BRAIN, BRAWN, CAPITAL
AN ADDRESS BY REV. A. E. RIBOURG, D.D.
VICAR OF SAINT ALBAN'S CATHEDRAL, TORONTO.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
March 20, 1919.
PRESIDENT STAPELLS : Dr. Ribourg does not need any introduction to the members of this Club. We all know him very well, not only as a 'close, careful student of public affairs, but as one of the most eloquent preachers of the City of Toronto. But in addition to that we know him so well some of us claim that he is a "live wire." Now, it is not often you can apply that term to a clergyman (laughter) but I can assure you that in this case we can, because during our campaign last fall, when that team of ten brought in 400 new members, Dr. Ribourg, as a member of that team, was the fourth highest man on the team. (Applause.) So I think in every sense of the word he is a real live wire. I take pleasure in introducing Rev. Dr. Ribourg.
REV. DR. A. E. RIBOURG : Gentlemen, the great war just ended in the history of mankind the closing of an era, of an age remarkable for its wonderful discoveries and inventions, for its colossal accumulation of wealth, due largely to the exploitation of the natural resources of the earth, on a scale hitherto unknown.
These fruits of human genius and human labor, have been used for the destruction and the impoverishment of the race, in a war which has sacrificed on the altars of Thor and Odin, millions of lives and billions of treasury. But, if the price paid by our generation,
Reverend A. E. Ribourg was born and educated in France. He came to Canada several years ago and was appointed to a prominent Anglican Church in Winnipeg. He is at present Vicar of Saint Albans Cathedral, Toronto.
has surpassed anything ever paid by a generation of men as their contribution to human progress, the results obtained, cannot either be compared with anything ever achieved, through men's sufferings and sacrifices.
We have witnessed the dismemberment of Empires built on mediaeval and reactionary conceptions. The mighty war engine of the military despots has been crushed. The crowns of autocrats have fallen in the dust, their thrones have crumbled. Those who in their madness have precipitated the horrible conflict, have disappeared from the scene of international politics never to return. Their dreams of world domination by brute force have been shattered by the irresistible forces of the world's free democracies, and the will of emancipated peoples is everywhere on God's earth asserting its authority. A new world has come into being under our very eyes, and we owe its advent to the valor of the men who have gladly offered their lives for the triumph of Right, and to the sacrifices of the multitudes of women, who have given their all, that freedom might not perish from the earth.
But, gentlemen, what is the meaning of these two words, "New World"? Does it mean a world physically new, a world with new geographical delineations, but a world morally and socially identical to the world of pre-war days? It cannot be. Just as a hurricane that sweeps over a beautiful land, leaves in its path some changes on the panorama, so must the great war, that brought death and destruction, change not only the face of the earth, but also the outlook, habits and character of men and women, and leave the world a different world from what it was five years ago. The great conflict has left us with new problems to solve, and new dangers to overcome.
Of all the problems facing, mankind today, there is perhaps, none more important than the problem of the social welfare of the men and women who compose the real -asset and wealth of any country. We must acknowledge the fact, that through all the centuries, governments and leading citizens, have been more interested in securing material wealth and power for their respective countries than in assuring the welfare of the citizens, who through their labor, were responsible for that wealth and power. The war has revealed the value of brawn as a wealth producer, and, as a consequence, labor has become more conscious of its importance as a factor in the success of industrial and commercial enterprises. Its unequivocal demands and claims, have become so insistent that they are commanding all the attention of the other classes, which heretofore have been disinterested spectators in the periodical skirmishes between Labor and Capital.
The conflict between Labor and Capital is not the fruit of the war, for it is as old as the world. But the war has emphasized in a most convincing manner, the fact, that without Labor, Capital is powerless" and that without Capital, Labor lacks the necessary force without which no industry can subsist. Whatever reasons may be advanced by these two great factions of the industrial and commercial worlds, in the defence of their respective positions, one fact remains-the fact that the world at large is facing, a conflict whose issues will affect all men all over the civilized world.
Considering my calling, I realize, that it would be highly improper for me, to dogmatize on the subject of Capital and Labor. How can industry and commerce be adjusted to meet the demands of labor, and, at the same time safeguard the interests of capital, is not for me to say. This, is in the province of the economists, of the industrial and commercial experts, and, I hold that it is the duty of a true democratic government to engage the services of such experts, taken from both the ranks of Labor and Capital, and give them the task of finding a "Modus vivendi," whereby the interests of both Capital and Labor will be safeguarded and then frame laws accordingly, and apply those laws regardless of persons.
To this, Labor may object, saying that most statesmen are invariably in favor of the Capitalists. To this, I answer that the workingmen have nobody to blame but themselves. Universal suffrage gives the workingmen whose numbers are legions, the privilege to send to Parliament, whoever they think capable of representing their cause. Morever, they still have the privilege to remove the men of their choice, if they discover them unworthy of their trust.
It is becoming the imperious duty of every true democratic government to assist rather than retard evolution, to remove discontent and prevent disorder, by remedying the legitimate economic complaint of the people, instead of trying to stamp out by force just grievances, and as a consequence, we shall have a community contented to achieve political progress and material comfort by orderly and constitutional methodsrather than by the bayonet and the bomb.
Gentlemen, the question of Labor and Capital has ceased to be a question of high and low wages, of employment or unemployment, to be settled by the parties concerned, but it has become a moral issue, affecting the welfare of every human being all over the civilized world. Men should be able to read the signs of these times. The handwriting on the wall is no longer mystifying. Its terms cannot be misunderstood. The banding together of every trade and every laboring occupation of whatever kind, the strikes, the boycotts and the popular clamor that is being stirred up against the wealthy class, cannot be long in reaching a terrible climax. The antagonistic forces are closing in upon each other.
The workingmen declare that they are being defrauded out of an equitable proportion of the increase of wealth. They claim that while the capitalists are amassing vast fortunes, and are living in wanton and wasteful luxury, they, are reduced to drudgery and poverty. They claim that in time of prosperity, Capital is laying aside a part of its colossal profits, and when the time of depression comes, it is still able to live sumptuously, while they, the workers, having no profits to lay aside, but only an inadequate weekly wage, to live on, are expected to suffer privation and want. Therefore in addition to adequate wages, Labor demands a fair share of the profits resulting from the industry, its toil is aiding to develop. Labor demands shorter hours not only to avoid over-production, but to secure for itself a fair amount of the joys and pleasures of life.
Labor demands clean and comfortable houses at reasonable renting or selling prices. Labor demands representation on the boards of Directors of the industrial and commercial concerns which without its toil could not exist, or in other words, Labor demands to enter into partnership with Capital.
Whatever Capital thinks itself capable of doing in the way of meeting the demands of_ Labor, there is one thing certain, and it is this-tat Capital roust come to a quick decision, if it is to avert the threatening dangers which an obstinate refusal to all legitimate demands may precipitate. "Civilization," said Lloyd George recently, "unless we try to save it, may be precipitated and -shattered to atoms. It can only be saved by the triumph of justice and fair play to all classes alike." And, indeed, conditions have become alarming. Strikes, lockouts, ultimatums, sabotage, deadlocks, cannot longer be tolerated, because they have ceased to be the affair of Capital and Labor. The public at large is involved in the contest and is the worst sufferer. These stoppages affect prices. They stem the current of commerce through which public necessities are supplied: They foment prejudices and ill-judgment and involve a wastage in the volume of both our mental and material resources.
But how can this discontent and unrest be removed? Only by removing the conditions which cause them, so that the sure way to keep a man at his job is to make it worth his while to stick to it.
Any fair minded person will admit that the condition of the working class has been for centuries one of drudgery, want; and in many instances of absolute serfdom. A new social order fitting with our modern ideas of comfort must replace the old order, built on the conceptions of mediaeval times.
"The employer," says again Lloyd George, "must never again say. 'You are earning too much, your wages must come down.' Unemployment must be banished, and the workers must never again be put in the horrors of distress and hunger. Let the workers understand that where there is an increase of products they will get a fair share of it."
These words of the Premier of England, are words of warning like those of the prophets of old, and woe to the men in the British Empire, who let them pass unheeded. On them will fall the responsibility of the excesses which their blindness and obstinacy may precipitate upon the country.
Gentlemen, I reiterate that this conflict is a moral issue and it must be settled on the basis of Justice. Labor must have not only adequate wages, but the best conditions of living, and sufficient leisure not for loafing, but for the attainment of a higher standard of education and refinement. Often do we hear from investment holders and middle-class well-to-do people this absurd comment, "Should the working class" they say, "be paid a higher wage, they would spend it foolishly in buying pianos and gramophones and costly dining room sets, etc."
Common sense and justice, however, say that these people have as much right to do what they see fit with the money they have earned with the sweat of their brows, as the man who has earned his by the exertion of his brain. Such an argument, only serves to widen the chasm, already existing between the antagonistic classes. We need today a renaissance in our conceptions of men and of things, as well as in our methods of doing things.
The old system of conducting a business with so many hands under a boss is obsolete. Employer and employee are partners in a common enterprise. For the spirit of distrust and suspicion now prevailing between Capital and Labor, must be substituted a spirit of co-partnership. The financial and commercial sides of an industry are matters for the Directors and management, but matters relating to wages, hours, workshop conditions, systems of superintendence, terms arising from changes in production or new schemes of manufacture, are matters which interest both the employee and employer, and therefore representatives of both sides should meet to discuss these subjects together--each determined to respect the other's interests as well as his own.
Such a co-partnership or co-operation, will acquaint the employee with the employer's responsibilities and problems. Labor will then realize that an industry cannot subsist, unless its management is capable of storing up a certain amount of the money produced by that industry to insure further production. Many workmen have been taught to hate capital as little children have been taught to hate the hobgoblin. They have been taught that Capital is that dreadful conniver that is always manoeuvring, undermining and destroying the worker.
But this is, as if the workmen should -hate the electricity that sets his machinery in motion-as if he hated the waterfall that turns his turbine wheel-as if he hated the steam that pushes his locomotive.
On the other hand, the Capitalist has come to hate labor, because it objects to allow him run his industries and his commercial combinations on the obsolete theories of the past, theories which have been responsible for colossal fortunes on the one side, and the most abject conditions of poverty and destitution on the other.
This sad state of affairs cannot last indefinitely without bringing upon mankind a catastrophe, perhaps worse in its consequences than the, war just ended.
The present after-war industrial and economic problems will not be settled by what the workmen will now have to do. Workmen are talking about what employers will have to do. It is evident that Capital must yield for the national interest as much as Labor. . No industrial harmony can exist, unless the three great factors of production, Brain, Brawn and Capital form an "Entente," and resolve to treat each other on the basis of justice and fair play. Alone, each of those three factors is impotent and needs the help of the others to become efficient. Alone, Capital could not fling the gigantic bridge across the St. Lawrence River, and alone, Labor could not conceive and execute the project without the co-operation of both, brain and capital. The three must unite in the great achievement and so in every industrial and commercial enterprise.
The inventor and the scientist must be encouraged and adequately rewarded as they were during the war, to furnish their quota of mental energy for the common weal. Labor must realize that brain cannot be restricted by a limit of working hours, nor remunerated by a uniform wage. But, as its contribution to industry and commerce is of tremendous importance, it must be rewarded accordingly, both during the period of experimentation and the period of the actual use of its invention. The worker cannot expect to put his six or eight hours a day of labor against the five or ten years of brain work of the inventor. If Capital and Labor are to act fairly with the brain worker they must take him into their considerations in the repartition of the wealth he helped them to produce. We may say that the same fair treatment should be accorded those who take care of the financial end of industry and commerce, from the managers down to the salesmen and the stenographers.
Industry is after all, gentlemen, a social function, and its reform must promise not only a higher status to privileged groups, but must carry with it, the interests of the community at large. The principle of industry is a form of public service.
Judging industry from this standpoint, three implications are involved: First, the community should be offered the best service possible at the lowest price compatible with adequate payment to those who provide it. The second implication is, that when all charges necessary to the supply of a service have been met, any surplus which exists should pass to the community. The third is that no class should receive an income from which no service is rendered.
This, you may say, is an idealistic, Utopian conception of industry. Perhaps as things are-as they are today, with our systems of trusts and monopolies and our various agencies for the production of multimillionaires, this may be an idealistic conception. But those who can read the signs of the times, affirm that this ideal must become a reality, if we are to avoid a greater danger. Let us trust that if this ideal is to make its advent among us, it will be by constitutional methods and by the intelligent co-operation of all of the factors of industry and commerce.
Many of our commercial leaders are concerned to see that Labor pays so little regard to the problems of competition with other countries. They imagine national ruin and bankruptcy, and foresee an enormous increase of unemployment and distress. Labor, however, must be given credit for being endowed with at least some degree of intelligence.
The livelihood of workers depends on their ability to sell the produce of their labor, at a reasonable price. If they demand wages in excess of what the business can bear, and in excess of what the consumer can pay, they bring penury and starvation on their own heads. As Labor is becoming internationalized, we may be confident that the trade-unions will find the solution of the problem of international competition.
But, this means that the few hundred men of every nation who have for the last fifty years controlled the immense wealth of the world, will have to come to an understanding with the representatives of Labor. In case of undue obstinacy on their part to come to fair terms, it may mean in every country the nationalization of the essential products of life, as well as that of public utilities.
That a settlement of this serious problem on a just basis should be obtained soon, is most imperative, if we are to avoid in our civilized world, the worst conflict that has ever threatened mankind.
"If Bolshevism," says Bishop Williams of Michigan, "ever sweeps over England and over this continent, it will be due, not to the labor agitators, for no one would follow them, if they have no real cause for agitation. It will not be due to the ignorant laborers who fly the red flag, but, it will be due to the blind reactionaries who resist the cosmic tide of the new democracy."
The employer who, when in conflict with his employees refuses a government commission to investigate the causes of discontent in his industry, is, at this juncture when the tide of democracy is spreading around the world, inviting the excesses of anarchy in his country.
The man who opposes the rising surge of aspiration with a ruthless autocracy in industry, finance or commerce, for his selfish gain, is preparing evil days for himself and his countrymen.
Bolshevism and anarchy are only the septic poisoning of a diseased system. It thrives best in the countries where the masses of the working people are poorly paid, and where colossal fortunes are amassed by a few and spent in sinful luxury. It is the story of Russia, and tomorrow it may be the story of all countries where such unhappy conditions prevail.
If you would avoid Bolshevism, and its excesses, keep the body politic healthy, the industrial body healthy, and do away with the conditions which 'breed' this pestilent germ.
Gentlemen, for the high cause of Democracy, for a better world, for justice, for civilization, for a happier humanity, have the valiant troops of the Entente countries, suffered and bled. For the redeeming of the race from the clutches of an insane militarism and arrogant autocracy, many have given their life. It is incumbent upon us, the living, to make safe this humanity and this new democracy, for which these heroes have suffered and died, so that their sacrifice and death may not have been in vain.