Trade Unions and Masonic Lodges

Trade Unions
Trade unionism first arose in England, where industrial capitalism first developed. Afterward it spread to other countries, as a natural companion of capitalist industry. In the United States, there were very special conditions. In the beginning, the abundance of free unoccupied land, open to settlers, made for a shortage of workers in the towns and relatively high wages and good conditions. The American Federation of Labor became a power in the country, and generally was able to uphold a relatively high standard of living for the workers who were organized in its unions.

It is clear that under such conditions the idea of overthrowing capitalism could not for a moment arise in the minds of the workers. Capitalism offered them a sufficient and fairly secure living. They did not feel themselves a separate class whose interests were hostile to the existing order; they were part of it; they were conscious of partaking in all the possibilities of an ascending capitalism in a new continent. There was room for millions of people, coming mostly from Europe. For these increasing millions of farmers, a rapidly
increasing industry was necessary, where, with energy and good luck, workmen could rise to become free artisans, small business men, even rich capitalists. It is natural that here a true capitalist spirit prevailed in the working class.

The same was the case in England. Here it was due to England’s monopoly of world commerce and big industry, to the lack of competitors on the foreign markets, and to the possession of rich colonies, which brought enormous wealth to England. The capitalist class had no need to fight for its profits and could allow the workers a reasonable living. Of course, at first, fighting was necessary to urge this truth upon them; but then they could allow unions and grant wages in exchange for industrial peace. So here, also the working class was imbued with the capitalist spirit.

Now this is entirely in harmony with the innermost character of trade unionism. Trade unionism is an action of the workers, which does not go beyond the limit of capitalism. Its aim is not to replace capitalism by another form of production, but to secure good living conditions within capitalism. Its character is not revolutionary, but conservative.

Certainly, trade union action is class struggle. There is a class antagonism in capitalism — capitalists and workers have opposing interests. Not only on the question of conservation of capitalism, but also within capitalism itself, with regard to the division of the total product.

The capitalists attempt to increase their profits, the surplus value, as much as possible, by cutting down wages and increasing the hours or the intensity of labor. On the other hand, the workers attempt to increase their wages and to shorten their hours of work.

The price of labor power is not a fixed quantity, though it must exceed a certain hunger minimum; and the capitalists of their own free will do not pay for it. Thus, this antagonism becomes the object of a contest, the real class struggle. It is the task, the function of the trade unions to carry on this fight.

Trade unionism was the first training school in proletarian virtue, in solidarity as the spirit of organized fighting. It embodied the first form of proletarian organized power. In the early English and American trade unions, this virtue often petrified and degenerated into a narrow craft-corporation, a true capitalistic state of mind. It was different, however, where the workers had to fight for their very existence, where the utmost efforts of their unions could hardly uphold their standard of living, where the full force of an energetic, fighting, and expanding capitalism attacked them. There they had to learn the wisdom that only the revolution could definitely save them.

The Lodges
Freemasonry, or more precisely, The Order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is an initiatory and a philosophical society whose origins are as old as the oldest societies in Africa and India. The manuscripts used by most Lodges today date from the 14th century but Masonic tradition dates back to the schools and mysteries of antiquity. The modern foundations, however, date from 1717, when four lodges in London developed an administrative structure (called the Grand Lodge) to organize the evolution of the movement more efficiently. After that, there was an phenomenal expansion of the Order, first in Europe, next in the British Colonies and then around the world.

Freemasonry in Quebec has British origins–the first Lodges appeared about the middle of the 18th century.

In 1723, the Grand Lodge of England published its “constitutions”. In the ceremonies, Freemasons are told that Freemasonry was in existence when King Solomon built the Temple at Jerusalem and that the masons who built the Temple were organized into Lodges. Freemasons are also told that King Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif ruled over those lodges as equal Grand Masters.

“The ceremonies, however, are built up of allegory and symbolism and the stories they weave around the building of the Temple are obviously not literal or historical facts but a dramatic means of explaining the principles of Freemasonry. Freemasonry neither
originated nor existed in Solomon’s time. Many well-meaning but misguided historians, both Masons and non-Masons, have tried to prove that Freemasonry was a lineal descendant or a modern version of the mysteries of classical Greece and Rome or derived
from the religion of the Egyptian pyramid builders. Other theories reckon that Freemasonry sprang from bands of traveling stonemasons acting by Papal authority.

Others still are convinced that Freemasonry evolved from a band of Knights Templar who escaped to Scotland after the order was persecuted in Europe. Some historians have even claimed that Freemasonry derives in some way from the shadowy and mysterious Rosicrucian Brotherhood which may or may not have existed in Europe in the early 1600s.

All of these theories have been looked at time and again but no hard evidence has yet been
found to give any of them credibility.”

Those who traverse the depths of history know that the symbols and underlying principles used in Freemasonry came from a much earlier period when building in stone was the pinnacle of human achievement. These specialized builders developed through a social discipline, which was passed on from father to son or those who took the time to learn from a master.

There is no accurate dating of this period but this period would have been before the redevelopment of Egypt around 12 to 15 thousand years ago.

The book Traveling Brothers, gives a view of the connection between Trade Unions and Lodges.

” The six centuries road from craft fellowship to trade unionism provides a lot of the historical information needed to understand the origins of Freemasonry. This is because the basic structure and purpose of Masonic lodges came from the craft based
fraternal organizations that developed to support England’s ‘tramping’ workmen, long before the development of modern Freemasonry. While craft based fraternal organizations
may evoke a sense of egalitarianism, the reality is that these groups often embraced exclusionary principals that worked to enfranchise a minority of workers, while helping to keep the majority of workers down. The hierarchical and divisive nature of the craft system makes it quite compatible with class and/or racially and/or gender based systems of social oppression and control. Craft oriented fraternal organizations sometimes used
ritualism and mythology to bind the brotherhood, but on a more limited basis than modern Freemasonry’s delusional brotherhood.”

This theory especially the part highlighted is quite conceivable but not correct, because craft based fraternities are as old as early Egypt. They became secretive during the time of Egypt’s invasions. Trade union was a grassroots response to the disparity between the colonial elites and laborers during the industrial revolution. Some Elites were familiar with the secret orders and held influential social positions in them. They were also part of the class of people against whom laborers were fighting. Improved literacy among commoners
allowed them to better organize and convey to one another different ways of improving their condition. Organizing to address common social issues was a natural response to the oppressions of the colonial elites that affected both common Whites and Blacks. It is correct to say that Trade Unions were born out of the legacy of Slavery that fueled the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution grew because of the cheap labor it utilized which created extreme hardships for white laborers as well as blacks. The oppressions of the
Industrial Revolution forced people to organize and fight for change. Some Lodges did try to influence and gain senior positions in all mass struggles but they were not the originally agitators for change especially during the industrial revolution. They were very protective of their influential social positions.

Freemasonry came to colonial America with disgruntled English aristocrats. Masonic scholars and historians assert the Masonic fraternity has played a pivotal role as a driving force behind America’s Revolution and as an agent for progressive social change. Today, it is claimed the organization is in decline and principally focused on a wide array of charitable activities.

This statement is closer to the truth about Lodges in America but again I must add that Lodges did not start in America and Trade Unions developed in England for two different reasons.

Secret Orders were initially about people trying to escape religious persecutions and Trade Unions came about as a direct result of the Industrial revolution and its oppressions, which is rooted in the slave experience.

Organizing in secrecy is quite natural to any people who are thinking about rebelling. The Slaves did this all the time, so I guess we can call all the secretive slave meetings Secret Orders. Some of these secret gatherings of the slaves did more for humanity than all the lodges put together. Free slaves also organized to withhold their labor to force improved conditions.

Before the Industrial revolution most Lodges were part of the elites and during the Industrial revolution they became more opportunistic, drafting in personalities whom they saw commanding the attention of the masses. Some of these popular grassroots Leaders used the Lodges to gain access to the eyes and ears of European leaders to lobby for changes. Others became complacent with their positions and gave up the struggle. The role of the White Lodges was opportunistic, seeking out leading personalities so they could gain influential and financial control over masses of people. Black Lodges developed as a counter move to give Africans the mystical allure of these secret orders, and as a direct response to racism, practiced by White Lodges.

This article taken from Trinicenter and the Leader does not necessarily agree with its content.

About leader

District Deputy Grand Master Saratoga-Warren District 1998-2000; Grand Lodge Leadership Services Committee; Leadership Development Course Coordinator; Vice Chairman Grand Master's Educational Task Force; Vice Chairman Grand Lodge Child ID Committee; District Deputy Grand High Priest 14th Capitular District; Grand Master of the 1st Veil 2010; Grand Master 2nd Veil 2011; Grand Master 3rd Veil 2012 Grand Royal Arch Captain 2013 Grand Principal Sojourner 2014 Grand Captain of the Host 2015 Warren County Historical Society Board of Trustees; Queensbury Masonic Historical Society Charter Member; State Chairman Lodges & Buildings Committee Deputy Grand Master's Advisory Committee
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