Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial evidence book. People's Exhibit 50.
The Alarm (Newspaper) article, "Eight Hours: Our Reply," 1885 Sept. 5
Introduced Vol. K p. 645, 1886 July 29.
Transcript of article.
Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial evidence book. People's Exhibit 50.
People's Ex. 50
THE ALARM, September 5, 1885.
Will the rich help to bring it about; or, oppose it with starvation, prisons, and cold steel? Will increasing machinery increase the number of unemployed?
Shortening the hours of labor is no real remedy. It still leaves people in the condition of masters and servants. The fact that the master and servant can more easily change places does not cure the matter. There can be no peace this side of absolute equality, and that cannot be reached under any master and servant system whatever.
The powers to accumulate is not given equally to all persons, and for this reason an equality of blessings cannot be measured to each solely according to his power to get rich. No man made himself, and it is no fault of his that he has no talent for getting money; neither is it any virtue in the man who has this talent, and to maintain a system that rewards a man who has this talent, and punishes him by privations who has it not, is inexcusable rascality. A man gets rich by meanness, and remains poor because he is generous. How long can we endure a system that rewards meanness and starves generosity?
Maintain such a system, and offering only to shorten the hours of servitude, is intolerable aggravation. But can you shorten the hours? Will the rich help or oppose you? When a day's work is ten hours and by the aid of machinery many men are kept idle, and consequently in a position to be used by the capitalists as "scabs" to force down the wages of those at work, will the rich be better off if the days are shortened so all will be at work, and the rich can find no "scabs" to force wages down with? Will the rich help to bring this about? If they oppose you, will they not oppose you with starvation, the prisons and cold steel? But suppose you succeed, will not increasing machinery soon reduce your situation and leave you to fight the battle all over? Will this remove the power of monopoly? Can monopoly be removed so long as the right of competition exists? Or can the power of competition be checked while the rights of private property exist.
Private property makes competition necessary, and monopoly must result. We can get no real relief without striking at the root of the evil; namely: cutting off man's right to convert anything into private property. All short of this is useless patchwork, and every patch will cost more time, pain and bloodshed than will be necessary to destroy the whole right of private property, and settle the matter at once. It
is literal foolishness to be quarreling about the odds and ends of a bad system.
But we must have patience with the humble minded. A man, whose name is G. Edmonston, and whom the irony of fate has rewarded the office of a secretary in a National Labor Organization, has written a reply to some remarks which appeared in The Alarm in connection with the eight hour proclamation. He is evidently one of those fellows who think becauze "God" gave them an office He also furnished them with sense. Instead of showing the position of The Alarm in regard to the eight hour system to be untenable, he throws a lot of vile epithets at the anarchists, whom he looks upon in his stupidity as men with "disordered brains". The simpleton knows about as much on the subject of economics as the average ass knows about Homerian poetry.
The Alarm does not antagonize the eight hour movement; viewing it from the standpoint that it is an economic struggle, it simply points out that it is a lost battle, and further proves that though the eight hour system should be established, the wage-workers would gain nothing. They would still remain slaves to their capitalistic masters.
Supposing the hours of labor should be shortened to eight, our productive capacity would thereby not be diminished. The shortening of the hours of labor in England was immediately followed by a general increase of labor saving
machines, with a subsequent discharge of a proportionate number of employes. The reverse of what had been sought took place. The exploitation of those at work was intensified. They now perform more labor than before.
Now, for a man who desires to remain a wage-slave the introduction of every new improvement and machine is a threatened competitor. The unorganic machine works cheaper then the organic thing? Mr. Edmonston used wage-slavery as the very corner stone of civilization. Hence to be consistent, he ought to be opposed to the reduction of the hours of labor. His position is it seems that eight hours would give work to the unemployed, and save us from "over production". This, however, will not be the case. If the strike should turn out successful the eight hour system would result in the extermination of every small manufacturer and small shop man. They and those whom they now employ would be thrown on the labor market. Production would increase through larger establishments, greater subdivision of labor, &c. while the consuming force of the wage working class would be decreased, or at the best remain at a standstill.
What Edmonston calls "over production" would still remain. For this anomaly will remain just so long as a property class have the right to distribute the world's goods as they choose.
Now, interjects Mr. Edmonston: "Capital was and rightfully
is, but a servant of labor, and when it assumes to be more it oversteps its bounds and becomes a trespasser, liable to correction."
How naive: We should judge that capital was "overstepping its bounds" when it refuses to be the servant of more than 2,000,000 men and probably as many women in this country! These people are starving, many have starved -- why, Mr. Edmonston, don't you correct the trespasser? We would like to see you do it.
If you say "capital is the servant of labor", you lie! It is the servant of its possessor. Does labor possess capital? No. The fellows with the "disordered brain", the Anarchists and Socialists would make labor the possessor of capital. But this you don't want, yet you say capital ought rightfully to be the servant of labor.
Don't you think you are somewhat of a fool?
The space of The Alarm is too limited to treat your "pronunci amento" at great length. Just one thing more:
"The Anarchist wants a government to care for their needs one that would forbid us any reward above a mere existence for putting forth our energies to accomplish an object" you say,
And this man poses as a critic on Anarchism! He ought to go in partnership with Mr. Powderly, the man with the "dynamite of ideas", who, in his own language, "does not fight persons, but systens."
This is exactly the same thing as if England had said: "Why, we don't fight the Egyptian people, what we fight is Egypt". We think Mr. Powderly and Edmonston would pull well together.
Now, in regard to the proposed strike next spring a few practical words to our comrades. The number of organized wage workers in this country may be about 800,000; the number of the unemployed about 2,000,000. Will the manufacturing kings grant the modest request under such circumstances? No, sir. The small ones cannot, and the big ones will not. They will then draw from the army of unemployed; the strikers will attempt to stop them. Then comes the police and the militia..... Say, workingmen, are you prepared to meet the latter; are you armed?