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strikes, agricultural laborers' unions, and although beaten in 1852, has gone on drinking ourselves out of the Alabama in- steadily gaining power and numbers ever demnity in one year—a future enough since. There were then some 11,000 overcast, to keep our attention sadly and members, belonging to 100 branches in earnestly fixed at home. We shall want Great Britain and Ireland, and the funds all our breath to cool our own broth. of the society at the end of the great strike When such a serious changes are going on went down to zero; in fact, it came out in the structure" of the society to which he of the contest in debt. There are now belongs, it is only the eyes of the fool that upwards of 40,000 members, nearly 300 are in the ends of the earth.
branches, which are spread over all our The organization of labor” in this colonies, the United States, and several kingdom has gone on in two parallel lines European countries, and the accumulated for the last twenty years and more, and at fund amounts to more than 150,000l. The a rate as remarkable as that of the increase example of the engineers has been followof our material riches. If Mr. Gladstone ed, as we all know, by almost every other had added to his statement, as to what the great industry. The Boilermakers' Union, last fifty years have done for us in this the Masons' Union, the Amalgamated direction—that in the organization of Carpenters and Joiners', and the vast ironlabor, and the consequent change in the workers and coalworkers' unions, in condition of the working classes, the same England, Scotland, and Wales, are the period had done more than the 300 years · best known. Each of these is growing since the first Statute of Laborers—or steadily, and aims at absorbing the whole indeed than the whole of previous English trade. And not only are the unions of history—he would have been making a the separate trades federated in great statement even more certain, and more amalgamated societies, but these societies easy of proof, than that which he did are again in federation. They hold a make. Let me very shortly make good Congress at the opening of each new year. my words. It was not until the year 1825 It sat at Leeds at the beginning of this that the laws prohibiting combinations of year, when another step in advance was workmen were repealed. They had lasted proposed, being nothing less than the insince the early Plantagenet times. Un- corporation of all the unionists in the der them no open combination of artisans kingdom into one vast society. This proor laborers, such as the Trades Unions posal was indeed rejected; but even as it which we know, was possible. There is, for all practical purposes the unions were unions, indeed, but they met as throughout the country are allied in a secret societies, and worked by secret federation, which promises to be drawn penalties and terrorism. After 1825 they closer and closer every year, and to became at once into the light, and there was come more and more powerful. Such a remarkable decrease, indeed almost a have been, shortly speaking, the results of cessation, of those sanguinary crimes con- the twenty-five years of federated unionism, nected with trades' disputes which had And now let us look, as fairly as we can, disgraced the previous quarter of a century. at this “ problem of civilization,” and ask It took another quarter of a century to
what it means and where it tends. That effect the next great change. From 1825 unionism is a great power, and likely to till 1849-50 may be called the period of become a greater one still, no one will local Unionism. In the latter year it deny. That it is an army, by which I entered on a new phase, that of federa- mean an organization for fighting purposes, tion. The first sign of the change was goes without talk. That nearly all unions the great strike of the engineers at Christ- have their sick and provident funds, and mas 1851. Public attention was drawn their benefits of one kind and another, is to this struggle, involving as it did the perfectly true; but these are not their prosperity of the most skilled, and most vital function. They are organized and thoroughly national, of our great indus- supported “ to speak with their enemies tries, and the country was startled to find in the gate,” and to fight whenever it may that a league of upwards of 100 local be thought advisable. And when it comes unions, all federated in one amalgamated to fighting, they may use every penny of society, were sustaining the local contests the funds (as the Amalgamated Engineers in Oldham and London. This federation, did in 1852) without a thought of the provident purposes contemplated by their use it at all. I shall be glad to see the rules. You can't have armies and battles day, and I fully believe it will come, when without training professional soldiers. Trades Unions will have played their part, They must come to the front as naturally and become things of the past. But they as cream rises if you let milk stand; and have still a part to play, and until they are the Trades Unions train leaders who are superseded by other associations, founded essentially fighting men.
I do not use on higher principles and aiming at nobler the word as implying any censure. Many ends, their failure and disappearance would cruel and unfair attacks have been made be a distinct step backwards—an injury, on these men as a class with which I do not an advantage, to the nation and to not in the least sympathise. Many ac- civilization. cusations have been brought against them What hope, then, is there of the rise of which I know to be untrue. There are other associations amongst our people of good and bad amongst them, as in all nobler aim than their Trades Unions ? I other classes; but, on the whole, they said just now that the “organization of have done their work faithfully, and with- labor” had been going on amongst us by out giving needless offence. Indeed, I means of two parallel movements. Of have often found them far more ready to one of these—the Trades Union, or fightlisten to reason, to negotiate rather than ing movement-I have already spoken; fight, than their rank and file. They have and we now come to the Co-operative supported the attempts to establish Courts movement, to which I have looked for of Arbitration and Conciliation, and are, five-and-twenty years, and still look with as a rule, honest representatives, and in increasing hope, for the solution of the advance of their constituents. But the labor question, and a building up of a fact remains—they are fighting men, at juster, and nobler, and gentier life throughthe head of armies; and their business is out this nation. The present Co-operative constant watchfulness, and prompt action movement is not thirty years old. The whenever a fair opportunity occurs. They store of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers, accept and act on the principles of trade which has become world-famous now, was which they have learnt from their employ- established in the year 1844 by a few ers and see proclaimed in all the leading laboring folk, of very small means and journals. Their business is to enable their very high aspirations. Their first venture members to sell their labor in the dearest in goods, not amounting to more than some market, and to limit and control the sup- 201. worth, but all that they could comply. “ Morality," they maintain with mand, was trundled in a wheelbarrow to their betters, " has nothing to do with buy- the little room in Toad Lane, where they ing and selling.” They have nothing to started on the trifling work of making trade do with the question whether their action honest, and delivering their brethren of is fair or just to employers, or whether it the working class with themselves from the will bring trouble and misfortune on work- bondage in which they were held by the men outside the union. Employers and credit system, by thriftlessness, by intemoutsiders must look to themselves; what perance. On the 28th of September, 1867, they have to see to is, that every unionist I had the pleasure of attending a great gets as much and gives as little as possible. gathering of Co-operators at Rochdale to No one can doubt that this is a most celebrate the opening of their new central serious business, and that organizations store. This new central store is only their such as these do threaten the prosperity of chief place of business. It is a fine buildour industry. Nevertheless, for my own ing four stories high, and surmounted by a part I accept unionism as on the whole a clock with a bee-hive on the top of it. benefit to this nation. Without it our The building cost 10,000l., and—besides working classes would be far less powerful giving ample room and convenience for than they are at present, and I desire that their great trade in the shape of shops, ofthey should have their fair share of power fices, store-rooms, workshops, committeeand of all national prosperity. The free rooms on the third story there is a library and full right of association for all lawful with an area of 150 square yards, and a purposes is guaranteed to all our people. news-room containing an They had better use it now and then, un- square yards; and on the fourth floor, one wisely and tyrannically, than be unable to large room for lectures and meetings, capable of seating 1,500 persons comfor- men, these weavers, cobblers, laborerstably. The number of members exceeded have deliberately and steadily repudiated 7,000, the business reached 60,00ol. a the current commercial principles and quarter, the profits 40,000l. a year, and the practices. They are societies for fellow assets of the society 120,000l.
work and mutual help.
They have But I am running away from my text. fought no battle for high or low prices, There have been other examples in plenty, and have no such battle to fight. They as remarkable though not so well known claim to stand on the principle of combinas that of Rochdale ; but it is with the ing the interests of producers and conmovement as a whole, not with individual sumers; they hold, one and all, as their discases, that we are concerned. It
tinctive doctrine, that inasmuch as the life said to have begun, then, in 1844. For of nine-tenths of mankind must be spent the next few years it struggled on slowly in labor-in producing and distributing, but surely. The first meeting of repre- buying and selling-moral considerations sentatives of the different stores and as- must be made to govern these operations ; sociations met at Bury, and afterwards in and anything worth calling success in Manchester, in 1851, to consult and take them must depend, not upon profits but measures for obtaining legal recognition, upon justice. For the ideas “cheapness” and for concerting joint action. There and “dearness,” they have deliberately were forty-four societies represented, and substituted “fair prices," and their whole, the delegates drew up rules for the gui- life has been a struggle, not, of course, free dance of the Co-operative movement. To from backslidings and falls, to reach that these rules—this first public statement of ideal. the objects of the Co-operative Parliament I mentioned the first Congress of 1851 -I must return presently. The incon- just now. At that gathering the followvenience of having to carry on trade with- ing resolution was carried unanimously out a legal status was remedied in the next and by acclamation, after a number of year by the passing of the first Industrial others, in not one of which is there any and Provident Societies Act, which gave mention of profits. It runs: “ That the a corporate existence, and powers of suing various Co-operative stores of England and being sued, to all societies of persons should use all their efforts to prevent the carrying on their trade in common who sale of adulterated articles, inasmuch as chose to register under it. From the time the Co-operative movement is by its very of its legal recognition the progress of the constitution open and honest in its dealmovement has been as rapid as that flood ings; and that any departure from the of riches of which I spoke in my former strictest honesty in dealing is a gross viopaper. The Government Returns for lation of the principles and intentions of 1870—only eighteen years from the pass- Co-operation.” Now, just compare this ing of the first Act-show that in that year first public announcement with the prothere were upwards of 1,500 registered spectus of an ordinary trading company, societies, numbering some half-million of silent as to everything but profits, and I members (each of whom, we must recol- think you will feel that the atmosphere is lect, is the head of a family). These different. But it is one thing to pass virsocieties distributed amongst their mem- tuous resolutions, and another to live up bers more than 8,000,000l. of goods, and to them. How far have the Co-operators returned to them 467,1642. in bonuses on been able to do this ? Here again I can their purchases.
answer, consistently, and on the whole But here we are met by the old ques- successfully. Their system has been, on tion. This mere progress in numbers and the whole, faithfully worked by men who wealth is nothing to the purpose in itself. have devoted their lives to it, and have It may well have demoralized and divided, remained as poor as they began. They instead of strengthening and uniting, and have never lost sight of or lowered their then it had better not have happened at original aims. One striking contrast beall. How is this ? Well, in this case I tween the ordinary trade system and theirs am glad to be able to answer confidently will be worth yards of talk. We all know and hopefully. The wealth has been well how up-hill, almost desperate, a battle the earned, is being well spent. From the founder of a new business has to fight in very first the Co-operators—these poor the competitive world. Every neighbor looks on him as an enemy and an intruder, rative stores which are concerned with and tries to break him down as fast, as distribution; but associations for producpossible by underselling him, or in any tion are now multiplying, and at least as other available way. In the Co-operative great results may be looked for from them.
. system the new comer is welcomed and In those few which I have had the opporhelped. The great wholesale Co-operative tunity of watching, I can speak with the Society at Manchester has been establish- greatest confidence of the admirable ined for this special purpose, one of its most fluence they have exercised on the characprominent objects being “to consolidate ter and habits of the associates. But I and extend the movement by enabling prefer to call in here the testimony of one small societies to purchase their goods on who has had as much experience and done the most advantageous terms—thus secur- as much work for the Co-operative moveing them from imposition in the days of ment in England as any living man. “If," their infancy and inexperience.” In this writes Mr. Ludlow, "a co-operative workway the weakest village store gets precise- shop has sufficient elements of vitality to ly the same advantages in purchasing its outlast the inevitable storms and struggles few shillings' worth of goods as Halifax, of its first few years, it begins to develop Oldham, or Rochdale, with their monthly a most remarkable series of results. Cothousands.
operation first expels from the shop drunkBut it is impossible to bring before you enness, and all open disorder, which are in the space I have at my disposal any- found wholly inconsistent with its success; thing like proofs of a tithe of the good introducing in their stead a number of which this movement has done; how it small adjustments and contrivances of a is steadily strengthening and purifying the nature to facilitate work, or promote the daily lives of a great section of our people. comfort of the worker. By degrees it I wish I could induce all here to look into exterminates in turn the small tricks and the matter carefully for themselves. Mean- dishonesties of work which the opposition time I may say that it has in the first place of interests between the employers and delivered the poor in a number of our employed too often excuses in the worker's great towns from the credit system, which eyes; it is felt to be the interest of each lay so hard on them twenty years ago
and all that all work should be good—that for the Co-operative system is founded no time should be lost. Fixity of employscrupulously on ready-money dealings. ment meanwhile, coupled with a common Next it has delivered the poor from adul- interest, creates new ties between man and terated goods and short weight and mea- man, suggests new forms of fellowship, till sure. It has developed amongst them there grows up a sort of family feeling, the honesty, thrift, forethought, and made only danger of which is, its becoming exthem feel that they cannot raise themselves clusive towards the outside. Let this state without helping their neighbors.
of things last a while and there is literally The management of business concerns developed a new type of working man, of this magnitude has developed an extraor- endued not only with that honesty and dinary amount of ability among the leading frankness, that kindness and true courtesy members, who in committees, and as secre- which distinguish the best specimens of taries and buyers, conduct the affairs of the order wherever they may be placed, the stores throughout the country. As but with a dignity and self-respect, a sense their funds have accumulated they have of conscious freedom, which are peculiar been invested in corn mills and cotton to the co-operator. The writer met with mills, most of which have been managed such a type first in the Associations Ouwith great ability and honesty, and are vrières of Paris. He has since had the returning large profits. There have been happiness of seeing it reproduced, with failures, of course, as there must be in all variations as slight as the differences of movements; but in scarcely any cases have nationality might render unavoidable, in these been owing to the deep-seated dis- English co-operative workshops; and he honesty, the lying, the puffing, and trick- therefore believes that its development ery, which have brought down in disgrace- may be confidently looked forward to as a ful ruin so many of our joint-stock com- normal result of co-operative production.” panies. I have been speaking hitherto These two parallel movements—differchiefly of the societies known as Co-ope- ing fundamentally in their principles and objects—have had this in common, that rulers, this period has been an industrial they have done more than all other causes one, and that class may well point with put together to raise the condition of the pride to its achievements, and claim that great mass of the working people. By in- the sturdiness and energy which carried creasing manifold their power and weight, England so triumphantly
through the great they have at last won for them a place side revolutionary war have not failed her in by side with the other classes of the com- their keeping. The contras between munity; and have given them a large share Great Britain in 1832 and 1867 is indeed in, if not the ultimate control of, the gov- astounding. In 1832 no railway ran into ernment and the destinies of our country. London, no iron ship had been built, and While they were disorganized they were no steamer had crossed the ocean. The powerless. They have found out the worth power of carrying out great enterprises by of organization, and are perfecting it in associated capital, did not exist except by both directions with an energy which must special privilege. All the necessaries of have very serious results for the whole na- life-air, light, and food-were heavily tion. That much of what they are doing taxed. The press was shackled by stamp in their Trades Unions is causing alarm, duties and paper duties. The Post Office and raising a spirit of hostility to these was a hindrance rather than a help to comorganizations throughout the country, is munication. The Poor Laws were pauplain to the most careless observer. I am perizing and degrading the nation. We . not here to defend many of their acts and were even then the workshop of the world, much of their policy. I feel the truth of but a shop in which the workers were many of the accusations which are brought hampered and trammelled by bandages of against them: of their carelessness of the all kinds, which look to us now inconceivacommon weal in the pursuit of their own bly mischievous and childish. On their ends; of the tyranny which they some- advent to power the middle class found times exercise over minorities in their own themselves bound hand and foot. They body; of the deterioration in work, the have burst every bond. The period bedawdling and incompetence which in many tweep the two Reform Bills set all these trades are not unjustly laid at their door. fiscal confusions and absurdities straight.
But before we blame them for these It has covered the land with railways, and things, let us glance back at the history of all seas with iron steamers; the earth is the country during the last fifty years, the belted by the telegraphs of English comperiod of the immense development of our panies. Every restriction on the association material prosperity, and see whether there of capital has disappeared. Food and light is not another side to the picture, whether are untaxed to rich and poor. All imposts much may not be pleaded on their side in enhancing the cost of consumption are mitigation.
gone, or are so reduced as to be no longer Fifty years ago the intensely national burdensome. We have the New Poor and aristocratic system under which Eng- Law, an improvement at any rate on the land had lived for centuries, and which old, and leaving perhaps little to be desired had carried her through the great struggle from a middle-class point of view. with Napoleon, with so much glory and at have the penny post and a free press. In such fearful cost, was tottering to its fall. the same period the capital of the country Happily for the nation the cost broke has multiplied at the rate Mr. Gladstone down the system, and in 1832 the first Ke- has told us. These are the fruits of the form Bill brought the middle class fairly admission of the middle classes to their fair into partnership in the government of the share in the government of the countryBritish Empire—indeed, in the last resort no mean fruits, surely, and attained in the (as has been proved so often since), hand- active life of one generation. There are ed over to them the ultimate controlling still men in the House of Commons who power. During the next thirty-five years, sat in it before 1832. The representative whenever they have been deeply moved, man of the best side of this period, Mr. all opposition has gone down before them. Gladstone, to whom the great financial reThose years therefore stand out as a dis- forms which followed the repeal of the tinct period in our history, unlike and Corn Laws are due more than to any apart from anything which went before other, was already then in the full vigor of them. With the trading class as ultimate manhood.