Trade Unions and Political Parties

  • Andrew J. Taylor


The party-union relationship sprang from the political weakness of unions. As unions were outside the established power structure it was unlikely they would find allies amongst the established parties, though there were exceptions such as the alliance of some British unions with the Liberal Party in the late nineteenth century. As outsider groups they were drawn to outsider parties who made union concerns central to their appeal and who tended to be socialist. The link between unions and socialism (or in the case of American unions, with state intervention) was a reflection of the wish to restructure political and economic power in favour of outsider interests. In parliamentary democracies ‘socialism’ meant reformism not revolution, unions supported particular parties so as to influence them in government and secure concessions. Outsider parties welcomed union support, seeing in the unions a valuable source of finance, votes and organisation to support their electoral take-off. So the relationship was seen as mutually beneficial to two outsider groups striving for access to the political process.


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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Andrew Taylor 1989

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  • Andrew J. Taylor

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