Walter Citrine was born in Wallasey on 22nd August 1887. The second of three sons and third of five children of Alfred Citrine (1852–1937), a seaman from Liverpool. His mother, Isabella Citrine, worked as a nurse.
Citrine left elementary school at twelve, and eventually obtained an apprenticeship as an electrician and worked on a number of sites in the Merseyside area. He also attended evening classes where he studied economics, accountancy, and shorthand.
During his studies he read the works of the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and in 1906 he joined the Independent Labour Party. He mixed with other socialists. Susan Lawrence described him as a "goose" but he impressed Beatrice Webb. She recorded in her diary that Walter Citrine had "overweening ambition" and was someone with "very real ability". Webb went on to say that "he is loquacious, naively vain and very disputatious... I think he is very ambitious".
On 28 March 1914 he married Dorothy Helen (1892–1973). Later that year he was elected as the first full-time district secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). In the 1918 General Election he stood unsuccessfully as Labour candidate for Wallasey. He now decided to concentrate on his trade union career and in 1919 he became secretary of the local Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades. In 1920 he moved to work in the ETU's Manchester headquarters, and in January 1924 became the assistant general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
On 30th June 1925 the mine-owners announced that they intended to reduce the miner's wages. Will Paynter later commented: "The coal owners gave notice of their intention to end the wage agreement then operating, bad though it was, and proposed further wage reductions, the abolition of the minimum wage principle, shorter hours and a reversion to district agreements from the then existing national agreements. This was, without question, a monstrous package attack, and was seen as a further attempt to lower the position not only of miners but of all industrial workers."
The General Council of the Trade Union Congress responded to this news by promising to support the National Union of Mineworkers in their dispute with their employers. The Conservative Government, decided to intervene, and supplied the necessary money to bring the miners' wages back to their previous level. This event became known as Red Friday because it was seen as a victory for working class solidarity.
In October 1925 Citrine visited the Soviet Union but he was recalled following the death of TUC general secretary Fred Bramley. Citrine now had to deal with the dispute between the National Union of Mineworkers and the government.
The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, stated that this subsidy to the miners' wages would only last 9 months. In the meantime, the government set up a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Samuel, to look into the problems of the Mining Industry. The Samuel Commission published its report in March 1926. It recognised that the industry needed to be reorganised but rejected the suggestion of nationalization. The report also recommended that the Government subsidy should be withdrawn and the miners' wages should be reduced.
The month in which the report was issued also saw the mine-owners publishing new terms of employment. These new procedures included an extension of the seven-hour working day, district wage-agreements, and a reduction in the wages of all miners. Depending on a variety of factors, the wages would be cut by between 10% and 25%. The mine-owners announced that if the miners did not accept their new terms of employment then from the first day of May they would be locked out of the pits.
It soon became clear that A. J. Cook would play an important role in the proposed strike. David Kirkwood remarked that: "Arthur Cook, who talked from a platform like a Salvation Army preacher, had swept over the industrial districts like a hurricane. He was an agitator, pure and simple. He had no ideas about legislation or administration. He was a flame. Ramsay MacDonald called him a guttersnipe. That he certainly was not. He was utterly sincere, in deadly earnest, and burnt himself out in the agitation."
The Trade Union Congress called the General Strike on the understanding that they would then take over the negotiations from the Miners' Federation. The main figure involved in these negotiations was Jimmy Thomas. Talks went on until late on Sunday night, and according to Thomas, they were close to agreement when Stanley Baldwin broke off negotiations. The reason for his action was that printers at the Daily Mail had refused to print a leading article attacking the proposed General Strike. The TUC negotiators apologized for the printers' behaviour, but Baldwin refused to continue with the talks. The General Strike began the next day.
The Trade Union Congress adopted the following plan of action. To begin with they would bring out workers in the key industries - railwaymen, transport workers, dockers, printers, builders, iron and steel workers - a total of 3 million men (a fifth of the adult male population). Only later would other trade unionists, like the engineers and shipyard workers, be called out on strike.
On the 7th May, Sir Herbert Samuel, Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, approached the Trade Union Congress and offered to help bring the strike to an end. Without telling the miners, the TUC negotiating committee met Samuel and worked out a set of proposals to end the General Strike. These included: (1) a National Wages Board with an independent chairman; (2) a minimum wage for all colliery workers; (3) workers displaced by pit closures to be given alternative employment; (4) the wages subsidy to be renewed while negotiations continued. However, Samuel warned that subsequent negotiations would probably mean a reduction in wages. These terms were accepted by the TUC negotiating committee, but were rejected by the executive of the Miners' Federation. A Conference of Trade Union Congress met on 1st May 1926, and afterwards announced that a General Strike "in defence of miners' wages and hours" was to begin two days later.
Walter Citrine was unhappy about the proposed General Strike, and during the next two days frantic efforts were made to reach an agreement with the Conservative Government and the mine-owners. As Tom Buchanan has pointed out: "While never wholly abandoning socialism, Citrine later came to believe that workers' interests could best be protected and improved within a capitalist system by the strength of their institutions: above all, the trade unions."
On the 7th May, Sir Herbert Samuel, Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, approached the Trade Union Congress and offered to help bring the strike to an end. These terms were accepted by the TUC negotiating committee, but were rejected by the executive of the Miners' Federation.
On the 11th May, at a meeting of the Trade Union Congress General Committee, it was decided to accept the terms proposed by Herbert Samuel and to call off the General Strike. The following day, the TUC General Council visited 10 Downing Street to announce to the British Government that the General Strike was over. At the same meeting the TUC attempted to persuade the Government to support the Samuel proposals and to offer a guarantee that there would be no victimization of strikers. This the Government refused to do. As Lord Birkenhead, a member of the Government was to write later, the TUC's surrender was "so humiliating that some instinctive breeding made one unwilling even to look at them."
On 21st June 1926, the British Government introduced a Bill into the House of Commons that suspended the miners' Seven Hours Act for five years - thus permitting a return to an 8 hour day for miners. In July the mine-owners announced new terms of employment for miners based on the 8 hour day. The miners were furious about what had happened although the General Strike was over, the miners' strike continued.
Will Paynter remained loyal to the strike although he knew they had no chance of winning. "The miners' lock-out dragged on through the months of 1926 and really was petering-out when the decision came to end it. We had fought on alone but in the end we had to accept defeat spelt out in further wage-cuts." By October 1926 hardship forced men to begin to drift back to the mines. By the end of November most miners had reported back to work. However, many were victimized and remained unemployed for many years. Those that were employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages and district agreement.
To many trade unionists, Walter Citrine had betrayed the National Union of Mineworkers. Under the leadership of Citrine, the TUC developed a new approach to industrial disputes. As one historian has argued: "His intention was not, as during the general strike, to coerce the government, but rather to make the unions reliable partners in negotiation with employers and the government of the day."
Citrine argued his his autobiography, Men and Work (1964): "I do not regard for General Strike as a failure. It is true that it was ill-prepared and that it was called off without any consultation with those who took part in it. The fact is that the theory of the General Strike had never been thought out. The machinery of the trade unions was not adapted for it. Their rules had to be broken for the executives to give power to the General Council to declare the strike. However illogical it may seem for me to say so, it was never aimed against the state as a challenge to the Constitution. It was a protest against the degradation of the standards of life of millions of good trade unionists."
As a result of the General Strike Citrine had rejected the conflictual model of industrial relations and wanted to replace it with one that sought to remove the causes of disputes and establish a mechanism for their speedy resolution. In 1928 he established the Mond-Turner talks but as Professor Mary Davis has pointed out: "The main employers' organisations representing the older industries overwhelmingly rejected the Mond-Turner proposals."
In 1928 Citrine was also appointed president of the International Federation of the Trade Unions. This is a post he held for seventeen years. He also developed a close relationship with Ernest Bevin, the most significant trade union during this period.
In the 1929 General Election the Labour Party won 288 seats, making it the largest party in the House of Commons. Ramsay MacDonald now became prime minister, but he had to rely on the support of the Liberals to hold onto power.
The election of the Labour Government coincided with an economic depression and MacDonald was faced with the problem of growing unemployment. MacDonald asked Sir George May, to form a committee to look into Britain's economic problem. When the May Committee produced its report in July, 1931, it suggested that the government should reduce its expenditure by £97,000,000, including a £67,000,000 cut in unemployment benefits. MacDonald, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Snowden, accepted the report but when the matter was discussed by the Cabinet, the majority voted against the measures suggested by Sir George May.
Ramsay MacDonald was angry that his Cabinet had voted against him and decided to resign. When he saw George V that night, he was persuaded to head a new coalition government that would include Conservative and Liberal leaders as well as Labour ministers. Most of the Labour Cabinet totally rejected the idea and only three, Philip Snowden, Jimmy Thomas and John Sankey agreed to join the new government.
MacDonald was determined to continue and his National Government introduced the measures that had been rejected by the previous Labour Cabinet. Labour MPs were furious with what had happened and MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party.
Walter Citrine, who had developed a good relationship with Ramsay MacDonald during the General Strike, opposed the cabinet's plans for restoring financial confidence through cuts in welfare benefits. In October, 1931, MacDonald called an election. The 1931 General Election was a disaster for the Labour Party with only 46 members winning their seats. MacDonald, now had 556 pro-National Government MPs and had no difficulty pursuing the policies suggested by Sir George May. However, disowned by his own party, he was now a prisoner of the Conservative Party, and in 1935 he was gently eased from power.
Citrine's influence over government declined during the Great Depression. However, he upset many in the labour movement when he accepted a knighthood in 1935. Citrine disagreed with the foreign policy pursued by Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and became chairman of the World Anti-Nazi Council and in December 1936 sharing a pro-rearmament platform with Winston Churchill at the Royal Albert Hall.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War some trade union members joined the International Brigades in Spain. H. N. Brailsford chaired the Labour Spain Committee, a pressure group advocating an active pro-loyalist policy. He also played a role in persuading men to join the British Battalion, that was formed in January 1937. As the author of The Spanish Civil War and the British Labour Movement (1991) has pointed out: "it soon became apparent that the assistance of dependants and wounded would be an expensive task - the estimated weekly cost rose from an initial £70-90 to £700 in November 1937."
H. Brailsford approached Citrine and suggested that the labour movement should take responsibility for the 230 trade unionists and 40 Labour Party members fighting in the battalion. Citrine, who was concerned about the growing influence of the Communist Party of Great Britain in the International Brigades, rejected the idea. His hostility to communism was confirmed with the publication of his book, I Search for Truth in Russia (1936).
Citrine fully supported Clement Attlee and the 1945 Labour Government's policy of nationalization. Granted the title, Baron Citrine, in July 1946, he was seconded to join the new National Coal Board where he had special responsibility for training, recruitment, and education. He was also appointed as chairman of the British Electricity Authority (BEA) until his retirement in 1957.
Walter Citrine published two volumes of autobiography, Men and Work (1964) and Two Careers (1967). He died on 22nd January 1983 at Brixham Hospital, Devon.
Under forty years of age, tall, broad-shouldered, with the manners and clothes and way of speaking of a superior bank clerk; black hair growing low on his forehead, large pointed ears, bright grey eyes set close together, big nose, long chin and tiny rather "pretty" mouth, it is difficult to say whether or not he is "good-looking". In profile he is; in full face he is not. When arguing his features twist themselves up and he becomes positively ugly. By temperament and habit of life Citrine is an intellectual of the scientific type.
He is sedentary, takes too little exercise for his health; he is assiduous, always improving himself by reading and writing and working at his job unremittingly - he has no "silly pleasures"; he is a non-smoker, non-drinker, small slow eater, takes a daily cold bath, sleeps with his windows open - altogether a hygienic puritan in his daily life ... I think he is very ambitious - expects too much relatively to his faculties ...
He has the integrity and loyalty characteristic of the better tyke of British mechanic. I think he is too public-spirited and too intent on real power to go the way of Frank Hodges and become a hanger-on of the directors of capitalist industry. His pitfall will be personal vanity and the sort of conceit which arises from continuous association with uneducated and unselfcontrolled official superiors ... Lying full-length on the window-seat in a free and easy way with his boots on my best Indian shawl he slightly annoyed me. But he has character, industry and intellect. He is the first "intellectual" to be at the centre of the T.U. Movement ... what he will make out of the Movement, during the next ten years, raises my curiosity.
Baldwin now took personal charge of the mediation efforts and eventually persuaded the owners to concede the principle of a national minimum wage. "What have you to give?" he asked the miners. "Nowt," replied Smith, "we have nowt to give." Meanwhile, another less formal attempt was being made to break the deadlock. On 25th July several members of the T.U.C. General Council attended a Royal Garden Party. One of them was Mary Quaile, women's organizer of the transport workers, who discussed the crisis with Queen Mary. The Queen's distress was considerable and next day A. Cook received an invitation to see the King at Buckingham Palace. Cook's reaction was characteristic. "Why the hell should I go to see the King?" he exclaimed to Walter Citrine. "I'll show them that they have a different man from Frank Hodges to deal with now... I am going to fight these people. I believe a fight is certain. There is only one way of doing it. That is to fight." When Citrine urged discretion Cook replied: "Don't forget I have something to pay back... It is just six years ago since they not only handcuffed me but led me in chains from one end of the train, in Swansea station, to the other, in full view of the public. The same at Cardiff station."
I do not regard for General Strike as a failure. It was a protest against the degradation of the standards of life of millions of good trade unionists. It was a sympathetic strike on a national scale. It was full of imperfections in concept and method. No General Strike could ever function without adequate local organization, and the trade unions were not ready to devolve such necessary powers on the only local agents which the T.U.C. has, the Trades Councils.
The spokesman of the Trade Unions was Mr. Bevin and Mr. Citrine, the Secretary of the Trade Union Committee. This deputation took up the attitude of opposition to practically all the economy proposals which had been explained to them. They opposed any interference with the existing terms and conditions of the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, including the limitation of statutory benefit to 26 weeks. We were told the Trade Unions would oppose the suggested economies on teachers' salaries and pay of the men in the Fighting Services, and any suggestions for reducing expenditure on works in relief of unemployment. The only proposal to which the General Council were not completely opposed was that the salaries of Ministers and Judges should be subjected to a cut!
The NCL adopted a more intransigent attitude towards the collection of funds for the dependants of members of the International Brigades. With the formation of the British Battalion of the XV Brigade in January 1937 it soon became apparent that the assistance of dependants and wounded would be an expensive task - the estimated weekly cost rose from an initial £70-90 to £700 in November 1937. In February 1937 Citrine had been approached by the socialist journalist H.N. Brailsford who suggested that the labour movement should take responsibility for the 230 trade unionists and 40 Labour Party members currently in the Battalion and Citrine promised to consider the idea. Schevenels, however, was unsympathetic, pointing out that the Brigades were an "unofficial'" communist organisation and "the responsibility for those who joined ... could not be placed on the Trade Unions". On 23 February the proposal was discussed at the NCL where, significantly, it transpired that some unions had already accepted responsibility for their own members in the Brigades and it was agreed to look into the extent of this practice.
Citrine told Brailsford that union funds could not be used for dependants' aid on legal grounds - money already contributed to the NCL Fund had been earmarked for the Spanish workers and their families and could not be diverted for any other use. However, he promised to look into the use of "special union voluntary payments" for this purpose. A report prepared by the TUC Research Department analysed a number of union rule books and concluded that only the T&GWU rules "have a quite certain chance of resisting any action by their members to restrain them from expending money either in support of dependants ... or of granting money to the International Solidarity Fund". Referring to this, Bill Alexander notes that Citrine "in his hostility to doing anything to help the Republic, studied the union donations to check that they were not infringing their own rules". In fact, it is clear that Citrine was unable to find a serviceable legal reason for not supporting the appeal which would not highlight the problematic legal position of many union contributions to his own fund and, ultimately, the NCL had offer a more overtly political rationale for withholding assistance.
Walter Citrine - History
The tropical islands of Antigua and Barbuda are located in the heart of the Caribbean about a thousand miles to the east of Jamaica and half that distance from Trinidad on the coast of South America. We are at 17- N latitude, about the same as the Cape Verde Islands and Bombay and 61- W longitude.
The island of Antigua was born out of the sea by a volcano about 30 million years ago. A young island in geologic time. On the northern flank of this volcano, reefs were formed, hence the greater part of Antigua is low lying and is composed of limestone rock.
The highest point of Antigua is 1,319 ft in the south-west and is called Boggy Peak, but the limestone Highlands of Barbuda rise to only 125 ft. The area of Antigua is 108 square miles, while Barbuda is 62 square miles. The population of the former is approaching 80,000, but the latter is relatively unpopulated at 1,300. Days and nights are refreshingly cooled by the gentle trade winds. Antigua boasts the largest expanse of freshwater in the whole of the Caribbean with a lake nearly two miles long by a mile wide.
Barbuda became separated from Antigua by about 28 miles, when the sea-levels of the world rose considerably at about 10,000 BC. Today parts of Barbuda are geologically flooded to form interesting lagoons. Here may be seen the largest breeding and nesting colony of the Magnificent Frigate Bird in the world. Barbuda supports a tremendous diversity of native habitats, as yet unthreatened by development. Reef-fringed Barbuda may be one of the best kept ecological secrets in the West Indies. Her rugged scenery, beautiful beaches, (one at least 12 miles long), lagoons and abundant wildlife may be a resource as valuable as its fisheries.
Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine Wiki, Biography, Net Worth, Age, Family, Facts and More
You will find all the basic Information about Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine. Scroll down to get the complete details. We walk you through all about Walter 1st Baron Citrine. Checkout Walter 1st Baron Citrine Wiki Age, Biography, Career, Height, Weight, Family. Get updated with us about your Favorite Celebs.We update our data from time to time.
Walter Citrine, 1st Baron Citrine is a well known Celebrity. Walter 1st Baron Citrine was born on 1887 in British..Walter 1st Baron Citrine is one of the famous and trending celeb who is popular for being a Celebrity. As of 2018 Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine is 96 years (age at death) years old. Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine is a member of famous Celebrity list.
Wikifamouspeople has ranked Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine as of the popular celebs list. Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine is also listed along with people born on Not Known. One of the precious celeb listed in Celebrity list.
Nothing much is known about Walter 1st Baron Citrine Education Background & Childhood. We will update you soon.
|Name||Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine|
|Age (as of 2018)||96 years (age at death)|
|Birth Date||Not Known|
|Birth Place||Not Known|
Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine Net Worth
Walter 1st Baron Citrine primary income source is Celebrity. Currently We don’t have enough information about his family, relationships,childhood etc. We will update soon.
Estimated Net Worth in 2019: $100K-$1M (Approx.)
Walter 1st Baron Citrine Age, Height & Weight
Walter 1st Baron Citrine body measurements, Height and Weight are not Known yet but we will update soon.
Family & Relations
Not Much is known about Walter 1st Baron Citrine family and Relationships. All information about his private life is concealed. We will update you soon.
- Walter 1st Baron Citrine Citrine age is 96 years (age at death). as of 2018
- Walter 1st Baron Citrine birthday is on Not Known.
- Zodiac sign: .
-------- Thank you --------
If you are a Model, Tiktoker, Instagram Influencer, Fashion Blogger, or any other Social Media Influencer, who is looking to get Amazing Collaborations. Then you can join our Facebook Group named "Influencers Meet Brands". It is a Platform where Influencers can meet up, Collaborate, Get Collaboration opportunities from Brands, and discuss common interests.
We connect brands with social media talent to create quality sponsored content
--> Citrine, Walter, 1887-1983
Walter McLennan Citrine, 1887-1983, left school at 12 to work in a flour mill. He soon became an electrician holding a variety of jobs. He joined the Electrical Trades Union in 1911, becoming Mersey District Secretary, 1914-1920, and General Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, 1920-1923. He was Assistant Secretary of the TUC, 1924-1925, and General Secretary, 1926-1946. From 1928 to 1945 he was President of the International Federation of Trade Unions. He was also a Director of the Daily Herald Ltd, 1929-1946. During World War Two, Citrine was a member of the National Production Advisory Council, 1942-1946 and 1949-1957, and a trustee of the Imperial Relations Trust, 1937-1949,and the Nuffield Trust for the Forces, 1939-1946. He was also a member of the Cinematograph Films Council, 1938-1948, and served on the Executive Committee of the Red Cross and St John War Organisation, 1939-1946. He was chairman of the Production Committee on Regional Boards (Munitions)in 1942. After the war, he returned to the electrical industry, becoming President of the British Electrical Development Association, 1948-1952, Chairman of the Central Electricity Authority, 1947-1957, and President of the Electrical Research Association, 1950-1952 and 1956-1957. He was also a member (and President in 1955) of the Directing Committee, Union Internationale des Producteurs et Distributeurs d'Energie Electrique. He was a part time member of the Electricity Council, 1958-1962, and a part time member of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, 1958-1962.
From the guide to the CITRINE, Walter Mclennan, 1887-1983, 1st Baron Citrine, trade unionist, 1924-1954, (British Library of Political and Economic Science)
Citruine was born to a working-class family in Liverpool his father was a seaman and his mother a hospital nurse. His father seems to have been an immigrant from Italy. The boy left school at age 12. He became an electrician, a skilled job high in the working class hierarchy. He was self-educated, and mastered shorthand along the way. He joined the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) in 1911 as an ordinary member but was soon spotted for his enthusiasm to trade unionism, and his energetic and skilled organisational abilities. He became full-time Mersey District Secretary, 1914-1920 of the ETU, and moved to the top as the ETU's General Secretary, 1920-1923. He then moved to the newly energised TUC as Assistant Secretary of the TUC, 1924-1925, and General Secretary, 1926-1946. He was in operationaL charge of the General Strike in 1926 , although he was pessimistic about its prospects. The strike was easily defeated in nine days by the Conservative government, which mobilised middle class opinion against it. From 1928 to 1945 he was also President of the International Federation of Trade Unions, chiefly an honorific position. He was also a Director of the Daily Herald 1929-1946, the newspaper that spoke for the trades union movement. [ 2 ]
Feuds with Communists
Britain and France declared war on Germany in September 1939, but Communists denounced the war because Stalin at the time was allied with Hitler. After a December 1939 meeting in Paris between Citrine and French Labour Minister Charles Pomaret, the latter "clamped down on French labour with a set of drastic wage-&-hour decrees and Sir Walter Citrine agreed to a proposal by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Simon that pay rises in Britain be stopped" [ 3 ] This brought condemnation from the communist newspaper Daily Worker, which supported the Soviet Union and opposed war with Germany. Citrine sued the Daily Worker for libel after it accused him of "plotting with the French Citrines to bring millions of Anglo-French Trade Unionists behind the Anglo-French imperialist war machine" the publisher pleaded the British press equivalent of 'fair comment'. Citrine alleged, in response to his lawyer's questioning, that the Daily Worker received £2000 per month from "Moscow", and that Moscow directed the paper to print anti-war stories. [ 3 ] The Daily Worker's counsel, Denis Nowell Pritt, asked Citrine "Have you ever considered . whether there is any alternative to carrying on this war to a bitter conclusion?" Replied Citrine: "The alternative is to capitulate to Hitler and lose our freedom." [ 3 ]
He visited Finland at the height of its Winter War against the Soviet Union in January 1940. He interviewed many people ranging from General Mannerheim to Russian prisoners. He visited the front line near the Summa sector of the Mannerheim line. [ 4 ] He wrote a popular account of his brief visit in My Finnish Diary.
In October 1941 a TUC delegation under his leadership travelled on the Australian warship HMAS Norman from Iceland to the Soviet Union (Archangel) via the Arctic route. This was part of Churchill's diplomatic efforts following the German invasion of Russia to bring the Soviet Union into the alliance against Germany prior to the establishment of the Arctic convoys to supply war materials from Britain to the Soviet Union. [ 5 ]
A review of the new biography “Walter Citrine” by Dr Jim Moher
The subtitle of this book is “Forgotten Statesman of the Trades Union Congress”. Now most books and programmes that use the words ‘forgotten’ or ‘unknown’ in their title are usually something of an exaggeration, but not this one. In spite of over 50 years of Labour movement activism (including half of that time as a national trade union official), I confess that I knew little about Citrine other than his authorship of an “ABC Of Chairmanship” (1939). Moher is, therefore to be congratulated on producing a fascinating and highly-readable account of a remarkable life.
Walter Citrine (1887-1983) was born in Liverpool, a working class man who left school at 12 and became a local and then national official with the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), before spending two decades (1926-1946) as the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). What might have been retirement years for many men were, in Citrine’s case, occupied as Director of Welfare & Training at the National Coal Board, Chair of the British Electricity Authority, and member of the House of Lords. He died aged 95.
The heart of this narrative is his time at the TUC which encompassed the first Labour Government of 1924, the General Strike of 1926, the second Labour Government of 1929-31, and his role at home and abroad in support of the wartime Coalition Government of 1940-45. We learn a lot about his professionalisation of the TUC and his role in making the trade union movement a genuine partner in the war effort. He never wanted to be wartime minister but, in 1940, Churchill made him a Privy Councillor so that he could easily approach Ministers including the PM himself. I would have liked rather more on the General Strike and a bit less on international trade union affairs, but balancing a biography of such a rich life has ultimately to be a personal choice.
In the 1930s and 1940s, there was only one other trade union figure who rivalled Citrine in stature and influence and that is Ernest Bevin who was General Secretary of the Transport & General Workers’ Union and then wartime Minister of Labour & National Service. A major theme of this biography is the relationship between Citrine and Bevin which was initially close and increasingly became strained.
Moher writes of “the extraordinary emerging ‘involuntary partnership’ between two remarkable union leaders”. He explains that “Inevitably, they were rivals as well as partners and never close but … they complemented each other’s strengths”. As far as the crucial wartime years are concerned, he writes: “”While it is the case that Bevin had the more public role in raising the labour supply, it was Citrine’s work behind the scenes which was pivotal in the complex and delicate task of persuading unions to suspend hard-won rights”.
It is clear that Moher believes that Citrine has been underrated by historians and that in contrast Bevin’s role has been somewhat overstated. Moher even suggests that, in part at least, Citrine’s record was deliberately undermined by Bevin. He writes of Bevin’s “cumulative list of moves to undermine Citrine” and suggests that this “shows a ruthless, devious character, which in others would be condemned, not praised”.
While there have been several biographies of Bevin, this is the first of Citrine, although Citrine did produce two volumes of biography (1964 & 1967). Most biographers – including me – are very fond of their subjects and Moher does not disguise his great admiration for Citrine. He highlights “his brilliant intellect, imaginative administrative flair and highly effective forensic skills” and concludes that “Walter Citrine was probably the most powerful figure to have graced the Labour movement in the twentieth century”.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 at 7:33 am and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Walter Citrine: Forgotten Statesman of the Trades Union Congress
&aposLike many trade unionists, Walter Citrine was crucial to my education. A major political figure of the 20th century, Citrine deserves the great biography that Jim Moher has given him.&apos - Alan Johnson, f 'This fascinating biography sets the record straight on a giant of the Labour movement. and contains many lessons for us today.' - Frances O' Grady, TUC General Secretary
'Like many trade unionists, Walter Citrine was crucial to my education. A major political figure of the 20th century, Citrine deserves the great biography that Jim Moher has given him.' - Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary and union leader
The forgotten story of a Liverpool lad who rose from the squalor of Edwardian Merseyside's bustling docks to become the confidant of Churchill and Roosevelt as leader of Britain's trade unions during the Second World War.
Walter Citrine's life spanned the late-nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries. During his leadership of the Trades Union Congress, the unions progressed from impotent grandstanding to effective lobbying, influencing governments and employers to transform deplorable working conditions and elevate the worker's place in society.
Through Citrine's life, readers will revisit the key historical episodes in which his work was so influential - the General Strike of 1926, the 'Great Depression' of 1928-34, the rise of Hitler and Fascism, the challenge of Stalin and Communism, the Second World War and the reconstruction afterwards.
At a time when trade unions are once again being consulted by governments on their plans to revive the economy, never has Citrine's story been so relevant. . more
Sign up to the free Fabian Society newsletter
Find out about the latest Fabian Society research, publications and events with our regular updates
Follow us on
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.
Looking for records on Egerton Wake
I am currently researching a PhD at St Andrews University on the demise of the Liberal Party in Scotland in the 1920s. Egerton Wake played a very active role in building up the Labour Party in Scotland, first as the party’s Organising Secretary, active in Scotland, and latterly as Labour’s National Agent. He was prominent in the Union of Democratic Control during the First World War, &hellip Continue reading Looking for records on Egerton Wake