From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Labour in the Tropical Territories of the Commonwealth
London School of Economics/Bell, 45s
Roberts might often be able to get away with his arid legal documentation and his reliance on official sources with sections of the academic and trade-union world when he writes on British subjects: after all there are always vested interests who prefer to believe that what is constitutional and established is right. But it is difficult to see who he is trying to fool with this book. For over 400 remarkably boring and badly documented pages he presents the official history of British influence in the tropical Commonwealth without hinting that the development of unions before industrialisation poses peculiar problems not found in other states. By judging the performance of African and Asian unions entirely by the yardstick of British development, Roberts ignores all the major differences. He pays no attention to the organised relationships between unions and the one-party states, and has little to offer on the place of unions in the social structure. To readers of this journal his discussion of employment conditions, the policies of governments, and the growth of trade unions will appear banal and stereotyped. His sense of the dynamics of trade unions is circumvented by the legal framework (not even a post-independence one) in which they operate, and no sympathy is shown for the condition of the African worker. The effect of all the constitutionalising is to provide a glut of legal comparisons and tame apologies for the efforts of the TUC, the Colonial Office and the imperialist Employers’ Organisations. But even this apology is unconstructive: Roberts is too obviously a paper tiger.
Last updated on 12.5.2008