International Transport Workers' Federation

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers: conference proceedings, 1896-8; leaflets.

International Transport Workers' Federation: minutes, incl. Congresses, 1896-1986; cash books, 1920-42; accounts, 1920-3; Reports and Proceedings, 1906-76; sectional reports; publications, 1923-85; correspondence files, including major groups re the anti-Nazi movement and 2nd World War activities; misc. personal file of Edo Fimmen, 1940.

National Transport Workers' Federation: reports of General and National Council meetings, 1911-27.

Administrative / Biographical History

The International Transport Workers' Federation was founded in 1896 as the International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers, adopting its current name in 1898 when it expanded to include transport workers in non-maritime industries. The organisation had its roots in various special conferences and federations of European seamen and railwaymen in the early 1890s, and in the international co-operation of European transport unionists during the 1896-7 dock strikes in Rotterdam and Hamburg. Its initial foundation was in London, in the hands of J. Havelock Wilson of the NSFU, in association with Ben Tillett and Tom Mann, the leaders of the 1889 London dock strike, and also Charles Lindley, the Swedish seamen's unionist, who was to serve the International Transport Workers' Federation for over 50 years.

In 1904 financial problems caused the International Transport Workers' Federation to move to Germany under the secretaryship of the German railwaymen's leader Hermann Jochade, who rapidly placed the organisation on a more stable administrative and financial footing. The First World War broke down associations between trade unionists and in 1915 the Federation virtually ceased to exist when Jochade was conscripted.

Fortunately for the future of the International Transport Workers' Federation, Jochade had established a liaison office in the neutral Netherlands in 1914, supervised by the Dutch Transport Federation (NVV); it was from this base that the international International Transport Workers' Federation was re-established in 1919, with an Amsterdam office, under the secretaryship of Edo Fimmen, joint secretary of the International Federation of Trade Unions and the Dutch trade union federation. Membership again flourished under Fimmen's dynamic leadership and major international campaigns against most notably fascism marked this period in the International Transport Workers' Federation's history.

By 1939 the imminent outbreak of war caused the International Transport Workers' Federation to move to England, initially to a temporary war-time home in Bedford and later to London. The International Transport Workers' Federation has continued to flourish since the end of the Second World War from its base in London and engages in world-wide campaigns on a range of issues.

Reference: Nicholas Baldwin, The International Transport Workers' Federation archive.Coventry : University of Warwick Library, 1985.

Conditions Governing Access

Access : Generally open though some restrictions might apply. Please consult one of the Centre's archivists.

Archivist's Note

The archive has been catalogued to file level. A copy of this catalogue is available in paper format in the Centre's searchroom. A published guide to the archive is available from the Centre . The Centre also holds the papers of Paul Tofahrn who spent a considerable amount of time on the staff of the International Transport Workers' Federation and who was its Assistant General Secretary for between 1939 and 1956 (MSS.238). International Transport Workers' Federation material is also held by the Archiv der Sozialen Demokratie, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany. These records was separated from the main archive in the 1960s and mainly concerns anti-Nazi material although it should be noted that part of the deposit refers to non-German subjects. Small groups of papers relevant to the International Transport Workers' Federation can also be found in the Federal German Archives (Bundesarchiv), Koblenz, Federal Republic of Germany and in the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

An authority file exists for the International Transport Workers' Federation (GB 152 AAR1283) and its predecessor, the International Federation of Ship, Dock and River Workers (GBR 0152 AAR1284).

Custodial History

The deposit of the International Transport Workers' Federation archive in the Modern Records Centre was made in four stages in 1977 and 1978, the latter before the International Transport Workers' Federation's move to smaller London offices. Details of these deposits and subsequent accruals are listed below.

Accruals

  • 18th and 23rd May 1977 : 2 van loads of correspondence, reports, publications, etc., collected by J. Druker [indefinite loan];
  • 19th October 1978 : van load of International Transport Workers' Federation publications, collected items from unions, some archive files, sorted mainly by Mrs Busick of the International Transport Workers' Federation, collected by R.A. Storey [indefinite loan];
  • 6th November 1979 : conference tapes, 5 transfer cases of unions' publications, wallet of earlier items, van collection [indefinite loan];
  • 12th february 1987 : 11 transfer cases of circulars, publications, etc., 1 file, delivered by Head of Research [indefinite loan];
  • 11th May 1998 : mostly printed/circulated material 1980s, delivered by International Transport Workers' Federation [indefinite loan];
  • 28th october 1998 : mainly unsorted photographs, university van collection [indefinite loan].