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Labour Notes. I


Labour Notes. I SELF-GOVERNMENT-IN CEYLON. I From Ceylon comes a demand for consstitu- I tional reforms and the vigorous development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the ?aH?ttion of responsible government under the ?i?S the British throne." Ceylon has been hitherto governed as a Crown Colony, and in the early part of the war, governed very badly. There have been several black spots in the ad- ministration of the British Empire, and the panic-stricken ferocity with which the Sinhalese riots of 1915 was suppressed (as exposed in the official enquiry appointed by Sir John Anderson) must rank along with the atrocities of Sir Eyre (JoDte in Jamaica and the rubber plantations of Putumayo. Botli because self-government is a good thing in itself and because Crown Colony government in Ceylon has been so lamentable a failure, the grant of a constitution cannot lie much longer delayed. EARMERS AND THE MINIMUM. I Two amusing instances of naivete on thepart "of farmers are to be found in the pages of the Wages Board Gazette." The first comes from Buckinghamshire, where in support of a demand that the present minimum wage of 30/: should be reconsidered, a. carefully-prepared budget was submitted showing that for a man and his wife and three children a minimum rate of 35!- was the absolutely lowest rate which would be termed i living wage. Farmer representatives then pointed out that with the rate at 30/ as at present, good farmers, as a matter of fact, had 37/- or 40/- overtime-, running into 10 to 15 hours per week, and that the real difficulty arose from the action of bad farmers, who would not allow their men to work overtime, and thus kept their wages down to the bare minimum. The 'Committee then adjourned itself for the purpose -of liriding out what wages farmers did actually pay their men. We wonder what is the Labour opinion of the policy of fixing a minimum so low that the worker has to depend on overtime to give him a living wage. In Staffordshire, again, the Wages Committee met to consider the raising of the minimum. But the farmers protested that it was ungrate- ful of the Staffordshire labourers to want more money so soon after a minimum wage had been fixed. Apparently they raised no objection to the contention that the actual minimum was in- adequate they merely demanded that the Gov- ernment should pay them higher pripes for their products. An amendment was then carried by a. majority of two votes that the farmers can- not consider and further advances in wages until they have some guarantee a.s to the future prices 'of farm produce." ft is a well-known fact that farmers all over the country have for some time been demanding a ri se in the guaranteed prices of corn and oats and it is probable that this Staffordshire move may be followed by others. Labour men should be on their guard. CONSUMERS' COUNCIL FOR ALL I DEPARTMENTS. The following resolution, which was carried at the eighth Labour Conference at the Ministry of Food, on the motion of Mr. Will Godfrey, of the London Labour Party, has received very little attention in the Press:— With the desirable object of enabling the workers of London aiid the country to have their conditions made known, their require- ments considered, and their just demands brought before the Government, this Confer- ence considers that the democratic example set by the Ministry of Food. in convening periodic Labour Conferences in London, and, at the suggestion of this conference, through- out the country should be continued and ex- tended to embrace the work of other depart- ments, so that all the. conditions of the workers' lives may reteive adequate atten- tion." The Government might do much worse than consider this suggestion, or a suggestion for Consumers' Councils to be attached to each con- trolling Government department (if any control- ling Government Department is still to exist). We especially recommend it to the Ministry of Supply. INDIA. I The Montagu-Chelmsford Report on Indian Reforms, moderate though it is considered to be by many sections of Indian opinion, is meeting with considerable opposition amongst the English garrison. In the Madras Presidency an Indian Civil Service Association has been formed to promote the interests of the service. A memorial has been drawn up by them criticising the Mon- tague-Chelmsford scheme, and in it there occurs the phrase, that such of us are not prepared to make ourselves pawns in what is termed in the report, one of the greatest political ex- periments in the world's etc." This sounds very like a threat of, obstruction on the ii( i s vei, .v I t t li re, part of the Anglo-Indian Civil Servants. The unfortunate tiling is that obstruction from this quarter may be only too effectual. For Parlia- ment (which is the body ultimately responsible for the government of India) has hitherto shown Jittle enough interest in the subject, and the absence of public interest has been the oppor- tunity of the reactionaries. COST OF LIVINC ACAIN. I The Committee on Farming and Cost of Living, says Sir Henry Row, has made further progress with its Report, and hopes to be in a position to present it in February. We are anxi- ously awaiting this Report, in view of the claims for increased remuneration recently put forward by fanners in many counties; and, remembering our disappointment on reading the Report of the Increase in Cost of Living to the Working Classes, we hope the Labour members on this Committee are awake. In particular, we hope they will remember that through the scarcity of a particular commodity means that the worker cannot obtain it and therefore goes without, it does not follow that the demand for that commo- dity has ceased to exist. For if the price of .eggs has doubled, and you can only afford to buy one egg whore two were bought before, is it necessarily correct to say that your cost of living has not risen at all? Expenditure may not have risen but the standard of life has gone down, and no amount of juggling with figures by economic experts will prove that it has not. This Report, if it is a bad Report, may be quoted against the workers when they apply for an increase in jvages—'the previous Report has already been so quoted in at least one case—and it is the duty of the Labour members of the Committee to see that the Report when produced is not of such a kind as will put weapons in the employers' hands. If they fail to move the main Committee, they can at least put in a Minority Report, which will expose the other. SMALL NATIONALITIES. Yet another of the peoples within the British Empire is demanding independence. In the South African Union the causes which led to the rebellion in the early part of the war are not forgotten, though they have been consistently ignored in this country. There was therefore a certain element of surprise in the news that a I Nationalist Conference was held this month in Bloomfontein, and that the independence of South Africa was they-ein demanded. As has happened in Ireland, delegates were appointed to attend the Paris Peace Conference. In the case of the Orange Free State" Mr. Hertzog and General De Wet were appointed, while the Transvaal Congress also nominated two dele- gates. AN INDIAN TONYPANDY. I One hundred thousand Bombay cotton opera- tives are on strike for an increased war bonus. As is well-known, the wages and conditions of these Indian mills are at somewhat the same level as Lancashire a hundred years ago. It is to the interests of cotton operatives in this coun- try that their fellow-workers in India should have their standard of living improved and their hours of labour reduced.. It was to have been hoped that the Viceroy would adopt the same view. Unfortunately, the Government of India has hitherto shown itself only too amenable to' pressure from these same textile magnates who are now refusing an increased wage to the workers. In view of this there is a sinister meaning in the telegram which says that the Bombay police have held a conference on the question of the strike with the ootton masters. A later telegram puts the matter in a worse light. It appears that as a number of pickets refused to disperse when ordered to do so by the Police Commissioners, rifle tiro was opened on the crowd from an armoured car. This seems to indicate that the methods of industrialist re- pression abandoned long ago in this country are now being employed in the most flagrant man- ner in our Indian dependency. THE BLESSED LAND OF MESOPOTAMIA. Coincidences, we know, will always happen. Yet surely there lS something more than coinci- dence in the appearance in the Board of Trade Journal" of a very eloquent article on the glories of Mesopotamia, just before it was re- ported that Great Britain was to hold Mesopo- tamia in her beneficent protection" after peace was signed. On the political morality of the whole proceeding we make no comment; but we would suggest for the careful consideration of Labour the paragraph which descirbes the Arab as labour-power. "There is no unwilling- ness on the part of Arabs to work, if considera- tion is shown for his habits"; and. he is de- scribed as being cheerful, uncomplaining, will- ing, and easy to handle. If this is so, the work- ing of this cheerful, uncomplaining, and willing creature by capitalists from other countries should be very carefully watched. Wo do not want a second Putumayo, and we hope that the International Labour Charter will contain good provisions for the protection of native labour. WHAT ARE THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENTS? In view of the Allied Peace Conference deci- sion to invite delegates from the Russian Gov- ernments to a meeting in the Sea of Marmora it is interesting to review exactly the position. The governments or parties within the boun- daries of the old Russian Empire are now rough- ly as follows:— Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic.- Mainly Bolshevik. With headquarters at Mos- cow and Petrograd, it controls a.t least thrice as large a population as any other Government. Ukraine Government.—Now under Potlyura, previously under Skoropadski. The Soviet or- ganisation appears to be making headway here. On the other hand, in the South of the Ukraine, some Black Sea ports are reported to be held by French Senegalese. POland,-Xow under M. Paderewski. who has hitherto been understood to belong to the Anti- Semitic party of M. Dmowski, and General Pil- sudski, who has fought against the Germans and belongs to the Radical left. Ormsk Government (Siberia).—This is the most important of the party of Belshevik gov- ernments, and it regards itself as the inheritor of the authority of the Provisional Government of 1917 confirmed by what is called the Whole- People's Assembly, which met at Cfa in Septera- her of last year, consisting of a group of mem- bers elected to the Constituent Assembly and plenipotentiary members of the provisional gov- ernments in Siberia, in the Ural territory, the several Cossack governments, and numerous other provisional governmental authorities in Inner Russia and Siberia, as well as of the pro- visional government of Esthonia and representa- tives of the Union of Zomstva; along with repre- sentati ves of political organisations and parties, including the Socialist Revolutionares, the Men- shevik Section of the Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Labour Party, the Constitutional- Democrats, and others. From this assembly supreme authority over all the territory of the Russian State was transferred to a Provisional Government consisting of five persons: Avkshen- tyef. Astrov, Y old yrof, Vologodsky, and Ohi- kovsky. The first-named acts as President of the Provisional Russian Government, claiming authority over the whole of Russia's territory. In addition, there are several separate govern- ments in portions of Russia where the Entente Forek,s.Ltet. as a counterbalancing factor to the influence of the Soviets. These are Vladivostock, Archangel, Baku region, Esthonia, Odessa re- gion, and amongst the various smal nationali- ties of the Baltic Coast.

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