Capitalists employ labor for the amount of profit realized and workingmen labor for the amount of wages received…This is the only relation existing between them; they are two distinct elements, or rather two distinct classes, with interests as widely separated as the poles. We find capitalists ever watchful of their interests-ever ready to make everything bend to their desires. Then why should not laborers be equally watchful of their interests-equally ready to take advantage of every circumstance to secure good wages and social elevation?”
If workingmen and capitalists are equal co-partners, composing one vast firm by which the industry of the world is carried on and controlled, why do they not share equally in the profits? Why does capital take to itself the whole loaf, while labor is left to gather up the crumbs? Why does capital roll in luxury and wealth, while labor is left to eke out a miserable existence in poverty and want? Are these the evidences of an identity of interests, of mutual relations, of equal partnership? No sir. On the contrary they are evidences of an antagonism. This antagonism is the general origin of all “strikes.” Labor has always the same complaints to make, and capital always the same oppressive rules to make and powers to employ. Were it not for this antagonism, labor would often escape the penalty of much misery and moral degradation, and capital the disgrace and rin consequent upon such dangerous collisions. There is not only a never-ending conflict between the two classes, but capital is in all cases the aggressor. Labor is always found on the defensive because:
Capital enjoys individual power and in the exercise of that is given to encroach upon the rights and privileges of labor.
“Labor is individually weak and only becomes powerful when banded together for self-defense”
Capital knows no other commercial principle than that…which ways “buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest” but which if applied to labor means “keep down the price of labor and starve the workingman.”
If there is a mutuality and oneness of feeling, I ask, sir, what means this universal uprising of the workingmen of this continent who are rushing together as with the power of the whirlwind, towards one common center—a union of workingmen?
—William H. Sylvis, Speech to the Ironmolders International Union Convention, 1864