Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Guild Socialism Against Blue Labour

with 4 comments

An interesting site by Matt Smith on Guild Socialism.

For most modern socialists the name associated with Guild Socialism is G.D.H.Cole. whose book, Self-Government in Industry is still fairly widely read. For socialists of my parents and grandparents” generation he was a major influence.

Wikipedia writes, George Douglas Howard Cole (25 September 1889 – 14 January 1959) was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the cooperative movement. He and his wife Margaret Cole (1893-1980) together wrote many popular detective stories, featuring the investigators Superintendent Wilson, Everard Blatchington and Dr Tancred.

G.D. H.Cole, like William Morris, is also sometimes cited by Labour politicians who have only the vaguest feeling for his ideas, and would be horrified at them if they bothered to read him seriously.

Most recently he has been said to have inspired Blue Labour.

Cole advocated highly radical plans for social ownership under workers’ control. He opposed Collectivism (State control), Belloc and Chesterton’s Distributism, and the Free Market. He was a dyed-in-wool socialist, an anti-capitalist with a along and honourable libertarian record.

Not something that could be said of ‘Blue Labour’.

This Abstract summarises  his intellectual career:

In his contribution to socialist thought G.D.H. Cole adopted and revised Rousseau’s concept of the general will. During his early guild socialist phase Cole drew on the general will in his scheme for a functional, associational democracy. In the late 1920s Cole began to question whether the socially oriented element of individual will might be expressed in the existing social and economic circumstances. In the 1930s he combined social democratic and Marxist tenets. Nevertheless, his interest in Rousseau persisted. Will was, for him, crucial to socialism. He made a significant, if neglected, contribution to the socialist tradition of Rousseau scholarship.

His long history of Socialism (A History of Socialist Thought: 7 Volumes, (London: Palgrave Macmillan (2003) ISBN 1-4039-0264-X)is also of relevance  today.

Cole’s ideas also had an effect on the post-War French movement for ‘autogestion‘ (self-management).*


*Neither the French nor the English language sites on the subject list this reference but through close work with the PSU I can assure readers that this is true.


Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] Tendance Coatsey on Guild Socialism and Blue Labour (and […]

  2. I remember doing an essay on Guild Socialism on my degree course, back in the early 90’s. As a mature student coming from the engineering industry, it was ironic that it was through Thatcher making me redundant that I became educated. Anyhow I picked this subject for an essay because I had never heard of Guild Socialism, and thought it would widen my knowledge. To be honest I found it one of the most difficult things to research and write upon, there was hardly a thing about it in the university library. I managed to get something by GDH Cole and Harold Laski which were written in the 40’s, and some bits and pieces relating to the subject, i.e. problems of the State. Well I hope that now I might be able to get more information on the subject, and hopefully see if it has a ny relevance to britain in the 21st century


    October 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

  3. Thanks to the Internet you can get more information – I recommend the site linked to here.

    Ken Coates IWC kept the core ideas alive – though the ‘Guild’ word along with its medieval associations, got dropped long ago.

    Andrew Coates

    October 5, 2011 at 9:28 am

  4. Wow, Your website has a good ranking.


    May 29, 2015 at 11:32 am

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