Containing Radicalism: The Trades Union Congress Organisation Department and Trades Councils, 1928-1953

Stevens, Richard
March 1997
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Spring1997, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p5
Academic Journal
Traditions of gradualism and reformism are deeply rooted in the British trade union movement. Even so, the defeat and containment of more radical elements by gradualist and constitutionalist sections in the first five or six decades of the present century was not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Within this time-span, the years between about 1910 and 1927 have often been regarded as critical in determining the fundamental direction of the trade union and labor movement. This article examines that struggle in one particular sphere: trades councils. It especially focuses on the role of the Organisation Department of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). It is not argued that this was necessarily the single most vital sphere in which the struggle was conducted. Nevertheless, it constituted an important arena for that struggle, which was closely connected with the progressive tendency towards centralization in the movement. According to the author, TUC officials and leading labor loyalists at a local and regional level were not so readily convinced of the weakness of the Labour Party in the unions. Labour loyalists were, by and large, successful in carrying out their policy of containment, although many left-wingers slipped through the net.


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