A Marxist critique of black radical theories of trade-union racism

Virdee, S. (2000) A Marxist critique of black radical theories of trade-union racism. Sociology, 34(3), pp. 545-565.

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Publisher's URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42856201


When it comes to understanding the relationship between organised labour and the racialised worker in England, the conclusions reached by black radical theorists like Sivanandan and Gilroy have gone unchallenged for many years. In this paper, it is contended that these accounts of trade-union racism are constructed on the mistaken assumption that a trade union represents the interests of all the working class. Instead, an alternative conceptual framework is advanced underpinned by the recognition that the response of trade unions towards racialised labour is contingent on a wider set of economic, political and ideological circumstances and the type of strategy trade unions employ to protect the economic interests of their members. Through an assessment of events between 1945 and 1979 (the period black radical theorists use to advance their arguments), this paper challenges the conclusions drawn by black radical theorists regarding the basis of trade-union racism, the significance of ‘black’ self-organisation and the likelihood of ‘inter-racial’ class action developing.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Virdee, Professor Satnam
Authors: Virdee, S.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Sociology
Publisher:Sage Publications Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1469-8684

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