Ramparts of Resistance examines the experience of British and US workers during the last three decades to offer a broad analysis of the need for a new independent politics of trade unionism. Recent years have seen great changes in the trade union movement, from waves of strikes in the 1970s to a battery of employer and state onslaughts, culminating in the anti-union legislation of the 1980s and 1990s. Looking at grassroots labour struggles, Cohen explores issues of reformism, trade union democracy and the political meaning of ordinary workplace resistance, and puts forward ideas for change. Ramparts of Resistance examines the failure of the union movement to rise to the neo-liberal challenge and calls for a new politics of independent unionism and an explicitly class-based renewal of "workers' power". Coming at a time when union activity and membership involvement continues despite the odds, this book is an inspiring guide to the direction that unionism should take.
Sheila Cohen has been involved in the trade union movement for more than a decade, as an academic and an activist. In 1990-95, she produced and edited a British rank and file union newsletter, Trade Union News, and during her time in the US was closely involved with the Labor Notes project. She recently returned to Britain, where she hopes to continue rank and file support work. She has taught courses on Labour and Trade Union Studies at London Metropolitan University and at the Center for Worker Education in New York.
Introduction: Focussing on the Rank and File
Part One: What Happened
1. The Upsurge: 1968-74
2. 'How Little It Asked' (The Working Class): 1974-79
3. Gone With the Wind: Thatcher, Reagan and the early 1980s
4. Against the Stream: 1894-9
5. The Workers' TINA: Class Warfare in the 1990s
6. Into the 2000s: Seattle ... and September
Part Two: What to Make of It All
7. Unions & Unions
8. Punctuation Marks: A Story of Class Consciousness
9. Transitions and Transformations: Which Side Are You On?