John Maclean Justice, July 1911

A Scotsman on the Rhondda Dispute

Source: Justice, 29 July 1911;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Dear Comrade, – In the course of propaganda it has been my luck to reach the Rhondda Valley where the miners’ strike is still proceeding as sternly as ever. The lock-out of 800 men by the Cambrian Combine as a consequence of 80 men refusing to accept its terms for working in abnormally bad places led to the adoption of the down-tools policy by the 12,000 slaves of the Combine. The “leaders” (?) of the South Wales miners wished from the start to limit the strike to the smallest number possible so as to reduce to a minimum strike-pay. The rank and file defeated them, and hence all the men have remained out and have got the ten shillings a week strike pay.

The funds of the South Wales Miners’ Federation are now depleted, but the settling of the men’s grievances is as far off as ever. Had the leaders asked all the Welsh miners to come out, perhaps by this time the dispute would have been settled. But just as the miners have received meagre assistance from their comrades, so the shareholders of the Combine have obtained huge sums from fellow-members of the Masters’ Federation. It is quite plain that the masters might have been paralysed had all the men struck work. Such solidarity, supported by good trade, has enabled seamen, dockers and carters to get some slight concessions from the plunderers.

It is now too late to waste time pondering over what might have happened had the South Wales men been perfectly solid. The men now are anxious to know what the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain intend to do at the Special Conference at the end of this month. The Executive intend to discuss what agreement can be come to with the employers on the question of abnormal places, whereas the men on strike are determined to get the M.F.G.B. to make a bold, bid for a minimum wage for all men employed in mines as the only just and satisfactory solution of the difficulty.

The men here, however, know that the minimum will not be discussed unless the miners all over Britain are determined that those attending this most important conference shall discuss it, and not only that, but also that they shall resolve to stop the mines of the country until the minimum is granted. In the disgust of the strikers, they have learned that the Scottish delegates to the last conference of the M.F.G.B. have been their worst enemies, and this after the Welsh men offering to strike about two years ago to help their Scottish comrades.

Now, as a Scot, I have felt the disgrace here in Wales as keenly as if were a miner, and therefore I willingly take it as a duty to appeal to my comrades in the mining districts of Scotland to get at Smillie, and the rest of their representatives, and see that they stand by the Welshmen. It is not a question of the technicalities of mining, it is purely one of class combination and solidarity for a specific purpose. Do not be bluffed. If these delegates do not take up the side of the men here, clear them out after they come home again. The clear out of obstacles to class solidarity is the only policy that the rank and file can now pursue in these days of Labour “statesmen.” Comrades, I say, it is you who can mould the policy that will have to be adopted at the forthcoming Conference. Waste no time. Act through your unions, and act directly on the delegates. Use all legitimate means to impress on these men the need for strong action – the resort to a general strike for the minimum of 8s. per day.

It is my fervent wish that at least Scotland will not distinguish itself as a blackleg country in mining affairs. To the work, then, boys!

J. Maclean.