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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 31 January 1920

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Between the Devil and the Deep Sea

Six hundred Europeans are said to have left Winnipeg for the case with the object of securing passports from Europe. This is only the beginning of a movement that is expect to drain over 8,000,000 of foreign immigrants out of Canada and the United States.

Already the C.P.R and the government roads are short of section hands and the problem of recruiting a supply of labor for the section and extra gangs for the spring and summer is looming large. The American employers of labor are already setting up the howl which always follows on the depletion of the supply of labor. In Canada the labor problem for farm hands is also promising to be an acute one.

Previous to the introducing of the National Policy and the building of the C.P.R, the native sons of Canada fled from the country as if it were cursed with a plague. This was because the population grew faster than the means of employment. Now Canada is cursed with another plague and the exodus is again under way. But in 1920 the cause is reversed. The demand for labor is action, but fear stands in the way.

When the European immigrant passes the Statue of Liberty, Enlightening the Works, rightly or wrongly, he was possessed of the idea that at last he was in the land of the free. The disillusionment has been sudden and rude. The letters sent to Europe have one and all carried the same message, delivered and reiterated in every language, keep away from North America both Canada and the United States.

During the war the foreigner was suspect; his liberty was abridged. After the war he was a Bolshevik, and it was brought forcibly to his mind that he was an undesirable citizen in a strange land. To the uncomfortable position which always attaches to a stranger, it was borne in upon him that he was not even desired, as a laborer so long as a native son wanted his job. Quietly and without demonstration, he decided to change his continent and the work to hand was the consideration in ways and means.

A story comes to us of community and well to do farmers, living in Canada, who have an ambition to sell out their properties, consisting of cultivated fields, happy homes, well outfitted farms, with the object of returning in Europe and setting up the new methods of grain growing which they have learned in Canada. They say that they do not wish to have their children acquire the brutal culture of Canada.

The effect of all this on the economic future of a young and growing country is at once apparent, it means that the growth of the country is to receive a sudden check and that all those advantages which come in a country, from large population and a subdivision of labor, have to be postponed for many years. It means in the years that are shortly to come, that the farmer will have to pay, probably a dollar an hour for an eight hour day and double time for overtime. It means an increase in the cost of living, it means labor troubles with labor having the best of the bargains, it means the solidarity of labor and the triumph of labor and it also means the arrested development of a country that might have been great.

The mistakes that have brought all this about is but another proof of the fact that the supreme control of the destinies of a country can never pass out of the hands of those least able to appreciate the growth of a new culture. Those taking part in the social work of a new method of production must necessarily be the first to be able to see the new social relations in their proper harmony, must be the first to acquire the new culture.

Once the necessity of the new culture becomes imperative to the proper understanding of the whole economic system as a going concern, the men at the hand of affairs, through lack of understanding, can make nothing but mistakes, must always sabotage industry. These mistakes have the unfortunate habit of becoming fatal.

Page revised: 31 July 2013

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