Cranky Notions

Cranky Notions.

I have had a notion in my mind for several months that it would be a good thing to have a general conference of Anarchists, at which the principles and methods of Anarchy could be discussed and from which a manifesto could be issued to the world. And I suggest Detroit as the place and some time next summer as the time. Detroit is centrally located, and there is a fair number of liberal people here who would be glad to meet that breed of folks who have hoof and horns. Now, there are lots of things that can be said in favor of such a conference, but I don’t propose to say more now. What do the Anarchist readers of Liberty think of such a meeting?

Those who contend that Anarchy cannot exist until we are all perfect beings remind me of the old lady’s advice to her daughter:—

“Mother may I go down and swim?”
“Yes my darling daughter;
Hang your clothes on a hickor limb,—
But don’t go in the water!

The dear old lady could not see that her daughter could not swim if she did not go in the water, any more than the other old ladies can see that Anarchy is necessary before we can become more perfect.

The people of Chicago are to prevent strangulation by hanging themselves; or, in other words, they are to move legally against the gas monopoly which has been formed in that city. The Citizens’ Association of Chicago has requested the attorney general of Illinois (and he has consented) to bring quo warranto proceedings against the gas trusts and to compel the officers of the monopoly to show why their franchise should not be forfeited, on the ground that the powers granted them have been abused and have been exercised to the injury of the people. This action, the New York Times says, will attract attention throughout the country, because it is an attempt to break down a trust by the enforcement of such laws as are to be found in the statute books of every State. And if the attorney general succeeds in forfeiting the franchise of the gas trust, it will only show that the law is hot or cold, to suit conveniences; that no dependence can be placed in it, because the evident intention of granting the franchise was to prevent competition and therefore form a monopoly. But suppose the franchise to have been granted with the best of motives and with the intention of benefiting the people of Chicago, it is only another example of how laws have so frequently the exact opposite effect of what was intended. The best way to prevent monopolies (and the only way, by the way) is not to grant them any franchise at all.

While it is true that the eight-hour movement is not a cure-all, yet is it absolutely true that it is a cure nothing? What the eight-hour day has accomplished for the working people of Australia I have no reliable data at hand from which to learn, but it seems to me that a shorter workday could be made very beneficial in more ways than one. And I know that a day’s work can be shortened through trades unions because it has been done. Let me take my own case as an example. I am a wage worker and inclined to studious habits. One reason why I do not study and write and organize the working people more than I do now and help them to educate themselves while I am educating myself is because I lack time. Time is a very essential element in the work we have on hand. Now, last year the printers of this city (Detroit) worked fifty-nine hours for a week’s work. We have been agitating for a nine-hour workday all over the country, and were to strike for its enforcement on the first of last November, but circumstances intervened which prevented that. However, as a compromise, the printers of Detroit had two hours taken off their week’s work, and now fifty-seven hours constitute a week’s work with the same pay as last year. This, it seems to me, is a clear gain. Now, those two hours I can use in studying Anarchy and spreading Anarchistic principles. I know several others who will use these two hours to advantage. The working day has been shortened by the printers, cigarmakers, bakers, bricklayers, painters, carpenters, and several other tradesmen, and this has been done, too, through Anarchistic methods. I have frequently used these facts to show working people that when they want their rights they must take them and not depend upon politicians for the betterment of their conditions. It weans them of their State idol, and strenghtens their self-reliance. While the shortening of the workday in itself does not cure our social-industrial ills, it gives us time to learn what will cure. The physician must know the disease and its cause before he can cure it. We do not know principles intuitively and must have time to learn them. This is why I favor the eight-hour movement and why I believe Anarchists should not oppose it.

Joseph A. Labadie.