Strikes and trade union history

What is the “social strike”?

Author: 

Daniel Randall

Recent strikes by “gig economy” workers (e.g. Deliveroo) are profoundly significant. They explode the myth, peddled by some on both left and right, that so-called precarious workers can’t organise, and that the proliferation of those types of work is in the process of rendering labour organising historically redundant.

A fetishisation of novelty can sometimes blind us to the fact that what’s required is not “new kinds of strike action”, or new forms of organisation, but rather a rediscovery and relearning of old lessons, ideas, and strategies, now forgotten or lost.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

Shrewsbury 24: how we started a campaign to defend pickets

Author: 

Keith Road

Our political group has recently celebrated our 50th anniversary. We have been reflecting on some of the movements and disputes that we have played an active role in. One of these was Shrewsbury 24 campaign over the victimisation of building workers in 1972.

1972 saw a major wave of industrial action in Britain. There were more work days lost to strike action in that year than in any other since the 1926 General Strike. States of Emergency were declared during both a miners’ and a dockers’ strike.

1972 saw a major wave of industrial action in Britain. There were more work days lost to strike action in that year than in any other since the 1926 General Strike. States of Emergency were declared during both a miners’ and a dockers’ strike.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Changing through struggle

Author: 

Bruce Robinson

Sun-Hee works as a cashier in a large supermarket in a South Korean town. She is just about managing, working unpaid overtime she hopes will earn her the permanent position she has been promised which would enable her to satisfy some of her children’s wants. Shy and passive, she watches as a colleague, Hye-mi, is humiliated by being forced to apologise on her knees to a customer.

A review of the 2014 South Korean film ‘Cart’.

Around the world: 

Publications: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

A socialist who grew with the movement

Author: 

Jeff Rickertt in conversation with Martin Thomas

Ernie Lane was an active fighter for revolutionary socialist politics - as he understood them, in different ways over the years - in Brisbane, Australia, from the late 1880s through to 1954, a model of persistence and tenacity though not always of acuity. Jeff Rickertt, author of a recently-published biography of Ernie, The Conscientious Communist, talked with Solidarity about Ernie and about the book.

Jeff Rickertt, author of a recently-published biography of long-time activist Ernie Lane, talks about his book.

Around the world: 

Publications: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Ports and workers’ power

Author: 

Martin Thomas

"The RWG [container] terminal [in Rotterdam, 2.35m teu capacity], with its fully automated cranes, is operated by a team of no more than 10 to 15 people on a day-to-day basis. Most of its 180 employees aren’t longshoremen, but IT specialists” (Journal of Commerce, 4 Feburary 2016).

The managing director says: “We are in fact, an IT company that handles containers”.

Compare: in 1900 the Port of London was the busiest port in the world. It had 50,000 workers shifting cargo mostly by hand, as they had done for thousands of years. It handled 7 million tons of cargo.

Port work went through a technological revolution in the 1960s and 70s, with “containerisation”. Now it is going through another technological revolution, with automation.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Around the world: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The life and films of Ken Loach

Author: 

Luke Hardy

People think they know what to expect from a Ken Loach type of film. It’s about working class struggle, collectively or as individuals. It’s political. It uses non-professional actors, alongside professional ones. It will be naturalistic and eschew studio filming or flashy effects. The welcome BBC documentary ‘Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach’ reminds us there is more to Loach.

A review of Versus, now available on BBC iPlayer.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Connolly and the Dublin lockout

Author: 

Michael Johnson

Part eight of Michael Johnson’s series on the life and politics of James Connolly. The rest of the series can be found here.


While the Home Rule crisis raged in Ulster, the southern Irish labour movement was about to engage in a class battle of unprecedented militancy.

Part eight of Michael Johnson’s series on the life and politics of James Connolly.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Connolly, the USA, and the Wobblies

Author: 

Michael Johnson

In June 1905, the American workers’ movement took a huge leap forward, with the establishment of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Chicago.

Its roots lay in the militancy of mine workers in the mid-western states, where for a decade the Western Federation of Miners had been fighting intense class battles with the employers, uniting skilled and unskilled workers and relying on workers’ own strength and solidarity to defeat the bosses.

Part six of Michael Johnson’s series on the life and politics of James Connolly.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

Save the jobs. Nationalise steel!

Author: 

Ralph Peters

At the end of March Tata Steel announced it was pulling out of all or part of its UK operations, threatening nearly 14,000 jobs and many thousands more in related industries.

It said its UK steel operations were losing money despite rising demand due to lower global steel prices. The biggest potential losses, unless buyers can be found for the plants, are in Scunthorpe (3,381 jobs) and Port Talbot (4,104 jobs). And right now the Tories are going to stand back and allow what might be the near destruction of steel making in the UK.

At the end of March Tata Steel announced it was pulling out of all or part of its UK operations, threatening nearly 14,000 jobs and many thousands more in related industries.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Publications: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

The left before 1968: two contributions

Author: 

Sean Matgamna, Patrick Avaakum

13 February 2016 conference: Before ’68: the Left, Activism and Social Movements in the Long 1960s

Two contributions

1. Militancy and Solidarity on the docks in the 1960s
2. The life and times of Bob Pennington

Click here to download pdf.

Militancy and Solidarity on the docks in the 1960s; and: The life and times of Bob Pennington

Marxist Theory and History: 

Pages