Several previous columns have studied the mission of the trade union movement. The present column elaborates on this, but with special attention to the morals. The protestant trade union movement is a promising object of analysis for the role of the moral factor. The development of Patrimonium into the CNV is described. Notably the liberal and communitarian views on the trade union movement can be compared with each other. The main text is illustrated with many fascinating examples from practice, which for convenience are presented as footnotes.
The experiences with the Manchester capitalism during the nineteenth century have shown, that the economy can only function well, when the factor labour can dispose of a collective promotion of interests. Thanks to the collective organization of the personnel, the distribution of power during the bargaining process about the terms of employment becomes more balanced1. Now the question is how the bargaining between the entrepreneurs and their personnel can best be institutionalized. Your columnist has analyzed this in three texts, where most attention is paid to the social-democratic trade union movement. It turns out that during the twentieth century the trade unions of the working class have at times functioned plainly poorly. In the Netherland the trade union movement even derails during the seventies of the last century, and causes am appreciable damage to the economic system.
Across the borders the situation is not better. Apparently the rise of the trade union leads to perverse incentives in the formation of the wages. In a system based on paid labour the wage formation is not merely determined by the productivity, but also by the distribution. In the Manchester capitalism the entrepreneurs can dictate the conditions to the factor labour2. And reversely during the seventies of the twentieth century the industries were exploited by the unions. It is somewhat perverse, that workers are not particularly concerned with the continuity of their enterprise. The union officials care even less. Thus a trade union can attract members by making excessively high wage demands. It can indeed be observed, that the biggest unions have a politically left-radical colour, and are under a social-democratic or even Leninist influence.
It is desirable, that the promotion of interests of the workers takes more into account the future of the enterprise. This is a difficult task, because the personnel must not have an appreciable say in the strategy of the enterprise. This is the responsibility of the factor capital, because it evidently owns the enterprise and thus pre-eminently bears the risk. It is necessary to find a balance, that administers justice to the interests of all stakeholders. There are various manners to structure the organization institutionally. The Gazette has discussed several times the harmonious arrangement of the industries. When the workers are highy educated, then the works council (in short OR) is an excellent platform for participation. However, the organization at the branch (national) level is also required, in order to avoid the competition by means of wages.
The most familiar forms of branch organization are the trade union and corporatism. In two columns it is described that after the Second Worldwar the Netherlands establishes public branch corporations (in short PBO). In those texts it is concluded that the PBO is at most a moderate success. The entrepreneurs are unwilling, because politics would get too involved in the economy. And that is desastrous for the efficiency. During the seventies also the leading politicians begin to understand, that a rigid economic order will stifle the dynamics. These experiences disqualify the roman-red policy from the fifties. On the other hand, the protestants want to connect harmony with freedom. They were never enthusiastic about the roman-red corporatism, and prefer the private branch corporations. The problem is evidently, that without state-control the general interest is disregarded.
Thus one returns to the class-organization. The present column studies more then merely the organization theory of the trade union. The importance of the morals for the effective structure of the organizations is analyzed as well. For, it has just been stated that for instance the protestant christian church (in short PC) has its own ethics, which differs from the morals within the roman-catholic church (in short RK) and from the social-democratic class struggle. The trade union must try to spiritually elevate its members, in addition to promoting their material interests. Thus the added value of pastors such as clergy men to the organization can be studied. At present the relevance of the morals is disputed by the proponents of liberalism and communitarism. The national history can shed some light on this controversy.
Notably christian groups have attempted to invent institutions, that positively affect the industrial harmony. The present column is dedicated to the attempts, that the Dutch christians have made to create an effective branch corporation. Especially the RK Church is actually an impressive thinktank, which is also internally divided by ideological controversies. Your columnist focuses on the protestant Church, mainly because for him the roman-catholic literature is too extensive and difficult to survey.
Preceding the analysis of the experiences with the protestant trade union movement, it is useful to recapitulate again the insights with respect to the reciprocal groups. The social-democratic ideologist Hendrik de Man divides such groups in two types. A church parish is an idea-community, because its members are bound by a shared conviction. A trade union is a fate-community, because the members are bound by a shared interest. Communitarists believe, that the formation of groups is commonly caused by morals. Conventions and rites are at least as important as the result. But liberals state, that usually the formation of groups is caused by shared interests. In the liberal model the decisions follow the existing relations of power. Typically liberal thinkers are the American sociologist J.S. Coleman, and the Dutch economist P. Frijters.
A group is reciprocal, when there is no hierarchy, so that all members are equal. Frijters yet points to the importance of the size of the group3. As long as the reciprocal group is small, the members know each other. They cooperate effectively, and feel a strong bonding. In large groups the personal contacts are lost, so that some anonimity occurs. Therefore institutions are established, which allows the members to connect. The bonding becomes abstract. Incidentally, the difference between communitarists and liberals is gradual. For instance, Frijters acknowledges that groups morals further the cohesion. And communitarists are aware, that there are also material advantages attached to the group membership, such as the mutual support in times of need.
Your columnist obtains an advance on the following arguments, by embracing the standpoint of the liberals, at least as far as the professional organization is concerned. Namely, ideas are volatile, and no two individuals have exactly the same morals. Therefore an idea-community can be maintained only, as long as her members are disciplined, centrally or by social control. Behaviour, which deviates from the collective morals, is punished, whereas conformity is rewarded. However, disciplin clashes with the human desire for freedom, with as the consequence that it alway generates an incentive to secede. That is hurtful for the trade union movement4.
One may wonder whether christian morals do exist. In principle they are contained in the Bible, the Holy Script. However, both arch-conservatives and revolutionary socialists have with some reason appealed to texts in the Bible. Therefore, according to roman-catholics the Holy Script as such is not decisive, but the interpretation and explanation, given by the priests, is. Nevertheless, the dominant current of the christian believers agrees about a number of principles. The Dutch sociologist Ed. van Cleeff has expressed these principles well5. There exists an objective truth6. When one acts in accordance with the truth, then one serves the social justice. It lies in the human nature to strive for justice. However, this ideal is never realized, so that the aim is an eternally lasting process.
From this it directly follows, that the social progress is a gradual process. The society herself generates the forces, that steer in the right direction. Therefore the development must be cumulative, that is to say, build on the existing order. All powers must be able to unfold, in a universal harmony. As far as the effectiveness allows it, power must be decentralized. The catholics call this subsidiarity, and the protestants call this the sovereignty in the personal circle. However, a large effort is required to gain insight into the absolute truth. Only an elite can truly become wise. The others must resign to the leading elite, although they do have the right to elect her. Yet freedom must be maximal. The elite must realize her plans by means of conviction and guidance, so that coercion becomes a rarity7.
In a previous column it has been concluded, that halfway the nineteenth century the christians become increasingly dissatisfied about the liberal structure of society. Your columnist must still identify the precise reasons, but in any case it is clear that the christian leaders long for an order on a religious foundation. They start an elite-conscious movement against modernism, which is called the Réveil. The Réveil wants to stimulate charity by rich individuals, and thus is not a movement of civil rights or even an attempt to revive the Dutch Protestant Church (in short NHK). Even the protestant historians acknowledge, that during the nineteenth century the NHK was hardly anxious about the miserable situation of the workers and the proletariat. On the contrary, it preached passivity and resignation8.
The Réveil regrets the individualism, and wants to return to an organic society. Incidentally, this refers mainly to christian communities and less to the organization of interests. The foundation of the International (International working men's association) in 1864 indeed comes as a shock, because it contradicts everything that the Réveil stands for. Moreover, the message of the International turns out to appeal to the christian workers, despite its radical tone9. Somewhat willy-nilly the christian leaders begin to study the social question. Nevertheless, the first association of workers in the Netherlands has a modern (neutral) character, namely the General Dutch workers association (Algemeen Nederlands werklieden verbond, in short ANWV), which is founded in 1871. It advocates a moderate policy, similar to the then English trade union movement. Therefore it can count on the sympathy of the christian leaders.
Thus the bricklayer Klaas Kater, the later leader of the protestant workers movement, collaborates in 1872 and 1873 in the ANWV. He soon obtains a leading position. However, his sympathy quickly disappears, when groups of social-democrats join the ANWV. Their radical demands tear the ANWV apart. It is repugnant to Kater, that many within the ANWV reject any cooperation with the entrepreneurs. They want to wage the class-war, following the International10. Therefore Kater decides to leave the ANWV, which leads to odious reactions11. When in 1875 the AMWV wants to make propaganda for state schools, and thus attacks the special (christian) schools, the christian leaders see this policy as an infringement on the supposedly neutral character of the AMWV. This opens the door towards christian social associations.
In 1877 Kater founds the Dutch workers association Patrimonium, where he evidently needs the support of several congenial citizens. Within Patrimonium the Calvinist protestants dominate, which have an orthodox (strict) interpretation about their belief. Therefore, in 1896 also the Christian national workers union (in short Werkmansbond) is founded, where the protestant clergyman J.Th. de Visser is the driving force12. These associations want to further the general interest, and in particular the interest of the workers. They are called general, because everybody can become a member, irrespective of the social class. However, the employers can merely advise, and can not be elected in the board. Both associations quickly grow, and at the start of the twentieth century each have between 10.000 and 15.000 members.
It is clear that the general associations rely on the bonding force of the protestant morals. The conflict of interests must be solved by a mutual search of the objective truth. Especially Patrimonium often addresses petitions to the government. Besides, the christian solidarity is expressed by the formation of funds for pensions, for unemployment benefits, and for other support. One relies on the private initiative. But in spite of the expansion the general associations are not a success. Hardly any employers join them13. Many shopkeepers and artisans do join them, because they are attracted by the funds. Your columnist reads into this literature, that the funds have remained small, and merely at the local level. Attempts to form a central pension fund fail. The associations also engage in other activities, varying from libraries to house construction.
It is striking that for the moment the clergy men and theologians dominate in the formulation of the political demands. An important incident occurs in 1891, when Patrimonium has just started a lobby for including workers in the parliamentary group of the Anti revolutionaire partij (in short ARP). Then the ARP, led by the clergy man Abraham Kuyper, organizes a christian social congress, which deliberates about the principles of a social program. Here some contours are formulated, such as the right to strike. The spirit of the time stimulates the workers to organize themselves separately within the local sections of the associations. They found professional sections, together with their colleagues. The local character is a hallmark of the early labour movement. The social-democrats also organize in this manner.
According as the number of professional sections within the general associations increases, the desire to merge them into national trade unions increases. Here the protestant clergy man A.S. (Syb) Talma is the stimulating force. National trade unions are essential for the furthering of interests, notably because they can oppose the competition on the wages. In 1901 Patrimonium decides to found the Christelijk arbeids secretariaat (in short CAS)14. The secretariat wants to give advice and support for the establishment of trade unions. The chairman of the CAS is J. Huizinga, a saddler and hairdresser. The establishment of the CAS is a landmark, because thus the professional organizations are disjoined from the general associations. Namely, the Werkmansbond rejects the CAS, as long as it is a part of Patrimonium15. Therefore in 1905 the CAS leaves Patrimonium, and becomes autonomous.
In the same year the protestant organizations convene a christian social conference, in order to deliberate about the establishment of the trade union movement. The combination with social-democratic organizations is rejected, because the class struggle is irreconcilable with the christian morals16. The image of society of both groups is different to such an extent, that it would unavoidably affect the practical trade union strategy. However, the inter-confessional organization (together with the RK workers) remains a viable option. This is an important standpoint, because, as said, the PC and RK morals differ as well. However, the protestants believe, that this is not necessarily an obstacle for promoting the practical interests of the workers. It is fascinating to see that here the liberal and communitarian approach compete for precedence. However, it is not easy to extract lessons for the future from these developments.
On the one hand, in the general associations the workers profit from the knowledge and means, that are contributed by the clergy men and other intellectuals and citizens. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie clearly fears, that the emancipation of the workers will lead to uncontrollable outbreaks of violence. Therefore many christian intellectuals keep advising the proletariat to acquiesce. Although the clergymen, that advise the general associations, sympathize with the organization of workers, they yet can not completely abandon the bourgeois repression. In 1902 the clergy man and professor Bavink creates unrest with his hypothesis, that the workers are compelled by the Bible to obey the authority of the entrepreneur. Talma tries to calm the feelings by means of a pamphlet, wherein he defends their freedom17.
This illustrates that apparently the shared christian morals are not able to eliminate the conflicts of interest. The protestant movement does suffer from intense conflicts of interest, which lead to wide gaps. It must yet be admitted, that the deliberations continue, and the search for a compromise as well. However, the debate is expressed in religious terms, which does not really simplify the reconciliation. Again and again protracted impasses occur. Therefore, in the general associations the promotion of interests of the workers hardly gets of the ground. Even the autonomous CAS is still dominated by the general associations and by the bourgeoisie. The general associations rightly fear a loss of members, because the workers will only join the trade unions in the independent CAS. That would hurt the goal of christianization.
In 1909 several christian trade unions decide to found the federation Christelijk nationaal vakverbond (in short CNV). The consulted literature does not clarify why they ignore the CAS. Perhaps the main reason is, that the initiative for the CNV is initiated by the inter-confessional union of textile workers Unitas. For, although the CAS did not reject inter-confessionalism, yet it has protestant roots. From the start, the CNV explicitly prefers the inter-confessional principle. Another reason may be, that the CAS was once established without the participation or consultation of the existing trade unions. The CAS top originates from the bourgeoisie18. In any case, the CAS disappears within a few years after the foundation of the CNV. The general associations react in an irritated manner. For, their role as the promotor of the interests of the factor labour has ended19.
In the beginning the CNV is mainly a federation of local sections. However, the federation handles the organization of the workers in an energetic manner. Notably, it invests in concentration (the merging of professional groups and of local sections) and in centralization (the construction of a hierarchy, which transfers the authority to decide to the national board). The organization changes from small reciprocal circles into a single large reciprocal circle (see the mentioned model of Frijters). The power shifts more and more to the various national union boards20. Those boards coordinate their policy in the CNV board. The number of members rises from about 7000 at the start to 20.000 in 1917, and to 117.000 in 1933. The CNV as a formula is clearly more attractive than the general associations. The large majority does no longer choose a double membership.
The friction between the CNV and the general associations becomes visible at the local level, in the municipalities. There the various local professional organizations often found a board alliance, in order to deliberate and promote the interests, that surpass the particular profession. Many protestant board alliances are a part of the general associations. After 1918 the CNV wants to annex the board alliances, but the general associations resist this attempt. In 1923 the CNV and the general associations try to get closer, by means of the establishment of the Committee for collaboration. Nevertheless, the conflict about the board alliances continues. Apparently the desire for sovereignty in the personal circle slows down the advance of the centralization. However, in 1929 the CNV has grown to such an extent, that it finally can incorporate the board alliances. In the mean time the number of board alliances has increased significantly.
The growth of the CNV is accompanied by a professionalization. The number of paid trade union officials grows in proportion with the number of members. The various organizations obtain their own offices. Front organizations emerge, such as the youth clubs, various support funds, and even a tuberculosis foundation (Draagt elkanders lasten). Now the RK organizations are forced by their church to leave the CNV. Therefore during the thirties the CNV is already de facto protestant21. Some people regret that the tie with the protestant entrepreneurs has been severed. For, christianity demands harmony and cooperation. Therefore in 1937 the Convent of christian social organizations is founded. Here the christian organizations of all kinds deliberate about the social program, including the association of the entrepreneurs and the CNV. However, the moral bond is apparently weak, because the Covent does not become very influential22.
After the Second Worldwar the industrialization leads to a further increase in the number of members of the CNV. At the same time the organization of the unions is expanded. The structure of the unions, which until then consisted merely of the A-line of the sections, is complemented with the B-line of the enterprises. In this phase the CNV as an organization is no longer different from the social-democratic federation NVV. The general associations did not survive the war, although henceforth Patrimonium still vegetates formally.
The failure of inter-confessionalism in the Netherlands is caused by the RK church. A short discussion of this aspect is instructive. Traditionally the various RK groups were organized within their own provincial, diocesan associations. But that does not yet hold for the workers. At the start of the twentieth century the RK church establishes also for them diocesan general associations. They are the RK equal of Patrimonium or the Werkmansbond. The existing local RK professional organizations organize within these associations. Besides, they sometimes form inter-confessional federations, such as in the board alliances or in Unitas. The diocesan associations at each level (local, provincial, and national) get spiritual advisors, in the form of a priest or curate.
The Pope wants to keep the professional organizations under the direct influence of the church hierarchy. That is irreconcilable with the inter-confessional structure. The Dutch bishops support the will of the Pope23. In 1906 they force the believers to unite in RK trade unions. For the moment, an exception is merely made for the existing inter-confessional trade unions. This decision leads to a number of clashes with the board of Unitas24. Finally, in 1912 the bishops forbid the membership of Unitas and even reading its magazine. This forces the RK believers to retreat in their own trade union movement25. In 1909 the RK Professional Bureau is founded, which must coordinate the RK trade unions at the national level.
In 1916 the bishops decide, that the members of the RK trade unions are obliged to join their diocesan association. This policy implies that in RK circles the double membership remains the norm, contrary to the PC circlues. In 1925 indeed a RK trade union federation is founded, namely the RK workers association (RK werklieden verbond, in short RKWV). Thus it seems that a federation on a strictly moral foundation is yet possible. However, the construction is clearly dictated, and that takes its toll, albeit only after a long time. For, in 1964 the RKWV (which then has been renamed into KAB) dissociates itself from the diocesan associations, and from their spiritual advisors. Shortly thereafter, during the seventies the KAB (which then has been renamed into NKV) starts to drift ideologically, and changes into a left-radical movement. Then the NKV merges with the NVV, and so excludes its former companion CNV.
The development of the christian trade union movement contains a wealth of information for those, who are fascinated by the controversy between liberalism and communitarism. The morals can both separate and unite. In any case Kater fails with his ideal to unite all classes in the same moral association. The theologists try to find the absolute truth, but that is a hopeless endeavour for social questions. Justice is a vague concept. The interests of the various classes are simply too diverse. Therefore the associations can not act in an energetic manner. Even the double membership and the Convent do not succeed. It turns out, that it is better, when each class (or even each branch) promotes its particular interests by means of its own organization. Next the various class organizations can negotiate with each other. The outcome is determined by a struggle for power.
The optimal size of the organization is apparently determined by her activities. The trade union movement is active in the economic domain, where centralization turns out to give the best results. It becomes a large reciprocal circle. The morals become abstract and fixed in institutions, and recede into the background. Incidentally, these institutions, such as the collective agreement (in short CAO), remain in a permanent change. It is understandable that at the end of the nineteenth century the christian organizations distance themselves from the social-democratic class struggle. But when the social-democracy integrates and grows into society, the moral differences become again reconcilable. In the modern trade union movement the liberal universalism seems more attractive than the communitarian pluralism.