Factory for Peace - Tom McAlpine

An article by Tom McAlpine on his utopian "Factory For Peace" in Glasgow from 1963.

Submitted by Reddebrek on October 30, 2017

You start with a slogan, "Ban the Bomb," and very quickly you find that you cannot take a stand on this one isolated issue without taking a stand on many other issues as well. You begin to look for the causes of war and try to think of ways of eliminating these causes, and you soon find that you have to make your mind up about race relations, the Common Market, industrial conditions, housing schemes, and everything else that concerns society and the state. You try to think of ways that, for example, the economic problems caused by disarmament will be solved. And you begin to realise that you can't solve one problem without solving a lot of others at the same time.

—RICHARD BOSTON in Peace News.

OUR HISTORY SHOWS that in the main, social and political progress has come about when men or groups have recognised the dangers and evils in society at any particular time and have taken steps to counter them.

Still, many of the problems in our complex modern world appear to be beyond the ordinary individual. Bad human relations in industry, increasing materialistic pressures, lack of concern for the individual, the waste of man's creative powers, the speed of the "rat race", all overwhelm us. Our society seems to be unaware that man's work must be a natural part of the richer, fuller life which is essential for a stable, happy world.

Internationally we are continually faced with the problem of war and peace. Many of us campaign as unilateralists but much of our work appears negative to the general public and yet multilateralist or unilateralist, all agree that we must half the arms race and gear industry to peaceful production.

We in the West are slowly beginning to realise that we live in luxury compared with many of the underdeveloped countries where hunger and misery are ever present. Do we realise, however, that the amount of money we have been giving to such countries has been more than taken up by the fall in value of raw materials from these nations? The gap is in fact widening and our help is ever more urgently required.

Some of us feel that something practical should be done immediately. In Scotland, therefore, where unemployment is acute, some members of the Iona Community Industrial Committee, together with others from the Scottish Unilateralist movement decided to start a factory which will aim at reducing some of the problems outlined above.

With five people, all Trade Union members, we intend to try new industrial experiments in co-operative ownership where all workers will have equal say in decisions affecting wages, new products, profits and other policy matters. This presents problems but we are convinced that workers' participation is vital. Failures as well as successes will be of use in the long run because we hope to pass back anything we learn to Trade Unions, political parties, Church groups, industrialists, individual donors, in fact anyone who will listen.

Our products will be customer-ordered sheet metal and general engineering work, reinforced plastics and electric furnaces. No goods which may be used directly for war purposes will be produced. The profits will go to underdeveloped countries through such movements as War on Want and to further the cause of peace. We would hope, for instance, to train a volunteer in one of our products, send him to an underdeveloped country and with additional financial assistance, start a factory there. An Advisory Body has been set up to ensure that these and other principles are maintained. Premises are available, markets assured and contracts promised.

Before launching a general appeal we circularised a number of ordinary people requesting donations and have so far raised £2,000. Confident that we can now proceed we have launched a national appeal in an endeavour to raise the £10,000 capital we require, to enable us to buy the necessary capital equipment, pay salaries and get us off on a sound business footing.

We are prepared, however, to buy some of the necessary plant and to start working part-time before the complete sum is received.

The response to this appeal has been most encouraging, and about £1,000 was raised in the first month of the national appeal.

It has also been most interesting to see that in Britain others are prepared to begin similar ventures and that abroad several are in progress. It may interest your readers to know of the Polaris action farm in Voluntown, USA, where several anti-Polaris demonstrators co-operate in running a farm, the profits of which assist them in maintaining action against Polaris.

It was very interesting to read in Peace News recently of the work-shop co-operative of Negro families in Tennessee, and I would agree with the comments that home industries like this are essential to the development of anti-war efforts and progress in under-developed countries.

Our factory project, however, has a dual function. In addition to our concern for peace, much of the peace movement in Britain is equally concerned about the "new society". In our factory, therefore, we intend to experiment with workers' control, where wages, policy, profits, etc., are determined by the workpeople. To achieve this aim it is necessary to have working conditions, products and premises similar to normal industrial concerns. Hence, unfortunately, the need for such a high capital.

Political and social progress has always been made by experiment as well as theory. Since the attempts of Robert Owen at New Lanark (1800-1825) there has been a dearth of social/industrial experiment, although there are signs of a spirited revival. This great man later became the inspiration and one of the leaders of our Trade Union movement. The most practicable monument to Mr. Dale, Owen's father-in-law who built New Lanark, and to Owen himself who extended it, is that the Mill is still in operation today and the houses are fully occupied (not 20 miles from the site of our factory), 160 years after their erection!

In joining in on this venture, the five members of the factory personnel are giving up reasonably secure jobs. They are, however, convinced, as was Robert Owen, that new experiments must be tried. We in turn ask you to share with us in this exciting new experiment.

If you wish to help us, your donation, however small, will be gratefully received. Please send to Rev. James W. Sim, Community House, 214 Clyde Street, Glasgow, C.l., who is the Hon. Treasurer for this project. The writer will also be pleased to answer any requests for further information which should be sent to the same address.

TOM McALPINE, born 1930, is convenor for the Factory for Peace. Until recently he was chief development engineer with an industrial concern in Scotland. He is a member of the Scottish Committee of 100.