How to Make Work for the Unemployed
How to Make Work for the Unemployed
BY JOE HILL
MUCH has been written lately about various new ways and tactics of carrying on the class struggle to emancipate the workers from wage slavery.
Some writers propose to "organize with the unemployed;" that is, to feed and house them in order to keep them from taking the jobs away from the employed workers. Others again want to organize a Gunmen Defense Fund to purchase machine guns and high powered rifles for all union men, miners especially, that they may protect themselves from the murderous onslaughts of the private armies of the master class. Very well; these tactics MAY be perfectly good, but the question arises: Who is going to pay for all this?
Estimating the unemployed army to be about five millions in number and the board bill of one individual to be five dollars a week, we find that the total board bill of the whole unemployed army would be twenty-five million dollars per week.
The price of a machine gun is about $600 and a modern high-power rifle costs from $20 to $30. By doing a little figuring we find that fifty million dollars would not be sufficient to buy arms for the miners, let alone the rest of the organized workers. Every workingman and woman knows that, after all the bills are paid on pay day. there is not much left to feed the unemployed army or to buy war supplies with.
What the working class needs today is an inexpensive method by which to fight the powerful capitalist class and they have just such a weapon in their own hands.
This weapon is without expense to the working class and if intelligently and systematically used, it will not only reduce the profits of the exploiters, but also create more work for the wage earners. If thoroughly understood and used more extensively it may entirely eliminate the unemployed army, the army used by the employing class to keep the workers in submission and slavery.
In order to illustrate the efficacy of this new method of warfare, I will cite a little incident. Some time ago the writer was working in a big lumber yard on the west coast. On the coast nearly all the work around the water fronts and lumber yards is temporary.
When a boat comes in a large number of men are hired and when the boat is unloaded these men are "laid off." Consequently it is to the interest of the workers "to make the job last" as long as possible.
The writer and three others got orders to load up five box cars with shingles. When we commenced the work we found, to our surprise, that every shingle bundle had been cut open. That is, the little strip of sheet iron that holds the shingles tightly together in a bundle, had been cut with a knife or a pair of shears, on every bundle in the pile—about three thousand bundles in all.
When the boss came around we notified him about the accident and, after exhausting his supply of profanity, he ordered us to get the shingle press and re-bundle the whole batch. It took the four of us ten whole days to put that shingle pile into shape again. And our wages for that time, at the rate of 32c per hour, amounted to. $134.00. By adding the loss on account of delay in shipment, the "holding money" for the five box cars, etc., we found that the company's profit for that day had been reduced about $300.
So there you are. In less than half an hour time somebody had created ten days' work for four men who would have been otherwise unemployed, and at the same time cut a big chunk off the boss's profit. No lives were lost, no property was destroyed, there were no law suits, nothing that would drain the resources of the organized workers. But there WERE results. That's all.
This same method of fighting can be used in a thousand different ways by the skilled mechanic or machine hand as well as by the common laborer. This weapon is always at the finger tips of the worker, employed or unemployed.
If every worker would devote ten or fifteen minutes every day to the interests of himself and his class, after devoting eight hours or more to the interests of his employer, it would not be long before the unemployed army would be a thing of the past and the profit of the bosses would melt away so fast that he would not be able to afford to hire professional man-killers to murder the workers and their families in a case of strike.
The best way to strike, however, is to "strike on the job." First present your demands to the boss. If he should refuse to grant them, don't walk out and give the scabs a chance to take your places. No, just go back to work as though nothing had happened and try the new method of warfare.
When things begin to happen be careful not to "fix the blame" on any certain individual unless that individual is an "undesirable" from a working class point of view.
The boss will soon find that the cheapest way out of it is to grant your demands. This is not mere theory; it has been successfully tried more than once to the writer's personal knowledge.
Striking on the job is a science and should be taught as such. It is extremely interesting on account of its many possibilities. It develops mental keenness and inventive genius in the working class and is the only known antidote for the infamous "Taylor System."
The aim of the "Taylor System" seems to be to work one-half the workers to death and starve the other half to death. The strike on the job will give every worker a chance to make an honest living. It will enable us to take the child slaves out of the mill and sweat-shop and give their unemployed fathers a chance to work. It will stop the butchering of the workers in time of peace as well as in time of war.
If you imagine "Making Work for the Unemployed" is unfair, just remember Ludlow and Calumet and don't forget Sacramento where the men who were unable to get work had their brains beaten out by the Hessians of the law and were knocked down and drenched to the skin with streams of ice-cold water manipulated by the city fire department, where the unemployed were driven out of the city and in the rain only to meet the pitchforks of the farmers. And what for? For the horrible crime of asking the governor of California —for A JOB!
This is the way the capitalist class uses the working class when they can no longer exploit them—in the name of Law and Order. Remember this when you MAKE WORK FOR THE UNEMPLOYED!
Source: The International Socialist Review. Volume 15 (1914). 335-336.