Conditional FreedomnLuddites were not the only workersnpining for the good old days ofnmedieval manufacture. The guildnsystem, with its devotion to craftsmanshipnand stringent regulations,nappealed to many early socialistsnand unionists, such as WilliamnMorris, the Knights of Labor, etnal., in America. As Howard Dickmannchronicles in his IndustrialnDemocracy in America (La Salle,nIL: Open Court), the old view ofneconomy as a self-fulfilling endeavorntook a long time to disappear.nThough the feudal concern withnquality quickly gave way to thenbourgeois obsession with quantity,nsome things remained constant.n”The work rules of the guild system,”nwrites Dickman of the 14thncentury, “are strikingly reminiscentnof modern union featherbeddingnpractices and jurisdictional disputes.n. . . Shoemakers (or as theynused to be called, cordwainers) werennot supposed to repair shoes, whichnwas reserved for the cobblers. Drapersncut cloth for one use, shearmennand tailors cut and sewed garments;nat one point, the bakers of whitenbread were not allowed to bakenblack bread!”nIf the dictatorship of work hasnbeen viewed as unpleasant rathernthan inescapable, we may thankneveryone who ever put pen tonpaper. After all, nature doesn’tnwrite, whereas writers, for all theirnphilosophizing, contemplate uponnnature. “The ideal of trade unionism,”nwrote John Mitchell, presidentnof the United Mine Workers innthe 1930’s (quoted by Dickman), isn”the ideal of two separate, strong,nself-respecting and mutually respectingnparties, freely contractingnwith each other, and with no limitationsnupon this right of perfectnand absolute freedom of contract,nsave that which a community in itsnwisdom may determine necessarynfor its own protection.” Ideally,nMitchell may have a point, but hisnabsolutes, in each and every in-nREVISIONSnstance mocking the grim reality ofnthis world, have yet to turn anynindustrial plant into an amusementnpark.nThroughout a large portion of hisnbook, Dickman deals with the evolutionnof the concept of contract, sonhighly regarded by Mitchell. Initiallyna pledge of honor, to developninto a legal exercise in bad faith, thencontract had become just anothernincantation. From the insecurity ofn19th-century industrialization, wenhave stepped into the unpredictabilitynof 20th-century innovation, andnunions are searching for controls.nYet, as Dickman implies, medievalnunderstanding of a society as a corporatensystem, or an organism, maynhave been much closer to the truthnthan Marx’s (or Adam Smith’s) representationnof it as an arena.nCommenting upon industrial democracyn(and inadvertently uponndemocracy in general) Walter G.nMerrit of the 1930’s employers’nLeague for Industrial Rights said, “Inthink this majority rule comes prettynnearly to the idea with whichnMr. Mussolini originally started, inneffect if you got a bare plurality thenother party is rooted out. It wouldnbe almost like saying that our Senatenmust be made exclusively ofnDemocrats.” What Merrit was talkingnabout was the right of the unionsnto dictate the conditions tonnonunion workers, but euphemismsnwere ever on hand to explainnprivilege, in this case that of unionnnnmembers, as the general publicngood.nTo anyone who’s ever tried to getninto a closed shop or a union, ornwho wondered what made his labornworth only a third of a union member’s,nDickman’s book is an indispensablenreader. Television reportagenof strikes for “job security”nnotwithstanding (who guaranteesnthe employers their job security?),nto men who have to produce anverifiable product the truth of theirncondition is clear. Work is war andnas such has no room for democracy.nNeither tools nor materials respectnthe will of any majority but only thenskill and the power of individuals.nIn countries where the workers havenwon (or been given) the right tonmake managerial or production decisions,nefficiency, quality, andnoutput have suffered accordingly.nWhat Dickens doesn’t say can beninferred from such failures. Democracynshould be left where thenFounding Fathers of this republicnsought it: in political and public lifenand leisure, where mistakes are notnpunished as grievously as at work.nDickman ends his well-organizednbook (the text is fluid and uncluttered,nwith all the notes and appendicesnin the second half of thenvolume) somewhat ominously.nQuoting Professor Clyde Summers’ncomment upon the Supreme Courtndecision in the 1944 Medo PhotonSupply Corporation vs. NationalnLabor Relations Board case, Dickmannargues that, “Under thenAmerican version of industrialndemocracy … the real ‘locus ofnpower’ is ‘not vested in the majority’nof workers, ‘but in the union as annentity wholly apart from the governednemployees. . . . Whethernthe union is still approved by thenmajority is irrelevant. Its powerncontinues.'” This, argues Dickman,nof a situation basically unchangednto this day, is what “maynfairly be described as the beginningnof a fascistic regulation of our quasisyndicalistnsystem of industrial democracy.”n(MS)nJULY 1987/49n