1934 Cork Helmets

FBU conference establishes educational scheme

The proposal was brought by Mr (Bro.) Short of East Ham, who requested the executive to arrange a trade union educational scheme with the NCLC “in order to provide the members with free access to the National Council of Labour College classes, free postal courses, free attendance at non-residential day, week-end and summer schools, and occasional lectures at branch.” London Fire Brigade’s John Horner argued that many firefighters in London would benefit. He said:

"They do not understand that when one section of the working class moves forward, whether it be the London busmen or the Haworth miners . . . it helps them with their demands on the London County Council."

However, resistance to the proposal came from general secretary Percy Kingdom and assistant general secretary Harry Gibbs, who argued that educating members should not be restricted to Marxist bodies like the NCLC. Kingdom argued that the union’s problems should not be conditioned by external influences and discouraged members from getting involved in political sects.

Countering these claims Mr Short said:

"It has been suggested elsewhere that this resolution is a form of dictatorship of the kind of education that this union should adopt. Now, I lay down, and I think every trade union should lay down, three definite points before we are prepared to have an educational scheme.

The first one is that it must be an education to make people more conscious trade unionists; the second is that it must be a workers’ educational body;  and the third is that it must be an educational body under working-class control.

The National Council of Labour Colleges is the only trade union educational body which qualifies under those three points."

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