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Chapter 16 - The Proposed Nationalization of the Coal-Mines

THE LAST two conventions of the United Mine Workers of America (1919-1921) some so-called radical resolutions have been adopted, in favor of recognizing free Russia and free Ireland, the repeal of the espionage law, the release of political prisoners, etc. These resolutions are allowed to pass without much friction, being that they mean so little in fact but such a lot to the "radicals." It is the method adopted, in order to allow the radicals to "blow off steam," so they will not after that interfere with the practical work of the convention. Neither of the above mentioned resolutions have attracted more than momentary notice, and those in power have ignored them (with the exception of "free Ireland," which was endorsed by the U. S. Senate), as they always do with working class resolutions.

But there is one resolution of some importance adopted at both the conventions in 1919 and 1921 of the United Mine Workers, and that is the resolution calling for nationalization of the coal-mines.

As we have said before, we do not think it is sincerely meant by the leaders to solve the question of life for the miners, but rather to make the operators a little nervous. It is an agitational trump in their little game with the operators, as we have said before.

In order that the mine workers may not be deceived by this quasi-radical lure, we will look a little closer into this new-fangled substitute for capitalism, calculated to disguise the old institution of wage slavery.

Here are some extracts of the resolution in question, adopted 1921:

We hold that the coal supply of our nation should be owned by the commonwealth and operated in the interest of and for the use and comfort of all the people of the commonwealth. Countless generations of men and women will doubtless follow us, and the American people of this generation owe a solemn duty to them in protecting with jealous care and conserving with wise administration those great treasures that a bounteous nature has bestowed upon us in such generous measure.

Our coal resources are the birth-right of the American people for all time to come, and we hold it is the immediate duty of the American people to prevent the profligate waste that is taking place under the private ownership of these resources, by having the Government take such steps as may be necessary providing for the nationalization of the coal mining industry of the United States.

Under private ownership, where production is conducted for private gain, the spirit of the times seems to be 'after us the deluge.' This must be supplanted by a system where production will be for use and for the common good and economic waste will give way to the conservation of the nation's heritage in the interest of posterity.

We, the United Mine Workers of America, in international convention assembled, representing the workers who have their lives and the welfare of their dependents invested in the coal-mines of our country, do therefore resolve:

That we demand the immediate nationalization of the coal-mining industry of the United States. That we instruct our international officers and the International Executive Board to have a bill prepared for submission to congress, containing the following provisions:

1. That the Government, through act of congress, acquire title to all coal properties within the United States now owned by private interests, by purchasing said properties at a figure representing the actual valuation of said properties, as determined upon investigation by accredited agents of the federal government.

2. That the coal mining industry be operated by the federal government and that the mine workers be given equal representation upon such councils or commissions as may be delegated the authority to administer the affairs of the coal-mining industry; or the authority to act upon the question of wages, hours of labor, conditions of employment or adjudication of disputes and grievances within the industry.

We herewith further instruct our international officers to use their every influence to bring our demand for nationalization to the attention of the American people and to endeavor to secure co-operation and support of every progressive force and every liberal individual with a regard for our duty to posterity and the belief in the principle of common ownership of our natural resources to the accomplishment of this end.

We further instruct our representatives to urge in a common conference with the representatives of the railroad workers' unions a working alliance for the purpose of securing the adoption of the Plumb plan for nationalization of railroads as the initial step in the fight for the principle of nationalization with the understanding that such alliance will continue to press the issue with unabated vigor until the principle of nationalization has been extended to embrace the coal-mining industry of the nation; and be it further

Resolved, that our organization for the reasons stated above carry its fight for nationalization of mines into the Dominion of Canada and throw its influence wherever possible behind our members in Canada to the accomplishment of that end.

This action has since been endorsed and enlarged upon by the A. F. of L. convention which convened in Denver, Colo., June 31, 1921.

As the reader will note, this nationalization plan for the coal-mines provides as little for the abolition of wage slavery as does the Plumb plan for the railroads. Both of them mean government ownership and control of nearly the same kind as we had during the war in the railroad administration and the fuel administration or, as we have had for decades, in European countries of railroads, telegraphs and telephones. The only appreciable difference is that the European governments have not paid a cent for the nationalized property, but have built it up themselves, which is much better than buying it. A further difference is that a few representatives of the workers, presumably elected through the machinery of the safe and sane unions and guaranteed to be free from progressive ideas, shall sit on the board of directors. Wage slavery remains untouched, and there is no provision for democratic control by the workers except empty phrases. In short, it is merely a shuffling of the outward form of ownership and control. The nationalization proposed is for all practical purposes of the same kind as the disastrous nationalization undertaken by the bolsheviks in Russia, with dictatorial control from the top by a board of directors, the dictatorship being thinly disguised by means of a minority representation coming from the ranks of the workers. We do not oppose the experiment. As long as we cannot abolish capitalism and anchor control and ownership in the ranks of the workers, we do not care what forms capitalism takes, whether it be trust capitalism or state capitalism. The difference is insignificant. But we do, not want the miners to put their faith in such experiments or invest the state with more power over the individual than it already has. It is dangerous to liberty. We want them to retain faith in themselves alone, and prepare to take control without buying the mines or the railroads, through their unions, without interference by politicians and other elements aspiring to rule over the workers.

And why, in the name of reason, should we buy the mines back? Most of them were originally stolen from the people, and those who bought them have gotten their price back and much more besides. If they have not, it is none of our business. Let the capitalists and stock-holders settle their claims among themselves. We have nothing to do with them. The mines belong to the people.

Besides, if the people are to pay for coal-mines and railroads, we presume they are to pay for the other industries also. In fact, we should have to buy back the largest part of the "national" wealth, amounting to close to 400 billions. Where will we take the money? We should have to give "notes" or bonds for it. Are the bonds to draw interest? If so, we will keep doubling or trebling the "national" wealth in the capitalist hands every 20 years as before. What are they to do with this giltedged paper-wealth, which they have no chance to invest? The whole Plumb plan is plumb-crazy. It is logically and mathematically absolutely untenable and absurd. It is a gigantic "Ponzi-scheme," just like capitalism, which will land its votaries in the bug-house if they seriously attempt to draw the consequences.

And what is more—perhaps the capitalist class does not want to sell out ! What then ?—Pooh—Bah ! !

The I. W. W. plan is the only sane solution of the social problem before the world to-day.

The only thing that now separates the workers from control over and ownership of the railroads and the coal-mines is their industrial ignorance, with the resultant lack of unity of purpose and action, not only among coal-miners and railroad workers but also among all other workers.

The working class as a whole has yet to be awakened to the great role it is destined to play in the future. The more we work for the education of the workers along such lines, the sooner we will reach our goal.

What the I. W. W. aspires to is an industrial administration built up entirely from the place of work, such administration to take the place of the obsolete and incompetent political administration of today. The One Big Union shall not only be the future organ of production and distribution, but also the organ of local, district and national administration and defense.

By this method the whole people will actively participate in all public affairs. We will have true industrial democracy and industrial communism. The whole world organized in unions, and the whole society built on the unions, that is the aim of the I. W. W. The nationalization program of the U. M. W. leaves the union hanging in the air with no function to fill except to elect some directors. If such nationalization were adopted, the unions would go out of business as fighting organs and merely become government organs of election. How long would they last at that rate?

The same would happen to the railway unions. Having no function to fill after nationalization they would go out of business.

But the I. W. W. unions will become the only organs of the new society.

On to Chapter 17

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