Labour History Review

Contextualising British syndicalism, c. 1907-c. 1920

Labour History Review (1998), 63, (3), 261–276.


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Bob Holton, British Syndicalism 1901-1914, 1976, esp. pp. 30-38. For one of the very few local studies of syndicalism see Holton, ‘Syndicalism and Labour on Merseyside’, in Harold Hiken, Building the Union. Studies on the growth of the workers' movement on Merseyside, 1756-1967, Liverpool, 1973, pp. 121-50. See also Joseph L. White, ‘Syndicalism in a mature industrial setting: the case of Britain’, in Marcel van der Linden and Wayne Thorpe (eds), Revolutionary Syndicalism, Aldershot, 1990, pp. 101-18; Joseph L. White, Tom Mann, Manchester, 1991. Tom Mann, Tom Mann's Memoirs, 1923, are not particularly informative. The authoritative study of syndicalist organisational history is Wayne Thorpe, ‘The Workers Themselves.’ Revolutionary Syndicalism and International Labour 1913-1923, Dordrecht, 1989 Google Scholar

E. H. Phelps Brown, The Growth of British Industrial Relations. A Study from the Standpoint of 1906-14, 1965, pp. 335-7; Hugh Armstrong Clegg, A History of British Trade Unions since 1889, Volume II 1911-1939, Oxford, 1985, pp. 72-4 Google Scholar

See Frank Trentmann, ‘Political Culture and Political Economy: Interests, Ideas, and Free Trade’, Review of International Political Economy (forthcoming), for such an example using the case of free trade ‘Political Culture and Political Economy: Interests, Ideas, and Free Trade’ Review of International Political Economy Google Scholar

Even friendly observers like G. D. H. Cole accepted this psychological explanation for syndicalism which has subsequently become conventional. See G. D. H. Cole, The World of Labour, 1919, repr. 1973, p. 33; Lord Askwith, Industrial Problems and Industrial Disputes, 1920, repr., 1974, pp. 347-55 Google Scholar

The Times, 13 April 1909, p. 4, 16 April 1909, p. 4, 20 April 1909, p. 4, 25 March 1919, p. 9, 16 April 1912, p. 7 Google Scholar

Sir Arthur Clay, Syndicalism and Labour, 4th edition, 1912; Arthur D. Lewis, Syndicalism and the General Strike, Boston, 1912; Philip Snowden, Syndicalism and Socialism, Glasgow nd; Ramsay MacDonald, Syndicalism, A Critical Examination, Chicago, 1913; Arthur Henderson, The Labour Unrest, 1912 Google Scholar

Macdonald, Syndicalism, p. v; Clay, Syndicalism and Labour, p. viii; Snowden, Syndicalism and Socialism, p. 222; Allen in The Syndicalism, July 1912 Google Scholar

Macdonald, Syndicalism, pp. 40-45, 59, 61, 71 Syndicalism 40 45 Google Scholar

Emmett Larkin, James Larkin. Irish Labour Leader 1876-1946 (1965), pp. 143 passim Google Scholar

Robert J. Scally, The Origins of the Lloyd George Coalition. The Polities of Social-Imperialism, Princeton, 1975 The Origins of the Lloyd George Coalition. The Polities of Social-Imperialism Google Scholar

Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement 1880-1914, Cambridge, 1997 Google Scholar

Bob Holton, ‘Syndicalist theories of the state’, Sociological Review, 28, 1980, pp. 5-14 ‘Syndicalist theories of the state’ Sociological Review 28 5 14 Google Scholar

Reprinted and edited by Kenneth Morgan, in Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, 30 (Spring, 1975), pp. 22-37 Google Scholar

For example, see The Syndicalist, March-April 1912 for a discussion of the importance for syndicalists to be involved in local politics and a critique of the miner's minimum wage bill Google Scholar

For which see G. D. H. Cole, Workshop Organisation, Oxford, 1923, pp. 133-8, 170-84 Workshop Organisation 133 8 Google Scholar

William Gallacher and J. R. Campbell, Direct Action. An Outline of Workshop and Social Organisation, Pluto Reprints in Labour History No. 3, 1972 (originally published, 1919), pp. 27-30 Google Scholar

Bertrand Russell, Roads to Freedom: socialism, anarchism and syndicalism, 3rd ed., 1920 p. 13 Google Scholar

See, for example, A. H. Gleason, What the Workers Want: A Study of British Labour, 1920; Carter Lyman Goodrich, The Frontier of Control. A Study in British Workshop Politics, New York, 1921 Google Scholar

Examples include, of course, James Vernon, Politics and the People. A Study in English Political Culture 1815-1867, Cambridge, 1995; John Belchem, ‘Radical Language and Ideology in Early Nineteenth Century England: The Challenge of the Platform’, Album, 20, 2 (Summer, 1988), pp. 247-60; Belchem, ‘Republicanism, popular constitutionalism and the radical platform in early nineteenth-century England’, Social History, 6, I (January 1981), pp. 1-32; James Epstein, ‘Understanding the Cap of Liberty: Symbolic Practice and Social Conflict in Early Nineteenth Century England’, Past and Present, 122 (February, 1989), pp. 75-118; Epstein, Radical Expression. Political Language, Ritual, and Symbol in England, 1790-1850, Oxford, 1994 Politics and the People. A Study in English Political Culture 1815-1867 Google Scholar

See Ian Bullock and Siân Reynolds, ‘Direct Legislation and Socialism: How British and French Socialists Viewed the Referendum in the 1890s’, History Workshop Journal, 24 (Autumn, 1987), pp. 62-81 ‘Direct Legislation and Socialism: How British and French Socialists Viewed the Referendum in the 1890s’ History Workshop Journal 24 62 81 Google Scholar

Richard Price, Labour in British Society. An Interpretive History 1780-1980, Beckenham 1986, pp. 168-9 Google Scholar

For these themes see the debate between Noah Ablett, Frank Hodges, George Barker and Edward Gill in Morgan, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History. Google Scholar

Cole, Guild Socialism, pp. 5, 15-16 Google Scholar

J. H. Harley, ‘Syndicalism and the Labour Unrest’, Contemporary Review, Vol. 101 (March 1912), pp. 348-57 ‘Syndicalism and the Labour Unrest’ Contemporary Review 101 348 57 Google Scholar

George Sorel, Reflections on Violence, trans., T. E. Hulme, New York, 1941, pp. 137, 154-5, 198-201; H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society. The Reorientation of European Thought 1890-1930, reprint, New York, 1978, pp. 28-33, 174-5; Irving Louis Horowitz, Radicalism and the Revolt against Reason, Carbondale, 1968, pp. 114-30, 193-4 Reflections on Violence 137 Google Scholar

The Times, 25 March 1912, p. 9; Vernon Lee [Violet Paget], ‘M. Sorel and the Syndicalist Myth’, Fortnightly Review, Vol. 90 (October, 1911), pp. 664-80; Vernon Lee [Violet Page], Vital Lies. Studies of Some Varieties of Recent Obscurantism, Vol. 2, 1912 pp 64-90 Google Scholar

The Ideologies of Class. Social Relations in Britain 1880-1950, Oxford, 1990, p. 36 Google Scholar

Thorpe, ‘The Workers Themselves’, pp. 120-37, 159-60, 220-23 Google Scholar

See Keith McClelland, ‘Masculinity and the "Representative Artisan" in Britain, 1850-80,’ in Michael Roper and John Tosh, Manful Assertions. Masculinities in Britain since 1800, 1991, pp. 74-9 Google Scholar

For a similar argument to this see the important study by Kenneth H. Tucker, French Revolutionary Syndicalism and the Public Sphere, Cambridge, 1996, esp. pp. 10, 24-7, 156-7, 166-80 French Revolutionary Syndicalism and the Public Sphere 10 Google Scholar

See Webb, The Restoration of Trade Union Conditions, 1917 Google Scholar

Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, 1920, pp. xiv-xvii Google Scholar

John Stevenson, British Society 1914-45, 1984, pp. 124-34 British Society 1914-45 124 34 Google Scholar

See Cole, The World of Labour, 1919 edition, pp. 359, 362; Guild Socialism, pp. 27-9 The World of Labour 359 Google Scholar

Ross McKibbin, The Evolution of the Labour Party 1910-1924, Oxford, 1974, pp. 206-14 The Evolution of the Labour Party 1910-1924 206 14 Google Scholar

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Author details

Price, Richard