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Carl Ferdinand von Stumm-Halberg, Address to his Employees (c. 1889)

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The disastrous efforts to organize workers against their employers, and under the leadership of people who lack any knowledge of the circumstances, such as wage levels, working hours, etc., are also based on the fiction of a fourth estate that exists in opposition to property. For me, one of my most difficult responsibilities is carefully considering whether one worker is positioned at the proper wage level with respect to the other. And there is no one among you – not any workers’ committee, which I would otherwise very much like to consult – who is capable of taking this task off my shoulders. How much less, therefore, this would apply to persons who lack in-depth knowledge of the company and the working conditions. Now the theory goes as follows: The individual worker has no power on his own, thus he has to join forces with his comrades. This bit of reasoning, however, does not account for the fact that it contradicts a second major theorem, whereby the employer is always the stronger economic power. So if workers organize against employers, the latter will be forced, of necessity, to organize against workers and will thus indeed be able to create serious disadvantages for the workers. “There’s nothing like doing it yourself” – that’s any capable worker’s principle; it's the one that will also get him farthest with his employer. By contrast, banding together in militant organizations, which always fall under the control of alien agitators sooner or later, will destroy his independence and put him into conflict with his employer, which will in turn destroy the very sort of personal relationship that constitutes the best guarantee of the worker’s welfare. [ . . . ]

Source: Compiled from speeches given by Stumm to his workers (1889-1895) and published in Fritz Hellweg, Carl Ferdinand Freiherr [Baron] von Stumm-Halberg. Heidelberg-Saarbrücken: Westmark-Verlag, 1936, pp. 289ff.

Original German text reprinted in Ernst Schraepler, ed., Quellen zur Geschichte der sozialen Frage in Deutschland. 1871 bis zur Gegenwart [Sources for the History of the Social Question in Germany: 1871 to the Present], 3rd rev. ed. Göttingen and Zurich: Muster-Schmidt, 1996, pp. 104-08.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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