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Racism and Resistance in British Trade Unions, 1948–79

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Abstract

This essay provides a critical analysis of the relationship between black2 labour and British trade unions between the years 1948 and 1979. Specifically, it has three main aims. First, it discusses why, following mass immigration from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent, elements of organized labour colluded with employers to restrict the job opportunities open to black workers. Second, the essay investigates the nature of resistance to such exclusionary practices offered by black workers themselves. Third, it analyses what impact the changing industrial relations climate of the early 1970s had on working-class consciousness, and in particular on white trade unionists’ attitudes and practices towards black workers.

Keywords

  • Trade Union
  • Industrial Relation
  • White Worker
  • General Council
  • Socialist Politics

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. See S. Castles and G. Kosack, Immigrant Workers and Class Structure in Western Europe (Oxford, 1985).

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  2. See A. Sivanandan, ‘Race, Class and the State: The Black Experience in Britain’, Race and Class 17:4 (1976), 348.

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  3. See P. Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London, 1984) and R. Ramdin, The Making of the Black Working Class in Britain (Aldershot, 1987).

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  4. D.J. Smith, Racial Disadvantage in Britain (London, 1977).

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  5. See W.W. Daniel, Racial Discrimination in England (London, 1968) and A. Heath and J. Ridge, ‘Social Mobility of Ethnic Minorities’, Journal of Biosocial Science Supplement 8, (1983), 169–84.

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  6. See C. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (London, 1983).

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  7. Race Today Collective, The Struggle of Asian Workers in Britain (London, 1983).

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  8. See also B. Pinder, ‘Trade Unions and Coloured Workers’, Marxism Today (September 1961), 282–6, and Miles and Phizacklea. The TUC, Black Workers and the New Commonwealth Immigration: 1954–1973.

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  9. Miles (1982) makes a similar criticism of the work of Castles and Kosak (1985) on which Sivanandan draws. See R. Miles, Racism and Migrant Labour (London, 1982) and Castles and Kosack, Immigrant Workers and Class Structure in Western Europe.

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  10. For an overview, see A. L. Morton, A People’s History of England (London, 1994); H. Pelling, A History of British Trade Unionism (London, 1987); E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London, 1991); S. Boston, Women Workers and the Trade Unions (London, 1980).

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  11. J. Kelly, Trade Unions and Socialist Politics (London, 1988), 55–6.

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  12. See R. Hyman, Marxism and the Sociology of Trade Unionism (London, 1972) and T. Clarke and T. Clements, eds., Trade Unions under Capitalism (London, 1977).

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  14. M. Terry, ‘Trade Unions: Shop Stewards and the Workplace’ in P. K. Grint, The Sociology of Work (London, 1991).

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  15. See the discussion in W. Brown, Piecework Bargaining (London, 1973) and H. Beynon, Working for Ford (London, 1984).

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  16. J. Solomos, Race and Racism in Britain (Basingstoke, 1993).

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  17. Cited in J. Solomos and L. Back, Race, Politics and Social Change (London, 1995), 54.

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  18. P. Wright, The Coloured Worker in British Industry (Oxford, 1968); L. Stephens, Employment of Coloured Workers in the Birmingham Area (London, 1956); Pinder, 1961, ibid.

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  19. Cited in Stephens, 1956, Employment of Coloured Workers in the Birmingham Area, 18.

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  20. R. Martin, TUC: The Growth of a Pressure Group: 1868–1976 (Oxford, 1980

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  21. M. Dresser, Black and White on the Buses: The 1963 Colour Bar Dispute in Bristol (Bristol, 1986).

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  22. D. Marsh, The New Politics of British Trade Unionism: Union Power and the Thatcher Legacy (London, 1992), 33.

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  23. J. Eldridge, P. Cressey and J. MacInnes, Industrial Sociology and Economic Crisis (Hemel Hempstead, 1991), 25.

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  24. Labour Research ‘Race at Work’, Labour Research (July 1983), 182–3.

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  25. 108 Sivanandan, A Different Hunger: Writings on Black Resistance; Gilroy, 1982, ibid.; Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack.

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© 2000 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Virdee, S. (2000). Racism and Resistance in British Trade Unions, 1948–79. In: Alexander, P., Halpern, R. (eds) Racializing Class,Classifying Race. St Antony’s Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230500969_6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230500969_6

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-40656-2

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