The History of Trade Unionism/XI. Political organisation 1900-1920


CHAPTER XI POLITICAL ORGANISATION [1900-1920]Edit

FIFTY years ago, when Professor Brentano described the British Trade Union Movement with greater knowledge and insight than any one else had then shown, 1 nothing seemed more unlikely than that the Movement would become organised as an independent political party, appealing to the whole electorate on a general programme, returning its own contingent of members to the House of Commons, and asserting a claim, as soon as that contingent should become the strongest party in Parliament, to constitute a national administration. For nearly a quarter of a century more, as we have described in a previous chapter, though Trade Unionism was making itself slowly more and more felt in politics, it was still possible for economists and statesmen to believe that " Labour " in Great Britain would organise only to maintain its sectional industrial interests, and that it would impinge on politics, if at all, only occasionally, in defence of Trade Unionism itself, or in support of some particular project of industrial law. By 1894, when the first edition of this book was published, there was already

1 See his Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart, 1871-72 ; his more generalised survey, Das Arbeitsverhdltniss gemdss den heutigen Recht (Leipsic, 1877), translated as The Relation of Labour to the Law of To-day (New York, 1890) ; and his article on " The Growth of a Trades Union," in the North British Review, October 1870.

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678 Political Organisation

manifest, as we then stated, a great shifting of Trade Union opinion on the

" pressing question of the position to be taken by the Trade Union world in the party struggles of To-day and the politics of To-morrow. In our chapter on ' The Old Unionism and the New/ we described the rapid conversion of the superior work- man to the general principles of Collectivism. This revolution of opinion in the rank and file has been followed by a marked change of front on the part of the salaried officials, and by a growing distrust of the aristocratic and middle-class representa- tives of both the great political parties. To the working-man politician of 1894 it seems inconceivable that either landlords or capitalists will actively help him to nationalise land and mining royalties, to absorb unearned incomes by taxation, or to control private enterprise in the interests of the wage-earner. Thus we find throughout the whole Trade Union world an almost unani- mous desire to make the working-class organisations in some way effective for political purposes. Nor is this a new thing. The sense of solidarity has, as we have seen, never bee'n lacking among those active soldiers and non-commissioned officers who constitute the most vital element in the Trade Union army. The generous aid from trade to trade, the pathetic attempts to form General Unions, the constant aspirations after universal federation, all testify to the reality and force of this instinctive solidarity. The Collectivist faith of the ' New Unionism ' is only another manifestation of .the same deep-rooted belief in the essential Brotherhood of Labour. But, as we have seen, the basis of the association of these million and a half wage-earners is, primarily, sectional in its nature. They come together, and contribute their pence, for the defence of their interests as Boilermakers, Miners, Cotton-spinners, and not directly for the advancement of the whole working class. Among the salaried officers of the Unions, it is, as we have said, the Trade Official, chosen and paid for the express purpose of maintaining the interests of his own particular trade, who is the active force. The effect has been to intensify the sectionalism to which an organisation based on trades must necessarily be prone. The vague general Collectivism of the non-commissioned officers has hitherto got translated into practical proposals only in so far as it can be expressed in projects for the advantage of a particular trade. Some organised trades have known how to draft and to extort from Parliament a voluminous Labour Code, the pro-


The Labour Party 679

visions of which are exceptionally well adapted for the protec- tion of the particular workers concerned. The ' particulars clause ' 1 and the law against the ' over-steaming ' of weaving sheds are, for instance, triumphs of collective control which could hardly have been conceived by any one except the astute trade officials of the Cotton Operatives. But there is no attempt to deal with any question as a whole. Trade Unionists are, for instance, unanimously in favour of drastic legislation to put down ' sweating ' in all trades whatsoever. But no salaried officer of the Trade Union world feels it to be his business to improve the Labour Code for any industry but his own. Thus, whereas the Factory Acts have been effectively elaborated to meet the special circumstances of a few trades, for all the rest they remain in the form of merely general prohibitions which it is practically impossible to enforce. How far it is possible, by the development of Trades Councils, the reform of the Trades Union Congress, the increased efficiency of the Parlia- mentary Committee, the growth of Trade Union representa- tion in the House of Commons, or, finally, by the creation of any new federal machinery, to counteract the fundamental sectionalism of Trade Union organisation, to supplement the specialised trade officials by an equally specialised Civil Service of working-class politicians, and thus to render the Trade Union world, with its million of electors, and its leadership of Labour, an effective political force in the State, is, on the whole, the most momentous question of contemporary politics." !

The quarter of a century that has elapsed since these words were written has seen an extensive political develop- ment of the Trade Union Movement, taking the form of building up a separate and independent party of " Labour " in the House of Commons, which we have now to record. 3

1 Sec. 24 of the Factory Act of 1891 provides, as regards textile manu- factures, that the employer shall supply every worker by the piece with certain particulars as to the quantity of work and rate of remuneration

2 History of Trade Unionism, by S. and B. Webb, ist ed., 1894,

8 The most important sources of information are the Annual Reports of the Trades Union Congress, 1874-1919, and other publications of its Parliamentary Committee ; those of the Annual Conferences of the Labour Representation Committee, 1901-5, and of the Labour Party, 1906-19 together with the Party's other publications, especially Labour and the New Social Order, 1918 ; the reports and contemporary pubhca-


680 Political Organisation

The continued propaganda of the Socialists, and of others who wished to see the Trade Union Movement become an effective political force, which we have described as active from 1884 onwards, did not, for nearly a couple of decades, produce a political " Labour Party." So strong was at that time the resistance of most of the Trade Union leaders to any participation of their societies in general politics, even on the lines of complete independence of both Liberal and Conservative Parties, that " Labour Representation " had still, for some years, to be fought for apart from Trade Unionism. The leaders, indeed, did not really care about Trade Union influence in the House of Commons. 1 Many

tions of the Socialist Societies, especially the Independent Labour Party from 1893, and the Fabian Society from 1884; Labour Year Book for 1916 and 1919 ; History of British Socialism, by M. Beer, vol. ii., 1920 ; History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, 2 vols., 1910, 1916; Die englische Arbeiterpartei, by G. Guettler, 1914; Aims of Labour, by Rt. Hon. A. Henderson, 1918 ; History of the Fabian Society, by E. R. Pease, 1916; History of Labour Representation, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912; biographies of Joseph Arch, Henry Broadhurst, Robert Applegarth, Thomas Burt, John Wilson, J. H. Thomas, W. J. Davis, etc.

1 The movement for " Labour Representation " (which " at that time meant working-men members of Parliament and nothing else," History of Labour Representation, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912) was first got under way by George Potter's London Working Men's Association in 1866, mentioned at the end of Chapter VI. At the second Trades Union Con- gress, at Birmingham in 1869, a paper had been read on " Direct Labour Representation in Parliament," but Congress took no action. A separate " Labour Representation League " was then formed under the presidency of R. M. Lathom, a Chancery barrister, to which many leading Trade Unionists belonged, of which Henry Broadhurst was secretary from 1872 to about 1878, and which sought from the Liberal Party opportunities for the return of a few working-class members ; but (as formerly in the cases of William Newton's contest for the Tower Hamlets in 1852 and George Odger's at Southwark in 1870) in vain. At the General Election of 1874, as we have already described, fourteen workmen went to the poll ; but in ten of the constituencies they were fought by both parties, and only in the other four did the Liberals allow them to be fought by Con- servatives alone, with the result that two only (out of the latter four) were elected, namely, Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt. At the General Election in 1880, again with Liberal acquiescence, Henry Broad- hurst was added to their number ; and in 1885 this was raised to eleven (of whom six were miners). All these, whilst pushing measures desired by the Trade Unions, acted habitually with the Liberal Party. In 1886 the Labour Representation League having faded away about 1881 the Congress appointed a " Labour Electoral Committee " to do the


/. Keir Hardie 681

of them, as we have described, remained for a whole genera- tion averse even from legal regulation of the conditions of employment. In national politics they were mostly Liberals, with the strongest possible admiration for Gladstone and Bright ; or else (as in Lancashire) convinced Conservatives, concerned to defend the Church of England or Roman Catholic elementary schools in which their children were being educated or carried away by the glamour of an Imperialist foreign policy. They asked for nothing more than a few working-class members in the House of Commons, belonging to one or other of the " respectable " parties, to which they could thus obtain access for the adjustment of any matters in which their societies happened to be interested. In 1887, at his first appearance at the Trades Union Congress, J. Keir Hardie, 1 representing a small Union of


same work ; but this was never able to free itself from subserviency to the Liberal Party, and it achieved no success, dying away in 1893. Some personal reminiscences are given in " Labour Representation Thirty Years Ago," by Henry Broadhurst, M.P., in the Fourth Annual Report of General Federation of Trade Unions, 1903 ; see also History of Labour Representa- tion, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912.

1 In a " scribbling diary " of 1884 is the following entry : " Written by Jas. K. Hardie, born August 15, 1856, married August 3, 1879, began work as a message boy in Glasgow when 8 years and 9 months old, wrought for some time also in a printing office in Trongate, in the brass finishing shop of the Anchor Line Shipping Co., also as a rivet heater in Thompson's heatyard. Left Glasgow in the year 1866 and went into No. 1 8 pit of the Moss at Newarthill, from thence to Quarter Iron Works, and again to one or two other collieries in neighbourhood of Hamilton. Was elected Secretary to Miners'. Association in 1878, and for the same position in Ayrshire in 1879 ; resigned April, 1882, when got appointment unsolicited as correspondent to Cumnock News. Brought up an atheist, converted to Christianity in 1878."

Keir Hardie, whose kindliness and integrity of character endeared him to all who knew him, was from 1887 down to his death in 1915 the apostle of " independency " in the political organisation of Labour. He sat in the Trades Union Congress from 1887 .to 1895 as representative of the Ayrshire Miners ; and in the House of Commons from 1892 to 1895 (for West Ham), from 1906 to 1915 (for Merthyr). He was Chairman of the " I.L.P." from 1893 to 1898, and again in 1914. Pending the publication of a biography by W. Stewart, reference may be made to a biographical sketch entitled From Pit to Parliament, by Frank Smith; a character sketch by F. Pethick Lawrence in the Labour Record for August 1905 ; the issues of the Labour Leader for September 30 and October 7, 1915 ;

Z 2


682 Political Organisation

Ayrshire Miners, demanded a new start. He called upon the Trade Unionists definitely to sever their connection with the existing political parties, by which the workmen were constantly befooled and betrayed, and insisted on the necessity of forming an entirely independent party of Labour, to which the whole working-class movement should rally. On the Congress he produced no apparent effect. 1 But, six months later, when a Parliamentary vacancy occurred in Mid-Lanark, Keir Hardie was nominated, against Liberal and Tory alike, on the principle of entire independence ; and in spite of every effort to induce him to withdraw, 2 he went to the poll, obtaining only 619 votes. A society was then formed to work for independent Labour representation, under the designation of the Scottish Labour Party, having for chairman Mr. R. B. Cunninghame Graham, M.P., who had been elected as a Liberal but who had become a Social- ist. The " new spirit " of 1889, which we have described, put heart into the movement for political independence ; and after much further propaganda by the Socialists, 3 at the General Election of 1892 Keir Hardie was elected for West Ham, avowedly as the first member of an independent Party of Labour ; together with fourteen other workmen, 4 whose independence of the Liberal Party, even where it was

and an article entitled " An Old Diary," by F. J. in the Socialist Review, January 1919.

1 Annual Report of Trades Union Congress, 1887.

2 It is said that the Liberal Party agents attempted, in vain, to bribe him to withdraw ; eventually offering as high a price as a safe Liberal seat on the first opportunity, all his election expenses, and 300 a year if only he would wear the Liberal badge I

8 See, for instance, the following " Fabian Tracts," which had a large circulation among Trade Unionists : No. 6 of 1887, " The True Radical Programme"; No. n of 1890, "The Workers' Political Programme"; No. 40 of 1892, " The Fabian Election Manifesto " ; No. 49 of 1894, " A Plan of Campaign for Labour " (History of the Fabian Society, by E. R. Pease, 1916).

4 These included John Burns (Amalgamated Society of Engineers), J. Havelock Wilson (National Sailors' and Firemen's Union), Joseph Arch (Agricultural Labourers' Union), W. R. (afterwards Sir William) Cremer (General Union of Carpenters), G. Howell (Operative Bricklayers' Society), J. Rowlands (an ex-watchcase-maker), and eight coalminers.


The I.L.P. 683

claimed, was less marked than their obvious jealousy of Keir Hardie. There was apparently still no hope of gain- ing the adherence of the Trade Unions as such ; and at the Glasgow Trades Union Congress of 1892 arrangements were made by a few of the delegates to hold a smaller conference, which took place at Bradford, in 1893, under the chairman- ship of Keir Hardie, when those who were determined to establish a separate political party formed a society, made up of individual adherents, which was styled the Independent Labour Party. In this the Scottish Labour Party was merged, but it remained without the affiliation of Trade Unions in their corporate capacity. The Independent Labour Party, of which throughout his life Keir Hardie was the outstanding figure, carried on a strenuous propa- gandist campaign, and during the next two years put up independent candidates at by-elections, with uniform ill- success. At the General Election of 1895, no fewer than twenty-eight " I.L.P." candidates went to the poll, every one of them (including Keir Hardie himself at West Ham) being unsuccessful. With two or three exceptions, the Trade Unionist members in alliance with the Liberal Party suc- cessfully maintained their seats. The establishment of an aggressively independent Labour Party in Parliament still looked hopeless.

With the new century an effort was made on fresh lines. The continuous propaganda had had its effect, even on the Trades Union Congress. In 1898 it could be suggested in the presidential address 1 that a "committee should be appointed to draft a scheme of political organisation for the Trade Union world on the ground that just as trades federa- tion is a matter of vital necessity for industrial organisa- tion, so also will a scheme of political action be of vital necessity if we wish Parliament to faithfully register the effect of the industrial revolution on our social life." The very next year a resolution which had been drafted in

1 By J. O'Grady (Furnishing Trades), afterwards M.P. for Leeds; Annual Report of Trades Union Congress, 1898.


684 Political Organisation

London by the members of the Independent Labour Party was carried on the motion of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, against the votes of the miners as well as of the textile workers, directing the convening of a special congress representing Trade Unions, Co-operative Societies, and Socialist organisations, in order to devise means of increasing the number of Labour members. 1 It was urged on the Parliamentary Committee that the Socialist organisations had a right to be strongly represented on the proposed Committee ; and the Parliamentary Committee, which had no faith in the scheme and attached little import- ance to it, nominated four of its members (S. Woods, W. C. Steadman, R. Bell, and W. Thome), all of whom afterwards became Members of Parliament, to sit with two representa- tives each from the Independent Labour Party (Keir Hardie and J. Ramsay MacDonald), the Fabian Society (G. Bernard Shaw and E. R. Pease), and the Social Democratic Federa- tion (H. Quelch and H. R. Taylor). This Committee took the business into its own hands, and drew up a constitution, upon a federal basis, for a " Labour Representation Com- mittee," as an independent organisation, including Trade Unions and Trades Councils, along with Co-operative and Socialist Societies ; and in February 1900 a specially sum- moned congress, attended by 129 delegates, 'representing Trade Unions aggregating half a million members, and

1 This was adopted in preference to what was considered a more extreme proposal (moved by P. Vogel of the Waiters' Union, a Socialist), appointing the Trades Union Congress itself the organisation for in- dependent Labour representation in Parliament ; requiring every Union to contribute a halfpenny per member per annum, and making the Parliamentary Committee disburse the election expenses and the salaries of the members returned to the House of Commons (Annual Report oj Trades Union Congress, 1899).

It was afterwards stated that the leaders of the Trades Union Con- gress had had in contemplation the subordination of the Labour Repre- sentation Committee to the Congress. But with a different constituency the new body had necessarily to be an independent organisation ; and in 1904 the General Purposes Committee reported to the Trades Union Congress, which endorsed the report, that any resolution to endorse or amend the constitution of the Labour Representation Committee would not be in order at the Trades Union Congress (ibid., 1904).


'Electoral Progress 685

Socialist societies claiming fewer than seventy thousand, adopted the draft constitution, established the new body, appointed its first executive, and gave it, in Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, not merely its first secretary but also a skilful organiser, to whose patient and persistent effort no small part of its subsequent success has been due.

For two years the Labour Representation Committee, in spite of diligent propaganda among Trade Union Executives, seemed to hang fire. The General Election of 1900 found it unprepared ; and, though it put fifteen candidates in the field, only two of them were successful. No Co-operative Society joined ; the Social Democratic Federation withdrew ; scarcely a score of Trades Councils were enrolled ; and though sixty -five separate Trade Unions gradually adhered being only about five or six per cent of the total number the aggregate affiliated membership of the Party did not reach half a million. Then the tide turned, mainly through the rally of Trade Unionism as it became aware of the full implications of the assault upon it made by the decision in the Taff Vale case, which we have already described. The miners stood aloof only because they preferred to use their own organisation. In 1901 the Miners' Federation voted a levy of a penny per month on all its membership in order to create a Parliamentary Fund ; and the running of as many as seventy candidates was then talked about. During the year 1902 the number of adhering Trade Unions and Trades Councils, and the total affiliated membership, were alike practically doubled. In the next two years the Committee contested no fewer than six Parliamentary by- elections, returning its members in half of them. 1 Mean- while the Conservative Government obstinately refused to allow legislation restoring to Trade Unions the statutory

1 D. J. (afterwards Sir David) Shackleton (Lancashire Weavers) was allowed a walk-over at Clitheroe in 1902 ; and in 1903 W. (afterwards the Rt. Honourable W.) Crooks (Coopers) carried Woolwich after an exciting contest, and Arthur (afterwards the Rt. Honourable Arthur) Henderson (Friendly Society of Ironfounders) won Barnard Castle in a three-cornered fight.


686 Political Organisation

status of 1871-76, of which the judges' decision in the Taff Vale case had deprived them. Careful preparation was accordingly made for a successful appeal to Trade Unionists at the General Election which was approaching ; and when it came, in January 1906, no fewer than fifty independent Labour candidates were put in the field against Liberals and Conservatives alike. To the general surprise of the political world, as many as twenty-nine of these were successful; besides a dozen other workmen, mostly miners, who again stood with Liberal Party support and were still regarded as belonging to that Party. The twenty-nine at once formed themselves into, and were recognised as, a separate inde- pendent party in the House of Commons, with its own officers and whips, concerned to push its own programme irrespective of the desires and convenience of the other political parties. At the same time the Labour Representa- tion Committee change<J its name to the Labour Party

We need not concern ourselves with the Parliamentary struggles of the next three years, during which the Parlia- mentary Labour Party may claim to have indirectly secured the passage, as Government measures, of the Trade Disputes Act, the Miners' Eight Hours Act, and the Trade Boards Act, and to have developed something like a Parliamentary programme. It suffered, however, in the Trade Union world, from its inevitable failure to impress its will on the triumphant Liberal majority of these years. What saved the Labour Party from decline, and gave it indeed fresh impetus in the Trade Union movement, was the renewed legal assault on Trade Unionism itself, which in 1909, as we have described, culminated in the Osborne Judgement of the highest Appeal Court, by which the Trade Unions were prohibited from applying any of their funds to political activities and to the support of the Labour Party in par- ticular. The refusal of the Liberal Government for four whole years to remedy this gross miscarriage of justice though conscious that it was not permanently defensible ; and the unconcealed desire of the Liberal Party politicians


The Act of 1913 687

to put the Labour Party out of action as an independent political force, swung over to its side the great bulk of active Trade Unionists, including many, especially in Lanca- shire, who had hitherto counted to the Conservative Party. By 1913, in spite of a large number of injunctions restraining Trade Unions from affiliating, the Labour Party could count on a membership of nearly two millions, and this number has since steadily grown. The two General Elections of 1910, though dominated by other issues, left the Parliamentary Labour Party unshaken ; whilst the accession to the Party of the Miners' members raised its Parliamentary strength to forty- two. Payment of members was secured in 1911, and the Mines (Minimum Wage) Act in 1912, but not until 1913 could the Government be induced to pass into law the Trade Union Act, which once more permitted Trade Unions to engage in any lawful purposes that their members desired. This concession was, even then, made subject to any ob- jecting member being enabled to withhold that part of his contribution applicable to political purposes an illogical restriction, because it applied only to the dissentient's tiny fraction of money, and he was not empowered to prevent the majority of members from using the indivisible corporate power of the Union itself. This restriction, not put upon any other corporate body, was universally believed to have been imposed, in the assumed interest of the Liberal Party, with the object of crippling the political influence of Trade Unionism ; and is still bitterly resented. 1

Whilst it was very largely the successive assaults on Trade Unionism itself that built up the Labour Party, the ultimate defeat of these assaults, the concession of Payment of Members, and the attainment of legal security by the Trade Union Act of 1913, did nothing to stay its progress.

1 In some Unions outside influence, notably that of the railway com- panies, went to the expense of printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of forms by which dissentient members could claim exemption from the tiny " political " contribution ; and in the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, in particular, thousands of such claims were made. The number has now greatly diminished (i9 20 )-


688 Political Organisation

At the same time, the injunctions of the years 1909-12, and the fear of litigation, together with a certain disillusionment with Parliamentary action among the rank and file, led to the gradual falling away of some Trade Unions, mostly of comparatively small membership. The very basis of the Labour Party, upon which alone it has proved possible to build up a successful political force the combination, within a political federation, of Trade Unions having extensive membership and not very intense political energy, and Socialist societies of relatively scanty membership but over- flowing with political talent and zeal necessarily led to complications. It needed all the tact and patient persuasion of the leaders of both sections to convince the Socialists that their ideals and projects were not being sacrificed to the stolidity and the prejudices of the mass of Trade Unionists ; and at the same time to explain to the Trade Unionists how valuable was the aid of the knowledge, eloquence, and Parliamentary ability contributed by such Socialist representatives as Keir Hardie, Philip Snowden, J. Ramsay MacDonald, and W. C. Anderson. Moreover, the complications and difficulties of Parliamentary action in a House of Commons where the Government continuously possessed a solid majority ; the political necessity of sup- porting the Liberal Party Bills relating to the Budget and the House of Lords, and of not playing into the hands of a still more reactionary Front Opposition Bench, were not readily comprehended by the average workman. What the militants in the country failed to allow for was the impotence of a small Parliamentary section to secure the adoption of its own policy by a Parliamentary majority. But it is, we think, now admitted that it was a misfortune that the Parliamentary Labour Party of these years never managed to put before the country the large outlines of an alternative programme based on the Party's conception of a new social order, eliminating the capitalist profit-maker wherever possible, and giving free scope to communal and industrial Democracy notably with regard to the administration of


" The Daily Citizen " 689

the railways and the mines, the prevention of Unemployment, and also the provision for the nation's non-effectives, which the Government dealt with so unsatisfactorily in the National Insurance Act of 1911. The failure of the Parlia- mentary Labour Party between 1910 and 1914 to strike the imagination of the Trade Union world led to a certain reaction against political action as such, and to a growing doubt among the active spirits as to the value of a Labour Party which did not succeed in taking vigorous independent action, either in Parliament or on the platform and in the press, along the lines of changing the existing order of society. A like failure to strike the imagination charac- terised The Daily Citizen the organ which the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement had established with such high hopes and its inability to gain either intellectual influence or adequate circulation did not lighten the some- what gloomy atmosphere of the Labour Party councils of 1913-14. l This reaction did not appreciably affect the numerical and financial strength of the Labour Party itself, as the relatively few withdrawals of Unions were outweighed by the steady increase in membership of the hundred principal Unions which remained faithful, by the accession

1 The Daily Citizen was started by a separate limited company, in which the control was permanently secured to representatives of the Trade Unions and the Labour Party, on November 8, 1912. The total capital raised from the Trade Unions from first to last was approximately 200,000. This important journalistic venture, starting under good auspices, met with untoward circumstances. It was crippled by a legal decision that Trade Unions had no power to subscribe to its cost, or even to make investments in its shares (an inference from the Osborne Judge- ment, which was reversed by the Trade Union Act of 1913, subject to compliance with the conditions as to political expenditure). Before this set-back could be got over, the outbreak of war upset all financial calcula- tions and made the conduct of a newspaper increasingly onerous. The paper stopped on June 5, 1915. and the company was wound up a creditors being paid in full, but the shareholders losing practically all that they had ventured. The failure was a serious blow to the Labour Party, which has been badly in want of a daily newspaper a lack supplied in 1919 by the energetic and adventurous Daily Herald, which, under the direction of Mr. George Lansbury, has drawn to itself an unusual amount of talent, and now needs only whole-hearted support from the Trade Unions.


690 Political Organisation

of other Unions, and by the continual increase in the number and strength of the affiliated Trades Councils and Local Labour Parties. But the reaction in Trade Union opinion weakened the influence of the members of the Parliamentary Party, dike in the House of Commons and in their own societies. A wave of " Labour Unrest/' of " Syndicalism/' of " rank and file movements'" for a more aggressive Trade Unionism, of organisation by " shop stewards " in opposi- tion to national executives, and of preference for " Direct Action " over Parliamentary procedure swept over British Trade Unionism, affecting especially the London building trades, the South Wales Miners, and the engineering and shipbuilding industry on the Clyde. The impetuous strikes in 1911-13 of the Railwaymen, the Coal-miners, the Trans- port Workers, and the London Building Trades, which we have already described, were influenced, partly, by this new spirit. The number of disputes reported to the Labour Department, which had sunk in 1908 to only 399, rose in 1911 to 903, and culminated in the latter half of 1913 and the first half of 1914 in the outbreak of something like a hundred and fifty strikes per month. British Trade Union- ism was, in fact, in the summer of 1914, working up for an almost revolutionary outburst of gigantic industrial disputes, which could not have failed to be seriously embarrassing for the political organisation to which the movement had committed itself, when, in August 1914, war was declared, and all internal conflict had perforce to be suspended.

During the war (1914-18) the task of the Labour Party was one of exceptional difficulty. It had necessarily to support the Government in a struggle of which five-sixths of its Parliamentary representatives and probably nine-tenths of its aggregate membership approved. The very gravity of the national crisis compelled the Party to abstain from any action that would have weakened the country's defence. On the other hand, the three successive Administrations that held office during the war were all driven by their needs, as we have already described, to impose upon the wage-


Trade Union Criticism 691

earners cruel sacrifices, and to violate, not once but repeat- edly, all that Organised Labour in Britain held dear. The Party could not refrain, at whatever cost of misconstruction, from withstanding unjustifiable demands by the Govern- ment ; x protesting against its successive breaches of faith to the Trade Unions ; demanding the conditions in the forthcoming Treaty of Peace that, as could be already foreseen, would be necessary to protect the wage-earning class ; standing up for the scandalously ill-used " conscien- tious objectors," and doing its best to secure, in the eventual demobilisation and social reconstruction, the utmost possible protection of the mass of the people against Unemployment and " Profiteering." In all this the Labour Party earned the respect of the most thoughtful Trade Unionists, but necessarily exposed itself to a constant stream of newspaper misrepresentation and abuse. Any opposition or resistance to the official demands was inevitably misrepresented as, and mistaken for, an almost treasonable " Pacifism " or " Defeatism " a misunderstanding of the attitude of the Party to which colour was lent by the persistence and eloquence with which the small Pacifist Minority within the

1 It was, for instance, only the determined private resistance of the Trade Unionist leaders of the Labour Party that compelled the Govern- ment to abandon its project of introducing several hundred thousand Chinese labourers into Great Britain ; a project which, if carried out, not only might have been calamitous in its effect upon the Standard of Life of the British workman not to mention other evil consequences but would almost certainly have also led to a Labour revolt against the continuance of the war. In this connection may be noted the valuable work done throughout the war, not in the interests of Trade Unionism only, but in those of the wage-earning class, and of the community as a whole, by the War Emergency Workers' National Committee (J. S. Middleton, Honorary Secretary), a body which included representatives not only of the Parliamentary Committee, Labour Party, and General Federation, but also of the Co-operative Union, the National Union of Teachers, and other organisations. The valuable though often unwelcome assistance which this Committee gave to the Government by insisting on the redress of grievances that officialdom would have ignored, and by its working out of policy and persistence in agitation on such matters as pensions limitation of prices, food-rationing, rent restriction, and other subjects, on which its publications had marked results, deserve the i tion of the historian.


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Party a minority which, it must be said, included some of the most talented and active of its leading members in the House of Commons used every opportunity publicly to denounce the Government's conduct in the war. But although the Pacifist Group in Parliament was strenuously supported in the country by the relatively small but extremely active constituent society of the Labour Party styled The Independent Labour Party the very name helping the popular misunderstanding the Trade Unionists, forming the vast majority of the Labour Party, remained, with extremely few exceptions, grimly determined at all costs to win the war.

If Organised Labour had been against the war, it is safe to say that the national effort could not have been main- tained. The need for the formal association of the Labour Party with the Administration was recognised by Mr. Asquith in 1915, when he formed the first Coalition Cabinet, into which he invited the chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr. Arthur Henderson (Friendly Society of Ironfounders), who became President of the Board of Education. Later on, in 1916, Mr. G. N. Barnes (Amal- gamated Society of Engineers) was appointed to the new office of Minister of Pensions. When, in December 1916, Mr. Asquith resigned, and Mr. Lloyd George formed a new Coalition Government, Mr. Henderson entered the small War Cabinet that was then formed, with the nominal office of Paymaster-General ; whilst Mr. Barnes continued Minister of Pensions, Mr. John Hodge (British Steel Smelters' Society) was appointed to the new office of Minister of Labour, and three other members of the Party (Mr. W. Brace, South Wales Miners ; Mr. G. H. Roberts, Typographical Society ; and Mr. James Parker, National Union of General Workers) received minor ministerial posts. 1

Throughout the whole period of the war all the several

1 Subsequently Mr. J. R. Clynes (National Union of General Workers) was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Food ; and on Lord Rhondda's death he succeeded him as Minister of Food.


Trade Union Support 693

demands of the Government upon the organised workers, the abrogation of " Trade Union Conditions " in all in- dustries working for war needs, the first and second Munitions of War Acts, the subversion of individual liberty by the successive orders under the Defence of the Realm Acts, the successive applications of the Military Service Acts, the imposition of what was practically Compulsory Arbitration to settle the rates of wages were accepted, though only after serious protest, by large majorities at the various Conferences of the Labour Party, as well as by the various annual Trades Union Congresses, 1 in spite of the resistance of minorities, including more than " pacifists." The entry of Mr. Henderson into Mr. Asqulth's first Coalition Govern- ment, and that of Mr. Barnes into Mr. Lloyd George's War Cabinet, together with the acceptance of ministerial office by other leading members of the Labour Party though any such ministerial coalition was in flagrant violation of the very principles of its existence, and was strenuously com- bated on grounds of expediency by many of its members who loyally supported the war equally received the endorse- ment of large majorities at the Party Conferences. From the beginning of the war to the end, the Labour Party, alike in all its corporate acts and by the individual efforts of its leading members (other than the minority already men- tioned), stuck at nothing in its determination to help the Government to win the war.

More controversial were the persistent efforts made by the Labour Party to maintain its international relations with the Labour and Socialist Movements of Continental Europe. From the first it was seen to be important to get the representatives of the Trade Unions and Socialist organisations of the Allied Nations, and not merely their Governments, united in a declaration of the aims and the justification of a war that was everywhere outraging working-class idealism. Such a unanimity was success-

1 See the printed reports of Labour Party Conferences and Trades Union Congresses, 1914-19.


694 Political Organisation

fully achieved in February 1915 at a conference, held in London at the instance of the Labour Party, of delegates from the working-class organisations of France, Belgium, and Great Britain, with Russian representatives, then allied in arms against the Central Empires. 1 Later on, when a Minority Party had been formed among the German Socialists, and when the Austrian and Hungarian working- class Movements were also in revolt against the militarism of their Government, repeated efforts were made by the Labour Party to encourage this revolt, and for this purpose to obtain the necessary Government facilities for a meeting, in some neutral city, of the working-class " International," at which the Allied Case could be laid before the neutrals, and a basis found for united action with all the working-class elements hi opposition to the dominant military Imperialism. After the Russian revolution of March 1917, the Petrograd Work- men's and Soldiers' Council actually issued an invitation for a working-class " International " at Stockholm ; and the participation of the British Labour Party in this Inter- national Congress, which was not then favoured by Mr. Henderson, received at one time no small support from the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George. In the end the Govern- ment despatched Mr. Henderson on an official mission to Petrograd (incidentally empowering him, if he thought fit, to remain there as Ambassador at 8000 a year). Mean- while the proposal for an International Congress had been modified, first into one for a purely consultative gathering, and then into one for a series of separate interviews between a committee of neutrals and the representatives of each of the belligerents in turn, with a view to discovering a possible basis for peace a project to which Mr. Henderson, from what he learnt at Petrograd, was converted. A National Conference of the Labour Party in August 1917 approved of participation in such a Congress at Stockholm ; but the French and Italian Governments would not hear of it,

1 Report of the Inter-Allied Socialist and Labour Conference, February 15,


Inter- Allied Conferences 695

and Mr. Lloyd George went back on his prior approval, absolutely declining to allow passports to-be issued. Amid great excitement, and under circumstances of insult and indignity which created resentment among the British working class, Mr. Henderson felt obliged to tender his resignation of his place hi the War Cabinet, in which he was succeeded by Mr. Barnes, who was getting more and more out of sympathy with the majority of the Party. 1 The Labour Party Executive, in alliance with the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, then applied itself to getting agreement among the Labour and Socialist Movements of the Allied Nations as to the lines on which assuming an Allied victory the terms of peace should be drawn, in order to avert as much as possible of the wide- spread misery which, it could be foreseen, must necessarily fall upon the wage-earning class. In this effort, in which Mr. Henderson displayed great tact and patience, he had the implicit sanction of the British Government, and, with some reluctance, also of the Governments of the other Allied Nations by whom the necessary passports were issued for an Inter- Allied Conference in London in August 1917, which was abortive ; for provisional discussions at Paris in February 1918 ; and for a second Inter-Allied Conference at the end of the same month in London, which resulted in a virtually unanimous agreement upon what should be the terms of peace, 2 on a basis already approved on December 28, 1917, by a Joint Conference of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, and widely published all over the world. The terms thus agreed were, in fact, immediately adopted in outline in a public deliverance by Mr. Lloyd George as those on which Germany could have peace at any time ; and the same proposals were promptly made the basis of President Wilson's celebrated " Fourteen Points "

1 Mr. Hodge succeeded to Mr. Barnes as Minister of Pensions, Mr. Roberts to Mr. Hodge as Minister of Labour, and Mr. G. J. Wardle (National Union of Railwaymen) to Mr. Roberts as Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade.

8 Memorandum on War Aims (Labour Party), February 1918.


696 Political Organisation

on which eventually (but only after another ten months' costly war) the Armistice of November n, 1918, was con- cluded. Profound was the disappointment, and bitter the resentment, of the greater part of the organised Labour Movement of Great Britain when it was revealed how seriously the diplomatists at the Paris Conference had departed from these terms in the Treaty of Peace which was imposed on the Central Empires. 1

We have already attempted to sum up the effect of the Great War on the industrial status of Trade Unionism. It is more difficult to estimate its effect on the political organisa- tion of the movement. The outbreak of the war had found the Labour Party, in the see-saw of Trade Union opinion to which we have elsewhere referred, suffering from an inevitable disillusionment among Trade Unionists as to the immediate potency of Parliamentary representation a disillusionment manifested in the outbreak of rebellious

1 It is difficult not to be struck with the greater breadth of vision, the higher idealism, and (as we venture to say) the larger statesmanship of the Labour Party in its projects and proposals for the resettlement of the world after the Great War, compared with those which the statesmen and diplomatists of the capitalist parties of Great Britain, France, Italy, and, as we grieve to say, also the United States, with the acquiescence of deliberately inflamed popular electorates, succeeded in embodying in the Treaty of Peace. Apart from the indefensible redistributions of political sovereignty, not essentially differing in spirit from those of the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 (and probably less stable even than these), against which Labour opinion had strongly protested in advance, it is impossible not to regret the failure to incorporate in the Treaty the proposals, for which the Labour Party had secured the support of the organised working-class opinion of the world, for (i.) the universal abandonment of discrimina- tory fiscal barriers to international trade ; (ii.) the administration of Colonial possessions exclusively in the interest of the local inhabitants, and on the basis of equality of opportunity for traders of all nations ; (iii.) concerted international control of the exportable surplus of materials and food-stuffs of all the several countries, so as to mitigate, as far as possible, in the general world-shortage which the Labour Party foresaw, the inevitable widespread starvation in the most necessitous areas, whether enemy, allied, or neutral ; (iv.) deliberate Government action in each country for the prevention of unemployment, instead of letting it occur and then merely relieving the unemployed. In questions of foreign policy the Labour Party, inspired by its idealism, has shown itself at its best, instead of this department of politics being, as is often ignorantly assumed, altogether beyond its capacity.


Labour and the New Social Order 697

strikes that characterised the years 1911-14. The achieve- ments of the Labour Party in the House of Commons had fallen short of the eager hopes with which the new party had raised its standard on its triumphant entry in 1906. In 1914, it may be said, the Labour Party was at a dead point. The effect upon it of the Great War was to raise it in proportion to the height of the vastly greater issues with which it was compelled to deal. Amid the stress of war, and of the intensely controversial decisions which it had necessarily to take, the Labour Party revised its constitution, widened its aims, opened its ranks to the " workers by brain " as well as the workers by hand, and received the accession of many thousands of converts from the Liberal and Conservative Parties. It made great pro- gress in its difficult task of superimposing, on an organisa- tion based on national societies, the necessary complementary organisation of its affiliated membership by geographical constituencies. It equipped itself during the war, for the first time, with a far-reaching and well-considered programme not confined to distinctively " Labour " issues, but covering the whole field of home politics, and even extending to foreign relations. 1 The formulation of such a programme,

1 The new constitution and enlarged programme which the Labour Party adopted at its Conferences of 1917-18, after six months' considera- tion and discussion by the constituent organisations, were little more than a ratification for general adoption of what had become the practice of particular districts. Thus, the more active Local Labour Parties, such as those of Woolwich and Blackburn, had long welcomed the adhesion of supporters who were not manual workers. The successive annual Con- ferences had passed resolutions which, taken together, amounted to a pretty complete programme of constructive legislation, wholly Collectivist in principle. Hence the deliberate and formal opening of the Party, through the Local Labour Parties, to " workers by brain " as well as " workers by hand " ; and the explicit adoption, as a programme, of Labour and the New Social Order were not such innovations as the news- papers made out and as the public generally supposed. But they created a sensation, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in the United States and in the British Dominions ; and they led to a considerable accession of membership, largely from the professional and middle classes, which was steadily increased as the unsatisfactory character of the Treaty of Peace, the continued " militarism " of the Government, and the aggression of a " Protectionist ' capitalism became manifest.


698 Political Organisation

from beginning to end essentially Socialist in character, and including alike ideals of social reconstruction and detailed reforms of immediate practicability, together with the whole- hearted adoption of this programme, after six months' con- sideration by the constituent societies and branches, was a notable achievement, which placed the British Labour Party ahead of those of other countries. Moreover, the formula- tion of a comprehensive social programme and of " terms of Peace/' based on the principles for which the war had ostensibly been fought principles which were certainly not carried hi the Treaty of Peace transformed the Labour Party from a group representing merely the class interests of the manual workers into a fully constituted political Party of national scope, ready to take over the government of the country and to conduct both home and foreign affairs on definite principles. Taken together with the intellectual bankruptcy of the Liberal Party and its apparent incapacity to formulate any positive policy, whether with regard to the redistribution of wealth within our own community or with regard to our attitude towards other races within or without the British Empire, the emergence of the Labour Party programme meant that the Party stood forth, in public opinion, as the inevitable alternative to the present Coalition Government when the time came for this to fall. The result was that, aided by the steady growth of Trade Unionism, the Party came near, between 1914 and 1919, to doubling its aggregate membership. When hostilities ceased, it insisted on resuming the complete independence of the other political parties, which it had, by joining the successive Coalition Governments, consented temporarily to forgo ; and such of its leaders as refused to withdraw from ministerial office l were unhesitatingly shed from the Party. Meanwhile, the extension of the franchise and redistribution of seats, which had been carried by general consent in the spring of 1918, turned out to raise the

1 Messrs. Barnes, Roberts (who became Minister of Food), Parker, and Wardle.


The Election of 1918 699

electorate to nearly . treble that of 1910, whilst the new constituencies proved to have been so adjusted as greatly to facilitate an increase in the number of miners' representa- tives. When the General Election came, in December 1918, though the Labour Party fought under great disadvantages and it was seen that most of the soldier electors would be unable to record their votes, it put no fewer than 361 Labour candidates in the field against Liberal and Conservative alike, contesting two-thirds of all the constituencies in Great Britain. In face of a " Lloyd George tide " of unprecedented strength these Labour candidates received nearly one-fourth of all the votes polled hi the United Kingdom ; and though five-sixths of these numerous Labour candidatures were unsuccessful (including, unfortunately, most of its ablest Parliamentarians such as Messrs. Henderson, 1 MacDonald, Anderson, and Snowden), the Party increased its numerical strength in the House of Commons by 50 per cent, and, to the universal surprise, returned mdre than twice as many members as did the remnant of the Liberal Party adhering to Mr. Asquith becoming, in fact, entitled to the position of " His Majesty's Opposition."

It can hardly be said that during the session of 1919 the Parliamentary Labour Party, considerably strengthened in numbers but weakened by the defeat of its ablest Parlia- mentarians, has, under the leadership of the Right Honour- able W. Adamson (Scottish Miners), made as much of its opportunities as the Labour Party in the country expected and desired. The political organisation of the Trade Union world remains, indeed, very far from adequate to the achievement of its far-reaching aims. It is not merely that the average British Trade Unionist, unlike the German, the Danish, Swedish, or the Belgian, has learnt so little the duty of subordinating minor personal or local issues, and of voting with his Party with as much loyalty as he shows hi striking with his fellow-unionists, that by no means all

1 Mr. Henderson was re-elected to Parliament in 1919 at a bye-election, capturing a strong Conservative seat at Widnes (Lancashire).


700 Political Organisation

the aggregate British Trade Union membership can stead- fastly be relied on to vote for the Labour candidates. Nor is it only that the British Labour Party still fails to command the affiliation of as many Trade Unions as the Trades Union Congress, and that the great majority of the smaller and the local societies less from dissent than out of apathy remain aloof from both sides of the national organisation. The Trades Union Congress itself, after en- gendering, as independent organisations, first the General Federation of Trade Unions, and then the Labour Party, has not yet resigned itself to limiting its activities. The General Federation of Trade Unions may be said, indeed, to have now disappeared from the Trade Union world as an effective force in the determination of industrial or political policy. There remain three separate organisations of national scope : the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress which it is now proposed to trans- form into a General Council, the Executive Committee of the Labour Party, and the members of the House of Commons who form the Parliamentary Labour Party. Unfortunately, between these three groups there has been some lack of mutual consultation, and an indefiniteness if not a confu- sion of policy which stands in the way of effective leadership. 1 This has prevented the bringing to bear upon the political field of the full force, now almost a moiety of the whole registered electorate of Great Britain, that the Trade Union world may (including the wives of Trade Unionist electors) fairly claim to include. Fundamentally, however, the shortcomings of the political organisation of the Trade Union world are to be ascribed to its failure, down to the present, to develop a staff of trained political officers at all equal to those of the Trade Union organisers and Trade Union negotiators in the industrial field. The Labour

1 A " Joint Board " from which the General Federation of Trade Unions was afterwards excluded and, later on, joint meetings of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress and the Executive Committee of the Labour Party, did something to remove friction.


The Labour Members 701

Party, which can as. yet rely only on the quite inadequate contribution from its affiliated societies of no more than twopence per member annually, has, so far, not succeeded in obtaining and keeping the services, as Registration Officers and Election Agents, of anything like so extensive and so competent a staff as either of the other political parties ; and Labour Party candidatures are still run, occasionally with astonishing success, very largely upon that transient enthusiasm of the crowd upon which experi- enced electioneers wisely decline to rely for victory. What is, however, much more crippling to the Labour Party than the scanty funds with which its constituent societies supply it, and this insufficiency in the staff of trained election organisers, is the scarcity of trained Parliamentary represent- atives. Down to to-day the great bulk of Labour Members of Parliament have been drawn from the ranks of the salaried secretaries and other industrial officers of Trade Unions, who are nearly always not only men of competence in their own spheres, but also exceptionally good speakers for popular audiences, and, generally, in many respects above the average of middle-class candidates. But as Members of Parliament they have serious shortcomings. They can, to begin with, seldom devote the necessary time to their new duties. They usually find themselves com- pelled to strive to combine attendance at the House of Commons with the onerous industrial service of their societies. The Trade Unions have, as yet, only in a few cases realised the necessity of setting free from the constant burden of Trade Union work as they might by promotion to some such consultative office as that of a salaried President such of their officials as secure election to Parliament ; whilst these officers, unable to maintain themselves and their families in London on their Parliamentary allowance for expenses of 400 a year, and afraid lest the loss of their seats may presently leave them without incomes, dare not resign their Trade Union posts. The result is an imperfect and always uncertain attendance of the Labour Members at


702 Political Organisation

the House of Commons ; a fatal division and diversion of their attention ; and an inevitable failure on their part to discharge with the fullest efficiency the duties of their two offices. 'Equally destructive of Parliamentary efficiency is the omission of the Trade Union world to provide or secure any training in the duties of a Member of Parliament for those whom they select as candidates and whose election expenses they defray with unstinted liberality. The life- long training which these candidates have enjoyed as Branch and District Secretaries, as industrial organisers and nego- tiators, and as administrators of great Trade Unions, valuable as it is for Trade Union purposes, does not include, and indeed tends rather to exclude, the practical training in general politics, the working acquaintance with the British Con- stitution, the knowledge of how to use and how to control the adroit and well-equipped Civil Service, and the ability to translate both the half-articulate desires of the electorate to the House of Commons, and the advice of the political expert to the electorate, wlu'ch, coupled with the general art of " Parliamentarianism," constitutes the equipment of the really efficient Member of the House of Commons. Add to this that the very training which the life of the successful Trade Union official has given him, his perpetual struggle to rise in his vocation in competitive rivalry, not with persons of opposite views but actually with personal acquaintances of the same craft and the same political opinions as himself, is, in itself, not a good preparation for the incessant mutual consultation and carefully planned " team-work " which contributes so much to the effective- ness of a minority party in the House of Commons. Add to this again the personal rivalries among members of the Party, the jealousies from which no party is free, and the almost complete lack of opportunity for the constant social intercourse with each other away from the House of Commons that the members of the other parties enjoy and it will be realised how seriously the Parliamentary Labour Party is handicapped by being made up, as it is at present,


Local Government


703


almost entirely of men who are compelled also to serve as Trade Union officials. Already, however, there are signs of improvement. Some Trade Unions, whilst willing to spend large sums on Parliamentary candidatures, are demurring to their salaried officials going to Westminster. The Workers' Educational Association, Ruskin College, and other educational agencies are doing much to provide a wider political training than Trade Unionists have hereto- fore enjoyed. And as the Parliamentary Labour Party, claiming to-day to represent, not the Trade Unionists only, but the whole community of " workers by hand or by brain," expands from sixty to four or six times that number as it must before it can be confronted with the task of forming a Government it will necessarily come to include an ever-increasing proportion of members drawn from other than Trade Union ranks ; whilst even its Trade Union members cannot fail to acquire more of that habit of mutual intercourse and that art of combined action which, coupled with the Parliamentary skill and capacity for public ad- ministration of those who rise to leadership, is the necessary basis of successful party achievement.

Meanwhile, the political organisation of the Trade Union Movement, and the enlargement of its ideas on Communal and Industrial Democracy, have been manifesting them- selves also in the important sphere of Local Government. After the " Labour " successes at the elections of Local Authorities, which continued for a whole decade from 1892, and placed over a thousand Trade Unionists and Socialists on Parish, District, Borough and County Councils, 'there ensued another decade in which, in the majority of districts, this active participation in local elections was impaired by the diversion of interest, both to Parliament and to indus- trial organisation. From 1914 to 1919 local elections were suspended. On their resumption in the latter year, they were energetically contested by the Labour Party, all over Great Britain, on its new and definitely Socialist programme, with the unexpected result that, up and down the country,


704 Political Organisation

the Labour candidates frequently swept the board, polling in the aggregate a very substantial proportion of the votes, electing altogether several thousand Councillors (five or six hundred in Scotland alone), and being returned in actual majorities in nearly half the Metropolitan Boroughs, several important Counties and Municipalities, and many Urban Districts and Parishes.


It must be apparent that any history of Trade Unionism that breaks off at the beginning of 1920 halts, not at the end of an epoch, but we may almost say at the opening of a new chapter. British Trade Unionism, at a moment when it is, both industrially and politically, stronger than ever before, is seething with new ideas and far-reaching aspirations. At the same time, its most recent advances in status and power are by no means yet accepted by what remains the governing class ; its political and industrial position is still precarious, and within a very brief space it may again find itself fighting against a frontal attack upon its very existence. And in face of the common enemy now united as an autocratic capitalism Industrial Demo- cracy is uncertain of itself, and almost blindly groping after a precise adjustment of powers and functions between Associations of Producers and Associations of Consumers.

Let us elaborate these points in detail. One result of the Great War has been, if not the actual enthronement of Democracy, a tremendous shifting of authority to the mass of the people. Of this shifting of the basis of power the advance in the status of Trade Unionism and the advent,


Democracy 705

in British politics, of the Labour Party, are but preliminary manifestations. As yet the mass of the people, to whom power is passing, have made but little effective use of their opportunities. At least seven-eighths of the nation's accumu- lated wealth, and with it nearly all the effective authority, is still in the hands of one-eighth of the population ; and the seven-eighths of the people find themselves in conse- quence still restricted, as regards the means of life, to less than half of that national income which is exclusively the product of those who labour by hand or by brain. The " leisure class " the men and women who live by owning and not by working, a class increasing in actual numbers, if not relatively to the workers seem to the great mass of working people to be showing themselves, if possible, more frivolous and more insolent in their irresponsible consump- tion, by themselves and their families, of the relatively enormous share that they are able to take from the national income. It is coming to be more and more felt that the continued existence of this class involves a quite unwarranted burden upon their fellow-citizens working by hand or by brain. Very naturally there is widespread discontent, and the emergence of all sorts of exasperated criticisms and extravagant schemes.

The truth is, of course, that Democracy, whether political or industrial, is still in its infancy. The common run of men and women, who have only just been enfranchised politically, and are even yet only partially organised in- dustrially, are as yet unable to make full use of Democratic institutions. The majority of them cannot be induced, in the economic pressure to which Capitalism subjects them, to take the trouble or give the continuous thought involved in any effective participation in public affairs. The result is that such Democratic institutions as we possess are, of necessity, still inefficiently managed ; and neither the citizen-consumers nor the Trade Unionist producers find themselves exercising much effective control over their own lives. The active-minded minority sees itself submerged

2 A


706 Political Organisation

by the " apathetic mass " ; the individual feels enslaved by the " machine." The complaint of the " rank and file " using that term to mean, not any " extremist " minority, but merely the majority, the " common run of men " comes to no more than that they do not find themselves obtaining the results in their daily lives which they expected and which they were, as they understood, promised. This we think, is the explanation of the perpetual " see-saw ' within the Labour Movement, decade after decade, betweer an infatuation for industrial or " direct " action and ar equal infatuation for political or Parliamentary and Muni cipal action each, unfortunately, to the temporary neglecl of the other. Or to state the Democratic problem in a more fundamental form, the see-saw is between the aspiratior to vest the control over the instruments of production ir Democracies of Producers, and the alternating belief thai this control can best be vested hi Democracies of Consumers But it is abundantly clear, alike from history and economic analysis, that in any genuine Democracy both forms o: organisation are indispensably required. In the moderr State every person throughout his whole life consumes 2 great variety of commodities and services which he cannol produce ; whilst men and women, occupied in production habitually produce a single commodity or service for othei persons to consume. Their interests and desires as producers, and as producers of a single commodity 01 service, are not, and can never be, identical with the interests and desires of these same people as consumers of man) different commodities and services just as their interests and desires as citizens of a community, or as members of a race which they wish to continue in independent existence are not necessarily identical with those of which they are conscious either as producers or as consumers.

It is, in fact, now realised that Democratic organisatior involves the acceptance, not of a single basis that of th* undifferentiated human being but of various separate anc distinct bases : man as a producer ; man as a consumer :


Associations of Producers 707

man as a citizen concerned with the continued existence and independence of his race or community ; possibly also other bases, such as man as a scientist or man as a religious believer. What is wrong in each successive generation is the intolerant fanaticism of the enthusiasts which leads them to insist on any one form of this multiplex Democracy to the exclusion of the other forms. We see to-day upper- most a revival of faith in Associations of Producers, as being, hi an industrial community, the form of Democratic organisation most important to the working people. To some one-sided minds, as was inevitable, the all-embracing Association of Producers seems the only form that Demo- cratic organisation can validly take. Interesting to the historian is the intellectual connection of this revival with the previous manifestations, in the Trade Union Movement, of the idea of " Co-operative Production," whether in the revolutionary Owenism of 1830-34, the Christian Socialism of 1848-52, or the experiments of particular Unions in 1872. As we have explained, the Trade Union, being essentially an Association of Producers, has never quite lost the idea that, so far as industry is concerned, this form of association, and no other, is Democracy. But the new form in which the faith in Associations of Producers is now expressing itself is concerned less with the ownership of the instruments of production (it being to-day commonly taken for granted that this must be vested in the community as a whole) than with the management of industry. According to the most thoroughgoing advocates of this creed, the manage- ment of each industry should be placed, not separately in the hands of those engaged in each establishment, any more than in the hands of private capitalist employers, but in the hands of the whole body of persons throughout the com- munity who are actually co-operating in the work of the industry, whether by hand or by brain ; this management being shared, by Workshop or Pit Committees, District Councils and National Boards, among all these " workers." This conception seems to us too one-sided to be adopted


708 Political Organisation

in its entirety, or to be successful if it were so adopted. We venture to give, necessarily in a cursory and generalised form, the results of our own investigations into the manage- ment of industries and services by Democracies of Producers and Democracies of Consumers respectively. In so far as we may draw any valid inferences from previous experiments of different kinds, we must note that the record of the successive attempts, in modern industry, to place the entire management of industrial undertakings in the hands of Associations of Producers has been one of failure. In marked contrast, the opposite form of Democracy, in which the management has been placed in the hands of Associa- tions of 'Consumers, has achieved a large and constantly increasing measure of success. We do not refer merely to the ever-growing development throughout the civilised world, in certain extensive fields of industrial operation, of Municipal and National Government, though from this some valuable lessons may be learnt. Even more instructive is the continuous and ever-widening success, in the importing, manufacturing, and distributing of household supplies, of the voluntary Associations of Consumers known as the Co-operative Movement, which is almost entirely made up of the same class of men and women often, indeed, of the very same individuals as we find in the abortive " self- governing workshops " and in the Trade Union Movement. Why, for instance, is it possible for the manual workers, organised as consumers, to carry on successfully the most extensive establishments for the milling of flour, the baking of bread, the making of boots and shoes, and the weaving of cloth, when repeated attempts to conduct such establish- ments by the same kind of members organised as Associa- tions of Producers have not succeeded ? 1

1 For the successive experiments in Co-operative Production by Associations of Producers the student is referred to The Co-operative Movement in Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb) (1891) ; Co-operative Production, by Benjamin Jones (1894) ; and, for a more recent survey, the supplement to The New Statesman of February 14, 1914, entitled "Co-operative Production and Profit Sharing."


Associations of Consumers 709

The Democracy of Associations of Consumers, whatever its shortcomings and defects, has, we suggest, the great advantage of being demonstrably practicable. The job can be done. It has also the further merit that it solves the problem presented by what the economists call the Law of Rent. It does not leave to any individual or group of individuals the appropriation and enjoyment of those advantages of superior sites and soils, and other differential factors in production, which should be, economically and ethically, taken only by the community as a whole. More- over, management by Associations of Consumers, whether National, Municipal, or Co-operative, gives one practical solution to the problem of fixing prices without competition, by enabling every producer to be paid at his own full Standard Rate, and distributing the various products at prices just over cost, the whole eventual surplus being returned to the purchasers in a rebate or discount on purchases, called " dividend " ; or otherwise appropriated for the benefit and by direction of the consumers themselves. Hence there is no danger of private monopoly ; no oppor- tunity for particular groups of producers to make corners in raw materials ; to get monopoly prices for commodities in times of scarcity, or to resist legitimate improvements in machinery or processes merely because these would interfere with the vested interests of the persons owning particular instruments of production or possessing a particular kind of skill. In short, the control of industries and services by Democracies of Consumers realises the Socialist principle of production for use and not for exchange, with all its mani- fold advantages. The most significant of these superiorities of Production for Use over Production for Exchange is its inevitable effect on the structure and working of Democracy. Seeing that the larger the output the smaller the burden of overhead charges or, to put it in another way, the greater the membership the more advantageous the enterprise- Associations of Consumers are not tempted to close their ranks. This kind of Democracy automatically remains


710 Political Organisation

always open to new-comers. On the other hand, Associa- tions of Producers, whether capitalists, technicians or manual workers, exactly because they turn out commodities and services not for their own use, but for exchange, are perpetually impelled to limit their numbers, so as to get, for the existing membership, the highest possible remunera- tion. This kind of Democracy is, therefore, instinctively- exclusive, tending always to become, within the community, a privileged body. All this amounts to a solid reason in favour of " nationalisation," " municipalisation," and the consumers' Co-operative Movement, which is reflected in the continuous and actually accelerating extension of all of them, not in one country only, but throughout the civilised world. 1

But the Democracy based on Associations of Consumers, whether in the National Government, the Municipality, or the Co-operative Society, reveals certain shortcomings and defects, some transient and resulting only from the existing Capitalism, and others needing the remedy of a comple- mentary Democracy of Producers. So long as we have a society characterised by gross inequalities of income, it is inevitable that the conduct of industries and services by Associations of Consumers should be even more advantageous to the rich than to the poor, and of little or no use to those who are destitute. The same trail of a Capitalist environ- ment affects also the conditions of employment. The Co-operative Society, the Municipality or the Government Department cannot practically depart far from the normal conditions of the rest of the community ; and thus avails little to raise the condition of the manual working class. If, however, the Associations of Consumers were co-extensive with the community, they would themselves fix the standard. But there is a more fundamental criticism. The Democracy

1 See Towards Social Democracy P by Sidney Webb (1916) ; and for recent surveys, the supplements to The New Statesman of May 30, 1914, and May 8, 1915, entitled, respectively, "The Co-operative Movement" and "State and Municipal Enterprise."


" Government from Above " 711

of Consumers, in Co-operative Society, Municipality or State however wide may be the franchise, however effec- tive may be the Parliamentary machinery, and however much the elected executive is brought under constituency control has the outstanding defect to the manual-working producer that, so far as his own working life is concerned, he does not feel it to be Democracy at all ! The manage- ment, it is complained, is always " government from above." It is exactly for this reason that in the evolution of British Democracy the conduct of industries and services by Associa- tions of Consumers whether in the voluntary Co-operative Society or in the geographically organised Municipality or State has had, for a correlative, the organisation of Associations of Producers, whether Professional Societies or Trade Unions. Their first object was merely to maintain and improve their members' Standard of Life. Without the enforcement of a Standard Rate and protection against personal tyranny, government by Associations of Consumers is apt to develop many of the evils of the " sweating " characteristic of unrestrained capitalism. It is not now denied, even by the economists, that Trade Unionism, in its establishment of the Doctrine of the Common Rule, and the elaboration of this into the Standard Rate, the Normal Day, and the Policy of the National Minimum, has to its credit during the past three-quarters of a century no small measure of success, with more triumphs easily within view. Trade Unionism among the manual -workers, like Professional Association among the brain- workers, 1 has emphatically justified itself by its achievements.

But Trade Unionism, though it has gone far to protect the worker from tyranny, has not, as yet, gained for him any

1 For a recent survey of Professional Association in England and Wales the only general study of it known to us see the supplements to the New Statesman of September 25 and October 2, 1915 (" English Teachers and their Professional Associations"), and April 21 and 28, 1917 (" Professional Associations "). The student will note the distinction between two types of associations among professional brain- workers, one having essentially Trade Union purposes, the other (which we distinguish as the Scientific Society) concerned only for the increase of knowledge.


712 Political Organisation

positive participation in industrial management. To this extent the complaints of the objectors among the manual- working class are justified. In the perpetual see-saw of opinion in the Labour world the movement towards Parlia- mentary action and in favour of what we may call Com- munal Socialism became, at one time, almost an infatuation, in that its most enthusiastic advocates thought that it would, by itself, solve all problems. A reaction was inevitable. The danger is that this reaction may itself take on the character of an infatuation this time in favour of the universal domination of Associations of Producers, and the " Direct Action " to which they are prone against which, in the perpetual see-saw, there will come, in its turn, a contrary reaction, in the course of which Trade Unionism itself may suffer.

This is not to say that the legitimate and desirable move- ment, specially characteristic of the present century, for increased direct participation in " management " of the Associations of Producers whether of Professional Societies or of Trade Unions, of doctors and teachers, or of miners and railwaymen has been, in this or any other country, any- thing like exhausted. In our view, in fact, it is along these lines that the next developments are to be expected. But, unless we are mistaken in our analysis, this does not mean that the Trade Unions or Professional Societies will take over the entire management of their industries or services, for which, in- our opinion, no Association of Producers can be fitted. 1 Democracies of Producers, like Democracies of Consumers, have their peculiar defects, and develop certain characteristic toxins from the very intensity of the interests that they represent. .The chief of these defects is the corporate exclusiveness and corporate selfishness habitually developed by associations based on the common interest of a particular section of workers, as against other sections of

1 We add as an Appendix an extract from the concluding chapter of our Industrial Democracy, published in 1897, in which we dealt with this point.


Vocational Exclusiveness 713

workers on the one. hand, and against the whole body of consumers and citizens on the other.. When Democracies of Producers own the instruments 6f production, or even secure a monopoly of the service to be rendered, they have always tended in the past to close their ranks, to stereotype their processes and faculties, to exclude outsiders and to ban heterodoxy. We see this tendency at work alike in the ancient and modern world, in the castes of India and the Gilds of China, in the mediaeval Craft Gilds as well as in the modern Trade Unions and Professional Associations. So long as the Trade Union is an organ of revolt against the Capitalist System so long as the manual workers are fighting a common enemy in the private owner of land and capital this corporate selfishness is held in check ; though the frequency of demarcation disputes, even in the Trade Union Movement of to-day, gives some indication of what might happen if the Trade Union became an organ of government. We see no way of securing the community of consumers and citizens against this spirit of corporate exclusiveness, and against the inherent objection of an existing generation of producers to new methods of working unfamiliar to them, otherwise than placing the supreme control in the Democracies of Consumers and citizens. There is a further and more subtle defect in Democracies of Producers, the very mention of which may perhaps be resented by those Industrial Unionists who seek to curb the " corporateness " of National Gilds by the " self- government " of the workshop. The experience of self- governing workshops shows that the relationship between the indispensable director or manager (who must, like the conductor of an orchestra, decide the tune and set the time) and the workers whom he directs becomes hopelessly untenable if this director or manager is elected or dismissible by the very persons to whom he gives orders. Over and over again, in the records of the almost innumerable self- governing workshops that have been established in Great Britain or on the Continent, we find their failure intimately

2 A2


714 Political Organisation

connected with the impracticable position of a manager directing the workers during the day, and being reprimanded or altogether superseded by a committee meeting of these same workers in the evening ! Finally, there is the difficult question of the price to be put on the article when it passes to the consumer. Normally the price of a commodity must cover the cost of production, and this cost is, in the main, determined by the character of the machinery and process employed. Hence, if the organised workers are given the power to decide not only the number and qualifications of the persons to be employed but also the machinery and process to be used, they will, in fact, determine the price to be charged to the consumer not always to the consumer's advantage, or consistently with the interests of other sec- tions of workers. 1

To sum up, we expect to see the supreme authority in each industry or service vested, not in the workers as such, but in the community as a whole. Any National Board may well include representatives of the producers of the particular product or service, and also of its consumers, but they must be reinforced by the presence of represent-

1 We do not discuss here all the difficulties inherent in the governmenl of a large and populous community such, for instance, as that oi combining a large measure of local autonomy (which is what many people mean by freedom,) with the necessary unity of national policy and centra] control (without which there would be gross inequality, internecine strife, and chaos). This difficulty has to be faced alike by Industrial Unionists, Gild Socialists, and the advocates of Democracy based on geographical constituencies. Nor have we mentioned the problems, in which the Trade Unions have their own wealth of experience, as to the relationship between elected representatives and their constituents ; between representative assemblies and executive committees ; and between executive committees and the official staff. These problems and difficulties (on which we have written in our Industrial Democracy) are common to all democratic systems of administration, whether based on constituencies of producers, con- sumers, or citizens. It seems to us that constituencies of producers present special difficulties of their own, such as (i.) that of defining the boundaries between industries or services, and (ii.) the problem, within an industry or a service, of how to provide for the representation of numerically unequal distinct sections, groups, or grades, each with its own technique, The further we go in Democracy the more complicated it becomes, and the greater the need for knowledge.


A Complex Solution 715

atives of the community organised as citizens, interested in the future as well as the present prosperity of the com- munity. The management of industry, a complex function of many kinds and grades, will, as we see it, not be the sole sphere of either the one or the other set of partners, but is clearly destined to be distributed between them the actual direction and decision being shared between the representatives of the Trade Union or Professional Society on the one hand, and those of the community in Co-operative Society, Municipality, or National Government on the other. And this recognition of the essential partnership in manage- ment between Associations of Producers and that Associa- tion of Consumers which is the community in one or other form, will, we suggest, take different shapes in different industries and services, hi different countries, and at different periods ; and, as we must add, will necessarily take time and thought to work out in detail. One thing is clear. There will be a steadily increasing recognition of a funda- mental change in the status both of the directors and managers of industry (who are now usually either themselves capitalists, or hired for the service of capitalist interests), and of the technicians and manual workers. The directors and managers of industry, however they may be selected and paid, will become increasingly the officers of the com- munity, serving not their own but the whole community's interests. The technicians and manual workers will become ever less and less the personal servants of the directors and managers ; and will be more and more enrolled, like them, in the service, not of any private employer, but of the community itself, whether the form be that of State or Municipality or Co-operative Society, or any combination or variant of these. To use the expression of the present General Secretary of the Miners' Federation (Frank Hodges), manager, technician, and manual worker alike will become parties to a " social " as distinguished from a commercial contract. All alike, indeed, whatever may be the exact form of ownership of the instruments of production, will,


7*6 Political Organisation

so far as function is concerned, become increasingly partners in the performance of a common public service.

We see in this evolution a great future for the Trade Unions, if they will, in organisation and personal equipment, rise to the height of their enlarged function. They will need, by amalgamation or federation, and by affording facilities for easy admission and for a simple transfer of membership, to make themselves much more nearly than at present co-extensive with their several industries. They will have to make special provision in their constitutions to secure an effective representation, on their own executive and legislative councils, of distinct crafts, grades, or specialisa- tions, which must always form small minorities of the whole body. They will find it necessary to make the local organisa- tion of their members, in branch or district, much more coincident than at present with their members' several places of employment, so as to approximate to making identical the workshop and the branch. There would seem to be a great development opening up for the Works Com- mittees and the " Shop Stewards," brought effectively into organic relation with the nationally settled industrial policy. At any rate, in industries already passing under the control of Associations of Consumers, whether by nationalisation or municipalisation, or by the spread of consumers' co-operation, there will be great scope for District Councils and National Boards, as well as for Advisory and Research Committees representative of different specialities, in which managers and foremen, technicians and operatives, will jointly super- sede the capitalist Board of Directors. But the management of each industry is very far from being the whole of the task. In Parliament itself, and on Municipal Councils, the World of Labour, by hand or by brain, will need to give a continuous and an equal backing to its own political party, in order to see to it that it has its own representatives specialised and trained for this supreme political function not by ones and twos, but in force ; gradually coming, in fact, to pre- dominate over the representatives of the surviving capitalist


A Warning

and landlord parties. Trade Unionists, in the mass, will not only have to continue and extend the loyalty and self- devotion which have always been characteristic of successful Trade Unionism, but also to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the working of democratic institutions, a more accurate appreciation of the imperative necessity of combining both the leading types of democratic self- government on the one hand the self-government based on the common needs of the whole population divided into geographical constituencies, and on the other the self- government springing from the special requirements of men and women bound together by the fellowship of a common task and a common technique. The Trade Unions and Professional Societies, if they are increasingly to partici- pate in the government of their industries and services, will in particular have to provide themselves with a greater number of whole-time specialist representatives, better paid and more considerately treated than at present, and supplied with increased opportunities for education and training.

We end on a note of warning^ The object and purpose of the workers, organised vocationally hi Trade Unions and Professional Associations, and politically in the Labour Party, is no mere increase of wages or reduction of hours. 1 It comprises nothing less than a reconstruction of society, by the elimination, from the nation's industries and services, of the Capitalist Profitmaker, and the consequent shrinking up of the class of functionless persons who live merely by

1 This is well put by an American economist. " The Trade Union programme, or rather the Trade Union programmes, for each Trade Union has a programme of its own, is not the unrelated economic demands and methods which it is usually conceived to be, but it is a closely integrated social philosophy and plan of action. In the case of most Union types the programme centres indeed about economic demands, and methods, but it rests on the broad foundation of the conception of right, of rights, and of general theory peculiar to the workers ; and it fans out to reflect all the economic, ethical, juridical, and social hopes and fears, aims, attitudes, and aspirations of the group. It expresses the workers' social theory and the rules of the game to which they are committed, not only in industry but in social affairs generally. It is the organised workers' conceptual world " (Trade Unionism in the United SiaUs, by R. F. Hoe, p. 280).


718 Political Organisation

owning. Profit-making as a pursuit, with its sanctification of the motive of pecuniary self-interest, is the demon that has to be exorcised. The journey of the Labour Party towards its' goal ntust necessarily be a long and arduous one. In the painful " Pilgrim's Progress " of Democracy the workers will be perpetually tempted into by-paths that lead only to the Slough of Despond. It is not so much the enticing away of individuals in the open pursuit of wealth that is to be feared, as the temptation of particular Trade Unions, or particular sections of the workers, to enter into alliances with Associations of Capitalist Em- ployers for the exploitation of the consumer. " Co-partner- ship," or profit-sharing with individual capitalists, has been seen through and rejected. But the " co-partnership " of Trade Unions with Associations of Capitalists whether as a development of " Whitley Councils " or otherwise : which far-sighted capitalists will presently offer in specious forms (with a view, particularly, to Protective Customs Tariffs and other devices for maintaining unnecessarily high prices, or to governmental favours and remissions of taxation) is, we fear, hankered after by some Trade Union leaders, and might be made seductive to particular grades or sections of workers. Any such policy, however plausible, would in "our judgement be a disastrous under- mining of the solidarity of the whole working class, and a formidable obstacle to any genuine Democratic Control of Industry, as well as to any general progress in personal freedom and in the more equal sharing of the National Product.