To return from this digression. One great advantage of the councils would be that those who represent the workmen upon them will probably be men who are actually engaged in manual work in the trades concerned, or have been so engaged, and who will look at each question practically. The agitator who lives on grievances and disputes, the politician “on the make,” or the well-meaning and half-informed enthusiast from outside, is not likely to find a place on councils whose object it is to see how interests which investors, managers, and workmen have in common can best be promoted, and how the share of each in the work and its profits can be more fairly assigned and distributed instead of attention being concentrated on matters in which their interests seem to be in conflict.
Another difficulty of more direct importance with regard to the proposed councils is already arising. The relative powers and position of the shop stewards chosen by the men in each works and of the unions representing industry as a whole in any district have to be settled. There are also overlapping unions competing for influence and support, and sometimes doing so by making excessive demands. The events of the next few months may lead either to an accentuation or to a partial solution of these questions which are perhaps the most serious at present affecting industrial peace. It is better not to anticipate. Prophecy might be falsified too soon and too palpably, and the position, which changes from week to week, is too critical for anyone to discuss unless he has full and exact knowledge of the facts and clear understanding of the way in which undercurrents are setting.
Our life is turned
Out of her course wherever man is made
An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
Or implement, a passive thing employed
As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
Of common right or interest in the end.
There is no doubt that among the causes of unrest one of the most serious, probably much more so than either employers or workmen are generally conscious of, is the long hours of work. Those who have had to hear questions arising out of labour disputes have noticed the state of tension produced by the weariness and strain of too prolonged and continuous work. Even in the domestic circle an overworked man is often found less amiable and more ready to find fault. A harassed manager and a deputation of jaded workmen may be really very good fellows and yet find that some comparatively small question raises strong feeling and mutual recrimination, and then leads to rash action resulting in open strife, strikes, and lock-outs, and the judicial proceedings which may be necessary in consequence of them. “A Skilled Labourer,” writing in the Quarterly