26 MAY 1866, Page 5


THE first half-yearly meeting of Greening and Co., the wirework company of Manchester, deserves more than a passing comment. It may have been the commencement of a new form of industrial organization, of a new relation between capital and labour. The company working under that name was established at Manchester six months ago to carry out two objects,—first, to make all the profit honestly attainable by making wire nets and other kinds of wire work, and secondly, to try whether the interest of master and man could -not, under some form of co-operation, be made identical. Hitherto that principle has been applied in England only by associations of workmen, but the Rochdale experiments, im- portant and successful as they were, were on one or two points incomplete. They showed that associations of workmen could manage shops, mills, and almost all forms of industry with success, and they immensely improved the condition of the men, but then they did not leave a clear place for masters. That was a defect, for three reasons. Firstly, money in England is held in great masses in individual hands ; secondly, there -exists among us a vast mass of administrative or, as we call it, business ability, which is of the highest value in directing associated labour wisely, which can and does add indefinitely to the value of that labour, and which is not willing to devote itself to labour in absolute or equal partnerships. It does not pay, say Mr. Brassey, to be anything but head. And lastly, co- -operation among workmen only is not so consonant to the national genius as co-operation between masters and men—limited monarchy having got into our bones—and a system which harmonizes with the national genii is accepted quickly, while one which does not, even if superior in itself, advances very slowly indeed. It was thought possible to cure this defect by forming an ordinary company on the basis of an existing business, and admitting every workman employed to a share in the profit of his exertions. Under the trust deed of Greening and Co. therefore the company was bound, after -dividing 15 per cent. upon capital, to divide the surplus as a bonus among -the workmen, in addition of course to wages, or in other words, after paying interest on capital to divide profit between brain and hands. All kinds of objec- tions of course were started, but Messrs. Greening were con- vinced, and aided by the experience of Mr. Hughes, the present member for Lambeth, and many other gentlemen, they began the experiment. The first result was a sudden decrease in waste, the men not seeing why they should waste 'their own property any more than any other masters, and waste is perhaps, next to bad debts, the greatest source of manufac- turing loss. The next was an immense advance in the pace of the work done, the men putting their hearts into it as hired people will not do, and scolding each other for neglect as if each man were overseer. The last was a great increase of orders, every man employed being as anxious to obtain work, and profitable work, or, as himself expressed it, to "carry some'ut -to bonus," as if he had been the sole master. The result was a first dividend at the rate of 15 percent. per annum, and 4 or 5 per cent, over for division among the men. Still greater results have followed the adoption of the same system in the Whitwood 'Collieries. There, what with strikes, contests, and carelessness -among the men, dividends had sunk to 4 per cent. when Mr. Briggs, the lessee, introduced co-operation, and amid inexplicable distrust raised the dividend in three years to 10 per cent. A really able man, he actually had to force his men into a -system in which they did not believe, not seeing a whole year ahead, and now the one difficulty is to soothe the wrath of those who in their ignorant prejudice rejected the offered boon. One person, who may be heard of again in this world, 'and who was under the old system accustomed to lecture against the lessee as the "Prince of Devils," is now a keen supporter of that lessee's " newfangled " idea. In an agri- cultural experiment of the same kind made by Mr. W. Lawson the labourers when asked to choose between " co- operation " and "each for himself" actually voted by ballot against co-operation, under some extraordinary idea that "each for himself" was an " English " maxim, and it will abso- lutely be necessary to divide the money against the men's will, relying on the certainty that when they have tasted blood they will hunt for themselves. The success of these experiments is attracting the attention of the whole North, till colliery lessees look askance at Whit wood's, scenting mis-

chief, and Trades' Unions begin to doubt whether "Briggs' lot" ought not to be excommunicated as masters, and not men. At the meeting of Greening and Co. Mr. Hughes, who made his first speech on co-operation years ago to twelve men in fustian, of a very enthusiastic type, found himself surrounded by " respectables," and cheered by industrial magnates like Mr. Whitworth, perhaps the largest manufacturer in Man- chester, and felt evidently half tempted to indulge in millennium dreams of the day when the capitalist lion should lie down with the proletariat lamb. We do not believe much in millenniums, or look forward to any time when a race, every member of which is under sen- tence of capital punishment, will not have in life more suffering than pleasure ; but we do believe that the claims of capital and labour are reconcilable, that the relation of master and man can be made endurable, that brain and limbs can be brought to work together in permanent harmony. That result would reduce suffering more than any other social change short of the adoption of Christianity by the people, and this experiment tends directly and visibly towards it. It makes labour comparatively free and hearty. Every workman is working for himself ; and when a man is working for himself he not only works better, but he works more happily, is free of that galling sense of disproportion between effort and result which is so apt, even among edu- cated employe's, to embitter life. It is not a crank he is turning, but a machine he is helping to get results out of, results he will see and eat, an idea which of itself, as prison inspectors know, adds 20 per cent. to energy. The moral gain, too, is enormous. The Times says it is absurd to import moral speculations into business ; but just let the proprietors, editors, and printers of the Times all give up the moral ideas which, except in politics, we do not doubt they possess, all quarrel, and push, and cheat among themselves, and see what will become of next year's dividend. Competition, i. e., jealousy, is of course a capital motive-power, most of the evil passions being strong forces, but there is no proof that love, fraternity, mutual helpfulness, co-operation, call it what you will, is not equally energetic. If it is not, economists talk a great deal of nonsense when they speak of the power of association, politicians are silly in extolling patriotism, and every man of business is an ass when he takes a partner instead of a clerk. The success of Greening and Co. is not a recondite or a revolutionary fact. It is simply the re- duction to practice of the ideas that a man works rather better for himself than he will for other people, and that two horses pulling together can drag far more than the load of two horses pulling separately.

How far the system can be extended is of course matter of opinion, but it seems, we think, applicable to most undertakings not requiring secrecy or the possession of some indivisible mental power. No system of co-operation would help to make a great writer, or doctor, or engineer earn more than he does, and it will be difficult to apply the principle fully to affairs which, like banking or contracting, require some degree of secrecy. The Legislature, however, has of late provided for this last difficulty, firms being authorized to give shares in aid of wages, which shares involve no right of inspecting books. A delegate from the men, too, can be admitted easily enough into the interior of the concern, though the men themselves cannot, and the power of dismissal, by far the greatest obstacle to the success of any co-operative scheme whatever, may be exercised, as in the Government services, virtually through courts-martial. As education advances confidence becomes more complete, and self-restraint, both as to gossip and as to exhibitions of temper, more a habit of the mind, and the managers of such societies know well that suspicion and temper are greater obstacles among Englishmen than any of those which capitalists suggest. One power undoubtedly will be lost, and that is the energy of despotism. There is in some minds, and especially in great administrative minds, a capacity which seems to be evoked only by absolute authority, and disappears whenever anything intervenes between the volition and the act. They succeed only when alone, fail when compelled to discuss, and if called on to persuade lose even their original force. Napo- leon would make a wretched Cabinet Minister, and the greatest Generals have failed whenever called on by circumstances to appeal to a council of war. The requisite power is evolved only under the combined stimulus of perfect responsibility and unquestioned power. But then this loss, which we admit to be very real, is one which must be encountered in any partnership, and has no special relation to co-operative asao-

elation, least of all to that form of it which Mr. Hughes on Monday advocated so well, and which is based on the assump- tion that obedience and copartnership can be made recon- cilable. Indeed it has no special relation to any form of it, for nothing prevents an association from adopting the presidential form of government, and makin,g its chief administrator irremovable during a term of months or years. Some of the French copartnerships, we believe, do that, with the best results on their profits, and no material injury to their own energy and heartiness in the work. In fact there is no substantial reason why, in any case in which partnership is admissible at all or can hope to contend with individual capacity, the partnership should not include the workmen, and there is this reason for it. The old relation of employer and employed is dead and buried, and we have either to find a new one now, or to pass through a period of industrial anarchy until one at last presents itself. Industrial undertakings have grown too large for individual agreements with individuals, and while the masses employed on every work have found in their numbers a secret of power, the master has not found the secret of vigilant supervision. He has to face combination and carelessness, both together, and on their largest scale. Co-operation as practised by Greening and Co. ends combination, for even illogical Englishmen dis- like combining against themselves, and see clearly that striking for wages to be paid by all to each is not a paying process ; and carelessness ends, too, for every man employed becomes an overseer: John may be as careless as possible, but if Tom is careless too, and John himself pays for the care- lessness, he thinks Tom's head ought to be punched, while Tom is just as keensighted to his comrade's laches. Enlight- ened self-interest, on which the Times relies, is aroused to the highest degree, and something else besides, which, if Chris- tianity is not a dream and the theory of cohesion a baseless illusion, has a separate and a perceptible force.