Page:Historical Catechism of American Unionism.pdf/84

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Students will be impressed that from the advent of unionism in the United States there have been attempts to fasten political parties upon the economic organizations of labor. The idea that politics offer a field for resultful labor activity is hard to dispel, notwithstanding that all the past experiences of organized labor in America go to show its ineffectiveness where the working class interest is concerned.

From the second decade of the Nineteenth Century, the record shows that political action by labor has been the instrumentality by which promising labor movements have been done to death. Political parties of labor have sapped the economic organizations of their vitality and kept the labor movement marking time when it should have been marching forward. Politicians today may "point with pride" to past political activities of the organized workers in America, but they fail to note, or at least do not draw attention to the fact that the rise of the political idea has always marked and been in proportion to the decline of economic effectiveness.

Every now and again movements aiming to provide American labor with a national expression were foundered upon the reef of labor politics. We find here, and there, on different occasions, representative bodies of labor protesting, because of previous experiences, against the commitment of organizations to political action. Nevertheless, down even to this day, the conception of the organized workers as a political force has survived; that unions can function effectively in more than one capacity. Though the past of American labor proves beyond cavil or doubt that the introduction of political action exerts a disruptive and paralyzing influence upon unions in their economic functions, there are still those who, perhaps because they have not understandingly analyzed the past, maintain that political action is a proper and legitimate function of a labor union.

The interference of the state in disputes affecting the relationship of employer and employe, upon the side of the employing interests, tends to mislead those who do not see beneath the surface of things into the belief that through the voting power of the workers the character of the state can be changed. To believe this is to misunderstand the state, which is the instru-