A discussion of the attitude of the early British radical left wing organisations (i. a. the Social Democratic Federation, the Socialist League, the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and the syndicalists) towards the trade union movement, with special emphasis on the social democrats. In contrast to many other European countries, in Great Britain the rise of strong trade unions was preceded by the emergence of a modern socialist movement. Limited to skilled workers, and to a great degree opposed to the conceptions of radical social transformation, the early trade union organisations were the object of determined criticism, and frequently even hostility, on the part of the British Marxists. During the 1880s the supporters of more active cooperation with representatives of the trade unions remained deprived of greater impact on the policies pursued by socialist organisations. The appearance of a 'new trade union movement' after 1889 modified the assessments of the trade union movement among the socialists, and even resulted in short-lived election collaboration within the Labour Representation Committee. A radical criticism of the trade unions remained, however, a lively current within the British radical left wing, represented predominantly by offshoot groups which had abandoned the social democracy at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the case of some of those groups, this criticism led to strong involvement in an effort to create alternative trade unions. Despite attempts made at the turn of the century, the social democrats, rent by inner controversies, proved incapable of establishing permanent and close cooperation with the trade union movement, a fact which contributed to rendering their marginal political status even more indelible.