Guild Socialism and the Labour Research Department

  • Margaret Cole


The title of this chapter describes its purpose: it is to chronicle, and to some extent to evaluate, two diminutive movements which during part of the first quarter of the present century exercised an influence out of all proportion to the number of their direct adherents. The amount of this influence may seem the more surprising because there was so much duplication in membership. The staff, paid and unpaid, of the Labour Research Department, at least until 1921, were Guild Socialists almost to a man, as were most of the general secretaries of the trade unions, trades and labour councils, and trade-union branches which sustained the L.R.D. with modest affiliation fees. Not all of them, by any means, were enrolled in the tiny paid-up membership (never reaching a thousand) of the National Guilds League; but it was assumed that any N.G.L. member would support the work of the L.R.D., and if he or she lived in London, would join actively in it. For some years, in fact, the two movements were in effect two sides of the same coin — that coin which the war correspondent Henry Nevinson, using a different metaphor, characterised once and for all as The Stage Army of the Good — the Guild movement providing the theory and the propaganda, while the L.R.D. worked at getting out the facts which were to be the sinews of the propagandists’ war.


Trade Union Labour Movement Building Trade Labour History Collective Contract 
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Copyright information

© Margaret Cole 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Cole
    • 1
  1. 1.University of StirlingUK

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