By W. Hamish Fraser
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Additional resources for A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998
Raymond Postgate, writing thirty years after the Webbs on The Building Trades, entitled his chapter on the mid-century 85198c02 33 10/13/98, 9:10 AM 34 A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700–1998 decades, ‘The Servile Generation’. The implication was that not only had the new structures and new leaders of the 1850s and 1860s reflected changes in working-class attitudes and the demise of revolutionary attitudes, but had in fact helped to create these attitudes by means of bureaucratic restraints on worker militancy, by an obsessive caution over the use of funds, and by a greater concern for maintaining friendly-society benefits than pushing for advances on the industrial side.
Within two years it had split, with the Teeside and Yorkshire workers forming their own National Amalgamated Association of Ironworkers, under the presidency of John Kane. Once separate organisations were established in different areas it proved extremely difficult to persuade them to abandon independence. Most Scottish unions insisted on independence from their English brethren and when some of the big English societies began recruiting in Scotland the Scottish local organisation would fight for survival by undercutting the subscription rates.
The change was in the tactics being deployed to achieve these ends. It was not just in terms of the organisation of the ASE that there was continuity with past practices. The rules of the Society, the pages of Newton’s journal, The Operative, and the monthly and annual reports of the journal all reflect perceptions and attitudes which would have been perfectly recognisable to the trade unionists of the 1830s. There was a clear sense of the craftsman’s responsibility for the craft. ’ Both Allan and Newton believed that the ideal social structure was one based on co-operation rather than competition.
A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998 by W. Hamish Fraser