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Taylor, George Robert 


The guild state 


New York 








m II I m o 


Taylor, George Robert Stirling. 

The guild state ; its principles and possibilities, by G. R 
Stirling Taylor. Loirdmr. #r:A:ttcii*-UTndn ltd. [19i^] 
^ ^ rev/ Yor^:. Maonillan rJ-9^^0i 

153 p. 19™. 

1. Gild socialism. I. Title. 

Library of Congress 





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First published September igig 
Reprinted .... April 1920 

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{i4// ri^/r/s teserved) 

the social barometer the needle shows 
J ^^ threatening signs of finding the markings on 
■ ^ the dial too few to register its lowest intentions. 
< There is consequently much hurrying to and fro 
Q in the world — like a camp scuttling to tighten the 
<n ropes before the wind begins. The soldiers and 
^ the politicians, knowing little of history — or any- 
^ thing else — ^vainly imagined that they could give 
rt us their Great Plague of 1914-1918, and that no 
^ Wat Tylers and John Balls would arise here- 
d after to declare that they disHked the results. 
^ To-day, the rulers of the earth probably realize 
that they have been like schoolboys recklessly 
playing in a powder magazine. Hence a sudden 
crop of books on Reform and Reconstruction, as 
numberless as the good intentions wiih which the 
other world is rumoured to be already paved. 
They would be admirable books, so many of 
them, if it were not for the somewhat vital 
defect that they ignore hiost of the facts. More 
especially, they refuse to take man — that patient 
sport of the wits and the wise — as he really 
exists; but rather as a dummy studio model, 
which they may dress according to their weirdest 
tastes. There was once, it is said, a learned 
professor who set himself to write an essay on 
the giraffe. He did not go to Africa to see one; 
he retired to a tower and wrote a beautiful and 
convincing book out of his imagination. 

The following essay is an attempt to state the 
Guild remedy for the disasters of modern states- 
manship. It is based on dull facts and the most 





common-sense deductions therefrom. It takes 
man as he is; and history as he has made it. 
It has therefore little to do with the mankind that 
politicians dream of, or with the history that 

historians write. 

In a world submerged in the sentimental 
rhetoric of Cabinet Minister's and newspaper 
writers, and the Myrtle Villa ideals of the suburbs 
they so fittingly represent, one clings rather 
eagerly to the hope of better things. The eye 
catches some notes just written by Mr. Paton, 
the new organizing secretary of the National 
Guilds League. He is moved to joy that while 
Watt was toiling to invent the steam engine, 
•* a few miles down the river, at Poosie Nancy's 
cheerful board, a greater than Watt, command- 
ing mightier forces still, caroused with his boon 
companions " : and when this secretary in the 
Labour movement, skilled in the knowledge of 
trade union rules, goes on to ask whether the 
author of the machine industry deserves " honour 
or execration," then there is hope that the 
workers will be taught r^al economics at last ; 
and, incidentally, that the "educated" will be 
taught good taste. 

The facts on which this book is based are 
drawn from the standard historical and economic 
sources, too numerous to name. Their interpreta- 
tion owes more to the teaching of everyday life 
than to the professors ; though the essay would 
probably not have been attempted but for the 
advantage of many conversations witR Mrs. 
Emily Townshend and Mr. Arthur J. Penty. 

G. R. S. T. 








SYSTEM — — ••• 9 


FUNCTION ... ... ... -. •.. 36 



AND SMALL BNITS ... ... ... ... 73 


(a) variety of experiments... 

(b) sane competition 








... 104 
... 107 


STATE... ... ... ... ... .. 109 






THERE is a fantastic rumour, circulating 
in the main among historical dons and in 
political clubs, that progress is the discovery of 
something new. Whereas, in truth, it is far 
more often the return to something old. One 
looks in baffled search for the origin of this 
most amazing error; for it is without proof 
either in the records of the past or in the facts 
of the present. The historians and the poli- 
ticians have seemingly made an unpardonable 
mistake ; which, fortunately, that sane creature, 
the normal healthy man, has not shared with 
them. For the common people are not so easily 
lured into the quicksands of loose thinking as 
are those who spend their lives in libraries and 
parliament chambers. It has been the rarest 
of events when the people have asked for new 
laws : in their times of revolt they have so 
persistently desired that they should return to 
something already possessed in the past. When 

^ '! i 






William the Conqueror intruded himself into our 
social system, his subjects (beingf somewhat 
troubled by his *' higher " civilization) could 
think of nothing more to their minds than a 
return to the customs of the Confessor ; a request 
which they continued to make until the new 
Norman laws had become old enough to be 
bearable. The Great Charter of John was really 
a poor thing in any democratic sense, for it 
said so little about any one except the barons; 
yet it was popular — probably because it contained 
very littfe that was new. A few hundred years 
afterwards, when the growth of the politicians* 
new parliamentary system was obviously sapping 
the Uberty of the people, there arose a cry for 
reform — Englishmen began to demand again the 
liberties of the Feudal Ages, as written in John's 
charter. However, this is not a history book; 
what one desires here is to recall the historical 
fact that common men rarely ask for anything 
new in their social structure. They have a 
stubborn belief that the old ways are better. 
It is remarkable that so many people are 
asking to-day for some explanation of the Guild 
system, for the guilds are not a new idea. They 
are, on the contrary, probably the most widely 
spread idea on the earth, and one of the very 
oldest. In asking for a Guild system, one is 
not asking for anything new, but for something 
exceedingly old. This is not another of those 
new-fangled notions of political circles, but 
something so old and well established in the 

history of the world that the politicians have 
never heard of it. For a long part of the 
history of mankind, the guilds have been an 
essential element in almost all societies. Since 
men first became craftsmen and industrialists, 
instead of nomads and cave-dwellers, the almost 
universal judgment of mankind has accepted the 
Guild system as the most rational manner in 
which the work of the world can most easily 
be done. This is not the place to offer proofs 
of this statement ; they are to be found in the 
whole of history, and concerning almost every 
people under the sun. In India, China, Greece, 
Rome; in all Europe since it gave up bar- 
barism; in the whole world even before it be- 
came quite civilized— as police court magistrates 
understand that term— the guilds have had a 
universal place. But it was in those days which 
we now collect together unde,r the name of the 
•• Middle Ages " that the guilds reached their 
prime. During the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries the guilds ranked in Western Europe 
with the barons and the kings, as the dominant 
factors in the social structure of their period. 

The observer in England to-day can so 
easily lose a sense of proportion in judging 
the guild idea ; he thinks of it as past and 
somewhat local, while with equal ease he 
imagines that our present economic system 
is universal ; whereas it is only local even 
to-day. In the pages of history, modern 
capitalism is a mere novelty, an upstart 







theory without a pedigree — ^and perhaps without a 
future. It is all-important to start our analysis 
with a proper sense of proportion between the 
old and the new ; it will restore that due balance 
of the mind which the insistent shriek of '* the 
new ** in every morning paper so unconsciously 
tends to overturn. 

It must not be forgotten that the Guild sysiem 
even at its prime was only one part of a greater 
whole. That great adventure of man which we 
tell as the tale of the Middle Ages; that very 
subtle blending of mind and matter, of spirit 
and craft, which we call the mediaeval social 
system, was the whole which we must realize if 
we are to understand the guilds, which are only 
a part of it. For they are not something which 
can be torn from its setting, as a jewel can be 
dislodged from a ring. They were too organic 
a part of the mediaeval age to survive such an 
outrage. The sceptics are right when they con- 
tinually chatter in our ears : ** You cannot go 
back " — if they mean that it is impossible to 
tear a part from the old, in the vain hope of 
fitting it into a new system that is as the Pole 
from the Pole apart. When we understand a 
little of what the Middle Ages were, then we 
may know what the guilds meant in a social 
system which they did so much to build. 

It was written above that the guilds ranked 
with the kings and the barons as the foundation 
of mediaeval society. But strictly speaking the 
king, ahhough the centre of the picture, was 

less important in detail than the other two ; and 
by understanding why we shall understand also 
that main principle of mediaevalism — local inde- 
pendence—on which the guilds themselves 
depended, and must always depend — for it is 
the root principle of their existence. 

The king and his law are almost modern 
ideas; and certainly as We know them both 
to-day, would have been entirely beyond the 
conception of a mediaeval mind. We think of 
the king as the symbol of a great central govern- 
ment, imposing his law on his subjects by 
all the. majesty of the poHce, from the Lord 
Chancellor to the village constable. When the 
guilds were alive, their members would have 
found it difficult to grasp any such idea. The 
king was to them a far-away creature whose 
main function was to lead the nation in war 
and defend it from attack. It was certainly not 
his function to interfere as a legislator or judge 
in their; private affairs, which they felt quite 
capable of managing themselves. Parliament, 
again, in so far as it was a fact at all, they 
regarded as a body of representatives sent to 
Westminster to make as good a bargain as 
possible in. the matter of taxation; and then 
return home again as quickly as possible and get 
to their honest work. Scarcely any one would 
have thought of Parliament as an institution to 
make " laws." 

** Law " was a rare event in the history of 
the Middle A^es; and kin^s were people of 








modest claims. The mediaeval man governed 
himself in a democratic sense which seems 
beyond the realms of fantasy in these despotic 
days of universal suffrage and innumerable 
popular councils. Instead of electing delegates 
to make laws at Westminster, the people of 
the Middle Ages were their own legislators at 
home. It may sound very rural ; but we have 
failed to grasp the fact that it is really far 
better to be so safe in our freedom that we do 
not need to be protected by representatives at 
all. It is only necessary to send our man to 
Parliament when we have reason to believe that 
somebody there is going to take away our rights. 
But in the Middle Ages there was so little 
intrusion of that sort by autocratic gentlemen at 
Westminster. Indeed, they had scarcely invented 
that impertinent thing we now call " government." 
The origin of our Parliament is a case in point . 
It was not any desire of the people that created 
it. It never entered their heads that somebody 
at Westminster should make laws for Somerset 
or Yorkshire. Parliaments began because the 
Crown had, in some way or another, to persuade 
the people to be taxed. It was only as an after- 
thought that the members of the House of 
Commons thought that, if they had to pay, it 
would be as well to get something in return. 
So they asked for laws — ^not laws to tell the 
people what they must do, but mainly to tell the 
king what he must not do. However, the kings 
also saw their chance, and they soon invented 

the autocratic, compellins^ law " which we know 
to-day. But that waj^t an idea of the Middle 
Ages, and when i<^was invented, and imposed, 
then the mediaeval system rapidly disappeared. 
For the very heart of it was that the people had 
to an extraordinary degree the liberty to make 
their own law and order. That is a historical 
fact, which some people imagine a mere light- 
hearted paradox — ^but that is because they know 
very little about history. 

The compelling force of the Middle Ages was 
not Law, but Custom. One has said that the 
people made their own laws at home; but the 
statement requires instant qualification. For they 
can scarcely be said to have " made " laws at 
all. They did not vote new rules. They rather 
Uved after the traditions which their fathers 
had handed down to them; for men that possess 
the traditions of centuries have little need for 
the laws of yesterday or to-day. For tradition 
is the everlasting memory of mankind; remem- 
bering the great lessons of its past, storing them 
up in the mind of man, until they become 
instinctive, even as the half-conscious knowledge 
of the beast is stored as a protection from 

The government of the Middle Ages, such as it 
existed at all, was almost purely local. The 
great modem State was unknown. There was 
certainly a man who called himself King of 
England, and one who called himself King of 
the French; but compared with the kings and 






presidents of to-day, they were mere babes at 
the game of ruling : they were far too gentle- 
manly to think of anything so crude and un- 
mannerly. The government was accomplished by 
manorial courts, and burgesses of the towns; 
abbots in their monasteries, and barons in their 
castles, were the factors of pubHc life with which 
they reckoned in those days, in a much deeper 
sense than they reckoned with the king. Kent 
did not much mind what they were doing in 
Warwickshire, and would certainly have resented 
it keenly if Warwickshire men had been too 
inquisitive about Kent. That very exaggerated 
social factor, rather cleverly termed ** public 
business,*' had then scarcely been invented. 
(Now that it has arrived as a much-extolled 
social function, it is interesting to notice that 
so much of it is still mainly the private business of 
the councillors and their personal friends, and 
has comparatively little to do with the interest 
of their constituents. But the disadvantages of 
central government will be discussed later.) 
Private business, in its more legitimate sense, 
was good enough for the wise creatures of the 
Middle Ages. Their main business was doing 
their daily work ; and they were not over-anxious 
about what was happening somewhere else. In 
earlier days, even the murder of one's neighbour 
to a large extent was private business, which 
mainly concerned the two families of the victor 
and the victim. Such pubHc business as there 
was had rather the air of the parish council than 

of the more pompous Houses of Parliament ; it 
was a question for a guild regulation, a municipal 
or manorial custom. They never discussed the 
best method of conquering the other ends of 
the earth, and rarely even discussed a constitution 
for their ovm country. Government dealt with 
homely facts, not with far-away theories. 

Since there were in those days such shadowy 
great nations and such small governing units, it 
is not surprising! that Government Was so local 
an institution. National affairs had not been 
found necessary, because there were scarcely any 
nations. They are only a modern idea. We 
read of the mighty struggle between Athens and 
Sparta; and perhaps picture it in terms of two 
States as we know them to-day. We forget that 
they Were neighbouring towns, about forty miles 
apart as the crow* flew. It was as if Birmingham 
had challenged Manchester to mortal combat. 
The moral for the moment is that in thie Middle 
Ages towns were as important as great States to- 
day, not that they were as trivial as modern 
towns. The Middle Ages built up a gorgeous 
structure of intellect and economics and art on 
a basis that knew nothing of such a modern 
notion as an empire. 

Here we are faced with a grave exception; 
and it is the exception which may help to prove 
the rule. The CathoHc Church of Rome claimed 
that it gathered under its guiding hand the whole 
%weep of the world of Western Europe. It 
ieUberately, in the very heyday of the mediaeval 









ideals, conceived of the great society of the Holy 
Roman Church. Now the essence of the modern 
great State is that it is based on the idea of 
force; it has been built by the coercion 
of arms, and maintained by the compulsion 
of magistrates and policemen and prison warders. 
Note how far away all this was from the 
ecclesiastical claims. The Catholic Church, in 
the theory of the Middle Ages, refused to sanction 
the shedding of blood. If it was to build itself 
a great State it must be by moral persuasion. It 
could excommunicate the sinner; it could not 
hang him. The Inquisition and the War of 
the Waldenses were the practical and mainly 
local lapses of man from his theory; but if we 
are to make history the record of lapses, then, 
indeed, it will be a thing without form. If the 
CathoUc Church had won its great contest with 
the Emperors, then it is possible that we mighr 
have escaped this nightmare of great autocratic 
nations, tearing out each other's vitals. Europe 
might well be now governed by a moral force 
which had banished the crudity of physical force 
from civiUzation; and without physical force 
there could be no " nationalism ** as we know 
it to-day. The nationalism of races w^ill survive, 
as the individuality of individuals will survive in 
a reasonable society; but it will not be that 
artificial thing, the " nationality ** which has 
grown round the ambitions of kings and their 
bureaucrats. The victory of the Church of Rome 
—had it kept its pure faith—would have been 

the defeat of physical tyranny; and it was the 
physical tyranny of the armies of autocratic kings 
that broke the local freedom of the Middle 
Ages asj a martyr was broken on the wheel. 
But it was the bureaucrat and the politician — 
not the king so much^ — ^who reaped the fruits 
of that conquest. 

It is natural that in this mediaeval society of 
common-sense people the guilds should take a 
supremely important part. In an age when 
government was both local and economic, instead 
of centralized and political — that is, when the 
town or village mainly ruled itself, and when its 
" laws " were the rules of everyday business 
affairs — then the guild, being the collective 
assembly of the local wisdom and business 
experience, naturally took a foremost place in 
pubUc life. If the king did endeavour to 
interfere in local government, for a long time 
it was merely to acknowledge by his approval 
the laws which the local assemblies had already 
acknowledged for themselves. It was merely 
a tactful courtesy on the part of the local 
councils. Thus the king would grant a charter 
recognizing the customs of the burgesses of a 
town or the members of a guild. They were 
rarely new laws; they were those that were 
already obeyed. Slowly the central powers built 
up a governing hierarchy of their own : the 
sheriffs, the justices of the King's Court, the lord- 
lieutenant of the counties, gradually sucked the 
power from the local assemblies and held it in 

< J 

ii i 





the hands of the councils and officers of the 
Crown. But when that was accompUshed, the 
Middle Ages were no more; the Modern System 
had begun. In mediaeval days government was, 
in the main, the laws of town council and guild. 
It was a matter of the serious practical affairs of 
everyday life — ^not the discussion of vague senti- 
mentalities, which newspaper editors now call 
••politics." And of this very practical business- 
like Mediaeval Society, the guilds were the most 
substantial foundation — while the kings and their 
parliaments were the gay flags and gilded 
weathercocks which gave colour and sparkle 
to the show^ — ^and have confused the childlike 
minds of the orthodox historical dons ever since. 
There are those who will say that this theory 
of the Middle Ages is a pleasant dream for 
the idealists. But there is really no need 
to leave the discussion in the field of vague 
theory. The period can be approached as a fact. 
Let us agree to differ as to what the mediaeval 
men possessed in the way of a political or social 
constitution; let us doubt all their ideals; let 
us dismiss mediaevalism as a dream of the 
** modern romantic imagination." But there are 
certain survivals of the Middle Ages which cannot 
be so airily dismissed. It requires more imagina- 
tion to dismiss Chartres Cathedral and West- 
minster Abbey than to accept them. We 
may argue that we do not like the thousands 
of mediaeval facts that are still dotted over 
Western Europe, in its churches and sculptures 




and manuscripts, but they cannot be flicked 
away by that phrase ** romantic imagination." 
There are few with sufficient intellectual nerve 
to deny that the mediaeval constitution pro- 
duced a very great architecture, sculpture, 
painting, literature, and philosophy of life, 
against which the products of modern society 
seem too often the refuse of a rummage sale. 
If we intend to prove that the modem system is 
better than the mediaeval system, then we must 
bravely face our task. We must prove, for 
example, that Manchester is better than Bruges, 
that Chicago is better than Florence. We must 
work out with some accuracy of detail that Mr. 
Churchill is a greater statesman than St. Anselm; 
and that Lord Curzon is a nobler figure than 
Simon de Montfort. These are not questions 
that can be avoided in a maze of generalities 
and theories. They are facts, which are the 
very foundation of the argument. 

But this is not the place either for argument 
or for proofs. It is now merely attempted to 
suggest in outline what it would need a hundred 
history books to prove. But whether we like 
its beauty and sanity or not, the Mediaeval Age in 
its main features had a symmetry of order which 
very clearly distinguishes it from the social order, 
or disorder, that governs us to-day. It was a 
system that knew little of the ** laws " and 
poHtical ideas that are the commonplaces of our 
pubHc life now. The mediaeval man would have 
regarded the new kingdom, governed by a new 




king, and still newer bureaucrats, as an incon- 
ceivable monstrosity. The king and his central 
coercion were the mere surface of the Middle 
Ages; and in spite of the rudeness of barons 
and the turbulent vigour of a society which was 
not very regardful of life or of limb, yet, take 
it all in all, the Mediaeval Age was the time of 
a rough democratic liberty, a sound practical 
sense of what it was good for a king to do, 
and what it was none of his business to attempt. 

There was no sudden change to the modern 
system, for there never is any sudden change 
in human affairs. There are political upheavals 
which the newspapers call "revolutions"; but 
it is rarely that they dislodge more than a few 
stones in the fabric of social life. The Revolu- 
tion is usually the device of a gang of political 
adventurers or police spies who see the oppor- 
tunity to seize a little power — as less adventurous 
men snatch a leg of mutton from a butcher's 
stall. But as the snatching of mutton does 
not really disorganize the meat trade, so the 
scrambling of revolutionary adventurers scarcely 
shakes, except for a moment, the very steady 
fabric of humanity. It was no sudden upheaval 
that changed a mediaeval society into a modern 
one : it was an infinitely persistent undermining. 

Whereas the mediaeval system was based on 
local production and local customs, and its civic 
organs were local and economic and democratic, 
the Modern Age is centralized, pohtical and 
autocratic. Expressed in material facts it is 



the difference between the City States of Bruges 
or Florence and the massive Empire of Britain 
or the highly centralized Republic of France. 
There is one way in which this modern cen- 
tralization can be quickly grasped. Take an 
historical atlas of mediaeval Europe. Note that 
after the break-up of the Roman Empire the 
broad masses of colour disappear from the maps : 
France, Germany, Italy, Spain, become a maze 
of small kingdoms and independent communes. 
Nations do not exist at the beginning of the 
period — though some of the Carolingian kings 
talked in big words of their rights and acres. 
Gradually the maps get simpler; fewer and 
fewer colours and boundary lines are needed to 
express the facts; for the counts and communes 
gradually gave place to greater kings and more 
comprehensive parliaments. For example, the 
seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy give place to 
the one king at Winchester. Being only a king, 
of course he had Httle power in thei Middle Ages, 
but he was the beginning of that process which 
was to end one day in this modern system of 
centraUzation, based on physical force and the 
intellectual tyranny which followed it. Only the 
Church of Rome emerged from the mediaeval 
debacle in the reverse order from the other great 
factors of' the period; it came out, not more 
centraHzed, but split into many parts; perhaps 
because it alone did not base its rule on physical 
compulsion, which was the basis of all the powers 
of its companion potentates. 









This centralization of governing power has 
been a slow process; and, indeed, it is only 
in the last few decades that it has reached its 
full results in the breeding of an insolent 
plutocracy that resembles, with strange likeness, 
those vulgar rich who were bl-ed by the like 
centralization which took place in the Roman 
Republic. For we must remember that Rome 
had already tried centralization centuries before 
Henry Tudor and Louis XI played that dangerous 
game in England and France. But could we 
live under their rule, it would seem like the 
Middle Ages to our modernized minds. If the 
modern system can be said to have a clear 
beginning, in the case of England it would 
certainly have to be placed in the time of the 
Tudor dynasty. Yet how far the end has gone 
beyond that beginning. Even the Tudors in- 
vented but a very few^ of the characteristics of the 
new system, or rather they were able to get only 
a few of its results. It needed much more than 
the drafting* of a new constitution or the issue of 
a few official regulations to change the free 
citizens of the mediaeval community into the 
helpless tools of a modern State. 

There are few things more characteristic of 
the modern system than one of its most charac- 
teristic products, the politicians:. They are the 
keystone of the whole structure. To-day they 
are thick as slugs after a summer rain; but in 
the Tudor period they had not yet been bred. 
Take the case of Queen EHzabeth; she had 



perhaps the most honest and most efficient 
ministers of State that this nation has ever 
possessed. Burleigh and Walsingham thought 
of their country's welfare before their own; 
Walsingham did not even leave enough wealth 
to give his body a decent burial. It was 
certainly not the control of the House 
of Commons that kept such men straight; 
indeed, the Commons had not yet much power 
to exert. The governing machine was still 
compelled to use men who had not lost all 
sense of democratic needs and communal honour. 
Politics had not yet become a career by which 
one could win a fat post by serving; the interests 
of the great merchants and bankers. It was 
not until much later that governing became a 
profession, and statesmen became politicians 
instead of administrators. Burleigh was a 
skilled administrator to his finger-tips : not 
a popular talker for use in the House of 
Commons. The State papers of his period are 
covered with his comments in his own hand- 
writing, with careful summing of the arguments 
for and against. The modern politician scarcely 
ceases talking, while Burleigh rarely stopped 
working. He was almost everything that his 
successors are not. He is a summary of the 
vast change that has come over the art of 
Government. We can trace its gradual decline 
in efficiency and honesty as the centralized 
system has developed; until to-day the word 
** politician *' is a term of contempt. 

t .. 











M ,^ 

,'l i 





Central government is the root of the modern 
system; and it includes within its scope affairs 
that were altogether outside the bounds of the 
mediaeval monarchy. The Government now 
really tries to govern. Whether we call it Tory 
Democracy or Collectivist Socialism, the modern 
idea is that the people should receive their 
instructions from above. It is assumed that the 
State can govern its subjects far better than 
they can govern themselves. Perhaps if one can 
grasp the difference betw^n the feudal Simon 
de Montfort and Mr. Lloyd George one may 
get near the essential difference between the 
two systems. The object of the feudal lord was 
to free the Eng^lish people from the control 
of a tyrannical State by taking' away its powers. 
The aim of the modern politician appears to 
be to increase by every means that central power. 
The charters of the Plantagenet kings were 
mainly to define what the Crown and its Council 
should not do. To-day, the politician calls it 
** reform " when he adds to the power' of the 
central government by piling an Insurance Act 
on the top of an Old Age Pension Act, and 
smothers them both with innumerable other acts 
for controlling the lives of the people down 
below. It is not necessary to criticize this as 
merely a matter of theory — for we are face to 
face with its appalling^ practical results. 

That is the vital distinction between the old 
system and the new; it attempts to govern from 
the centre, instead of leaving it to the local 

parts. Since the Middle Ages there has been 
a continual weakening of the local power, and 
a still more rapid growth of the central political 
organization. It is one of the great lessons of 
history — though few historians have learned it 
themselves, let alone taught it to their students— 
that the most inevitable result of this development 
is that government has ceased to be conducted by 
the men who are intimately in touch with the 
work in hand, and has passed into the control 
of the political amateurs and the clerical 
bureaucrats, who often have every qualification 
except personal knowledge of the work they are 
trying to manage. It is possible to concede that 
all our politicians will be saints and all our 
officials in Whitehall will be learned professors; 
yet modern government must sooner or later 
break down, because it is growing so complex 
and so remote from the facts of the case, that a 
sainted professor himself could not keep his head 
and heart in such a turmoil and confusion. 

Government has come to be a massive 
structure in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, 
Petrograd and Rome. In these overstrained 
centres we find a vast crowd of officials who 
have but a trivial knowledge of what they ought 
to do; while outside are the passive citizens, 
who scarcely can discover what has been done. 
It is a tragedy of cross-purposes. It has become 
a superstition that this is the only way of 
governing, and that the only people who can do it 
are these politicians, with their bureaucrats and 

I V 



financial ** advisers " — which seems the most 
discreet term for a somewhat delicately ambiguous 
relationship. But who started this superstition? 
The capitals of Europe are vastly important in 
the eyes of the people who write newspapers — 
but then it happens that these valuable journals 
are so often the property of the aforesaid ruling 
politicians themselves. Their newspaper bills 
announce that all the world is hanging by a fine 
thread on a decision of the Cabinet in Downing 
Street, or the signing of a treaty in Paris. But 
the journahsts are part owners, part servants in 
this great governing business; and when they 
cry the virtues of its Wares, it is not very diff'erent 
from what appears in the next column, where 
a soap manufacturer advertises that his soap is 
the best in the world. 

But the highest success of the modern system, 
as a piece of clever advertising, is the astounding 
statement that it is more democratic than the 
mediaeval system. A long list of franchise 
victories is displayed in every history book, 
showing how one class after another has been 
admitted to the mystic rites of the ballot-box. 
Judging by the results so far, they might as well 
have been allowed to vote whether the aforesaid 
box should be painted black or white. The 
mediaeval man, without a vote, governed himself 
more freely than the citizen of the twentieth 
century, with his share in universal suffrage. The 
very slow-thinking historical dons have not yet 
discovered that the franchise is not a triumph 



of democracy, but another triumph— perhaps their 
greatest — for the political orators. Every name 
added to the electors;' list has been another victim 
for the all-powerful centralized governors to 
fleece. This great Reform Act of 191 8 has 
been the politicians' trump card : it added an 
odd six million voters to the list, and the nation 
promptly returned the largest number of 
plutocrats and political adventurers that England 
has seen. One prominent question was that of 
compulsory military service. There was scarcely 
a mediaeval monarch who would have dared to 
mention such a thing. A Plantagenet king once 
asked an earl to fight for him in France. The 
reply was scarcely fit for sensitive ears; though 
it so pleased the mediaevalists that it was given 
to the earl as a surname. No Stewart king, 
in his haughtiest moments, ever dared to claim 
a fraction of the power that living democratic 
Cabinets assume as a matter of course. This 
pretence of democracy in the modern system is 
the greatest bluff in history. 

Whereas the governing factors of the mediaeval 
system were something organically bound up 
with its life, being the almost spontaneous action 
of that life, in the modern period, on the 
contrary, government has become something 
much more external. It is the activity of the 
capital cities, not the work of the people. The 
central interference has great — and appalling — 
results; but it remains superficial, because it 
is not easy to change the nature of man from 








the outside. A government may change England 
from a pleasant land into a coaly ard and a 
dust-bin — which would seem to be the ideal 
of the present governing set — yet at heart these 
barbarians have changed very little. Take the 
case of France, perhaps the most highly central- 
ized State in the world; yet the French peasant 
remains much as he has been for centuries — 
the most substantial fact in European civiliza- 
tion, and perhaps its highest product. 

In spite of this modern epidemic of politicians 
and bureaucrats bred by journalists, it is still a 
more vital social act to build a house than to 
talk high political theories. The ploughmen and 
their craft are still a greater factor in life than 
the Cabinet Minister and his political plans. If 
then the organs of public opinion centre round 
the Minister instead of the ploughman, it is 
as foolish an idea as if the Entente armies had 
concentrated on the Spanish frontier while the 
Germans were marshalling in Belgium : they 
would simply — like the newspapers — have been 
far away from the scene of action. It is a 
somewhat remarkable fact that though our 
modern governors and their ideas have reduced a 
large part of Europe and North America in 
particular, and the world in general, to chaos and 
disorder, yet they have had little more effect 
on humanity than if they were infants battering 
with their fists in the hope of pushing down 
St. Paul's Cathedral. They have ruined the 
pleasure of the world, as they have ruined so 



much of its beauty; the modem system has 
stuck a knife in the soul of the native arts, and 
offered us instead the servile affectations of its 
parasites : and yet man to-day still knows little 
but the wisdom that was taught him by his 
ancestors. The new things pass over his head 
as a cloud passes over a wheat-field. 

The persistent continuity of the human 
tradition of democratic organization, as dis- 
tinguished from central government, has been 
brilliantly stated in a recent article ^ on Russia. 
The writer therein sums up his conclusions in 
the following sentence : " The society of Rome 
over two thousand years ago was the society of, 
at any rate. Great Russia only yesterday. The 
mir was the Roman gens.'' He quotes a 
remarkable prophecy by Sir Henry Maine in 
his Early. History of Institutions : " The soil of 
the older provinces of the Russian Empire has 
been from time immemorial almost exclusively 
distributed among groups of self-styled kinsmen, 
collected in cultivating village communities, self- 
organized and self-governed . . . and it is one 
of the facts with which the Western world will 
some day assuredly have to reckon.** It is 
interesting that the leading law review should 
maintain that this great upheaval in Russia, 
which the confused newspaper proprietors seem 
to rank as a moment of temporary anarchy, is 
in reality based on a legal tradition which can 

» The Law Quarterly Review, January 1919, by Mr. J. A. 
Strahan. * 

1 1 

i h 

11. p 






be measured by the thousand years. To quote 
Mr. Strahan again : " The old Roman Common- 
wealth was organized politically on the basis 
of race, and concurrently on the basis of collec- 
tive ownership; the very principles on which 
the Revolution has based the new Russian 
Commonwealth." ^ 

That is a very recent and a very dramatic 
example of the main idea in this present essay. 
For it is an attempt to show that what we too 
often accept as an essential principle of human 
society may be only a new-fangled notion when 
placed beside traditions which have borne the 
wear and tear of centuries. To prove that a 
thing is, new is by no means to prove that it 
is wrong. As a matter of fact, the chief case 
against the modern system of centralized and 
political government is not that it is new, but 
rather that it is intolerably unsuccessful. No 
one can claim that the older system had no 
defects. It had many — the chief of these being 
that it was not stable enough to survive for 
ever. But it is equally impossible to deny 
that the older system produced very gorgeous 
successes. A social organism which gave us 
the art and philosophy of Greece ; the miraculous 
beauty of the stained glass of Chartres; and 

I It may be necessary to add that the principles of the 
Russian Revolution are very probably a long, long way 
from the ideals of M. Trotsky and his Jewish friends. The 
thought of any Jew representing Russia can arouse 
nothing but bitter laughter in the historical mind. 

that subtle complexity of human endeavour which 
we call Florence and Padua or by the name of 
a hundred old cities ; such is not a thing which 
can be Hghtly dismissed when it dares to assert 
itself against a modern society which has vomited 
up Liverpool and Clapham. The case must be 
argued on its merits, in detail; but prima 
facie, it is suggested that the judgment is not 
on the side of Clapham. 

But therei is no intention to argue here the 
case historically. That must be left to the 
historians, merely begging their readers to con- 
sider the facts, and to disregard the wonderful 
erection of philosophical deductions which most 
of our historical dons have built on their data. 
They are^ as much obsessed with the present 
moment and its ideals as the lightest-hearted 
lady at the lightest of balls. Were they only 
like the wise butterflies, who flit from flower 
to flower, the historians might realize the truth ; 
but in truth their vision would not reach to the 
end of Cyrano's nose. When they assume, as 
they almost always do, that a great centralized 
State is the climax of national and imperialist 
endeavour, one wonders if they have ever read 
that most exciting of romances, the tale of the 
Roman Empire. Perhaps they did not know 
it was serious history; for it is, in its way, 
the most colossal farce that was ever written. 
It is the story of some imperialists (like 
the ones who write the Morning Post and the 
butlers and ladies'-maids who read them) who 




., i 








set out to build a great Empire. They collected 
into their central hands more and more of the 
government, until Rome was first and the rest 
nowhere. Then the great farce began. The 
more power they seized, the less they had : it 
was Uke filling a can with a hole in it. There 
was a mighty wrestling match with the old 
Senate. The emperors slew the senators by 
the hundred, and the Senate (merely for want 
of emperors) repHed by murdering them by the 
half-dozen. But the laughter grows louder and 
louder : when the murdering was over, neither 
the emperors nor the senators had won, for 
a vast gang of bureaucrats had quietly seized 
every handle of the governing State; and the 
Roman people were the slaves of an invisible 
power whom' they could not even put to the 
sword, as they had slain their emperors. So 
Rome perished because it became the strongest 
government in the world; » it was crushed by 
barbarians who scarcely knew what government 
meant. But, in truth, it was not the Teutons who 
ruined Rome : it was ruined by its own governors 
—the bureaucrats; as the British Empire will 
be ruined. 

» By taking the Middle Ages as the most convenient 
type of the old system, one has been precluded from more 
than a passing reference to the elaborate Guild system of 
the Roman period. The State -controlled collegia of the 
Empire should be of more than ordinary interest to those 
national guildsmen who do not yet see that all " national " 
organization tends to become bureaucratic. 

This introductory chapter will have served 
its purpose if it arouses a healthy suspicion 
that what is has not always been, and will not 
always be hereafter. It is the learned persons, 
who accept the present so innocently, who are 
parochial and short-sighted. It is the simple 
who seem to grasp the everlasting traditions 
of humanity. It is the university professors who 
are so often sentimentalists; it is often the 
peasants who know the truth. One of the hopes 
of the Guild system is that it will replace the 
confused ideaUsts, who play with shadowy fiction, 
and put in their place some harder-headed people 
who will consider the facts. 

' ; 




I .! 






THERE is one great advantage in the Guild 
system when it comes to expounding it. It 
has very clear general principles ; and, still 
better, there is one first principle which stands 
out by itself, beyond any possibility of misunder- 
standing. It may be right or wrong— but at 
least it is very definite and obvious. This first 
principle is the following : The key to social 
structure under the guilds is organization on the 
basis of function ; the citizens will be organized 
in the groups of their trades and occupations ; 
not primarily in their parishes or parliamentary 
constituencies. To a great extent, this organi- 
zation has already a large place in modern 
societies. Thus, the shareholders of a tea planta- 
tion com'pany may be described superficially as 
organized on their basis of function as tea pro- 
ducers. Again, the cotton operatives, organized 
as a trade union, may still more justly be said 
to be grouped by their function of producing 
cotton cloth. The teachers of a university are 
a united body because of their common function 
of producing learning and wisdom. The doctors 
are grouped by function in their Medical Associa- 
tion ; likewise the lawyers in their Inns of Court 
and Incorporated Society. In short, as already 
suggested in the first chapter, the system of 




organization by function is deeply rooted in all 
human society. 

' The Guild system, then, does not put forward 
any new principle ; the distinctiveness of its 
theory is in the emphasis it gives to it. The 
guildsmen claim that organization by function 
or trade is by far the most vital link in the 
social structure ; and that all other human links 
are very secondary beside it. Other social bonds 
there are, and many ; but all of them are most 
clearly subordinate to the vastly superior im- 
portance of organization of mankind by profession 
and trade. 

There are very few hard lines in nature ; 
classification is not so much a fact as a con- 
venience. Science does not state laws because 
they always exist, but rather because the vast- 
ness of the universe must somehow or other be 
made comprehensible to the limited human mind. 
And thus it must be realized that no classification 
of men can be perfectly precise. How many 
human beings are there who could be correctly 
described in terms of race? We may, for all 
practical purposes, quite well describe a man 
as English, Irish or French ; but our classifica- 
tion would look childishly absurd if we dug to 
the root of his family tree. The man whom we, 
quite wisely, decide to call a typical Englishman, 
is often the product of half the races of mankind. 
So classification is for convenience ; and we must 
remember that rule when we classify men by 
their trades. 


I ; '(I 






As organization is the very basis of society, 
in laying down its rules we must come to some 
decision on the principle to be followed. 
Heine's charming flower girl in Paris classified 
her blooms according to their scents; and the 
poet added that he had some reason to believe 
that she also classified men by the same rule. 
One can imagine an artist grouping mankind 
by the laws of beauty ; a professor might herd 
them by their powers of reason; an hotel- 
keeper by their ability to pay for his most 
expensive rooms; and a politician by their 
capacity for accepting promises instead of ful- 

The guildsman, while recognizing all these 
classifications and the advantages thereof, main- 
tains that there is one method of arrangement 
which is infinitely more useful : to wit, the 
classification by function. But even here one 
must recognize at the start that the lines must be 
vague to a certain degree. A postman may 
grow his own vegetables; a draper may keep 
bees; an insurance agent may keep a shop, and 
colonels may get trade commissions from their 
wine merchants. But for the normal man or 
woman it is fairly easy to pick out one occupation 
which is the chief business of life. The Guild 
system maintains that the chief business is the 
central fact in the life of that citizen; and his 
relations with his fellow-men must be largely 
determined by it. It is of only inferior interest 
to know that a citizen lives in one borough 

or another, in one county or another, in which 
he is registered as a parliamentary or local 
government voter. It is possible that it may even 
be necessary under a Guild system, to keep the 
present poHtical classifications by area; but the 
point here emphasized is the exceptional impor- 
tance of the functional classifications iby trade, and 
the comparative insignificance of all other 
classifications, whether by political areas or by 
colour of the hair. There are feW absolute laws 
in life— it is almost entirely a matter of their 

emphasis. ' 

Of all classifications of man, the most violent 
contrast is that between the area theory of the 
poUticians and the functional theory of the 
guildsmen,. They are at opposite poles. The 
division of citizens into geographical areas for 
the purpose of parliamentary representation was 
an idea which, looking back, one can now see 
growing up more or less by accident, and 
certainly only for a very limited purpose, as 
was discussed in the first chapter. A few 
moments' consideration of this classification by 
postal address will show how superficial it is. 
No one denies that there is a certain common 
bond between men because they are next-door 
neighbours. They are interested in the same 
postman and poUceman : they share the 
same drain-pipes and the same Water-supply. 
Admitted. But none of these common bonds 
concerns a vital principle in the man's life, on 
which his citizenship can be reasonably based. 






At present a citizen rises (in theory) to his highest 
expression of citizenship when he elects the 
parHamentary member for his borough or county. 
The guildsman*s case is that it is absurd that 
such an all-important function should be based 
on nothing more vital than living in the 
same street or the next village. Heine's flower 
girl had really a more intellectual case. 

But it is the less necessary to argue the 
theoretical case for political organization by area, 
because its clear failure in practice alone rules 
it outside the schemes of intelligent beings. 
Pohticians elected by area to do the work of 
the nation, very obviously do not do that work. 
It is not done at all, or it is done very badly. 
If even a perfect theory works altogether im- 
perfectly it is to all intents and purposes useless 
for worldly men and women. But it is strange 
that any one ever imagined that this political 
system could work. What human being has 
yet appeared who could reasonably promise to 
represent the most varied desires and grievances 
of the ten or twenty thousand electors who 
inhabit his political area? Even if his honest 
desire to accomplish the work did not fail, it 
is all too clear that the cubic capacity of his 
brain was not designed for any such colossal 
task. Half the poUtical adventurers in parlia- 
ment who fail to represent their constituents 
have really the very reasonable excuse that 
an archangel alone would suffice. iWhen they 
set out for Westminster, they might plead 

that they were being sent on a wild-goose 

Then there is the electors* side which is equally 
bound for failure. How is it possible that the 
normal citizen could choose by the crude parlia- 
mentary system the right man for his purposes? 
Even assuming that such an encyclopaedic creature 
existed, how could the voter find the man? We 
know, as a matter of practice, he rarely does; 
but the point for the moment is, how could we 
expect him to do so ? Sometimes a, parliamentary 
candidate is a local man : at the best a mere 
fraction of the electors have any real knowledge 
of his intellect or his morals. He may promise 
the right programme, and he may intend to 
fulfil that promise. In fifty per cfent. of the 
cases, both his programme and his intentions are 
defective; and the astounding thing is that the 
individual electors seem quite unable to find 
better candidates — such is the cumbersomeness 
of the parliamentary system. That is probably 
the main reason why the politicians have survived 
so long : they are entrenched behind a maze of 
political rules to prevent democratic attack. The 
elections are usually fought on issues of slight 
importance; or those of which the average 
elector has no knowledge sufficient to affect his 
judgment; or, again, the issues may be so com- 
pUcated and conflicting that neither electors nor 
elected know much about them. 

That is perhaps the main weakness of the parlia- 
mentary system. It deals with matters beyond 


: ! 

, r 
I I 





its grasp, beyond the grasp of everybody except 
experts on the subject concerned. The parUa- 
mentary system might be all right if it could per- 
form a first-class miracle — ^master the knowledge 
of the world and translate it into legislation. We 
must not be angry with Westminster for failing to 
perform the impossible : but we must rebuke it 
for even trying. A thousand subjects are put 
under the control of men selected by a dis- 
organized mob of electors, with no common 
desires or common knowledge. The politician 
by appealing to everybody is able to escape being 
bound to anything. In the hubbub of public life 
he dodges the necessity for reason. The poli- 
tician survives by reliance on the ignorance of his 

Now there is one department of life where 
it is more difficult to be evasive. If a m^n has 
any exact knowledge at all, it is on the subject 
of his daily work. If the business placed before 
a meeting were to discuss the cotton trade, 
and legislate for it, it is more than probable 
that the cotton operative and the factory, manager 
would have very definite minds of their own 
•as to what should be done or left undone. The 
candidate could not escape the point by discussing 
the condition of the Hottentots or the necessity 
for reforming the music hall, or a foreign policy 
for Timbuctoo. To be tied down to cotton might 
lead that politician to disaster. Hence, perhaps, 
his frantic desire to get as many subjects as 
possible within the scope of Parliamentary debate. 

A man's work is both his first interest and 
his greatest knowledge. It is by far the strongest 
link with his fellow-men— in a material sense, 
that is; and matter has a very great deal to 
do with the spirit. If the nation were grouped 
into its trades rather than within its geographical 
areas, it would then be organized on the main 
principles of interest and knowledge. The trade 
unit would be the most compact and the best 
informed about its own affairs. Without for 
the moment discussing the theoretical side any 
further, it Will be useful to consider how it might 
work out in practice if the citizens of a nation 
were primarily organized on the basis of their 
trades or occupations. Let us glance at the 

Coal-mining is a comparatively simple case. 
It is a very definite trade : it is not seasonal or 
merging into other work; though it may be at 
first sight a little difficult to know whether the 
men who drive the engines of the pits are miners 
or engineers. But when one speaks of the Coal 
Industry the term denotes a fairly definite class. 
Let us assume that before the miners concerned 
themselves with political matters (as Westminster 
understands them) they were first organized as a 
Guild of Coal-miners. After all, what more 
important function of a public kind do the miners 
perform? Surely the digging of coal is the very 
essence of their work for the State. If the 
nation desires that coal should be dug (it is a 
dirty trade, but that is not the point for the 






' 1 

moment), then who is more capable of legislating 
for it, and controlling the digging, than the 
miners? It may be suggested that the miners 
would only consider their own interests — the 
argument being based on the knowledge that 
the present capitalist traders, who control 
industry, consider little else but their personal 
interests. So that objection has Httle weight : 
for at the worst it Would be better that the self- 
interests of many miners were considered than 
the interests of a few coal-owners. 

The essence of the scheme would b€i that the 
digging of coal, as a national industry, would 
then be controlled by the united body of the 
coal-miners, grouped into what may be con- 
veniently termed a guild. That word is used 
instead of " company " or ** association," or 
analogous terms, because it is desired to insist 
energetically on the fact that this is a group of 
the actual workers — whether managers or pit 
boys, clerks or hewers, checkers or engineers — 
in distinction from a "company," for instance; 
which is in the main a collection of shareholders, 
who have invested money, but whose work does 
not go beyond attending the annual meeting. 
A director who took an active part in the manage- 
ment would, for the purpose of this present 
argument, come under the head of managing 
staff. The exact functions of this guild, its 
scope and its subordination to the State will be 
discussed later. For the moment we are con- 
cerned in visualizing the appearance of a nation 

whose primary organization is on the basis of 

Let us turn to a very different kind of work; 
the profession of teaching. This is, broadly 
speaking, just as much a productive industry as 
coal-mining. It is the business of miners to 
produce coal ; it is the function of teachers to 
produce educated pupils. The same arguments 
apply with remarkable closeness. It is a very 
skilled work, Hke the digging of coal; and the 
people who know most about it are the teachers 
and experts who have devoted themselves to the 
study of the craft— just as scientists who devote 
themselves to the technical processes of mining 
would be included in the mining guild. The 
grouping of educationalists into a guild (or rather 
into many guilds, as will be discussed later) 
would be as practicable a piece of public organ- 
ization as the case of the miners. In such a 
body as Oxford and Cambridge Universities we 
already have something well on the way to the 
Guild form. The schools of each county council, 
both primary and secondary, might be grouped 
into guilds containing all the teaching staff, the 
heads and the assistants, perhaps down to the 
laboratory bottle-cleaners. As in the case of 
the miners, the body to whom questions of 
education would be primarily referred would 
be the Guilds of Teachers. 

The case of Railways is a fairly simple one; 
and the guild would include the whole of the 
directors and staff down to the humblest porter 






at the smallest country station. Forgetting their 
present method of sitting at Westminster— 
whether as directors and shareholders or as 
trade union secretaries— the railwaymen would 
first and foremost think of themselves as 
members, and therefore electors, of the Guild 
of Railways; and they would be primarily 
responsible for the management of the rail- 

Again with the Doctors and Lawyers. The 
latter are already a guild of a fairly complete 
kind. They have almost complete control of 
their profession as against the State; and 
internally the Bar Council is ejected by the 
members of the profession. Those who hastily 
say that the Guild systemj is absurd, must first 
of all explain how it is that this great absurdity 
has existed for so many long centuries. It is 
fair to confess that a shiall and somewhat uniform 
profession like the law has many advantages 
over such a diverse trade as engineering, for 
example, or mining, with their innumerable 
grades of labour. The case of the Doctors is 
very similar to the Lawyers : they likewise have 
already something very near the Guild form; 
and if they also were endowed with the Guild 
functions, the whole matter of public health would 
be placed in the hands of the Medical Guilds 
for legislation and administration, and not be 
committed to the care of very inexperienced 
gentlemen at Westminster. The Doctors would 
be given the task of producing good health, 



as the Miners would have the job of producing 


Without going through the list of the re- 
cognized industries, it is necessary to consider 
how far the Guild system would cover the nation 
as a whole. The cotton trade, iron, wool, ship- 
building, and so on, are all simple cases. But 
other cases are not so obvious. The Retail Shop- 
keepers might find it necessary to form a guild 
apart from the trade producing their goods; 
or they might be included in the producing 
guild itself. Thus the coal merchants would, 
under the latter alternative, be members of the 
Coal-mining Guild. But it cannot be said too 
emphatically that one of the many virtues of 
the Guild idea is that it allows of more varieties 
than fixed principles. Guiding principles there 
are, and they are a rigid framework; but they 
are a constructional framework allowing^ of many 
kinds of decorations. And so it is in this case 
of the retail shopkeeper. It is possible that retail 
trade might take the form of largie general stores, 
such as we find at present in the big towns, or 
the small general stores of the villages. A 
distributing guild would be a perfectly sensible 
part of a society organized by functions. 

But there are the odd nooks and crannies of 
a State — which sometimes, perchance, are the 
most precious of it all. To what purpose should 
we become a perfectly organized industrial 
community if we ceased to become the home of 
poets and musicians and dreamers? Life as. a 






time to be always serious and productive, is 
nothing but a plutocratic nightmare. There are 
some who are only well employed when they 
are doing nothing^ — nothing at least that could 
be registered on a pay sheet or approved by an 
overseer. The tramp may be the wisest of men : 
just as the anarchist may have discovered more 
of the laws of governing than the bureaucrat. 
But, to put the question precisely : Will there be 
a Guild of Poets, and one of Musicians, and of 
Philosophers, and of Idle Dreamers? As for the 
musicians, in the sense of performers in an 
orchestra, it is fairly obvious that there will be : 
for an orchestra itself has the necessary cohesion 
and unity : it is itself a guild in embryo. 

But a Guild of Composers is a very different 
matter. Composers do not do their work by 
gathering together in concert halls and band- 
stands. Shubert wrote some of his best songs 
by sitting in taverns, not With his fellow-com- 
posers, but with very riotous persons who had 
a keener taste for alcohol than for scoring music. 
Likewise with poets; there is a, probably 
erroneous, tradition that they frequent moonlit 
shores and sunny forest glades, proceedings 
which it would be difficult, perhaps, to regulate 
by Guild rules; while in the matter of output, 
the merits of a poem cannot be tested as one 
would test steel or cotton cloth. Far be it from 
asserting that the thing cannot be done, or that 
it is unwise to try. Poets, who in real life are 
so often the most businesslike and practical of 

creatures, may well be able to reduce their subtle 
craft to precise rules—after all, it is only a 
stupid bureaucrat who makes clumsy regulations 
which will not fit the facts. And so with the 
stray philosophers. There are not many " philo- 
sophers *' pure and simple, and they will be 
mainly attached to the various university staffs, 
as they are to-day. Probably the dreamer and 
thinker will link up with the tramps and other 
men of unshackled leisure, and freedom from 
business hours. But that is a subject which is 
better left in the lap of the gods. 

Briefly, there is not much that is healthy in 
a national Hfe which cannot be collected 
coherently within the Guild form. For the 
production of wealth, from a steel-steamship to a 
lyric, is assisted, rather than retarded, by the 
collective effort of the producers. It is at least 
arguable that the Guild labour which produced 
the great mediaeval cathedrals did a greater work 
than was ever done by all the self-centred artists 
and novelists who produce secretly in their studies 
and studios. But, at the least, the vast bulk of 
the work that is necessary for a nation's health 
and wealth can be produced under co-operative 
guilds as easily as under capitaHst companies. 
All that is left outside can be safely committed 
to that kindly fate which, in truth, settles so 
many of the affairs of human life. If the poet and 
ardst can survive in the hideousness and callous- 
ness of the plutocrats' world, certainly he will 
have a better chance in a world whose essence 






will be the placing of happiness and' beauty before 
banking accounts. When did the arts and crafts 
ever touch so high as during the age of mediaeval 


Now the primary advantage of a system of 
organization by guilds will be that the arrange- 
ment of national life will be on the basis of 
essential work. The nation will become a machine 
organized for doing the nation's Work. Instead 
of an industrial system which is not merely 
anarchical in the opinion of the labour agitator, 
but is chaotic in hard fact, we should have a 
society based on its natural units, like a well- 
classified library, a well-arranged stores; where 
the Hbrarians and assistants can put their hand 
at once on what is demanded. That is the real 
case for organization by function, by trade and 
occupation : it is a natural classification based 
on facts. Every normal unit of the State would 
be organized as a citizen in regard to his main 
responsibility and knowledge. He would be 
considered primarily as an expert ; and his chief 
civil duty would be to do that which he really 
could do. 

For example, it is only a farce asking the 
average man to give a decision concerning our 
relations with the South Sea Islands, when he 
has never seen the South Seas, their islands, or 
their islanders, at any closer range than a Conrad 
romance. He may have, ultimately, to come to 
some decision on these matters, but it will have 
to t)e as a by-road in public life. Whereas, 

under the present system, a ^whole general election 
may turn on one of these mysterious political 
problems; and the government for the next six 
years may be chosen on the question whether 
Persia should have a parliamentary system or 
a benevolent despotism. So far as Englishmen 
are concerned, they might as well vote on a 
constitution for the ichthyosaurus. The Guild idea 
is an endeavour to bring us back to reality; to 
base our social life on essential facts (such as 
the production of corn and good music), instead 
of asking our legislators to amuse themselves 
— and bore us — with the vaguest of generalities. 

Under a Guild system, the citizen would be 
asked to decide what he knew something ^bout : 
a coal-miner would be asked to control the 
mines, not the political constitution of Russia. 
How this would affect our relations with Russia, 
that is, who would constitute the Foreign Office 
Guild, if any, will be discussed in a later chapter. 
It is only maintained here, that as all social 
classifications must be somewhat arbitrary, we 
must select that which is based on the most 
essential factors; and, surely, the production 
of wealth is the chief material work of man, 
and his trade is his most natural and most 
effective organ of government. If one can fall 
to generalities, it may be said that the Guild 
system in action would be the nation in battle 
array — every man at his post. 

From the point of view of the citizens in 
general, the Guild system would possess the 





advantage of allowing quick reference of any 
difficulty to the most expert advice. There is 
a threatened shortage of corn, for example. To 
whom could one refer the problem to-day? To 
the Board of Agriculture? It could only set 
in action machinery for passing on the question 
to the landlord, the farmer, and the peasant ; in 
short, the Board could "merely act . as a 
middleman. It would be useless to go to the 
landlords, or to the farmers, or to the labourers 
separately and directly, because in the matter of 
corn production they are now merely one 
element in a complicated industry. Neither could 
speak for the others. Of course the facts could 
be gradually collected from these various 
sources ; and eventually the Board of Agriculture 
could make a solemn report. But a report 
does not necessarily grow corn; the heart of 
the problem would still remain. Now if all 
the producers wfere already linked in a guild, 
the procedure would be infinitely simplified. 

A Guild report would be the opinion of the 
majority of the workers in the industry. There 
might be a dissenting minority : until the popula- 
tion of the world is reduced btelow three, there 
will probably always be a dissenting minority; 
and the last two will probably have to toss for 
a decision when they no longer can discover 
a chairman with -a casting vote. Such is the 
inevitable waywardness of mankind. But so 
long as the majority decision is accepted, there 
is no better form than the guild for getting the 

best advice in the quickest way. There is so 
much more Ukely to be unity amongst members 
who all know (more or less) the facts of the 
case in dispute. If they differ, it will be on a 
matter that is ideally hard to decide; whereas 
to-day a parhament splits itself up into parties 
which are usually only fighting shadows. 

Such, in bare outline, is the essential principle 
of the Guild method of organizing the nation. In 
selecting the function of production — ^in its widest 
sense, which may include every form of wealth, 
from a coal-scuttle and a match to a song or a 
poem — this idea goes no further than an assertion 
that this is the most convenient factor to select. 
It must not be imagined that any reasonable 
person thinks that this is the only possible or 
necessary classification. There may be a need 
for several systems, even running side by side. 
A man will be a doctor and therefore a member 
of his Guild of Medicine; but as a cricketer he 
will be a member of the cricket club; as an 
amateur actor, a member of the dramatic asso- 
ciation; as a politician he may join a Society 
for the Abolition of the Guilds ; as a philosopher 
he may join the Pragmatic Clique; while during 
his summer holiday he will appear in Switzerland 
under the ensign of the Alpine Club. 

It is all-important to get this aspect of the 
matter firmly in the mind. There is no narrow 
dogmatism about the Guild idea. It is not a 
despotism. It does not attempt, with the enthu- 
siasm of a new district visitor, to clean all the 

i ! 






dark corners of our homes and lives. In reality 
it attempts no more than arranging the affairs 
of our daily work. The one thing it does assert 
with some dogmatism is that, from the public 
point of view, there is nothing more important 
than this work; and that it is the most con- 
venient basis on which we can set ourselves as 
a nation. There are expansive politicians, often 
with a mysterious craving for high finance and 
kindred recreations, who make great speeches 
about the British Empire, or those Who have 
very gorgeous ideas concerning the Federation 
of the World. The guildsman is not necessarily 
opposed; but he cannot sometimes restrain a 
rather impatient turn of the shoulders : ** Yes, 
I know, perhaps, perhaps . . . but just a 
moment, please, while we work out a system by 
which we can first get several rather important 
affairs in working order. You won't be able 
to voyage round your delightful Empire until 
the coal is dug; or until somebody builds you 
a ship; and you might starve even with an 
Empire at your feet, unless somebody remem- 
bered to grow corn. Indeed, this Empire of 
yours is really a matter for our spare hours and 
hoUday dreams. It is almost a luxury; which 
can only be produced after the day's work is 

That is the guildsman's attitude to all the 
other alluring dreams of social construction; to 
all the great adventures of the human race. He 
is not unsympathetic; he merely says they must 

come in their due order of importance. He is 
simple-minded enough to listen to all those village 
sayings about the horse coming before the cart, 
and the ^ood reasons for walking before one 
runs. He does not profess to be very philoso- 
phical; but he does pride himself on his 
common sense. He thinks it is common sense 
to produce a well-built house before he produces 
an Empire : he is quite ready to listen to those 
tales of Eldorado with their promises of the 
wealth of the Indies to deck his house when 
built. But he thinks it will be safer to organize 
as a guild of house builders, rather than on the 
more illusive basis of Eldorado. 

He may be short-sighted, or worse still, a 
coward. But the long-sighted people have dis- 
appointed us so often, while the brave men have 
sacrificed so many other men's lives in the 
pursuit of their windy ideals and bankers' 
paradises. So the very hard-headed guildsman 
has grown a Httle sceptical ; and has suppressed 
his cravings for romance. He turns rather 
longingly to those old days when, instead of 
building Empires and fortunes for plutocrats, mien 
were content if they earned their own livings at 
their own trades. Of course it is unselfish to 
make fortunes for other men; and the most 
gigantic unselfishness was when the poor men 
of England builded an Empire to enrich their 
masters. However, there are signs of the growth 
of self; and when it reaches the unselfish 
workers they will be more interested in their 




own workshops than in other people's Empires. 
The turning of our ideals to the workshops will 
lead very quickly to the need for the guilds. 

For the guilds will be the organization of the 
nation in its daily work; and the end of that 
loose thinking which the newspapers now call 



THE last chapter has looked at the guilds 
from the outside : we have merely gazed 
at their facades, as country cousins gaze at the 
dome of St. Paul's. We have, so far, no know- 
ledge of their construction. The fundamental 
reason for the Guild system is that it organizes 
the people in the order of their trades, whereby 
the work of the community can be done by those 
who best know how to do it. Therefore, it 
naturally follows that when once the guild is 
constituted, its affairs must be, in the main, con- 
trolled by the guild members; otherwise the 
advantage of expert management would be lost. 
Nevertheless, it is possible to conceive of a 
guild which did its work under a fairly complete 
control by an external body. For example, 
it could be managed by a State department in 
Whitehall, where all the rules might be drafted; 
and from which the inspectors would come to 
see that those rules were obeyed. The guilds- 
men under such a system would be the servants 
of a superior body over which they had no 
control, just as there are now the servants of 
comparatively uncontrolled capitalists. Or the 
guilds, when formed, might be put under the 
management of a controlling trade council; 
whereby they would be little more than branches 




of a great trade combine — capitalist or democratic 
according to structure. 

Now it must not hastily be assumed that there 
will not be transition guilds somewhat of this 
kind. Until the majority of the members of a 
trade will take the trouble to make themselves 
fully expert in its problems, it is quite clear that 
the guilds cannot be self -managing. A superior 
and beneficent autocrat might group all the 
people of a nation into their respective trades 
and occupation ; and endoW each group with the 
right to manage its own affairs. But there are 
very tight limits to the power of the autocrat, 
fortunately. He can take all his horses to the 
water, but he cannot make them drink— a truth 
which has been concealed from the babes and 
sucklings of the governing class, though the 
stable-boys have known it since their first failure 
at the farmyard pond. 

If organization by function is the first principle 
and the anatomical structure of the Guild system, 
the principle of self-management is the idea 
which makes the dry bones of that structure 
move with life. So long- jas the guild is controlled 
by any outside influence, so long it is merely 
a babe unable to walk. As was said above, it 
may be as necessary a stage in its career as 
in the life of the child. But we are now con- 
sidering this second principle in its complete 
form. The essence of it is that, in the main, the 
guildsmen are their own masters ; not necessarily 
in any spirit of self-assertion, but just because 



the idea of the guild is that work shall be done 
by craftsmen and professionals, and not by out- 
siders and amateurs. 

Now, of course, it is possible in theory that a 
central government department might engage, let 
us say, an experienced coal-miner to advise the 
department on the control of the mines;, to dratt 
their regulations, to superintend their mspectors, 
and generally represent the State m so far as 
it interferes in the coal-mining industry. One 
might even go further, and suppose that the whole 
central department is staffed with experienced men 
drawn straight from the mines or the pit heads^ 
It ^11 be said that here surely is a scheme which 
will provide the purest of expert advice. But 
such a system must be classed as Bureaucracy ; 
it is entirely opposed to the whole essence of 
the Guild system— which insists on self -manage- 
ment, as against outside control, however 
expert. There are several good reasons for this 

insistence. , ^.u 4. 

First, there is the very good reason that 

Bureaucracy, as a matter of fact, does not choose 

expert workers ; it chooses first-class bureaucrats. 

It would be inhuman if it did not look upon 

the world with the rather timid eyes of the 

sedentary clerk. It probably thinks that the 

world can be saved if a sufficient number 

of letters and reports are written about it. 

There are hundreds and thousands of clever, 

self-sacrificing officials in Government offices, who 

pass their lives in helpful work. But the most 



helpful work they can do is to stand on one 
side, and not act as a buffer between the men 
who are themselves producing and the community 
which is receiving. It is not that all Govern- 
ment officials are dishonest or foolish; most 
of them are the reverse. The bad thing about 
them all is that they are clerks, and wealth is 
not made by clerks. It is standing the pyramid 
of production on an uneasy apex, when we 
attempt to balance it on bureaucracy. A pyramid, 
if one wishes it restful and contented, must be 
on its base; and the base of production is 
Labour. There may be need for many clerks 
before the products reach the public; the clerk 
may be most necessary for many quite legitimate 
purposes. But he is not a base. 

Bureaucracy may be willing to consult expert 
workers at times, but it is the exception, not 
the rule. Besides, why consult the producers 
when these latter should already have been 
in a position to do what is necessary without 
having to proceed through the tedious process 
of consulting anybody? Bureaucracy, at the 
best, must be a buffer State : and anything it 
does must be second-hand work. There may be 
a legitimate place for it : as we shall see later, 
there must be some kind of social organ repre- 
senting the community, something we call the 
** State "; and there it will be difficult to dodge 
the sedentary clerk and his assistant office-boy 
altogether. But wherever we eventually place 
him, it will not be as a base. As one has already 




insisted in another connection, the Guild systeip 
is not dogmatic ; it is largely a question of arrang- 
ing our social affairs with the right emphasis, of 
getting that nice balance which is so often the 
real answer to the wordy squabbles of this world. 
So often we are all nearly right, it is only a 
matter of saying what we mean in the correct 

tone. . ' 

Perhaps the most urgent practical reason for 
self-management by the guild members is that 
it is becoming clearer than clarity that, for 
good or evil. Democracy has arrived. The 
current phrase is that it is knocking at the 
door ; it almost looks as though it has knocked the 
door down. There is a healthy reaction against 
doing what we are told. In many cases it may 
be admitted that what we are told is wiser than 
what we do ourselves. But doing' the wrong 
thing ourselves is often more stimulating than 
doing the right thing because somebody else 
orders it. The boys who are tied to their 
mother's apron strings are provei"bially a poor 
lot. And whether the apron belongs to a bishop, 
a State official, or a private master, a long course 
of leading tends to intellectual flabbiness. When 
Democracy insists that it should do its own work 
and revolts against its masters, it is a pirinciple 
that can be defended by the rules of the science 
books. And, right or Wrong, Democracy is 
wilful and clearly intends to try. 

But the soundest reason for self-management 
in a guild is that it is clearly impossible to find 



a better way of doing the work. Who knows 
more about the digging of coal than the coal- 
miners and their foremen and managers? Can 
the wisest men at the Board of Trade know 
anything that the miners do not know first? Who 
knows more about the spinning of cotton than 
the cotton -spinners? It is inconceivable that any 
State department sitting at Whitehall should know 
as much about an industry as they know* in the 
workshops or mines. Who knows as much 
about medicine as the doctors? Or of painting 
as the painters? Self -management by the trade 
seems almost to rank with the axiom of Euclid 
on self-evident propositions. To deny them 
is not so much argument as dull stupidity. The 
capitalists may have a case against Guild 
management; but the State certainly has none 
Whatever — at the least, it has scarcely a sporting 

If the master has a plausible case for 
managing his factory without interference by 
the workers, it is overridden by the fact that the 
workers have made up their minds differently. 
That is a fact which has to be recognized by 
wise people. If a man had two more feet where 
his arms are, it would be wise and scientific to 
tell him to walk after the manner of the other 
four-footed creatures. When he has evolved a 
pair of hands instead of two more feet, then the 
phenomenon must be accepted as a factor in 
his problem. Intellectually or morally, he insists 
on standing on his hind feet and nature has 



accepted the position, and sealed the bargain 
by turning the top pair into hands. And that 
is exactly the position of the labouring classes 
to-day. The man who tries to oppose this 
demand is not a brave statesman; he is a blind 
fool. He is trying to solve his problems by 
leaving out half the factors. One would not 
start planning a journey to America by assuming 
that the ocean was dry, and that the journey 
could be done in a car. 

Consider in a little detail how the self -manage- 
ment theory would work out in practice, and 
leave the fine elaboration of theory to those 
very numerous persons of bureaucratic minds who 
love much theorizing. The general comment may 
be made in this place that the very essence of 
the Guild theory is that the arrangements of 
management shall be made by each guild for 
itself. It is therefore absurd and paradoxical 
to draw up elaborate rules and constitutions for 
the various trades. That could only be done by 
some one who is a real bureaucrat at heart, and 
not a believer in the guilds at all. One can go 
no further than guesses at the rules, the members 
will probably lay down to meet the special facts 
of the special crafts. Wise men will hope, above 
all else, that there will be no uniformity in the 
details; for that will probably mean that the 
problems have been solved in the crudely 
generaUzed manner which is more usually the 
result of the present clumsy system of central 
control, whether by Whitehall or by trusts. The 



guilds are advocated in the hope that they will 
be delicate and not clumsy, in their handling of 
the problem of industry — and delicacy will 
demand special rules to meet special cases. It 
will be analogous to the difference between 
producing by hand and manufacturing by 
standardized machines. The Guild system is 
government by craftsmen; the centralized 
monarchy or plutocracy is government by 

The two faces to the problem are : on one 
side the guild producing the goods ; on the other, 
the general public demanding and consuming 
those goods. In essence there is just the same 
problem to-day ; the manufacturer producing and 
the pubhc buying. The problem is to what 
extent, if any, should the public interfere with 
the management of the production. When the 
shopper goes to the bootmaker he does not first 
inquire into the management of the boot factory : 
if the goods required are in the shop, they are 
bought; if not, another shop is visited. SucW 
is the present method. It must not be too 
hastily assumed that the consumers will any 
more interfere with the producers under a 
reformed system. 

It will here be objected that under the present 
system there is already an elaborate control of 
the factory by legislation of an embracing kind; 
regulating the hours, the wages, the health of 
the workers, and so on. To that extent it is 
true to say that the purchaser has already 



interfered with the producer through his repre- 
sentatives at Westminster and Whitehall; and 
under the Guild system an analogous control 
will be exercised. However free a hand the 
community as a whole will give to the guilds in 
self-management, there will be a standard of 
Hfe on which the State will insist as a minimum. 
It will be rather as if the Creator gave the 
scientists a free hand with their own special 
departments, so long as they kept regard to 
the great universal principles of gravitation and 
the dispersal of energy. The geologist could 
sort out his epochs and strata to his fancy; the 
biologist arrange and rearrange his species; the 
sociologist lay down his laws for human civil- 
ization. They would each have self-management 
up to a point. 

In a similar way the State will lay down 
general principles which evea self-managing 
guilds must respect. There will be probably 
a minimum wage based on a theory that below 
it no citizen could keep himself in the condition 
which the public honour and welfare demand. 
Beyond that minimum one imagines that each 
guild will be allowed to distribute its surplus as 
the members decide by a vote of the majority. 
It is very improbable that they will vote at first 
for equaUty of wages. To begin with, there 
will be a fairly united refusal of the full-aged 
and experienced members to accept equality with 
the young apprentices. Even the most rabid 
disciple of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity will 




not necessarily demand the same wage for a 
youth of eighteen learning his trade and a full- 
trained man of thirty-five, and once the principle 
was broken, Equality would become a mere 
rough-and-ready standard against which to 
measure each case as it arose, in order to strike 
a balance within reasonable limits. This guild, 
for its only welfare, would almost certainly offer 
higher wages to any one whose special encourage- 
ment to work would be for the advantage of 
the whole. For example, if one member had 
given proof of high organizing powers, it would 
obviously be to the advantage of the members to 
incite him to apply that power to the highest 
possible degree. It would save them time and 
money, and therefore increase their profits. For, 
as will be discussed later, there is no reason to 
think that the guilds will immediately abolish 
competition. It will be made a sane competi- 
tion for the benefit of the community, instead of 
a very insane one, for the benefit of the profiteer. 
But it would be just as hasty to assume that 
all competition is a public evil as it would be 
for a man with sunstroke to dismiss the sun as 
a public nuisance. Anyhow, if competition 
between guilds remains, it will be to the advan- 
tage of the members to pay enticing rewards 
for the most experienced managers and officials. 
All of which distinctions of reward will be for 
the members to decide within the standard laid 
down by the State in its first principles. 
Then there may well be a State standard of 



hours of work. Here again it can be nothing 
beyond a maximum which must not be passed; 
on the general grounds that the health and 
happiness of the citizen may be injured to the 
detriment of the honour and welfare of the com- 
munity. And likewise there may be standard- 
ized laws of health and general safety. But 
with democratic guild control the urgent necessity 
for this national-minimum legislation will some- 
what disappear. It is necessary under a control 
by profiteers and company promoters — but quite 
another thing when the workers make their own 
regulations for their own welfare. 

At what point State general principles will 
cease, and the equally great State principle of 
self -management begin, cannot be decided by 
any hard-and-fast boundary lines. It will not 
be a straight line, like the artificial lines of 
many modern American States. It will turn 
back and forward to suit the convenience of 
these innumerable bends and fancies of the human 
mind. Only dull-witted persons demand inelastic 
rules; wise people will be content with a mere 
outline which can be modified as circumstances 
arise . 

Of course the general rule will be that all 
technical points concerning the processes of 
production will be entirely under the control of 
the guild. Put in another way, it will be for 
the State to express \^hat it wants; it will be 
for the guild to say how it shall be done. Within 
the general ^standard of public morality and 



culture, as laid down by the collective desire 
of the community and expressed by its organ 
the State, the guild will be given a free hand. 
As already hinted, this freedom will not neces- 
sarily be given because one governing class 
suddenly becomes generous and unselfish; but 
mainly because it is becoming every day more 
impossible for reasonable men to deny the sound- 
ness of the argument that the only people who 
can properly control production are the people 
who produce. That is the chief strength of 
the Guild idea— it is based on quite ordinary 
common sense, divorced from that sentimentality 
which is the real basis of most plutocratic and 
bureaucratic government. The State will not 
interfere with the guilds more than it can help; 
for exactly the same reason that a mother does 
not interfere with the surgeon whom she has 
called to operate on her child. One leaves a 
job to the man who can do it best. 

There will naturally be great variety in the 
form of the guilds; and, consequently, a great 
variety in the methods of management. If the 
Guild system is to cover everything from dairy 
farming to university education, and all work 
from the production of plates to the playing of 
musical symphonies, then it is fairly clear that 
there may be more differences than similarities 
in their internal rules. The breaking up of a 
trade into smaller local units, instead of having 
one vast guild covering the whole industry, is 
so important an internal need that it will be 



discussed by itself as an independent first 
principle in the next chapter. But the present 
is the most convenient place to consider other 
internal problems of management which may 
affect the guild. 

Having received a charter from the State 
(which will be discussed in a later chapter), it will 
be the legitimate right of the guild to take as 
much advantage and profit from that charter as 
an honest private trader takes from a contract 
with a customer. The guilds will take the place 
of the private master or public company, and the 
problems of management which they will inherit 
from their predecessors will often equally apply 
to their own case. As already suggested, the 
members will have selfish reasons, if nothing 
better, for selecting the most efficient staff of 
officials and managers. The capable manager, 
who is now probably afraid that a revolution in 
the industrial system may dislodge him from his 
place, might realize that the most revolutionary 
of guilds would think twice before they lost the 
services of an efficient official. They will then 
be as anxious to secure efficient managers as 
the capitalists are anxious to find and keep them 
to-day ; and this for the same reason— the 
increased prosperity of the business. In some 
cases, the guilds may decide to make all appoint- 
ments of officers in a full meeting, by popular 
vote. But others may be quite willing to leave 
selections and promotion to the managerial staff ; 
leaving criticism for the annual meetings, and 





opportunities when a contract with an offending 
manager might be closed. It is quite possible 
that for the sake of good managers a guild may 
give lengthy contracts to its officials; but it 
will probably not bind itself over too many 
meetings without a very excellent reason. But 
here, as elsewhere, there will be infinite variety 
in the rules. 

Another way of considering the position of 
officers is to realize their changed status in 
a guild where they will be much more clearly 
overseers of work than of workmen. In other 
words, the foremen and managers of to-day are 
so largely needed to keep the workers at full 
pressure; and only in part are they necessary 
for superintending the work as a process. But 
when a worker is just as much interested in his 
business as the capitalist is now, every man will 
be a jog on the fellow who is inclined to laze : 
while on the other side there will be fewer 
inclined to be slack than there are to-day, when 
the main result of hard work is to make some- 
body else richer than he has the right to be. 
So the main gist of the foreman and overseer 
under the guilds will be to assist in increasing 
the efficiency of the process. The workers, so 
far as they keep the election of officials in their 
own hands, will be mainly guided in their choice 
by their knowledge of a candidate's technical 

It is difficult to exaggerate the technical advan- 
tages of giving every worker, humanly and legi- 



timately, a selfish interest in the welfare of his 
guild. It should easily reduce the managing 
staff by a large fraction; for there will be less 
slacking and everybody will be interested in doing 
his best. To substitute the element of collective 
welfare for the private capitalist's welfare will 
cause most radical changes in industry; it is, 
indeed, almost impossible to measure them; or 
even to know of what precise nature they will 
be. Until they are known and measured more 
exactly, it is perhaps a waste of time discussing 
in too great detail the structure of the guilds of 
the future. It is the main idea of the present 
essay to define clearly the general principles 
of the guilds — one of which is that the details 
must be left to the more or less individual taste 
and judgment of the guildsmen. 

It is sufficiently obvious that it will be far 
more in general principles than in details that an 
agricultural guild will resemble an house-building 
guild. The geographical area will be quite 
different; the number of the members; the 
needs of management. Under such circum- 
stances, the main principles will be bound to 
need different methods; otherwise the principles 
themselves might disappear. A rule that saved 
the principle in one case might ruin it in another. 
When the idea of the guilds as a whole is 
grasped, the details will follow as the members — 
and perhaps the less reasonable fates ! — will care 
to make them. It must never be forgotten that 
deep down in the Guild idea is the conviction 



that there is something inherently vicious in all 
compulsory government, and that self-control is 
the key to many of the problems of human 
society. It may ultimately come to pass that 
the governors and wise men of a State will not 
rule the people — as policemen and generals 
understand that subtle term '* rule " — but will, 
rather, suggest to them what they ought to do. 
Of course the people may not always be wise 
enough to take the advice, and may suffer 
accordingly. But at least they will not suffer 
so much as they have continually done by obeying 
the commands of the third-rate intellects — and 
first-class adventurers — who often rule them 



HAVING seen that the main principle of the 
Guild system is the organization of the 
nation in terms of industrial function; and that 
it naturally follows that the units so formed 
should have the power of self-management, if 
we are not going to rob the scheme of one of 
its greatest advantages : we now have to consider 
the other main and third principle which will 
develop the Guild system as far as main prin- 
ciples can carry it. The rest will be practical 
details. The third main principle may be 
defined thus : No guild should be larger than 
the smallest possible unit that the efficiency of 
the trade or occupation demands. Here is a 
principle which is the exact contrary of almost 
every " orthodox " theory in history or econo- 
mics for the last hundred and fifty years. The 
books written by the *' donish " mind of the 
university schools, almost always start with the 
assumption that civilization, as expressed both in 
political constitutions and commercial and indus- 
trial affairs, has been a continually advantageous 
increase in the centralization of the governing 
factor. For example, the average historian 
assumes that France became a happier and a 
better governed land in proportion as the central 
power in Paris crushed out of existence the more 





local authorities of the provincial barons and 
communes. Again, on the economic side, it is 
assumed by the learned professors who have 
such an enthusiastic admiration for the industrial 
revolution (which turned so much of England 
into a pigsty and a coalhole) that trade got 
more healthy and efficient in proportion as it 
crushed out the small producer, and collected 
what was left of him into centralized factories ; 
which, in continuation of the same beneficent 
process, then became pawns under the control 
of still more gigantic trusts. 

In discussing this subject of the supposed 
advantages of centralization we are approaching 
one of the great delusions of the human race; 
or rather of that, fortunately small, section of 
it which has smothered its experience of real 
Ufe in a maze of fancies. The learned have 
taught that centraUzation has been a great 
fact of history; and in so doing they are very 
obviously right : it is a fact. But to call it 
an event which has been beneficial to humanity, 
is not a fact — ^but merely a wild guess which 
is disproved by the evidence. Ever since the 
Middle Ages, there has been a tendency for all 
political and economic organization to grow more 
and more centraUzed. The Middle Ages them- 
selves were a reaction against the colossal 
centralization of the Roman Empire. But, of 
course, there will be no attempt here to treat 
of the subject in the way of history. For the 
proof of the above statement would be the history 



of the human race, at least in Western Europe. 
On one side it would be the story of this gradual 
tendency to centraUzation, both of the political 
organism and of the economic organs. On the 
other side, looking at it from the point of 
impartial criticism, the philosophical historian 
would be compelled to the conclusion that this 
centralization of government has been nothing 
short of a calamity to mankind. 

CentraUzation has meant, in practice, the 
triumph of the governor over the governed. The 
process has been artfully, sometimes, indeed, 
artlessly and innocently, concealed under a maze 
of words which suggest that it has meant the 
triumph of the people as a nation or as a race. 
It has often, indeed generally, gone side by 
side with that superficial and very illusory display 
of " democracy *' called the extension of the 
franchise. Because all France (more or less, 
and without the women) can now put in the 
ballot-boxes its views on the Government that it 
desires, there is an hysterical idea that Frenchmen 
have now more control over their affairs than 
they had in the days of Hugh Capet. If all 
government is gathered together in the hands 
of a Uttle group of Ministers, the people nurse 
the delusion that it is themselves who have 
elected that group. Perhaps it would be fairer 
to say that the people as a whole are not quite 
so dull and short-sighted : but it is perfectly 
fair to say that the orthodox philosophers and 
historians and economists, who translate facts 



into theories, have done everything in their power 
to foster this gigantic error in the pubUc mind. 
Gigantic error, it certainly is. It is a loose 
reading of the superficial facts, imagining that 
they are the governing factors. Whereas, they 
are such trivial facts that they would scarcely 
be noticed by the judicial observer. 

The growth of despotism and the decline of 
democracy may be measured very accurately by 
the cubic capacity of the Government offices. 
This may seem a paradoxical statement, but it 
is really a clear truth. What is more, it 
rests on a very simple foundation Which requires 
no vague philosophical explanation. The key 
can be put very simply. It is hard to control 
an official or a council of men whom one rarely 
or never sees : it is impossible to see through 
brick walls and wooden doors, especially when 
they are many miles away. That may sound 
a commonplace reason for the secret strength of 
a central government, and yet there is really 
no need to search for a more ponderous one. 
The fundamental reason for the immunity of 
a central government from popular control is 
mainly that it is out of range of the people's 
guns, to put it in a simple military analogy. 

If the councillors of a modest little country 
town ventured to do a quarter of the autocratic 
things done by the Westminster politicians, their 
burgesses would simply call at the various shops 
or villas possessed by the aforesaid councillors 
and argue with them over the counter — or if 



necessary with bricks through the windows. A 
healthy people, in full possession of their tongues 
— not to mention their arms— would not put up 
with much nonsense from their rulers if these 
latter lived and officiated within a reasonable 
distance for an evening or afternoon call. 
It is distance — and very little else— that tells so 
heavily in favour of the central government. The 
man who lives next door could not be a tyrant 
on any dangerous scale; for the simple reason 
that one could do so many annoying things in 
retaliation. A well -instructed* dog barking at 
night could drive the most perverse of tyrants 
into capitulation within a week. No one dreads 
the known or is deceived by him— especially 
when he lives next door. 

But who can reach Whitehall? And when 
one arrived, for whom would the reforming 
democrat ask? Centralized government, which . 
has collected so much of the public work into 
one spot, has thereby succeeded in concealing 
the culprit from the victim of his inefficient rule. 
There are tens of thousands of officials in a 
great government. Who is the one responsible? 
Behind which of those thousands of windows 
and doors does he sit? Through how many of 
those corridors and rooms will a letter wander 
if one writes to tell him of his sins : and since 
he is so safely out of reach, will he^ much worry 
if your letter does reach him? 

Besides, there is another side to the pernicious 
system of centraUzation. It is sp vast and 



complex that the most honest of officials or 
members of Parliament do not know how to 
put right that which is wrong. It resembles the 
mazes : it is exceedingly hard to find the way. 
•But this maze of over-centralized government 
is so unutterably confusing, even to the fairly 
expert, that it confounds itself. It would be a 
failure', even if every bureaucracy and every 
poHtician were as honest as the sunlight. But 
then, even sunUght dazzles and blinds. The 
system attempts too much. When the Norman 
and Plantagenet Icings first deliberately attempted 
centraHzed government in England, it is probable 
that it did simplify the problem of law and 
order. Of course, they were under no illusions 
why they wanted the new method of the King's 
Courts instead of the older local controls of the 
Anglo-Saxons : it was in order to strengthen 
• their own power. There was no humbug about 
the welfare of the people in those franker days. 
However, up to a point, there were good enough 
reasons for their action. But the hopelessly 
over-centraUzed government of to-day has out- 
stripped all reasons, and become an ever-in- 
creasing advantage to the corrupt and inefficient, 
and an ever-decreasing good to the honest and 
efficient. The proofs are to be found in all 
modern history. 

But it may be asked how all this touches the 
matter of the guilds. Very closely indeed. It 
was probably as a reaction against the evils 
of over-centraUzation that the more far-seeing 



began to turn to the older system which existed 
before the central theory was pushed to the point 
of stupidity. If organization by function is the 
root of the Guild system, the necessity to escape 
the preposterous evils of centralization is certainly 
its driving force. But there are still too many 
people, within the fold, as it were, who have 
only half digested the theory of guilds; who 
have even now failed to see that it might be 
possible to so centralize the guilds that they 
would be in reality only the old State Collec- 
tivism with nothing new about it except a new 
name. Take the case of Coal-mining. It is such 
a vast industry that, even as a guild, it would 
be quite worthy of a department in Whitehall, 
all to itself; with a politician and Minister 
to represent it in the Houses of Parliament. In 
other words, all the evils from which the guilds- 
men are endeavouring to escape, would be estab- 
lished once more. The pits might be managed 
by miners; but their headquarters staff at 
Whitehall, or wherever they housed it, would 
soon be drawn from the men who lived by their 
pens and reports, instead of by their picks. Once 
more the wire-pullers and intriguers would find 
that peculiar element of centralization — ^neither 
land, air, nor water — which is so fertile for the 
propagation of the self-seeking. Soon the mines 
would be controlled by the bureaucrats instead 
of the miners— for, under the central system, 
Whitehall or its like will always win. 

Even if the miners at the pits retained their 



right to vote in the election of all officials, one 
could see the day soon coming when they would 
be asked to support a candidate whom they 
had never seen. He would be, perchance, one 
of the pets of Whitehall who please those 
mysterious gentlemen who sit in the high seats 
of the ruUng set. The miners might have begun 
to see his name appearing more and more 
frequently as the signature after the many bye- 
laws and regulations with which a confident 
bureaucracy would soon flood the' mining world. 
Unless a bureaucracy produces many rules, people 
might begin to think that it was scarcely worth 
its wages : so in self-defence, it naturally makes 
as many regulations as it can : for the same 
natural reason that the miners produce as many 
tons of coal as possible. One at least will give 
the bureaucrat his due; he likes to produce 
as many rules as he can for his salary. 

The root of the evil is that it is practically 
impossible to make a proper choice at an election 
— whether it be for Parliament, a local council, or 
for guild officials — ^unless the electors have a 
really intimate knowledge of the candidate. For 
this reason, it is necessary to select a unit of 
election which will make it reasonably possible to 
be offered a known candidate, instead of the 
professional carpet-bagger, who desires to know 
his constituency during an election, and to see 
as httle of it as possible before or afterwards. 
The large, non-functional basis of the present 
parUamentary constituencies gives ^very facility 



for the unknown carpet -bagman. Men in the 
mass are both honest and reasonable. But the 
centraHzed system of government gives the dis- 
honest and stupid their chance. And few will 
deny that they have seized it. 

No sane electorate would choose an intriguer 
and self-seeker if he were recognized to be such ; 
but he can hide himself behind the complicated 
niaze of the governing system; which hides his 
vices— while it equally conceals, the virtues of 
the efficient and honest. 

Take in some detail the position of a guild 
electing its governing body ; comparing a highly 
centrahzed guild with a smaller local one. There 
will be, or should be, two main factors influencing 
the elections in both cases. The members of 
the guild should have two points clearly in their 
mind : first to pick a man skilled in the technical 
processes of the craft, that is, an efficient work- 
man or manager; secondly to choose the 
candidate who combines this industrial skill with" 
the moral honesty which will lead him to, use 
it for the collective good of the whole guild. 
In other words, the two primary characteristics 
of a candidate for office must be knowledge and 
honesty. He is an optimist indeed who imagines 
that such are the qualities that emerge out of the 
turmoil of a parliamentary general election to-day. 
A guild member will have an infinitely better 
chance of first-hand knowledge of a candidate's 
skill than can happen in the present parliamentary 
case. To begin with, the chief question at issue 




will be the technical problems of his own trade ; 
not those vague generalities which politicians 
prefer to discuss at election time. Generalities 
are the refuge of the ignorant. When the 
guild candidate asks for votes, he will have to 
make out his case before a constituency which 
really knows what he is talking about. It will 
not be possible to ride off on the wings of 
eloquence, with the liberty of the negroes of 
Central Africa, -or the glories of the British 
Empire, as one's inspiring theme. The question 
at issue will be : How do you intend to manage 
this factory, or this mine, or that farm? Then 
eloquence will have to stand on one side for 
some more practical details, which may be very 
hampering to the eloquent. The electors will 
probably ask for those disagreeable things called 


Besides, there is another factor in a guild 
election. In the natural course, a candidate will 
be a member of the guild— though it is con- 
ceivable that he might be enticed out of another 
guild by the offer of a better position— which 
would be a perfectly healthy competition, surely. 
But in the majority of cases, the candidate would 
be known not merely by his election address 
(which is often his first appearance before the 
electors to-day) but still more profoundly by 
his daily work in their own factory or building- 
yard. Try to reaUze the position of a candidate 
when his daily record was in the minds of his 
constituents. It would not be much good giving 



a glowing account of one's marvellous capacity, 
if every man in the room had tested that capacity 
for himself a dozen times a week for months or 
years. It would be unnecessary to explain one's 
whole-hearted unselfishness in the service of the 
guild, when the audience would have far better 
grounds for passing judgment than most juries 
who have to decide between guilt and innocence. 
Election in a guild would turn on matters of 
fact, and very little on matters of theory. It 
would depend far more on performances of the 
past and very much less on promises for the 

But the possibility of dealing with facts rather 
than generalities, and the consequent chance of 
selecting competent and honest candidates instead 
of incompetent adventurers; all this will vanish 
to a large degree if the guilds become so large 
that the intimate knowledge between electors and 
elected cannot exist. Suppose there is only one 
Coal-mining Guild, including all the coalfields 
of the country in one body. Of course, it would 
be possible for each district, or each pit, to 
elect its local and minor official. But, sooner or 
later, if the controlling council is to represent 
the whole of the British pits, a guildsman in 
the Scottish districts may have to decide on 
the merits of a proposed managing-staff man who 
comes from South Wales, whom he has never 
seen in his life. This candidate will be to all 
intents nothing but the old carpet-bagman all 
over again. 

' 1 



Besides, it is difficult to see any easy way 
of working between local senior officials appointed 
by the National Guild and the minor local officials 
chosen by the pit. There is here an almost 
inevitable source of friction. That is no com- 
plete answer to the national system, one willingly 
admits : for there is inevitable friction inherent 
in all social organizations; and it would be 
childish to expect to find any system which would 
be free from it : it would be expecting the im- 
possible. All one can reasonably ask is that a 
system with less possibility of friction should 
always be chosen, other things being equal, 
than one causing more. It is all a matter of 


This question between national and local guilds 
seems to go to the very root of the matter, and 
is no tnere detail. Self -management under the 
national system would be little more than a 
name; it would be scarcely more control by the 
members of the guild than if they were all units 
of a State department under bureaucrats in 
Whitehall ; which is what in essence they would 
be. It is not a matter of theory, but of hard 
fact. The question is : Could the members have 
any real hand in their oWn management if the 
candidates were the choice of all Britain? In 
theory, one knows perfectly well that we are 
all supposed to have a controlling hand in the 
British Empire under the parliamentary system. 
In practice, no one is so stupid as to imagine 
any such nonsense. Our poUtical life is made 



up of these delusions; and if we are going to 
transfer them to a new Guild system, then we 
might spare ourselves the pangs of the new 
creation. The people who talk in terms of great 
National Guilds have usually missed the whole 
essence of the creed. 

There is a rough-and-ready test of the electoral 
system : Can the elector have any really intimate 
knowledge of the capacity and character of the 
candidate he is selecting? If he cannot have 
this knowledge, then there is little good in 
worrying about the exact method of election; 
the issue could quite as well be decided by the 
returning officers tossing a penny until the 
election was decided on the heads and tails 
system. There must be either real knowledge, 
or the whole matter is a sheer farce. If any 
one can discover a way of combining this intimate 
knowledge with a large area of election, then 
it would appear that squaring the circle, the 
alchemist's stone, the elixir of life, and other 
engrossing pursuits of the absolute, are all out- 
done. If we once decide that democracy is the 
necessary keynote of modern civilization, then the 
small electoral and functional area seems indis- 
pensable. Without it we can have benevolent 
despotism, partially efficient bureaucracy, blatant 
plutocracy, or well-meaning aristocracy. But 
Democracy will remain nothing more living than 
a dream, pleasant or unpleasant as our taste 
may deem it. We may decide that we do not 
find democracy an inevitable necessity ; but once 


? :il 




choosing it, we must find the small area or 
utterly fail. 

As suggested above, one practical difficulty 
would be in controlling locally elected minor 
officials by centrally elected seniors. Of course, 
it exists to-day in various forms. The officials 
of a local education board are in fact controlled 
by the inspectors of the Board of Education. 
But the theory in that case is that the local 
authority is independent; but if it obeys the 
instructions of the central Board, it receives an 
annual grant, and loses it if the instructions are 
disobeyed. So that in such a case the acceptance 
of the central control is an act of voluntary 
submission. It is perhaps here that the solution 
of the difficulty will be discovered. 

There may conceivably be a system of 
independent local guilds; each entirely respon- 
sible for its own decisions and acts; and each 
an independent unit in its relation with the State. 
But it is clearly possible to offer inducements 
whereby the local guilds for their own advantage, 
if for nothing else, will be linked with the other 
guilds of the industry, forming a more or less 
coherent body or assembly, which would express 
the united will of the trade. A concrete example 
will be more descriptive than theory. 

Take the building trade. It covers the whole 
country in its operations; and its methods and 
problems must be very different in different parts. 
A guild building country cottages and farms will 
need many broad and subtle distinctions which 



would make it uncomfortable under the control 
of men mainly engaged in building factories and 
streets of houses in towns. And quite apart 
from that distinction, the stonemason guilds of 
the north may have different views from the 
bricklaying guilds of the south ; and even if they 
had the same views, they are separated by a 
few hundred miles. But in spite of their 
differences, they have the common quality that 
they are all builders. It Will be all-important 
for their own welfare that they should very 
frequently meet for the interchange of opinions 
concerning all that they possess in unity. 

Common sense, without coercion from the 
State, would surely quickly bring about the 
formation of a National Building; Congress where 
all the local building guilds could be represented ; 
where they could give good advice and receive 
it in return from their fellow-craftsmen of the 
building trade. But note the essential difference 
between this National Congress and the sugges- 
tion of a National Builders' Guild. In the case 
of the latter, the National Guild, the central 
body, once elected, would be a coercive body. 
A resolution passed by it, a law sanctioned by 
it, would be binding on all members of the guild, 
and would control the local units. Whereas 
in the case of the Congress, the association 
would be voluntary ; the united resolutions would 
be nothing more than advice, which the local 
guilds might follow or reject at their good- 



This difference between government by 
coercion and government by voluntary agree- 
ment has not yet been fully worked out by the 
sociologist. It may well be that a decision as to 
their respective legitimate fields might clear up 
a great many of the problems of government. 
The voluntary system is very intimately connected 
with the Guild system, which will lose its 
whole essence if there be any attempt to crush* 
it into the coercive mould of the old central- 
ized political system. In practice, it certainly 
seems very possible to solve the differences 
between the local and national guild ideals on 
these lines; thus getting the best of both 

The local guild would send delegates certainly 
for annual, perhaps even for quarterly or monthly, 
congresses which would consider the common 
problem of their trade. The advice of the 
majority would be expressed in the ordinary way 
by a vote ; and as advice it would be conveyed 
to the local bodies. In certain cases, it is con- 
ceivable that the guilds Would send their delegates 
with power to make" a binding contract with the 
rest. It might be a promise to maintain a fixed 
price, or fixed hours, or fixed wages. There 
would naturally be no reason to forbid a guild 
making contracts with its fellow-guilds, so long 
as it did not break its fundamental charter with 
the State. Thus the National Congress or Asso- 
ciation might become coercive if the members 
deliberately choose to bind themselves. But 



fundamentally, it would be a voluntary and 
advisory body, unless it were otherwise decided. 
The coercion would be in each individual case a 
matter of expediency; and not already decided, 
as a matter of general theory. 

There is little doubt that, in almost every case, 
the guilds would quickly decide that it was to 
their advantage to keep a permanent staff of 
officials as a nucleus for their periodical con- 
gresses. It would be the duty of these permanent 
officers to act as the intelligence department or 
clearing-house for the whole trade. The figures 
of supply and demand, the price of materials, 
in short everything that the intelligent private 
trader tries (usually without perfect success) to 
discover to-day, would be placed before the guilds 
by their expert clerks and statisticians. Here 
would be kept the records of the trade, the 
Hbrary of technical books, perhaps the labora- 
tories for industrial research. Indeed, there is 
no reason to limit the scope of such a central 
organ; nor is there any reason to dread its 
illegitimate power; so long as it kept firmly 
to its ideal of voluntary action, unless, after the 
maturest dehberation, it decided otherwise in any 
particular case. 

Here would seem to be the right blending 
of the local with the central : the most generous 
freedom of independence to the local guild — 
for the practical reason that only freedom is 
healthy or even possible, in the long run (for 
the healthy man demands it) — ^the most complete 



unity for advice and co-operation and education 
that the goodwill of the collected guilds can 
devise. It is only the despot and the bureaucrat 
who are unable to conceive of unity without 




IN the three previous chapters have been 
defined the three main principles on which 
the Guild system stands. In practice they would 
admit of many very various developments, none of 
which would be necessarily an essential part of 
the idea : they might or might not follow, 
according to the particular local or industrial 
circumstances of each case. Indeed, the guilds 
will probably develop in some such varied way. 
But without the three principles already discussed 
in this book, there would be no Guild idea at 
all : they are the minimum without which it 
would be another system altogether, or no system 
at all. To repeat these three dogmas in brief. 
First : the main basis of the organization of 
pubHc life should be a classification by function 
or trade; because it is the most important fact 
in a citizen's public career. A man's work is 
his most important contribution to his State, 
and his citizenship mainly revolves round it. 
Secondly : the guilds must be self-managed, for 
the reason that the workers of a trade are the 
people who best know its processes and can 
develop it on the most productive lines. It is 
in this way that the material object of the Guild 
system (i.e. the production of wealth) can be 
most successfully encouraged. Thirdly : if the 




guilds do not avoid the highly centralizing 

tendency of modem society, then they will 

become bureaucratic, with all its endless evils. 

But, having been dogmatic to that extent, it 

is only possible to discuss the consequences of 

these principles rather as suggestions. For there 

is a liberality of thought in this system of the 

guilds which is innate in it — though not innate 

in all its disciples. So many disciples have 

betrayed their masters. If we really mean that 

the workers (in the fullest sense of hands and 

head) should be organized in many quite small 

guilds with comparative independence in each, 

then it naturally follows that we must intend 

to accept the very varied decisions that will 

inevitably follow. If we desire a rigid dogma 

and only one, then naturally we shall turn to 

bureaucracy and the machine-made mind. 

A. Variety of Experiments. 

It is wKen one realizes the varied possibility 
of guild decisions that one can grasp perhaps 
the first of the secondary principles to be 
discussed in this chapter. A serious charge 
against collectivism was that it tended to a dull 
uniformity. For the moment it might be the 
right uniformity; and if there were any hope 
of having found the final form of social organiza- 
tion, then one might have been satisfied. But 
even if it is right to-day, surely it is at once 
necessary to start doubting whether it will be 
right for the new circumstances of to-n^orrow, 



when to-day's system may easily be wrong. Now 
in the variety of guild experience it may well 
happen that we shall find just what we want. 
There will be that interplay of forces and ideas 
which will have progress as their natural result, 
rather than consciously seek it. Freedom of 
movement is one of the essentials of a healthy 
life either in body or mind. Tradition is the 
knowledge that comes from many experiences 
— and it is almost the only knowledge that it 
is safe to trust. 

B. Sane Competition. 

From this follows another important possible 
result. The guilds will save all that is good in 
Competition which Capitalism and Collectivism 
would certainly have threatened. Driven des- 
perate by the unutterable results of competition 
in practice, there were many brave people 
amongst us who tried to prove (and believe) that 
it was altogether evil and that we could do 
without it. As a theory for latter-day saints, 
there was a great deal of truth in our brave 
arguments. As a practice for present-day sinners, 
we were trying to bury our heads in the sand. 
The gentle prick of competition develops an 
energy in man; although the thing that the 
plutocrats call competition to-day is a crude affair 
that arouses no energy, but merely bludgeons 
its victims to death. There is a vital distinction 
between playing the piano and dancing on it. 

Competition under the Guild system would 



not necessarily be the scramble it is to-day. 
It is probable that certain limits would be defined 
by the terms of the guild-charters granted by 
the State; and there would be no possibility of 
driving an opponent out of the market by 
sweating. All those crude methods would be 
ruled out by the reality of self-management — for 
workers would scarcely consent to sweat them- 
selves. It would not be a crude competition 
between individual traders, which is necessarily 
very wasteful, because the factors are so vague 
that it is difficult to measure them; hence, for 
example, prices may be cut below what is 
necessary. The competition between guilds 
would be restricted to a very limited field. There 
would be only a certain number of guilds author- 
ized to trade within a definite area; for that 
would be quite a legitimate curb on the competi- 
tive instinct. No guild would be encouraged 
to roam the land to make its fortune, as it were. 
The elements of competition would therefore be 
definitely known, and beyond concealment. The 
resulting frankness would remove one very dis- 
agreeable element in existing trade rivalry, its 
intriguing nature. Competition between the 
guilds would rather take the form of a semi- 
public contest, somewhat like the open competi- 
tion of architects for a public building — though 
the judges would not be town councillors wire- 
pulling jobs for their friends I 

If the human passion for strife can be 
preserved, yet tamed almost, with due curbs on 



its vulgarities, surely that will be an advantage. 
At the very least, it should meet the case of 
those stubborn people who said they themselves 
were quite unselfish enough to accept Socialism, 
only they saw in it the ruin of man by making 
him too like a peaceful sheep. If we can 
prove this point, so many of our opponents 
will be brought face to face with their unsel- 

Surely there will be many advantages if just 
a healthy competition — and not more than 
healthy, remember — can be maintained in a town 
between, for example, a reasonable number of 
competing bakers' guilds. It would not be a 
matter of six bakers' carts from different shops 
calHng on six next-door neighbours, which must 
frequently happen to-day. That is not healthy 
competition, but competition run raving mad. 
But it would be another ^matter if we had the 
choice between two or even three bread-making 
guilds within our ward. There would probably 
be a definite area of trade laid down in their 
charter; for the community would have the right 
to prevent the waste of transit if an avaricious 
guild tried to gather its trade at a recklessly 
extravagant cost of delivery. There are other 
trades where the advantages of competition could 
never be worth its disadvantages. For example, 
nobody would think it good policy, as a normal 
thing, to build more than one railway line between 
the same places. There is not that delicate 
personal touch in running a railway that there 




is in handling dough; and, further, a railway 
line is always a nasty scar across a country- 

C. Peace Jul Transition. 

There is another very valuable advantage in 
the Guild system over any other suggestion for 
social reform. Only the illiterate still believe in 
the Revolution as a mode of social advance. The 
one thing inevitable about a revolution is its 
destructiveness. Force is almost always immoral, 
because it means the supremacy of crude muscle 
over more subtle brains. There are, of course, 
moments in history when the ultimate human 
right of personal dignity gives the corresponding 
right of self-defence, and self-defence may some- 
times, on the surface, take an aggressive form. 
But as a normal fact in history, revolutionary and 
physical force is always useless, just because it 
does not do what it professes to do. It does 
not reform anything, but rather destroys most 

Even the more apparently peaceful industrial 
revolutions, when blood is not shed, are equally 
destructive in the end. Try to estimate the 
colossal loss of human energy and life caused 
by the sudden change in the factory system 
which began in the eighteenth century. People 
were not shot in the streets, perhaps; but they 
were starved and stunted at home, which came 
to a worse thing in the long run. Indeed, the 
Industrial Revolution probably wasted more 



human life and energy than all the wars of 
the last two centuries together. 

It seems to be an inevitable quality of human 
nature that it cannot undergo sudden changes. 
Just as it took many ages to teach an ape to 
stand erect and call himself a man, so it may 
take centuries to teach men how to be good 
industrialists instead of nomadic horse and cattle 
rearers. A system which demands any sudden 
changes is ruled out of court, not necessarily 
because it is illogical in itself, but simply because 
man is not capable of violent breaks in his 
traditions. One might as well assume that he 
could to-morrow morning have breakfast while 
standing on his head. Revolution^ assumes the 

Now the Guild system does seem to have those 
malleable qualities which allow of gentle changes. 
It assumes nothing sudden : it agrees that man 
will be to-morrow not so very different from 
what he is to-day. He may wear different 
clothes; he may ride in a taxi instead of a 
two-horse bus or a Sedan-chair. But at heart, 
he will bte not very unlike the men and women 
whom William the Conqueror found here more 
than eight hundred years ago. Reformers do 
not always realize that it is the deep-rooted 
qualities of human nature that make or mar 
their schemes. They think that if they can 
modify some surface fact, if they can make men 
live in a cottage instead of camping on a 
common, that they have made some radical 






difference. Nothing could be further from the 
truth. The chief failing of reformers is that 
they know so little about men. Their operations 
on the human organism are wonderfully 
reminiscent of what would happen if an earthly 
surgeon began to operate on a man from Mars, 
of whose internal machinery he knew nothing. 

But the Guild system makes no sudden 
demands. It holds out no sensational hopes. It 
finds men not altogether wise, or free from 
avarice, or void of ambition; only moderately 
energetic, and sometimes a Httle lazy if there be 
no spur to labour. The Guild idea denies none 
of these undeniable facts; it is not more 
ambitious than to suggest an older system under 
which these weaknesses of men did not have 
such dominating sway. 

It was written a moment ago that the guilds- 
men do not propose any radical changes; but 
the statement must be modified. For one radical 
change we do ask. That is, the most ruthless 
suppression of the centralizing autocracy and 
bureaucracy which have grown like an incubus 
in the national life. We do want Westminster 
and Whitehall deprived of their illegitimate 
powers over our lives. In other words, we ask 
for the deportation from our public life of those 
small groups of industrial money-lenders who 
control the aforesaid Westminster and Whitehall 
^s if they were their private estate offices — 
which in truth they almost are. 

Now, be it noted, that however sudden this 

change might be (not that there is any likelihood 
of its being sudden) it would not be one of 
those reversals of human tradition to which 
reference was made above. Central tyranny has 
always been as the surface of human society. 
It is not denied that it has been of gigantic effect; 
it has strangled man times out of number. But it 
has always been imposed on him from above, 
from outside. It was never one of his traditions 
to be governed by bureaucrats. It was often 
his own tradition to choose a king, or even an 
hereditary royal house; but it is not (as 
maintained in the first chapter) a necessary 
function of a royal house to interfere with the 
self-government of its people. There were many 
kings long before people thought of tolerating 
any kingly rights over their private lives. The 
king's law, in the sense of an interference with 
his people's customs, is almost a new idea. So 
in sweeping away a great bulk of central law 
and central organization, we would be only 
sweeping away the things of the surface ; leaving 
the human nature and its traditions beneath, 
merely the freer because of the clearing above. 
Thus the guilds might rather be called Reaction 
than Revolution. 

In demanding freedom from the weight of 
central government the guildsmen therefore are 
asking for merely a negative change. Even 
this they do not suggest should be too sudden; 
though " human nature " would not much suffer 
if it were, for it is not a part of human nature, 



except in a very secondary sense. But man is 
such a delicate growth that he cannot bear even 
to part with evil too suddenly. So the reform, 
or clearing away, of the system of central govern- 
ment may, unfortunately, be a somewhat slow 
process; and there is nothing in the evolution 
of the Guild system which is not compatible with 
this. Just as the central government has 
gradually taken away local and industrial powers 
from the smaller organs of society, so it may 
perhaps gradually transfer them back. 

On the internal side, the process by which 
a trading company of to-day became a guild 
of to-morrow, might be a slow development. 
Sharing of profits might be followed by the 
natural sequence of sharing in the responsibility 
of making those profits, namely, co-operation in 
the management. Co-operative management 
would naturally lead sooner or later to an entirely 
democratic basis for the whole industry ; that is, 
to an equaUty of power and profits between all 
the members. And there one would have the 
guild already made, to be fitted into the social 
organism as soon as the whole community had 
the wit to use it. But note how gradual all this 
will be; never quicker than the capacity of 
the members for the next step. If the members 
are ready, then the process of change may be 
as quick as they like. Until they are ready, 
quickness would not lead to success — but to 
disaster. The guildsmen will not be slow, unless 
for the very good reason that they cannot be 



quick. The system is not recommended because 
it may be slow; but just because no human 
social idea has ever yet succeeded in being quick. 
By all means make quickness an ideal to strive 
for; but let us not mistake an ideal for an 

D. The Education of the Workers. 

The last section, suggesting that the possibility 
of advance depends on the capacity of the 
individuals for taking the next step, leads on 
naturally to the further point that the Guild 
system is also based on the soundest educational 
principles. In so far as every member of a 
guild will finally have a voice in its management, 
to that extent every guild will be a technical 
school; wherein the members can learn every 
side of their craft ; from its elementary processes, 
to its complex managerial problems. 

When one arrives at questions of practical 
trade and industry the atmosphere breathed is 
altogether different from the vague sentimentality 
of political and bureaucratic life. In industry, 
one is driven to face facts; the chief business 
of the politician is to avoid them. It is by no 
means the least of the guild virtues that it will 
bring back our public life to the region of hard 
facts. It will teach the citizen that there is no 
more useful public work than the production of 
something useful — ^it may be a poem or a potato. 
That idea once grasped, the citizen will then 
realize that there is only one path to the produc- 



r i^ 

p .|ii. 

tion of the useful ; to wit, the precise knowledge 
of the best method of producing it. It is hard to 
exaggerate the difference such a conception of 
fact and knowledge would make in the life of a 

With our public life based on the practical 
production of national wealth there would be 
some considerable hope of purifying it. Once 
allow a man to discuss that misty shadow 
called a " political ideal," and the High Courts 
of Justice and all their judges cannot tie him 
down to a definite statement or a bindable 
promise. When this confirmed wriggler goes 
further and discusses a dozen divers and usually 
inconsistent political ideals at the same time, 
little wonder that the elector, in a moment of 
admiration, thinks he has been addressed by a 
superman. Whereas it was only a first-class 
conjurer, with the added qualities of an 
experienced salesman. If we would get rid of 
the charlatan in public life, there is no surer 
way than to discuss facts instead of sentiments. 

One very valuable result will be to convince 
the Labour movement that if it desires to control 
the wealth of the country, on behalf of the 
workers, there is no short-cut to victory. The 
workers will not control the wealth until they 
know how to produce it themselves without the 
assistance of the capitalist. The reason why the 
plutocrat has his men in the hollow of his hand 
is because the workers are not in a position to 
step into his place and conduct the industry 



without him. What other reason can there be? 
A few shillings per head from the working class 
would quickly raise the capital necessary to make 
a trial of democratic management in any industry. 
Why do they not raise it, and become their 
own masters? Mainly because they have not 
suflficient knowledge of the processes of their 
trade, either on the technical productive side 
or on the financial and commercial side. 

The Guild system would tend to give the 
workers just this insight that is now their chief 
lack. They have the main key to the industrial 
position in their hands, because they alone can 
provide the labour. They surrender what might 
be an impregnable position to their masters, 
mainly because they are not able to use their 
labour themselves. Until they make up their 
minds to master the whole knowledge of their 
crafts, from top to bottom, so long will Labour 
be helpless — and one might almost add, that it 
will deserve its fate, and the plutocrats will 
almost deserve their victory. If it were only 
as a matter of education, it would be wise of 
the workers to accept that instalment of reform 
called co-partnership and co -management. In 
practice, even co-partnership would inevitably 
carry with it the first steps in co -manage- 
ment. It is hard to understand why such a 
first step is so bitterly resisted by some of the 
men who profess to write for the working class. 
If the ambition and the dignity of Labour are 
in danger of being so easily satisfied by a con- 



cession of this kind, then they must be of a 
poor, sickly quality. A quite trivial knowledge 
of history and human nature would teach these 
timid souls that nothing] so spurs on ambition as 
the beginning of success. It is not the down- 
trodden who rebel easily; it is those who have 
breathed the fine scent of victory in their nostrils 
and clamour for more. Perhaps, after all, 
ambition may be a poor thing; it may have 
the elements of sickness. But, certainly, so 
long as we call ambition a virtue, then let us 
realize that its fires are fed by success. Even 
the modest heights of co-partnership and co- 
management, and the similar homely virtues of 
the Whitley Reports and its kind, may do much 
good, and certainly cannot do any harm; unless 
the workers are ready to acknowledge that they 
are so easily duped. 

E. The Democratic Distribution of Powder and 


There are those whose ultimate object in 
desiring the Guild system' is that they are eager 
for the triumph of democracy over autocracy, 
for the victory of the poor over the plutocrat. 
They have seen how bureaucracy is so easily 
captured by the men in possession, and so hardly 
to be used by the poor for their own defence. 
The Guild system, as already discussed, is 
obviously a good plan for increasing the produc- 
tion of wealth and avoiding the present waste 
and inefficiency. As a rational business system. 



it could stand on that merit, and win easily. 
But it is theoretically possible for the guilds to 
make wealth for the plutocrats. However, 
in practice that will be impossible. It may be 
regarded as a certainty that the adoption of the 
Guild system will be a triumph of the many 
poor over the few very rich. 

The problem of equality of wages within a 
guild has already been mentioned in the chapter 
on self -management. There is no reason to 
suppose that even the most democratic of guilds 
will refuse to give higher wages to those who do 
higher work. Certainly, equality of reward is 
not an inherent part of the system, though 
it is certainly an ideal for the perfect man. 
If the promise of increased reward is the most 
satisfactory way of encouraging human beings 
to do increased work, then sensible human beings 
will so act — ^principles and other lofty things 
notwithstanding. But apart from the rewarding 
of special merit, there will undoubtedly be a 
general levelling of the wealth of the community. 
Smart bankers and popular novelists will no 
longer be judged worthy of the grotesque sums 
which they seize from the public revenue. They 
may both continue to receive more than the 
modest citizen who can only sweep the streets; 
but the man with a passion for finance or a 
taste for literature will be tempted to display 
his peculiar abilities for something far less than 
his spoils of to-day. They will be content with 
as much fame and rather less fortune. The 



*' leisured class " (our polite term for the lazy 
class) will, of course, disappear. For there will 
be no guild to contain them. If they have any 
of the qualities of the wandering minstrel or 
the clown, they may find a quiet backwater of 
life in those Bohemian circles whose inhabitants 
have often enough good taste to prefer happiness 
and a clean conscience to success— for ambition, 
after all, is really a plutocrat*s virtue at the 
best, and most of his virtues are vices. One 
hopes there will be room for many idle dreamers 
in the Guild State; but they must pay for that 
proud position by sacrificing the bulk of their 


The Guild system will inevitably put power into^ 
the hands of the majority— just as inevita.bly* 
as the Bureaucratic system has put power into 
the hands of a very few; and it would be 
ridiculous to imagine for one moment that the 
possession of such a power will not naturally 
result in a fairer sharing of the national 
wealth. But it will not be an absolute equality, 
as already stated; and this, because, first, it is 
exceedingly difficult to get perfect equality, and 
secondly because no one will very insistently 
demand it. As to the difficulty, it will, for 
example, be no easy task to ensure that one 
guild will not receive a greater reward than 
another. It might be done at the cost of an 
infinite amount of book-keeping. But would it 
be worth it? It will, one hopes, be a deep 
characteristic of the Guild idea, that nothing will 



be held worth much book-keeping — ^which was 
mainly invented for usurers and misers, and not 
for honest workmen. The people who insist 
so much on the need for perfect equality of 
wages, are just those who attach too much impor- 
tance to the factor of material reward. A man 
who is interested above all else in his work, will 
not be unutterably depressed if another receives 
a rather greater reward for his eff"orts. That 
would only annoy a money-lender. 

F. The Healing of Social Wounds. 

The average worker will not be content until 
he gets better pay and more dignity : and he 
is right in refusing any other terms. A clever 
plutocracy might give him better pay; but 
the worker does not attach the same absolute 
importance to pay that his more vulgar masters 
do. He must also have his human dignity 
preserved. It is in granting this that the Guild 
system ofi'ers more than any other, whether it 
be Bureaucracy, Plutocracy, Monarchy or Aris- 
tocracy. None of these gives the same chance 
to merit and self-respect, that would alone be 
recognized in the more intimate and more 
technical circle of the guilds. 

Such are some of the secondary principles 
and efi"ects which seem naturally to follow the 
three main principles of the Guild State. It 
is one of the virtues of that system that we are 
not at all sure what will follow it. A firm belief 
that human beings, freed from external coercion, 



will keep within the sane limits of their human 
traditions compels one to look to the past for 
the main outlines of the future . The Future 
will probably be only a dignified improvement 
of the Past, at the best; and it will be a very 
good best if it merely succeeds in escaping from 
the Present. It is a little difficult to realize that 
what we imagine to be the deep-rooted character 
of the present system is not deep or rooted at 
all, but merely the floating debris, cast up as 
the wreckage of an appalUng social disaster, 
but, after all, only one wrecked vessel out of 
the vast fleets of humanity that are still sailing 
safely to port. We in England have seen more 
of the catastrophe than have others, undoubtedly ; 
unless we except those other two great nations 
which have, like ourselves, bartered their souls 
for material wealth; to wit, the United States of 
America and Germany. There are plenty of 
evils in the world, elsewhere; but perhaps it 
is only the people of the United States and 
Germany and ourselves, who, having wandered 
so far from decent human traditions, will have 
much trouble to return again to sanity. 




HAVING assumed that organization by func- 
tion — ^that is by producing and trading and 
professional guilds — ^is the main basis of the 
healthy State, at the first glance it might seem 
that the whole ground of national government 
is thereby covered. It might be considered that 
since every citizen of a State should be engaged 
in work of some kind or another, therefore he 
would be represented in one of the guilds. 
Theoretically that argument is very reasonable; 
link all the guilds together in a national assembly 
or parhament, and we would have the ideal State 
as a complete whole. But for the first stages, 
at any rate, there would be all sorts of little 
nooks and crannies left outside, and hundreds, 
of quite useful citizens who would not be 
clearly sortable into appropriate guilds. Besides, 
although the guild would represent the man who 
was a member of it, he would be continually 
dealing with other guilds, both as a producer 
and as a btiyer of their wares. The ordinary 
man would have two definite sides even as a 
member of a very complete Guild State. He 
would be producer in particular and citizen in 
general. It is the analysis of his position as 
citizen that is the subject of this chapter. 
It is obvious that we are on much more 




indefinite grounds than in the previous part of 
the argument. The guild, rightly or wrongly, 
has been taken as a fixed point in the State, 
as the essential centre of it. It therefore follows 
that any other national factors must be relative 
to this fixed central point. Having determmed 
that the guild is essential, all other ideas are 
merely matters of expediency and convenience. 
They have to fit ia with the main idea of organ- 
ization by function. It is unwise to be too 
dogmatic on this subject of the relation of the 
State to the guilds; for it is very difficult to 
be certain what form that relationship will take. 
It may be found that a very sUght State structure 
will suffice to support the Guild organs. On the 
other hand, it is quite possible that a very sub- 
stantial State will be necessary. Anyhow, it is 
certain that in the beginning at least the State 
will have to do much which later may be done 
by the guilds, without external assistance. 

A large part of the early problem will be of a 
negative kind. The first object of the reformers 
will be to get rid of that blighting, corrupting, 
influence of central control which at present 
prevents healthy action. The first thing to do 
with the State is not to give it new powers, but 
rather to take away those illegitimate powers 
which it should never have possessed. The 
pohtical reform of the present governing system 
is necessarily a part of the Guild problem ; for 
the same reason that one drains a marsh before 
starting to build upon it. One could no more 



expect the present politicians to reform our society 
than one could hope that a committee of the 
Stock Exchange would revive good taste in art. 
The central State may play a great part under 
the Guild system; but it is quite certain that 
this cannot happen in the lifetime of the present 
political constitution. We at least owe a debt 
of gratitude to the present politicians for showing 
us so clearly all that must be avoided. What- 
ever the central government organ may be, it 
certainly cannot be a parliament controlled by 
the clique who masquerade under the two-party 
system. We may eventually find a parliamentary 
system of government by Lords and Commons 
a good thing; but we know that government by 
a small group of political intriguers is an utterly 
bad thing, and has very little to do with Lords 
or Commons, or, indeed, with representative 
government at all. 

The Party system is mainly based on a 
ridiculous rule by which a government can 
dissolve a parliament at its discretion; in other 
words, on its power of dragging down in its 
fall the whole Cabinet and all the members 
of the Commons. So long as a whole parliament 
vidll cease unless the Government supporters obey 
the autocratic orders of its Cabinet; in other 
words, so long as a government can force its 
supporters to vote as it commands, so long will 
our political system be a laughing-stock. As it 
exists to-day, if the members of the Commons 
refuse to obey, there is a Government defeat; 



i: ! 

which usually means a dissolution. How many 
men are there in the House of Commons who 
would not rather sacrifice their consciences than 
their seats? It may be replied that until our 
poHticians have honesty, any system will fail. 
But at least we can !see to it that we do not 
give every encouragement to political adventurers. 
If the House of Commons were given a fixed 
life of, say, five years; and a direct vote of 
censure, asking for the Government's resignation, 
were necessary before a Cabinet could appeal to 
the country; then a vote in the House; could 
be free of all motives except the desire to assist 
or defeat the precise question in dispute at the 
moment. Then, again, why should a whole 
government fall just because a majority of the 
members of the Commons disapprove of one 
clause in one bill? Here again is a system which 
surely was deliberately designed to make a slave 
of the individual in order to strengthen the men 
who control. Each member of a government 
should be chosen (by the House of Commons) 
for his definite work; if he fails to retain the 
approval of the House, and a bill introduced by 
him is defeated, then let him, and him alone, 
retire from office. There is no reason in Chris- 
tendom why a whole Cabinet should fall with 
him. There will be political corruption until every 
vote in the Commons can be freely given on its 
own merits. The Party system is planned to 
prevent that introduction of common sense. 
Let us now consider the necessary functions 



of a central government in a Guild State. We 
must first realize that the guilds will absorb a 
vast amount of the work which at present comes 
under the control of the central departments. 
Such affairs as Education and Public Health will 
be sorted out to the various guilds of education, 
guilds of doctors, and sanitary engineers con- 
cerned. If the teachers and the doctors cannot 
give us good health and sound education, then 
it is clear that we have got to a cul-de-sac in 
nature ; and it would be merely childish to hand 
over the impossible to politicians and bureaucrats. 
That would be making the impossible also intoler- 
able. Once accept the Guild system, and it 
follows that the central government is relieved 
of a vast bulk of its functions; or, at least, ;it 
will assign these to the guilds to execute them 
as its agents. 

With all the functions of production, in its 
widest sense, transferred to the guilds, what will 
remain in the hands of the central administration? 
It is dangerous to be dogmatic on this point. As 
suggested above, there is no great principle to 
guide us : it is rather a matter of practical 
convenience. We will leave everything to the 
State which the guilds cannot conduct with 
greater skill as professionals. 

Take the case of Foreign AfTairs. It is a 
little difficult to think of a Guild of Diplomats. 
It might even need no little argument to persuade 
decent persons, under the new conditions, to allow 
themselves to bear the name of a profession 






that has now no sweet flavour in the mouths 
of most people who desire common honesty and 
conmion sense. The men who allowed England 
to drift unwarned into the Great War, did not 
know their trade : the men who allowed them- 
selves to be outwitted by the crudities of German 
blood and thunder, did not know the rudiments 
of their craft. But one does not " produce ** 
international treaties in the ordinary sense of 
the word. It will be one of the few matters 
where the wishes of the public will overrule the 
professional advice of the diplomatic draftsmen. 
We have had too much of diplomatists with a 
free hand : the free hand might he all right, of 
course, if it had gone with average btains and 
the honour of the State : but, so far, diplo- 
matists have considered the interests of a small 
class — as often as not from sheer stupidity; and 
when honest themselves, they have rarely had 
the courage to show it. Anyhow, there will 
prcH^ably not be a Guild of Diplomacy. The 
matter will be left under the control of a body 
of secretaries directly controlled, as at present, 
by a minister or committee of the central 

As long as we are vulgar barbarians, we shall 
continue to waste our national wealth on an 
army and a navy. These, again, can scarcely 
be guilds; it would not be convenient, for many 
-easons, to allow them to be self-managing. 
War as a profession would naturally only attract 
a very inferior class of mind, as it has usually 

li • r 

done in the past — with many brilliant excep- 
tions, of course. The ordinary professional 
soldier would be something very different from 
the many great men who rushed to support their 
country and their principles in a temporary peril. 
While, here again, we could scarcely ask an 
Army Guild to " produce " us a victory, as we 
would ask the bootmakers to produce boots. So 
the Army and Navy, like the diplomatic service, 
will remain as the directly controlled servants 
of the State. But this problem, one hopes, is 
only a very temporary one; at the worst they 
will have vanished from civilization within a few 
decades. It is in the nature of a gigantic joke 
that the professional soldier has so often prided 
himself on saving civilization; forgetting that 
had it not been for the generals and the diplo- 
matists there would have been very few dangers 
from which to be saved. 

Having dismissed some of the unimportant 
sides of central government, there remains those 
functions that are really essential. There will 
be under the Guild system, as at present, a 
vast mass of legislation that will be common 
to the whole nation. Such, for example, as the 
laws laying down a national minimum. That 
is, the united citizens will decide that there shall 
be a limit below which the standard of life must 
not fall. There will probably be a minimum 
wage ; a maximum for working hours ; standard 
rules for health conditions. Whether it will be 
the duty of each guild to support its unemployed 



and pay its own old-age pensions; whether, in 
short, each trade must bear its own burdens as 
well as its profits ; all that is a matter of detail, 
the result of which will not be known until it 
is settled. It is just one of those cases where a 
good deal of time is wasted in discussions of 
theory; it is largely a matter of practical 
expediency to be decided when the moment 

The criminal laws, the law of contracts and 
torts, will require common control by the whole 
State. But it is quite possible that, just as 
one very usual rule of the mediaeval guilds 
ordered all civil disputes between members first 
to be referred to the guild, so it may well be 
under the revived system; leaving the State 
judges to deal only with appeals by the losing 
party who will not accept the decision of his 
fellow-members; and cases of crime, and civil 
actions between litigants who are not members 
of the same guild. But these, once more, are 
matters of expediency, and they may reasonably 
be decided in several different ways. In brief, 
so far as it can be generalized, there will be 
departments and officials representing the central 
State, to settle many of those common concerns 
of the citizens which are settled by the State 
to-day. But it must not be forgotten that it 
will be the continual tendency of a well-educated 
society to withdraw power from the hands of 
the State, rather than to add thereto. The 
Fabian and bureaucratic theory that civilization 



means an increasing functioning by the State, 
is, of course, a comparatively old-fashioned 
opinion. The more civilized a man is, the 
less he requires instruction from policemen and 
government clerks . The whole Guild theory rests 
on the theory that man should be his own 
governor — for the common-sense reason that the 
professional governors are rarely any good at 
their job, and because man when too much 
governed becomes a worm — and worms do not 
interest any one but scientists. 

There is one all-important function of the 
central State which directly concerns the guilds. 
The creator of the greater mediaeval guilds, in 
the legal sense, was the Crown, who granted 
the charter under which the guildsmen claimed 
their power. It seems probable that the modem 
guilds will be created in a very similar manner. 
One imagines that the grant of a charter will 
work out in some such manner as follows. A 
group of traders or producers will voluntarily 
link themselves together and ask the State to 
recognize them as a guild. It may be that they 
are discontented with the guild in which they 
have hitherto worked; or perhaps the old guild 
has grown too large in membership or area, 
and' requires rearrangement into smaller units ; 
or there may bfe a new trade or process involved. 
Probably the petition for the charter will first 
be referred to the existing guild organizations, 
as represented either by the units in the 
neighbourhood concerned, or by the larger guild 



assemblies which, as suggested in an earlier 
chapter, are almost certain to be formed in each 
industry or trade for common consultation. This 
body would naturally, as competitors, as a general 
rule put the case against the petition; if the 
justice of it were acknowledged by its non-trading 
rivals, there would be little more to be said; 
except the formal grantt of a charter by the State. 
But it is more hkely that the petition, and the 
case against it drawn up by the rival guilds of 
the same trade, would be referred to a depart- 
ment representing the united community. This 
might be one appointed by the national Govern- 
ment, and it would then be a kind of Board of 
Trade. Or it might be referred to a committee 
representing the united Congress of the Guilds — 
which might be the form ultimately taken by 
the central State. The main object would be 
to find some procedure that would give the 
community as a whole the right to decide whether 
the proposed new guild should be granted a 
monopoly, either absolute or partial, in the trade 
of its district. The exact way of carrying that 
object into practice might vary within a large 
range of methods. 

There is another side to this granting of a 
charter. The initiative may come from a body 
of the consumers, who may petition the sanction- 
ing authority either to grant a new charter, or 
even to withdraw or revise one already granted. 
For any number of reasons they may be dis- 
satisfied with the guild already supplying their 



neighbourhood. They may think it good that 
there should be more competition : or a new 
want may have sprung up. A growing village 
may need a building guild of its own, instead of 
merely absorbing the spare time of the builders 
centred in the nearest town; and if growing 
in houses, that would suggest the need for many 
other new guilds to supply the dwellers therein. 
In the need of such a petition, from the ordinary 
man in the street, there is an indication of the 
necessity of providing some easy procedure 
whereby the ordinary man will have a real voice 
in this vital question in his everyday life. One 
can imagine a fairly democratic nation that might 
allow the condition of the West Indies to be 
settled by a Foreign or Colonial Ofifice without 
very much interference : but a democracy that 
could not be the deciding factor in choosing its 
butcher and builder, its baker and candlestick - 
maker, would be a contradiction in terms. 
Liberty, like its sister Charity, begins at home. 
It is perhaps in this right to control industry 
by charters that we find the most vital function 
of the State. It Will certainly be its most delicate 
problem. If done successfully, it will solve a 
very large majority of the difBcuIties of public 
affairs; if it fails, then we shall be no better 
off than we are to-day; but it is pleasant to 
remember that even utter failure can scarcely 
make things worse than they are now. It will 
be noted that although the words ** control by 
charter " are used, yet the whole gist of the 



solution is to put the real control in the hands 
of the guilds themselves. The guild charter 
merely decides to whom that right of control 
shall be granted. Yet even when granted, it 
will be on stated terms : it will be a contract 
between the guildsmen and the State ; which will 
be revisable if those terms are infringed. 

In some cases, but probably not many, there 
will be granted an absolute monopoly; that is, 
the guild will be the only body entitled to con- 
duct the specified trade within the specified 
district. Generally speaking, there will probably 
be more than one charter in action at the 
same place and time. In other words, there 
will be competition. Whether there shall be this 
competition will largely be in the hands of the 
inhabitants of the area, who will have, as already 
observed, the right to petition for a new guild ; 
and representation at the local public inquiry 
which would be held before a charter was 
granted. This inquiry would, or should be, per- 
haps, the most important function in the life of a 
citizen. If the rights of democracy broke down 
here, then they assuredly would fail throughout 
the social structure. Anyhow, the wit of man 
can scarcely hope to suggest a procedure more 
democratic than a local court, open to all as 
hearers and as witnesses. If democracy fails 
here, then failure is inevitable and it must 
accept its defeat. It will not be its first defeat, 
alas ! 

The terms of the charter will probably include 



a time limit, or power of revision after a trial 
of the capacity of the guild to do its work. 
There will also be a defined geographical area 
in which the guild may operate. Further, of course 
there will be defined its industrial area; that is, 
the charter will only give permission to conduct 
a specified trade; just as a company's articles 
of association carefully define its trading scope 
to-day. The general standards of life laid down in 
the national legislation will naturally be assumed 
in the charter; but more precise conditions may 
be included to meet the special conditions of any 
trade. For example, the State may decide to 
impose special precautions in the case of coal- 
mines; though it is scarcely conceivable that 
the miners themselves will sanction internal 
regulations which endanger their lives. Indeed, 
when we remember that the complete guilds will 
be both independent and democratic, we will 
realize that a vast mass of central legislation 
will naturally become obsolete. The guildsmen 
will be their own protectors. 

The financial clauses will be most important 
terms of the charter. It seems possible that 
a main element of national taxation may be 
the ** rent *' that the State will charge to the 
guild in return for its charter. In the case of 
a coal-mine there w^ill be rent, in the ordinary 
sense, for the use of the mine itself, which of 
course under any modern system would be the 
property of the State. That principle has already 
practically been accepted by a majority of the 





nation. The same ordinary rent clause would 
apply to agricultural guilds; for land un- 
doubtedly is already on the verge of becoming 
public property. This does not rule out the 
possibility of leasing it out to peasant proprietors 
with hereditary rights for their descendants. 
These peasants could then form guilds if they 
chose. For again, one must insist that there 
will not necessarily be more rigidity or fixed 
formaHty in a Guild State than there was under 
the older guild economy of the Middle Ages. 
Whether guild or no guild even will be a matter 
of expediency in each case. So in the case of 
most guilds there would be rent payable for 
some premises or land involved in their work. 
It may be a factory building or a brickyard, or 
a golf guild might desire to rent links. 

But in a broader sense, ** rent '* would 
probably be payable under the charter : that is, 
the guild would be asked to pay a tax in return 
for its right to the partial or absolute monopoly 
of trade. This tax might be annual and heavy 
enough to represent its income-tax. Or it might 
be a simple fixed charge, a revenue stamp, as it 
were, on the charter; sufficient to discourage 
any frivolous, applications from a body which did 
not mean serious business. It might even be 
held good to put the charter up to public compe- 
tition, to be granted to the guild (otherwise held 
satisfactory) which would pay the largest sum 
for the privilege. This might be just one of 
those ways of encouraging a healthy competi- 


tion, in distinction from the sheer anarchical 
scramble of to-day. 

Then again, the charter* might lay down con- 
ditions concerning the prices to be charged to 
the consuming public. For example, a fixed 
price might be specified for the coal produced 
by a mining guild. In that case it probably 
would be so fixed, for it is fairly easy to 
standardize it. But in the case of a bootmakers' 
guild, the price would not be so easily deter- 
mined, for it would vary with size and quality, 
so much more than coal; therefore the price 
of boots might be more conveniently left to the 
healthy competition of rival guilds and the public 
demand. In the case of an excessive price, 
there would soon be petitions from new guilds- 
men or complaining buyers. Nevertheless, it 
might be possible for the State to learn from the 
experience of all its guilds what was the standard 
cost of production. With this evidence at its 
disposal, we might go back to that highest 
moment in the history of industrial ethics ; when, 
as throughout the Middle Ages, there was a 
" fair price "; which was the cost of production 
plus a fair return for the producer's labours. 
The cost of production was the foundation of the 
standard ; and it is the only honest and rational 
standard that can be applied. 

So far it has been assumed that this institution 
called the State, which is to have the power to 
grant or to refuse a charter of incorporation to 
a guild, is that rather pompous, old-fashioned 



thing as we know it to-day. It would be truer 
to say — as we do not know it to-day, for the 
clearest fact about the State is that it is not 
clear at all, but very mysterious. If it were 
not mysterious, if we knew it as it is, our 
governors, who are our State in real life, could 
not exist beyond a matter of hours. The only 
hope for a modern poHtical statesman is that 
he should remain unknown by his subjects. For 
this reason, its impalpable mysteriousness, the 
modem State is suspected by honest men, who 
trust hght more than darkness. The rebellion 
against the centralized State has begun; and 
it would be ridiculous to assume finally — as has 
been done in this chapter hitherto — that the State 
of the future will continue to bear the, same form 
as in the past. 

Already there is much talk of a federated 
United Kingdom instead of a single body repre- 
sented by one parliament. Quite apart from 
the question of Irish Home Rule, there is a 
suggestion that Scotland and Wales should also 
have separate parHaments dealing with their own 
aflfairs. A Scotch Home Rule Bill has already 
been introduced in the Commons. Some would 
go still further and ask what Lancashire and 
Sussex have in common that they should be 
asked to interfere in each other's business by 
sharing the same assembly at Westminster. Why 
should the desires of industrial Lancashire be 
judged^ by the fishermen and farmers and 
lodging-house ladies of Sussex? There was a 



time when England was divided into at least 
seven substantial kingdoms; and still earlier, 
our present southern counties represented more 
• or less distinct units of govemm^t. As most 
old things are better than anything new, it 
appears every day more probable that a reaction 
against over-centralization will make us retrace 
our steps in national history. By the time the 
guilds have arrived and they have to contest 
their power with the State, they will find a 
very different institution than the one we see 


Thus, if federation follows, the guilds of Wales 
may not be compelled to come to .Westminster 
to procure their charters. Indeed, Wales is a 
very good case for the new federation. It is 
really a distinctive unit, both racially and 
economically. We have no right to discuss 
subjects like the Welsh Church, in the sense 
of overriding the decision of the Welsh people. 
And certainly Wales interferes far* too much with 
us. But it is in no spirit, of revenge that iwe 
offer Mr. Lloyd George to his countrymen for 
internal consumption. If Wales, as well as 
Ireland and Scotland, were separate political 
units, then it would no longer be a Board of 
Trade in Whitehall which would be the creator 
of guilds; but a more local Board either at 
Dublin, or Edinburgh, or the Welsh capital. As 
there would be, probably, still a United Kingdom 
ParUament, the question arises whether there 
would be any appeal to the central Board against 






the decision of the local body. The chances 
are that it would be held unnecessary. What 
more of the case could be known at the centre 
than was known on the spot? It is a delusion 
that a better judgment is obtained as one goes 
higher and further away. It is one of those 
remarkably insolent fictions invented by bureau- 
crats : and it is one of their most palpable un- 
truths. So there will probably be no ordinary 
procedure contracted whereby the decision of a 
local Board can be overridden by a centralized 
one; short, of course, of some extraordinary 
resolution by the United Parliament asking the 
case to be transferred on appeal. 

But there is still another alternative to con- 
sider in this all-important procedure of granting 
charter monopolies to the guilds. It is possible 
that in the first instance, at least, the sanctioning 
authority may be a more or less local body 
representing the present municipal or county 
councils. Perhaps the municipal council will 
again be, .as it was often in the Middle Ages, 
practically the united guilds; if so, they would 
be a convenient body to which the granting 
of the charters could be referred, at least in 
the first instance. If the council and the 
burgesses could not between them judge the 
facts on their merits, then the case would in- 
deed be a difficult one, and more suitable for 
pulling straws than further argument. The 
county council might do the same work in all 
cases lying outside the greater municipal areas. 

where the problems are naturally somewhat 

In short, it is necessary to think of the State 
as something very different, in form, from the 
centraHzed machine it is to-day. Without insist- 
ing on any desire or necessity to go back, yet 
there is little doubt that under the Guild system 
the State will be much nearer what it was when 
the guilds were so supreme in the Middle Ages. 
There are some people, of course, who will object 
to •* going back " on principle. Some people's 
principles are so rigid that they would rather do 
the wrong thing with them than do right with- 
out them'. It is surely a matter of fact in this 
case. If the mediaeval system gave better results 
then, and would give equally good results now, 
then, indeed, why not follow that fact to its 
logical conclusion. A moment's consideration 
will surely convince most people that a con- 
tinuation of going forward in our present direction 
is a far mOre terrible vision than going back, or 
sideways, or in any new dimension of space 
whatever. The mediaevalists are often called 
dreamers, still more unkindly critics use the word 
sentimentalists. There are some of us who will 
continue to prefer the quiet of dreams and senti- 
ments, to the reckless gamble of going forward 
as our critics are themselves going to-day. There 
is some advantage in being a dreamer if it 
makes us see the facts. What is the matter 
with so many hard-headed business men and 
politicians is that they cannot recognize them : 



their heads are so hard they cannot feel the 

The mediaeval State paid great respect to the 
city; and it is probable that under a decentral- 
ized system, it will again take an honourable 
place. Winchester may again become the capital 
city of a minor governing unit that has many 
independent powers of its own, without being 
compelled to refer to the main State on a hundred 
points of law and administration where reference 
cannot be a help, but rather a hindrance. 
Winchester and its county will not claim this 
independence from any stubborn conviction that 
it ought to be independent; and it will not be 
granted its freedom from centralization because 
of some vague instinct for liberty— though there 
are few instincts that are sounder. Its inde- 
pendence will exist just because, as a matter of 
practice, it will be agreed that local independence 
works more satisfactorily than central bureau- 
cracy. Affairs will not be brought to London, 
for the very good reason tha^t they can be better 
completed at Winchester. It is only the present- 
day politicians who are sentimental and theo- 
retical on such matters; the guildsmen refuse 
to be swayed by anything except very solid 

To take another example, such a county 
as Lancashire would have admirable excuses 
for claiming to exist as a minor and semi-inde- 
pendent administration, without the necessity of 
continually stopping its work in order to explain 



to Whitehall what Whitehall ought to allow the 
people of Lancashire to do. That complicated 
process is so remarkably like the tedious 
ceremony by which Louis the Fourteenth was 
hindered from putting on his clothes in the 
morning in order that a few dozen courtiers might 
hold honourable post about his person. He 
might have been handed his shirt by the first 
noble lord : but it had to go through many 
departments of the Court before it reached its 
owner's back. And that is exactly what happens 
with a bureaucracy and a centralized State. Its 
object is not to get its work done quickly, but 
to supply many jeople with offices. 

But all these theoretical divisions of the country 
into smaller units must be considered entirely 
as a matter of practical convenience, not as 
a rigid principle. The principle merely lays 
down the rather obvious rule that one should 
never carry a problem to a geographical or 
intellectual Whitehall if it can be settled without 
the trouble of carrying it anywhere. That is 
scarcely a principle; it is only common sense. 
But the application of this principle is a matter 
which can only be decided in each case as it 
arises, and on its own merits. Lancashire may 
be a sound unit, whereas Westmorland and 
Durham may be very bad ones. One can easily 
conceive that the agricultural interests of Norfolk 
and Suffolk and Lincolnshire and Essex might 
make them well rid of the suburban voters of 
the London district. But all these problems 




must be left to gradual enlightenment ; and only 
after the Guild system has sorted out the nation 
into its fundamental parts. That is the chief 
point to bear in mind; the guilds are the real 
dividing line; all other sub-divisions or 
centralizations are only questions of practical 

But however far the decentralization may be 
carried, there will always be something left over 
that will be better settled by the united State— for 
the good reason that it concerns the whole rather 
than the part. There will be broad questions 
of poHcy — very little of administration perhaps— 
which can only be settled by national collabora- 
tion; just as there will be still broader questions 
which will need international decision. So that, 
sooner or later, it will be necessary to face the 
problem of the structure of the central organ 
of government. That it should stand just as it 
is to-day is obviously impossible. The parlia- 
mentary system has become a byword of con- 
tempt, and a model of inefficiency. Nobody 
imagines that the seven hundred odd men in 
the House of Commons are the most patriotic, 
the most unselfish, the most honest, and the 
best men for their work. Of course they have 
got an impossible job, which would be mis- 
managed by archangels, but it would be hard to 
find a worse selection. A system that could 
choose such a weird jumble of members is self- 
condemned without much argument. 

It seems clear, as we have already discussed, 



that the first element of a sound representative 
system is that the electors should have intimate 
knowledge of the opinions and character of their 
candidates ; and that they should also have some 
real knowledge of the subjects on which a 
decision is asked. Without these two elements, 
the elections must be a matter of sporting 
chances, which might as well be settled more 
cheaply with the dice-box. It has been suggested 
in this essay that the personal qualifications of 
a candidate can scarcely be gained elsewhere than 
as a fellow-worker in the intimate practice of 
the same daily work; which would also fulfil 
the second condition of knowledge of the subject, 
so long as it was only the problems of that trade. 
But how are we to choose a man who will decide, 
say, our relations with the Hottentots, when we 
have only the most remote idea what these people 
want or what they ought to have? 

It would appear that we must give up in 
despair any ideal solution of this problem of 
finding the right parliamentary representatives. 
There will always be a large margin of chance. 
Politics will always tempt the adventurer, 
especially the man or woman who would other- 
wise find it difficult to make a living. The orator 
and the wire-puller will always have the best 
chance of beating the thinker and the honest 
man at the polls. As it will be always impossible 
for the electors to have an expert knowledge of 
every subject that arises during an election, that 
factor of the problem must often take its chance. 



It remains, therefore, to cling to the first prin- 
ciple that at least the electors may know their 


If a man is chosen for his honesty and shrewd 
common sense, he will be found fairly adequate to 
give the reasonable and honest vote on most 
occasions. No system will be fool-proof or 
knave-proof. If knowledge of our candidates 
is thus our main hope, perhaps it may be found 
necessary to sweep away the area-representa- 
tion altogether, and elect the members of the 
central parliament on the basis of the guilds. 
Each guild would return its member or share 
him with its neighbouring guilds. But as the 
number of guilds would make the assembly too 
large for practical purposes, it is possible that 
the united delegates of a whole industry might 
make the election. Though here again, the know- 
ledge of the candidate would be rather slight. 
Or an alternative system would be for quite small 
areas, say a parish, to choose primary electors 
who would then group together in, say, county 
areas and choose the members. There are 
obvious defects; but, as already admitted, all 
systems seem to be weak somewhere. The 
whole idea of representation is a mere concession 
to the unfortunate fact that we cannot be in a 
dozen places at one time. 

It may therefore be that we shall have to 
choose the best of the defective ways of central 
election ; and comfort ourselves with the thought 
that in the Guild State we shall have removed 



as many subjects as possible from the power of 
the central machine. And by hitting at the 
Party system as hard as possible we shall do 
much to make what remains of centralization as 
little dangerous as must be. Besides, no govern- 
ment will be wiser or honester than its electors. 
There is no perfect solution of the representative 
system except by first finding an educated 
electorate. The wiser the voter, the less often will 
he choose a fool or a rogue : and until he is 
wise there is little use our crying for the moon. 
For we will not get it. 




TTAVING enticed the reader to bear with the 
A A foregoing essay on the guilds, tempting him 
by a plea that the social machinery of the State 
is a vital matter in human affairs, the time has 
now come for a confession. These questions of 
social machinery, these details of economic and 
poHtical constitutions, have been altogether over- 
rated. There are intellectual freaks who some- 
times emerge from our educational system 
(usually from the honours schools at the univer- 
sities), who imagine that man will save his soul 
by the infinite collecting and studying of political 
constitutions. They tabulate them and arrange 
them in their libraries, as wiser men collect and 
pin butterflies. They would seem to believe 
that the fate of man' hangs on the thread of 
whether he be a proportional-representation man 
or a mere voter after the old-fashioned Victorian 
manner. They get passionate in defending the 
federal State against the confederates. They 
imagine, in short, that man clings to social 
salvation by the hair of a political constitution. 
There are political dreamers and economic pro- 
fessors who collect constitutions and regulations 
with the simple enthusiasm of schoolboys 
collecting postage stamps— and, for all the 
results one can discover, with the equal satisfac- 
tion of a harmless and innocent curiosity. For 




whether man has one civic constitution or 
another seems ultimately of as little importance as 
when Brazil changes the colour of its postage 

The chief fault of the learned is that they 
have no sense of proportion; which is a high 
philosophic quality usually reserved for the 
simple. Education is too often an overbalancing 
of the values of life; the scholar so persistently 
sees one thing at a time — ^usually the wrong one. 
It is therefore urgent that we should get the 
social machinery of the Gtiild State in its proper 
proportion against the background of life as a 
whole. It is not the centre of the picture, but 
merely one part of it, however essential. Until 
we know what we want Hfe to be, we shall never 
be quite sure whether we ought to have the 
guilds, or how we should use them when we get 
them. They are not an end in themselves, but 
merely a means. Reformers so continually harp 
on the machinery and forget the men for whose 
use it was made. Man is the centre of human 
society, and the machinery is only good if it 
suits his ultimate purposes in life. 

What the guildsman must grasp is that these 
proposals go no further than the mere mechanism 
of social anatomy; and without some under- 
standing of what he finally intends to do, he 
may easily grasp the form of the guilds and 
find that the spirit has escaped. One can 
imagine a community led by university professors 
and constitution collectors building themselves 







a Guild State — as architects might build an imita- 
tion Greek temple or a sham Gothic church— 
and then wondering why everything remained 
much as it was before. Or worse still, not 
reaHzing they had never really desired anything 
new, except some new machinery to fit the latest 
pattern in their constitution album. 

The guildsman, if he is anything more than 
another sort of poHtical adventurer, wants 
many things much more fundamental than new 
machinery. He wants new results. But unfor- 
tunately this is not always his aim. There are 
some who do not object to the present poHtical 
and mdustrial system because it is radically 
wrong, from its very roots to its most rotten 
fruit; they think it is merely badly managed. 
Their intellectual and artistic outlook is almost 
precisely that of the sympathetic countess in 
Balzac who on seeing a poorly clad peasant boy 
exclaims: ♦* Tu n'as done pas de m^rel" 
She thought that if he only had a mother all 
would be well. She was like the man who 
imagines that the present system will be all 
right when incomes are more equally distributed. 
He does not, for example, desire to abolish the 
centralized factories ; he merely wants them made 
clean and bright. He does not want to change 
the present social system, but only to tidy it. 
He wants Lancashire to continue to produce 
cotton goods by the ten million yards, and Durham 
to dig coal by the million tons; and he will be 
delighted if Kent can be induced to follow their 


example. There are two classes of social 
reformers : those who are seeking a radical 
change, and those who belong to the same school 
as the young woman in the apron who flicks 
the dust off one chair in order that it may quietly 
settle down on another. Both schools may be 
entirely sincere; indeed, the most sincere are 
usually the dullest. But they have different 
philosophies of life; and until we know which 
is the right one, it is useless to start off aim- 
lessly in any direction whatever. Social reform 
is not a game of blindman*s-buff. 

The Mediaeval system had one conception of 
life, and the Modern system has another. We 
have the factory system now because a certain 
powerful group of men want something which 
is entirely different from the ideal of the average 
mediaeval man. The two conceptions can be 
summed up in a reasonable space; there is 
the ideal Modern Man, and the ideal man as the 
mediaevalists conceived him. One hopes to show 
that the former is a figment of diseased minds; 
and that the latter is the normal man, as he exists 
in a rational world. The antagonism between 
the two ideas may be put in various ways : for 
the moment it is important to make clear what 
precisely is the root difference which separates 
the Guild school of reform from the Modern 
State school. 

What, then, do the champions of this Modern 
State conceive to be the chief end of man? 
What is their ideal of life? The answer can only 



be gathered from the chaotic mass of evidence 
by which the system reveals itself. We can 
most easily judge of the modern man's ideals by 
the system he supports and strives to continue. 
It is a little difficult to know where to begin; for 
the main note of modern life is a rushing, roaring 
tumult of noise and rapid motion. To describe 
it from the life would be somewhat like trying 
to write a book of philosophy when seated in 
the din of a shipbuilding yard. The modem 
man seems to find some peculiar virtue in noise 
and movement. They appear to represent to 
his mind great natural forces which he associates 
with work and success. He is convinced that 
a great deal is happening in the world if there 
is a great noise. He is sure that progress is 
being made if somebody is going somewhere at 
a very rapid pace. He is convinced that there 
is more real energy in the world now that there 
are railway trains and trams and bicycles, instead 
of the old system of walking or riding in a cart. 
When the motor-car was invented, the modern 
man felt that the gods were kind indeed : for 
now he could travel all over the country at the 
same speed at which only the fixed railways could 
carry Tiim before. He could cover a hundred 
miles of road, whereas before he could only do 
ten. He did not stop to ask himself whether 
he only saw one-tenth of the scenery. Having 
the quantitative mind, he was only concerned 
with total mileage. 

The invention of the aeroplane was as strong 


wine to this enthusiast. All his newspaper 
writers put it into headlines and called it the 
** Conquest of the Air " in their biggest type. 
When London was being bombed every other 
night, there was a certain hesitation as to what 
was being conquered; but this balance was 
quickly restored when we had the best of this 
new game for modem men. That we should 
have a whole new element of space added to our 
possibilities for rapid travel, seemed too good 
to be true. It was apparently an inspiration to 
know that one could see so much more of the earth 
by flying over it so quickly — that it was impos- 
sible to see anything at all. It seems the crown 
of madness. It is pace for pace's sake. Of 
course there may be many reasons why it is 
better to get to Granada or Cairo rather than 
stop in London, and it may be good, therefore, to 
get there as soon as possible. But now we 
find this man of rapid passions developing a 
desire to fly to New York. But would any sane 
man want to go to such a place? Yes, the 
modern man wants to go there, for it sums up 
most of which he considered good in life. He 
may want a week or two at the seaside or in 
the country in the summer; but, for the rest, 
give him New York every time, he will tell 
you. It seems a shame to put this ignominy 
so prominently on New York — ^but a hundred 
great cities would please him almost as well. 
So long as he can get speed, and noise, and 
dust, and as little fresh air. as possible, the 

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■ I 
It 1 

modern man will be content. He will be in 
his Paradise. 

But, by the very nature of his creed, no sooner 
has he arrived in one Paradise than it is time 
to conquer another. Like Alexander, he does 
not rejoice for what he has won; but weeps 
because there is nothing beyond. He wants to 
conquer and to rule everybody and everything : 
and, above all else, he must be quick. His 
trusted philosopher is the newspaper leader 
writer, that feverish mind that is lured to its 
folly by the latest evening telegram. Now the 
real news of the world cannot be discovered in 
a telegram; and wisdom can rarely be gleaned 
from it in time for the newspaper train. Wisdom 
is not the fancy of to-day or the fashion of 
to-morrow. But the modern man does not ask 
for wisdom ; he wants opinion poured down 
his throat as quickly and as noisily as possible. 
So the daily newspaper has become the very 
expression of the intellect of this extraordinary 
by-product of humanity. 

This desire for speed is but the expression 
of the modern man's determination to value 
everything in terms of quantity instead of quality. 
If he can have two of anything, he feels himself 
infinitely better than if he only has one. He is 
unfortunately limited by one mouth, one stomach, 
by twenty -four hours to the day, and other 
ridiculous failings of a Nature that is so care- 
lessly unambitious. But the modern man is not 
one to be dictated to by mere Nature. His 


whole life is one continual defiance of every 
law of it. He thinks Chicago is so many times 
better than Canterbury because there are so many 
times more people in it; and so many multiple 
times the possibility of making money in it. 
He thinks one nation is richer than another 
because its exports and imports are bigger. 
He thinks the British Empire is greater than 
the land of the Plantagenets because its square 
mileage has increased. He thinks a citizen of 
the United States must feel superior to the inhabi- 
tants of Denmark because it is possible to travel 
in a railway train longer in the States before 
reaching the boundary. He thinks that Mr. 
Jay Gould and Mr. Carnegie are more successful 
men than George Meredith or Robert Grosseteste 
because they have larger banking accounts. In 
his more genial moments he talks generously 
of the services of the clowns and singers and 
artists who amuse his moments of leisure : he 
is kind enough to murmur proverbs concerning 
the happinesses and virtues of contentment and 
poverty — ^but he doesn't really mean it; it is 
only a creed for those who have not wit enough 
to make a real success. In short, it is a Philo- 
sophy of Multiples; there is one test for every- 
thing — ^the multiplication table. That is his 
creed. His questions can only be answered in 
terms of quantity, of space, of velocity. He 
prefers the last part of the multiplication table 
to the beginning, for it talks about bigger 



Now, the remarkable fact is that in the news- 
paper offices and government departments and 
business houses, where they imagine they know 
all the latest news, they really believe that this 
modern monstrosity is the normal man of to-day. 
They conceive of man as a heroic creature of 
energy who is continually asserting himself ; ever 
restless to take the next step in human progress ; 
always searching for something new, and 
imagining that the new is better than the old; 
always desiring to rule his fellows and to interfere 
with their lives as much as possible — for that 
is their conception of a great man. It is an 
astounding blunder in judgment. It no more 
corresponds to the facts of life than when a 
man in a moment of spiritual emotion sees two 
moons. The vast majority of the people of 
this world have no resemblance to this human 
motor-bus, eternally rushing along the highways, 
smothered in the dust of its own energy, a 
thing of tumultuous noise and virile determina- 
tion to get to its journey's end at all costs to 
itself or others. The leader-writer is deceived 
because he is himself of this weird mechanical 
creation, and likewise his friends. But it is 
the same sort of mistake that a duke would 
make if he imagined that all the other people in 
the world were dukes, with the corresponding 
number of duchesses. It is the same mistake 
that the orthodox historians make when they 
imagine that history has been made by 


The normal man has no resemblance what- 
soever to a motor-bus. He is sane. He is 
exceedingly stable, and if he met his ancestors 
of the Middle Ages, or even of Greece and Rome, 
they would have much in common to discuss. 
There would be all those innumerable simple 
facts which make, up the main life of the normal 
man. They would be more concerned with their 
daily occupations than with rushing along — either 
materially or mentally — somewhere else or no- 
where in particular. Normal life is rest, not 
motion; quiet, not tumult; acceptance of what 
arrives at one's door, rather than the seeking 
of what is not there. The normal man lacks 
ambition; he is not anxious to make a great 
fortune, or to conquer, or to govern other people. 
It may be intellectual slackness or physical 
laziness, or, more probably, merely good taste 
and decent manners. Whatever may be the 
reason, he does not care to interfere with his 
neighbours. He does not want to govern them; 
and he dislikes being governed by them. 

Perhaps that is the most fundamental civic 
quality of the average human being; this 
inability or disinclination to take a very active 
part in the business of governing. The 
politician may be very anxious to give the 
common people elaborate political constitutions 
that will confer on them many votes and many 
offices. But the normal man, rightly or wrongly, 
has never got very excited about his gifts. He 
will neither take a very great interest in the 



politician nor his programmes. The poHticians, 
of course, have assumed that this was entirely 
owing to lack of education on the part of the 
common man; and great endeavours have been 
made to arouse him to more intellectual activity. 
But when one thinks over the matter more care- 
fully, the suspicion is aroused that this placid 
ignoring of the political orator and his bag of 
tricks, may be just one of those things that 
prove the sane wisdom of the common man. 
It may be his thoughtful judgment — the clinging 
traditions of his ancestral memory — that he got 
on fairly well in the past without either politician 
or political programmes, and that all those that 
he has voted for seem, on consideration, to 
have done him no particular good, and some- 
times a great deal of harm. Anyhow, rightly or 
wrongly, the ordinary man as often as not will 
go to the poll only if he is carried there. He 
is not a political animal. 

His ambition is of very modest proportion ; 
desiring very moderate things, little inclined 
to self-assertion, peaceful; aroused to action 
only by the most persistent encouragement, 
provoked to resistance only by the most 
persistent .tyranny. The freaks of humanity may 
demand a grouse moor in Scotland, a villa on 
the Riviera, a box at the Opera, and dinner at 
the Ritz . The normal man is wonderfully content 
mth very much less. Being very sane, and 
therefore unlike the modern man, he recognizes 
the limitations of facts. If everybody drank 


the wines of Tokay, they could not last a day ; 
the moors of Scotland would soon be surging 
with sportsmen and bare of grouse; the theatres 
would be all boxes, and a box in the galkry 
would be a quibble about terms. In short, the 
world would only be possible if the normal man 
kept his head and refused to become an abnormal 
freak. It is one of the great traditions of man 
to keep his head and heart steady; for without 
it the earth would become a reckless impos- 
sibiHty. If all succeeded, if all won fame, then 
both fame and success would lose their meaning. 
It would perhaps be possible to take in each other's 
washing — but each other's fame might become 
exceedingly boring. 

But if the sane man has small ambition for 
greatness, he has a commendable desire to do 
his daily job with credit to himself. Man is by 
instinct a craftsman who likes his work. There 
was no strong economic coercive pressure in 
the Middle Ages; yet the craftsmen of that 
day built a thousand beautiful churches, and 
made ten thousand delightful wares. They were 
things that could only be done in the spirit 
of delight in doing them. But it is written in 
the history of the world that man in his natural 
condition is not content to get merely a bare 
living : he must always be throwing into his 
work an infinity of turns and twirls just because 
it delights him to do so ; while the appeal to his 
sense of honesty and efficiency is generally certain 
of a due response. Man was an artist by nature 





long before there were academy schools or 
technical colleges to teach him by classes. One 
of the pathetic struggles of to-day is to recover, 
by vast expenditure of public money on education, 
some of the artistic skill which the apprentice 
of the mediaeval days could pick up for the 
asking in every workshop. The deep traditions 
of the world would seem to have taught the 
normal man what is worth the doing and what 
is not worth it : and we find him' willing, or 
even eager, to do his daily work if it is worthy 
of a decent creature. But he is very reluctant to 
trouble about all those matters which come under 
the head of political affairs. 

There are the two types before us in very brief 
summary. The system of life which produces one 
must inevitably crush out the other. We must 
make up our mind which of the two w^ will 
have ; for we cannot have both : it would be like 
placing a terrier and a rabbit in the same cage. 
At least it is certain that the Guild State would 
threaten the destruction of the modern man. 
No one can suppose that this leader-writer's 
ideal could exist for long in an educated demo- 
cracy; he would probably be expelled under 
one of the sanitary regulations; or somebody 
might lose his temper and hit him with an axe. 
But it must be seriously asked whether this 
modern man is either ideal, or necessary, or 
even possible as a permanent social institution. 
We have had it continually dunned into our 
ears that it is this striving, competitive, ambi- 

1 f 



tious, self-assertive and noisy person who has 
made the progress of the world. But whither is 
this "progress" taking us? Quite clearly (if 
we are allowed to judge by results) it means 
more factories; more machines; more great 
towns and less country; more smoke, less sun; 
the workman will become more and more an 
automaton, a part of the machine; great art 
is to give place to great production; quantity 
of wealth is to be considered before its quality ; 
man is to be turned into a scientific instrument 
for the production of goods; and the man who 
produces (or rather seizes) the most of them is 
to rule all the others who get less ; government 
is to be performed by a class of trained bureau- 
crats who gather themselves into great capital 
cities as far away from popular control as 
possible; the individuality of the common man 
is to be reduced to a convenient standard ; while 
the individuality of the nations will gradually 
disappear as they are gathered together into great 
States. Such seems to be the picture of this 
"progress," but, indeed, it is blurred; it half 
vanishes in the noise and dust and speed of its 
accomplishment. It is like a cinema that is 

working too fast. 

But who are these who dictate the standards 
of life? We have sat silent too long while news^ 
paper proprietors and university dugouts have 
splattered decent people with the grease of their 
ideal world, bred in their coal pits and factory 
yards. They have done their best to turn a 



beautiful earth into a noisy pigsty; and they 
have the cool audacity to expound it as a 
triumph of wisdom and taste. It is the dream 
of a company promoter; and they ask us to 
believe that it has the approval of science and 
philosophy. In the face of all the fact^ they 
dare to claim that their modern system is a 
'* progress " from the Middle Ages. Their 
argument is a continuous evasion of the truth. 
There is room for a seasoned and well- 
balanced historian to work out with unimpeach- 
able candour whether the modern society is really 
better than the old. He will have to consider, 
in historic detail, whether this much-belauded 
** energy '* has not done as much harm as good; 
whether, if all men were ** energetic," the world 
would be a Paradise or a Bear Pit. Think of 
him calmly and searchingly : is this really the 
highest type of man? It is not a question for 
rhetoric, but for careful balancing of the facts. 
This historian would have to tell us if the people 
of England are really so much happier because 
their fathers had the energy to conquer an 
empire; or whether the whole idea of empire 
is merely a clever trick of the plutocrats and 
government officials who get their profits and 
salaries out of it. Even from their point of 
view, is it not a dangerous game? Rome was 
ruined by building an empire. If this modem 
ideal of energy and fierce striving is a good 
thing, then our late enemies, the Germans, should 
command our unmitigated respect. 


This inquiring historian may emerge from his 
study with many astounding conclusions which 
are not yet considered orthodox in historical 
circles. He may decide, in cold blood and on the 
facts, that modern society has more noise than 
reason in its composition. On close examination 
it may be found that there is something essentially 
vulgar and immoral in this desire to rule other 
people. The normal man has not this craving; 
it is not merely that he lacks the energy, he 
generally also lacks the desire. There is an 
instinctive delicacy in the common mind which 
holds it back from the wish to coerce one's 
neighbours, whether it be for their good or ill. 
The historian may decide that government has 
in the main been the trade of an essentially 
vicious class; vicious, not in the sense of being 
personally dishonest or corrupt, but because it 
is fundamentally depraved to govern even well. 
The Prussian officer was such a crude type of 
the governing class that every one beyond reach 
of his sword could only shake with laughter. . He 
was invented by the Fates for the enjoyment of 
music-halls. But he was not the most vicious 
part of German government. The real danger 
was the efficient expert official. It sounded so 
reasonable to hold that a carefully trained class 
of administrators could most easily provide us 
with the best of governments in the best of 
worlds. Whether the German people are now 
satisfied that this perfect theory has worked out 
as perfectly in practice, is an interesting ques- 



tion. There are some people who think that 
what man must discover is the right kind of 
government. The strictly impartial historian may 
conclude that sometimes the best of governments 
have been the worst ; because they have always 
meant so much the more of what is always 
bad. The German system of highly centralized 
and highly skilled government has proved 
disastrous just because it succeeded in doing 
the thing more efficiently than it had ever been 
done before in the history of the world. The 
danger of it was not that it failed, but that it 
succeeded. It turned the German people into 
a herd of well-governed sheep and moral 
degenerates; who could assassinate their neigh- 
bours, and think they were lofty-souled patriots 
when they drove in the bayonet. 

The real heart of the Guild idea is not a 
mere rearrangement of the social machinery; 
but an attempt to express a rearrangement of 
human ideals. It does not seek ideals that are 
merely pious hopes, but rather those that are 
the deepest traditions of the human race. It 
is the modern man who founds his system on 
sentiments ; it is the guildsman who is scien- 
tific and practical. He does not desire a social 
system based on the weaknesses of the few; 
but one which befits the strength of the many. 
Above all he does not judge that the final test 
of human society is whether it is best arranged 
for the greatest output of coal, or iron, or 
farthing newspapers : he does not value it by 




the speed of its trains or the size of its empires. 
He stubbornly insists that the supreme test of 
human society is Man; that he is the central 
pivot on which all must revolve. When he is 
told that a factory system is necessary because that 
is the quickest way of producing boots or tin cans, 
he asks the simple question : Is it the quickest 
way of producing a sane man? He is somewhat 
tired of trying political remedies for the cure 
of human ills. He knows that when the Roman 
Republic became corrupt men sought to cure it 
by making it an Empire; and when the Stuart 
kings of England grew tyrannical, men fled to 
America and founded a Republic; but neither 
Rome nor America gained much more liberty 
than if all had remained untouched. So the 
guildsman turns to more fundamental factors than 
poUtical constitutions. He turns to a time when 
man was mainly a craftsman and a democrat, 
who had not wasted many hours on politicians 
and governors. 

There is a moment when patience with our 
opponents is no longer a virtue. We have sat 
submissive too long while the salesmen of these 
modern ideals have dogmatically announced their 
wares. There is a moment when it is time 
to say quite curtly that we have listened enough 
to this insolent blufl" — for half this defence of 
the Modem State is bluff and nothing else. 
When we are offered for our homage a society 
which gives us Sir Edward Carson instead 
of Becket, and Comic Cuts instead of illi;- 



miiiated manuscripts; a society which has built 
Liverpool and New York and destroyed Ypres 
and Reims; which has set up plutocracy in 
black coats instead of aristocrats, who at least 
knew how to dress; which has given us 
millionaires instead of the millennium, and 
factory hands and smoke for a peasantry who 
at least could see the sun; when, in short, we 
are offered unmitigated nonsense for something 
that at least had romance and beauty and; an 
unaffected common sense; then it is time to 
show our opponents the door and suggest the 
nearest gate-post aS a more suitable companion 
for their confidences. Tolerance is a very great 
gift, a very great virtue; but when men say 
they are talking sense when they are flying in 
the face of all the facts, then it is time to 
show a little human dignity. 

Our opponents imagine that they have 
answered us with, the crushing phrase : *' We 
cannot go back to the Middle Ages." It would 
be equally pertinent to reply that the charge 
of the Light Brigade would be a pastime for 
nurserymaids compared with the superb heroism 
of riding much farther with the present system. 
However, we do not desire to return. We merely 
wish to cling to the fundamental facts of human 
nature, rather than to flirt with some idle fancies 
that flitted through the heads of a few economists 
and politicians who mistook statutes and ballot- 
boxes for the wisdom of mankind. We are not 
the sentimentalists : it is the man who says 


that Birmingham is a greater city than Bruges 
who is giddy with sentiment — and regardless of 
facts. But if he really means that he does not 
want to return to Bruges even if he could, 
then we can touch ground in the debate. We 
are not quarrelling about methods; we are 
struggling over the root principles of human ex- 
istence. It is not a matter of social machinery; 
it is a question of morals, of taste, of elemental 
sanity. We do not pretend that the Guild system 
will give the ** modern " man what he is seeking. 
At least we pray most devoutly that it will not; 
for if it does, it will be but another of those 
unkind tricks by which a mysterious fate has 
so often made sport of Mankind. 

< • • 

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