Journal Article

Red under the Collar? Clive Jenkins, White Collar Unionism and the Politics of the British Left, 1947–65

Joseph Melling

in Twentieth Century British History

Volume 13, issue 4, pages 412-448
Published in print January 2002 | ISSN: 0955-2359
Published online January 2002 | e-ISSN: 1477-4674 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/13.4.412
Red under the Collar? Clive Jenkins, White Collar Unionism and the Politics of the British Left, 1947–65

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Portraits of trade union leaders are invariably coloured by their political loyalties and those of contemporary commentators. Many scholars have suggested that British union leaders subscribed to a Labourist ideology which confined their role to economic rather than radical political objectives, and that the concerns of managing the union tended to moderate the radical inclinations of both officers and members. The professional and political career of Clive Jenkins indicates the these arguments oversimplify the complex intellectual and material struggles of post‐war Labour politics. In partnership with Ian Mikardo, Jenkins emerged from early battles against employers (and many manual unions) in the aviation industry to become the leader of the most successful post‐war white collar organization in Britain. Conflicts between unions were sparked by sectional interests as well as political sectarianism in the cold war years, Jenkins maintaining a close relationship with the Communist Party and his scathing criticisms of incomes policies after he returned to Labour's ranks in 1954. Vilified by the right wing of the Labour Party throughout this period, Jenkins also became a target of the ultra‐left after 1965. Adapting the language of class to appeal to white‐collar employees, Jenkins could not always disguise the tension between his vigorous defence of free bargaining and a demand for growing legal and legislative regulation of industrial employment. These distinctive goals were also to become a major source of controversy on the British left as governments sought to reform the unions and control wages in 1965–71.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; British History

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