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in comparatively modern times to organise production on a collective basis, we have to admit that the results have been anything but encouraging. The most determined attempts were those made in France in the first half of the 19th century. Under the influence of such men as Lassalle and Fourier, self-governing workshops of various kinds, of which the lunetiers' were probably the best known, sprang up in Paris and other French cities in considerable numbers. But, with the disappearance of the leading enthusiasts and the rapid growth of large-scale industrialism, their decay was almost as swift and complete as their birth; and to-day, with the exception of a few scattered remnants, hardly any trace of them remains. It is true that Godin's celebrated familistère,' the great iron foundry which perished only when Guise came under the fire of German guns, may be claimed by some as a monument to the possibilities of this type of association. But the Familistère, though it was unquestionably based on control by the workers, had nevertheless a large share of capitalism of a benevolent type in its constitution, and must properly be referred to the category of profit-sharing institutions, with the benevolent intentions of the proprietors carried out more completely than is usual.
The principles introduced in France by Lassalle had their reaction in England, where the Christian Socialist group, headed by Neale, Hughes, and Kingsley, endeavoured to imitate their example. The resulting societies have a history less meteoric than those of France but hardly more successful. In spite of the valiant efforts of the Co-operative Productive Federation of Leicester, which still represents a certain number of them, the majority either collapsed or sold out to the Co-operative Wholesale Society and other representatives of the organised consumer. The chief causes of this dissolution have been lack of discipline and difficulties in finding the necessary capital and markets. Viewing the situation as a whole, we may say that the workers have not proved the possibility of competing, with their own small capital, against the powerful organisation of modern factory plants and marketing agencies.
The significance of the Italian combinations, to which we may now turn, lies in the fact that they are specially designed to meet the existing conditions of industry. No attempt is made to eliminate capital or to create a new market. Tenders for definite work are accepted on the ordinary terms, and the collective feature is only introduced in such a way as to allow to the workers themselves the determination of the amount of work and remuneration to be allotted to each man. It is in fact simply an extension of the principle of direct labour, with which we are familiar in the methods of those who take contracts for such work as road-mending and certain building operations.
In order to understand the appeal made by these societies in Italy, it is necessary to grasp the fact that in the northern parts of that country there is a very large reservoir of unskilled and semi-skilled labour, and unemployment reaches proportions unknown in most countries. So lately as 1910, the ordinary labourer could only count on an average of 95 working days in the year ; and for the remaining three-fourths of the period he had to subsist on the very low wages of those days. To a certain extent the problem has been solved by emigration to America, but in many parts of Northern Italy it is regarded with deep aversion, and of Romagna Preyer records that the Romagnol does not emigrate.' Accordingly we find that, in the troubled times from 1850 onwards, the lot of the Italian labourer was a desperate one. The Italian Government and the local authorities seized the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, by undertaking large works of reclamation, drainage of rivers, road and railway making, and so forth, which would relieve unemployment and cost little owing to the cheapness of labour. The execution of these undertakings was entrusted to contractors at a fixed price; and the profit made by these middlemen depended of course almost entirely on the extent to which they could victimise the gangs of labourers employed by them. This form of enterprise reached large proportions in the beginning of the eighties; and within a few years discontent began to manifest itself among the workers. The first articulate sign of this discontent was the formation of bodies similar in many ways to Trade Unions, under the name of Leghe di resistenza o miglioramento,' the objects of which were (1) the raising of wages ;
(2) equal distribution of work; (3) the fixing of a reasonable working day. The establishment of these Unions was followed immediately by prolonged and bitter strikes; and the efforts of the contractors to fill the places of the unionists with cheap and docile • blackleg' labour broke down in face of the remarkable solidarity of the workmen, backed up, it must be admitted, by a considerable display of violence. Finally, a number of contracts were indefinitely suspended, and the contractors showed reluctance to embark upon new work which they might not be able to carry out at a profit.
It is at this point that we have to admire the behaviour of the Italian labour leaders. Instead of being content with merely destructive work and settling down to a series of strikes and lock-outs varied by rioting, they turned their minds to definite constructive organisation, based on the theory that the contracts in question could be just as well carried out by themselves without the aid of an extortionate middleman. From this theory was born in 1883 the first co-operative labour society, the Co-operativa di Lavoro di Ravenna. The object of this society was to contract direct with the local authorities and the central government for the carrying out of public works. In spite of many serious difficulties success was soon achieved, and the example was speedily followed by other Unions. There are now some 300 of these societies in Italy-mainly in the northern provinces and they carry out between them, with the aid of local federations, work running into millions of pounds in a year.
The organisation of these societies is simple. They are governed by three bodies : a general committee, elected from the body of the members and composed of workers only, which has charge of general matters of policy; a small supervisory committee, responsible directly to the general meeting of the members, which audits the accounts and sees to the proper keeping of the books and observance of the rules and by-laws of the society; finally, a technical committee, which, generally speaking, consists only of an expert engineer and a secretary with legal training, to look after the taking of contracts, the distribution of work, and the fixing of wages and salaries.
When a piece of work is definitely undertaken, employment is given to the various members of the society in rotation. A maximum working day is fixed in such a way as to spread the work as far as possible while allowing a living wage. If there is more than enough work for the members, outside labour may be taken on.
All wages, whether to members or nonmembers, must be at the rate fixed by the local Officio di Lavoro or Trades Council, and are paid weekly. The advantage of members over non-members, besides the fact that they have a prior claim to employment, lies in their right to share in the profits. These profits are put in the first place to the reserve fund for the purpose of building-up capital for new enterprises ; and any surplus remaining after this provision has been made is divided among the members in proportion both to the capital supplied by them (which as a rule is very small) and to the number of days' work done. The individual society as a rule is composed entirely of members of one particular trade or branch of a trade-such as bricklayers, carpenters, brass-workers, etc.-and, for the purpose of carrying out a complete contract, a number of such societies representing allied trades are grouped together in a federation. The federation takes the contract itself, and then turns over each separate part of it to the appropriate federated society. Thus in Genoa we find a federation of Ligurian societies representing some sixteen or seventeen different trades. During the early years of the war this federation undertook the building of a very large hospital to the orders of the municipal authorities; and the total amount finally expended upon the contract was the equivalent of 500,0001. at pre-war rates of exchange. The whole of this work was conducted by co-operative societies affiliated to the federation, from the excavation of the foundations to the erection of the electric light fittings, and the completed buildings are generally acknowledged to be thoroughly satisfactory and exceedingly cheap.
to finance undertakings which would keep all the members employed. The way in which discipline has been enforced throughout the movement is a source of amazement to those who hold the traditional idea of the Italian labourer as a volatile and explosive individualist. It must be remembered, however, that most of our ideas on this subject are drawn from the Neapolitan and Sicilian type of emigrant, while the pioneer work of these societies was done for the most part by the hard-headed and comparatively unemotional dweller in the northern plains. Furthermore, necessity, in her capacity as the mother of invention, has always proved the greatest foster-mother of the co-operative movement; and the labourers who formed these societies were always under the necessity of either bringing them to a successful issue or leaving the country. Even so, the fact that the danger was clearly realised and faced is easily seen by a reference to the rules of the early societies, which abound in signals of warning. Thus it is provided that immediate expulsion, with total loss of share-capital, shall be the fate of any members che con parole sediziose insisteranno a voler mettere il disaccordo nella Societa, che daranno causa ad alterchio disordini sul lavoro.' And again we find in the provisions with regard to liquidation that, if at any time the number of members falls below twenty, the Society automatically ceases and the survivors divide the funds, whereas, if it dissolves in causa di divergenze irreconciliabili,' the whole of the money goes to the Communea rule which must have a strong deterrent effect on the schismatic.
The actual division of the work is very carefully provided for. The men engaged on a job are arranged in sections of about twenty men; each section has a foreman who is nominated by the executive committee, the appointment being subject to ratification by the general meeting. These foremen, in addition to the ordinary day's work, are charged with the supervision of their men and the preparation, checking, and payment of time-sheets. Each worker in the section contributes 1
per cent. a day on his wages towards the remuneration of the foreman. Thus, if there are twenty men in a section, with an average of 30s. a week each, they would