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By A. E. Musson

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Prothero, for example, asserts that 'it is common ground that working-class activity oscillated according to economic conditions, political agitation being more likely in bad times and trade unionism· in good' ([103] 204). He bases this statement on Briggs' observation - that 'the pendulum swung between economic action through trade unions and political action through Chartism. "Good times" favoured the fonner: "bad times" the latter' ([86] 6) - and on Hobsbawm's investigation into the effects of the trade cycle on workingclass movements (see below, p.

Like Hobsbawm, he sees the predominance of the 'labour aristocracy' in the 'New Model' unions as a novel and reactionary development. He has opposed the present writer's views - though attributing them confusedly to Hugh Clegg ([113] 13) - and maintains that during the second quarter of the century 'the most conspicuous feature' of the labour movement had been 'the breaking down of traditional distinctions among the labouring poor', while during the third quarter 'attention shifted to the building-up, consolidation and sharpening of distinctions within the working class'; the labour movement, in fact, then underwent 'a massive transformation unequalled by any that have occurred before or since'.

Instead, trade unionists saw real gains to be won in movements for increased wages and reduced working hours, and in alliance with middle-class Radicals for political and social reforms. 58 7 The Fightfor Legal Status THE Webbs' account of the struggle for legal status and free collective bargaining, in the late 1860s and early 1870s, has been substantially modified. The present writer has demonstrated [32], and Roberts [34] and Coltham [23] have confirmed, that they greatly exaggerated the dominant role of the so-called 'New Model' unions and of the 'Junta'.

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