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Like the recent great strike at Belfast and on the Clyde (p. 187), the Hamburg strike began over the question of wages. The dock laborers demanded 6d. per hour instead of the 51d. which they had been receiving-or, in other words, they asked for 5s. per day of ten hours, instead of 4s. 24d. Better pay for overtime was also demanded.
The strike was organized by a local trades-union, but it soon became apparent that the struggle involved a principle new to labor struggles and was the outgrowth of a widespread movement for combined action of laborers in various countries, threatening a general disturbance of European commerce. The international character of
the strike was seen in the encouragement given to it by well-known English agitators, notably Tom Mann, president of the International Federation of Ship, Dock, and River Workers, and Mr. J. H. Wilson, secretary of the National Seamen's Union, who bent every effort to raise funds abroad for the strikers at Hamburg and to prevent laborers at foreign shipping ports from flocking to that city to take the place of the locked-out men. It was not, as some German papers thought, from motives of hostility to Germany and German shipping, that these Englishmen acted, though England has seriously felt the effects of German trade competition. The movement in which Mr. Mann and his associates have taken so active a part, has for its supreme object to effect an international combination against capital; and in England, just as much as in Germany, capital trembles at the thought of the possibilities involved in this new form of organized agitation, which is receiving its first practical test at Hamburg. It is the ability to import foreign labor which has in the past enabled capital sooner or later to defy almost all trades-union movements; and, if the leaders of organized labor could depend upon effective international co-operation, there is scarcely a great industry which would be secure against practical control by the laborers themselves.
Late in November Mr. Mann was arrested while attempting to enter Hamburg, and was expelled from Germany. It is said to be the object of the International Federation of which he is president, to compel all workers in the shipping trade to join the appropriate unions, to unite all such unions in Great Britain and on the continent in one federation, and then to dictate terms to all employers of labor, relying upon the threatened paralysis of commerce as an irresistible lever.
It is evident from the experience at Hamburg, that the workingmen of different countries have not yet reached sufficient organization to protect themselves completely at strike centres against the importation of new men. Within a few days after the commencement of the struggle at Hamburg, shiploads of laborers began to arrive from England, Sweden, and elsewhere. Although the area of the struggle was enlarged by sympathetic strikes at Bremen, Altona, and other centres in Germany, and it also received encouragement from some foreign unions, such as the Dock Laborers' Union in Stockholm, Sweden, which decided to boycott ships with cargoes which had been loaded by "blacklegs," and the London Dockmen's Union, which subscribed one shilling a week per man for the support of the Hamburg strikers, it was soon evident that the hope of effective general co-operation from abroad was futile.
Several unavailing efforts were made to bring about a reconciliation. A proposal to submit the issue to arbitration was accepted by the men about December 1. The shipowners, however, rejected it on the ostensible grounds that the strikers were being assisted by foreign subscription, that their work was being satisfactorily done by constantly arriving foreign workers at the old rates of pay, and that
the composition of the proposed board of arbitration was such as would have put the strikers in the majority. By this time, however, it had become well known that the strike partook of a political character, being actively supported by the executive committee of the socialist party. A "laborers' common resistance fund" was established, to which the socialist associations in all the great centres contributed. On December 3 the strikers at Bremen accepted an agreement for settlement of their differences. Even in Hamburg there were numerous and constantly increasing defections from the strikers' ranks. Up to the middle of December, however, there had been no violent outbreaks; but on the 16th there were frequent riotous disturbances, necessitating many arrests. On December 18 the Hamburg senate replied to an appeal from the strikers for an arrangement of a court of arbitration by a conference of representatives of the employers and workmen in the presence of the senate. The senate declared it to be the duty of the strikers to resume work, and promised, if they did so, to make a searching inquiry into the trouble with a view to arranging a method of settlement for all such disputes. This was a blow to the strike; but nevertheless, the following day, the men voted by 7,265 to 3,671 to continue the struggle. The sympathies of the emperor are with the employers; and his majesty is represented as saying at a parliamentary dinner given by the chancellor, December 16, that the employers are wholly lacking in their sense of the importance of forming a general coalition of employers against unions of workingmen, and advising the co-operation of German, English, and other employers in devising a scheme of international communication upon the conditions of trade, which would benefit not only the employer but the employé as well.
It is considered not at all improbable that a legislative measure making arbitration of labor disputes compulsory, or in some other way aiming to prevent the recurrence of labor struggles fatal to the commercial and industrial interests of the empire, will be introduced in the Reichstag.
Trades-Unionism in England.-What is hailed as a "conspicuous triumph" for trades-unionism in England, was achieved in December.
It appears that a long-standing controversy over grievances in the matter of hours, extra time, etc., has threatened to precipitate a great railway strike in England. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants recently issued a circular letter to the directors of the leading roads, making a proposition for settlement of the differences. The companies thereupon sought to find out how many of their men would remain faithful in the event of a strike. Eighty men in the employ of the London & Northwestern Company refused to make known their purposes. At once Mr. Harrison, general manager of the company, discharged them. Forthwith the Amalgamated Society gave notice that this was an invasion of the rights of employés to combine, and sent notice to the members of the society to stop work. The London Chronicle espoused the cause of the men and opened a war on the railway company that had discharged its servants, some of whom had made a record of twenty years' faithful service. The leading papers of London joined the Chronicle's crusade against the companies. Even the Times, the most conservative of all English
journals, candidly told the companies that they were wrong. At first Mr. Harrison, the general manager, declined to receive the committee from the Amalgamated Society; but public sentiment became so strong that he was forced to yield, and the company reinstated the men who · had been dismissed. This surrender is looked upon by trades labor leaders as the greatest triumph in the history of trades-unionism.
Duelling and Military Reform.-An almost unexampled instance of military brutality, which occurred in October, has excited widespread indignation in south Germany, and in fact throughout the empire, has strengthened the agitation against militarism, and has increased the antagonism already strongly marked between army officers and civilians.
It appears that in a café in Karlsruhe, the chair of a lieutenant, Morned von Brüsewitz, was unwittingly pushed by an artisan named Siebmann. The officer demanded an apology, which the artisan declined to give, since he was ignorant of having given offense. Thereupon the officer drew his sword and attempted to run the "insulter " through the body. For a time he was restrained by the landlord, and the artisan attempted to escape. The officer, however, considered himself mortally injured, and searched the café for the aggressor, whom he ultimately found. The artisan turned to flee, but, a locked door barring his passage, he was run through the back by the infuriated officer, whose "honor" thus obtained the satisfaction deemed indispensable by German military etiquette. Siebmann died shortly afterward of his wounds. Von Brüsewitz has been sentenced by courtmartial to four years' imprisonment and to dismissal from the armya punishment relatively severe in view of the leniency with which officers are treated in Germany, but by no means an equivalent of any of the penalties prescribed by the penal code for such cases.
The incident was the cause of a two days' debate in the Reichstag on the subject of duelling, beginning November 17 with an interpellation introduced by Herr Munckel, Richterite radical, and including some vigorous speeches in condemnation of the practice by members of the left, and a rather ineffective reply from General von Gossler, minister of war.
The imperial chancellor intimated that the government had measures in view by which it hoped to reduce the number of duels to a minimum, if not to abolish the custom altogether. With regard to disputes between officers, he said, it was proposed to modify the procedure of the courts of honor so as to render it impossible that the verdict of such tribunals could ever necessitate a duel; and preparations were being made for effectively combating the custom of duelling by sharpening the provisions of the penal code.
It was evident, however, from the speeches, that, on the part of the government, no very vigorous efforts to eradicate this questionable feature of German life could for the present be expected. The opinion is generally held, that nothing but a personal decree of the emperor himself will prove ultimately effective. In this respect a step which may have far-reaching influence has already been taken by the prince regent of Bavaria, who has reversed a decision of a courtmartial which had sentenced an officer to be dismissed from the army
for declaring himself to be on principle opposed to duelling. The prince regent formally stated that he himself did not approve of the custom, and instructed his minister of war to announce that hereafter the compulsion to fight duels is abolished so far as the Bavarian army is concerned.
The long-promised measure of reform in the code of military procedure-a matter which precipitated a cabinet crisis some months ago (p. 680)-was, with the emperor's sanction, laid before the federal council about October 16.
It exhibits a conciliatory tendency, which is explained in part by the Siebmann-Brüsewitz incident, and in part by the necessity under which the government feels itself to increase as largely and as speedily as possible the military and naval strength of the empire. The proposals involve complete reconstruction of the artillery batteries, augmentation of the number and calibre of the field guns, and extensive alterations in naval equipments.
The Budget.-The most striking features of the imperial budget laid before the Reichstag in November were its deficit ($14,250,000) and its naval appropriation, the latter explaining the former.
It is proposed to meet the deficit by a public loan. The naval appropriation for the year amounts to $32,500,000, or about $14,000,000 more than that for last year. Of the total, $15,500,000 is set apart for building new ships, an item which is not unlikely to be repeated in the era of naval expansion upon which Germany is entering.
Retaliation on German Shipping. Something in the nature of a tariff war on the part of the United States, against Germany, was inaugurated by a proclamation from President Cleveland dated December 3, reimposing, on and after January 2, 1897, "upon vessels (of all nationalities) entered in the ports of the United States from any of the ports of the German empire," the tax of six cents per ton (not exceeding thirty cents per ton each year) which had been held in abeyance by the president's proclamation of January 26, 1888.
At that time (1888), says the president, "no tonnage or lighthouse dues, or any equivalent tax or taxes whatever, were imposed upon American vessels entering the ports of the empire of Germany, either by the imperial government or by the government of the German maritime states; and vessels belonging to the United States of America and their cargoes were not required in German ports to pay any fee or due of any kind or nature, or any import due higher or other than was payable by German vessels or their cargoes in the United States." It was for this reason that the tax of six cents per ton on German vessels, authorized by Section 11 of the act of congress of June 19, 1886 (now reimposed), was suspended; and the sus pension was to continue "so long as the reciprocal exemption of ves sels belonging to citizens of the United States and their cargoes should be continued in the said ports of the empire of Germany, and no longer."
It now appears, however, that "tonnage or lighthouse dues, or a tax or taxes equivalent thereto, are in fact imposed upon American vessels and their cargoes entered in German ports higher and other than those imposed upon German vessels or their cargoes entered in ports of the United States (the German tax is about six and one-half cents a ton), so that said proclamation of January 26, 1888, in its operation and effect contravenes the meaning and intent of said Section 11 of the act of congress approved June 19, 1886."
The president goes on to say:
"Now, therefore, I, Grover Cleveland, president of the United States of America, by virtue of the aforesaid Section 11 of the act aforesaid, as well as in pursuance of the terms of said proclamation itself, do hereby revoke my said proclamation of January 26, 1888, suspending the collection of the whole of the duty of six cents per ton, not to exceed thirty cents per ton per annum (which is imposed by the aforesaid section of said act) upon vessels entered in the ports of the United States from any of the ports of the German empire; this revocation of said proclamation to take effect on and after the second day of January, 1897."
Germany at once protested against the reimposition of duties, contending that the taxes at German ports were not levied solely on American vessels but on those of all nationalities, including German vessels; and that they were levied not by the imperial government, but by the governments of the maritime states, and were therefore of the nature of local taxes beyond jurisdiction of the imperial authorities.
The United States government refuses to accept this contention, holding that tonnage taxes and lighthouse dues, even though levied for nominally local purposes, such as the benefit of the harbor of Hamburg or the lighting of the harbor of Bremen, are equivalent taxes to our tonnage taxes; and the United States refuses to allow the German government to avail itself of a difference in their respective constitutions to obtain an advantage over the United States in the matter of exemption from dues on shipping.
By many the action referred to on the part of Germany is considered as but an incident of the general drift of German policy toward the United States since the passage of the Wilson tariff law of 1894, imposing a differential duty on bounty-paid German beet sugar (Vol. 4, p. 778; Vol. 5, p. 940).
Sensational Libel Trial.-During the first week of December occurred in Berlin a trial of five editors-Baron von Lützow, and Herren Föllmar, Plötz, Leckert, and Berger-on charges of libelling Count von Eulenberg, high court marshal, Baron Marschall von Bieberstein, foreign minister, and Prince Alexander von Hohenlohe,