Volume 38 part 3 (December 1993)


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VICTOR SILVERMAN, Popular Bases of the International Labor Movement in the United States and Britain, 1939-1949
This paper examines the working class in the United States and Britain in order to find a new perspective on the origins and break-up of the World Federation of Trade Unions. While most previous works have focused on the roles of institutions and leaders, this research uncovers the important role played by the thoughts, actions, and inactions of average workers in international affairs. American and British workers, as key constituents of two of the most important organizations making up the WFTU, were not passive observers of world events. Rather, they were critical not only of how the world union movement functioned, but also of the process which came to be termed the Cold War.

COLIN P. GRIFFIN, "Three Days Down the Pit and Three Days Play": Underemployment in the East Midland Coalfields between the Wars
Conflicting interpretations of economic and social conditions in inter-war Britain are a staple diet of the historiography of the period. Can it be best characterized as one of social deprivation and economic decay or of social and economic improvement? The level of unemployment and its effects on those who experienced it is a critical element in the debate and this study will contribute to it in a number of ways. It will, through a case study of the East Midland coalfields, emphasize that underemployment (or short-time working) has been comparatively neglected in accounts of unemployment and the "real" incidence of the latter therefore underestimated. Moreover, the effects of underemployment were no less real in terms of depressing living standards than more permanent forms of unemployment. The traditional view of the relatively prosperous underemployed East Midlands' miner compared to his fully employed Durham or South Wales counterpart is, therefore, no longer tenable. The view, popularized recently by Benjamin and Kochin, that this form of unemployment was voluntary in nature will also be questioned as will the generalization that miners' trade unions preferred wage maintenance to maximising employment levels in their industrial relations strategies. Trade union officers gave a high priority to achieving an employment situation which combined work spreading and the receipt of statutory unemployment benefit by their members. The partial failure of these endeavours to mitigate the full impact of short-time working on miners' income is further evidence of the need to qualify the "optimistic" interpretation of living standards in inter-war Britain.

GITA DENECKERE, The Transforming Impact of Collective Action: Belgium, 1886
This article illuminates the transforming impact of collei action in the light of the industrial jacquerie of 1886 in Belgium. This important episode of popular struggle fuelled a dialectical process of change which was marked by a fundamental shift in both social policy and in repertoires of collective action. In 1886 workers still drew on an old repertoire of collective action. Their struggle had such a disruptive force that it forced the state to intervene in labour conflicts. The conservative political elite responded with conciliatory gestures that foreshadowed a legislative programme of social reform. In the changed political climate the position of progressive wings in the two conservative parties was enhanced as the growing strength of the labour movement became more apparent. The industrial jacquerie functioned as a catalyst in the transition from old to new repertoires of collective action. In the aftermath of the revolt, mass collective action quickly, and extensively, came under the control of the Parti Ouvrier Beige (POB).