Translating Guild Socialism: The Case of Eva Schumann (1889–1967)

In 1920, Eva Schumann wrote from her home in Dresden to the offices of the National Guilds League in London offering her services as a translator.1 Her intention was to help popularise the political program of Guild Socialism in Germany, which she believed shared parallels with other socialist ideas already popular in her homeland.2 In response, the National Guilds League accepted her request and granted her permission to translate a lecture on the subject that would serve as a useful primer for German-speaking audiences.3

Schumann completed her translation the following year which was published as a pamphlet under the title, Gilden-Sozialismus (Guild Socialism).4 This translation coincided with growing interest in Guild Socialism across Austria, Germany, and Switzerland during the early 1920s. Numerous books were written about Guild Socialism by British authors and then translated from English into German, just as various German-speaking authors began to write articles and pamphlets on the subject.5 At the same time, in Britain the National Guilds League became inundated with letters from German-speaking correspondents requesting more information and publications about Guild Socialism.6

Cover of Eva Schumann’s translation of George D. H. Cole’s Gilden-Sozialismus (1921) in the GHIL’s library.

Guild Socialism first emerged in Edwardian Britain and prioritised the development of workers’ control and industrial democracy through the creation of new institutions known as National Guilds. These guilds would materialise out of existing trade unions and function to democratically manage all aspects of production in society.7 They, therefore, served as an alternative pathway towards socialism in contrast to parliamentary means or revolutionary vanguardism. This theory involved notable intellectual contributions from a cadre of British socialists. In particular, the architect Arthur Penty, the journalist Samuel Hobson and most famously the political scientist George D. H. Cole. Together along with a few hundred other individuals, they helped to form the National Guilds League in 1915, which became the primary institutional home for Guild Socialism.

The case of Eva Schumann, which I discuss in more detail in my doctoral thesis, is revealing of several issues that have so far been largely unexplored in relation to the history of Guild Socialism. The first is the role of translation knowledge to the international circulation of the subject. This was hugely significant since the primary language used by the National Guilds League to discuss Guild Socialism was English. This partly explains the popularity of Guild Socialism in English-speaking regions, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. However, elsewhere translators were vital mediators that allowed the expansion of discussions of Guild Socialism to include non-English speakers in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and the Netherlands. In the case of Germany, this was particularly clear given the strong reception of Guild Socialism during the 1920s thanks in part to Schumann’s efforts.

The importance of translation knowledge to the circulation of Guild Socialism lay in the abilities of translators like Schumann to forge connections between different ideas. These connections constituted examples of intellectual synchronicity, whereby locally popular ideas formed means for the introduction of similar external ideas.8 In Schumann’s case, she identified parallels between Guild Socialism and Council Communism, which had become popular in Germany following the events of the German Revolution (1918-19). In particular, she saw parallels between the guild socialist idea of bringing the forces of production under the control of National Guilds and the idea of socialisation developed by the Austrian philosopher, Otto Neurath.9 Intriguingly, Schumann’s analysis also seems likely to have also influenced Neurath directly. This was because Schumann herself was connected to Neurath via her husband, Wolfgang, with whom he had co-authored a pamphlet on the subject of socialisation in 1919.10 This pamphlet was written when Neurath was directly involved with the short-lived Bavarian Council Republic during the German Revolution, which became emblematic of the emergence of Council Communism during the interwar period.11 As such, Schumann also posted this pamphlet to the National Guilds League to further highlight her point about the synchronicity between Guild Socialism and Council Communism.12 Furthermore, Neurath also incorporated Guild Socialism directly into his own work not long after in a new pamphlet entitled, Gildensozialismus, Klassenkampf, Vollsozialisierung (Guild Socialism, Class Struggle, Full Socialisation),13 thereby highlighting the important role played by Schumann as a mediator between Guild Socialism in Britain and Council Communism in Germany.

Portrait of Eva Schumann (1889–1973). Copyright of Stadt Freital, reproduced with permission.

Schumann’s role as a translator is also revealing of the gendered nature of translation via specific problems she experienced in comparison to male translators who worked with the National Guilds League. A clear example of this is found in her later correspondences with the National Guilds League where she requested to translate additional texts from English into German, but was rejected in favour of the more famous and influential figures, like Rudolf Hilferding.14 Other evidence of this bias towards famous male German translators also exists, such as the choice of Alfons Paquet and Otto Eccius, who between them produced the bulk of German language translations for the National Guilds League. In particular, Paquet was responsible for translating the highly important and popular pamphlet, The Meaning of Industrial Freedom in 1920, while Eccius translated a total of five books about Guild Socialism over the next several years.15 Although Eccius did acknowledge Schumann’s contributions by noting that she had first coined the term “Gildensozialismus” as the preferred German translation of Guild Socialism.16 More generally men were clearly favoured as translators by the National Guilds League who granted permission for tens of other translations into German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Yiddish.17 Considered next to this evidence Schumann stands out both as the only example of a female translator of Guild Socialism working outside of Britain and the only example of a translator whose offers to work for the League were rejected.

These and other aspects I intend to explore further in my doctoral thesis, as they reveal important points that broaden the history of Guild Socialism. In particular, the case of Eva Schumann reveals the wider significance of translation knowledge towards the circulation of Guild Socialism outside of Britain, as such translators helped to form new connections with other similar ideas like Council Communism and raised interest in Guild Socialism internationally. Additionally, Schumann’s work for the National Guilds League demonstrates the involvement of a wider cast of historical actors towards the development of Guild Socialism. In particular, her case shines a light onto the engagement of women as well as men in the production of this subject and the clear imbalance between them while working for the National Guilds League. By revealing these aspects my doctoral thesis serves to expand the historical canon around Guild Socialism, which has conventionally focussed on a handful of male middle-class British socialists, in order to include wider spatial dimensions and a broader list of characters involved.



The featured image shows the covers of George D. H. Cole’s original Guild Socialism and Eva Schumann’s translation Gilden-Sozalismus in the GHIL’s library.

  1. The contents of this blog article are based on research included in my forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation at Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University Berlin. []
  2. Collection, Box 8, Nuffield College Library. []
  3. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, June 1920–March 1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []
  4. George D. H. Cole, trans. Eva Schumann, Gilden-Sozialismus (Dresden, 1921). []
  5. George D. H. Cole, Selbstverwaltung in der Industrie (Berlin, 1921); Arthur J. Penty, Gilden, Gewerbe und Landwirtschaft (Tübingen, 1922); Arthur J. Penty, Die Überwindung des Industrialismus (Tübingen, 1923); Arthur J. Penty, Auf dem Wege zu einer christlichen Soziologie (Tübingen, 1924); George R. S. Taylor, Der Gildenstaat: Seine Leitgedanken und Möglichkeiten (Tübingen, 1921); George R. S. Taylor, Gildenpolitik: Ein praktisches Programm für die Arbeiterpartei und die Genossenschaften (Tübingen, 1923); Charlotte Leubuscher, Sozialismus und Sozialisierung in England (Jena, 1921); Irma Peratoner, Entwicklung, Idee und Verwirklichung des Gildensozialismus in England, (Ph.D., Frankfurt am Main, 1923); Hertha Lehmann-Jottkowitz, Die Christlich-Soziale Bewegung in England (Dessau, 1933). []
  6. Guild Socialism Collection, Boxes 8-9, Nuffield College Library. []
  7. Samuel G. Hobson and Alfred R. Orage, National Guilds: An Inquiry into the Wage System (London, 1919), 132. []
  8. Sebastian Conrad, What is Global History? (Princeton, 2016) 66; Christopher L. Hill, ‘Conceptual Universalization in the Transnational Nineteenth Century’, in Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori (eds.) Global Intellectual History (New York, 2013), 34–158. []
  9. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, 10.8.1920, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []
  10. Otto Neurath and Wolfgang Schumann, Können wir heute sozialisieren? (Leipzig, 1919). []
  11. Richard Gombins, Council Communism (1978). []
  12. Eva Schumann to George D. H. Cole, 10/08/1920, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []
  13. Otto Neurath, Gildensozialismus, Klassenkampf, Vollsozialisierung (Dresden, 1922). []
  14. George D. H. Cole to Eva Schumann, 30/03/1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []
  15. Alfons Paquet to George D. H. Cole, 15/10/1920, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis; Arthur J. Penty, trans. by Otto Eccius, Gilden, Gewerbe und Landwirtschaft (Tübingen, 1922); Die Überwindung des Industrialismus (Tübingen, 1923); Auf dem Wege zu einer christlichen Soziologie (Tübingen, 1924); George R. S. Taylor, trans. by Otto Eccius, Der Gildenstaat: Seine Leitgedanken und Möglichkeiten (Tübingen, 1921); Gildenpolitik: Ein praktisches Programm für die Arbeiterpartei und die Genossenschaften (Tübingen, 1923). []
  16. Eccius, Der Gildenstaat, vii. []
  17. Jüdischer Verlag to George D. H. Cole, October 1920–July 1921, Letters, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis; G. Lacerdote to S. Webb, 15/03/1921, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis; Calpe to G. Bell & Sons, 08/04/1920, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis; T. Tanake to George D. H. Cole, 12/05/1919, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis; G. Bell and Sons Publishers to George D. H. Cole, 26/06/1919, Letter, George Douglas Howard Cole Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis. []

Published by

Oscar Broughton

He is a Doctoral Fellow at the Graduate School for Global Intellectual History at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University Berlin. He holds a Masters in Global History at Humboldt Universität and the Freie Universität Berlin and a Bachelors in Intellectual History from the University of Sussex. He specialises in the Global History of Guild Socialism as a spacial setting for the incubation, transmission and transformation of ideas, individuals and movements. His particular research interests include industrial democracy, anarchism, nationalism, libertarian socialism, the works of Gustav Landauer, A.D. Gordon, G.D.H. Cole and the Weimar Republic. He is also a co-founder and editor for Global Histories: A Student Journal and the Global History Student Blog, as well as, a co-founder of the annual Global History Student Conference in Berlin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.