Posts Tagged ‘Guild Socialism’

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

Book Review: G.D.H. Cole’s A Century of Co-Operation

July 2, 2016

Cooperative Cole

(George Allen & Unwin Ltd. for the Co-operative Union Ltd 1944).

Many of us of a certain age still remember the Co-op before it became a regular supermarket chain. It was a store in which regular shoppers – the co-op’s members, were also it’s owners, and entitled to receive a share of the profits. This meant that you were paid a dividend. This was later issued in the form of ‘Green Shield’ stamps, which could be used to buy further goods in the stores. The co-operative movement was founded way back in the 1840s by the Rochdale Pioneers, former members of Robert Owen’s socialist movement. After this had collapsed, the Pioneers then went on to apply his socialist principles to running retail stores. The movement rapidly caught on and expanded, not least because, unlike ordinary shops, the co-ops sold pure food without the poisonous substances added elsewhere. For example, many bakers added arsenic to their bread to make it whiter, and more attractive to the purchaser. The co-ops didn’t, and so their food and goods was healthier, and thus more popular. Unlike their competitors, you could be fairly sure that what you bought from the co-op wouldn’t kill you in the name of making it appear more tasty. By 1942 there were 1,058 co-operative retail societies, with a total membership of 8,925,000 – just shy of 9 million people.

I found this book on the history of the movement in one of the charity bookshops in Bristol. It’s by the great socialist and writer, G.D.H. Cole, who was one of the leading members of Guild Socialism, a British form of syndicalism, which recommended the abolition of the state and its replacement with a system of guilds – trade unions, which would include all the workers in an industry, and which would run industry and the economy. Instead of parliament, there would be something like the TUC, which would also have administrative organs to protect the consumer.

The book’s chapters include:
I: “The Hungry ‘Forties'”,
II: Co-operation before the Pioneers
II. Rochdale.
IV. The Rochdale Pioneers Begin.
V. The Rochdale Pioneers to 1874.
VI Christian Socialists, Redemptionists, and Trade Unions
VII. Co-operation and the Law.
VIII. The Origins of the Co-Operative Wholesale Society
IX. Co-operative Growth in the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies.
X. The Second Revolution.
XI. The ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties.
XII. The Women’s Guild.
XIII. Co-operators and Education.
XIV. Co-operation in Agriculture – Ireland: The Beginning of International Co-operation.
XV. Co-operation before and during the First World War.
XVI. From War to War.
XVII. Guild Socialism and the Building Guilds
XVIII. Co-operative Development between the Wars.
XIX. Co-operators in Politics.
XX. Co-operative Employment.
XXI. International Co-operation.
XXII Co-operation Today and Tomorrow
I. the Growth of Co-operation.
ii. The Development of Co-operative Trade.
iii. Large and Small Societies.
iv. Democratic Control.
v. Regional Strength and Weakness.
vi. Co-operative Education.
vii. The producers’ Societies.
viii. The Wholesales and Production.
ix. The Next Steps.

Appendix: Who Were the Pioneers?

Cole notes that some forms of what became known as co-operation existed in various trades and businesses before the Rochdale Pioneers. Some of the capital used to set up businesses in the early 19th century, came from the workers. They tended to invest in other businesses’ than their employers, so that if their wages were cut during a recession or dip in trade, the dividends they would receive from their shares would not also suffer. Although not remarked on in the book, you could say that this shows how the working class has been disinherited. In many cases, they contributed their savings and money to the development of capitalism, but despite the existence in some firms of profit-sharing schemes, they have been and are being excluded from the profits of the modern, industrial economy.

From industry, co-operation also entered politics, with the establishment of a Co-operative Party, which is now part of the Labour party. The movement spread across Europe, to Germany and as far as Russia. Lenin was greatly impressed by the value of the co-operatives as a form of socialism. According to Aganbegyan, Gorbachev’s chief economist for perestroika, before 1950 47 per cent of all industries, including farms in the USSR were co-ops. Industrial democracy and co-operatives were a central plank of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Unfortunately, Gorby’s attempts to revive Communism failed, and Yeltsin turned them into bog-standard capitalist companies through the voucher system. Other thinkers and politicians in other countries saw co-operation as the solution to their countries’ social and economic problems. One of these was the Bulgarian Stambolisky, the leader of a peasant’s party before the First World War. He wished to organise the peasant farms into a system of co-operation, which would modernise the country by allowing them to acquire electricity and improve production and conditions. More recently, the Mondragon co-operatives, set up in Spain by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1950s, has become an industrial giant, involved in just about all areas of the Spanish economy.

Cole’s book understandably concentrates on the history of the co-operative movement from its emergence to the middle of the Second World War, and is an immensely detailed and thorough work of scholarship. Although not as prominent as they once were, co-operative businesses still exist in Britain. They were supported in the 1970s and ’80s by politicos like the great Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone, and may once again become a major force in British society and the economy.

The Miners and Industrial Democracy: Is This Why Thatcher Destroyed the Industry?

May 2, 2016

I found this passage in G.D.H. Cole’s Fabian pamphlet, Guild Socialism (London: Fabian Society 1919) in which he discusses the way some of the trade unions and their shop stewards, particularly the railwaymen and the miners, were wishing to transform the negative control they had in their industries towards positive control. By this, he meant that they wished to change from simply telling the management of those industries what they could not do, to becoming active participants in the management of their industries. Cole wrote:

Perhaps the most remarkable tendency in that direction in recent years is the growth of the Shop Stewards Movement. it has been principally in the Engineering and allied industries, where it represents a definite attempt by the workers to convert their negative restrictions on industry into a form of positive control over industry. You may say that that was not consciously so. So far as many of the Shop Stewards are concerned it was not; but I am dealing not with what was consciously present in the mind of every Shop Steward, but with the general tendency of policy behind the Shop Stewards’ Movement as a whole. In that sense, what I say is undoubtedly true. During the present year the big control movement of the railwaymen and the miners have been obvious expressions of the tendency I have been describing. Both the railwaymen an the miners no longer content themselves with the imposition of restrictions on the way in which industry is run, but demand that they shall be admitted to a share in the control of industry, and shall have the right to a certain extent to lay down the conditions under which industry is to be organised in the future, and to share in the positive task of reorganising it. There is the second big difference between Trade Unionism as it has existed in the past and the Guild of the Future. (p. 10).

Thatcher was determined to smash the unions, and particularly the miners’, because of the way they had overturned Heath’s government with the three-day week. She was also terrified of them ‘ratcheting down’ of success reforms by the Labour party, which she believed would result in the complete socialisation of industry. 1975 was also the year of the Bullock report, which recommended a system of workers’ control, where the trade unions would place worker’s representative in the boardroom. Reading that passage and its remarks on the desires of the miners and railwaymen now nearly a century ago to run their industries, whether that was what she was also scared of. And the result was her privatisation and destruction of the mining industry, and John Major’s destructive privatisation of the railways.

A Fabian Pamphlet for Workers’ Management: Part Three

April 27, 2016

Guild Socialist Letter

I’ve just put up two pieces, Parts 1 and 2, of this post, on a pamphlet I picked up years ago when I was a member of the Fabian Society. As I wrote in the first part of this essay, it was written by a ‘Guild Socialist’ – a British form of Syndicalism – to a shop steward, urging him to chose the most responsible and capable personnel to set on the shop stewards committees that had been set up in many factories in order to aid the war effort. The Guild Socialist believed that this would show management and employees that such councils, rather than being trouble-makers, were serious, capable partners in industry. Such an approach would immensely help workers’ demands for a greater share in industry.

Workers’ control is still a radical idea, but such a system of factory councils exist in Germany, Austria and Sweden. There was a similar system of workers’ control in Communist Yugoslavia. The shop steward’s committees mentioned in the pamphlets were councils set up to manage industrial disputes in the war time industries. Workers were forbidden to strike, but were given a place in management. These councils were largely dismantled after the war, as it was felt they placed too great restrictions on the unions’ ability to bargain. The councils did survive, however, in the Whitley Councils, that had been set up during the First World War in the Civil Service. I think these have since been dismantled under the Tories.

I put up the pieces from this pamphlet, not just because I agree with the general principle that workers’ should have a role in industrial management, but also to make a point about the value of trade unions themselves. Mike earlier this week put up a long piece on how workers have benefited from trade unions, after he was told by a woman when he went canvassing at the weekend that she wouldn’t vote Labour ‘after what the unions did to us’.

This clearly is a reference to 1979 Winter of Discontent, to which the Tories continually refer ad nauseam to justify their attacks on the unions. I’ve already put up a piece from one of the history books stating that Britain in the ’60s and ’70s was not unusually strike prone, and that most of the strikes in Britain were carried out according to the law, often with very good reasons behind them. And this pamphlet shows that even the radical wing of British trade unionism in the 1940s – that section that wanted a quasi-syndicalist reconstruction of society – did not do so out of a desire to cause mischief or deliberate disruption. Rather, they believed in efficiency, and that the workers on the shop floor quite often knew more about what was needed than a management, content solely on the maximisation of its own profits.

And, quite honestly, ‘Guild Socialist’ has a point. BHS collapsed, throwing 11,000 people out of work, because its chairman, Philip Green, starved it of investment. He did very well out of it, however. He may have left the company with a black hole in its pension fund of over half a billion pounds, but his ill-gotten gains was nicely stored in an offshore tax haven. Plus he got to buy a £400 million + yacht.

And this hasn’t been the only case of such flagrant mismanagement.

There have been a number of studies which show that the best run companies are unionised. This reinforces the point, repeated again and again in the Guild Socialist pamphlet, urging responsibility and competence. But Thatcher, Cameron and the rest of their cronies in big business aren’t interested in competence. Only in profiteering and impoverishing and exploiting the workforce. And they’re wrecking British industry to do it.

Fabian Pamphlet for Worker’s Management in Industry: Part Two

April 27, 2016

Guild Socialist Letter

Management hostility to trade unions and shop stewards’ committees.

The writer of the pamphlet also notes the capitalist resentment of the shop’s stewards’ committees and trade unionists, but have been forced to grudgingly recognise the powerful assistance they are giving the war effort.

Take for example your position as a shop steward. Your employers very much resent the kind of organisation you have been able to introduce into their works since the outbreak of war. They dislike it, because their idea of the right way of running industry is that they give the orders and you obey them without asking why. They dislike even the fact of your belonging to a Trade Union; but that they have come to accept, provided that your Union confines itself to ordinary collective bargaining outside the factory and makes no attempt to interfere inside the factory as long as they observe standard rates and conditions. They dislike your shop stewards’ committee very much more, because its very reason for existing is to interfere inside the factory, and to take charge of grievances of your which the Trade Union, as long as it stays outside the factory, can hardly touch. They dislike shop stewards, because shop stewards stand essentially for the claim of the workers to an effective voice in the CONTROL OF INDUSTRY – a control exerted when the shoe pinches, a control which involves the worker’s demand to be treated as a partner in industry, and not merely as a hired hand. (pp. 6-7).

Shop Stewards to Show They are Sensible and Competent

The only way of overcoming these fears, which are formidable obstacles in the way of workers’ control, is for the shop stewards to give plain proof of their competence and sense of responsibility. To the extent to which they can show themselves able to help in raising production, and therewith in securing redress for grievances which are holding it up, they will be in a position to command the respect of both employers and Trade Union officials: whereas, if they rest content with mere slogans and political agitation, without making themselves masters of practical workshop affairs, they will fail to command general backing among the workers, and will consequently forfeit their title to the employers’ full recognition and respect. If Trade Unionists wish to take a vital share in the running of industry, they will have to choose shop stewards who are competent, not only as agitators, but also as practical contributors to workshop efficiency. These stewards will have to be men who recognise the difficulties and problems of the industrial managers, and are prepared to cooperate in solving them. The reluctance of most managements to give a cordial welcome to delegations chosen by the rank and file as co-partners in the work of organising production will need to be met by a determination on the workers’ part to choose only those best fitted for such offices, and by a readiness on the part of the Trade Unions to give the delegates so chosen a position of unequivocal recognition as agents of Trade Unionism in the particular factory.

Assertions are often heard at present that the shop stewards, far from having a mandate either from the Trade Unions or from the main body of the workers, are in truth self-appointed stirrers-up of trouble, however desirous they may seem to be of seconding the demand for ‘bigger and better production’. This reproach needs to be met by deeds rather than words, for in proportion as the shop stewards prove their mettle as effective participants in workshop control the Trade Unions’ case for a share in the settlement of industrial policy will be reinforced and it will be much more difficult for the managers and directors of industry to reject the help of the shop stewards in matters of immediate workshop concern. Workers’ control cannot be won merely by talking about it, but only by plain demonstrations of practical competence; and this demands the service of the ablest men in the Trade Union ranks- the ablest in workshop technique, as well as in the art of commanding the respect and countenances of their fellow-workers.

To an ever-increasing extent, shop stewards chosen in this spirit should be able to take over from the factory managements many of the tasks of workshop discipline and ordering of the process of production, and to contribute therewith many suggestions for speeding up the pace of production without imposing unbearable strains upon the workers. The worker knows best where the shoe pinches, and is often times well equipped for proposing salutary changes in the arrangement of work. The printer’s chapel, a time-honoured institution among compositors, is an excellent example of what can be done by a closely organised body6 of craftsmen to take the discipline of workshops into their own hands, and there is no reason why the engineers or shipbuilders should be behindhand in their exercise of collective power. (A Letter To A Shop Steward, by ‘Guild Socialist’ (Fabian Society, No Date, pp.9-11).

A Workers’ Council in Every Factory

There ought to be, in every war factory of any considerable size, a fully recognised works committee consisting of workshop delegates chosen directly by the workers. These works committees ought to be linked up with the regular Trade Union machinery by adequate representation on Trade Union District Committees, which should hold regular policy-making conferences with the shop stewards from the various works. The works meeting convened by the shop stewards should largely replace the Trade Union branch as the place where matters of Union policy are regularly discussed, and resolutions to be sent forward for consideration by District Committees and, through them, by the national Trade Union authorities. The centre of Trade Union gravity ought to be shifted, as far and as fast as possible, from the branch, which has usually no direct contact with any particular factory, to the factory itself; for if workers’ control is to be won in any real sense it must be won in the factories, where the workers have to endure the hard discipline of capitalist industry. It is in the factory that workers of different crafts and callings come together to serve the common purpose of production; and the factory is clearly the unit on which must be based a workers’ movement capable of a real assumption of power.

Fabian Pamphlet for Workers’ Management in Industry: Party 1

April 27, 2016

Guild Socialist Letter

I bought this pamphlet over 20 years ago when I was a member of the Fabian Society. Entitled, ‘A Letter to a Shop Steward’ by an anonymous ‘Guild Socialist’, the pamphlet was written some time during the Second World War. Guild Socialism was a peculiarly British form of Syndicalism, the system of radical socialism that wished to see the state replaced by a system of industrial guilds, allowing the workers to manage the industries in which they worked.

It notes the achievements of the shop stewards in getting the most out of the men and women in their factories. Both the shop steward and the ‘Guild Socialist’, who is evidently a civil servant, share the same goal of working hard to overthrow Hitler, and neither wants to jeopardise their country’s success by disrupting industry. As unjust as British capitalism is, it is better than the slavery which everyone will suffer if Hitler wins.

The pamphlet notes the hostility towards the shop steward system by trade unionists and management, but states that this can be overcome if the shop stewards are efficient and responsible. It recommends a system of factory councils, on which should sit workers chosen by their trade union colleagues, who have sound business sense. Finally, the Guild Socialist looks forward to the day when the TUC will become not just a meeting of trade unionists, but a meeting of representatives with a direct workshop mandate expressing the will to power of all labourers and craftsmen, and urges the shop steward to do everything he can to show that the workers are able to be efficient and responsible partners in industry in order to make the case for industrial democracy unanswerable.

The Guild Socialist writes about how the war effort is being hampered by a corrupt, unjust and inefficient capitalism:

You and I have always regarded capitalism as a rotten system, both because of the exploitation of the workers for private profit on which it rests and because it plans, when it plans at all, much more readily for scarcity than for abundance. We have not changed our opinion of it, even though for the time being we are both doing our best to make it work. We believe that it is an inefficient system, as well as an unjust; and we both mean to play our part in ending it when our chance comes. But for the present we have to work through it as best we can, because we cannot afford to attack it in any way that might give the Nazis a chance of winning the war before we could set up a better system in its place.

that is our dilemma – yours and mine. We can both see, from our several points of vantage-yours in the workshop and mine in an office in Whitehall – what a mess capitalism and the Government between them are making of the industrial side of the war. You can see what an extent production is being held up by bad organisation – so that, as you have told me, the men in your shop are often idle for days on end because of the failure of necessary components to arrive in time, or because of changes in design or interruptions of work before contracts are renewed. I from the other end, can see how the Government, which is supposed to be controlling industry, is in the hands of the big firms and business combines, and how these combines really are the ‘Controls’ which are supposed to determine their policy. We can both see that this system works badly, and that it is bound to work badly. But it is not easy to see how e can alter it, especially when every suggestion that it should be altered is denounced by business people and by the newspapers which uphold their interests as an unpatriotic attempt to break up the national unity in time of war. (pp. 1-2).

He also notes that the victory of socialism after the war would mean that civil servants and workers would continue to be needed, but not the capitalist managers currently hindering the war effort.

You and I, on the other hand, believe that capitalism, in its present form, is an obstacle in the way of victory. There is nothing to deter us from holding this opinion, because our vision is not limited by the horizon of profit-making. I earn a salary, and you a wage, and we can both feel tolerably confident that our skill will be needed, and paid for, under a system which is designed to produce for use and not for profit, and can therefore set out to employ every available productive resource. My income might be lower, and yours higher, under Socialism than they were before the war. But we can both feel pretty sure that we shall find a useful job to do, and be able to earn enough to satisfy our reasonable needs under a Socialist system. But the board of directors that controls your factory (and a number of others) feels quite differently. Its members have been used to regarding themselves as lords of creation, drawing huge incomes not for organising production so much as for wangling a big profit out of it for themselves and their shareholders. They can see clearly enough that, though such persons as technicians and works managers will be needed under Socialism as much as ever, they themselves will not be needed – or at all events will have not chance of enjoying the huge incomes and the excessive power to which they have been accustomed.

Hope Not Hate on Mosleyite, Eugenicist Kipper and his Attacks on the Rest of His Party

April 17, 2016

Ryan Fleming, the Nazi Satanist and wannabe vampire, isn’t the only Rightist to have tried putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Matthew Collins in the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism magazine, Hope Not Hate, has also written a piece about Joseph William Evans, the Kipper candidate for the Boothby and Ellenbrook Ward in Salford. As well as being a party activist, Evans has described himself as an enthusiast for the views of Oswald Mosley and eugenics, and has written two books on them. These are Problems of Democracy and Eugenics: The Hope Denied, both on Amazon. Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s just before World War II, while eugenics is the discredited science of selective breeding that saw hundreds of thousands of people sterilised as a threat to the biological stock of the human race in the Europe and America, and murdered outright by the Nazis during the Third Reich.

Evans is also unimpressed by the people in his own party. He states he has lost his faith in it for trying to suppress his views. He accuses them of lying to the public, and going overboard to show its members mixing with Black people in order to dispel their racist image.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/salford-ukip-candidate-launches-fierce-attack-on-his-own-party-4839

Given Evans’ own support for Mosley’s ideas, I wonder why he isn’t in the avowedly Fascist group, the New British Union. Its leader and members so desperately want to be Mosley and the BUF that they positively scream it at you. They even have an all-black uniform, complete with cap, and flags with a lightning bolt symbol, rather like Mosley’s. No doubt they dream one day of winning an election, in which case they’ll party like it’s 1939.

Now there are problems with democracy. It’s constructed to provide popular government, rather than good government. Though considering the way it’s been perverted and twisted by decades of micromanagement, spin doctors and highly staged political events, modern democracy could possibly be best described as a sham, designed to provide a populist veil for what is actually a corporatist oligarchy manipulating politics. And you could possibly justify Mosley’s plan to replace the unelected House of Lords with a Chamber of Corporations, as in Fascist Italy. This would be organised according to industry, and include representatives of the trade unions and labour, as well as management, in order to debate and manage the national economy. Such as system could possibly be advocated on the grounds that it would be an extension of democracy, representing the people as workers. G.D.H. Cole makes precisely this case in his Guild Socialism Restated, in which he argued for a quasi-syndicalist reorganisation of British industry and the state in order to extend democracy into the economic and industrial spheres.

But I really don’t think Evans is interested in extending democracy. After the War, Mosley stated that he was no longer in favour of the Corporate state, considering it ‘too bureaucratic’. I also can’t imagine Evans, as a Kipper, also having any enthusiasm for another of Mosley’s ideas – that of a united Europe under a kind of international Fascist corporatist order. Other ideas of Mosley’s are also likely to be non-starters. For example, Mosley wanted east Africa to be developed for White colonisation. Well, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have had their independence for three decades and more now. And even if they don’t like the rulers they have now, they probably don’t want the return of White rule. That was why they kicked us out in the first place. And they certainly won’t want to be displaced and dispossessed in favour of further White colonists.

This just about leaves only dictatorship and authoritarianism as the Mosleyite solution to the problems of democracy. Which contrasts very much with Evans’ statement that he is trying to encourage feelings of revolt and emancipation. Unless, of course, he’s heading down the same path as the German Neo-Nazis in sneering at democracy as ‘democratorship’ – demokratur. The other policy of Mosley’s that also springs to mind that might be favoured by Evans is his advocacy of a form of apartheid – for cultural reasons – to keep Jews and non-Whites separate from the rest of the British population.

According to his website, Evans also has another book due to be published soon. It’s an attack on the monarchy, The Queen Must Go. He rants about how Brenda is an oppressive institution, soaking up our cash. He has a point in that an hereditary monarchy is an anomaly in an era of democracy, and the royal family is expensive to maintain. There are millions of people, who undoubtedly would like to see a republic. Just as there are millions of others, who believe the Queen does an excellent job as a non-political head of state, and stress the importance of history and tradition. In this debate, Evans may well have scored an own goal. Possibly the strongest argument for retaining the monarchy is that, so long as it exists and remains above politics, it provides a check to Nazis like him taking control.

But if that’s his views on the monarchy, then I’m not surprised the other Kippers don’t like him. I got the impression that UKIP was very much on the side of the traditionalist, ultra-Conservative right, who definitely did not want further fiddling with the constitution, and very much wanted to retain the monarchy, thank you very much. And if that’s the case, then it’s no wonder he’s fallen out with them.

So, in other words, it seems to be business as usual with the Kippers. Another member comes out as a Nazi, and causes further controversy within the party. Given the factionalism and controversies over membership that have already broken out, I do wonder how long it can continue as a single, unified organisation.

G.D.H. Cole and the Guild Socialist Criticism of British Schools

March 23, 2014

ColeGDH

G.D.H. Cole: Socialist intellectual and founder of Guild Socialism

The barring of 14 academy chains from running any more schools this week reminded me of G.D.H. Cole’s criticism of the schools’ system of his time. Cole was a former member of the Fabian Society and one of the founders of Guild Socialism. This was similar to Syndicalism, in that it advocated that industries should be taken over and managed by the trade unions through a system of industrial democracy, in which the workers in the factories and other places of work would elect their managers. Unlike Syndicalism, there would be some kind of residual state institution to represent the interests of the consumers, and the economy and society as a whole would be governed by an Industrial Guilds Congress, which would take over the role of the TUC, and a National Commune. Guild Socialism effectively ended in Britain with the collapse of the 1926 General Strike, when it appeared that the trade unions and direct action could not take on the full force of the state.

In his 1920 book, Guild Socialism Restated, Cole commented on the poor quality of the British educational system. He considered it servile, staffed by poorly trained teachers and classes that were far too large. He believed that the major factor in the poor quality of British education was also the low status of the teachers themselves. This could only be improved by giving them more freedom to manage their service within the structure of Guild Socialism. Cole wrote

This servility of present educational arrangements is traced by its critics to various causes. Some dwell, quite rightly, on the inordinate size of the classes which the unfortunate teacher is called upon to teach, and point out, with perfect truth, that it is impossible to communicated education to a mob. But the size of classes, while it is a serious aggravation of the servility of the system, is not the root cause of its servility. Other critics are content to say that the system is servile because it is capitalist, and it is to the interest of capitalists to train contented wage-slaves. This is certainly true; but it only drives us back to the further problem of the means by which capitalism succeeds in imparting this servile character to what should be a great agent of spiritual enfranchisement. The fundamental answer, I think, is to be found in the present status and equipment of the teacher, who is, under existing conditions, as much a wage-slave as any hireling of the industrial system, and worse exploited than most. The teacher is afforded only a quite inadequate and often inferior training, sometimes in a University, but more often in an institution that is not quite as good as a University. He or she, with this shoddy equipment, is then pitchforked into a school, and told to teach, under the supervision of a horde of inspectors, according to Board of Education instructions, under the control of an Education Authority whose members usually know nothing about education, and in an atmosphere of jealousy created directly by the dire economic distress of the teacher, and the scarcity of promotions carrying a reasonable salary or reasonable opportunities,. It is no wonder at all that, under these conditions, very many teachers can be accused of being “narrow-minded” and not too efficient. They would be miracles if they were otherwise, and, in the circumstances, the work which many of them do is little short of miraculous. But there is a limit to miracles; and the majority of teachers are human beings, and many have come to be teachers, not because they have a vocation for teaching, but because, in the present scramble, even the worst-paid professions have some economic attractions superior to those of starvation or mercenary marriage.

The only way of changing the character of the educational system is by changing the status of the teacher; for the teachers alone can purify education, and they can do so only if the conditions enable them to make a beginning. We shall set our feet on the right road in respect of education only when we make teaching a fully self-governing profession; and we shall get a good and liberating educational system only when we have helped the teachers to use their freedom to purge education of its present capitalistic and economic taint.

G.D.H. Cole, Guild Socialism Restated (New Brunswick: Transaction Inc. 1980) 99-101.

Few would want to give teachers total freedom to manage schools, after the horrors and excesses of some of the progressive educational policies implemented in the 1960s and 1970s. Other parts of Cole’s critique of the education system still remain extremely relevant, after nearly a century: large classes, poor pay and low status have forced many people to leave the profession, who were initially drawn to it. The actual standard of professional education given to teacher is often extremely high, but even here Gove and the Tories wish to turn the clock back with the plans to remove the requirement for teaching qualifications for the privatised academies. I can remember when the teachers struck in the 1980s against Margaret Thatcher’s proposed educational reforms. They were afraid that these would not only lead to them working for lower pay with worse conditions, but also that their pupils education would also be damaged as a result. And they were right.

Unfortunately, education is very much used as a political football. It is not just local councils that know and care little about it that have damaged it, but also the major political parties, like the Tories and Tory Democrats. They seem to regard it merely as an arena in which they can gain votes through ill-thought out tinkering and appealing to popular sentiment against teachers. It’s about time this stopped. If Gove really wants to improve education, he should scrap the privatisation programme and start listening to teachers themselves.