The National Minority Movement
Date: March 1926 (Second Edition)
Publisher: National Minority Movement
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
THE MINORITY MOVEMENT is not itself a Union but consists of militant members of the existing Trade Unions, associating together in this Movement to make the Unions real militant organisations for the class struggle.
All Trade Unionists are eligible to join the National Minority Movement if they accept the above.
Individual membership consists of taking an ASSOCIATE MEMBER’S CARD at a minimum payment of one shilling per annum.
Trade Union Branches or Lodges and Co-operative Guilds pay an affiliation fee of 2d. per member, per annum.
Workshop, Factory and Pit Committees, Ship Committees and Unemployed Workers' Committees, Trade Union District Committees or Councils and Trades Councils pay an affiliation fee of One Shilling per thousand members per annum.
IN view of the discussion which has been going on in the movement in regard to the scope and functions of Trades and Labour Councils, we have drafted a model Constitution. This has been done to enable Trades and Labour Councils which feel the need of revising their Constitutions to have something to serve as a basis and to enable those Trades and Labour councillors who support the programme and policy of the Minority Movement to present to their fellow delegates a general idea of what we conceive the Trades and Labour Council should be.
The workers’ struggle against capitalism is a struggle which is waged on many fronts. On occasions it assumes the form of an electoral struggle—such as when there are municipal and Parliamentary contests. On other occasions it finds expression in industrial conflicts, in strikes and lock-outs. On yet other occasions it may take the form of unemployed agitations, no-rent campaigns, or campaigns for better houses, decreases in the cost of living, etc. And, all the time, there is going on what might be termed the struggle of ideas—the struggle to win the workers to the workers’ point of view, as carried on in the press and general literature of the working-class movement, as against the efforts of the capitalist press and the other organs of capitalist publicity to keep the workers mentally and morally bound to capitalism.
From the very nature of the workers’ struggle the need arises for them to have in every town and district a central co-ordinating and leading body, which will marshal all their forces, to wage the struggle on all fronts. This central local body needs to be something more than a mere electoral agency or a mere body for industrial unity. The social side of the movement, the co-operative side of the movement and the educational side of the movement require catering for also. Our conception of a Trades and Labour Council is a body which will gather together all the organised forces of the working-class movement—Trade Union, Co-operative, political and social—and give them all the time, bold and militant leadership. In division lies weakness. Unity is strength. Every organised section of workers adds, if linked up, to the strength of the Trades and Labour Council. The women who are organised in a Women’s Co-operative Guild, for instance, can render valuable help during elections or industrial disputes. The men who belong to a workmens club, instituted for social purposes, can vote at elections and participate in strikes. There is no phase of working-class activity, and no section of the working-class movement, but which will be strengthened by the support of the other sections.
The Trades and Labour Council should be the leading working-class organ of the class struggle, the local concentration point of all the power of the working-class, organised or unorganised, old and young, male and female. It should be the principal factor for mobilising and leading and giving effective expression to every atom of working-class strength—power—in the town or district. It should consciously organise, for political purposes, industrial purposes and every other purpose, all the workers in the town or district.
Municipal or Parliamentary elections are matters of interest to the workers just when they occur. As soon as the elections are over the main bulk of the workers usually forgets all about them. They do not occasion sustained interest or activity. Hence the weakness of purely local Labour Parties—or electoral agencies. Strikes and lock-outs are also matters of interest just when they occur. When they are over the Trade Unionists involved usually content themselves with paying their contributions and doing precious little else. Hence the weakness of the old-fashioned Trades Council catering only for the industrial side of the movement. The Trades and Labour Council, such as we conceive, will keep constantly and increasingly alive the interest and activity of the workers in the working class movement. It will keep them engaged in a ceaseless struggle with the capitalist enemy. It will keep them keyed-up, always ready and eager to vote or to strike or to take any action as circumstances determine and to develop their organisations to their highest efficiency. It will bring the best men into the main stream of the working-class movement, develop their powers of expression, their organising and administrative ability and make them conscious of the great tasks of the future.
The name of the Council shall be “............Trades and Labour Council,” which shall cover the area of ....................................
The objects of the Council shall be:
(a) To serve as the guardian of all working-class interests in the district under the jurisdiction of the Council and be to the workers their militant leading local organ of the class struggle.
(b) In furtherance of this end to co-ordinate and concentrate—under the single leadership of the Council—every organised working-class factor within the locality, Trade Union, Alliance of Trade Unions, political, co-operative, factory and workshop organisations, unemployed, social and sports, such as workmen’s clubs, educational and so on; and from out of these organised elements to create the machinery of local mobilisation for rallying the entire working-class of the district for purposes of defence and attack in the class struggle.
(c) To take the lead in every phase of working class activity, no matter whether it be a parliamentary or municipal election, a strike or lock-out, an unemployed agitation, a campaign for better houses, or agitation against high cost of living, for more open spaces, public parks or institutions, or for any local, national or international activity of the working-class movement.
(d) To secure absolute political and industrial working-class domination of the locality; control of the Board of Guardians, Borough Council, Parliamentary seats, etc., and workers’ control of the industrial concerns.
(e) To prepare, to educate and train the workers coming under the jurisdiction of the Council, so that they will be loyal, disciplined, intelligent, capable and ceaselessly active participants in the class struggle, able when the time comes, to ensure—as far as the district under the jurisdiction of the Council is concerned—the conquest of power for the working-class and the re-organisation of the industrial and social fabric of the locality on a Socialist basis.
Amongst the immediate objects of the Council are:—
(i.) 100 per cent Trade Union and unemployed workers’ organisation; bringing within Trade Union organisation every employed and unemployed person, no matter what their craft, occupation, age or sex.
(ii.) The formation in every factory, workshop and industrial concern in the district of all-embracing Factory organisations.
(iii.) The formation of Women’s Committees in the principal working-class tenement buildings and streets.
(iv.) The carrying through of a local Workers’ Programme for better houses, improved working conditions in the local industrial concerns, more open spaces and public parks, children’s maintenance and welfare, etc.
(v.) To organise the unemployed in the N.U.W.C.M. and to enforce the maintenance of the unemployed and disabled as a national charge.
(vi.) Extension of the Co-operative Movement—every eligible person to become a cooperator—and to ensure that the Co-operative Movement enters freely into, and actively participates in, the local working-class struggle.
(vii.) The Council shall organise educational training through the N.C.L.C. and press through its local Borough Council or Educational authority for extended vocational training.
(viii.) The Council shall endeavour to secure direct representation to the T.U.C. and function as, the local organ of the General Council.
(ix.) The establishment of a local workers’ press, the policy and otherwise of which shall be under the full control of the Council.
(x.) Development of Workers’ Sport and Social organisations.
Every member of an affiliated organisation shall be regarded as a member of the Trades and Labour Council. Every delegate eligible for a bona-fide Trade Union shall be a member of such an appropriate Union.
The Council shall consist of duly appointed delegates from its affiliated organisations:—
(a) Each Trade Union branch shall appoint two delegates for every 100 members or part thereof.
(b) Each Factory Committee shall appoint two or more delegates in accordance with its numerical strength.
(c) Each Co-operative Guild and Women’s Committee shall appoint two delegates.
(d) Each bona-fide workers’ political organisation shall appoint two delegates.
(e) Similar representation, in accordance with strength, shall be extended to Co-operative Societies, Workmen’s Clubs, Co-operative Educational Committees, Plebs League, etc., etc.
The Executive Council shall be duly appointed at a full meeting of the delegates to the Council, notification of such meeting to be sent to all delegates beforehand.
Subordinate to the Executive Council be:—
1. A Special Organising Committee.
2. An Industrial Committee or Section.
3. A Political Committee or Section.
4. A Co-operative Committee or Section, and if need be.
5. Education and Social Committees or Sections.
These Sub-Committees shall be elected by the full Council meeting and shall each be under guidance of an E.C. member.
The Executive Council shall:—
(a) Carry out the decisions of the Council.
(b) Superintend the work of the officers of the Council.
(c) Superintend and stimulate the work of the Sub-Committees and Sections, receive and review regular reports of the Committees and Sections, to facilitate which an Executive member shall be delegated to be the leading member of each of the Committees or Sections.
(d) Review events of interest to the working-class, locally, nationally and internationally; seek every opportunity of enabling the Council to take the lead in agitations. campaigns, superintend the activities of the action as the occasion warrants.
(e) Receive and review reports from representatives of the Council on the capitalist Municipal bodies or Parliament and, in accordance with the policy and wishes of the Council, give these representatives definite instructions. These representatives shall, in return for the support of the Council, be made to consider themselves as the delegates of the Council to the bodies on which they sit, and as subordinate to, and subject to the discipline of, the Council and its Executive. Each candidate shall precede his or her candidature with a signed resignation.
(f) Plan the industrial and political campaigns and, if need arises, in more decisive Council in all its phases, see to the drafting of resolutions, memoranda and statements for publication, periodically review the finances of the Council and occasionally take an inventory of the material of the Council: platform, banners, furniture, literature, etc.
(g) Present a full report at every delegate meeting of the Council.
(h) In the event of a crisis of any kind affecting the interests of the workers, to take steps to immediately convene a full Council meeting.
(i) Such meetings also to be called on demand of five affiliated organisations.
The officers of the Council shall consist of a Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and such other officers as secretaries of Committees and Sections, etc., as the work of the Council renders necessary.
The Chairman shall preside at all meetings of the Executive and full Council. He shall be regarded as the leading spokesman of the Council. He shall present the report of the Executive to the full Council meetings. He shall be elected by the full Council.
The Secretary shall attend to all the secretarial work of the Council, receive and consistently answer all correspondence. Important communications he shall read to the full Council. He shall see to the publication of all public announcements of the Council. He, or somebody directly under his control, shall take the minutes of the Executive and full Council meetings. He shall be elected by the full Council.
On the joint initiative of the Chairman and Secretary, a special meeting of the Executive Council shall, at any time, be convened.
He shall sign and be responsible for all documents and statements issued in the name of the Council.
The Treasurer shall have charge of all the finances of the Council. He shall he elected by the full Council.
The officers of the Sections shall be appointed at full meetings of the Sections and ratified by the Council Executive.
At the first full Council meeting, two Auditors and one Provisional Auditor shall be appointed to audit the accounts for the year and shall report to the Annual General Meeting.
A special organising sub-committee shall be appointed from a full Council meeting to:—
(a) Arrange for deputations from the Council to visit periodically the affiliated organisations to report on the work of the Council, to stimulate interest in the Council and to secure, as far as possible, the active support of every individual member of that organisation for the various activities of the Council.
(2) Arrange for deputations from the Council to visit non-affiliated organisations for the purpose of securing their affiliation.
(3) Securing contacts for the Council with the workers in the local industrial concerns, etc., for the purpose, where none exist, of establishing all-embracing workshop organisations in those concerns.
(4) Generally planning and supervising the organisational work, subject of course to the jurisdiction of the Executive of the Council.
A live register of the names and addresses of members of all affiliated bodies shall be kept under the control of the Secretary. For this purpose the Council shall, if found necessary, appoint someone to act as registration agent.
A register shall also be kept of all factories, industries and enterprises in the district.
The Council shall create ways and means of utilising the services of all active supporters. To this end it may be necessary to establish some kind of individual membership, associate membership, Trades Council pioneers, or Trades Council Advance Guard. The individual members of the Labour Party shall come under this category and also Trade Unionists whose Trade Union branch does not come within the Council’s area.
Aggregate members’ meetings shall be held at least once a quarter. Special efforts shall be made by the Council to attract to these meetings ALL the affiliated members.
The Executive shall meet at least once a week. A full delegate Council shall meet once monthly.
The finances of the Council shall be derived from:—
(a) Affiliation Fees.
(b) Voluntary contributions, given freely and without condition.
(c) Income derived from Socials, Whist Drives, etc., etc.
The Council shall, as circumstances and development of the Council’s work determine, establish such organisations as Ward Committees, Cycling Corps, Defence Corps, etc.
In order to promote the best interests of the workers, the Council shall affiliate to such bodies as may from time to time be determined.
This draft Constitution must merely be regarded as a basis, which to adapt to local circumstances. Obviously, a Trades and Labour Council in a district where one particular industry dominates, such as exists in South Wales, would need to fit its constitution so as to meet that circumstance. Then again, in London, there are many districts which are almost wholly residential districts, and the Council’s Constitution would have to conform to that.
In theory, the basis of the Trades and Labour Council is constituted of the Workshop Organisations and the Women’s Organisations in the crowded working-class districts. But our Movement has not yet reached that stage or development where that is practicable. Trades Unionism is in a transitional period; the geographical branch has not yet been superseded by the workshop branch; the craft unions have not yet been transformed into industrial unions, and, therefore, we are compelled to take the workers’ organisations as they now are.
In regard to the name:—As things are at present, Trades and Labour Council almost fits the case. To call it a Workers’ Council or Industrial Council would, in our opinion, be more confusing than helpful.
In regard to the Objects:—The particular items that need to be stressed here are:—
(i) That the Trades and Labour Council is the concentration centre of all the organised forces of the movement; the one body possessed of the undisputed single leadership of the local movement.
(2) That it is an aggressive, militant leading local organ of the class struggle.
(3) That all its activities are conducted from the standpoint of the class struggle, being the leader not only of the organised workers, but of the entire working-class in its district, and using the organised movement to organise, and certainly bring into the struggle, all those who belong to the working-class.
In regard to the Organisation side:—We do not think it practical to talk, at this juncture, of dividing the industrial side into industrial groups, a la the T.U.C. When we have got the factory organisation properly functioning will be the best time to give this consideration.
In regard to the members:—We think that at the present time the periodic holding of aggregate meetings is as far as we can reasonably go. That, and the enlistment of active individual workers—by some kind of Associate Membership—in the work of the Council. Difficulty may arise here in connection with the individual members of the Labour Party. Those individual members ought, in the normal way, to be able to obtain adequate representation through the respective political, cooperative or Trade Union organisations to which it is possible for them to belong. This may have the effect of keeping out middle-class careerists, but then that is all to the good. If—as it should do—the associate individual Membership of the Council reaches large proportions, then, no doubt, some norm of special representation may have to be devised. Certainly, nothing should be done to freeze off any active worker just because he is unable to be a delegate. On the contrary, everything must be done to attract them to the Council, and to utilise their services to the utmost. In a T. U. branch there may be a dozen good workers, while only two may possibly he delegates. The services of the other ten would undoubtedly prove of the utmost value to the Council. A Council that was really doing its job should easily be able to provide them with something to do. We cannot afford to dispense with the willing help of any worker.
The Labour Party Constitution:—This may provide us with some snags and difficulties. But constitutions are made to be broken or transformed. We must wear down these snags and difficulties somehow.
In regard to Political Organisations:—It is as well to throw the net as wide as possible, so long as they are bona-fide working-class.
Differences of opinion give tone and quality to the debates. And we are sure of our ground.
In regard to the Officers, etc. of the Council:—These are matters which, once we give the Council the basis, scope and content we desire, can be appointed, and be as numerous, as circumstances dictate.
Special Organising Sub-Committee:—This Committee should receive our special attention as, in my opinion, it is of leading importance, next to the Executive.
In regard to Standing Orders:—Most present Trades Council Standing Orders can be made to adapt to the changes proposed.
In regard to Finance:—This is a matter which local circumstances and tradition will largely determine.
In the huge industrial centres—like London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow—the Trades and Labour Council necessarily requires a different constitution to meet the needs of its possible constituent elements. Always the determining factor should be the centralisation and concentration of the working-class forces for the effective realisation of working-class power.
The London Trades Council, as it is at present, is both a federation of Trades Councils and a body to which Trade Unions, Trade Union District Councils and Trade Union branches are affiliated. The London Trades Council does not, however, include the political forces of the London working-class movement. The London Labour Party does that. From every point of view the central organisation of the movement in London is unsatisfactory. The two central bodies compete, they divide the affiliations, the finances, and the support; they run two offices, they employ two secretaries, they pursue different policies. In our opinion there should be one great Trades and Labour Council for London, all-inclusive, waging the struggle of the metropolitan workers on all the fronts, in all its phases. Much sorting out and disentanglement is required to ensure the affiliation of the right bodies and to prevent overlapping. Certainly the Trades Councils in the Metropolitan area should be affiliated to the London Trades and Labour Council; as also should the London District Councils of the Trade Unions and those Trade Unions wholly appertaining to London. But the Trade Union branches should be affiliated to their local Trades Councils.
Such bodies as the London Trades Council are desirable for those districts where the workers are within mobilisable distance—a tram ride. If the distances are too long then the concentration of working-class power—for demonstration purposes, etc.—is impracticable. That is why the County Federations of Trades Councils are ineffective for central mobilisaton purposes. In such places as London the huge masses of the workers are so crowded together, are so compact, so easily get-at-able from the centre itself, that their forces can be almost immediately put into operation. In London the workers consciously poll, for definite working-class representatives, over six hundred thousand votes. In and around London there must be nearly a million organised workers. The potential power of a London Trades and Labour Council, such as we visualise, is simply tremendous. Once the workers of London are consciously mobilised and efficiently led there is practically nothing which they could not, within reason, accomplish. They could dominate London politically and industrially. They could make London the leading city of the world in the workers’ advance towards the Socialist Republic.