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I Public Opinion -and Strikes


I Public Opinion and Strikes IT is about time that someone isaid what so badly needs isaying about that "bogey" of public opinion. We have heard nothing but a perfect fanfaronade of m-onsenw about public opinion during the past week, and, unfortunate- ly, even organs -of the Democracy have contri- buted strident notes to the unruly cihorus. The Shavian logic may someday prove to a puzzled but smiling world the truth that the public opinion is nothing more than a social myth. The public opinion of the hotel smoke-room is some- thing entirely different from the publio opinion of the breakfast interlude of the workshop the public opinion of tlie stock-exchange as often as not is antagonistic to the public opinion of the small business world, and so one might continue indefinitely all the time ignoring the patent fact that this great public opinion does not exist; that whilst a thousand minorities claim the sane- j tion of public opinion, the public in reality smothers a yawn and turns to the football columns of its papers. And the papers, all of which claim to be the voice of public opinion, are as discordant as the circles we have men- tioned. But our purpose is not to thread meta- physical labrynths, but to look squarely at the problem. That there is a certain public pre- judice that can be aroused when the turmoil is sufficiently personal to touch the individual is certain. But that that is opinion is ridiculous: that it is ever unanimous i5! absurd. It reflects always the class lines; the partisan divisions- it is neither reasonable, oior can it be reasoned with-and it acts only under the provocation of a personal threat. That it should ever be re- spected is absurd. Before it can claim considera- tion or respect dt must show it. The hapless body of the mass of the people" over which poli- ticians and capitalists arid labourers fire their bullets in time of war, has no right to gnash its teeth and howl dismally over its hapless position, until it has recognised that it can expect con- sideration when it displays consideration. But who ever knew it to? Let us take aocjptint of our own local position. Last week the stoppage of the railway services, involving no more than six hundred local workers, directly effected every member of the community and that great public opinion immediately started bo utter its various prejudices at the top of its voice. Its own petty affairs having been touched it articulated itself. But we have also, liad for fourteen weeks and more another strike involving nearly eight times the number of men-and familiesâas was locally involved in the railroad strike. But here the individual unit of the great public opinion has not been generally involved, and so the strikers are at leave to starve into more abject slavery, to watch their wives contract disease and con- sumption, and to follow their children into un- necessary graves, without the public: conscience wakening itself to vocal expression of any opinion. And yet the case of the Dowlais la- bourers is as serious, and revolves around the same principles as that of the railwaymen. Be- fore public opinion has any right to considera- tion it must learn the lesson that it must con- cern itself as much -with the case that does not immediately toudh it, as with the one that does. If there is to be a moral obligation upon Labour (or Capital for that. matter either) to withhold its hand until put lie opinion has received due and careful attention, then public opinion must learn that it too has a moral obligation to con- sider the occasion for the strife and remove it before it has reached the actual pass of conflict. If public opinion exists, which we question, then let it start in on its work now. We shall be able to judge the consideration it merits by the con- sideration it shows in striving for the institu- j tion and the r.etentlon of an. industrial peace of justice.

I The Strike Settlement. !

Our City Fathers To Be.-I

A Socialist Dolly's Dialogues

Electric Theatre.