Saturday, 15 June 2024

The Guilds – Further Information (1)

REGULAR READERS will be aware that the National Liberal Trade Unionists – NLTU – have been running a series of articles concerning the Guilds.  The links (to date) to these articles appear below this article.

With the above in mind, it’s recently been brought to our attention that a couple of articles have appeared on Quora, a US-based question-and-answer-website, concerning the Guilds.  In answer to the question What become of guild socialism? Tom Wetzel, a writer, philosopher & former editor of an Anarcho-syndicalist magazine provided the answer that we reproduce below.

It goes without saying that there are no links between Quora, Tom Wetzel & the National Liberal Party.  Please note that we’ve kept the original US spellings as they are.


What Became Of Guild Socialism?

George Douglas Howard Cole (25th September 1889 - 14th January 1959). Cambridgeborn Cole wrote several economic and historical books. These included biographies of Robert Owen (published in 1923) and William Cobbett (published in 1925). His book Guild Socialism Restated (published in 1920) is said to be the most complete exposition of Guild Socialism. An online copy of it can be found here: guildsocialismre00coleuoft

THE MOST complete exposition of guild socialism was in GDH Cole’s book Guild Socialism Restated, published in 1920. Guild socialism was a form of libertarian socialism in that it was based on direct democracy in neighborhoods (via “ward meetings”, in Cole’s words, that is, neighborhood assemblies) and the worker self-management organizations for industry. This type of socialist politics went into eclipse after the Russian revolution for several reasons.

First, radicals were increasingly persuaded to join the Marxist-Leninist or Communist movement in ’20s to ‘40s, due to the seeming “success” of the Soviet Union’s economy in an era of capitalist economic collapse. Leninists had no use at all for the concepts of social governance through directly democratic bodies and preferred technocratic state centralization for control of production, not worker management. The revolutionary syndicalist movement of the World War 1 era had been a major inspiration for guild socialism, and syndicalism went into eclipse due to government repression & Communist competition and seemed to disappear altogether after the crushing of the syndicalist-inspired revolution in Spain in 1939.

Second, with the various concessions to the working class won in the ’30s and ’40s it seemed that capitalism could be reformed to provide benefits to the working class & the social-democratic parties with this type of orientation gained a major position after World War 2 as the only alternative to the Communists. Like the Communists, most social-democrats also had no interest in workers self-management or directly democratic re-organization of social governance.

In the USA the followers of guild socialism changed the name to “industrial democracy” and created the League for Industrial Democracy in 1919 to advocate for it. Robert Dahl’s book in the ’60s extolling cooperatives as an alternative comes out of this tradition.

Guild socialism is based on a concept of a socialist economy with structured negotiation between the community, and people as consumers, and worker organizations. This idea was revived in the late ’70s by a number of economists with a New Left background. Nowadays there are several people who advocate forms of negotiated coordination. In Britain there is the economist Pat Devine. But most well known is the participatory economics advocated by Robin Hahnel & Michael Albert. This modifies the guild socialist concept by using an ideal non-market price system to reduce the number of direct face to face negotiation meetings that would be needed. But the basic concept of community and worker self-management and negotiation between the two is retained.

• SEE TOM WETZEL’S original answer in Quora here:

• READ THE previous NLTU articles about the Guilds here:

From The Liberty Wall – National Liberal Trade Unionists – Restore The Guilds (Part 1)–-national-liberal-trade-unionists-–-restore-the-guilds-part-1

From The Liberty Wall – National Liberal Trade Unionists – Restore The Guilds (Part 2)–-national-liberal-trade-unionists-–-restore-the-guilds-part-2

From The Liberty Wall – National Liberal Trade Unionists – Restore The Guilds (Part 3)–-national-liberal-trade-unionists-–-restore-the-guilds-part-3

From The Liberty Wall – National Liberal Trade Unionists – Restore The Guilds (Part 4)–-national-liberal-trade-unionists-–-restore-the-guilds-part-4

• CHECK OUT the National Liberal Trade Unionists Facebook page here:

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