In the editorial department of the Banner of May 1, 1953, the Rev. H.J. Kuiper gives a “review” of an article appearing in THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY of January 21, 1953, written by a reputed liberal, Dr. C.C. Morrison. The latter wrote on the subject: “Reexamine the Social Ideals.”
Rev. Kuiper considered the article worthy of editorial comment, and intends in future articles to reflect on the views of Morrison in as far as they have reference to the problem of unionism confronting his own churches. In the above mentioned editorial he attempts only to review the stand of Dr. Morrison.
We, too, consider the revised stand of this liberal leader on unionism worthy of note. We are sorry we do not have the original article of Morrison in our possession, and will have to rely on the accuracy of Rev. Kuiper’s review. Accordingly it is reported that this liberal leader, who for 39 years was editor of the CENTURY, has in the past supported the cause of unionism most vigorously. Dr. Morrison believes in and evidently preaches a “social gospel.” Rut of late he has changed his mind with respect to one phase of it as it pertains to the cause of unionism.
Dr. Morrison maintains that, to quote Kuiper, “the changes in our economic life during the last fifty years ‘call for a reorientation of the church’s economic ideals’”. There was a time when “the evils of that capitalistic system, such as long hours, low wages, child labor, sweat shops, and other abuses moved churches to champion the cause of labor and labor unions. But now the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. Most of the injustices of the capitalistic system ‘have been corrected or are on the way to correction.’ Today labor has become ‘the most powerful bloc in our democracy.’ Its political influence is great. ‘The union is able to and, under its autocratic leadership, appears to be willing even to disrupt the national economy in order to gain ends which, many believe, are not good for the country as a whole and thus, in the long run, not good for labor itself.’ In their ‘partisan’ support of the unions the churches have failed to take into account—thus Dr. Morrison—the change in the status of labor. They still assume that ‘whatsoever the union demands is good.’
“Morrison’s first indictment against unionism is based on its entrance into the political arena. It wields a tremendous influence there and abuses its power. ‘Any proposed law to limit the autocratic power of their leaders in the interest of the nation as a whole is fought relentlessly.’ The leaders are no longer content with being on a plane of equality with management; they demand ‘the whip-hand in industry.’ But that, says Morrison, would spell the end of the system of free enterprise which they profess to uphold.”
“The churches should realize that ‘the union today has become a prodigious concentration of power wielded by a few leaders’ and that if the union yields to the temptation to use that power in an irresponsible way it ‘may become an enemy of labor itself as well as of the nation.’
“The old capitalism, according to Morrison, is gone….However, the system of capitalism still stands and will stand as long as the right of private property is maintained and business enterprise still remains competitive. At the same time, the writer asserts that our form of economy is no longer merely capitalistic, for one-half of its power is now claimed and exercised by organized labor.”
Dr. Morrison mentions only two evils on which the churches should focus their thought, but adds that there are others which call for correction.
The first evil mentioned is the strike. ‘The churches must condemn as morally and socially vicious the alleged right to strike.’ It turns the economic stage into a battlefield. It is ‘inherently immoral.’ ‘The persistence of this brutal and uncivilized struggle will inevitably lead to a government-planned and -controlled economy which neither labor nor capital, but only socialists and communists, want.’ The second evil mentioned is ‘the irresponsible power now wielded by the official leadership of the labor unions.’ These unions claim to be democratic but in reality bear a close resemblance to fascism or sovietism. They are controlled by a small group of persons responsible only to themselves. The churches should become aware of the danger of such autocratic control of the great masses of men.”
There is more in this editorial which we do not have the space to quote. But this will suffice to show how this erstwhile advocate for the labor masses has changed his mind with respect to unionism as it has in late years taken on power.
We end with a few observations and questions:
1. We are thankful for the stand our Protestant Reformed Churches have taken almost from their inception with respect to union membership. We believe the stand is correct that membership in the so-called neutral unions and in the church is incompatible. Hence one’s membership in these unions makes it necessary for the church to initiate discipline. We question whether our Churches are consistent in their thinking and acting with respect to all phases of unionism and worldly associations. For example, I have never been able to understand the consistency of disciplining union members and at the same time allowing to go untouched those whose livelihood depends on hiring union help. Neither do I see the consistency of advocating membership in the so-called Christian labor Association and disciplining those who belong to the A.F.L. or C.I.O. But perhaps someday we will get around to cutting off these fuzzy edges.
2. We are also curious to know what the editor of the Banner is going to comment on this article of Dr. Morrison, especially as the union question confronts his churches. Is he going to advocate a new approach to the question of union membership in his Churches? As it now stands, we understand the matter of union membership rests solely with the local churches. And around where we live many of the members of his churches who are members of the worldly unions go unmolested. And when you approach them regarding their union affiliation, they leave you with the impression that when you object you are a flea-brain, or a man from Mars or another world.
3. We also were wondering how the Christian Labor Association is going to react when it reads this editorial in the Banner. We have especially in mind that part in which the “strike” has been denominated as “inherently immoral.” Are they going to pass it up with a shrug of the shoulder and say perhaps ‘well we never did believe in the strike in the same way as the worldly unions.’ Or are they going to still maintain as the president of a furniture local said in my presence several years ago when it was suggested that the C.L.A. remove the word “strike” from its constitution : “Not by a long shot!—if you take that word out, we have nothing left. The strike is our only weapon.” As I see it, unless the C.L.A. changes its constitution and attitude, in my book it’s no different than the C.I.O., except that it has the name “Christian”.
4. Finally, it seems so strange that a big man like Dr. Morrison, after some 39 years pulling for the unions, now suddenly wakes up to the fact that the baby he once cuddled is become a ferocious gorilla. We have told our people for years that anyone who supports the so-called neutral unions is cutting his own throat. I remember several years ago when I made a study of the constitutions of these unions that I learned that some 40 percent of the dues paid went to headquarters to pay for strikes. Of the most of the remaining 60 percent I supposed that the racketeers who run the unions got fat. The fact that J.L. Lewis and others of his ilk can pull down the salaries they do bespeaks the racket that it is. And the labor man who sees only shiny pennies is made to think he is going places.
In the latest issue of Torch and Trumpet (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 30-32) we came upon the first in a series of articles written by the president of a newly formed organization which calls itself: The Calvinistic Culture Association. Since our space is about used up, we will have to be satisfied simply to say that the organization has a: Declaration of Principles and Work Program.
We note in its Declaration of Principles that the association “accepts as the foundation for its existence the unchanging Word of God, which it understands in the sense of the Reformed or Calvinistic confessions. Further, the C.C.A. acknowledges the principles of Calvinism to be valid for all the cultural life of mankind.”
Besides declaring certain principles as its aim, one of which is the Second Point of 1924 “God in his common grace checked sin and corruption in its effect, by which means, notwithstanding the element of wickedness in the heart of man, a development of the world could take place,” the association adopts certain viewpoints respecting the following: Marriage and Family, Rearing and Education of Children, Social organization, Science, Literature, Art and Sports, Christian Press, International Relations, Authority and Liberty, etc. The president claims that the association is growing; its membership is “steadily increasing.”
We will watch for further developments, and perhaps give a clearer picture of the Declaration of Principles next time, D.V.