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2. Structures, Leaders and Followers

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Chapter Summary

Political parties had labour union sections and the agendas of annual Congresses invariably included discussion of issues that directly concerned urban workers. One of the major debates among Indonesian and European labour union leaders was whether unions should be based on race or class. Labour unions were male domains. Union leadership at all levels was overwhelmingly male, as was union membership. The exceptions were unions for teachers and nurses, where women were a significant proportion of the workforces. Labour unions were significant organisations in the towns and cities of Java in the 1920s and the 1930s. Union leaders at the central level were members of the new western-educated elite. For some, the political movement was paramount and labour activism a secondary activity. Most labour unions established a number of inter-connected mutual benefit funds.

Keywords: annual Congresses; concerned urban workers; European labour union leaders; Indonesian labour union leaders; inter-connected mutual benefit funds; Java; political movement; political parties; union membership; western-educated elite



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