1st Edition

The British Communist Party and the Trade Unions, 1933–1945

By Nina Fishman Copyright 1995
    394 Pages
    by Routledge

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    This is a pathbreaking book, essential reading for students of interwar political and social history. Previous histories of the period have underestimated the crucial role which Communists played in trade union organisation from top to bottom. Despite its relatively small size the Communist Party occupied a strategic place in the trade union movement: the leaders of the movement, notably Ernest Bevin, refused to acknowledge this at the time. Thanks to her extensive research and numerous interviews, and to the ’opening of the books’ of the Communist Part, Nina Fishman has been able to uncover a fascinating story, one which official Communist historians have never told, and which other historians could only recount in fragments. The main protagonists are the Communist Party General Seretary, Harry Pollitt, and the Editor of the Daily Worker, Johnny Campbell. The book brings to vivid life the work of activists on the shop floor and in the coalmines during the Depression and the Second World War. The book includes the first comprehensive analysis of Communist activity in key sectors of the British economy, notably in engineering shop stewards’ movements and among London busmen. It concludes with an authoritative review of Communists' part in the British war economy and a vigorous challenge to the conventional wisdom about the effect of Communist Party changes of line on the war on activists’ abilities to incite and lead strikes.

    Contents: Introduction; The origins of revolutionary pragmatism; The British road to the united front; In pursuit of the real united front; Waiting for the national militant upsurge; Rank-and-file movements: I The London busmen’s rank and file movement; II The aircraft shop stewards’ national council; The battle of Harworth; Organising the united front against the bosses; Organizing the united front against Fascism; Fighting the war on two fronts; The shopfloor war economy: class collaboration or dual power?; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography.


    Nina Fishman, University of Westminster, UK

    'It is a pleasure to read Nina Fishman's widely researched and well-written book ... (she) has made a major contribution to the history of both the CP and the British Labour movement.' New Times '...not only an important contribution to the history of the British labour and socialist movement, but a passionate monument to its unknown and half-known soldiers. Not the least of its merits is that [the author] has probably interviewed more of them than anyone else in England.' Eric Hobsbawm, The Guardian '...contains a wealth of information not readily available elsewhere.' Chris Bambery, Socialist Review 'Fishman separates myth from fact in the history of the British Communist Party...This is an exceptionally well researched study; Fishman’s interviews with many communists are especially important. Excellent bibliography and a valuable appendix detailing party membership both nationally and by districts.' Choice