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The TUC Overseas: the Roots of Policy.

The TUC Overseas: The Roots of Policy.

By Marjorie Nicholson. London,

Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1988,

329 pp. Available in the United

States from Allen & Unwin, New

York. We often forget now at the end of the 1980's that just a couple of decades ago trade union officials in the newly independent nations were being heralded as the "leaders of the future." Conventional wisdom had it that colonial powers had so stifled leadership potential among the colonized that only two institutions could produce qualified candidates, that is, the noncommissioned officer ranks of colonial armies and indigenous trade unions. Indeed, a number of new states were guided to democratic development by former trade union leaders, many of whom possessed remarkable qualities for political leadership and the vision to change former subjects into citizens capable of transforming colonial institutions into democratic ones. More often, though, the mantle of leadership seemed to be taken by the ex-soldiers, who, while having learned something about organization, had rarely acquired the gifts that are required for democratic nation building.

In her book, The TUC Overseas: The Roots of Policy, Marjorie Nicholson has examined in detail the efforts of one of the world's great trade union institutions, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), to build a base of trade unionism in the British colonies. Although one might assume that the roots of colonial trade unionism were first planted during the period of the post-World War II Labor Government in Britain, the roots go back quite a bit further and Nicholson, a longtime staff member at the TUC, has done a thorough job of bringing them to view.

When the British Trades Union Congress began to explore international contacts in the early part of this century, a natural link existed with the Dominions. By 1913, the TUC was exchanging fraternal delegates with the Canadian Labor Congress. Nicholson examines in detail the historic confluence of events and personalities characterizing the TUC's involvement with labor movements throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. The author takes us to the TUC Congress of 1945 at which George Meany, then secretary of the American Federation of Labor, appeared as a fraternal delegate. in a vigorous speech, he denounced Soviet "worker groups" and cautioned delegates about cooperating with state-controlled organizations. It was not the message that TUC delegates wanted to hear, poised as they were to embark on a mission to Paris to help found a new world labor federation.

This book stops short of the post-World War II experience that propelled the TUC and other national trade union centers into the midst of Third World trade union development. But in this work, the author masterfully traces the steps taken by the TUC between World War I and World War II to establish its presence among newly emerging trade union movements. The experience gained by TUC leaders in this period working with (and sometimes against) the interests of British Government ministries was invaluable for the future roles that they and their successors would play in the role of the TUC overseas.

This book is an invaluable reference source for students interested in international trade union expansion and for those who are curious about how the TUC engaged in trade union development in the former British Empire and Commonwealth.

-Roger C. Schrader

Vienna, VA
COPYRIGHT 1990 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Author:Schrader, Roger C.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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