Neatly encapsulated in the years between the outbreak of war in 1914 and the General Strike of 1926, the Guild Movement has now taken on some of the gilt, and the unreality, of period charm. It seems, perhaps, a homespun and Utopian creation, idealistic in the worst sense of the word. Mrs. Cole has emphasised that many of its intellectual guides were ‘romantic’, despite their own denials;1 but at the time the movement seemed less a romantic than an eminently practical method of guiding the trade unions out of the morass of pre-war industrial conflict into a more secure haven of regionally organised and worker-controlled groupings by union. Much of the political and industrial thought of the pre-war period had pointed this way, and the National Guilds League was, in effect, the culmination of an international movement which had begun before the turn of the century in France as ’syndicalism’, which had migrated and been transmuted into ‘industrial syndicalism’ in America and which was subsequently popularised among the unions in Britain largely through the efforts of Tom Mann.


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  1. 2.
    T. Mann (ed.), The Industrial Syndicalist (1911), a series of twelve pamphlets published in the course of 1911.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The Miners’ Next Step (1912), published by the South Wales Miners’ Federation. Mrs, Cole (above p. 267) has emphasised that British ’syndicalism’ was often in fact industrial unionism, but ’syndicalism’ was the word used. See also R. Page Arnot, South Wales Miners 1898–1914 (1967), p. 327.Google Scholar
  3. 49.
    S. G. Hobson, Pilgrim to the Left (1938), p. 212Google Scholar
  4. Hobson had also been influenced by the Garden City movement and was involved in the establishment of Letchworth: see W. H. G. Armytage, Heavens Below. Utopian Experiments in England (1961), pp. 370 ff.Google Scholar
  5. 85.
    M. B. Reckitt and C. E. Bechhofer, The Meaning of National Guilds (2nd edn. 1920), p. 284.Google Scholar
  6. 87.
    A. J. Penty, Guilds, Trade and Agriculture (1921), p. 67.Google Scholar

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© Frank Matthews 1971

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  • Frank Matthews

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