The Timber Worker, July 8, 1915


The outstanding fact of Victorian Trades Unionism is its incapacity.
Here is the gravest industrial situation extant for years, and the
organisation of Labor stands helpless in the midst of an ever-growing
army of unemployed on the one hand, aggravated by the power of monstrous
monopoly to hold up the essential staples of life on the other.

Yet Unionism has more than 130,000 members pledged to its principles and
policy, and all the time these 130,000 members are laughed at by the
employerdom of the State and every demand they formulate for decent
regulation in industry is contemptuously scouted and scotched. The boss
is all authoritative, and no man can say him nay. Short-time or
overtime, work or no work, are decided on without reference of any sort
or kind to the movement of organised unionism. Why is it that unionism
is so powerless?

The answer is that in no establishment where any considerable number of
men are employed is unionism properly organised. For the unionists at a
sawmill to be tied up in different organisations is to destroy all the
potentialities of united action. At Moore's, Sharps, Brewer's,
Sturrock's Kerr's and all the big mills, we have the spectacle of one
employer faced by separated detachments of unorganised men, who, despite
their membership in a trade union, do not meet together, do not consider
together, have no definite and united policy, and are each helpless to
achieve because of the withering results of stupid and avoidable

And these divisions persist entirely because things essential are
subordinated to lesser issues. Wages and conditions are more important
than accident and mortuary funds; yet, day by day the attempt to
amalgamate unionism – to make it an all-powerful force in the elevation
of the human standard – is obstructed, side-tracked and defeated because
of misplaced concern in regard to unemployed grants, superannuation
allowances, and a thousand and one other of the aspects of our
collective benevolence.

All this despite the unimpeachable fact that, stably founded and massed
in keeping with the order and structure of industry, unionism could so
regulate the actualities of life as to make well-nigh superfluous these
doles to misfortune. Organised for social justice, unionism can dispense
with philanthropy. And this must be. Our economic necessity allows
little choice, and we must to it at once. The supreme requirement of our
day is Industrial Organisation. The old weak Craft Unionism has to go
and whatever be the steps needful in this connection, they must be