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Chapter 12 - The International Miners' Federation

THERE is in existence an International Miners' Federation which has, so far, held twenty-five international congresses. The last one was held in Geneva, Switzerland, August 2-6, 1921. The United Mine Workers of America belong to that Federation and were represented by one delegate in Geneva.

Representation at this congress was as follows :

  Number of members

Number of delegates

America 500,000 1


Belgium 123,540 10


123,000 6
France 130,000 23
Germany 768,675 37

Great Britain

900,000 65
Holland 4,000 1
Hungary 25,000 1
Jugo-Slavia 10,000 1
Poland ------- 1
Luxemburg ------- 1

The principles, objects and methods of this International Miners' Federation are reflected in the following Proposed New Rules:

Membership. The Federation is made up of the central or national miners' organizations of all countries or nationalities—in Europe and the United States of America, etc.—who join after having first of all agreed to adhere to the present rules. This adherence carries with it an honorable and formal agreement to accept the international charter as set out below.

Objects and Constitution. The object to be pursued is to unite all the forces of Miners' Trades Unions throughout the world, so as to secure adequate means for the efficacious protection of the workers in the organization, and particularly obtain

(a) The limitation of the hours of labor to a maximum of 8 hours during 24, including both winding times.

(b) A minimum wage corresponding to the cost of living, in order that the miners and their families may be assured a comfortable physical and intellectual existence.

(c) The appointment of workingmen inspectors, paid by the State, but elected by ballot vote of all the members of 21 years and upward.

(d) The adoption by special legislation of regulations for hygiene as well as baths, clinics, etc.

(e) The establishment of pensions sufficiently high to pro-vide for the comfort of our aged miners and compensation for accidents or illness.

(f) The nationalization of all mines and minerals in the interest of the community, to be administered by a council, representing the miners, the consumers and the State.

(g) The refusal of any further concessions to private capital-ism, whilst waiting for nationalization, and to reasonably reward those investors and pioneers, whose labors have resulted in discovery of new fields and seams of coal.

Methods. As to methods the International Federation adopts the following :

(a) Parliamentary action in the various governments.

(b) General public demonstrations by means of the referendum, and if needs be, by a general strike of the affiliated members.

Revenue. Each national organization to pay a yearly subscription of 5d. (about 10 cents) per affiliated member.

General strike. In the event of the International Congress being faced with a general strike to secure any of its objects, the natiOnal organization of each country must consult their constituents in the manner provided for them in their own rules, and send their decisions on to the international authority for co-ordination. In the event of a two-thirds majority in favor of a strike, the executive committee will authorize the strike to take place upon a date to be fixed by the committee.

The following are the main points in an anti-war resolution adopted by the congress : "In view of the importance of the question of war and peace, . . . and seeing that if an international miners' strike had been put into force, the terrible war of 1914 would have been avoided, for this reason and to avoid the repetition of such a crime, which was a disgrace to humanity, this conference declares in favor of the principle that an international miners' general strike should be declared in the event of war, regardless of the government which is responsible for the war, or proceed by way of a boycott of those countries, calling upon other organizations for their assistance if necessary."

What an International Union Should Be

This resolution was carried unanimously amid a scene of great enthusiasm, the delegates rising from their seats with cries of "Down with war !", and the French singing the "International."

We have no doubt that the membership of the United Mine Workers of America fully and enthusiastically endorse such beautiful sentiments and are ready to back those sentiments up with action, but we question whether the 100 per cent American machine in control of their union would go so far in disrespect for a government controlled by their long-time friends, the operators and the other capitalists. We suspect that if the operators put the kept press to work and get up another war hysteria, the 100 per cent American machine in question will prostrate itself in the dust, betray the workers of other countries, and offer their lives and their money to the operators for the war, just as they did in 1917. "We cannot fight against our government" was their slogan in the strike of 1919, even if it is a government of, by and for the operators, which rides rough-shod over the rank and file of the miners.

As the reader will note, there is in the program of this International no sign of an understanding of the ideas propagated by the I. W. W. and the Syndicalists of Europe, namely that the workers shall take over the industry themselves and run it, using the union as their organ. On the contrary, this International gives to their own unions a subordinate role and looks up to the state, the arch enemy of the worker, for protection. It disapproves of private ownership and control of the industry, but would replace it with governmental control of one kind or an-other, partial or complete, in spite of the discouraging experiences next door, in Russia, in Austria, in Germany and other countries with partial or complete government control. It is strange, to say the least, that the workers keep on sending such fossils to national and international congresses to concoct industrial straitjackets for the workers, with the capitalists and bureaucrats jointly controlling the strings of the jacket. The organ nearest to them, the very union they represent, seems to be too close to their noses for them to see it. They cannot see the forest for the trees that stand in the road. Besides, many of them have personal, political ambitions. They would like to become presidents and cabinet ministers or get some other high office before they die. And they think they will get to the top quicker by the political route, via the state, than via the union.

The proper function of an International Union of Coal Miners should be to take steps to organize coal production and distribution on a world basis, in order to introduce a rational system into industry; eliminate waste of coal and labor; to disseminate international education to their constituents, in order that as many as possible of the workers may become fitted and prepared to assume joint control and operation of the industry on a world basis. That is what the International Miners' Federation will do after the membership of the various countries have more thoroughly imbibed the principles of the I. W. W. and of the Syndicalist movements of Europe.

It should also be the function of an International Union in this industry to get together with the workers of other fuel industries with a view to conserving the fuel supply for coming ages. Both coal and oil will comparatively soon be exhausted—oil within 10 to 20 years, it is said. The question of running power stations with volcanic steam, as is now being done in Italy, and the full utilization of all available water power, are two of the measures that should be urged by a Coal Miners' International Union, with a sense of responsibility to posterity. Also it should urge the building of great central power stations at the coal mines, to save transportation.

On to Chapter 13

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