Edited by Chris Wrigley
Chapter 9: Organized labour and the international economy
Chris Wrigley There was a two-way relationship between organized labour and the international economy, even if the impact of the international economy on organized labour was much the greater. These relationships were especially important in times of major wars, perhaps above all during and in the aftermath of the First World War. Some of the most important revisionism in the history of organized labour has focused on two-way relationships, including gender, nationalism and ethnicity.1 The impact of international economic change still remains another very important area for consideration. The First World War had a massive impact on the fortunes of organized labour. Trade unionism spread rapidly in the belligerent nations, in spite of the departure of high proportions of male labour to the armed forces. Socialist and Labour Parties also grew and in many countries entered coalition governments or took power during the war or in its aftermath. Organized labour’s enhanced strength was accompanied in some cases by changed economic policies, including changes to labour market institutions, and changed employee expectations. However, the stresses of the war also deepened divisions within labour movements, divisions which had been present before 1914 but which had not been so threatening to united action when there had been common causes in opposing systems of varying degrees of repressiveness (as in Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany). Labour had a substantial impact in the period immediately after the end of the war. Unlike the period after the Second World War when US economic predominance and a new...
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