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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 15 May 1920

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A Militant Organization

Prof. Hoxie in what is perhaps the best history of American Trades Unionism that had been written, divides unions according to function and according to structure. Structure is important only because of its effects on structure. Adopting a simpler subdivision than the professor, a few remarks are here offered in regard to the functions of the Trades Unions.

Our division, for the time being, will be threefold, that is revolutionary, militant and reactionary Trades Unions. Revolutionary Trades Unions is [sic] out for a complete change in the economic order. Of such a nature is Guild Socialism, Communism and Syndicalism also Bolshevism. These are all out with a cut and dried structure for the economic society of the future and their plans are all laid and the blue-prints drawn for the new structure. These people are fondly accumulating material and assembling forces to be used in building, and the main work is soon to be begun or get under way.

Militant Trades Unionism centers its activities on the present. The phenomena which it studies are things as they are. To understand social phenomena the genetic methods of physical science are borrowed. The past is studied so that a proper understanding of the present may be had. The social order is regarded as dynamic and not as static; all the social order is in process of flux and change; nothing is, everything is becoming; what we see before our eyes is a continuous succession of social phenomena in more or less casual sequence; the child of today is the man of tomorrow. The future is in the field of idealism. With the millions of social factors at work any combination of which may possess a determining influence on future combinations, it is impossible to predict the processes of society even in the immediate future. One invention or discovery might and would change fundamentally the whole basis of ownership, might compel us to recast every human institution. The present is ours to do with it as we will; the future belongs to our children. Militant Trades Unionism, therefore, sets its hand in the work which presents itself to be done today.

Reactionary Trades Unionists looks upon society as static. The present order is the natural order. The system of property, of little more than one hundred years duration is nor as it was at the beginning and ever more shall be. The tendency of this old Unionism is to dwell on the past and to depend on the institutions of the past. All these people are hurt when there is any deviation from the old order, with which they are familiar. Such a people always stand in the way of progress. From the standpoint of culture, these people are only halting on the way of progress. The social forces are of such a nature that, by and by, they must come under the rod. In the meantime they ought to be indicted and to be convicted for being a common nuisance.

Page revised: 6 August 2013

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