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Labour Review, December 1958

Jock Stevens

Workers will Fight

The Worker Views his Union, by Joel Seidman, Jack London, Bernard Karsh and Daisy L. Tagliacozzo. (Cambridge University Press for University of Chicago Press,43s. 6d)

From Labour Review, Volume 3, No. 5, December 1958, pages 156-157.
Transcribed & marked up by Ted Crawford & D. Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL) in 2009.

This book, by a group of research workers from the industrial relations centre at the University of Chicago, should be read by every trade unionist. Here is impartial proof that the heart of the American trade union movement beats strong and fierce. The unions concerned in the survey are the miners, steelworkers, plumbers, telephone, knitting mill and metal-workers, representing a fair cross section from the point of view of size, inner-union democracy and attitudes to struggle.

Right at the beginning of the book the authors point out that the rank-and-file trade unionist’s philosophy does not embrace the conception of wresting power from the govern-ment. However, despite the lack of this essential idea, the American workers see the need for struggle and we could learn many lessons from them.

The research done in the local unions reveals a picture much on a par with our own, whereby you have a branch attendance equal to the life of the branch, the same small hard core of militants linking the economic struggle with politics, the ‘trade union only’ type, and the ticket holders.

In every case investigated, however, the story is the same: when the union calls for action its call is answered unswervingly and with a fierce determination, so great is the members’ faith in the union to defend their economic interests. We in Britain, with our long tradition of viewing the trade unions as the industrial arm of the Labour movement, can learn a lesson. The book is timely; for there is the danger of losing sight of the fact that we originally began with the philosophy of using our strength to destroy capitalism—and after reading this book with its mass of data you are left with the thought: what the unions will do, once they begin to see the need to wage a class battle.


Such a book must be of some comfort to all those socialists who are leading the fight for working-class ideas. The state of affairs in America is favourable to them, for capitalism there, as elsewhere, is finding it daily more difficult to patch up the system, and the workers are going to have to fight the class battle or return to the days of depression.

This excellent book gives the proof that the workers will fight. At 43s. 6d. it’s a bit stiff, but should be in every library. For it kills the idea that the American trade unions are corrupt and rotten; the leadership perhaps, but the rank and file are strong enough to overcome all obstacles,
Jock Stevens
(Sidcup Branch, AUBTW)

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