Plzeňské sympozia

Jiří Kořalka

Social Activities of Workers’ Associations

pp. 141–147 (Czech), Summary p. 148 (English)

A basic principle upheld by industrial workers’ associations with respect to the provision of support and relief was that of self-help and independence from charitable operations mounted by individuals or societies run by nobility and the bourgeois classes, churches, local governments and the state. During a period characterized by the prevalence of organizations grouping skilled manufactory workers, particularly in calico printing factories, these support and relief associations endeavoured to provide for their members in case of illness and old age, and for their families in case of members’ death. Membership in a relief society was essentially compulsory for every newly recruited printer, as otherwise the newcomer would have found it impossible to be accepted by the rest of the work team, and indeed would have ended up as an outcast. State and local government authorities would have been rather more inclined to link up with their previous experience with craft guilds in which senior guild masters supervised over  journeymen’s relief funds. Towards the late 18th century, the state placed banned journeymen’s fraternities from carrying out any type of activity apart from the payment of benefits in case of illness or death. After the abolition of craft guilds in 1859, some of the newly established trades unions adopted from the former guilds administration is system of relief funds which were divided into two separate categories: one reserved for the provision of overaged masters (foremen), the other to benefit sick journeymen (rank-and-file workers). With the passage of time, the support and relief action of workers’ associations carried on, if limited in scope, yet its relevance diminished  compared with wider-ranging social and political activities of labour organizations. Organized working-class movement had induced dozens of thousands of underprivileged and socially oppressed industrial workers and  small manufacturers into an active involvement in public life, helped change their way of life, enhanced their self-confidence, and embued them with a sense of responsibility. Provision of support and relief was from the very start an important part of the activity of voluntary societies of expatriate Czech industrial workers and artisans, for instance those based in Germany. The tradition of many years of ambulant apprentices to various trades was linked up with by the majority of these associations which provided freshly incoming labour force with support for their travel expenses. The statutes of certain associations also made possible the provision of a limited extent of benefits in the cases of sickness, penury and a member’s death, though often enough societies were also compelled to introduce measures preventing the abuse of these funds. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, leaders of Czech expatriate associations in Germany expended great efforts taking care of the material security of Czech families whose breadwinners had been sent to the battlefields, as well as doing their utmost to sustain Czech expatriate associations and their property.

Web vytvořilo studio Liquid Design, v případě potřeby navštivte stránku s technickými informacemi
design by Bedřich Vémola