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Towards National Guilds. I

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Towards National Guilds. I BY MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE OF THE NATIONAL GUILDS LEAGUE. IV.-FORGING THE WEAPON. The wage-system will and just so soon as the workers are determined that it shall end. No- thing bmt hard and persistent effort on the part of organised labour can bring into being a Society in which the producers will be respon- sible for the processes and management of pro- duction. and the great and immediate task be- fore the Trade Union Movement is the carrying out of a complete re-organisation on an Indus- trial basis. Craft unionism is essentially the weapon of reformism; it looks to the raising of wages, the safeguarding of standards, and the gradual amelioration of the present system. It sees in the future not Associations of prducers at work conjointly with the State, but highly efficient unions busy with defence, and acting on the principle that ultimately the interests of employers and employed are one and the same. More and mort, it will accept conciliation and compulsory arbi- tration as the right methods more and more it will boast of the absence of disputes and the es- tablishment of-standardised conditions, and even- trially it will be regarded as the watch-dog of private enterprise and State Capitalism. So patent indeed are these tendencies, that to-day very few unionists are prepared to defend Craft Unionism everywhere lip-service is paid to In- dustrial Unionism. But far more than talk is needed to create an efficient army of labour. Too often the advocates of closer unity take but a narrow view of the end they wish to achieve. Concerned mainly with the manual wage-earner they are apt to overlook the fact that a real industrial union must include every- body engaged in a particular industry, be they manual or brain workers. It is not enough, for instance, for the Railwaymen's Industrial Union to enrol engine-drivers, stokers, porters, shun- ters, shop-men, carriage-cleaners and so on; within its ranks must come clerks, inspectors,' superintendents and the whole of the managerial side. It is not enough for the miners to confine their attention to the actual coal-getters and the surface-men, they must secure as members of their organisation the deputies, the under-man- agers, the draughtsmen nnd office staff, and from their ranks must come the managers and direc- tive power. After +he manual workers have been brought in, there will arise the far harder ta-sk of persuading, or forcing, nil the other grades within the industry to unite and con- trol. This is the 'immediate urgent business of the Trade Unionists of this country, and to that end all their energies should he directed. During the period of industrial revival from I 1910 to 1914, there were many signs that Labour l was beginning at last to realise how vital the problem of organisation was. A wave of indus- trial unionism spread through the country • amal- gamation movements were started in all the main industries; ardent propagandists got to work, and it looked as thought at last things were going to move. But if we ask what has been the result of all this activity, the answer is in no wav cheering. The National Union of Railway-men has been formed; the Amalgamated Society. of Engineers has half-heartedly opened its ranks to unskilled workers; the Scottish Mining Associations have formed a National Union; there has been immense talk about a Triple Alliance, and a General Labour and Trans- port Amalgamation; another union has been formed on industrial lines in the Building In- dustry, and painful attempts have been made to provide the movement as a whole with some sort of central control. So, much for the credit side. What of the debit account? The unions of skilled engineers have declared war on the N.U.R.; the sectional unions in the engineering industry are no nearer amalgamation than they were twenty-five years ago; the miners, in prac- tically every area are met with the opposition of general labour and craft organisation; the Triple Alliance is further off than ever; the General Labour and Transport Amalgamation has hardly progressed an inch; the Building Unions are still as disunited and incompetent; the Joint Board is in imminent danger of dis- ruption, and any big disputes will at once bring the General Federation of Trade Unions to bank- ruptcy. Hardly a step has been taken to deal with the 9,000,000 unorganised workers; hardly a step has been taken to prevent demarcation disputes; the agricultural labourer still waits for an effective union, and general support; sym- pathetic action is still looked at with distrust And there are still 1,100 organisations quarrel- ling over the 4,000,000 members. If one asks why this state of chaos still exists, we can only reply that until Trade Unionism gets an ideal, progress will be delayed. Forti- fied with the ideal of Producers' Control, deter- mined to look ahead, the Trade Unionists of this country can create their Industrial Unions, and can out of the present chaos produce order.j u* i d ei.  To do this. however, they must subordinate all their other activities to the main end—the crea- tion of a Trade Union movement that shall be blackleg-proof, wide in its range, and sure of its purpose. Here we can do no more than point out a few of the obvious changes that must be made if organised labour is to count as a factor in the life of society. ¡ First, and perhaps most important of all, is the problem of the unorganised. Hitherto each separate Union has been left to bribe, cajole or force the free labourer" into line with the or- ganised worker; no attempt has been made to direct or co-ordinate this activity no attempt has been made to share the burden of expense and trouble. Inevitably this has led to bitter I inter-union disputes. We need only mention the miners and the Amalgamated Union of Labour-, the Shop Assistants and the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees, the Railway- men and the Engineering organisations, to show how serious the chaos has become. To put an end to this, one thing is needed. The Trade I U p Union Movement must delimit the spheres of the act;<'>n of individual organisations a central fund must be created and organisers appointed propaganda must be centrally directed and cen- trally controlled. Secondly, the Trade Union Congress and the General Federation of Trade Unions must unite to form a central organisation capable of carry- ing on this propaganda. The Federation, with its insurance against strikes, the Parliamentary Committee, with its ill-defined and badly exer- cised powers, should become the expressions of the whole movement the Trade Union Congress should IM the mouthmeee. not of a section of the workers 'but of ill:- -slioiild be elected for a year, and upon an i'mport?nt ques- tion- cf poJir-yit advice ?ho?Id be taken. By thus, co-ordinating the activities of the two cen- tnrl bodies, it would b' possiMe ?ot onlv to ??- ganise the unorganised, and to prevent demarca- tion. disputes and inter-union quarrels, but to utilise the possibilities latent in the sympathetic strike, and to lav down the lines upon which Trade Unionism should travel. Central Control is the only means for obtaining unity of action during the Transition period. Thirdly, the rank and file must again get to work and agitate ceaselessly for amalgamation. There should be no parleying with schemes of federation; there should be no surrendering of the vital principle of union by industry for any temporary gain; and, abeve all, officialism should be prevented from sidetracking movements to- wards closer-unity. We look not to the crea- tion of new unions, but to the gradual absorp- tion of smaller and sectional orga,nisaticons into the larger and more industrial unions; and within these larger groupings we look for craft representation and more and more local freedom. Fourthly, the Trade Unionists must see to it that the General Labour Unions become the clearing-house of the movement. This necessi- tates not only the ereatirn of a General Labour Union, but an entire change of outlook. No longer must the Workers' Union, the Gas workers, the National Amalgamated Union and the rest play for their own hands; they must begin to work for the movement as a whole, and must retain their members in trust for the in- dustrial unions that will arise from the unions of craft unionism. THE STATE FOR CONTROL. I Hundreds of other problems and difficulties face those who desire to see organised labour holding its rightful place, but this is not the time to discuss them. One further change must, however, be mentioned. The weapon of the strike and the power of organisation must be used definitely for revolutionary ends. Strikes and demands for higher wages must give wav to attempts to obtain a foothold in control; the right to dismiss foremen must be expanded into the right to elect; the refusal to work with non- unionists must be widened to include the refusal to touch tainted goods; conciliation boards must be changed into negotiation and control boards exercising a real share in the management of industry and the Trade Unionist must think more of the future and less of the immediate present. Given Industrial Unions, blackleg-proof and possessed of Craft-representation; given an effi- cient central control; given an enlightened and idealistic rank-and-file determined to pursue the class-struggle, the way to National Guilds and the' abolition of Wage-Slavery is easy and clear. But the preliminary steps to the Guilds must be the creation of Industrial Unions, for only by means o" associations formed on industrial lines can effective control be exercised. The unions out of which will grow the National Guilds of the future must include within their ranks all who work the industry, for all will have to share in the responsibilities of control.

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