Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/746

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tions, which the engineers had shrewdly kept in the background, but which were latent in the eight-hour movement, and, from the employers' point of view, inseparable from it—questions which have long been irritating, and the conflict over which could not long be postponed.

In the judgment of the iron masters these questions were lifted far above the range of a mere labor dispute, and involved the broad and national question of the continuance of Great Britain in the race of international competition. We need not enlarge upon the reasons which convince so many Englishmen, and particularly those who are in the thick of the fight, that England's industries and commerce, not merely foreign but domestic, are seriously threatened by the competition of the continental manufacturers, as well as those of the United States. They cite the longer hours, the lower pay, and the superior technical education of continental workmen as three reasons why the products of the latter are gradually superseding goods of English origin in the world's neutral markets. They cite the larger product from improved machinery, and the superior application of this machinery, both on the continent and in the United States, as constituting economic advantages against which they are no longer able to successfully contend. They urge that in the long run these superior advantages mean the gradual surrender of Great Britain before a competition ever closer and fiercer, in which a fraction of difference in the cost of production is sufficient to turn the scale. From their point of view the introduction of the eight-hour day, as against ten and even twelve hours on the continent, would mean industrial hari-kari.

But the complaint reaches further: it insists that English trades-unionism, as developed in the iron trade particularly, is a handicap to industrial progress which is bearing fruit in the continual loss of trade, and the extinction of profits in the conduct of business. Trades-unionism has aimed steadily and successfully at a larger and closer control over the conditions under which work is done in the shops. The masters had lost control over the management of their own business, and, no longer able to adapt themselves to modern methods and economics, they found themselves in a state of dry rot, extrication from which was only possible by heroic measures.

Doubtless there is a degree of exaggeration in this picture, as drawn by the iron masters. Nevertheless, it is true that English trades-unionism has become so strongly organized and intrenched, and has followed lines of policy so aggressive and so potent, that it has long been an open question in England whether the internal management of the shop is not more under the domination of the union than of the employers. Until a comparatively recent date the conse-