Racism and the working class: strikes in support of Enoch Powell in 1968

Lindop, Fred
March 2001
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Spring2001, Vol. 66 Issue 1, p79
Academic Journal
This article aims to place the strikes of London dockworkers in the wider political context of Enoch Powell's speech--in which he predicted that immigration would lead to a total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of British history--and of a strike and protest movement that went beyond the docks; and then offers some suggestions as to why London dockers were so prominent in the strike movement. Enoch Powell is the Conservative shadow cabinet member for Wolverhampton, South-West. In trying to understand why there were strikes in support of Powell in some workplaces and not others, it is not sufficient to point, as so many commentators do, to the existence of racism in the working class or to rely on the widely accepted idea that the East London working class was peculiarly racist. And although disillusionment with the Labour government's social and economic policies was probably significant in creating a receptive mood for Powell's scapegoating politics, by 1968 it was likewise a very general feeling. That there were strikes of dockers and some other workers was made possible by the confidence in their own ability to act independently of the dominant authority structures of British society. That confidence derived from the strong economic position of the working class in post-war Britain.


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