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Ernest Bevin (1881-1951), was born in a Somerset village, father unknown. His mother died when he was eight. His formal education was also elementary. Moving to Bristol, 'a stronghold of Non-Conformity', his formative development was along theological lines as a fervent Baptist preacher until his early twenties. He switched to politics from 1906, becoming active in the Bristol Socialist Society, an affiliate of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation. Nonetheless, Bevin's socialism was said to be more 'more than economic', carrying over ' much that Nonconformity had taught him into his socialism and trade unionism'. (9) These eclectic ideological influences were to mark an individualistic outlook. He was never hidebound by a party line and often struck out in imaginative directions. Interestingly, 'he did not like the ILP too well', which Citrine was drawn to about the same time. (10)

(9) Bullock, Ernest Bevin, Trade Union Leader, 9 & 14.

(10) ibid., 1-23.

He was at first drawn to unemployment 'Right to Work' campaigns and municipal politics. He stood for Bristol Council in 1909, unsuccessfully, on a programme of 'common ownership of the means of life'. He had a variety of unskilled jobs - even opened his own Cafe - until he fixed on being a carter to join the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers Union Dockers' union in 1910, at the quite mature age of twenty-nine. He was immediately elected as chairman of the cabmen's branch, directing his already formidable organising skill to the casually employed carters and dockers, with great effect. In 1911 he became one of its full-time officials on £2 a week. And in 1914 became one of three National Organisers, stepping onto the national union and Labour scene, from his Bristol base.

By 1920, six years Citrine's senior, Bevin had become Assistant General Secretary of the Dockers Union and moved to London. He soon started to make a name for himself with his leadership of the Councils of Action movement which prevented the government exporting arms to Poland on the Jolly George to assist the anti-Soviet Union forces there. (11) Here was direct industrial action for political ends in classic syndicalist style. Yet Bevin was no syndicalist. More characteristic was his forensic presentation and advocacy of the dockers' wage claim to the Shaw Inquiry into dock labour that same year, which earned him massive publicity and the title Dockers KC. (12) At the same time he became the butt of communist-inspired attacks in his union over their failure to call out the dockers and road transport workers in support of the miners on Black Friday, 15th April 1921. As a result, theTriple Industrial Alliance and the syndicalist-led Transport Workers Federation, of which he was an Executive member, fell apart. No slouch about pursuing 'the industrial class war', Bevin had come to regard such poorly organized and uncoordinated attempts to drag his members into serious battles with Capital and the State, as poor generalship.

(11) Bullock, Ernest Bevin, Trade Union Leader, 130-8.

(12) ibid., 116-130.

He was already turning his attention to the more realizable task of building the 'One Big Union' which would more effectively deliver for his members. In 1922, the fourteen unions were merged to form the Transport & General Workers Union, with over 350,000 members. Its structure of regional and trade group autonomy under a strong central General Executive Council proved effective in holding together this massive and disparate formation. Citrine admired this 'original and flexible' creation (13) and Bevin easily emerged as the strongest candidate to lead it. His leadership style, though described as 'popular bossdom' by some, put him and his union on the wider map of the labour movement. (14) He would go on to grow this union throughout the 1920s to becoming the largest TUC affiliate, with aggressive recruiting drives and astute mergers.

 (13) Citrine, Men and Work, 71.

(14) Andrew Murray, The T&G Story, (2008), 44.

So Citrine and Bevin were very different types. One sought to devote his skills to making the TUC 'the general staff' of an effectively coordinated union 'army', while the other sought to build a position of power by organizing a large new battalion in that TUC 'army'. Bevin didn't help to make the General Council a more powerful body so that it could lord it over the large regiments that he and others - Miners, Engineers, Rail and General & Municipal workers - led. Those tensions would come to the surface periodically between the two men, but they were never allowed to distract from their common purpose until the war years.