Israel Mattuck, 11 March 1913

All who have at heart the interests of society and are filled with a desire for the betterment of social conditions, must find great encouragement in the attitude of the working man. His dissatisfaction with his lot and with industrial conditions as they are tells, I believe, the coming of a new and a better day, and not only for himself but for the whole human family. His complaint against things as they are must impel to searchings and questionings even those who may be temperamentally prone to a satisfaction with that which is and not inclined to look below the surface for an examination of the principles or ideas upon which existing institutions are based. The demands of labour for a recognition greater than that which it has up to now received in our social economy are becoming daily more insistent, and though we may regret that the insistence often leads to turbulence we must yet perceive and recognise the need for understanding the demand and if possible evolve some means for answering it. But the recognition which labour has already received of the justice of its claims has brought to it a degree of power because of the support it receives from that portion of public opinion which is not controlled by selfish interests or desires, but is dominated by a keen sense of social responsibility and indomitable desire to ameliorate social conditions. It has received further power through organisation. The binding together of the men engaged in the several industries to protect, so far as possible, the rights of each individual, has finally resulted in giving to labour in general a strength in the control of industry and in the development of society.

Now to what purpose or for what aim shall this increased power be used? A great deal of complaint against present conditions is that those who now possess the controlling voice in industry use their authority to obtain for themselves position or privilege or possession. That their aims are all selfish and that their power is being directed toward self-aggrandizement. We are all agreed that this is wrong. Let us, however, for the moment see if we can adopt the attitude of the social philosopher, detached from all physical relation with the problems which he seeks to discuss, and toward the solution of which he endeavours to contribute. Let us suppose that here we are coming from some distant planet like Mars, and not selfishly interested one way or the other in the social organisation or in the efforts that are being made for change. Looking then at the desire on the part of labour to obtain greater power in the control of industry, we may well say, if this power is to be used in the same way as it is used by those who now possess it, then it were but as jumping from the frying pan into the fire. A change that would do little or nothing toward the improvement of society and toward the betterment of human life and toward the establishment of complete justice in human relation. If power is to be used for the selfish ends of those who possess it, it matters very little who the possessors are. Society would be now one whit better if the labouring man had this power than it is now when the so-called capitalist holds it. Labour therefore can prove itself more worthy of obtaining greater power by making its aim and end not the protection of merely selfish interests, or the improvement of -the conditions of a class, but by making its aim the realisation of some ideal, or ideals in human life, and in social organisation. The ideals of labour must be the ground upon which labour is basing its claim for recognition and demanding greater power in the control of affairs. The changes which he demands and for the accomplishment of which he is utilising his power, both individual and organised, he must give evidence of their justice, and base his demand upon that; he must say and he must mean that his purpose and his hope is to establish a more just humanity, a better society, and a more ideal existence for all mankind.

It isn't my purpose to name any definite ideals as the ideals of labour; it is rather that I would, if I could, point out the great need for an ideal rather than material goal for the efforts of the working man. He is not the only one that needs' to have this pointed out to him, for he is far from the least idealistic of men, he is perhaps more so than others. All activities of men, no matter in which sphere they be exercised, must, I believe to have any significance of worth, be undertaken with an ideal purpose. They must express a desire and a longing for the achievement and the realisation of some hope that shall be not material, but spiritual. Whether it is in commerce or in arts, in industry or education, they all have one characteristic in common, that the efforts in the several departments are worthy only when associated with some ideal. For a long time and perhaps by many to-day the toiler and the dreamer were put into a contrast. It was John Boyle O'Riley who said "The toiler lives but for a day, but the dreamer lives forever." It is because I believe that toil has no significance if divorced from the ideal, and that the ideal is powerless if divorced from toil, that I am speaking on the ideals of labour.

Let me then point out to you what I mean by this association and what its practical significance is. The association of labour with the ideal means that in the humblest piece of work a great purpose may express itself and it may conduce to the achievement of some greet goal. You may have heard the story of the young housemaid who was asked by a good parson what she was doing for God and she answered "I sweeps the corners clean." There is a great truth revealed in this humble answer. The lowliest act, when done with the intent of serving a great cause, becomes a great act. The cobbler who pegs at his shoes, or the tailor who works with his needle, feeling that they are doing a service to society in helping to clothe human beings; the mechanic who forges a plough and the farmer who drives it into the soil with the consciousness that they are helping to supply an answer to human wants; are transfiguring their work and ennobling it by their consciousness of the social service they are doing.

We hear much of the dignity of labour: we may well wish that this expression was a living reality and a constantly beating impulse in the life of men, but wherein is the dignity of labour? Not in the mere exercise of mere physical, or even mental powers; not in the mere grinding or chopping, or digging, or cutting, but in the social ideals which labour subserves. I believe with all my heart in the dignity, yea the nobility, of labour, because I perceive in it the expression of ideal values and the pursuit of an ideal purpose. To labour is indeed to pray, when he who labours seeks by means of his toil to make of himself a man more near unto the image of God, and to make of human society an organisation more worthy of our divine Father. To labour is to pray when the work expresses the desire of the soul and strengthens the spiritual life of the toiler.

I shall make my meaning clear by contrasting two men at the same work. Let us say side by side they work on some field, ploughing it, sowing the seed, reaping and harvesting. One ploughs and sows and reaps with his mind filled with the thought of the wage that he will earn; the pay envelope is constantly in mind. The other ploughs and sows and reaps with a vision of the granaries that shall be filled, of mills that shall be kept active in grinding the wheat into flour, of bakeries that shall transmute it into bread, and of the myriads who shall be nourished and sustained. One is doing the work of a hireling, a slave, a mercenary; the other is doing a man's work, yea we may almost say helping to achieve God's purpose. Because one works only for wages, the other works for a social aim and in his work expresses this ideal, the love of his fellow men, and shows a desire to serve them and in serving them he serves his God. It is the ideal then which dignifies labour. It is the ideal which makes of every toiler a man.

The wages theory of life is all wrong. Do not misunderstand me, I do not mean to say that the working man is alone in holding this wage theory of life. It is, I am afraid, common to all sorts of men, and to be found in all walks of life. The hopes of selfish, material rewards dominate the efforts of men. One seeks profits, another seeks wages. One seeks glory, another seeks pleasure: it is the same question over and over again "What do we get for it?" I wonder if we ever stop to ask "What do I do with it?" That is, with my life. For I am sure that if ever we are called unto judgment the first question that will be asked of us is "What have you done with the life which has been given to you?" How paltry then will sound the answer "I sold it for wages." "I sold it for profit." "I sold it for pleasure" or "I sold it for glory." Have you then given none of it? If not, then it is worse than wasted, a priceless treasure spent on a frail pigmy, a divine glory contained in a mortal frame. But great will be they who can say "I gave my life unto them whom I believed it was my duty to serve. I consecrated it to the ideal which I felt to be true; I used it in what I thought to be God's service."

From this point of view there is not one work that is greater than another: all are equal when they are dominated by an equally lofty ideal, whether one work with head or hands, at the desk or at the machine, in the shop or in the field; before God all are alike if they use what powers they have to express fully the ideal life which He has given to them, and to achieve the ideal goal which He has put before them.

It is necessary that these ideal values of labour be emphasised for two reasons. First, for the sake of the labouring man himself in order that his personality may obtain from his fellows the highest degree of respect which they can give to him in order that all men recognise his worthy position in human economy. Secondly, that the labouring man, as a class, may work in his efforts at changing the present order or scheme of things not for a meagre and paltry selfishness, but for the benefit of society. He is now accumulating strength, his power is being increased, he must know that he is to use that power and strength for social reform; and social reform means the consummation or the realisation in human life of ideals, of justice, or life, of perfection. If he work not for these things then it were as well that he had obtained no power and found no strength. There is nothing gained by exchanging the present pursuit of profits for the domination of the pursuit of wages. The wage theory of life will help society no better and no more than a dividend theory of life. Both are the same in this, that they put the selfishness of the few 'above the welfare of all; that they put the worm-grubbing desires of man above the designs of God. If the present scheme of things is wrong, and many of us agree that it is wrong, it is so because it sub-serves the selfish interests of a class, or of a number of men, instead of subserving the interests of all mankind. Our attention to this wrong or evil has been directed by the fact that there are those who are made to suffer and whose interests are ignored or neglected. But merely to give those who are now suffering the upper hand, or to give them the control and to satisfy their selfish desires, perhaps at the expense of others, will not improve the scheme, but merely change the relative position, and that is not what we want, it is not change that should be desired.

It is just here that an effective alliance can be formed between the working man and the institutions of religion, the Church or the Synagogue. It is always to me a sad thought that the working man and the congregation are strangers to one another. I have often wondered why this estrangement exists. And as often as I have thought of it I have always come to the conclusion that whatever the loss may be to either the Synagogue or the working man because of this, the loss to the cause of social betterment is greater than either or both combined. From the point of view of personal religion I believe that the Synagogue has as much to give to the working man as to any other member of society. We are all in need of spiritual guidance, all in need of the help that comes with prayer and worship of the divine power who fills and gives being to men and to the universe. But I have in mind chiefly in urging, if I may, to the working man to take a greater share in the congregational life of the various communities, the help that one can get from the other in the efforts toward social reforms and in the attempt to make idealistic interpretation of life fundamental to our practical affairs. For the Synagogue too is aiming toward a betterment of social conditions. If it has at times wavered in this purpose, it may be because it has not had the help of a sufficiently large number of men who themselves were keenly desirous of effecting these reforms. If it has not always been clear in its pronouncements against present evils it may be because it has not always had those wrongs pointed out clearly and definitely from those who were eager to terminate them. The social ideals of labour and the social aims of the Synagogue should be the foundation upon which the two can work shoulder to shoulder in harmony and friendship toward the goal which both long for and pray for.

The entrenchment of social evils makes necessary the combination of all powers that are working for their eradication. Labour should be such a power, and the Synagogue should use its influence in this direction. The working man by dissociating himself from the institutions of religion is, I believe, depriving himself of that spiritual help which all men need and he is failing to give and to receive much help toward the advancement of society.

In conclusion then, the significance and the dignity of labour reside in the social ideals which actuate it and which it strives to express, and the working men in their endeavours to effect reforms in the organisation of industry and to better the general conditions of society must be actuated by these ideals and must find in them justification for all the claims and demands which they make. And these ideals and these hopes should lead them to help the institution which in the name of the mother of all idealism, that is in the name of religion, which in the name of the source of all ideals, that is in the name of God, are striving with all their power, striving with all their influence to raise the estate of all men to obliterate the strife which divides men from men, to wipe out all hatred and to lead society some steps nearer toward the goal of perfection for which it is destined.


The Ideals of Labour Wages vs. profit.

The Story of Rogers Bass

Labour like all other activities obtains its value from its ideals.

Need for this emphasis because {missing word} and physical etc. tends to estimate low.

Opposed to this estimation idea of production.

Yet dignity rests on something higher.

On the ideals which he strives to express in his work.

His personality obtains value from them.

The use of leisure.

The wages theory of life is wrong - (worm-grubbing.)

Reward and ideals.

Social reform.

Better Society than which will give men

Wm and Synagogue.

Dissatisfaction with scheme.

'Social problem and industrial problem.

Old Jewish ideal of Rabbi.

Man's work is to labour and leaven

As best he may - earth here with heaven,

'Tis work for work's sake that he is needing

Let him work on and on as speeding

Work's end, but not dream of succeeding

Because if success were intended,

Why, heaven would begin ere earth ended.


And still he looks with his lifted eye

His glance is far away,

On a light that shines to the glimmering hills

Of a diviner day.


'Tis enough if a loyal heart say

"He tried to make beautiful things."


A guide to the table-land of Truth

Is the angel of Discontent.


Story of poor woman.