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Jeffries, Richard Duncan (1974) The politics of trade unionism in Ghana: A case-study of the Railway Workers Union. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Trade unions in Ghana are, generally speaking, fairly recent in origin and politically ineffectual. The Railway Union is an important exception. This was the spontaneous creation during the 1920's of African skilled workers in the Sekondi workshops, who, together with the harbour workers of nearby Takoradi (conjointly the bulk and most active section of the Union's membership) have since maintained an exceptionally militant style of unionism. On several occasions, most notably the railway strikes of 1950, 1961, and 1971, these workers have demonstrated their importance as a major power centre within Ghanaian society, together with a notable readiness to engage in oppositional political activity against successive ruling regimes. The political strength of the railway workers derives in part from their strategic position in the national economy, but also from the high degree of corporate solidarity which enables them to exploit this position so effectively. Concentrated in large numbers in the Sekondi-Takoradi workshop and harbour installations, and free of serious ethnic divisions, the skilled railway workers form a close-knit cultural community. Within this community, the ethic of corporate solidarity is strengthened by shared attitudes toward the developing social structure and by the force of historical tradition. The railway workers' political orientation is not adequately conceived or explained in terms of their association with particular political parties. The most striking aspect of their historical behaviour has been its independent character, together with the ideological continuity which has informed their relationship with both colonial and post-colonial regimes. In some respects, this might be described as a form of class- consciousness. It differs from the classical Marxian model, however, in that the railway workers see themselves as representatives of the urban 'masses' rather than a clearly differentiated working-class, and, further, in that this mass constituency tends to be communally defined.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

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