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This article describes how the building of the Panama Canal by the US military in 1904-14 was used within the socialist movement as an exemplar of socialist labour organization. Focussing on the British guild socialist, S.G. Hobson, it demonstrates the survival into guild socialism of Fabian ideas of the inevitability of large-scale enterprise, organizational hierarchy and the indispensability of the expert. It also reveals a militarist inflexion which is here traced to sources including Fourier, Ruskin, Bellamy and Wells. This was underpinned by the idea of collective labour as a form of contest with 'nature'. Hobson's colonialist ideas and work experiences are also considered in evaluating his conception of the guild. These hitherto largely unexplored aspects of guild socialism are seen as providing insights into later attachments to Soviet Russia and the idea of a labour corps in inter-war Britain.
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Keywords: Americanism; Bolshevism; Edward Bellamy; Fabianism; Guild Socialism; John Ruskin; New Age; Panama Canal; Samuel Hobson; W.H. Mallock; army; communism; elitism; imperialism; militarism; nature; socialism; war

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Politics, School of Social Science, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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