Labour History Review

The House of Industry League: Guild Socialism in the 1930s and 1940s

Labour History Review (1996), 61, (3), 309–321.

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Andrew Rigby, Initiation and Initiative, Boulder, 1984. Initiation and Initiative Google Scholar

The series ran between 19 August 1920 and 13 October 1921. The articles were written jointly with Orage until 9 December 1920. In Harry Rutherford's collection of Mitrinović's writing, Certainly, Future, Boulder, 1987, they run to nearly 200 pages. Google Scholar

Rigby, Initiation, p. 107. Google Scholar

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Soddy's economic ideas have recently received some attention. An interesting example of this is to be found in Juan Martinez-Alier (with K. Schlupmann), Ecological Economics, Oxford, 1987. It has a detailed chapter on ‘Soddy's Critique of the Theory of Economic Growth’. Martinez-Alier sees Soddy as one of the ‘precursors of contemporary Ecologism’ (p. 143). This is largely because of the analytical content of Soddy's economic thought, in which wealth is considered as a flow, and in terms of energy. The practical policy implications of Soddy's economic thinking focused on the issues of currency and banking, and particularly upon the need for the power to create money to be returned to the nation, from private bankers, who Soddy felt had effectively abrogated the right to create money. Martinez-Alier makes reference to other recent examinations of Soddy's economic thought. More recently, a biography of Soddy has been published, which includes an assessment of his links with the New Britain Movement and the Mitrinović circle; Linda Merricks, The World Made New, Oxford, 1996. The HOIL is not mentioned in this book. Google Scholar

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C. B. Purdom, Life over Again, 1951, p. 156. Google Scholar

A. Peacock, Yours Fraternally, 1945, p. 84. Google Scholar

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‘The House of Industry League’, a document reproduced from the Trade Unionist, September 1936, presumably by the HOIL. Copy in New Atlantis Foundation archives, Ditchling. Google Scholar

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The lectures by Lord Northbourne raise the issue of whether the HOIL had connections with that section of opinion, predominantly far right-wing, that was raising questions about agriculture in Britain in the late 1930s. (A grouping examined, for instance, by Anna Bramwell in Ecology in the 20th Century, New Haven, 1989: see p. 216 for a list of the main protagonists, including Northbourne.) It appears that, with the exception of Lord Northbourne, such connections did not exist. Indeed Northbourne's lectures seem to be the only occasion the HOIL considered agriculture. There are no other lectures listed in programmes on the subject. The syllabus of Northbourne's lecture series indicates strong similarities with his book Look to the Land, 1940, in which he mentions S. G. Hobson and his Guild proposals (p. 146). Hobson refers to Northbourne as a friend in his own autobiography, Pilgrim to the Left, 1938, p. 251. This is in the context of a discussion of finance, and it is interesting to note that Northbourne was scheduled to lecture to the HOIL on ‘Money’ in autumn 1937. (See Trade Unionist, October 1937, p. 2.) Google Scholar

See the ‘Comments of a Clubman’ column, Trade Unionist, July 1937, p. 1. Google Scholar

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Trade Unionist, July 1937, pp. 7-11. See p. 10 for reference to Tom Mann. Google Scholar

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The cuttings, in the New Atlantis Foundation archives, are from the Liverpool Daily Post, 16 November 1936, and the Wrexham Leader, 20 November 1936. Google Scholar

The cuttings, in the New Atlantis Foundation archives, are from the Birmingham Gazette and the Birmingham Post, both of 12 February 1937. Google Scholar

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Trade Unionist, March 1937, p. 2. Google Scholar

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Copy of document in New Atlantis Foundation Archives. Joseph White mentions this manifesto on p. 201 of his Tom Mann, Manchester 1991, without explaining the provenance of the document. The signatories were: Percy Allott, George Gibson, Maurice Hann, J. H. Harley, J. Hiscock, S. G. Hobson, W. T. Hart, George Light, T. W. Mercer, Percy F. Pollard, Tom Mann, W. Arthur Peacock, Jack Tanner, Ben Tillett, W. J. R. Squance. Google Scholar

Rigby, Initiation, p. 139. Google Scholar

Reports of both meetings appeared in the Common Wealth Review for August 1948, on p. 4, and of the second meeting in the Socialist Leader, 3 July 1948, p. 4. Google Scholar

The full list of signatories is given by Banks, The Libertarian, no. 27, 1987, p. 16. Google Scholar

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Rigby, Initiation, p. 187. Google Scholar

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Hobson, Pilgrim, chapters 23-25. Google Scholar

The House of Industry, 1931. Note that the foreword to this book was by A. M. Wall, secretary of London Trades Council, and A. A. Purcell, secretary of Manchester and Salford Trades Council. Google Scholar

Hobson, Pilgrim, pp. 249 ff. Google Scholar

Some material on Hann can be found in Sir William Richardson's history of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, and its precursors, A Union of Many Trades, Manchester (undated, c.1979). Interestingly, Hann signed a round-robin letter announcing a new book club for persons associated with the labour movement published, for example, in The Clerk of October 1937. This appears to have been a projected alternative to the Left Book Club, other signatories including Fenner Brockway, J. F. Horrabin and Reginald Reynolds. Google Scholar

Gibson was on the General Council of the TUC from 1928 to 1948. He was secretary of the MHIWU from 1912 to 1946, and of COHSE from 1946 to 1947. Some details of his career can be found in Mick Carpenter, Working for Health, 1988, a history of COHSE and its precursors. Google Scholar

See the report of a regional conference of the Federation in the north-east in The Natsopa Journal, May 1937, p. 8, which gives a good insight into the concerns and nature of the organisation. Google Scholar

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Hobson, Pilgrim, p. 256. Google Scholar

Functional Socialism, London, 1936. Google Scholar

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Rigby, Initiation, p. 166. Google Scholar

Presumably this J. H. Harley is the same person as the J. H. Harley who wrote Syndicalism, a short book, fairly sympathetic to its subject. (Undated, but almost certainly published between March 1912 and August 1914.) Google Scholar

The report of the Churches conference in the July 1937 edition of the Trade Unionist, by ‘S. G.’, notes Peacock's taking up the position of HOIL secretary. See p. 7. Google Scholar

Peacock, Yours, chapter 6 for the National Trade Union Club, chapter 7 for Ben Tillett and chapter 10 for Mitrinović. Google Scholar

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Ken Coates and Tony Topham, The History of the Transport and General Workers' Union, vol. 1, pt II, Oxford, 1991, p. 634. The History of the Transport and General Workers' Union 1 634 Google Scholar

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See Carpenter, Working, pp. 194-5. Google Scholar

See the Trade Unionist, November 1937, ‘The Members’ Who's Who', where Light's Yorkshire trade union background and his connection to the Oxford Group are mentioned. Google Scholar

A clear example of this would be the Union of Postal Workers. Alan Clinton, in Post Office Workers. A Trade Union and Social History, 1984, chapter 11, shows the continuing importance of the Guild Socialist tradition in the UPW. UPW activists involved in HOIL activities included Francis Andrews, editor of The Post, the UPW journal, and W. T. Hart. organising secretary of the union's Metropolitan branch. Google Scholar

‘Trade Unionists’ West End Club', Millgate Monthly, August 1938, p. 660. It is interesting to note that this journal also featured articles on the idea of the House of Industry by Arthur Peacock in April 1938 and on workers' control by Sam Hobson in June 1938. Google Scholar

See Peter Hain, Ayes to the Left, 1995, pp. 17-19, for a recent example. Google Scholar

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Tyldesley, Mike