After UCS: Workplace Occupation in Britain in the 1970s

Author: Alan Tuckman
This is the abstract of an article published in Labour History Review (2021), 86, (1), 7-35. Find out more.

This paper traces the development of this form of industrial action through the 1970s, the emergence of an alternative economic voice, ultimately almost silenced in the 1980s with the dominance of new-liberalism, leaving a sedimentary alternative which periodically reappears. We first need to consider the context for this occupation movement and the social, political and economic developments of the post-war period which facilitated this form of resistance. Then we consider the nature of “occupation”, the forms it takes, and what differentiates it from strikes and other manifestations of organised conflict arising from the employment of labour power under capitalism, before examining the pattern of occupation after the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. We indicate that the movement left a sediment of ideas and practices, not just in terms of “occupation” itself as a form of industrial action, but also of an alternative economy rooted in workers’ self management and socially useful production.

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