One of the problems we have when discussing trade unions today, the role of collective action and the academically fashionable question of renewal or revitalisation is that we discuss it in terms of trade unions themselves and in isolation. However, trade unions exist within context and those contexts are political, social and economic, and historical. The remaking of trade unions in the UK has been in the main a solitary project which has had goods intentions and been viewed by many observers as being highly innovative; but these are first steps which require resources, coordination, conviction and politics let alone state support. Yet trade unions and many networks of trade unionists have in some sense incubated and guarded the map of social and emancipatory possibilities in terms of the political and the social in curious if unsupported ways. They have stepped into a reframing of the left even if the outcomes remain very uncertain.