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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 15 November 1919

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The Civic Issue

Shall the city’s black list stand? This is the question on which the present civic elections is being fought out. The reinstatement of the discharged civic employees is the point that raises the whole of the questions of the city administration during the last spring strike.

For the workers of Winnipeg the issue is simple, shall we vote as we strike? And the answer is, Yes!

The world now satisfies its wants through each worker doing his or her bit in production. But as Prof. Stephen Leacock says, in the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, published in the free press, “one man is engaged in making necessary things while nine are engaged in superfluous work.

The one worker out of ten citizens does not own the product of his own labor.

That is not the intention. The gross returns of the labor process go to a few private owners of the industrial equipment. These owners of the plants can run their plants only when there is a market to take the products. When there is no profit there is no market.

The state guarantees the titles to property, enforces contracts, maintains peace and order. The present industrial system would come to a dead stop if property and contract were not secure, hence the necessity for peace and order.

The workers, in fact the whole community, live from hand to mouth. When plants close down, workers become unemployed. In a week or two they are starving. Should the workers save when employed, they would take from their backs or starve their bellies, and would thus reduce the standard of living, which has been built up in the nations of Christendom by much sacrifice, suffering and heroic solidarity in Labor struggles.

In a transition period such as that through which the world is now passing, the worker who weakens and goes over to the side of the exploiters, is a traitor, not only to the living, but to the heroic dead and to generations of those yet unborn.

The new institutions which are to serve society have to be built up by labor and labor alone. We are now among the productive workers, creating a social product, but each worker carries nine others on his back while he labors. This must be changed. The workers who are to build the new institutions of society have to fit themselves for the task. Until they are ready to take charge, not only of the management of production, but also of all the organization, but society, in all its details, they cannot stop the wheels of industry. They must be ready and capable of doing the world’s work, when the reins of government fall down from the palsied hands of the owners of property.

In this election, an opportunity arises, as another arose last May, to obtain discipline in acting together as one man. If the workers get possession of the institutional furniture of the city, another opportunity opens up, to obtain experience in conducting social affairs. Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains; you have a world to gain.

Page revised: 27 July 2013

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