SIR,—As, a regular reader for nearly five years, I must congratulate you on your far-sighted leading asticle of May I. It came to me as a breeze of sanity, courage and hope after the heavy and almost stifling hothouse atmosphere created, alas, by the endless medieval platitudes about the " guild system," the " abolition of usury," the " just price " (whatever that may mean to-day), and all the stock-intrade of the doctrinaire Catholic writers on socio-economic questions.
Except for one or two passages that indicate some understanding of the technical approach to the central problem of industrial reconstruction, I fear that even Mr. Stanley James lucid series of articles strike one as hut an honest yet unconvincing attempt to put " old wine into new bottles." To anyone familiar with the machinery of industrial administration, and its possibilities as an instrument of self-government in modern industry as a whole, neither Mr. James nor Mr. Benvenisti (with his over-insistence on the financial problem), nor the really " Long " answer to " What is the Social Policy of the Catholic Church?" given in 3 recent issue, give any indication as to how the vital problem of reconstruct' ins our industrial politico-economic system is to be tackled as a post-war fact.
I am therefore more than glad to see that you yourself arc aware that planning has come to stay ; and that you for one realise that a planned economy is " the obvious and inevitable solution to the social problems of the day." To my knowledge you are the first Catholic writer to accept this situation fearlessly and to acknowledge it as a necessary historical fact of social evolution. Since returning from the forty-fifth Oxford Management Conference I have been more than ever appalled by the guff which needlessly separates the usual run of academic Catholic thought on this subject from the eminently practical Christian thinking (of which your leading article is a grand example) of those directly concerned with the relations between employer and employee.
How many Catholic writers have ever seriously considered the implications of Works Councils or of Joint Production Committees? Have they ever contributed one particle of constructive thought to the basis and functioning of these instruments of co-operation as between employers and workers on the things that really matter to-day? In fact I often wonder whether Catholics are really alive to social problems. Of the 200 or so managers and managing directors of industrial concerns, ranging from the huge combine like I.C.I. to the small family-owned business, who were present at the Oxford Conference there was not one who was a Catholic.
Now surely there are some Catholics represented in management circles in this country? If so, it was their duty to attend a conference of this nature, devoted as it was to the general theme of " co-operation between employers and labour," in order that the Catholic viewpoint could be expressed. Believe me, there were opportunities galore. For example, at one of the early sessions of the conference, the chairman, a delightful, popular and typically agnostic personality, voiced his scepticism as to whether " industry has within itself the spiritual power to create cooperation." Please note that even he recognised it as a spiritual problem.
His view was, however, that " what industry needed now was a great leader, like Mr. Churchill after Dunkirk." (Shades of Main!) On the other hand, the chairman at a subsequent session, when Jack Tanner gave us the trade union point of view on industrial cooperation and the planned society of the future, emphasised that this spiritual problem could he solved by the delegates present if they would only make up their minds to put their backs into solving it. Far from confessing a disbelief in any of the great religions as a source of industrial inspiration (as the other chairman did to me privately afterwards), he spoke as a practical Christian and laid grim stress on the spiritual values underlying all human nature.
The point I am getting at. is this. Here were gathered together a body of industrial administrators representative of all manners and sizes of manufacturing and distributive organisations, all of whom were in agreement with Tanner that the problem they had come to discuss was,a human one—not merely one of industrial organisation as such. As a result they discussed things not in any doctrinaire fashion, but with a practical grasp coupled with vision that was impressive, to say the least. I must confess that I left Oxford feeling that this vital social problem can be left safely in the capable, sympathetic and really experienced hands of industrial management—which, after all, lies midway between shareholder and worker.
All of us at the Conference felt the urgency of this problem. As Sir Frederielt Leggett, the Government's Chief Industrial Commissioner, put it (amplified by a wealth of sober and convincing argument): " Unless we solve this problem of industrial cooperation now, during the war, we shall be faced with a workers' revolution at the end of it." Sir Frederick made it painfully clear, moreover, that although the Government was quite neutral in the matter of co-operative machinery and its erection, yet its sympathies lay with the worker rather than with the employer.
It seems to me that Catholics as a whole are doing little to further the cause of true industrial democracy, either in their writings or their actions. Why should the impetus for the creation of Joint Production Committees have been left to the Communist Party?, Why could it not have come/from the ,Y.C.W. or the S.O.S. movement? How many Catholics, I wonder, could have written such a revolutionary and far-reaching article as that of Samuel Courtauld in the April issue of the Economic Journal? This great capitalist and industrialist evidently moves with the times. No doubt he has been "converted" by his former personnel manager, Dr. Marsden Jones, now Director of Factories under the Ministry of Supply, and one of the pioneers in the field of practical industrial so-operation. Would that there were one or two Catholics of his calibre in industry to-day!
88. Napier Court, Hurlingham, S.W.6.
[We think our correspondent underestimates the importance from the Christian point of view of the general framework within which practical cooperation should proceed. It is possible to make useful progress in tackling detailed problems, and yet wake up to find that the whole system has been allowed to drift into a totalitarianism. That is why the insistence on a Guild ideal, no atelier how much modified to suit present needs, remains important.— EDITOR, C.H.1