Basic differences between working class movements and trade union movements

It includes within its ambit silent protests, passive resistance, individual protests and strikes as well as more organized forms of welfare activities and bigger protests and strikes reaching to the level of general strikes.

It involves various kinds of reactions and responses of the workers to the industrial system. These reactions may be to ameliorate the working and living conditions within the industrial system, but they may also be radically opposed to the industrial system itself.

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Thus Labour Movement may range from everyday struggles of the workers to general strikes encompassing the whole industry or many industries.

It covers the activities and movements of the workers within the capitalist system as well as those opposed to it.

Trade Union Movement, on the other hand, accepts the industrial system as given but attempts to make it more humane, more amenable to the needs of the workers. It tries to reform the working and living conditions of the workers within the industrial system.

The short-term and long-term working of the trade unions is geared towards making the workers more committed to the industrial work while agitating for higher wages, suitable working conditions, stable housing and reasonable credit system.

The classic definition of the trade unions which still holds good was formulated by Sidney and Beatrice Webb:

“A trade union, as we understand the term, is a continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.”

While labour movement may include various types of structures, pre-industrial or modern in nature, which coordinate the protest activities of the workers, the trade unions are generally hierarchical and bureaucratic, relying upon a variety of functionaries with defined roles?

The trade unions run on the basis of continuous membership of and regular contributions from workers.

Although the trade unions are hierarchical, these hierarchies are not fixed but are based on the acceptance of democratic principles of equality and elections.

In principle, anybody can occupy any post in the trade union hierarchy, irrespective of caste, creed, region or economic status.

Thus, the Working Class Movement is a much larger phenomenon which includes the trade unions.

However, it can be said that the trade unions are the most organized and modern expression of the Labour Movement.