Profit-Sharing, Socialism and Labour Unrest

  • Edward Bristow


William Morris once observed that socialists could expect to meet the resistance of two mechanisms: the ‘policy of force’ and the ‘policy of fraud’. He was more concerned about the latter than the former and anticipated the undermining of working-class solidarity by the disarmingly ‘large concessions’ of a potential coalition of liberals, radicals and tory democrats.1 There was no such political rea lignment. But on the industrial scene the voluntary policy of profit-sharing, which sought to substitute ‘enterprise consciousness’ for class-consciousness, was soon developing amidst the ‘suspicion, distrust and in some cases open hostility’ of trade unionists, socialist and non-socialist alike.2 Between 1865, when the first significant experiment was attempted, and 1929, when the number of schemes reached a peak of 334, a total of 635 profit-sharing plans were implemented.3 Seebohm Rowntree, Sir Alfred Mond, Sir William Lever and Sir William Armstrong were only some of the leading industrialists who introduced the reform. Many other proposed schemes were blocked by trade union opposition. Indeed, Sir Benjamin Browne, chairman of the Hawthorn Leslie shipyard and mayor of Newcastle from 1885 to 1887, claimed in 1912 that ‘any number of employers are willing to adopt profit-sharing, but workmen never seem to care to accept it’.4


Trade Union Labour Unrest Labour Association Provident Society Social Science Association 


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1974

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  • Edward Bristow

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