J. T. Murphy

The Miners at the Cross Roads


Source: The Communist, July 15, 1922
Publisher: The Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


FROM every coalfield and from every mining village comes the cry of distress.

Poverty and misery have eaten into the very vitas of the miners and their dear ones. Low wages, unemployment, short time, are driving hundreds of thousands to distraction. They did not fail each other in the hours of struggle against the onslaught of the mine-owners. They stood together as British miners in a way which won the admiration of the world. They were beaten because they were isolated as—“British”—miners.

Now they have come to the cross-roads. At their Conference in Blackpool they have to make a decision of immense importance. They are about to choose whether they will cast on one side the policy of isolation and become part of an international organisation or struggle.

Will they join the Red International of Labour Unions? That is the issue upon which the future of the miners depends.

They are members of an international organisation we know. Through the T.U. Congress they are affiliated to the Amsterdam International.

But none of them could tell that they were members of an International if it were not written in books and magazines.

Certainly, it is not revealed to the rank and file miners by deeds of international solidarity. In name they belong to an International. In fact they are isolated and defeated.

The Amsterdam International was reborn in 1919. Since then the miners have passed through their most bitter years of defeats. And the miners have not benefited by a single deed from them.

A Second-hand Affiliation

But what can the miners expect from a second-hand affiliation?

They are attached only through the T.U. Congress and we all know what that means. We all recognise how utterly hopeless it is to expect anything from this organisation so long as it is so loosely formed and lacking in authority. And we all know that even if it had authority it would, with its present leadership, be used to stifle action instead of helping to get it.

Its record in this respect is familiar. When the miners were fighting strongly during the days of the Sankey Commission and after, did the T.U. Congress rally the other unions to support the miners?

It did not.

When the miners fought in 1921 did the T.U. Congress rally the union movement to help?

It did not.

Is it reasonable to expect that a second-hand affiliation to an International, through such an organisation will bring international solidarity in action?

Before you could compel action at the International centre you would have to press things through the national centre.

Press things through the T.U. Congress before getting to Amsterdam! Ye Gods! In what year would you be likely to get assistance?

Has not your experience shown the futility of expecting assistance from those whose whole activity has been directed to preventing such assistance? Ask help from leaders whose programme is—a CARD INDEX SYSTEM! Leaders who are bound to an international constitution which permits every national organisation to go its own sweet way!

That is absurd. Could you have a Miners’ Federation of Great Britain if every local organisation pursued a policy of going off on its own account?

You know quite well that wherever such occurs the M.F.G.B. becomes weak. It is exactly the same internationally. International organisation without international discipline is not international solidarity in practice at all. You needed in 1921 common action with the miners of Europe and America. Common action with the Transport Workers to prevent the shipment of coal. National autonomy left you isolated. And how terrible is the penalty of isolation and defeat!

But everything does not depend on organisation. The looser the organisation the more important becomes the question of leadership, and the leadership of the Amsterdam International is the leadership of defeat.

Committed to capitalism, defending capitalism continually, supporting capitalist governments, how can you expect this leadership to make up for the defects of organisation and come to your aid in your daily struggles?

The Alternative

What is the alternative? This is clearer to-day than ever before.

The Red International of Labour Unions grows continually and offers the only alternative.

It demands of those organisations which join it the pledge to international solidarity in deeds as well as words. It demands a solidarity of the workers which stretches across the frontiers and insists that its members carry out the decisions of its international congresses. Its leaders are pledged to fight your foes with all the means possible, and are pledged to the policy which leads to the complete defeat and conquest of capitalism.

We are making of the Red International of Labour Unions not a card index system for registering your troubles, but a fighting machine to rally each others aid in time of need and to create a real united working-class front against the common enemy capitalism.

That is why so much hatred is shown to us by the defenders of the system which creates your misery.

That is why we are building from the bottom by direct appeals to the masses.

The Amsterdam International rests on apathy and indifference. The Red International grows through struggle and the awakening of the masses.

Ninety per cent. of the members of the Amsterdam International did not know they were members until they were roused to the knowledge of it through the campaigns and action of the Red International. The Amsterdam International was never an issue in the union movement until faced with the challenging Red International. It is a machine created by the Trades Union bureaucrats without the knowledge and consent of the masses. Push it away. It is a stumbling block to union progress, splitting the national union movements and barring the way to united action on even the every-day issues. It expelled the union majority in France. It expelled the minorities of other countries. So long as it is left intact at the centre, the leaders assume a dictatorship in practice which they deny in theory. If you would get out of the isolated tracks which lead to defeat, you must therefore thrust these leaders and this apparatus on one side and join the Red International of Labour Unions. This is the direction to which we point and we say—

Beware of the Objectors

There will be those who will say this means joining the Communist International. That is absurd.

The M.F.G.B. could not join the Communist International. The constitution of the Communist International demands an individual test of its applicants to membership as well as a collective test. It is an International of Communist Parties, steadily developing into an International Communist Party. The Red International is a separate institution with different conditions of membership. It is formed of the mass organisations, the unions who pledge themselves to act unitedly against the Boss class until the workers rule the world. To this organisation the M.F.GB. is invited and will be welcomed.

It will also be argued that joining the R.I.L.U. means “Dictatorship from Moscow.”

That is absurd. If the M.F.G.B. joins the R.I.L.U. they will participate in the making of the decisions in the international conferences which will bind them to united action to carry them out. This is not dictatorship but business-like co-operation of national bodies to pursue an international policy. Can the opponents of such a proposal state a case. We challenge them to show a better way.

The actual relationship of the R.I.L.U. to the Communist International is clear and unchallengeable. The two organisations co-operate for common action for common purposes and do it in a business-like, open fashion. For the sake of pandering to the immature political notions of the slave Labour leaders of capitalism must the unions refuse to co-operate with a workers’ fighting organisation 3,000,000 Strong? To refuse would be absurd. And if they agree, what better method can be proposed than carry out such co-operation by joint meetings of Executives on special issues and an exchange of representatives on the central committees?

These are the only business-like means possible to carry out real co-operation and to unite the workers in the struggles against the internally organised capitalist class.

The miners are at the cross roads. Their decision to travel either on the path to disorganisation or on the way to real international unity is of immense importance to them and to the union movement of this country. If they go towards the former the chaos of the union deepens. If they line up with the Red International of Labour Unions it will mean the turning of the tide in union affairs. We urge every miner to swing into line and every delegate to the Miners’ Conference to step boldly forward and join the M.F.G.B. to the Red International of Labour Unions. This is the way to break down the isolation which has led to defeat and to get the solidarity which will make for victory.