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WHY MINERS STRIKE. 147 ———— Plain Talk to the Government. e. The Limitations of Coercion. -e.. —— We reproduce below, from "The Manchester Guardian," the leading Liberal newspaper in the country, a striking leading article dealing with the coal crisis:- We trust (says the "Guardian") that the public will view the action of the South Wales miners with the greatest possible coolness and for bearance. There is every temptation to a very different attitude, but' to resist that temptation is the best way to avert a serious peril to the country. What has actually happened, and why has it happened? The South .Wales miners, in view of the rise in the price of coal on the one hand and I of the cost of living on the other, put forward certain demands for increases of pay. i These demands were considered by a Conference arranged by the Board of Trade bet ween representatives of the fmen on the one side and of the Government on the other, and propos- als were agreed upon which did not give the miners all they asked, but nevertheless amounted to substantial advances. < MINERS NOT UNPATRIOTIC. Delegates then met directly repre- senting the men and rejected these proposals, threw over the plan of work- ing from day to day pending negotia- tions, and decided by a majority on a strike to begin on Thursday. The Government. departments are well supplied for the time being, but no words are needed to paint the ser- jous nature of the results if the strike should be of long continuance. We are not to suppose that the South (Wales miners are either ignorant of these results or indifferent to them. Like the rest of us, they have sons and brothers at the front. We have no reason to think them less concerned for the safety of the nation than other sections of society How then can we understand their action ? "BREAKDOWN OF TRADE UNION- ISM." Wo may remark first that we have before us a fresh instance, not of the social dangers inherent in trade union- ism, but. of the dangers consequent up- on that partial breakdown of trade unionism which began about five years ago. This is not the first occasion by many on which the men have either revolted against their leaders or carried them along against their better judgment. The representatives of the men came to an agreement, with the Board of Trade. The Executive-of the Miners' Federa*- tion met on Monday, and earnestly -called upon the South Wales men to continue work pending further nego- tiations. It was thd men themselves who in- structed their delegates to reject all compromise and stand upon the pleni- tude of their demands. The fighting element in trade union- ism that had been tamed awhile by the grimmer fight in which all Europe is engaged has come to its own again. It recks of no consequences, but goes full steam ahead for whatever it takes for the moment to be its right. r BAD ECONOMIC TEACHING. I But how does this spirit obtain as- cendancy at such a time as this over a great body of men ? For answer we must look to the kind of education that the men have re- ceived from the press, the economists, and a, section of the business world. They have been taught by too many a scribe that the whole economic duty of man consists in buying cheap an selling dear. I They have had this lesson impressed on them when they were under the market. They are applying it now that they are on top of the market. They have seen prices rising in all directions to the immense advantage of sellers. They were told by statesmen when the question was raised in February that this process was economically necessary. and that Government could not interfere. Again they have applied the lesson. COERCION USELESS. I Now the fundamental remedy is tllat ) this lesson should be unlearnt. Coercion in such a case as this will not hew hundredweights, where persua- sion will hew its tons. The Government, of course, has pro- claimed the South Wales coalfields under the Munitions of War Act, but they will have to be very careful lest the administration of the Act should only exaspera to. They have not to do with a strike artifically fostered by a small committee of leaders which might he hamstrung by the destruction of its central organ- isation. They are faced with a mass movement which needs very lit-tie in the way of overt organisation to make itself effectual. Indeed, even if men can be forced into the pits by fear of repeated fines, no human power can make them put forth their full energy at the face of the coal if they prefer their resent- ment to their wages. GOVERNMENT MUST BE IM- I PARTIAL. Once again it must be said we must gain the men's minds if we would seek a radical remedy. The Government must recognise, and let the miners see that they recog- nise, underlying a policy which is both unreasonable and disastrous not mere greed of gain but a rankling sense of injustice which is intelligible enough in itself, however lamentable in its ex- pression. In a word, they must show that they are seeking to hold the scales evenly as between employers and employed. At the last moment a step in this direction has been taken by the Government in the announcement by Mr Runciman of a Bill for the regu- lation of the price of coal. DILATORY MR. RUNCIMAN. I It would have been far better if this better if this action had been taken act-ion had been taken earlier. The questions involved are complex and technical, such as ought to be dis- cussed with coolness and deliberation rather than rushed through on the eve, or perhaps on the morrow, of a strike. The case of coal is not as that of wheat, where it was possible to show that the bulk of the rise in prices oc- curred abroad, and to argue that the rise would correct itself and lead to an increased production, which would tend to safeguard the sufficiency, of our sup. ply in the months to come. Coal is produced entirely within our own shores, the price is controlled ex- clusively by British owners and mer- chants, and there was no question of any shortage except such as arose from the diminution of available labour by recruiting. FIXING PRICES. I Prices might have been fixed to the advantage of the poorer householders a.nd to the enhancement of the reputa- tion of Ministers for dealing evenly with employers and employed. Not that the Government can stop at coal. If in the case of other in- dustries it is not convenient to fix prices it is possible to tax profits, and the Government would do well to mature their plans for this object. There is a widespread sense of irri- tation in the labour world, which is with some difficulty controlled in most cases, but has come to the surface in South Wales. It is based on the belief that certain sections of trade, not the war indus- tries alone, make a profit out of the national calamity, while labour is hard- worked, lectured for (slackness, and re- quired to sacrifice important privileges. CURTAILMENT OF PROFITS. I There a.re reasons which the labour world itself appreciates, we believe, for the demands which Government has made upon it. But what it wants is assurance that equal opportunities for the exercise of patriotic .self-restraint should be ex- tended to the employer and the middle- man. The Government has partly met this demand in the case of the manufacture of munitions by a curtailment of profits. It makes another effort to meet it now in the case of the coal trade. It must develop, systematise, and complete t,his policy if it wishes to heal the breach with labour which began when the demand for a limitation of I prices was summarily rejected without any attempt at an alternative pro- gramme.

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