Against All Reason  

PROPOSED ROADS TO FREEDOM

BY

BERTRAND RUSSELL, F.R.S.

CHAPTER III

THE SYNDICALIST REVOLT

SYNDICALISM arose in France as a revolt against political Socialism, and in order to understand it we must trace in brief outline the positions attained by Socialist parties in the various countries.

After a severe setback, caused by the Franco-Prussian war, Socialism gradually revived, and in all the countries of Western Europe Socialist parties have increased their numerical strength almost continuously during the last forty years; but, as is invariably the case with a growing sect, the intensity of faith has diminished as the number of believers has increased.

In Germany the Socialist party became the strongest faction of the Reichstag, and, in spite of differences of opinion among its members, it preserved its formal unity with that instinct for military discipline which characterizes the German nation. In the Reichstag election of 1912 it polled a third of the total number of votes cast, and returned 110 members out of a total of 397. After the death of Bebel, the Revisionists, who received their first impulse from Bernstein, overcame the more strict Marxians, and the party became in effect merely one of advanced Radicalism. It is too soon to guess what will be the effect of the split between Majority and Minority Socialists which has occurred during the war. There is in Germany hardly a trace of Syndicalism; its characteristic doctrine, the preference of industrial to political action, has found scarcely any support.

In England Marx has never had many followers. Socialism there has been inspired in the main by the Fabians (founded in 1883), who threw over the advocacy of revolution, the Marxian doctrine of value, and the class-war. What remained was State Socialism and a doctrine of "permeation." Civil servants were to be permeated with the realization that Socialism would enormously increase their power. Trade Unions were to be permeated with the belief that the day for purely industrial action was past, and that they must look to government (inspired secretly by sympathetic civil servants) to bring about, bit by bit, such parts of the Socialist program as were not likely to rouse much hostility in the rich. The Independent Labor Party (formed in 1893) was largely inspired at first by the ideas of the Fabians, though retaining to the present day, and especially since the outbreak of the war, much more of the original Socialist ardor. It aimed always at co-operation with the industrial organizations of wage-earners, and, chiefly through its efforts, the Labor Party[20] was formed in 1900 out of a combination of the Trade Unions and the political Socialists. To this party, since 1909, all the important Unions have belonged, but in spite of the fact that its strength is derived from Trade Unions, it has stood always for political rather than industrial action. Its Socialism has been of a theoretical and academic order, and in practice, until the outbreak of war, the Labor members in Parliament (of whom 30 were elected in 1906 and 42 in December, 1910) might be reckoned almost as a part of the Liberal Party.

[20] Of which the Independent Labor Party is only a section.

France, unlike England and Germany, was not content merely to repeat the old shibboleths with continually diminishing conviction. In France[21] a new movement, originally known as Revolutionary Syndicalism—and afterward simply as Syndicalism— kept alive the vigor of the original impulse, and remained true to the spirit of the older Socialists, while departing from the letter. Syndicalism, unlike Socialism and Anarchism, began from an existing organization and developed the ideas appropriate to it, whereas Socialism and Anarchism began with the ideas and only afterward developed the organizations which were their vehicle. In order to understand Syndicalism, we have first to describe Trade Union organization in France, and its political environment. The ideas of Syndicalism will then appear as the natural outcome of the political and economic situation. Hardly any of these ideas are new; almost all are derived from the Bakunist section of the old International.[21] The old International had considerable success in France before the Franco-Prussian War; indeed, in 1869, it is estimated to have had a French membership of a quarter of a million. What is practically the Syndicalist program was advocated by a French delegate to the Congress of the International at Bale in that same year.[22]

[20] And also in Italy. A good, short account of the Italian movement is given by A. Lanzillo, "Le Mouvement Ouvrier en Italie," Bibliotheque du Mouvement Proletarien. See also Paul Louis, "Le Syndicalisme Europeen," chap. vi. On the other hand Cole ("World of Labour," chap. vi) considers the strength of genuine Syndicalism in Italy to be small.

[21] This is often recognized by Syndicalists themselves. See, e.g., an article on "The Old International" in the Syndicalist of February, 1913, which, after giving an account of the struggle between Marx and Bakunin from the standpoint of a sympathizer with the latter, says: "Bakounin’s ideas are now more alive than ever."

[22] See pp. 42-43, and 160 of "Syndicalism in France," Louis Levine, Ph.D. (Columbia University Studies in Political Science, vol. xlvi, No. 3.) This is a very objective and reliable account of the origin and progress of French Syndicalism. An admirable short discussion of its ideas and its present position will be found in Cole’s "World of Labour" (G. Bell & Sons), especially chapters iii, iv, and xi.

The war of 1870 put an end for the time being to the Socialist Movement in France. Its revival was begun by Jules Guesde in 1877. Unlike the Ger-man Socialists, the French have been split into many different factions. In the early eighties there was a split between the Parliamentary Socialists and the Communist Anarchists. The latter thought that the first act of the Social Revolution should be the destruction of the State, and would therefore have nothing to do with Parliamentary politics. The Anarchists, from 1883 onward, had success in Paris and the South. The Socialists contended that the State will disappear after the Socialist society has been firmly established. In 1882 the Socialists split between the followers of Guesde, who claimed to represent the revolutionary and scientific Socialism of Marx, and the followers of Paul Brousse, who were more opportunist and were also called possibilists and cared little for the theories of Marx. In 1890 there was a secession from the Broussists, who followed Allemane and absorbed the more revolutionary elements of the party and became leading spirits in some of the strongest syndicates. Another group was the Independent Socialists, among whom were Jaures, Millerand and Viviani.[23]

[23] See Levine, op. cit., chap. ii.

The disputes between the various sections of Socialists caused difficulties in the Trade Unions and helped to bring about the resolution to keep politics out of the Unions. From this to Syndicalism was an easy step.

Since the year 1905, as the result of a union between the Parti Socialiste de France (Part; Ouvrier Socialiste Revolutionnaire Francais led by Guesde) and the Parti Socialiste Francais (Jaures), there have been only two groups of Socialists, the United Socialist Party and the Independents, who are intellectuals or not willing to be tied to a party. At the General Election of 1914 the former secured 102 members and the latter 30, out of a total of 590.

Tendencies toward a rapprochement between the various groups were seriously interfered with by an event which had considerable importance for the whole development of advanced political ideas in France, namely, the acceptance of office in the Waldeck-Rousseau Ministry by the Socialist Millerand in 1899. Millerand, as was to be expected, soon ceased to be a Socialist, and the opponents of political action pointed to his development as showing the vanity of political triumphs. Very many French politicians who have risen to power have begun their political career as Socialists, and have ended it not infrequently by employing the army to oppress strikers. Millerand’s action was the most notable and dramatic among a number of others of a similar kind. Their cumulative effect has been to produce a certain cynicism in regard to politics among the more class-conscious of French wage-earners, and this state of mind greatly assisted the spread of Syndicalism.

Syndicalism stands essentially for the point of view of the producer as opposed to that of the consumer; it is concerned with reforming actual work, and the organization of industry, not MERELY with securing greater rewards for work. From this point of view its vigor and its distinctive character are derived. It aims at substituting industrial for political action, and at using Trade Union organization for purposes for which orthodox Socialism would look to Parliament. "Syndicalism" was originally only the French name for Trade Unionism, but the Trade Unionists of France became divided into two sections, the Reformist and the Revolutionary, of whom the latter only professed the ideas which we now associate with the term "Syndicalism." It is quite impossible to guess how far either the organization or the ideas of the Syndicalists will remain intact at the end of the war, and everything that we shall say is to be taken as applying only to the years before the war. It may be that French Syndicalism as a distinctive movement will be dead, but even in that case it will not have lost its importance, since it has given a new impulse and direction to the more vigorous part of the labor movement in all civilized countries, with the possible exception of Germany.

The organization upon which Syndicalism de-pended was the Confederation Generale du Travail, commonly known as the C. G. T., which was founded in 1895, but only achieved its final form in 1902. It has never been numerically very powerful, but has derived its influence from the fact that in moments of crisis many who were not members were willing to follow its guidance. Its membership in the year before the war is estimated by Mr. Cole at somewhat more than half a million. Trade Unions (Syndicats) were legalized by Waldeck-Rousseau in 1884, and the C. G. T., on its inauguration in 1895, was formed by the Federation of 700 Syndicats. Alongside of this organization there existed another, the Federation des Bourses du Travail, formed in 1893. A Bourse du Travail is a local organization, not of any one trade, but of local labor in general, intended to serve as a Labor Exchange and to perform such functions for labor as Chambers of Commerce perform for the employer.[24] A Syndicat is in general a local organization of a single industry, and is thus a smaller unit than the Bourse du Travail.[25] Under the able leadership of Pelloutier, the Federation des Bourses prospered more than the C. G. T., and at last, in 1902, coalesced with it. The result was an organization in which the local Syndicat was fed-erated twice over, once with the other Syndicat in its locality, forming together the local Bourse du Travail, and again with the Syndicats in the same industry in other places. "It was the purpose of the new organization to secure twice over the membership of every syndicat, to get it to join both its local Bourse du Travail and the Federation of its industry. The Statutes of the C. G. T. (I. 3) put this point plainly: ‘No Syndicat will be able to form a part of the C. G. T. if it is not federated nationally and an adherent of a Bourse du Travail or a local or departmental Union of Syndicats grouping different associations.’ Thus, M. Lagardelle explains, the two sections will correct each other’s point of view: national federation of industries will prevent parochialism (localisme), and local organization will check the corporate or ‘Trade Union’ spirit. The workers will learn at once the solidarity of all workers in a locality and that of all workers in a trade, and, in learning this, they will learn at the same time the complete solidarity of the whole working-class."[26]

[24] Cole, ib., p. 65.

[25] "Syndicat in France still means a local union—there are at the present day only four national syndicats" (ib., p. 66).

[26] Cole, ib. p. 69.

This organization was largely the work of Pellouties, who was Secretary of the Federation des Bourses from 1894 until his death in 1901. He was an Anarchist Communist and impressed his ideas upon the Federation and thence posthumously on the C. G. T. after its combination with the Federation des Bourses. He even carried his principles into the government of the Federation; the Committee had no chairman and votes very rarely took place. He stated that "the task of the revolution is to free mankind, not only from all authority, but also from every institution which has not for its essential purpose the development of production."

The C. G. T. allows much autonomy to each unit in the organization. Each Syndicat counts for one, whether it be large or small. There are not the friendly society activities which form so large a part of the work of English Unions. It gives no orders, but is purely advisory. It does not allow politics to be introduced into the Unions. This decision was originally based upon the fact that the divisions among Socialists disrupted the Unions, but it is now reinforced in the minds of an important section by the general Anarchist dislike of politics. The C. G. T. is essentially a fighting organization; in strikes, it is the nucleus to which the other workers rally.

There is a Reformist section in the C. G. T., but it is practically always in a minority, and the C. G. T. is, to all intents and purposes, the organ of revolutionary Syndicalism, which is simply the creed of its leaders.

The essential doctrine of Syndicalism is the class-war, to be conducted by industrial rather than politi-cal methods. The chief industrial methods advocated are the strike, the boycott, the label and sabotage.

The boycott, in various forms, and the label, showing that the work has been done under trade-union conditions, have played a considerable part in American labor struggles.

Sabotage is the practice of doing bad work, or spoiling machinery or work which has already been done, as a method of dealing with employers in a dispute when a strike appears for some reason undesirable or impossible. It has many forms, some clearly innocent, some open to grave objections. One form of sabotage which has been adopted by shop assistants is to tell customers the truth about the articles they are buying; this form, however it may damage the shopkeeper’s business, is not easy to object to on moral grounds. A form which has been adopted on railways, particularly in Italian strikes, is that of obeying all rules literally and exactly, in such a way as to make the running of trains practically impossible. Another form is to do all the work with minute care, so that in the end it is better done, but the output is small. From these innocent forms there is a continual progression, until we come to such acts as all ordinary morality would consider criminal; for example, causing railway accidents. Advocates of sabotage justify it as part of war, but in its more violent forms (in which it is seldom defended) it is cruel and probably inexpedient, while even in its milder forms it must tend to encourage slovenly habits of work, which might easily persist under the new regime that the Syndicalists wish to introduce. At the same time, when capitalists express a moral horror of this method, it is worth while to observe that they themselves are the first to practice it when the occasion seems to them appropriate. If report speaks truly, an example of this on a very large scale has been seen during the Russian Revolution.

By far the most important of the Syndicalist methods is the strike. Ordinary strikes, for specific objects, are regarded as rehearsals, as a means of perfecting organization and promoting enthusiasm, but even when they are victorious so far as concerns the specific point in dispute, they are not regarded by Syndicalists as affording any ground for industrial peace. Syndicalists aim at using the strike, not to secure such improvements of detail as employers may grant, but to destroy the whole system of employer and employed and win the complete emancipation of the worker. For this purpose what is wanted is the General Strike, the complete cessation of work by a sufficient proportion of the wage-earners to secure the paralysis of capitalism. Sorel, who represents Syndicalism too much in the minds of the reading public, suggests that the General Strike is to be regarded as a myth, like the Second Coming in Christian doctrine. But this view by no means suits the active Syndicalists. If they were brought to believe that the General Strike is a mere myth, their energy would flag, and their whole outlook would become disillusioned. It is the actual, vivid belief in its possibility which inspires them. They are much criticised for this belief by the political Socialists who consider that the battle is to be won by obtaining a Parliamentary majority. But Syndicalists have too little faith in the honesty of politicians to place any reliance on such a method or to believe in the value of any revolution which leaves the power of the State intact.

Syndicalist aims are somewhat less definite than Syndicalist methods. The intellectuals who endeavor to interpret them—not always very faithfully— represent them as a party of movement and change, following a Bergsonian elan vital, without needing any very clear prevision of the goal to which it is to take them. Nevertheless, the negative part, at any rate, of their objects is sufficiently clear.

They wish to destroy the State, which they regard as a capitalist institution, designed essentially to terrorize the workers. They refuse to believe that it would be any better under State Socialism. They desire to see each industry self-governing, but as to the means of adjusting the relations between different industries, they are not very clear. They are anti-militarist because they are anti-State, and because French troops have often been employed against them in strikes; also because they are internationalists, who believe that the sole interest of the working man everywhere is to free himself from the tyranny of the capitalist. Their outlook on life is the very reverse of pacifist, but they oppose wars between States on the ground that these are not fought for objects that in any way concern the workers. Their anti-militarism, more than anything else, brought them into conflict with the authorities in the years preceding the war. But, as was to be expected, it did not survive the actual invasion of France.

The doctrines of Syndicalism may be illustrated by an article introducing it to English readers in the first number of "The Syndicalist Railwayman," September, 1911, from which the following is quoted:--

"All Syndicalism, Collectivism, Anarchism aims at abolishing the present economic status and existing private ownership of most things; but while Collectivism would substitute ownership by everybody, and Anarchism ownership by nobody, Syndicalism aims at ownership by Organized Labor. It is thus a purely Trade Union reading of the economic doctrine and the class war preached by Socialism. It vehemently repudiates Parliamentary action on which Collectivism relies; and it is, in this respect, much more closely allied to Anarchism, from which, indeed, it differs in practice only in being more limited in range of action." (Times, Aug. 25, 1911).

In truth, so thin is the partition between Syndicalism and Anarchism that the newer and less familiar "ism" has been shrewdly defined as "Organized Anarchy." It has been created by the Trade Unions of France; but it is obviously an international plant, whose roots have already found the soil of Britain most congenial to its growth and fructification.

Collectivist or Marxian Socialism would have us believe that it is distinctly a LABOR Movement; but it is not so. Neither is Anarchism. The one is substantially bourgeois; the other aristocratic, plus an abundant output of book-learning, in either case. Syndicalism, on the contrary, is indubitably laborist in origin and aim, owing next to nothing to the "Classes," and, indeed,, resolute to uproot them. The Times (Oct. 13, 1910), which almost single-handed in the British Press has kept creditably abreast of Continental Syndicalism, thus clearly set forth the significance of the General Strike:

"To understand what it means, we must remember that there is in France a powerful Labor Organization which has for its open and avowed object a Revolution, in which not only the present order of Society, but the State itself, is to be swept away. This movement is called Syndicalism. It is not Socialism, but, on the contrary, radically opposed to Socialism, because the Syndicalists hold that the State is the great enemy and that the Socialists’ ideal of State or Collectivist Ownership would make the lot of the Workers much worse than it is now under private employers. The means by which they hope to attain their end is the General Strike, an idea which was invented by a French workman about twenty years ago,[27] and was adopted by the French Labor Congress in 1894, after a furious battle with the Socialists, in which the latter were worsted. Since then the General Strike has been the avowed policy of the Syndicalists, whose organization is the Confederation Generale du Travail."

[27] In fact the General Strike was invented by a Londoner William Benbow, an Owenite, in 1831.

Or, to put it otherwise, the intelligent French worker has awakened, as he believes, to the fact that Society (Societas) and the State (Civitas) connote two separable spheres of human activity, between which there is no connection, necessary or desirable. Without the one, man, being a gregarious animal, cannot subsist: while without the other he would simply be in clover. The "statesman" whom office does not render positively nefarious is at best an expensive superfluity.

Syndicalists have had many violent encounters with the forces of government. In 1907 and 1908, protesting against bloodshed which had occurred in the suppression of strikes, the Committee of the C. G. T. issued manifestoes speaking of the Government as "a Government of assassins" and alluding to the Prime Minister as "Clemenceau the murderer." Similar events in the strike at Villeneuve St. Georges in 1908 led to the arrest of all the leading members of the Committee. In the railway strike of October, 1910, Monsieur Briand arrested the Strike Committee, mobilized the railway men and sent soldiers to replace strikers. As a result of these vigorous measures the strike was completely defeated, and after this the chief energy of the C. G. T. was directed against militarism and nationalism.

The attitude of Anarchism to the Syndicalist movement is sympathetic, with the reservation that such methods as the General Strike are not to be regarded as substitutes for the violent revolution which most Anarchists consider necessary. Their attitude in this matter was defined at the International Anarchist Congress held in Amsterdam in August, 1907. This Congress recommended "comrades of all countries to actively participate in autonomous movements of the working class, and to develop in Syndicalist organizations the ideas of revolt, individual initiative and solidarity, which are the essence of Anarchism." Comrades were to "propagate and support only those forms and manifestations of direct action which carry, in themselves, a revolutionary character and lead to the transformation of society." It was resolved that "the Anarchists think that the destruction of the capitalist and authoritary society can only be realized by armed insurrection and violent expropriation, and that the use of the more or less General Strike and the Syndicalist movement must not make us forget the more direct means of struggle against the military force of government."

Syndicalists might retort that when the movement is strong enough to win by armed insurrection it will be abundantly strong enough to win by the General Strike. In Labor movements generally, success through violence can hardly be expected except in circumstances where success without violence is attainable. This argument alone, even if there were no other, would be a very powerful reason against the methods advocated by the Anarchist Congress.

Syndicalism stands for what is known as industrial unionism as opposed to craft unionism. In this respect, as also in the preference of industrial to political methods, it is part of a movement which has spread far beyond France. The distinction between industrial and craft unionism is much dwelt on by Mr. Cole. Craft unionism "unites in a single association those workers who are engaged on a single industrial process, or on processes so nearly akin that any one can do another’s work." But "organization may follow the lines, not of the work done, but of the actual structure of industry. All workers working at producing a particular kind of commodity may be organized in a single Union. . . . The basis of organization would be neither the craft to which a man belonged nor the employer under whom he worked, but the service on which he was engaged. This is Industrial Unionism properly so called.[28]

[28] "World of Labour," pp. 212, 213.

Industrial unionism is a product of America, and from America it has to some extent spread to Great Britain. It is the natural form of fighting organization when the union is regarded as the means of carrying on the class war with a view, not to obtaining this or that minor amelioration, but to a radical revolution in the economic system. This is the point of view adopted by the "Industrial Workers of the World," commonly known as the I. W. W.

This organization more or less corresponds in America to what the C. G. T. was in France before the war. The differences between the two are those due to the different economic circumstances of the two countries, but their spirit is closely analogous. The I. W. W. is not united as to the ultimate form which it wishes society to take. There are Socialists, Anarchists and Syndicalists among its members. But it is clear on the immediate practical issue, that the class war is the fundamental reality in the present relations of labor and capital, and that it is by industrial action, especially by the strike, that emancipation must be sought. The I. W. W., like the C. G. T., is not nearly so strong numerically as it is supposed to be by those who fear it. Its influence is based, not upon its numbers, but upon its power of enlisting the sympathies of the workers in moments of crisis.

The labor movement in America has been characterized on both sides by very great violence. Indeed, the Secretary of the C. G. T., Monsieur Jouhaux, recognizes that the C. G. T. is mild in comparison with the I. W. W. "The I. W. W.," he says, "preach a policy of militant action, very necessary in parts of America, which would not do in France."[29] A very interesting account of it, from the point of view of an author who is neither wholly on the side of labor nor wholly on the side of the capitalist, but disinterestedly anxious to find some solution of the social question short of violence and revolution, is the work of Mr. John Graham Brooks, called "American Syndicalism: the I. W. W." (Macmillan, 1913). American labor conditions are very different from those of Europe. In the first place, the power of the trusts is enormous; the concentration of capital has in this respect proceeded more nearly on Marxian lines in America than anywhere else. In the second place, the great influx of foreign labor makes the whole problem quite different from any that arises in Europe. The older skilled workers, largely American born, have long been organized in the American Federation of Labor under Mr. Gompers. These represent an aristocracy of labor. They tend to work with the employers against the great mass of unskilled immigrants, and they cannot be regarded as forming part of anything that could be truly called a labor movement. "There are," says Mr. Cole, "now in America two working classes, with different standards of life, and both are at present almost impotent in the face of the employers. Nor is it possible for these two classes to unite or to put forward any demands. . . . The American Federation of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the World represent two different principles of combination; but they also represent two different classes of labor."[30] The I. W. W. stands for industrial unionism, whereas the American Federation of Labor stands for craft unionism. The I. W. W. were formed in 1905 by a union of organizations, chief among which was the Western Federation of Miners, which dated from 1892. They suffered a split by the loss of the followers of Deleon, who was the leader of the "Socialist Labor Party" and advocated a "Don’t vote" policy, while reprobating violent methods. The headquarters of the party which he formed are at Detroit, and those of the main body are at Chicago. The I. W. W., though it has a less definite philosophy than French Syndicalism, is quite equally determined to destroy the capitalist system. As its secretary has said: "There is but one bargain the I. W. W. will make with the employing class— complete surrender of all control of industry to the organized workers."[31] Mr. Haywood, of the Western Federation of Miners, is an out-and-out follower of Marx so far as concerns the class war and the doctrine of surplus value. But, like all who are in this movement, he attaches more importance to industrial as against political action than do the European followers of Marx. This is no doubt partly explicable by the special circumstances of America, where the recent immigrants are apt to be voteless. The fourth convention of the I. W. W. revised a preamble giving the general principles underlying its action. "The working class and the employing class," they say, "have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes, a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system. . . . Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’ "[32]

[29] Quoted in Cole, ib. p. 128.

[30] Ib., p. 135.

[31] Brooks, op. cit., p. 79.

[32] Brooks, op. cit., pp. 86-87.

Numerous strikes have been conducted or encouraged by the I. W. W. and the Western Federation of Miners. These strikes illustrate the class-war in a more bitter and extreme form than is to be found in any other part of the world. Both sides are always ready to resort to violence. The employers have armies of their own and are able to call upon the Militia and even, in a crisis, upon the United States Army. What French Syndicalists say about the State as a capitalist institution is peculiarly true in America. In consequence of the scandals thus arising, the Federal Government appointed a Commission on Industrial Relations, whose Report, issued in 1915, reveals a state of affairs such as it would be difficult to imagine in Great Britain. The report states that "the greatest disorders and most of the outbreaks of violence in connection with industrial ‘disputes arise from the violation of what are considered to be fundamental rights, and from the perversion or subversion of governmental institutions" (p. 146). It mentions, among such perversions, the subservience of the judiciary to the mili-tary authorities,[33] the fact that during a labor dispute the life and liberty of every man within the State would seem to be at the mercy of the Governor (p. 72), and the use of State troops in policing strikes (p. 298). At Ludlow (Colorado) in 1914 (April 20) a battle of the militia and the miners took place, in which, as the result of the fire of the militia, a number of women and children were burned to death.[34] Many other instances of pitched battles could be given, but enough has been said to show the peculiar character of labor disputes in the United States. It may, I fear, be presumed that this character will remain so long as a very large proportion of labor consists of recent immigrants.

When these difficulties pass away, as they must sooner or later, labor will more and more find its place in the community, and will tend to feel and inspire less of the bitter hostility which renders the more extreme forms of class war possible. When that time comes, the labor movement in America will probably begin to take on forms similar to those of Europe.

[33] Although uniformly held that the writ of habeas corpus can only be suspended by the legislature, in these labor disturbances the executive has in fact suspended or disregarded the writ. . . . In cases arising from labor agitations, the judiciary has uniformly upheld the power exercised by the military, and in no case has there been any protest against the use of such power or any attempt to curtail it, except in Montana, where the conviction of a civilian by military commission was annulled" ("Final Report of the Commission on Industrial Relations" (1915) appointed by the United States Congress," p. 58).

[34] Literary Digest, May 2 and May 16, 1914.

Meanwhile, though the forms are different, the aims are very similar, and industrial unionism, spreading from America, has had a considerable influence in Great Britain—an influence naturally reinforced by that of French Syndicalism. It is clear, I think, that the adoption of industrial rather than craft unionism is absolutely necessary if Trade Unionism is to succeed in playing that part in altering the economic structure of society which its advocates claim for it rather than for the political parties. Industrial unionism organizes men, as craft unionism does not, in accordance with the enemy whom they have to fight. English unionism is still very far removed from the industrial form, though certain industries, especially the railway men, have gone very far in this direction, and it is notable that the railway men are peculiarly sympathetic to Syndicalism and industrial unionism.

Pure Syndicalism, however, is not very likely to achieve wide popularity in Great Britain. Its spirit is too revolutionary and anarchistic for our temperament. It is in the modified form of Guild Socialism that the ideas derived from the C. G. T. and the I. W. W. are tending to bear fruit.[35] This movement is as yet in its infancy and has no great hold upon the rank and file, but it is being ably advocated by a group of young men, and is rapidly gaining ground among those who will form Labor opinion in years to come. The power of the State has been so much increased during the war that those who naturally dislike things as they are, find it more and more difficult to believe that State omnipotence can be the road to the millennium. Guild Socialists aim at autonomy in industry, with consequent curtailment, but not abolition, of the power of the State. The system which they advocate is, I believe, the best hitherto proposed, and the one most likely to secure liberty without the constant appeals to violence which are to be feared under a purely Anarchist regime.

[35] The ideas of Guild Socialism were first set forth in "National Guilds," edited by A. R. Orage (Bell & Sons, 1914), and in Cole’s "World of Labour" (Bell & Sons), first published in 1913. Cole’s "Self-Government in Industry" (Bell & Sons, 1917) and Rickett & Bechhofer’s "The Meaning of National Guilds" (Palmer & Hayward, 1918) should also be read, as well as various pamphlets published by the National Guilds League. The attitude of the Syndicalists to Guild Socialism is far from sympathetic. An article in "The Syndicalist" for February, 1914, speaks of it in the following terms: a Middle-class of the middle-class, with all the shortcomings (we had almost said ‘stupidities’) of the middle-classes writ large across it, ‘Guild Socialism’ stands forth as the latest lucubration of the middle-class mind. It is a ‘cool steal’ of the leading ideas of Syndicalism and a deliberate perversion of them. . . . We do protest against the ‘State’ idea . . . in Guild Socialism. Middle-class people, even when they become Socialists, cannot get rid of the idea that the working-class is their ‘inferior’; that the workers need to be ‘educated,’ drilled, disciplined, and generally nursed for a very long time before they will be able to walk by themselves. The very reverse is actually the truth. . . . It is just the plain truth when we say that the ordinary wage-worker, of average intelligence, is better capable of taking care of himself than the half-educated middle-class man who wants to advise him. He knows how to make the wheels of the world go round."

The first pamphlet of the "National Guilds League" sets forth their main principles. In industry each factory is to be free to control its own methods of production by means of elected managers. The different factories in a given industry are to be federated into a National Guild which will deal with marketing and the general interests of the industry as a whole. "The State would own the means of production as trustee for the community; the Guilds would manage them, also as trustees for the community, and would pay to the State a single tax or rent. Any Guild that chose to set its own interests above those of the community would be violating its trust, and would have to bow to the judgment of a tribunal equally representing the whole body of producers and the whole body of consumers. This Joint Committee would be the ultimate sovereign body, the ultimate appeal court of industry. It would fix not only Guild taxation, but also standard prices, and both taxation and prices would be periodically readjusted by it." Each Guild will be entirely free to apportion what it receives among its members as it chooses, its members being all those who work in the industry which it covers. "The distribution of this collective Guild income among the members seems to be a matter for each Guild to decide for itself. Whether the Guilds would, sooner or later, adopt the principle of equal payment for every member, is open to discussion." Guild Socialism accepts from Syndicalism the view that liberty is not to be secured by making the State the employer: "The State and the Municipality as employers have turned out not to differ essentially from the private capitalist." Guild Socialists regard the State as consisting of the community in their capacity as consumers, while the Guilds will represent them in their capacity as producers; thus Parliament and the Guild Congress will be two co-equal powers representing consumers and producers respectively. Above both will be the joint Committee of Parliament and the Guild Congress for deciding matters involving the interests of consumers and producers alike. The view of the Guild Socialists is that State Socialism takes account of men only as consumers, while Syndicalism takes account of them only as producers. "The problem," say the Guild Socialists, "is to reconcile the two points of view. That is what advocates of National Guilds set out to do. The Syndicalist has claimed everything for the industrial organizations of producers, the Collectivist everything for the territorial or political organizations of consumers. Both are open to the same criticism; you cannot reconcile two points of view merely by denying one of them."[36] But although Guild Socialism represents an attempt at readjustment between two equally legitimate points of view, its impulse and force are derived from what it has taken over from Syndicalism. Like Syndicalism; it desires not primarily to make work better paid, but to secure this result along with others by making it in itself more interesting and more democratic in organization.

[36] The above quotations are all from the first pamphlet of the National Guilds League, "National Guilds, an Appeal to Trade Unionists."

Capitalism has made of work a purely commercial activity, a soulless and a joyless thing. But substitute the national service of the Guilds for the profiteering of the few; substitute responsible labor for a saleable commodity; substitute self-government and decentralization for the bureaucracy and demoralizing hugeness of the modern State and the modern joint stock company; and then it may be just once more to speak of a "joy in labor," and once more to hope that men may be proud of quality and not only of quantity in their work. There is a cant of the Middle Ages, and a cant of "joy in labor," but it were better, perhaps, to risk that cant than to reconcile ourselves forever to the philosophy of Capitalism and of Collectivism, which declares that work is a necessary evil never to be made pleasant, and that the workers’ only hope is a leisure which shall be longer, richer, and well adorned with municipal amenities.[37]

[37] "The Guild Idea," No. 2 of the Pamphlets of the National Guilds League, p. 17.

 

Whatever may be thought of the practicability of Syndicalism, there is no doubt that the ideas which it has put into the world have done a great deal to revive the labor movement and to recall it to certain things of fundamental importance which it had been in danger of forgetting. Syndicalists consider man as producer rather than consumer. They are more concerned to procure freedom in work than to increase material well-being. They have revived the quest for liberty, which was growing somewhat dimmed under the regime of Parliamentary Socialism, and they have reminded men that what our modern society needs is not a little tinkering here and there, nor the kind of minor readjustments to which the existing holders of power may readily consent, but a fundamental reconstruction, a sweeping away of all the sources of oppression, a liberation of men’s constructive energies, and a wholly new way of conceiving and regulating production and economic relations. This merit is so great that, in view of it, all minor defects become insignificant, and this merit Syndicalism will continue to possess even if, as a definite movement, it should be found to have passed away with the war.

Contents - CHAPTER: - Introduction

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8

 


human-nature.com
Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Search |