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'Red Ellen' WilkinsonHer ideas, movements and world$
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Matt Perry

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719087202

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719087202.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The trade union movement

The trade union movement

(p.115) 3 The trade union movement
'Red Ellen' Wilkinson

Matt Perry

Manchester University Press

Any discussion of Wilkinson's trade unionism needs to understand its connection to her politics and vice versa. NUDAW provided crucial help to Wilkinson's parliamentary career. During the war Wilkinson was recruited as a union organiser for the AUCE. Wilkinson's intellectual development bore hallmarks of her wartime experiences. The AUCE's adoption of industrial unionism with its emphasis upon militant grassroots activity reinforced Wilkinson's commitment to extra-parliamentary politics. With Wilkinson, however, hers’ was the paradoxical industrial unionism of the left trade union official. As an employee of the union, her fortunes were entangled with its institutional interests and there were limits to the criticisms that she could make of it (and the TUC). Her encounter with syndicalism, industrial unionism and the Shop Stewards and Workers’ Committee Movement is significant in that her trade union practices and her heady wartime experiences of struggle radicalised her political engagement. With her ‘industrial unionism for women’, she gendered the union's philosophy. Her hopes for industrial militancy peaked once again around the time of the General Strike, which had a powerful effect upon her as it did the rest of the Labour movement.

Keywords:   Strikes, General Strike, unions, industrial unionism

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