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#418767 - 9th Jul 2010 7:34am 1926 General Strike
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7826
Loc: tranmere
Could this happen again, in view of the people of this country now going through a monetary squeeze and things are assumed to be getting worse, with wage freezes, pay cuts, pensions and retirement ages being interfered with, cut backs in schools, NHS and Policing, etc, etc.
Below is a brief History of what happened on Merseyside and Wirral during 1926.

Ten Days in the Class War
Merseyside and the 1926 General Strike
It was just eighty years ago - within living memory - and it took place on the streets where we walk every day, but it seems like a different world. Merseyside came to an almost total standstill as workers downed tools and joined together to fight against the rich and the government that represented them.

Liverpool is a city that was built on its status as a slave port, and its docks. While slavery was officially abolished two centuries ago, the docks and accompanying trades were run by workers whose living conditions were often almost as bad as their unpaid counterparts. By the beginning of the 1900s, workers whose parents and grandparents had come from Ireland, Scotland and Wales were beginning to put their religious differences aside so that they could unite and fight for better pay. In 1911, a transport strike brought together dockers, railway workers and sailors in a campaign that paralysed business for most of the summer. Eight years later, following the end of World War One, 95% of Liverpool’s police went on strike, with the many returning soldiers in their ranks looking to be rewarded for fighting abroad. They were supported by many more workers in the city, who sensed this was a good chance to get the cops on their side. Before the army was called in, there was widespread looting, and the Daily Post described the area between London Road and Scotland Road as a ‘war zone’.

Even though the schoolbooks normally claim that the 1920s was a time of great prosperity before the ‘great depression’ of the 1930s, they are talking from the standpoint of the already wealthy. For the working class, conditions were still very hard, and poor people were getting increasingly angry about the ever-growing gulf between their lives and those of the rich. It just needed one spark to set that anger off.

Ever since World War One, the coal industry had been declining in Britain, but the mine owners had got very used to their lifestyles, and weren’t prepared to give up a penny in profit. So they announced a plan to reduce wages. This incensed the miners, and the working class generally saw it as a sign of things to come. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin confirmed their fears, when he told representatives of the miners that “all the workers of this country have got to face a reduction of wages”. It became obvious to many that there was a conflict between the rich who didn’t have to work for a living and the poor who did. It was class war!

The government announced that they would pay the ‘extra’ wages of the miners while an inquiry looked into the future of mining. When the inquiry backed the demands of the mine owners that wages should be cut by between 10% and 25%, the gloves were off. On 1st May 1926 – International Workers’ Day – the Trades Union Congress declared that all their members should refuse to work, and declared a general strike "in defence of miners' wages and hours".

Though the government had been drawing up battle plans for over a year (stockpiling coal, passing various laws), the TUC was caught almost unprepared. Strange though it may seem, many union leaders wanted to avoid a confrontation more than the government did, and feared that revolution could break out, throwing ‘moderate’ leaders out of power. J.R. Cleynes of the General and Municipal Workers Union expressed this clearly, when he said “I am not in fear of the capitalist class. The only class I fear is our own.”

The government declared a state of emergency, and warships docked all around the country. HMS Ramilies and HMS Barham lurked ominously in the Mersey, while two battalions of troops were sent to Liverpool. Clearly, Britain’s second largest port was of great strategic importance.

Workers on Merseyside were among the best organised. Local activists had begun to set up a ‘council of action’ ten months before the strike, and had established a reliable network of communication. This was important, because most of the commercial presses had been stopped or severely restricted, and the Council of Action needed to let people know what was going on. Out of four million strikers, Merseyside provided about one hundred thousand. On the second day, the Council of Action reported that all engineers and shipyard workers on the Mersey were out. In Birkenhead and Wallasey, a group of strikers attacked the trams and brought them to a halt. Some people returned to work after a few days, while a strange alliance of unemployed and rich people became ‘blacklegs’ and crossed picket lines. But generally the strike was solid, and would probably have continued far beyond ten days, had the TUC leaders not negotiated a return to work with the government.

‘Not a minute on the day, not a penny off the pay’ had been the slogan of the miners, but the TUC agreed to all mine owners’ and the government’s demands. The only concession they asked for was that the law would prevent any victimisation of the strikers. When this was refused, the TUC obligingly ended the strike anyway. As a direct consequence, several hundred workers in Liverpool’s flour milling industry were sacked for their role in the strike.

The working class made some limited gains in the period after World War Two, but governments since the mid 1970s have mounted a sustained attack on pay, union and unemployment rights. Poverty levels have risen dramatically, while health inequality is at levels not seen ‘since Victorian times’, according to a 2005 report published by the British Medical Journal. So why don’t millions of people go on strike these days? Well, in March this year 1.5 million joined a strike against the government’s plans to make people work longer for their pensions. Ok, so it was only one day, but it was a start.

Liverpool is a very different city now compared to eighty years ago. The types of jobs people do are more office or shop based, instead of the heavy industry that used to dominate. But the essential character of work is the same. You go in, do your time, and the rich get richer off your back. In fact, workers get an even smaller share of the money they bring in than in 1926. What would our city look like if everyone stopped working and demanded change? It’s time to start imagining, because things can’t carry on the way they are.

A timeline of events on Merseyside during the 1926 general strike can be studied here
link http://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/issues/nerve9/general_strike.php

Interested to hear any stories handed down.
_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

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#418772 - 9th Jul 2010 9:11am Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: bert1]
davew3 Offline
Forum Guide

Registered: 16th Jun 2009
Posts: 1024
Loc: Wirral
Think it's all to do with tribal loyalties,each side be it Liebour,New Cons,Libdums all have very rich members as senior figures in their parties,until people look to what they are voting for and what they want from a political party then we will be treated as something to take out of the cupboard every 5 years to vote and treated like children by these people,another thing if you want to really want to our political parties to give us decent goverment for the loads of money we pay them for a mediocre return from them then let us get out of the EUSSR and as far a General Strike the answer is no it won't happen,we will get strikes but if they are civil servants who strike then the goverment of any colour rosette save money.

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#418792 - 9th Jul 2010 11:57am Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: davew3]
AR_One Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 14th Nov 2007
Posts: 435
Loc: Wirral
I've always thought that the democratic process itself creates thsi sort of tribalism - by having to be "left" or "right" or Lab, Con or Lib.

Personally I'm a mixture of all three leaning more one way that the other but there are certain policies of my usual party that I don't like.

At school I designed a voting system where you voted for a representative for your locality (your MP) but they weren't allowed to align themselves into particualr parties. There was then a second part to the vote that was a little bit like an opinion poll so you'd have a list of policies and everyone would say "Like", "not bothered" or "don't like" giving a national picture of the will of the people that the government was mandated to act on.

Can't really agree with the last part of the article though as the definition of poverty has changed. Just look at what everyone is entitled to now compared to 80 years ago:

Universal FREE healthcare - I know it's not perfect but it's free and you don't see people dying of TB in the street anymore
Running water - every house in the UK has safe drinking water
Relative cost of food and clothing, much, much lower in 2010
Support mechanisms - social security, housing benefit, DLA, all may be capped soon but weren't there in the 1920s.

As for this sort of thing happening again, it's possible but I think much less likely however I think that the wimpy nature of modern government means that the consequences could be much greater - anyone remember the chaos a couple of thousand tanker drivers caused in 2000......

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#418793 - 9th Jul 2010 11:57am Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: davew3]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7826
Loc: tranmere
What should be remembered, before any union bashing takes place, not everyone involved in the General strike were union members, regardless of who's in government i think by now they have learnt how far to push. When peoples backs are to the wall, who knows what may develop.
_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

Top
#418798 - 9th Jul 2010 12:28pm Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: AR_One]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9549
Loc: Birkenhead
Originally Posted By: AR_One
Universal FREE healthcare - I know it's not perfect but it's free and you don't see people dying of TB in the street anymore
Running water - every house in the UK has safe drinking water


Healthcare is a long way from being free in this country, prescriptions, dental and ophthalmic all cost. In any case it is paid for by the working population and possibly costs the same on average as a non-state scheme.

Water is also here at a price which I consider excessive, regardless of what the Governments have done to enable this, it would have arrived anyway as a saleable commodity.
_________________________
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#418875 - 9th Jul 2010 9:32pm Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: diggingdeeper]
jimbob Offline

Forum Addict

Registered: 26th Nov 2008
Posts: 1530
Loc: Birkenhead
there are 2 sides to the cost of water to your home as probable you all know. Yes we would all have paid to get a water supply but how many would have paid to have the sewage and waste water taken away?
_________________________
Ships that pass in the night, seldom seen and soon forgoten

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#418911 - 10th Jul 2010 1:59am Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: jimbob]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9549
Loc: Birkenhead
Sewage systems were a funny one, the Romans did quite a lot of work on this, but when they left it all fell into disrepair. Certain laws were brought in the 1500s (by the Monarch) as it was recognised as a problem.

Generally it is thought London led the way for the modern sewage systems after their Cholera problems in the 1850s, but actually there were laws passed in 1847/8 which applied to the whole country EXCEPT London.

With the weather in the UK, we are very susceptable to Cholera outbreaks in densley populated areas - sanitation isn't really a matter of choice but is a necessity.

The necessity level can be realised when looking at the London Bazalgette system which was constructed between 1858 and 1865, in those seven years the system comprised of 13,000 miles of connected and directed sewers, a project that could not be done in that timescale now despite our JCB and precast technology.
_________________________
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#418922 - 10th Jul 2010 6:40am Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: diggingdeeper]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7826
Loc: tranmere
Like most major projects, labour was cheap and lives were cheap. While the likes of Bazalgette received the plaudits the engineering feats of that period were achieved with the total disregard for life, health and safety of the workforce. The projects of that period were built on the back of nothing more than slave labour, a working system of must do at any cost. Ultimately it saved lives from diseases but at what cost, at that time, it wasn't that they couldn't have built these things safer,they could, but workers were expendable and to the hierarchy, they were scum that could be replaced.
_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

Top
#419615 - 14th Jul 2010 4:21pm Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: bert1]
Nigel Offline

Wise One

Registered: 26th Mar 2010
Posts: 850
Loc: Wirral
Originally Posted By: bert1
Like most major projects, labour was cheap and lives were cheap. While the likes of Bazalgette received the plaudits the engineering feats of that period were achieved with the total disregard for life, health and safety of the workforce. The projects of that period were built on the back of nothing more than slave labour, a working system of must do at any cost. Ultimately it saved lives from diseases but at what cost, at that time, it wasn't that they couldn't have built these things safer,they could, but workers were expendable and to the hierarchy, they were scum that could be replaced.


This is also true today isn't it? Are we going full circle again?
_________________________
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever ...

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#419632 - 14th Jul 2010 6:25pm Re: 1926 General Strike [Re: Nigel]
bert1 Offline

Wiki Veteran

Registered: 27th Nov 2008
Posts: 7826
Loc: tranmere
Lets hope not, the way some people are prepared to be treated these days, who knows where it may lead.
_________________________
God help us,
Come yourself,
Don't send Jesus,
This is no place for children.


Bertieone.

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