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I Gardening Notes. I

The Future of the Labour Movement…


The Future of the Labour Movement in Wales, I By William HARRIS, Miners' Political Orga- niser, Pontllanfraith. Mon. It may seem rather out of place to discuss the Future of the Labour Movement in Wales" at the present moment, when the fever of militarism has the movement so much in its grip, but those of us who have the interest of the movement at heart, and are not so much in the grip of militarism, will dtQ well to turn our attention to the future, and prepare for the time that will inevitably arrive when the reaction, will have set in, and when there will yet be the need, and that more than ever, of a Labour Political Movement to deal with the many problems that will arise, and which can only be solved by politieal action. I have felt for some tMiic that there is need for organising the political movement in Wales on national lines, as has been done bv the other political parties, and we need to break away from the pLSelJJt insulated position with regard to our organisation. At the present time we have some 11 or 12 L.JtCVs ii). existence in the various constitu- encies in South Wales, and one oi- two in North Wales, with no connecting link between them except that of the National Labour Party, who usually meet once a. year, and discuss a variety of qitestTons, but very rarely purely Welsb. questions. The ether parties have their South and South Wale's organisations, and these, are linked up into a Welsh National Organisation, and then federated with those, oi England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in this way every aspect of na- tional life is considered. This has resulted in the Liberal Party in Wales exploiting the Welsh national sentiment wholly in the interest of and the Conservative Party have for -sodne time recognised the value of this sentiment, that they are now endeavouring to regain their influence in Wales, ..which they lost hy Ignoring the Welsh national sentiment in the past. I feel strongly on this matter that If the Labour Movement- is to progress politi- cally that we also must put our house in order, and the sooner we commence the work the bet- ter shall we be prepared for the immense work that lies before us. The Scottish workers have already set us an example in this direction, and have already their Political Advisory Oonunittee formed and are at work in connection with the political movement in Scotland. to asee,r- I have already taken some trouble to ascer- tain the views of the Trade Union leaders of Wales on this matter, and I am pleased to find that almost without exception they favour the idea. In North Wales some such movement was started before the war, but there their ac- tivities have been serionslyinterfered with by the war. and the same might be said of the position in South Wales. At the Annual Con- ference of the Labour Party last. January a resolution in the name of the East Glamorgan Labour Party, which was on the agenda, was not discussed for want of time, and the matter has been referred to the Executive of the La-, bour Party. but I am afraid from what I hear that the matter will not be taken any further by them as some little difficulty has arisen with reference to the Scottish Advisory Com- mittee. The Miners' Federation of Great Bri- tain has decided to support the formation of the Welsh Advisory Committee so that we need not anticipate any difficulty from that direc- tion. but unless the initiative comes from within Wales itself, I am afraid tTlat nothing will be done until the war is over, and then there will be so many questions to be dealt with that it may be years before anything will be done, and an excellent opportunity of preparing 'the ground in Wales will bQ lost for some time. I believe that very effective work could be done immediately by calling together represen- tatives from the various L.K.C.'s in South Wales to prepare for the future, and as soon as circumstances permit, we should attempt to convene a joint meeting with the North Wales organisation, with a view of deciding on com- mon action throughout the whole of the Princi- pality and Monmouthshire. One of the press- ing questions that will have to be dealt with as soon as the war is over is that of the Land and I believe that Wales is full ripe for dealing with this question, which is so closely allied, with our industrial problems. The interest of the Labour Movement in Wales should not be confined to a few industrial constituencies, but should be broadened so as to embrace all the workers, in vhatever occu- pation they may be engaged fh. There is a ten- dency at the present time to view the Labour Political Movement as something by which the larger Trade Unions are to obtain certain reforms that they have been unable to obtain by industrial action, and that all the Labour Members of Parliament have to do is to voice the demands of their particular trade, and as long as they do so, all is well. We must have a. broadening of the view as to the duties of the Labour Members attached to the larger Trade Unions, and to emphasise.' the fact that Labour means something more than one trade, and that as long as there are large numbers of workers who are below the poverty line, they are a menace to those who may be a little above them. Then, in. I think we ought to broaden our view with reference to those who may not be members of Trades Unions- through no fault of their own—but who desire to associate with us in political matters, but who are not so far advanced as to be able to join the I.L.P, or some other Socialist organisa- tion. I think I am correct in stating that men of this class are among the most able men to be found in the Continental Labour Parties. I am afraid that those organisations that have made provision for" Associate -Nloiiibei-s view with a certain amount of suspicion any applic- ant that may desire to become an "Associate Member." In Monmouthshire at the present time—thanks to Labour Representation a number of men have been elected to various offices in connection with depafrtments of the State, and are desirous of retaining their con- nection with the Labour Political Movement. Why should they not be allowed to do so? Will they not be of immense service to the move- ment in giving information—quite legitimately —that witl be of great assistance to the move- iiiell.t I know that the knowledge that I ob- tained during the 18 months I was in the Labour Exchange will be of immense assistance to me when I come to deal with the prob- lem of unemployment, and other phases of the employment of Labour. Then, what of the teaching profession? Are there not among the teachers a number who desire to assist Labour, but who are not avowed Socialists P Why not invite their co-operation? The teaching profes- sion is beginning to find out Labour represent- atives are their best friends, as is evidenced by the championship by two of nn- friends — Councillors R. and H. Jenkins—of the case of the head teachers of Glamorganshire against the tyrannical action of the Glamorgan Education Committee and we have anotheir illustration in Monmouthshire, where the class teachers are meeting the Labour "Group of the Mon. County Council with a view to haying certain grievan- ces redressed. Then, agiain, there is the ministerial pro- fession. Here I know I am touching on a matter on which there may be serious differ- ences of opinion. Still, I feel that there ought to be room in the Labour Party for ministers of religion, notwithstanding that there may be among us some who do not accept the tenets or the Christian Faith. Here again we ought to lea 111 from the other political parties, as we know that inside the Liberal Party the Leaders of the Non-Com Free Churches have been able to work with such pronounced Free Thinkers as Lord M-orlev and J. M. Robertson (M.P. for Tynesicle, and a member of the last Liberal Administration). The Conservative High Church man was prepared to. accept his politics with Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, though Chamberlain was an Unitarian, and denied the Divinity of Christ: and Balfour's philosophic doubts were not allowed to interfere with the loyalty of the Conservati ve Party to him as leader. Why then, do we of the Labour Party allow religious matters to retard the success of our movement? I may be told that it is beoausa the Non-Con ministers are always against us. If this has been so in the past, is it sufficient reason why they must always be so What encouragement have we of the Labour Party given them in the past to come and help us? Does it help the Labour Movement to describe these gentlemen contemptuously as "sky pi- lots?" And will anyone wiho has taken the trouble to enquire, deny that there are a large—yea, I will repeat, a large—number of these men who are desirous of helping Labour if we will only extend to them a. welcome ? I know that there are mony of them who have been cradled in Liberalism that will remain Liberals to the end. and will view Labour po- litif-alty as an enemy; but these are among the decreasing number, whilst, those in sympathy with Labour are on the increase, and anyone who takes the trduble to question the students on leaving the various theological colleges will find that the great majority of them are im- bued with a strong desire to do all they can for the uplifting of humanity in a social and industrial sense, as well as that of a spiritual sense. Many of them become disheartened' because their sincerity is questioned by the workers, and at the same time their interest in the Labour Movement, is viewed with suspicion by the leading lights of their churches many of w hom are representatives of capital in various forms. I feel that an effort should be made to extend the right hand of fellowship to those ministers who desire to assist us in the work of building up a Labour Party in Wales as many of them are reared in the workers' home, and know from bitter experi- ence the many difficulties the worker has to contend with. I was very pained on one occa- sion. when assisting at an election in South Wales, when asking the question as to whether the ministers of religion had been approached with a view of assisting the Labour Candid- ate, to be told. Let them there tliev are no good to us." This is, I am afraid, the trend of mind in many centres in South Wales, but it is not strictly true so far as my personal experience goes. I purpose, in future articles, discussing some of the problems I think a Welsh Labour Party should deal with.


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