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Freemasons, Trade Unions and the Tragedy of History



Dr. Bob James

The tragedy is at least six-fold:

First - students of history have been denied an adequate account of the 'lodge movement' and its social context, with the result that it is invisible to the general populace and researchers in many fields have been denied the challenge of seeing Freemasons, 'trade unions' and 'friendly societies' as fruit of the same tree;

Second - the idea of mutual aid, the impact of its once wide-spread existence, its origins and its demise have all been rendered invisible to the detriment of our understanding of ourselves. The clearest example of historico-cultural consequences of this process is the tradition of the 'true believer', the worker who allegedly chose to be disciplined by the collectivity, the 'trade union', at the precise moment she/he became aware of his/her individual freedom;

Third - the context of the 'true believer' has been the wholesale transfer of an industrialisation mindset, including of certain ideological responses, from the UK to colonial outposts, such as Australia, where, in consequence, the local evolution of industrialisation has remained un-studied;

Fourth - mis-understanding the failure of the particular model of 'mutual aid' dominant since industrialisation has prevented practitioners (lodge members) and sympathetic observers (including historians) from redressing the model in the direction of systems theory, ie replacing linear with integrated perspectives. Thus, in general, social theory has pendulumed between two goal-oriented models, 'free trade' and 'protectionism'; and

Fifth - as a consequence, the only perceived alternative to a government-run health & welfare scheme during a return season of 'free trade', now called economic rationalism, and reduced State functions, is the privateers-for-profit model.

Sixth - while fraternal associations remain unknown and invisible as a significant social phenomenon, their physical heritage, the regalia, records, certificates, banners and lodge furniture are broken up, dumped and burnt, or left to decay in unsuitable environments.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014