Is Guild Order Antiquated ?
L. Benvenisti and T. W. C.
Curd must both excuse me as an economic historian from associating inyself with them to-day, any more than thirty years or so ago with G. D. H. Cole, in endorsement of the ideal of a " Guild Order." I would say to them much the same as Mgr, (now Cardinal) Pizzardo said in reply to me when I put a query to the present Pope in December, 1930, as to the teaching of the Church concerning usury. Very properly. he intervened, as an economist, to point Out that we were no longer living in the Middle
Ages. What the Church desired was " a fair rate of interest." What I would suggest, the Church seeks in respect of a new social order is the material conditions and property relations which make for, rattle, than militate against, brotherhood.
No one who enquires into the organisation and operation of " the guilds " over by far the greater span of their functioning will see in them bodies more brotherly within or more neighbourly without than the trade unions have tended to become between the National Health Insurance legislation of Lloyd George and the Compulsory Arbitra• lion law of " Big Man " Sevin. The very name, the Confraternity of St. Thomas of Canterbury, lends enchantment to the Company of the Merchant Adventurers of England. But readers of the documents printed in Hakluyt's Voyages of the English Seamen will doubt whether their methods conformed any more to those of the Master than the black ivory " merchandise of Sir Richard Hawkins' good ship " Jesus."
From which I would argue that my friends had much better leave the dead to bury their dead and seek new social designs and designations more consonant with the conditions imposed by the technique of industry and commerce in the twentieth century.
For, if the trade unions are .to cease to act after their kind and to be organs of struggle—dramatised by romantics as " class.
war "—what is to be their function? Are they to approximate to the guilds and become close corporations into which, after the precedent set by George Hicks, are to be brought such " brickies " as Winston Churchill? Will they achieve their destiny, as did the guilds of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by elevating a cooptive bureaucracy of officials for whose superannuation, borrowing from the astute authors of " The Miners' Next Step," they find seats in the House of Commons?
Frankly, after thirty years of first-hand acquaintance with these people. I would not put it past them, any more than I would attribute it to anything in them other than cynical disillusion with their ideological concepts and the creeping paralysis of old age and hardening of the arteries.
Prompted thus to write on the eve ot the Trade Union Congress, I would call for less intellectualism from my friends and a going down among the Catholic working-class with them to hammer out our new message to the common people of Great Britain and Eire.
J. J. WALlON NeWSOLls University Union, Manchester.