Beware of Batterson!

Beware of Batterson!

[Liberty, March 6, 1886.]

Gertrude B. Kelly, who, by her articles in Liberty, has placed herself at a single bound among the foremost radical writers of this or any other country, exposes elsewhere in a masterful manner the unique scheme of one Batterson, an employer of labor in Westerly, R. I., which he calls co-operation. But there is one feature of this scheme, the most iniquitous of all, which needs still further emphasis. It is to be found in the provision which stipulates that no workman discharged for good cause or leaving the employ of the company without the written consent of the superintendent shall be allowed even that part of the annual dividend to labor to which he is entitled by such labor as he has already performed that year. In this lies cunningly hidden the whole motive of the plot. By promising to give labor at the end of the year the paltry sum of one third of such profits as are left after the stockholders have gobbled six per cent. on their investment, and adding that not even a proportional part of this dividend shall be given to labor if it quits work before the end of the year, this Batterson deprives the laborers of the only weapon of self-defence now within their reach,—the strike,—and leaves them utterly defenceless until they shall become intelligent enough to know the value and learn the use of Anarchistic methods and weapons.(168 ¶ 1)

Having got his laborers thus thoroughly in his power, and after waiting long enough to establish their confidence in him and his scheme, Batterson’s next step will probably be to gradually screw down the wages. The laborers will have to submit to each reduction as it comes, or lose their dividend; and for the average laborer there is such a charm in the word dividend that he will go to the verge of starvation before giving it up. Now, of every dollar which Batterson thus manages to squeeze out of labor, only forty cents or less will come back to labor in the shape of dividend, the balance going into capital’s pockets. Hence it is obvious that the reducing process will have to be kept up but a short time before capital’s income will be larger and labor’s income less than before the adoption of this philanthropic scheme of co-operation. And, moreover, capital will thereby secure the additional advantage of feeling entirely independent of labor and will not have to lie awake nights in anticipation of a strike, knowing that, however rigorously it may apply the lash, its slaves will still be dumb.(168 ¶ 2)

Additional evidence that this is Batterson’s plan is to be found in the further stipulation that no dividend will be allowed to superintendents, overseers, bookkeepers, clerks, or any employees except the manual laborers. Why? Because these never strike. As it is not within their power to temporarily cripple his business, Batterson has no motive to offer them even a phantom dividend.(168 ¶ 3)

Altogether, this is one of the wiliest and foulest plots against industry ever hatched in the brain of a member of the robber class. But, though capital, by some such method as this, may succeed in suppressing strikes for a time, it will thereby only close the safety-valve; the great and final strike will be the more violent when it breaks out. If the laborers do not beware of Batterson now, the day will come when it will behoove Batterson to beware of them.(168 ¶ 4)