"The Principles that governs a 'hold-up' are the self-same principles that govern government."—Ragnar Redbeard, Might is Right.

Capitalist Ethics

Editorial on Capitalist Ethics and The Winnipeg general strike of 1919 quoting Ragnar Redbeard's "Might is Right."

Capitalist Ethics

“The same principles that govern a holdup govern governments.” So says Ragnar Redbeard in his “Might is Right,” and it would appear that recent happenings all over Canada, particularly Winnipeg, substantiate this formula.

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Let us examine the essential details. Labor-power is a commodity and is consequently subject to all commodity laws. The laborer takes his labor-power to the labor market just

as the butcher takes his meat to the meat market, or cattle to the cattle market, etc., for the purpose of disposing of it at the market price.

The butcher sets his price, ditto the cattleman, etc., and if the prospective purchaser does not feel inclined to pay that price the vendor has a perfect legal right to withhold the commodity from sale, and a combination of would-be purchasers is powerless to compel the vendor to reduce his price.

The vendor of the commodity labor-power offering his commodity for sale in the labor market at Winnipeg decided to sell under certain conditions or not at all. These conditions were not complied with by would-be purchasers, and the commodity was taken off of the market until such time as the purchaser had been educated to understand and appreciate the new price.

What happened? What should have happened? The government, if they thought it fit to

interfere—and history furnishes abundance of material to show us that governments never interfere, if capitalism can win out without their assistance—had two courses open to it, and two only.

The first, in our opinion, would have been the only honorable course open to an honest government actuated by motives conductive to the best principles of democracy; namely, to have enacted legislation that would have anticipated the recommendations of the peace conference, inaugurating the 44-hour week.

The other course open to them was the one they chose, and which has, we hope, clearly demonstrated the fact that they are merely the executive of the capitalist class.

When the deed was done, when they had acted like the cowards they have proven themselves to be by their frantic order-in-council actions of the past four years, when like thieves in the night they pounced upon their sleeping victims and had successfully railroaded them, when Winnipeg had been made once more safe for democracy with methods that remind one of the Inquisitorial period, then the faithful allies of the government—the press—cut loose.

Capitalist Ethics - On The Winnipeg General Strike Riots 1919

The Mail and Empire compared the strike first to a revolution—if they really believe that it was a revolution, then heaven help that editor if he ever does strike a real one. Then it was compared to an illicit whisky moonshining undertaking, next to a bank note engraving corporation; then we were told that there was Bolshevik money galore in Winnipeg; then it was discovered, then it was not.

Search has revealed arms, which, for all we know, might have been some toy pistols or peashooters.

Suddenly we were informed that the leaders were pacifists, then aliens, and all the time, of course, they were Bolshevists. Why?

Was it because they availed themselves of certain rights and privileges which law and custom had conferred upon them, rights which the rest of the community—we mean even the ultra-capitalist class—share with them, and rights which are enjoyed even in Germany, Austria, China, japan, etc., namely, to collectively organize to control the source of supply, to the end that the greatest amount of remuneration possible can be obtained by the individuals so organized?

Dare any one deny labor’s right to do this in the face of what has been done by Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Mackenzie and Mann, not to speak of such as Flavelle or to refer to Borden’s 50 per cent, etc.?

Yes, capital denies labor’s right to collectively bargain because it is against the best interests of capital.

However, the effect of what has transpired in Winnipeg during the past few days has been good. “Out of the strong comes forth sweetness.”

We believe that labor is more solidly wielded together today than it ever was; even the Hamilton trades council voted solid for a resolution of condemnation.

One discordant note emanating from Mr. Flett, probably the most reactionary reactionary in Canada, was struck, but little or no notice of it was taken, which fact alone is another proof of labor’s growing solidarity in the fight for “Canada’s Mooneys.”

Charles Dickens once said in Hard Times: “It seems to me to be a foolish method of solving this problem, this taking the agitators away from their trade. Why not take the trade away from the agitators?”

These are our sentiments exactly, and the solution does not lie in that direction. They who have taken up the cudgels on behalf of labor at Winnipeg may be repulsed, and they may be repulsed many times yet. Death or imprisonment may cause some to retire from the conflict, but the temporary breach in the ranks will be rapidly made up by the numerous recruits that are thirsting for the fray.

Every contest entered into is a step nearer our goal, for, during everyone, there is held aloft the glorious ideal of solidarity of labor; and with every trial, whether for the moment we emerge triumphant or traduced, there is the solid satisfaction that patiently but surely the workers are being welded together into one irresistible whole, when they march forward with courage and with hope to the conquest of the material needs of existence and the subversion of cant and cruelty.

No, labor knows no defeat. No ‘fight is lost or won until the struggle is relinquished. The workers’ cause will yet triumph. Greetings to Winnipeg.—The New Democracy.

New York, NY Evening Call, July 8, 1919.