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International Socialism, Summer 1961


M. Millett



From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Breakaway Unions and the Small Trade Union
S.W. Lerner
George Allen & Unwin. 25s.

Shirley Lerner has written a book that should be read by all interested in Trade Unions. By detailing the histories of three small Trade Unions and citing parenthetically a number of others, she has shown how rigidly bureaucratic the movement has become.

The industrial services of the large Unions, or rather, of their permanent officials have become so highly valued by employers that any breakaway has to face the combined forces of the general union, the employers and even the government. For example, the British Overseas Airways Act of 1939 allowed recognition to any union which had a ‘substantial’ membership in certain grades. When a union (the Aeronautical Engineers Association) was formed and recruited more members then all the other ten unions at the airport put together, the trade union bureaucracy prevailed upon the Labour Government in 1946 to amend the law! That such manoeuvres would completely disgust 1,600 aeronautical engineers with trade unions, the Labour Government and the socialist movement did not matter; nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of making the Trade Union movement a fit place for permanent officials to exercise their talents.

Dr. Lerner makes various suggestions perhaps the most useful of which is that the ‘geographical’ branch should be replaced by a factory branch in which the shop stewards would play a leading part. But there is much more in this book that can be dealt with in a review, and study of it is warmly recommended.

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