Strike waves, union growth and the rank-and-file/bureaucracy interplay : Britain 1889-1890, 1910-1913 and 1919-1920

Darlington, RR 2014, 'Strike waves, union growth and the rank-and-file/bureaucracy interplay : Britain 1889-1890, 1910-1913 and 1919-1920' , Labor History, 55 (1) , pp. 1-20.

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Gerald Friedman's Reigniting the Labor Movement was a highly ambitious, unashamedly partisan, historical and transnational comparative analysis of the rise and demise of the labour movement, which identified the way in which rank-and-file workers' spontaneous and innovative strike militancy represents an ‘incipient rebellion against the capitalist system’. In the process, the book made a compelling case for the restoration of past militant worker action as an essential means of ‘reigniting’ the contemporary labour movement. While I find myself in considerable sympathy and agreement with much of the overall analysis, there are distinct but related features of Friedman's thesis that are critically explored in this article. These concern the nature of the relationship between strike movements and union membership growth, and the process by which the unions that emerge from periods of radical labour unrest then seek to dampen down worker militancy in order to bargain with employers/state within the confines of capitalism. My reassessment of Friedman's analysis, framed specifically within the national context of the UK during the historical window of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (specifically 1889–1920), aims to illustrate what I regard as five of the main problematic features of the study.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Labor History
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0023-656X
Related URLs:
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: RR Darlington
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2014 17:29
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 18:30

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