Cranky Notions

Cranky Notions.

It is with a good deal of hesitancy that I venture into a public discussion with my good Comrade Yarros, because his keen intellect and power of argument and satire may put me and my plain, homely speech and notions to ridicule, and of course I don’t like to be ridiculed. But I enter this controversy as a pupil with his teacher with a view of clearing some point that is not already clear to both. The division he has made of my argument meets my approval, and the propositions that experience establishes the possibility of trades unions shortening their hours without proportionately reducing their wages, and that reduced hours mean increased opportunities for study and development, seem to me to need no argument to prove them true. These facts lie on the surface, and possibly may have led me to justify all sorts of conclusions. Time and book-learning are short with me, and in consequence my language may not always carry with it my exact meaning, but in this case my comrade is in error when he says my assertions on the eight-hours movement mean more than I meant they should. The working people through organization do have it in their power to gain concessions from their employers, even under present conditions, but they may not have the power to gain all that is necessary to make them socially, economically, and politically free. If they did not have this power, I should lose hope of Anarchy ever being attained, because I am of the opinion that trades unions and other associations exercising the powers of passive resistance can accomplish what cannot be accomplished by the ballot. I have been taught that Anarchy was to be inaugurated by simply refusing to recognize the State when we get enough who think Anarchy is right and that we stand a fair show of carrying our point by passive resistance. The Irish struck against rent when the no-rent manifesto was issued, and I believe, if that policy had continued, the cause of freedom and justice would be much further advanced than it is today. If the people have not the power under present conditions to change anything, how are they ever to better their conditions? Shorter hours of work will give time to see the evils more clearly and learn the true remedies. When we change from a ten hours work-day to a nine or an eight-hours workday, things are not what they were, and this advantage gives us a better chance to change other things. I remember in my younger days, when I worked in the woods logging, that, when we got a big log that was hard to handle, we used our canthooks and handspikes wherever we could get a bite, and each bite gave us a better advantage to roll the log where we wanted it. All these palliatives or half-measures are bites, and we should make the most of them. I was clear in my statement that the Detroit printers gained two hours a week without a reduction, and that is the fact. They work on time. I am free to admit that there are many things in connection with these economic problems that I do not see, and some no doubt lie in plain sight of those who have stronger mental vision, but I never refuse to look with all my might in the direction my teachers point. Comrade Yarros must not think that I spend a great amount of time over the eight hours movement, because I too believe, if those who see that the real conflict is between those who hold privileges granted and upheld by the State and those who do not hold such privileges would lose no opportunity to make this fact clear, that the road to better conditions will be shortened very much. Even though the effect of the eight hours agitation be traced to machinery, etc., does not that show the poor o’rlabored wights are thinking how they can reap some of the benefits of improved methods of producing wealth? Does Comrade Yarros claim that the shortening of hours would have come as a necessary effect of the introduction of machinery, etc., did the agitation for short hours not take place? When I speak at an eight-hour meeting, I do not oppose the getting of eight hours if they can, but I do not fail to show what I believe is a better way to relieve the working people of their present burdens. I do not know whether Comrade Yarros has had much experience in dealing with working people or not, but my experience teaches me not to directly oppose and condemn what they believe will be to their good, but rather to show them that, while their methods might accomplish what they desire, there are other and better ways to get what belongs to them. I would like my good comrade to instruct me in the following questions: 1. If it is not possible for the working people to gain concessions from the privileged class and better their conditions through organization and united action, how are they to accomplish their emancipation? 2. Is it not true that most of the Anarchists of today have arrived at their present thought through and by the discussion of half-way measures?

Joseph A. Labadie.