By Our Special Correspondent There was a striking contrast between the rather gay setting of the Winter Gardens, Margate, and the mood in which the delegates assembled for the 67th Annual Congress which was opened here on Monday morning, under the chairmanship of Mr. William Kean. Old friendships and acquaintances were renewed with a genial air; but underneath it one easily detected a sense of impending crisis and serious responsibility.
"Congress meets once mare under the shadow of war," said the President in his inaugural address. "Our aim and policy as a Trade Union Movement is not only to stop war but to enforce the principle of collective responsibility for the maintenance of the law of nations."
Speaking for the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Mr. I. C. Little disclaimed any hostility towards the T.U.C. and any connivance with the tactics of Communists. His union, he said, possessed all the power necessary to protect itself from disruptive agencies. Mr. H. H. Elvin, for the National Union of Clerks and Administrative Workers, opposed the recommendation on the grounds that it would create unnecessary martyrs. Mr. Ernest Bevan, for the Transport and General Workers' Union, said that to refer the recommendation back would be to give the stamp of approval to the most nefarious practices that the Trades Union movement had ever had to face. He himself regretted the use of any political or religious test into the movement, but the need of protecting the movement from Communist invasion had been forced upon the General Council. On a card vote it was decided by a majority of 1,869,000 against 1,427,000 not to refer the recommendation back.
Press Attacks on Co-operative Societies On Tuesday, Mr. W. J. Miseldine, of the Journeymen Butchers' Federation, asked the congress to condemn the practice by certain sections of the press of misrepresenting the conditions of work and wages in co-operative societies, and of suppressing mention of the hard conditions often imposed by private shopkeepers. Some two years ago, said Mr. Miseldine, one paper began a campaign for higher wages with the evident intention of sowing disunion between the co-operative union and the trade unions. The campaign fell through.
But tens of thousands of boys and girls entering the trade at fourteen years of age passed out of it by eighteen, never having been decently paid. Multiple firms have made wage cuts of ten to fifteen per cent. in the last six months and sweated labour among them was rife. He advocated the application to Italy of economic and financial sanctions. If this means war with Italy, no matter; Italy is bent on war anyway. There is danger of Fascist dictatorship covering failure at home by successful imperialist adventure abroad. Mussolini's aim is the permanent enslavement of mankind. Dictatorship is everywhere the cherished ideal of all who would suppress freedom of life and thought.
Where trade unionism has been maintained democratic institutions have survived. Organised labour must support a policy that will hasten the end of dictatorship as a method of government. It is to be hoped that Soviet Russia, now happily a member of the League of Nations, can be counted on as one , of the powerful factors operating against international fascism.
The nrganised working-claes movement, according to Mr. Kean, is stronger than it was a year ago. But though things are better than they were, unemployed labour and idle capital have yet to be combined. The International Labour Conference at Geneva this year demanded and obtained the acceptance in principle of a 40-hour week. Unfortunately our government was one of the very few representing an industrial nation that did not sign the convention.
A general election is coming in this country. The people are returning to Labour, and Labour is ready for them. The President was followed with silent attention and at the end of his address received a great ovation.
The speech was the predominating subject of conversation throughout the rest of the day, which at the afternoon session passed off with comparative calm in the discussion of minor issues.
The Congress Gets To Work One of the first resolutions tabled at the congress was proposed by the Amalgamated Society of Wire-Drawers. It urged that the government be asked to enquire into "sweating" and its consequences.
Amongst the evils to which the resolution called attention were the unfair use made of knowledge wrung from workpeople, the pi essure applied to make them compete with one another in order to retain their jobs, and the timing and watching of them at their work.
Medical men made their first appearance at the congress when Dr. Brookes, a representative of the General Practition ers Union, rose speak on Monday. His union has several thousand men affiliated, and is associated with another union of public servants which also includes doctors. Dr. Brookes spoke of the conjunction of medical and psychological problems with industrial problems.
Miss D. M. Elliot, representing the National Union of Municipal Workers, proposed a resolution urging equal standards of wage for men and women. The problem of unemployment, she asserted, could not be solved either by transferring work from one group of workers to another, or by dismissing women from paid employment. Miss B. A. Godwin of the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries maintained that to put women back into the home was an atsolutely retrograde step. "Machinery has taken women out of the home and is likely to keep her in industrial environment. It is easier in these days for a woman to get a job than a man." This, she urged, is especially so in clerical work, for women are better adapted to the machinery of modern &Ices.
Tuesday's Proceedings On Tuesday, Mr. George Hicks, M.P. . for East Woolwich, a member of the Trades Union General Council and represeetative of the Building Trade Workers, raised the question of the invasion of trade councils by Communists.
The Miners' Federation had tried to refer back a circular issued to unions recommending them to reject the nominations to efficial positions of members of disruptive bodies. The miners resented this recommendation as undemocratic and a gross interference with freedom of election. Sir Walter itrine recalled the facts which provoked the recommendation. Mr. Lawther, for the Miners' Federation, con. demned it as "a retreat from Moscow." Mr Hicks replied with spirit that trade councils cannot become strong while internal factions arc allowed to work for
their disruption. "Our movement is a movement built up by the sacrifices of millions of men and women during the
past century." No outside power, he said, must be allowed to control the Trades Union movement. He contrasted the methods used by the General Council to suppress disruptive tendencies with those employed by Hitler and Mussolini; "but," he proceeded, "little would be our chance of preserving democracy if we failed to retain inviolate the essential principle in out own movement. We must be resolutely firm and strong in protecting it. Systematic organises: interference from outside can only be disruptive. Democracy aisists that only majorities shall _ rule."