The result of that fresh “hustling” was the appointment of the Dilution Commissioners, a second Munitions Act amending the first, and a vast expansion all over the country of the organisation which had seemed so vast before. It was not till midwinter, in the very midst of the new and immense effort I have been describing, that the Minister of Munitions and those working with him convinced themselves that, without another resolute push, the barrier across the stream of the nation’s will might still fatally hold it back. More and more men were wanted every week—in the Army and the workshops—and there were not men to go round. The second push had to be given—it was given—and it still firmly persists.
In the spring of 1915, the executives of the leading trade-unions had promised the Government the relaxation of their trade rules for the period of the war. Many of the trade-union leaders—Mr. Barnes, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Hodge, and many others—have worked magnificently in this sense, and many unions have been thoroughly loyal throughout their ranks to the pledge given in their name. The iron-moulders, the shipwrights, the brassworkers may be specially mentioned. But in the trades mostly concerned with ammunition, there were certain places and areas where the men themselves, as distinct from their responsible leaders, offered a dogged, though often disguised resistance. Personally, I think that any one at all accustomed to try and look at labour questions from the point of view of labour will understand the men while heartily sympathising with the Minister, who was determined to get “the goods” and has succeeded in getting them. Here, in talking of “the men” I except that small revolutionary element among them which has no country, and exists in all countries. And I except, too, instances which certainly are to be found, though rarely, of what one might call a purely mean and overreaching temper on the part of workmen—taking advantage of the nation’s need, as some of the less responsible employers have no doubt, also, taken advantage of it. But, in general, it seems to me, there has been an honest struggle in the minds of thousands of workmen between what appears to them the necessary protection of their standards of life—laboriously attained through long effort—and the call of the war. And that the overwhelming majority of the workmen concerned with munitions should have patriotically and triumphantly decided this struggle as they have—under pressure, no doubt, but under no such pressure as exists in a conscripted, still more in an invaded, nation—may rank, I think, when all is said, with the raising of our voluntary Armies as another striking chapter in the book of England’s Effort.
In this chapter, then, Dilution will always take a leading place.
What is Dilution?