already proved in this war that he has common-sense and an instinctive understanding of the working of the typical British mind ; one, moreover, who comes from a great industrial county, and has made a point of associating himself with the thoughts and habits and perplexities of that county. We mean the Under-Secretary for War, Lord Derby. We only hope that he may be free to serve the War Office when the time for the great industrial reconstruction comes. Lord Derby's mana,gement of the transition from voluntary to compulsory military service was a feat. He seemed to divine at every stage exactly how much he could expect to accomplish during the next few days. He never rode his horse too hard ; he never hurt its mouth, even when it shied, as of course it did rather violently now and again. The result was that he brought his animal safely into its stable, cooler and more unflustered, after a very difficult ride across country, than when he got on to its back. It is not necessary to perceive in this achievement a work of genius. We do not read it in that way. What we see is a good, sympathetic understanding of plain men's doubts and anxieties and difficulties. Surely the same sort of honest and simple control is precisely what will be wanted in the industrial reconstruction after the war. We think of Lord Derby as a leader in the coming movement for three reasons—first, because of the confidence he inspired by his recruiting schemes ; secondly, because at the War Office he is daily adding to his already considerable knowledge of what kind of man the soldier is ; and thirdly, because in his public speeches he has already shown his deep personal concern for the future of the disbanded Armies.

The ideas we have outlined above represent a British way of dealing with a tangled but intensely human problem. Others no doubt would prefer some more cut-and-driecl, less flexible, more authoritarian, and more Teutonic plan. Probably various plans will be unfolded. At the moment we need treat of only one which has come under our notice. It is contained in a Fabian tract entitled Industrial Conditions after the War : the Place of the Labour Exchange (Liverpool Fabian Society, Id.). The Collectivist authors seem to think that the millions• of soldiers who have submitted themselves to military authority for a period in order to fight for civilization, liberty, and all the amenities, graces, and fair things of life will wish to continue after the war under an authority different in form but every bit as strict and peremptory. We can assure them that they are wrong. The Englishman, Scotsman, Irish- man, or Welshman accepts discipline for an exceptional reason. He will not accept it as a desirable thing for its own sweet sake. In spite of the imperishable glory which his uniform has brought to him, the soldier at the front desires nothing more than to discard it and sings :- "When I put on civilian clothes

How happy I shall be I"

In other words, he wants to return to his own individual life, his own fustian (if such was what he wore) • he wants to merge himself again in the crowd, and go his own way un- hindered and uncontrolled, and make his own choice of good and evil. Do the authoritarian Collectivists understand this plain fact ! Let the authors speak for themselves and betray the habit of their thought. After complaining that skilled workers were mistakenly sent to the front and then had to be recalled to their original work for the good of the nation, they say t " In other cases unskilled men, who presumably were quite capable of becoming good soldiers, have been trained to do more or less skilled work in the factories." The mistakes made by the War Office in sending away men who were more urgently required at home need not be denied. But few people will fail to see sequestered in the words we have quoted that horrible idea of industrial caste. Is no skilled man needed to place his exalted intelligence at the service of his country at the front ? Is the unskilled man to be written down as the " mean man," the bottle-washer, who may be good enough to become a soldier, but is not good enough to fill a position in the snobbish industrial hierarchy conceived by authoritarian Collectivists Must he be kept in the " proper station " to which it has pleased the inventors of this ideal to call him ? The authors then display a false horror about some of the work which women have done so splendidly during the war because it is " laborious, dirty, and dangerous." No rational man wants women to do any sort of work that is so laborious as to be physically enervating or disabling, or work that is dangerous and ought to be risked only by men. But " dirty " I Is dirt necessarily degrading ? Are women not to be allowed to say for themselves how their dignity is consulted and sustained ? Can one conceive dirtier or more disagreeable or more disgusting work than much hospital routine which women—many of them totally unaccustomed to it—have been performing to the admiration of the world and their own undying credit ? This is the proper and most glorious work of women, however " dirty " it may be. Fortunately, women will still want to wade through oceans of dirt if so be they can render services which no hands can perform so quickly, so efficiently, and, if need be, so tenderly as theirs.

These are only illustrations of a state of mind. The main purpose of the pamphlet is to insist that the one authority for the reinstatement of the demobilized soldiers should be the Labour Exchanges. The Trade Unions are to work hand in glove with the Labour Exchanges, using them as their sole agency. This co-operation would be exacted by statute. Employers would be compelled to make known all their vacancies to the Exchanges, and the " corollary " to this " statutory notification " would be that unemployed persons should be " debarred from accepting employment except through official channels." What a new and ingenious tyranny—the oldest sort of tyranny committed the newest kind of way I Really a cynical person who wanted to ruin Trade Unionism—which we do not—could not do better than work heart and soul for the creation of this appalling oppres- sion. It is a tempting bait to be told that by the compulsory agency of the Exchanges we should know continually the exact state of the labour market and the number of genuine unemployed. That- would- be in itself a great advantage. But no statistical advantage could compensate for the galling bondage of the human being. A special bait for the work- man himself is the dazzling vision of a standard rate of wages. But in vain is the snare set in the sight of any bird. No wild canary would choose to live in a cage even if it knew that the cage would be stuffed full of groundsel and sugar and canary- seed. It would rather starve in the forest. It might be thought that the Fabian authors would allow the Trade Unions to be . at least equal in authority with the Labour Exchanges. But no ; the Exchanges are to be top-dog, because the Trade Unions " will have their hands full in other directions "—in the restoration of " workshop practice," &c. " Workshop practice " is of course a euphemism for regu- lating the speed of the best worker to that of the worst— provided probably that the workers belong to the sacred hierarchy of " skilled workers." No one else is worth troubling about very much. The universal compulsory use of the Labour Exchanges, it is argued in a final flare of hortatory argument, would do away with the " hawking " of labour. There would be an end, we are told, " of the degrading spectacle of hiring stands." " No man," said Dr. Johnson, " is written down except by himself," and no workman can be written down with such gusto as by authoritarian Collectivists. We are unable to discover why a man who stands up and offers his labour for sale should be a more ignoble figure than the stockbroker who stands up and offers stocks and shares, or the grocer who stands up by his counter and offers tea or butter (sometimes under weight), or the bar-attendant who stands up and mixes cocktails, or the bookseller who stands up and offers Fabian tracts. But the industrial snobs of Fabian- ism, always on the look-out for offence, will have it that the labourer must be exposed to nothing that can be looked on as humiliation—except when it is inflicted, as it freely is, by Fabians themselves. The purpose of this pamphlet, however unoonscious it may be, is not to secure the welfare of the workers and make them free, happy, and self-respecting men, but to put them under the heel of an order of domineering Jacks-in-Office.