FROM TRA E UNIONS
Sir W. Citrine And Mr. E.
Bevin Give Their Opinions ANALYSING THE AIMS OF CATI IOLIC GUILDS
" As A Trade Union We Stand For Religious Liberty"
--MR. E. BEM Just lately the Trade Unions in England have become rather suspect. From many of the replies to the Catholic Herald social survey questionnaire it is evident that Catholic workers are becoming alarmed at what seems an infection of Communi3t sympathies in the Unions.
The most popular course of action seems to be the withdrawing of Catholic support of the Unions infected. This is relatively easy but also inetTective, for it gives the Communist influence, if this Communist influence be real, a clear run.
At present it is essential, as Cardinal Hinsley has said, for Catholics to remain in their union, because only by doing so can they keep in real contact with their fellow-workers, and influence them, in the light of the Church's teaching, to regard labour and capital from a Christian point of view.
However, what the individual can achieve by his own influence may be small, and often he is aware of this, and the awareness makes him distrust himself.
They Need Support But within many of the unions Catholic Guilds, formed according to the wish of Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anna, exist.
These vocational guilds should be given all support possible by the Catholics whom they concern, for through them individual influence and knowledge can be pooled and used to more advantage in the spreading of the truth among our industrial populations.
The Pope specially asked for these guilds in countries where only neutral, non-Catholic trade unions • exiate_ aaseine. England " . . side by side with these trade unions, there must always be associations which aim at giving their members a thorough religious and moral training, that these in turn may impart to the labour unions to which they belong the upright spirit which should direct their entire conduct."
In no sense can these guilds be termed rivals of the unions, they are simply leaveners. Yet they arc regarded with some suspicion by the Trade Union chiefs.
Sir W. Citrine's Advice Sir Walter Citrine this week has written to the Catholic Herald that— " the Trades Union Congress generally disapproves 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."
The fundamental object of the guilds is to see that Leo XIll's definition in RePUIll Novarum of the functions of a trade union becomes an actuality. The definition is: "these working-men's associations should be so organised and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means of attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each menibcir to better his condition to the lallic,Mt in body, soul and property."
To work towards this end does not conflict with the ideals of the Trade Union movement.
Mr. Bevin's Opinion Mr. Ernest Bevin, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, has told us in a letter, with particular reference to the Catholic Busmen's Guild, that " the altitude of my Executive is that the proper course for members to adopt is to operate through the Branch machinery established by the Union.
" A number of organisations have been created which have sought to influence the Union. One has been the Rank and File Movement, then the Minority Movement, Fascist Movement and then the Catholic Busmen's Guild. All these bodies which have been created have always resulted in producing their counter-part. Some time ago I found that in Scotland an attempt was being made to introduce a Protestant organisation within the Union, and we have always discountenanced the setting up of outside bodies within the Union.
" Yoy,, xeitl apprteisiats tlyet, esi a frade Union we Stand le)r retigiOliS•libdiVwftether it be Catholic, PogetitavtW even nonreligion, and we depreCate -anything which introduces sectarianism within the Union.
Early Difficulties "One of my very early difficulties when this amalgamation was started was in Belfast. At that time it was the Catholics who were being victimised and I spent an enormous' amount of time and energy in smoothing out the difficulties until at last I got the Catholics back into the Branch, and since that time we have not experienced any religious difficulties within the Union at Belfast.
" Further, at the time of the great difficulties in Ireland, I did what I could to keep our people out of the trouble, with some amount of success. Hence you will see the danger which arises when sectarian organisations are established within Trade Unions.
"My personal view is that a man should be a keen trade unionist and he should see that his Union is operated it; accordance with the rules, which the members have themselves laid down. This will produce far better results than the attempts to• influence the work of the Union frovn without...
He Knows His Encyclicals
Mr. Bevin has a greater knowledge of the encyclicals on the social order than the majority of Catholics, and so he must know that there is nothing in the teaching of the Church which opposes the true principles of Trade Unionism, and therefore to work towards attaining, or, if they are .already existing, maintaining the effectiveness of those principles cannot in anyway conflict with the work of the Unions.
That a misconception exists in the minds of Mr. Bevin and Sir Walter Citrine is evident, but it is possible that the guilds themselves are to blame for this misconception. So little about them is known except that they exist and are called Catholic and therefore are suspected of proselytizing ambitions.
The Truth About Guilds
The following accounts of some of the guilds may be of value in clarifying the present position.
First the Catholic Busmen's Guild. This is from its secretary: " The Guild and the official Trade Union • are two bodies entirely different in operation. We seek to make our Catholic doctrine on the fundamentals of Trade Unionism, such as fair wages and conditions, the rights of both Capital and Labour, etc., known as the basis of all Trade Unionism. . . In other words, we encourage our members to learn more of the Faith, and to go into the Branch rooms as the leaders of British Trade Unionism, with the sure knowledge that they have gained by the study of the Church's social doctrines.
"We do not seek any alliances as such but on the other hand we • are always ready to advise our workmates on the right courses to pursue„ . We arc striving to educate our members to the tasks
of leadership, to be the moderators between the two extremes in industry today —violent labour and oppressive capitalism. Since the Trade Union movement was begun by a handful of Christian men, we are determined that the movement shall not be handed over to men who are the enemies of Christianity, who for the most part are the agitators of class war. . ."
Nothing Reactionary There is nothing reactionary, nothing against Trade Unionism in that, nor in this, the statement for the Guild of Catholic Printers, in which most of the members are violently enthusiastic Union men.
" This vocational guild endeavours to fulfil the wishes of the Pope by fostering the spiritual welfare of the members of the trade, and propagating Catholic social teaching among members and non-members . . . as the spiritual life is left out of the nzodern trade union, the guild tries to supply that missing essential."
The apologia of the Post Office Catholic Guild is thus: " We, although primary a spiritual organisation seek for each other's
good and help each other at our work. New members are introduced to other Catholics and helped and advised as to their duties.
" Our relations with the official unions are friendly in so far as local. Our Branch No I South Western District Office, have issued a handbook with branch rules, etc., also list of organisations within the Post Office and they readily agreed to insert information about our guild."
The Catholic Shop Assistants' Guild is also free from any of idea of rivalry or conflict with the official unions. The guild exists, first to help the spiritual development of its members, and afterwards their
material life caring for unemployed members, protesting against unfair wages, inviting co-operation between employers and employees.
There are other guilds also, the Railwaymen's Guild, the Policemen's Guilds, probably many more which are still unknown, even to most Catholics.
All these guilds admit non-Trade Union members, but all have objects fundamentally the same as the Unions. It is up to the Catholics to join their union and their guild and so vigilantly guide the union by their influence safety past non-union and non-Christian tendencies.