General Strike 1926

A tribune of the working class

This is part three of a series. For the other articles, see here. In rapidly shifting post-war conditions, as Labour displaced the Liberals as Britain’s second party, there were three general elections in 1922-24. Chosen as the standard-bearer of a strong and radical local labour movement, Indian revolutionary socialist Shapurji Saklatvala was elected Labour MP for Battersea North in 1922; narrowly lost it to his right-wing Liberal opponent in 1923; and won it back in 1924, as a Communist candidate with local Labour backing. Saklatvala was Labour’s first “BAME” MP, but not the first MP with...

The Fourth International was proclaimed 75 years ago, after a 15-year struggle against Stalinism.

Just as the main body of the Communist International came out of the Second International, so the roots of the Fourth International are to be traced to the beginnings of the crisis in the Third. Fifteen years have elapsed since the movement now organized under the banner of the Fourth International first took shape. It arose in the form of the Opposition in the Russian Communist Party, variously called the "Moscow" or "1923" or "Trotskyist" Opposition. Uniting the best elements of the Old Guard and of the youth of the Party, and led by Leon Trotsky, it was the first to sound the alarm against...

Intransigence and betrayal in the General Strike

Tim Thomas continues a series of articles on the British Film Institute’s Ken Loach retrospective with a review of Days of Hope, his TV series looking at class struggle in early 20th century Britain. Jim Allen, author of the reprehensible play Perdition, wrote the script for this 4-part TV production. Allen’s themes, intensely focused on the class struggle, are about intransigence and betrayal in real historical circumstances — here, the history of working-class organisation from the First World War to the General Strike. Ben, played by Paul Copley, decides to join up with his mates though he...

Britain's General Strike, 1926: the revolution that might have been

Strikers playing football against the police. Oxbridge undergraduates and retired army officers running the trains and trams. The Australian and English cricket teams carrying on the Test matches regardless. Dames and debutantes peeling potatoes in Hyde Park. The "stake in the country" people mucking in to keep things going. Thus is the image of the British General Strike of 70 years ago this month which the establishment has passed down to posterity - a very British affair; one which was sensible enough to refrain from disrupting the hallowed British way of life. And this image contains...

Communism, Stalinism and the British General Strike

By Stan Crooke Taking its name from a union bureaucrat’s complaint about a “minority of troublemakers”, the National Minority Movement (NMM) was formally established in August 1924 as a rank-and-file trade union organisation. The founding conference was attended by over 270 delegates, claiming to represent some 200,000 workers. It defined the “aims and objects” of the NMM as: “To organise the working masses of Great Britain for the overthrow of capitalism, the emancipation of the workers from oppressors and exploiters, and the establishment of a Socialist Commonwealth. “To carry on a wide...

The General Strike as it was lived

Sacha Ismail reviews a play about the general strike, produced by New Factory of the Eccentric Actor. A couple of months ago I went to see a play at the Globe Theatre about the Chartists, called Holding Fire! It was disappointing despite some interesting elements and the basic thrill of seeing one of the major dramas of British working-class history acted out on stage. On 22 September, I got a similar thrill, but much more satisfaction and lasting enjoyment, from a play at Conway Hall about the 1926 General Strike. The play was free, clearly attempting to match its appeal to its message by...

The defeats we learn from

The British general strike of May 1926 was one of the great events in working-class history. Its consequences were felt far beyond Britain, in far-off Russia and by Communist Parties all over the world. It was a great working-class defeat. It was an unnecessary defeat brought about by the treachery of the leaders of the British trade union movement. The history of the bourgeoisie for hundreds of years past is the history of states in which they rule, deeds that some of them have successfully done, victories that they have won. The history of the working class and of its parties is mainly the...

The striker’s alphabet

(From the St Pancras Bulletin, May 5-10 1926) A is for ALL, ALL OUT and ALL WIN, And down with the blacklegs and scabs who stay in. B is for Baldwin, the Bosses’ Strong Man, But he’s welcome to dig all the coal that he can C is for Courage the workers have shown, Class Conscious and Confident that they’ll hold their own. D is for DOPE that the Government spread— Dishwash for Duncos and Dubbs—“nuff sed”. E is for Energy that will carry us through, Everyone class-conscious, steadfast and true. F is for Fight, our fight to the end, For we’re solid together, not an inch will we bend. G is for Grab...

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