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Guild Socialism

  From 1915 until about 1930 Guild Socialism was one of the leading intellectual doctrines of non-Marxist socialism in Western Europe. Initially an off-shoot of British trade unionism, Guild Socialists developed a critique of the wage-labour system which was then expanded by various thinkers into a general theory of democracy. Briefly stated, the theory argued that traditional medieval guilds, based on crafts and specific industrial sectors, should be resurrected, albeit on a democratic basis, to form the building blocks of modern political, economic and social organization. As articulated in the theoretical writings of G.D.H. Cole, the leading guild socialist, the role of the central state was to be reduced to that of co-ordinator of the various guilds, and functional representation would replace individual or territorial representation. In these respects guild socialism resembled corporatist thinking.

As a ‘middle way’ between revolutionary Marxism and the gradualism of the Fabians, Guild Socialism was neither radical enough to appeal to Leninists, nor pragmatic enough to entice Fabians. Moreover, the guild socialists had no rigorous economic theory, either of socialist public management or market-steering. However, the legacy of guild socialism survives in the importance attached to functional representation in the British Labour party and other European socialist parties. BO\'L

Further reading G.D.H. Cole, Guild Socialism Re-stated (1920); , G. Foote, The Labour Party\'s Political Thought: a History.



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