The forces of labor are taking control of the governments of the world. This is a significant development to students of Bible prophecy. Russia for years has been under the dictatorship of the proletariat. England now has a labor government. France has been taken over by a combination of socialist and communist elements—in short, the working class. Labor is definitely and positively reaching out for administrative control in the United States.
Every nation in the world, by the day-to-day decisions it now makes, is, in effect, whether it recognizes it or not, choosing between two systems—individualism and totalitarianism. On the one side is the system of free enterprise and individual liberty of decision. On the other side is the system of dominating government control, a system of a regimented economy and a regimented people.
Under the traditional American system, both individuals and groups have enjoyed the widest range of freedom compatible with law and order. Men have been free to join labor unions. They have been free to strike against conditions they thought unfair. But the freedom of workers to form unions and strike has been balanced until recently by an equal right of employers to manage their business, and the right of all other workers who wished peaceably to continue working, to do so.
These rights in all cases were protected by prohibition against intimidation, coercion, and violence on the part of anyone. The employer was not free to use intimidation or violence to break up unionism or to break a strike. The union was not free to use intimidation or violence to prevent an employer from carrying on his business if he cotild, or to prevent other workers from peaceably carrying on their jobs.
All this is rapidly changing. Unions now ask for an arrangement under which they can maintain all their own traditional freedoms while denying like freedoms to others. They insist that the right to strike must not be violated, but they have attempted to deny to others the right to work. They have thrown mass picket lines around factories and office buildings, and in front of the houses of company officials and nonstriking employees, and have tried, often successfully, to prevent those who wished to work, or even those who wished to maintain essential operations, from doing so.
Union leaders resist all efforts at wage control. At the same time they loudly demand continued price control. They insist that wages remain free, but that the profits of employers be rigidly dictated by government.
Union leaders have been so accustomed to a one-sided policy on the part of government, that many of them seem to think they can now force a more and more one-sided control which retains all the traditional liberties of their own workers, while placing more and more coercions on employers or on nonunion workers.
When a few thousand men on tugboats, in food packing plants, in telegraph offices, or wherever, quite suddenly, on their own decision or whim, restrict or tie up communications, or the nation's food or fuel supplies ; when they say they will continue to do so until their demands, however reasonable or unreasonable, are met; when by the force of intimidation or coercion they can prevent anyone else from taking the jobs which they have voluntarily vacated; when they can force relief or unemployment insurance arrangements, under which the taxpayers who are suffering from the strike are obliged to finance it; when, in short, they leave the employers and the public no alternative except to settle on their terms, then something has happened to the democratic and American system, of free enterprises and individual liberty that we do well to consider.
The Drift Toward Authoritarianism
Many people are becoming convinced that the prevalent epidemic of strikes is not at bottom a conflict over wages ; that much larger issues are at stake. Philip Murray charges that big business is attempting to break the unions. General Motors charges that the issue "is not primarily one of wages . . . but is an issue of ideology and national policy." By that is meant that it regards the "look at the books" demand as an effort on the part of labor to usurp the functions of management and hence to change the character of the' free-enterprise system, and set this nation on the road to socialism. President Truman has declared the strikes to be a struggle for power and has said the basic trouble is that both industry and the unions have too much power.
There is truth in all these views. Labor does want to sit at the management table, and there have a hand in fixing wages. Mr. Truman is right in Galling the present outbreak of strikes a struggle for power. There can be no doubt that management would greatly enjoy diminishing the power of, if not breaking, the labor movement.
The only alternative, however, to too much power in the hands of management and unions, is more governmental power and industrial control. Government wage fixing, government enforcement of arbitration, government seizure of struck plants, government price fixing, are all in the direction of a state-controlled economy. That may have been a necessity in a war emergency. But if it now carries over into peace, it is a threat to true democracy.
What I would direct special attention to is that these current developments are in the direction of submerging the individual and individual rights. They tend to bring about systems of totalitarianism in labor, in industry, and in government. The individual is lost in the mass. The drift is toward the omnipotent state, toward state totalitarianism, and toward authoritarianism in all other organizations. What chance has the individual in any of these organizations today ?
Prophetic Counsel for Today
James and Isaiah plainly told the people of God who face these hard conditions in "the last days," that industrial organization—look at it as we will, as good or bad—is not the remedy for human injustice, human iniquity, and human oppression. It will not, indeed, it cannot, cure the social unrest that curses the world. It does not bring classes together. Indeed, it deepens hatred and bitterness; it does not remove them.
God's message to His people in this time and for this occasion, is not membership in labor organizations. It is not participation in labor activities. It is not in organized resistance to injustice and oppression. It is summed up in one clear phrase: "Be patient therefore, brethren." "Be ye also patient; the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
This is a call for endurance of hard conditions. In every sphere of life and relationship these days, God's people are called to quiet waiting, waiting upon God while waiting for God. There is so little they can do. They have no power of control over the social, the economic, the political movements of this time. Their strength is to be still and wait on God and stand apart from human attempts to correct impossible conditions.
And this endurance is to be their witness to their faith. Waiting is the hardest thing ever given man to do. It is a great help in the doing of it if we can have the inspiration of some great ideal, the expectation of some impending event—if we can have some great waiting in mind to which we may be constantly lifting ourselves. And we have. Our great waiting is for "the coming of the Lord." It is this that is to influence and mold all our waiting these days. It is this that is to solace our hearts, shape our plans, govern our conduct, and direct our course. "Thou are my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God." Come, O come, Lord Jesus; come quickly.
There are duties laid upon us during this waiting time. We are to keep away from restlessness —"Be patient." We are to keep from doubt "Stablish your hearts." We are to keep from envying—"Grudge not one against another."
Plainly the counsel God gives His people now in meeting hard industrial conditions is that they are to look away from man to God. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Hint be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Isa. 8:13. To this clear instruction of the Bible is added the equally plain instruction which has come to us from the Spirit of prophecy.*
"In this work we are to preserve our individuality. We are not to unite with secret societies or with trades unions. We are to stand free in God."—Testimonies, vol. 7, P. 84.
"The trades unions and confederacies of the world are a snare. Keep out of them and away from them, brethren. Have nothing to do with them."—General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903, p. 87.
"In the world gigantic monopolies will be formed. Men will bind themselves together in unions that will wrap them in the folds of the enemy. . . . Trades-unions will be formed, and those who refuse to join these unions will be marked men."—E. G. WHITE Letter 26, 1903.
It may have seemed peculiar to apply the term "gigantic monopolies" to labor unions. Since that was written, however, organized labor has developed in the direction of "gigantic monopolies." It is no longer possible to think of the labor movement as merely a group of men in overalls, seeking only for better wages, better hours, and better living conditions, having only the weapons and equipment of strikes and violence. Labor is big business today. It uses the methods of big business. It owns daily newspapers and attractive magazines. It employs expert propagandists who use regular radio broadcasts, motion pictures, comic pictures, tabloid newspapers, labor book-of-the-month clubs, and airplane advertising to put their campaigns across.
When Ellen G. White wrote forty-four years ago, "Men have to pledge themselves to serve the interests of these unions or else they may have to pay the penalty of refusal with their lives," she seemed to display foreknowledge of developments which had not then taken place. Constitutional provisions of one of the most powerful international labor unions require this membership obligation:
"I [give name] hereby solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will not reveal any business or proceedings of any meeting of this or any subordinate union to which I may hereafter be attached ; . . . that my fidelity to the union and my duty to the members thereof shall in no sense be interfered with by any allegiance that I may now or hereafter owe to any other organization, social. political, or religious, secret or otherwise." [Note that religious affiliation is included.]
We quote again from the Spirit of prophecy:
"Those who claim to be the children of God are in no case to bind up with the labor unions that are formed or that shall be formed. This the Lord forbids. Cannot those who study the prophecies see and understand what is before us ?"—Letter 201, 1902.
"These unions are one of the signs of the last days. . Men are binding up in bundles ready to be burned. They may be church members, but while they belong to these unions they cannot possibly keep the commandments of God ; for to belong to these unions means to disregard the entire Decalogue."—Letter 26, 1903.
"The trades-unions will be one of the agencies that will bring upon this earth a time of trouble such as has not been since the world began."—Letter 200, 1903.
With this instruction before you it will not be difficult to understand why the General Conference Committee has brought into existence the Council on Industrial Relations. It was felt that just as in the case of the war between the nations a War Service Commission was necessary to aid our men in military relations, so in this war between great combinations of capital and labor, a Council on Industrial Relations is necessary to give what aid may be possible to help our members involved with industrial difficulties.
First, a policy was formulated. This has been published in the Review and Herald of September 27, 1945. It was thought this should be placed on record with the Government and the great industrial organizations, such as the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the United Mine Workers.
This has been done. Our procedures now involve requesting local unions where our people are affected to enter upon agreements that will make it possible for our members to entirely disassociate themselves from labor union membership and labor union activities. The Basis of Agreement* suggested and already signed in numbers of cases by local unions is available through the union conference offices. It should be studied carefully. An identification card * is to be signed by church members who desire the help of the Council on Industrial Relations.
We earnestly solicit the co-operation of all our ministers and workers in attempting to solve the problems of our church members in the way that the General Conference has recommended.
* These and the Spirit of prophecy statements used subsequently in this article appear in the recently published E. G. White pamphlet, "Country Living—An Aid to Moral and Social Security," just now available at ten cents through Book and Bible House channels.—Editors