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BY MORRIS HILLQUIT.
This volume represents the first attempt in this country to establish a reliable annual chronicle of the aims, struggles and achievements of labor throughout the world.
Within its own sphere the scope of the American Labor Year Book is practically unlimited. It will be the earnest endeavor of its publishers to record in the pages of the succeeding volumes, year by year, the progress and problems of the most important economic and political movements making for social reform and for the betterment of the workers' lot.
No period of our history has been so replete with significant economic struggles, startling political developments and radical social reform as the present. The United States is in the process of remaking and countless movements are directly and indirectly co-operating with each other in the process.
In this swift current of struggle, change and progress the active worker in the movement is carried along from day to day and from task to task without opportunity to pause for orientation. And yet a periodical orientation and re-orientation is as essential to the labor leader, Socialist and social reformer as periodical stock-taking is to the business men. To be truly useful and effective the modern social worker must be familiar not only with the conditions of the movement in which he is directly interested but also with those of the kindred and even hostile movements, their aims, programs and practical achievements. With an alert eye and open mind he must study all new fields of activity, new methods of action and new currents of thought, and learn alike from their weakness and their strength.
The American Labor Year Book will aim to furnish this opportunity to the practical social worker. It is an undertaking as ambitious and difficult as it is timely and necessary. In the preparation of this volume the compilers have en
countered not only all the usual difficulties attendant upon a new enterprise of this character, but also many additional obstacles arising from the abnormal social conditions of the times. The devastating war in Europe has largely disorganized all social movements and checked all social progress in the belligerent countries. Only scant and fragmentary information was therefore obtainable on the Socialist and labor movements of Europe, which in normal times contribute the largest share of the world's social progress.
The publishers of the American Labor Year Book are fully aware of the shortcomings of this volume, but they hope to do better in each of the succeeding editions by dint of increasing experience, and particularly upon the restoration of normal conditions in Europe. In the meanwhile they find comfort in the conviction that the work is worth while as a beginning and as the basis for steady and progressive improvements.
THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN THE
THE AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT.
The Trades Union movement in this country has seemingly been the most chaotic that exists anywhere. At times it has come perilously near, in the earlier days, to reflecting the curious and often wildly absurd forms we see in some American religions, legislation, social experiments and the administration of law.
Lynch law is typically American. It has been used without stint against the unions. Then there is a mass of Federal laws, State laws of 48 different kinds, county laws and municipal ordinances. Somewhere in this mass could be found a law that could be directed against the unions. But slowly out of the disorder and fighting every step of the ground against those in whose favor the laws were framed, the trades unions have brought the working class, even the unorganized, to a clearer understanding of what is their right and what is necessary to the general social welfare.
They have done it at a cost of suffering, of life and of wealth that is incalculable. In the hundreds of experiments that have been made in organization there was always at least a lesson. Little unions have come forward, attempted certain reforms and have passed away. Great unions, apparently capable of wielding invincible power, have suddenly disintegrated, and the work of organization had to be started again. The American people are the most disorderly, uncertain of purpose and wasteful in the world. The American people include those whose ancestors came here with the first Europeans and those who arrived yesterday. They are of every race and every color and speak dozens of different tongues. But it does not matter what the color or the language may be, each is a potential wage worker and it has been the task of the Trades Unions to organize them and drill them into an efficient army of Labor in defense of Labor.
First of all, the workers had no protection under the law. The little strikes that occurred in the earlier days were not the result of Trades Unionism but were the revolts of a few individuals here and there. The Trades Union is the product of the machine. Whitney's invention of the cotton gin made the textile business possible on a large scale, and necessitated a big supply of labor. Howe's invention of the