Spirited Argument at Newcastle Meeting.
From Our Labour Correspondent A resolution opposing the formation of Catholic Guilds within the framework of trades unionism and asking for Trades Union Congress to investigate the activities of such guilds was adopted at the meeting of the North-East Federation of Trades Councils in Newcastle on Saturday.
Mr. T. Aisbitt, the president, who proposed this resolution, read a letter from Sir Walter Citrine disclaiming knowledge of the activities of the Catholic guilds but disapproving in general " of the creation within the unions of groups, composed of persons with special interests, having objects other than those appropriate to the membership as a whole."
Mr. Aisbitt argued that Catholic guilds should be subjected to the same disciplinary treatment as that given to the Socialist League and the Communist Party.
Defence of Guilds
The motion was strongly opposed by Norman McCretton, secretary of the Federation, who said that the guilds were concerned only with the spiritual well-being of their members. The Socialist League and the Communist party had been subjected to disciplinary measures because their aims were incompatible with those of the Trade Union movement. He challenged Mr. Aisbitt to bring forward any evidence showing that the same could be said of the Catholic guilds.
He thought that action against the Catholic guilds would have a bad effect on the 24,000 Catholic trade unionists in the North East.
" In my opinion," he said, "it is unwarrantable and unnecessary interference into the affairs of the guilds—of which I am
not a member." Mr. McCretton was strongly supported in his protest by Mr. E. Colgain, secretary of the Tyneside Catholic Social Guild.
It is a great pity that Mr. Aisbitt did not take the trouble to find out a little more about the Catholic guilds which he condemns, and against which he instigates such mischievous action.
" The Missing Essential "
On January 28 the CATHOLIC HERALD published statements from Sir Walter Citrine and Mr. Ernest Sevin about the Catholic vocational guilds. The statements showed that the nature and purpose of the guilds were not understood by the Trade Union leaders who considered them.as outside bodies trying to influence the unions and in a sense rivals of the unions.
Statements from secretaries of some of the Catholic guilds—busmen's, printers', shop assistants', post office guilds—which were published at the same time, made it absolutely clear that the guilds exist only for looking after the spiritual welfare of their members, and are not concerned with the internal policies of the unions, It seems worth while to repeat at least something of these statements.
" The vocational guild endeavours to fulfil the wishes of the Pope by fostering the spiritual welfare among the members of the trade, and propagating Catholic social teaching among members and non-members . . . as the spiritual life is left out of the modern trade union, the guild Aries to supply that missing essential." That is from the Guild of Catholic Printers, and from the Post Office Guild: " We, although primarily a spiritual organisation, seek for each other's good and help each other at our work. New members arc introduced to other Catholics and helped and advised as to their duties,"
What Busmen Say The Busmen's Guild says:
" The guild was formed with the object of providing the spiritual and social welfare of its members. It is open to all classes of busmen andsincludes a large number of members who do not belong to any trade union. The guild leaves the question of working conditions to the Transport and General Workers' Union since that union alone can cater for all members of the industry irrespective of class, colour or creed. . . The Trade Union movement is so steeped in the Catholic teaching of social justice, that if it could only cover the members' own spiritual welfare it could almost claim perfection. As it is the Catholic Busmen's Guild undertakes to provide that welfare for its own members. . . If our guild were to act as bodies inside the Trade Union movement, then that would be a usurpation, and not for one moment would it be tolerated either by the T.U.C. or the Guild Movement."
That seems fairly definite for Mr. Aisbitt, who singled out the Busmen's Guild for special criticism. But were any further evidence needed of the guild's loyalty to the Trade Union movement, what of this from a 'bus driver? : " Whenever a non-union man has joined our guild every effort has been made to persuade him to become a member of his trade . . We cater for the spiritual needs of our own members, by such methods as Corporate Communions and retreats, and keeping a watchful eye on our Union to see that it is operated in accordance with the rules which the members have themselves laid down."
And of this from Fr. William D'Andria, Si.: " The Catholic Transport Guilds carry out the wish of the Church in urging all workers to join their respective unions, provided that their belief and practice are not thereby weakened. The formation of the guilds has meant an increase in membership for the trade unions."