Martin, Ross M(urdoch) 1929-
MARTIN, Ross M(urdoch) 1929-
Office—La Trobe University, Room 446 Martin Building, Victoria 3086, Australia.
La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia, emeritus professor of social science.
Trade Unions in Australia, Penguin Australia (Ringwood, Australia), 1975.
The Lancashire Giant: David Shackleton, Labour Leader and Civil Servant, Liverpool University Press (Liverpool, England), 1999.
Ross M. Martin has long been an expert on the history and impact of labor unions and on the Labour Party in England. After publishing Trade Unions in Australia, Martin undertook a comprehensive study of the Trades Union Congress's influence in TUC: The Growth of a Pressure Group, 1868-1976. The bulk of the book takes the TUC from its early powerlessness to 1940, when the wartime British government, worried about possible industrial disruptions, made the TUC a full-fledged member of the highest governing councils. It ends in 1976, when the TUC was able to deliver unions on a matter of great delicacy, wage controls. "Professor Martin claims that he has not tried to write a definitive history, or to supplant existing works on the TUC. That he has done just that is his success and his failure," concluded English Historical Review contributor Robert Waller. As that indicates, history was not Martin's only purpose in this book. In addition to tracing the rise of this vital organization from despised suitor for government favors to the recognized voice of industrial labor, Martin's book is a sophisticated study of the very nature of the TUC as a political pressure group and the ways that has shaped the history of labor politics in Britain. "What TUC does convey, beyond the surface changes, is a striking picture of the continuity of the TUC as a defensive organization with limited aims, both creature and creator of an accommodating system of politics, which stands in marked contrast to the more radical experience of many Continental labor organizations," explained Contemporary Sociology reviewer Peter A. Hall.
Martin turned next to the very nature of unions in Trade Unionism: Purposes and Forms. This is actually two books in one, the first part a study of the ways in which social theorists have looked at unions, and the second a comparison of union-government relations across borders and cultures. The two sections even have separate bibliographies. In the first part, Martin describes the differences among Pluralists, who take unions on their own terms as concerned with wages and working conditions; Syndicalists, who focus on the revolutionary anticapitalist potential of unions; Authoritarians, who see unions as instruments of state power; and other influential theorists. The second part looks at the practice of union politics in diverse nations, such as the United States, France, and India, analyzing the differences between private, autonomous unions and those that are either dominant players or subordinate instruments in various governments. "Within the constraints set by the author, the book is very informative.… But those constraints were set far too narrowly. I wish Martin had gone further to suggest what effects different ideas of unions might have had on the development of these institutions and what effects different relations of the union with the state and party might have had on the lives of workers or the management of organizations," maintained reviewer Raymond Friedman in the American Journal of Sociology. More favorably, Choice reviewer R. L. Hogler concluded that "Martin's broad survey of labor movements in global terms provides a useful system for understanding them."
Turning from the general to the particular, Martin followed up with a biography of an early labor leader whose own career illustrates the differences between the accommodationist tendency and the more radical tendencies in the labor movement. The Lancashire Giant: David Shackleton, Labour Leader and Civil Servant tells the story of a union leader who became one of the first Labour Party members of parliament and the first workingman to become a permanent secretary in the British cabinet. While specifically renouncing socialism as a personal philosophy, Shackleton was one of the first to recognize that a viable Labour Party had to include socialists if it was to have any credibility with the workers. It was a fateful decision for both the Labour Party and the labor movement. "In examining Shakleton's career, Martin presents an accessible, detailed, analytic and sympathetic study, which says as much about the early Labour party as it does about Shackleton," observed English Historical Review contributor Keith Laybourn. Even further, Labour/Le Travail reviewer Bruce Spencer concluded, "The book is useful for anyone who wants a fuller understanding of the formation of the British Labour Party, of what it means to be Labourist and finally of how the establishment entrenched its own position in response to the political rise of labour."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1991, Raymond Friedman, review of Trade Unionism: Purposes and Forms, pp. 1031-1032.
Choice, May, 1990, R. L. Hogler, review of Trade Unionism, p. 1546.
Contemporary Sociology, November, 1981, Peter A. Hall, review of TUC: The Growth of a Pressure Group, 1868-1976, p. 834.
English Historical Review, October, 1982, Robert Waller, review of TUC, pp. 934-935; November, 2000, Keith Laybourn, review of The Lancashire Giant: David Shackleton, Labour Leader and Civil Servant, p. 1354.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 2002, Bruce Spencer, review of The Lancashire Giant, p. 327.*