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Political Notes




Direct Action for Nationalisation.


Direct Action for Nationalisation. WOULD A STRIKE BE SUCCESSFUL? From time to time certain abstract phrases come along to cause* doubt and perturbation in the minds of the comrades. A few months ago it was "Force," now it is "Direct Action," and the learned men and the soothsayers utter sage counsel and then come the philosophic prin- ciples and the historical analogies. The followers repeat their words with fervour and conviction; they become current catch words until the reality they once signified has been lost sight of in con- troversial dust. ABSTRACTIONS AND VITAL ISSUES. We are now discussing the relative merits of industrial and political action. To do this in- telligently it is essential to get away from the world of abstractions, forget all the little irrele- vancies which keep accumulating with discussion and come back to the world of practical possi- bilities. To form a sound judgment on the merits of direct action we have not to be con- cerned as to what might happen under a Labour Government faced with formidable and deter- mined opposition. We may be creating a tradi- tion but the next generation will be concerned with vital issues which affect thPIH and not tra- ditions which affect 11,1. 0 THE QUESTION OF MORALITY. Let us suppose the Government yield on Rus- sia, and Conscription and Nationalisation of Mines becomes the issue to be fought on. The morality of the question is simple enough. The sole question to he answered is "Would the Strike be successful and force the Government to nationalise the mines r" If that question can be answered in the affirmative, then it is the business of the I.L. P. to use all its propaganda machinery in advocating" Direct Action for the Nationalisation of Mines. Whether this is a constitutional policy or whether it is in keeping with political tradition does not matter at alL If Nationalisation could be forced by a national strike lasting say, a week, it would be worth while, for the gain resulting from the increase of national efficiency and the improvement of the life of the miner, would far surpass any temporary damage to the economic life of the nation. That seems to be the only point worth discussing, and it has largely been ignored. Mr. Brailsford did a great service to the La- bour Movement in writing an article in a recent number of the "Daily Herald" on the Mechanics of Direct Action," wnen he fore- casted some of the possibilities which might come if the Government determined on a vigor- ous fight against Direct Action on any great issue. If Direct Action ended with a vote at the Trades Union Congress all would be well, but unfortunately that would only be the beginning of matters, a-nd not the end, for final success or failure would rest with the rank- and file. And here comes the danger—the danger of over- estimating the determination of the rank and file. I DANCERS OF OVER-CONFIDENCE. It seems to me that the Labour Movement, at least many of its greatest personalities, are over- confident about the growth of revolutionary opinion among the rank and file. It is quite natural, the succession of by-elections tends to make one believe that the mental outlook of the workers is changing rapidly. But we must not make the mistake of over-estimating this ten- dency. One is apt when living in the atmosphere of conferences and reading largely the Socialist and advanced Press, to drop into the mood of imagining that things are becoming what we hope rather than what they really are. An election is one thing, a strike is another. Voting in an election requires intelligence, voting in a ballot after a week's strike requires per- sistent intelligent courage, not a characteristic of modern industrial democracy. It Is extremely doubtful whether even among the miners there would be much enthusiasm for continuing a strike for Nationalisation after a week's stop- page. There would be the isma.ll minority be- lieving that the leaders were Bolsheviks, Pro Germans making a good thing out of it, the Press would practically unanimously rave as it never raved before. The small minority would grow by the addition of those who had no de- cided opinions at all, then there would be a slump in favour of returning to work, another ballot with a minority whose enthusiasm would lead them to want to continue the fight, but who had become cynical and hopeless. POSSIBILITIES OF A FIASCO. Suoh is the alternative to the prospect of a swift successful strike, and it is the alternative which might come if the Government simply sat tight for a week or so. The Police Strike on a small scale, the Yorkshire Miners' strike on a larger scale are but recent examples of the failure of a strike against employers ready to starve the men into (subjection. Probably the mine-owners and the Government have taken these examples to heart.. If such a strike turned out a fiasco it would be 1S terrible blow for organised Trades Unionism ftist on the thres- hold of power. If the possibilities are these the miners leaders should carefully calculate their strength and bide their time. I EMRYS HUGHES.


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