Globe, Latin America, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, Workers

Unions, class and power

Starting on 18th May, an online course will focus on these three topics, covering aspects such as the organisation of the working class, its role in the globalised economic system and its impact on political transformations.


Nicolas Romero García


Over and above the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the United Kingdom’s working population and the concerns that this brings, the transformational power of this sector of society is undeniable and so is, by extension, the importance of defending workers’ rights.

One way of doing this has been through the Unions who, since their creation, have sought to protect the working class – who in general take on strenuous jobs and do not always receive salaries and incentives consistent with their labour.

A 2019 report by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) stated that in the last 20 years, workers described as working class have had lower employment growth.

The report states that “the number of workers who can negotiate their terms and conditions through a collective bargaining agreement has declined from over 70 per cent in 1979 to just 26 per cent today”.

The fact is, in the United Kingdom there are 142 unions and, according to the latest statistics published by the government in 2018, the unions have 6,875,000 members. However, figures published recently by Worker Participation, indicate that there are 7,505,445 members.

The power of unions – as TUC states – “is rooted in their ability to bargain collectively for workers. So, it’s very encouraging that the number of private sector workers whose pay and conditions are being negotiated by a union increased to 15.2 per cent”.

In this sense, the existence of the unions, their members, and the economy of the countries maintained and transformed by them, is definitive to giving society direction.

In this vein, the Marx Memorial Library has organised the “Online course: trade unions, class & power” which, over eight weeks, will focus on the limits and possibilities of trade union power in capitalist societies, the role of collective bargaining, strikes and political organisation, the potential of trade union power in contemporary Britain and finally, the role of a Marxist understanding of the class nature of our society.

According to the organisers, “the current health emergency has revealed our total dependence on the actual exercise of labour power – by hand and brain – and the vital importance of protecting those skills for the existence of our society.”

Therefore, the course has been divided into four classes, each linked thematically to the others.

One of these explores the questions of what trade unions are for and how Marxists understand their role. Another investigates how trade unions exercise political and economic power in capitalist society and whether they still have power in contemporary Britain.

The other two classes refer to “how trade unions have previously transformed politics; how our ruling class has sought to challenge and reverse these political gains, and to “how trade unions can rebuild their economic and political power today and roll back the dominance of big business”.

The organisers hope that, at the end of the course, attendees will have mastered the topic of the origins of the trade union movement, the relationship between trade union organisation and class organisation; how trade unions have transformed the balance of power in capitalist societies; how capitalist societies have sought to control and neutralise trade unions; and the new challenges facing trade unionists today.

The Marx Memorial Library bookshop was founded in London in 1933, and is known as one of the main sources of collections of archives and documents on unionism, peace and solidarity movements, and the Spanish Civil War.

Date: Monday 18th May from 12:00 to 15:00. For more information, click here.

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Photos: Pixabay and Facebook event

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *