The year 1910 brought a seeming realization of this antagonism by the men. Throughout the negotiations for the new agreement, the men continuously insisted, more and more on having the controlling voice. Early on it was laid down that plenary powers should not be given to the leaders, but that the final acceptance of any agreement should depend upon the ballot vote of the men.
Thus an entirely new principle was established, which took away from the Leaders all responsibility for the terms of the agreement, and left only the responsibility for the conduct of the negotiations.
This, while representing an advance, is by no means a satisfactory solution. It places the men in the position of a crowd at a football match. The players, selected by the crowd have to outmanoeuvre their opponents, while the crowd either cheer or criticize their efforts. But of real control, save in the matter of selecting the players, the crowd have none.
This half-hearted establishment of the principle of direct control by the men found expression again towards the end of the year by the outbreak of the Cambrian and Aberdare disputes. A careful and dispassionate survey of these historic struggles, will show that at every stage, the interference of Leaders prejudiced the case of the men, and also helped to tie their hands in their endeavour to settle the disputes themselves.
To the Leaders, everything seemed to be in the melting pot, because the men insisted on taking a hand in the conduct of affairs. There was much vain talk on the Leaders' side about "the growing spirit of anarchy" which was bringing "chaos" into the coalfield. And on the men's side, a growing distrust of leadership and a determination to gain more control.
We had reached the half-way house between two methods of administration, each of which negatived and stultified the other. To-day we begin to realize that it is impossible to combine the two methods; and signs are not wanting to show that if measures are not taken to crystalize the new spirit, to give it proper methods in which to function, we shall drift back to the old methods of autocracy.
It becomes necessary then to devise means which will enable this new spirit of real democratic control to manifest itself. Which will not only enable the men, but which will encourage, nay compel them, to take the supreme control of their own organisation.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING OLD AND NEW
So long as the system of working for wages endures, collective bargaining remains essential. From the men's side we cannot permit individual bargains to be made. Such individual bargains have a tendency to debase wages and conditions. On the employers' side there is no great desire for change in this matter. As will be seen by recent speeches by Mr. D. A. Thomas and Lord Merthyr, they realize its value, in its present form, to them. They have no time to bother with individuals, but prefer to purchase their labour power in bulk, on an agreed schedule. On the men's side, however, it is being realized, that collective bargaining can be made so wide reaching and all embracing, that it includes the whole of the working class. In this form the employers and the old school of labour leaders have no love for it. The employers, because they realize its dangers to their profits. The labour leaders, because it will degrade their power and influence by necessitating a much more stringent and effective democratic control than at present obtains. Let us, in order to clearly realize this, examine at close quarters the labour leader and his functions.
ARE LEADERS GOOD AND NECESSARY?
This is not a double question, since if leaders are necessary, they [are] perforce good. Let us then examine the leader, and see if he is necessary. A leader implies at the outset some men who are being led; and the term is used to describe a man who, in a representative capacity, has acquired combined administrative and legislative power. As such, he sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion. His motto is, "Men, be loyal to your leaders." H[i]s logical basis: Plenary powers. His social and economic prestige, is dependent upon his being respected by "the public" and the employers. These are the three principles which form the platform upon which the leader stands. He presents, in common with other institutions, a good and a bad aspect.
THE GOOD SIDE OF LEADERSHIP
1. Leadership tends to efficiency
One decided man, who knows his own mind is stronger than a hesitating crowd. It takes time for a number of people to agree upon a given policy. One man soon makes up his mind.
2. He takes all responsibility
As a responsible leader, he knows that his advice is almost equivalent to a command, and this ensures that his advice will have been carefully and gravely considered before being tendered.
3. He stands for Order and System
All too frequently, "What is everybody's business is nobody's business," and if no one stands in a position to ensure order and system, many things are omitted which will cause the men's interest to suffer.
4. He affords a standard of goodness and ability
In the sphere of public usefulness there is a great field of emulation. The good wishes of the masses can only be obtained by new aspirants for office showing a higher status of ability than the then existing leaders. This tends to his continued efficiency or elimination.
5. His faithfulness and honesty are guarded
Hero worship has great attractions for the hero, and a leader has great inducements on this side, apart from pecuniary considerations to remain faithful and honest.
THE BAD SIDE OF LEADERSHIP
1. Leadership implies power
Leadership implies power held by the Leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption. All leaders become corrupt, in spite of their own good intentions. No man was ever good enough, brave enough, or strong enough, to have such power at his disposal, as real leadership implies.
2. Consider what it means
This power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self respect becomes his.
3. The order and system
The order and system he maintains, is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being "the men" or "the mob." Every argument which could be advanced to justify leadership on this score, would apply equally well to the Czar of all the Russias and his policy of repression. In order to be effective, the leader must keep the men in order, or he forfeits the respect of the employers and "the public," and thus becomes ineffective as a leader.
4. He corrupts the aspirants to public usefulness
He is compelled in order to maintain his power, to see to it that only those, who are willing to act as his drill sergeants or coercive agents shall enjoy his patronage. In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy.
5. He prevents solidarity
Sheep cannot be said to have solidarity. In obedience to a shepherd, they will go up or down, backwards or forwards as they are driven by him and his dogs. But they have no solidarity, for that means unity and loyalty. Unity and loyalty, not to an individual, or the policy of an individual, but to an interest and a policy which is understood and worked by all.
Finally he prevents the legislative power of the workers.
An industrial vote will affect the lives and happiness of workmen far more than a political vote. The power to vote whether there shall or shall not be a strike, or upon an industrial policy to be pursued by his union, will affect far more important issues to the workman's life, than the political vote can ever touch. Hence it should be more sought after, and its privileges jealously guarded. Think of the tremendous power going to waste because of leadership, of the inevitable stop-block he becomes on progress, because quite naturally, leaders examine every new proposal, and ask first how it will affect their position and power. It prevents large and comprehensive policies being initiated and carried out, which depend upon the understanding and watchfulness of the great majority. National strikes and policies, can only be carried out, when the bulk of the people see their necessity, and themselves prepare and arrange them.