Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

Book Reviews

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2014), 35, (1), 203–225.


HSIR 35 (2014) 203–25 doi:10.3828/hsir.2014.35.10 book reviews Book Reviews Nina Fishman, Arthur Horner: A Political Biography, Vol. 1, 1894 to 1944: South Wales Miners’ Federation, Fighting Fascism (Lawrence and Wishart: 2010) vi + 612pp., hbk £35, ISBN 978-1-907103-05-6; Arthur Horner: A Political Biography, Vol. 2, 1944 to 1968: National Union of Mineworkers; Cold War (Lawrence and Wishart: 2010), vi + 522pp. (pp. 613–1134), hbk £35, ISBN 978-1-907103-06-3. This is a very long book – a tribute to the author1 and a concern for readers – but a worthwhile monument to a major figure in the twentieth-century British working-class movement. Nina Fishman makes exhaustive use of secondary materials – especially standard works on the mining industry and its unions and political history – alongside biographies and autobiographies, including that of Arthur Horner himself.2 Her research in the archives from the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB), MI5, and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CP) are combined with interviews with Horner conducted by Ronnie Frankenberg, additional personal papers, and some unusual writings on the history of south Wales. These are supplemented by newspapers, especially the Daily Worker. Despite this massive effort to collect and collate vast amounts of information there are gaps, especially in terms of the economics of the coal industry, debates among Marxists, and the politics of communists in the trade-union movement. A missing quality is an appreciation of the politics of the moment: a failure to put oneself in the shoes of men and women under great pressure, involved in events and decisions beyond their understanding, and desperately trying to do the right thing according to their principles and perceptions while balancing the short-term against the long-run, and demands from below with the realities from above. This has led Fishman to try to fit the facts to her main argument, namely that Horner constantly doubted his own communist credentials and sought to leave the CP at various critical

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