Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/743

This page has been validated.


APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.


APRIL, 1898.



AN INDUSTRIAL OBJECT LESSON.
By S. N. D. NORTH.

THE past year was one of unusual disturbance in England, in the relations of labor and capital, and the chief of these industrial conflicts possessed a significance never anywhere surpassed. The lockout of the engineers—we call them machinists in this country—marks the new alignment of organized labor and organized capital—what may be called the secondary stage of the labor question—more sharply, more tensely, than ever before. A glance at the underlying causes of the engineering lockout will afford a clear conception of the form in which "the labor question" presents itself for the solution of the twentieth century.

There have been strikes that involved a larger number of workers, as the great coal strike of 1893, and the London dock strike; strikes that have lasted longer; strikes that have been costlier; strikes that have developed more bitterness of feeling. There has been no previous collision which, brushing aside all questions as to wages, reached down so closely to the root of the problem, and spread open to public knowledge the real essence of the difference which threatens the productive forces of modern times. The engineers' strike furnishes a concrete illustration of the immensity and the perplexity of the unsettled issue of modern industrialism.

Broadly speaking, labor strikes are of two kinds. The great mass of them, hitherto, have belonged in the simpler group, and have had to do with the wage question only; they are simple, however serious and complicated they may outwardly be, because they turn upon a single economic fact. When employers insist that certain rates of wages are necessitated by existing business conditions, and