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The British Strike
Its Background--lts Lessons
By WILLIAM F. DUNNE
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A. J. COOK,
Sec'y. Miners' Federation
of Great Britain.
The recent general strike of the British Trade Unions must
be studied carefully by American worilters, for in the nine days
during which industry in Great Britain was stopped, there oc-
curred the greatest demonstration of workingclass power seen
since the Russian revolution.
In a number of ways the British strike furnishes object
lessons for the American labor movemeint more clearly appU-
cable to the struggle here than does the Russian revolution.
First, the British genenal strike occurred in a country
highly industrialized, possessing a powerful and disciplined trade
iSecond, the general strike developed out of a wage strug-
gle — ^the British capitalists, backed by the British government
were trying to reduce the wages of the miners as the first move
in an attack on the living standards of the whole British work-
Third, Britain is one of the countries which were "victori-
ous" in the world war and the genenal strike is the first great
upheaval to taike place in a country which "won."
Fourth, the American trade union movement has been pat-
terned largely after the British trade union structure and is
dominated by the same craft union and separatist fetishes which
once prevailed in Britain.
Fifth, Great Britain, like the United States, is one of the
"democratic" countries, with the best established parliamentary
system in the world.
Sixth, Great Britain is the classic example of an imperial-
ist nation, holding under its rule more colonial workers and
peasants than any three other nations combined.
Seventh, Great Britain and the United States are the two
great rivals for the economic, financial and military domination
of the world. The commercial struggle between these two im-
perialist powers will end inevitably in a bloody world war un-
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less the British and American workingclass are well-organized
and conscious enough to stop it.
Eighth, the magnificent courage and solidarity of the trade
union membership, the unemployed and even the unorganized
woiikers of Great Britain in support of the coal miners and
the general strike, are in striking contrast to the hesitancy and
weakness of the Trades Congress officials who because of their
unwillingness to face the fact that the British government was
the real enemy of the labor movement, entered into a secret
agreement with it, deserted the coal miners and brought about
a defeat of the labor movement for which they are solely re-
Ninth, the existence of an organized left wing — The Na-
tional Minority Movement— its part in rallying the labor move-
ment to the support of the miners.
—WILLIAM F. DUNNE.
The Struggle in Britain.
The coal miners of England, Scotland and Wales are fight-
ing against thte attempt of the coal owners and the government
to reduce their wages, lengthen their hours and break up their
The entire trade union movement of Great Britain, con-
vinced that the attack on the miners was an attack on the whole
working class, knowing that the defeat of the miners would
he the signal for an onslaught on the rest of the trade unions,
came to the assistiance of the miners in one of the most strik-
ing (the pun is excusable) demonstrations of solidarity in labor
The real meaning of the recent struggle (by no means
ended by the oalling off of the general strike) was that
the British labor movement said to the British lords of industry
and finance and to their instrument, the British government:
"Not one penny off from wages or one minute added to
the hours of labor."
Great Britain has not been a;ble to regain her premier
world position in finance and trade she enjoyed before the war.
Industry declines steadily, the hankers of Wall Street have
superseded "the old Lady of Threadneedle Street," and unem-
ployment in England is of a mass character.
British capitalism can survive only by lowering the stand-
ard of living, while at the same time forcing more production
from the workers. In such a situation labor's slogan of no
wage reductions and no Increases in hours is actually a chal-
lenge to the British ruling class.
The wage struggle in Great Britain has become a revolu-
tionary struggle. „ , , ,
For months the capitalist press of the world had been plac-
ing its confidence in the right wing leadership of the British
trade unions as the bulwark hetween the mine owners, the
government and the masses of the trade union membership.
But MacDonald, Henderson, Clynes and Thomas were forced
for ^ time to support both the miners' strike and the general
strike and the capitalist press stood aghast.
For was this not Britain, the cradle of capitalist democ-
racy and parliamentarism, where the sole important survivor
of European royalty still lives and thrives in Buckingham on
the bounty of the bourgeoisie?
■ All signs fail in dry weiather, says an old proverb and the
prophete of_ the capitalist press have been unable to under-
-stand that just as British diplomacy was the most successful
m the world when British finance ruled the world markets but
■meets humiliating defeats in the present period (consult Austen
Chamberlain) so does the influence of reformist trade union
leaders wane in a country of declining capitalism.
And British capitalism is on the decline. The British work-
ers feel this in the lowered standard of living and chronic mass
unemployment tho comparatively few may thus describe the
basic reason for the present struggle.
The pressure from below as a result of the downward ten-
dency of wages and working conditioins, coupled with the arro-
gant attitude of the employers and the government, has forced
into line with the demands of the masses for action many trade
union and labor party officials who in other circumstances have
been able to excuse their unwillingness to lead the labor move-
ment m a militant struggle.
^ But so rapidly has the crisis developed, so swift has been
the response of the itrade union membership to the offensive
■ it g'v^^nment, so overwhelming has been the proof fur-
nished the workers that weakness and hesitation mean the de-
^struction of the British labor movement, that a labor leader who
attempts to repeat the treachery of Prank Hodges in wrecTking
the triple alliance m the last great crisis, will be driven from
the labor movement. Not tomorrow, or the next day perhaps
but very soon as history measures, such periods.
The British trade unions have made the first and most
necessary step in bringing their policy and tactics into line with
the basic fact of British capitalism— its decay. The general
strike of the British trade unions means the beginning of thp
open struggle of the British proletariat for power: the solving
of a whole series of new problems. ^ ving
Rapid Development of Crisis.
'pHE rapidity of the development toward the present' crisis in
British industrial and political life oan be gauged best by the
fact that less than one month before the general strike occurred
the best informed labor men in Great Britain and on the con-
tinent believed that no strike of coal miners would take place.
Early in April a conference was held In Paris attended by
influential British trade union officials, spokesmen of the conti-
nental labor unions and by high officials of the All-Russian
trade unions. The conference was called to consider the min?
ers' situation. After thoro consideration of all factors — mine
owners, the miners' union and the British Trade Union Conr
gress and the government — it was the unanimous opinion of
the delegates that no strike would occur.
This opinion has additional significance if it is remembered
that every person at the conference was opposed to the report
of the coal commission, and believed that the campaign to lower
wages and lengthen hours must be met by a counter-offensive
on the part of labor and that each had done much to put the
British labor movement in fighting trim in preparation for just
such a situation.
In addition to the opinion that no strike of coal miners
would occur there was the further belief that if it did it would
receive onJy half-hearted support from the rest of the labor
For obvious reasons I cannot give the names of the labor
men who were at this conference but they are those men in
closest touch witb the masses and who follow closely every
phase of the British movement. Yet the miners struck, the
Trades Union Congress supported them. British industry was
paralyzed and the government and the capitalist press talked
hysterically of revolution.
The speed and momentum of mass movements are hard
to estimate and in Great Britain this is doubly true.
So well established is the belief in the British devotion to
parliamentary methods, so many times has the labor party par-
liamentary leadership succeeded by diverting strike action into
channels where the miltiancy of the masses has been dissipat-
ed, so involved with the aims of British capitalism is an influ-
ential section of the trade union leadersliip, so strong was the
belief that the suheidy to the coal owners would be continued —
temporarily, at least — that those who wor^ked the hardest for
and wanted most the awakening of the British labor move-
,ment to its danger and the need for unity and struggle, despair-
ed of anything like united aotion at this time.
The Situation Preceding the Strike.
The National Union of Railwaymen, headed by J. H.
Thomas, leading figure In the Labor Party and former member
of the Privy Council, an imperialist to the backbone, had signed
a (new agreement with the employers and this was looked upon
as definite indication that the union would take little or no
part In any general struggle of the rest of the trade union
The Amalgamated Engineering Union (engineers in Great
Britain are machinists, etc.) began negotiations for a new agree-
ment and met with unexpected opposition from the bosses who
insisted on district agreements, lower wages and a change for
the worse in the jdb conditions. One of the most powerful un-
ions in Great Britain, it was evident that the capitalists be-
lieved that the A. E. U. would not fight and that if it did it would
receive but little support from the rest of the labor movement.
Undoubtedly the metal trades bosses found comfort in the
fact that a majority of the executive board of the Miners' Fed-
eration of Great Britain was opposed to the militant policy of
A. J. Cook, its secretary, whom the capitalist press always calls
a Communist but who is not a member of the Communist Party.
They depended also upon Thomas to prevent the Railway-
men's Union tying up transport in the event of a Trades Union
Congress decision to support the miners.
However, things began to hapj>en in the coal fields, which
exerted tremendous influence in shaping the policy of the Trades
A. J. Cook, secretary of the Miners* Federation of Great
Britain, is an honest and militant official. He was elected be-
cause he supported the program of the left wing in the union for
nationalization of the mines and a national minimium wage.
Cook had confidence in the rank and file. He felt that they
were fed up with unkept promises and were prepared to fight
the basic program of the Coal Commission report of wage re-
ductions, increases in hours and the break-up of the miners'
union thru a system of district agreements. He was sure, more-
over, that the miners understood that back of the mine owners
and the coal commission stood the British government and that
they should also understand that in rejecting the commission
report and deciding for strike action they must engage in an
open struggle with the state power.
Officials War on Left Wing.
The official leadership of the labor party was more con-
cerned with ejecting the Communists and warring on the left
wing than with the troubles of the miners.
Nationalization of the mines, a minimum wage based on
the cost of living for the miners, had been allowed to become
mere academic issues. The coal commission's report was at-
tacked more by this group because it urged the end of the
isu'bsidy to the mine owners than because it threatened the liv-
ing standards of the miners.
The whole leading group of the Communist Party with a
few exceptions, had been sent to Wandsworth prison for tell-
ing soldiers and sailors not to shoot workers when called upon
to do so, and this had occurred as a direct result of the offen-
sive against the Communists, launched by the MacDonald wing
of the Labor Party at Liverpool.
The strike of the seamen earlier in the year had been lost
because the official labor movement did not support it.
The only encouraging signs were the victories of a num-
ber of labor party candidates in by-elections but these vic-
tories had served mostly to strengthen the confidence of the
officialdom in the effectiveness of pure parliamentary action.
Rise of the Left Wing.
Cook began a tour of the coal fields.
The Labor Party officialdom looked on at first contemptu-
ously, then tolerantly and then with amazement.
The meetings of miners listened to Cook and then voted
for the left wing prognam unanimously or by majorities so
huge that no one could be in dooibt as to their sentiments.
Durham district, the stronghold of Herbert Smith, chair-
maij. of, the Miners' Federation and leader of the opposition to
Coolc in the executive committee, endorsed the program of the
left wing. So did South Wales, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and
other decisive districts.
, The executive committee responded to the unmistakahle
demand and, following the instructions contained in the resolu-
tions passed at miass meetings and delegate meetings, asked f oa*
full support from the Trades Union Congress.
The Miners' Federation is the largest union in the Trades
Union Congress and when it spoke with one voice thru its ex-
ecutive, a voice which the T, U. C. officials knew was the voice
of over a milliom niiners, whose votes had been recorded daily
in the London Herald, official organ of the T. U. C. and the
Labor Party (an organ, by the way, whose chief support comes
from the miners), it was listened to with a new sympathy and
In the meantime, in the whole labor movement, a new
militancy icould be noticed. The left wing was consolidating
its influence and it had issues and a program which began to
group around its center — the National Minority Movement —
the best elements of the trade union movement.
The attadk on the living standards of the British workers,
particularly those in decisive industries, like coal mining and
metal, coupled with the apathy of the official labor party and
trade union leadership, formed the basis for a left wing move-
ment whose rapid rise to a position of influence is one of the
outstanding features of the British situation.
Work and Prograim of the Minority Movement.
: At the head of the Minority Movement is Harry Pollitt,
member of the Boilermakers' Union and also a member of the
Communist Party of Great Britain, now in Wandsworth prison
following his conviction on a charge of "fomenting mutiny in
the armed forces of the crown" brot under (an act passed in 1704.
Nat Watkins of the South Wales Miners' Federation and
George Hardy, well-known memher of the I. W. W. who served
a sentence In Leavenworth for anti-war activities and was then
deported from the United States, £(,re now in charge of the work
of the national office of the Minority ; Movement. The British
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capitalist clas^ has a legitimate grievance against our rulers
for sending Hardy back home. Active on the executive are such
well-known fighters as Tom Quelch and Tom Mann.
70-year-old fighting leader of Eng-
lish rebel workers.
The aim of the Minority Movement was and is to give to
the trade unions a militant program, to build them into real
weapons of the British masses. Practical work to this end is
the chief feature of the movement.
Nat Watkins, for instance, went into the Forest of Dean
mining district with A. Purcell, since he was elected to par-
liament from the constituency, and conducted what the British
movement calls an "All In Campaign," i. e., an organization
drive which brot the percentage of union organization from 30
per cent up to 90 per cent.
In the recent stride of seamen the Minority Movement
actually had the leadership in the person of George Hardy.
Hundreds of minor tnade union offlcials^ — branch secre-
taries, local organizers, etc. — are members of the Minority
Movement and together with the rank and file militants are
doing much of the routine work by which a trade union move-
ment is built.
The program of the Minority Movement for support of
the coal miners was simple. It was:
1. Rejection of the coal commission's report on nation-
2. All unions behind the miners.
3. A national council of action with corresponding local
bodies in every industrial district.
At the first National Minority conference held in Battersea
last fall, some 600,000 workers were represented.
At the special conference held last March 950,000 workers
were represented. In other words about 20 per cent of the
British trade union memibership were actively supporting the
program of the National Minority Movement.
Distinct from the Minority Movement is the still broader
left wing personified by such men as Wheatley, Miaxton, Hicks,
Bromley, Williams and other trade union ofiicials and labor
memhers of parliament influenced by strong left pressure from
their followers and who have followed a policy more to the left
than that of MacDonald, Henderson, Clynes and Thomas, but
who nevertheless weakened and aided in ending the general
strike and deserting the miners.
The pressure of these two powerful groups upon the ex-
ecutive of the miners in support of A. J. Cook brot the leading
committee of the Miners' Federation into line.
The immediate policy as formulated by the Miners' Na-
tional Minority Movement in a conference held March 22, was
We call upon the miners to concentrate upon securing 100
per cent organization and to prepare to fight for the guar-
anteed weekly minimum wagie commensurate with the increased
cost of living whilst recognizing that the necessary reorgan-
ization, so as to permit this, is only possible by the national-
ization of the mining industry without compensation and with
^^'^ m have"seen how the miners rallied behind Cook and came
to the Trades Union Congress General Council prepared for
strugge^.^^ other unions similar campaigns for support of the
miners carried on with the slogan that, "the attack on the
miners is an attack on the whole trade union movement.
How well the Minority Movement did its work is shown
by the general strike in support of the miners which astounded
and frightened the capitalist world. . , ^u t,o1
The capitalists' press is loud in its protests against the chal-
lenge to parliament and the use of such drastic measures m a
wage struggle. The British strike for a wage struggle true
enuf but its implications are far wider than the immediate
causes which produced it.
The Jailing of Communists and the Result.
The Communist Party of Great Britain told the workers
last summer in their press and at meetings that the govern-
ment was prepared to smash the trade unions. They said also
that a campaign against the use of the military as a strike-
breaking agency was necessary and that the struggle of tne
miners would inevitably involve the whole l^har movement
The party issued its now famous "Don't Shoot! leaflet
to the soldiers and sailors and twelve members of the central
executive committee were sent to prison under the Mutiny Act
No sooner were they convicted than a nation-wide cam-
paign for their release began. The rank and file of the trade
unions were aroused and even the right wing leadership had to
go along with the tide.
Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the home secretary in the
Baldwin government, derisively called "Jix" by the workers,
succeeded in raising a storm of protest against himself ihe
right wing of the labor party and of the trade unions tried hard
to show that the jailing of the Communists was a personal
enterprise, of an egotistical reactionary, but the rapid develop-
ment of the coal crisis, the organization hy the government
of the O. M. S. with fascist participation, were indications that
the drive on the Communists was no isolated incident.
The prosecution and imprisonment of the leading staff of
the Communist Party can be said without exaggeration to mark
a new period in the development of the British labor move-
It dramatized sharply the decadence of the boasted British
democracy because it showed clearly to thousands of work-
ers that under the Tory regime sedition unaccompanied by any
overt act had become a punishable act in time of peace.
It is my opinion that even considerable nrumbers of Com-
munists were surprised at the drastic measures used against
The response of the masses to appeals for the defense of
and nnanciial aid to the dependents of the imprisoned Com-
munists was splendid. International Class War Prisoners' Aid
reached hundreds of thousands of workers by mass meetings,
'demoBstrations and literature.
The treatment of the prisoners, their imprisonment as com-
mon criminals with no distinction because of the political na-
ture of their offense became topics of wide discussion in the
capitalist as well as in the labor press.
On April 12 a parade, mass meeting and demonstration
was held in London in honor of the six Communists who were
released after serving their sentences. (Arthur McManus was
held three days longer because he had "insulted" a warder.)
Ten thousand workers gathered at King's Cross Circus
and marched the four or five miles to Clapham Common. Half
of them had already walked from five to fifteen miles to reach
Twenty thousand people took part in the meeting at Clap-
ham Common where speaJkers of all shades of political opin-
ion addressed the huge crowd from a dozen platforms.
Then the crowd marched three miles more to Wandsworth
Prison, where another meeting wias held, while 20,000 workers
followmg the lead of a chairman in the most disciplined fash-
ion, made the walls of the prison shake with thunderous shout-
ing for more than two hours.
I have never seen a hoarser or happier crowd.
The direct attack on the Communist Party as a preliminary
to the attack on all of organized labor, the complete correct-
ness of the slogans and program of the party Increased its in-
fluence tremendously. The general strike and the massing of
the military by orders of the government actuated by an ob-
viously deadly purpase has shown the masses that the jailing
of the Communists was the signal for the offensive of British
The slogan issued by the Communists to the soldiers and
sailors has taken on life. "Don't Shoot!" is now a mass appeal
of workers in industry to workers under arms.
On May Day the United Press correspondent in London
cabled as follows about the May Day parade:
Conservatives and Laborites alike were dumbfounded by
the discovery that tlie sharp rocks of the day's developments
had changed the status of thie Communists in London. Today
. . . the reds from Battersea proudly led off the procession.
They simply took the lead, none said them nay a,nd there they
marched in place of thte usually acknowledged leaders.
Not actuially but with a relentless potentiality the social
revolution marched with the London worikers on May 1.
The New Outlook of British Labor.
The British working class has been given an entirely new
set of standards by the general strike. They look at Britain
and its empire with new understanding.
When the Trades Union Congress meeting at Scarborough
passed its famous resolution upholding the right of all colonial
peoples to sepanate themselves from the empire, cold shudders
ran down the spines of British imperialists.
Their cold chills vanished however when the Liverpool con-
ference of the Labor Party under the pressure of the Mac-
Donald and Thomas wing decided to exclude the Communists
whose activities had of course been in support of the anti-
The whole trade union movement has seen now the army
and navy, those noble instruments whose heroic deeds in de-
fense of the empire have been recounted in song and story, mob-
ihzed land placed on a war footing for an assault upon the work-
ing class of Britain.
The cold truth is, and every British worker knows it now,
that the armed forces of Great Britain are being used against
the trade unions of Great Britain in exactly tjie same manner
that they have heen and are being used against the rebelHous
workers and peasants of India, Egypt, Ireland and China. There
is at present a difference of degree but not in kind.
The British workers, with troops in "tin hats," armored
cars and tahks parading the streets of the industrial centers,
know now by what they see with their own eyes, that British
imperialism is their enemy.
Much sooner perhaps than even the sponsors of the Scar-
borough resolution believed, that resolution has been given life
by the relentless process of decay within the structure of British
The imperialist rulers of Great Britain are preparing an-
other Amritmr, but this time the scene is shifted from India to
England and fair-haired British workers, not swarthy Hindu
peasants, are to be the victims.
In the West End clubs, according to W. N. Ewer, foreign
editor of the Daily Herald, there was open taUk of "machine-
'gunning" during the general strike and an open lust for
slaughter hitherto expressed only towards the "backward
The interests of the two classes in Great Britain now run
directly counter to one another — the ruling class must struggle
to maintain the empire, the working class moves in a direction
opposed to the whole idea of empire.
The weakness of the national liberation movements which
have disturbed the even tenor of empire progress since the war,
and since the Russian revolution by liberating the oppressed
peoples from the czarist yoke gave la glorious example to the
colonial masses of the whole world, has been that the British
woi^king class, bound by reactionary aind reformist leaders to
the imperiahst chariot, was able to give them little assistance.
The general strike has broken with one stroke the con-
nection between the British masses and their imperialist rulers.
Never again will a colonial war be fought by other than merce-
nary legions and then only in the face of stern resistance from
the trade unions.
And in its struggles against the imperialist forays of the
British rulers, the woi'kers of Britain will continue to have the
support of the allies who have rallied to them in the general
Strike — the industrial workers of both the colonial nations and
the capitalist countries of Europe. A unity of action and pur-
pose in the ran^ks of international labor has been establislied
that will never be broken, for the British trade unions with one
gesture as powerful as it is magnificent, have shattered the myth
carefully maintained till now by the ruling class, the myth that
British labor and British imperialism were one indivisible whole.
The inevitable consequences for British imperialism can
be understood only if we look carefully at the structure of the
British empire and the conflicts in process of development with-
in it and against it.
The Empire and British Labor.
The whole foreign policy of British imperialism is built
around the protection of the route to India — ^the richest colony
possessed by any power.
Not only has the general strike seriously damaged the
prestige of Great Britain among the capitalist nations like
Spain, France and Italy, who are in a position to threaten the
key positions on the Mediterranean route, but the colonial peo-
ples have had now, in the emphatic form of the general strike,
proof that in their struggle against British imperialism, and the
small imperialisms which operate within its circle of steel, they
can count upon the aid of the most powerful ally of all — ^the
British working class.
A glance at the water route to India on any map will make
clear the strenuous efforts needed to maintain control of the
Only on a working class willing to fight and slave for the
idea of empire can British imperialism base its strategy and
maneuvers for the maintenance of an unobstructed route to
India and without India Britain is no longer an empire.
For when it loses control of the road to India it loses like-
wise the entry to and the shortest approach to its Africian pos-
Let us examine in some detail the elaborate structure —
military and political — to build which the British ruling class
has lavished its best diplomatic talent, untold wealth and the
lives of thousands of workers.
The entrance to the Mediterranean is thru the straits of
Gibralter, on Spanish territory. /
Across on the African side French and Spanish armies are
struggling to conquer the stubborn and courageous Riffian
tribesmen. Modern guns on the African side could easily
silence the fire of Gibralter and Great Britain, one can believe
is watching very carefully the Franco-Spanish campaign in the
The island of Malta, the second link in the chain of British
bases, lies close to the Italian coast. Its population is Italian
and the imperialistic ambitions of Mussolini, anxious to expand
Italian power in Africa, have not overlooked the desirability of
Malta as an Italian instead of British naval base.
The third link in the chain is the Island of Cyprus — be-
longing to Greece. One of the chief reasons for British back-
ing of the Greeks against Turkey in their recent disastrous war
should now be clear.
The British navy in the Mediterranean is based on Gib-
ralter, Malta and and Cyprus — ^^and all of them are vulnerable
to attack from neighboring nations.
The Suez Canal is in Egypt — a colonial nation, a Moham-
medan nation, held in subjection by British troops and the Brit-
The troops and navy will keep Egypt in subjection only as
long as the workers in the British Isles support the imperialist
campaigns of their rulers.
The general strike was a greater blow to British prestige
and British strength in Egypt than the loss of half of the Brit-
We can look for a new upsurge of the national liberation
movement in Egypt very soon, accompanied by support from
the British labor movement, not alone in sympathetic resolu-
tions, but in deeds.
There is another route to India from the east and it Is im-
portant not only for India but for Britain's power in China.
Upon this matter British labor has already spoken by op-
posing the building of the Singapore naval base, and the gen-
eral strike, speeding up its drive to the left, will bring new com-
plications for British imperialism to worry over.
The Right Wing Leaders' Cowardice.
London, May 4. — ^Shortly before midnight last night, J. H. Thomas,
his face trembling, tears streaming down his cheeks, staggered out
of the House of Commons, crying, "It's all off. The strike is on.
I'm going home — broken." — News dispatch.
S plain as the fact of the great British strike itself is the fur-
ther fact that the British government openly and deliber-
ately took upon itself the task of the mine owners and the rest
of the capitalist class.
One needs only to read the dispatches to such newspapers
as the New York Times which frankly champions the cause of
the capitalists as against the workers to understand that the
British government functioned during the general strike as
what Engels called "special bodies of armed men," to know
that British capitalism concentrated all its forces of oppression
into one apparatus and that apparatus is the regular and spe-
cial police forces and the army and navy.
'pHE declarations of such men as J. H. Thomas, member of the
Privy Council during the war, MacDonald, who while Labor
Party premier sanctioned the use of methods against the work-
ers and peasants of India Which were more brutal than those of
Baldwin, Henderson, Clynes and the rest of the right wing
leadership, to the effect that "the strike is not an attack on the
constitution," their complaint that the government was exceed-
ing its authority, their efforts to give no offense to the bloody
imperialists of which the personnel of the British government
is composed but to outdo them in patriotism instead of telling
the workers that the wage struggle must take on a political
character If victory was to be secured, simply aided the gov-
ernment in its strategy.
•THIS strategy was to force the issue of capitalist government
versus the trade unions — to appear as the champion of the
interests of the majority of the British people against the on-
slaughts of a minority.
Such a strategy can be met and counteracted only by a
resolute, conscious knowledge of the implications of the strug-
gle, a leadership which is using all its energy to rally and solid-
ify the workers' ranks for the overthrow of capitalism and the
establishment of a workers' and farmers' government.
'pHE right wing leaders of the British Labor Party and the
Trade Union Congress are just as much afraid of the work-
ers as are the capitaUsts. They had a common meeting ground
before the strike was called.
Not once during the strike did it appear in any of the dis-
patches that the reformist leaders made any attempt to capi-
talize for the extension and broadening of the strike the flood-
ing of Britain with troops, the occupation in the best military
and naval style of industrial sections and ports, the special leg-
islation enacted, the suspension of all ordinary liberties and
privileges, the open threat and the obvious preparation to crush
the labor unions by military force.
WHAT part of these preparations were is told in extracts from
dispatches culled from the Chicago and New York capital-
ist press published in connection with this pamphlet.
The evidence of correspondents who chronicled approving-
ly the events here set forth shows that the British government
declared war on the trade unions and the workingclass the
moment the strike was called.
The government placed the army and navy on a war foot-
ing, it organized special auxiliary war services and after the
passage of the emergency act — itself a war measure — it issued
instructions to the military forces which legalized any steps
itihey might care to take from the arrest of strikers to mass
QELDOM has the leadership of a great trade union movement
had such an opportunity as was given the right wing leaders
of British labor. "Given" is the proper word because the ge«neral
strike was opposed by them.
But to MacDonald and Thomas this opportunity was no
glorious chance to deal a deathblow to British imperialism but
a reason for sorrow and tears. Weak and cowardly, this sec-
tion of the labor leadership was weeping when the strike was
called and when it ended.
No Confidence in Workers.
Not even the splendid array of stern-willed workers behind
them could give them courage. They have the viewpoint of the
ruling class, they are obsessed with the idea of empire and they
could only wail of the losses to "England" caiused by the strike.
rpo them England is not the England of the tolling miners,
^ metal workers, railwaymen, dockworkers and seamen, but
the England of the middle class subservient as always to the
traditions of the past even tho it is no longer the bearer of
The correspondent of the New York Times, reporting
Thomas' speech at Hammersmith while the strike was on, de-
scribes him and his type with rare accuracy as "a Conserva-
tive trying to please the Moderates without infuriating the
We quote from this speech:
If the people who talk about a fight to a finish car-
ried it out in that sense the country would not be worth
having at the end of it. I have never disguised and I do
not disguise now that I have never been in favor of the
principle of the general strike. No one will disagree, hovv-
ever, that the fundamental principle of trade unionism is
not only the right for men and women to organize but
the essential part of that legal right is collective bargain-
ing. The workers have no right to say to the employers:
"YOU MUST NEGOTIATE UNDER THE THREAT OF A
STRIKE," but it is equally right and just that the workers
should not be asked to carry on negotiations under the
threat of a lockout.
From the start 1 DELIBERATELY WENT IN TO GET-
PEACE. Let there be no mistake about that and in spite of
all that has been said, I repeat that it is the duty of both
sides to keep thie door open.
MacDonald vied with Thomas in truckling to the govern-
On May 5 he rose in the House of Commons and said:
I again ask this house if it cannot do it. (Resume
negotiations). I am not speaking for the Trades Union
Congress at all. I am speaking for nobody. I have not con-
sulted my colleagues. I am speaking from my own heart.
I am not a member of a Trade Union, and am therefore a
little freer than my colleagues, and can do things for which
perhaps I will get blamed tomorrow by the trade unionists,
but I cannot let this opportunity go.
MacDonald may have been speaking "from my own heart"
as he said, but it is plain that it is a heart filled with black
treachery towards the trade union movement and the working
PLAINLY put, right during the height of the strike, Thomas
and MacDonald were trying to "get peace" at any price and
^vhile the government was deploying its troops into strategic
positions and occupying workingclass districts, they were doing
their best to destroy the morale of the strikers.
Unity in the face of the enemy, whoever he is and wher-
ever he appears, is the first principle of struggle whether it be
open war or some small dispute. The bringing of ever-greater
pressure to bear on the enemy, to throw into the struggle
ever-larger forces, to demoralize the forces of the enemy, to
strike Where he least expects it, all these are elementary rules
of military operation.
"^HY did not the leadership of the Trades Union Congress and
the Lahor Party appeal to the colonial workers and peas-
ants m India, Africa and Egypt to support the strike of the
Why did they not say to them:
This is your opportunity to strike a blow for your
Because the reformist leaders would rather see the strike
lost than won by methods which would see the workers on the
road to power, because they think of England, capitalist Eng-
land, first, and the working class last.
The British capitalists consider themselves the guardians
of England and the empire and rightly so, they own them.
But for the leaders of workers to adopt this viewpoint is
simply to deliver the workers under their influence to the ruling
class in every crisis.
iJ^HE British rulers may and undoubtedly did differ on the tac-
tics to be used in fighting the workers, but on the main
question — who should rule in England— they were a unit.
State, church and press were solid against the strike. And
here we make the connection between the right wing leaders
of the Thomas type and the blackest reactionaries who backed
What essential difference is there between the Thomas
statement that "the workers have no right to say to the em-
ployers that you must negotiate under the threat of a strike "
and the following statement of Cardinal Bourne made at high
mass in Westminster Cathedral;
"1. There is no moral justification for a general strike
of this character. It is a direct challenge to lawfully con-
stituted authority and inflicts without adequate reason im-
mense discomfort and injury on millions of our fellow-
countrymen. It is, therefore, totally against the obedience
which we owe God, who is the source of that authority,
and against the charity and brotherly love which are due
to our brethren.
"2. All are bound to uphold the government and to
assist the government wihich is the lawfully constituted
authority of the country and represents, therefore, in its
own appointed sphere the authority of God himself."
QARDINAL BOURNE upholds the government, Thomas and
MacDonald will not fight against the government. Both
are enemies of the working class which find the government
blocking its way both to a decent living standard and to power.
The most important lesson of the general strike for British
labor and for labor in every land except the Soviet Union where
they learned this lesson nine years ago and have never for-
gotten it, is that capitalist government is the concentrated force
of the capitalist class and that trade union leaders and leaders
of working class political parties who have not learned this les-
son or, having learned it will not act in accord with it, must be
deprived of power in the labor movement and driven back into
the ranks of the open enemies of labor where they belong and
in whose interests they function.
War Preparations Against British Strikers Recorded by U. S.
Premier Baldwin rose. . . and amid a stillness that was
startling in comparison to the hubbub which had gone before
said: "I have a message from the king, signed with his own
hand." This message proved to be the proclamation declaring
the country to be confronted with a national emergency. Bald-
win read the message and then moved that the commons reply
to His Majesty that an emergency does in fact exist.
The declaration of an emergency carries with it the imposi-
tion of the death penalty for refusal of duty in the armed
forces of the crown.
4f "SF w •Jp
Guarantees are given that all persons continue or resume
their work in faithful duty to the country will be protected here-
after from the reprisals or victimized by the trade unions, and
the government will take all necessary steps to secure this.
His Majesty's government will take effectual measures to
prevent victimization by the trade unions of any man who re-
mains at work or who may return to work, and no settlement
will be agreed to by the government which does not provide for
a lasting period and for its enforcement, if necessary, by pen-
No man who does his duty by his government will be left
unprotected by the state against subsequent reprisals.
A signed statement from Premier Baldwin appeared in the
British G-azette reading as follows:
"Constitutional government is being attacked! Let all good
citizens whose livelihood and labor has thus been put in peril
bear with fortitude and patience that with which they have sud-
denly been confronted.
"Stand behind the government, which is doing its part, con-
fident that you will co-operate in the measures undertaken to
preserve the liberties and privileges of the peoples of these
"The general strike is a challenge to Parliament an(
road to anarchy and ruin."
* * * *
Many charges were made by the police. . . and 72 ar-
rests brought the total in Glasgow since Thursday night to
more than 200.
In the southern area. . . sixty arrests were made. . .
A number of rioters were brought before the sheriff's court and
sentenced to three months" hard labor in the majority of cases.
* # * *
Noah Ablett, representing South Wales on the Miners'
Federation executive, was arraigned in police court today on
charges of making a speech in Battersea, "which was liable to
lead to disaffection among the civil population and the troops."
* * * *
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of all the leading
members of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
* * * #
The government is taking steps to prohibit the withdrawal
of funds from banks for the aid of the strike without official
sanction. It is believed that this is the first move to prevent
the Trades Congress receiving financial aid from the unions in
^ ^ tP *
The government is intensely proud of its military measures
against the strikers. It feels that its "great convoy" of provi-
sions along the main London thorofares yesterday with a big
escort of soldiers larmed to the teeth and a plentiful display of
machine guns was worthy to rank with the mammoth wartime
convoys on the roads of Prance.
* * * *
Today 150 motor trucks filled with provisions were convoy-
ed thru the heart of London by a big detail of soldiers. . . but
nowhere was any interference attempted. There were altogether
too many machine guns in evidence, too many cartridge belts
and wickedly glistening rifle biarrels.
The government's pride in the awe-inspiring martial
panoply with which it has regaled London ... is clearly
shown in the official statements issued , . .
Firstly the Victoria Docks were occupied by troops, as if
they were a strategic point in the heart of the enemy's coun-
try. On Friday two full battalions of one of the crack guards
regiments, the flower of the British Army, were transported in
motor trucks across London and installed there for an inde-
finite stay. They were so thoroly equipped for possible trouble
with inhabitants of the tooigh dock region that they had a truck-
load of barbed wire for making entanglements.
A number of armored cars also went with them.
• m * m
A motion by James Stewart of Glasgow to reject the regu-
lation relating to the employment of armed forces in connection
with the vital services was defeated in the Commons by a vote
of 201 to 86. The members, wearied of arguments with the
La'borites, did not even discuss the motion.
« # * «
The government today made another appeal for volunteers
to do police duty during the strike as special constables. Already
250,000 such constables have been enrolled. . . . This force
will be called the "Civil Constabultary Reserve." It will be paid
as a full time force. . . . Those eligible for the new volun-
teer police force are officers and enlisted men of the Territorial
Army and senior divisions of the Officers' Training Corps and
former military men who can be vouched for at territorial head-
quarters. . . . Employers are asked to encourage their em-
ployes to enroll.
• • * «
Orders issued at Portsmouth are to the effect that any or-
der given to the naval personnel in connectioin with the services
declared by a sucretary of state to be vital becomes *'a lawful
command" under the naval discipline act.
• * * «
At the Bow street police court two men received prison
sentences for being in possession of documents the publication
of which would be in contravention of the emergency regula-
tions. . . . There was a reference to the return of the
Prince of Wales from France on account of the general strike
in these words:
"The Smiling Prince, who, it is understood, will be called
out on strike by the Amalgamated Society of Foundation Stone
The Final Betrayal.
'pHE method by which the British general strike was called off
and the miners left to surrender or fight on alone was made
clear by the controversy between Sir Herbert Sanduels, chair-
man of the coal commission and the leaders of the British
Trades Union Congress.
Sir Herbert acted as the go-between for the Baldwin gov-
ernment but in an unofficial capacity.
In an endeavor to cover up the cowardice and stupidity
they exhibited in calling off the strike at a time when at least
a third of the trade union strength was still in reserve and the
strike gaining impetus hourly, the Trades Union Congress offi-
cials have challenged Sir Herbert to deny that he was acting for
the government and that the government had full knowledge of
the contents of the memorandum on the basis of which the con-
gress officials say they called off the strike.
'pHE reply of the emissary of British capitalism, with whom
the Tuades Congress officiaJs entered into an agreement be-
hind the backs of 5,000,000 workers, is very enlightening.
It shows that unknown to the workers the reformist lead-
ers, instead of broadening the strike and accepting the challenge
of the British government hurled broadcast thruout the world,
were scurrying here and there in panic, anxious only to stop
the strike and at the same time leave the masses ignorant of
Confirmation of this fact was made by A. J. Cook, secre-
tary of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain in a speech de-
livered in the Rhonnda Valley, Wales, on May 23.
JN this speech Cook made the categorical statement that he had
never been bullied by government officials like he had by the
ofiiciais of the Trades Congress to get him to agree to a reduc-
tion in the miners' wages.
He characterized the calling off of the general strike as a
"shameful betrayal" and stated that the speeches of Ramsay
MacDoniald and J. A. Thomas, labor party and railwaymen's un-
ion heads respectively, "would be read by the woricingclass with
As the secretary of the Miners' Federation, the largest
union affiliated to the Trades Union Congress, it goes without
saying that A. J. Cook realized the full responsibility placed
upon him by such a public statement.
JF it had been possible to save the reputations of the Mac-
Donalds and Thomases, it Is safe to assume that the govern-
ment would do so. But the Baldwin government has its face to
save and altho MacDonald and Thomas and their kind have giv-
en sterling service to British capitalism — ^before and during the
general strike — ^the British capitalist government lets its cats-
paws shift for themselves in accord with the ancient custom
of dropping Jonahs to quell mutiny on the ship of state.
Sir Herbert Samuels said plainly that he told the Trades
Congress officials time and time again that he was not acting
for the government in view of the fact that the government had
declared it would not reopen negotiations until the strike was
There was undoubtedly an honorable agreement betwieen
the Trades Union Congriess and myself that I would use my best
endeavor to secure the adoption of thie memorandum's propos-
als. Because I had been chairman of the royal (coal) commis-
sion, I felt justified in entering into such an agreement, believ-
ing any furthter suggestions I would make should not be without
weight, altho made in an individual capacity.
go the Trades Congress leaders entered into an "honorable"
agreement with the head of the royal coal commission — the
very body whose proposals the Miners' Federation had rejected,
whose proposals for placing the burden of the industry still more
heavily on the backs of the miners were the direct cause of the
An "honorable" agreement of a similar character was made
by one Benedict Arnold and another British government in the
struggle for American independence.
The Trades Congress leaders conspired with the most bit-
ter enemy of the miners.
OIR HERBERT is typical of his class. He pointed out that
"all but two points" of the unofficial memorandum on which
the strike was called off have been accepted by the government.
These two points are:
1. Provision for more than the regular unemployment pay
for 130,000 miners who lose their livelihood thru the closing
of minies consequent upon the reorganization of the industry.
2. A national living wage for the coal industry.
It is thus seen that the two points left out of the govern-
ment's proposal which was made after the strike was called off
actually are the heart of the whole question at issue, i. e., wheth-
er the coal miners shall accept a reduction of wages.
Heartened by the duplicity of the labor officialdom the coal
owners demand reductions far in excess even of those recom-
mended by the coal commission.
lyrAODONALD and Thomas are exposed before the whole labor
movement as men who, on the word of a tricky capitalist
spokesman, without a shred of paper to bring before the strik-
ing woi^kers of Great Britain who had left their jobs by the mil-
lion to support the miners, called off the strike, left the miners
in the lurch and halted the magnificent onward march of British
Why did they act in such a secretive and cowardly manner?
Because they were afraid the general strike would be a
Not at all.
Because they were afraid it would be a success.
They feared, just as much as did the capitalist class lead-
ers, that the British labor movement would understand that it
had the government to fight and that the labor unions would
smash British capitalist government to smithereens.
There were no supporters of the workers in the ranks of
the British government forces but there were government
agents and supporters of capitalism in leading positions In the
general staff of the Trades Union Congress.
This is the reason why the miners were forced to fight alone
and why the masses of the British trade unionists arc turning
on the reformist leaders.
Such was the pressure from below that the general cou ri-
cil of the Trades l^nion Congress was forced to call a confer-
ence of union heads for June in order that the whole disgrace-
ful affair be considered.
At this conference the basis was laid for the cleaning the
leadership of the Trades Union Congress so badly needs before
It can march as it will, unhampered by agents of capitalism in
leadmg positions in its ranks, to its goal— a workers' and farm-
■,.:^m-'^ :i . rr .U..