John MacLean Internet Archive                                                    Transcribed by the John MacLean Internet Archive

Lead from Lanarkshire
Miners’ Historic Protest Against Profiteers

by John Maclean

Source: The Call 9th August 1917, p.3
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive ( 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

At last the miners of Lanarkshire have put a move on, and not too soon either. During January, 1916, I held several meetings at pit heads and in halls in Lanarkshire, with the object of arousing the miners to resist conscription, on the ground that the capitalists would use this weapon after the war for the intensified robbery of the workers. That intensified robbery has already been put into practice throughout Britain through the gentle art of raising prices and keeping wages at the old level. The submarine campaign has most materially aided the astute capitalists in this cheerful game of plunder. Were we as unscrupulous as our enemies at home, we could put up a very good case to show that British profiteers have bribed the Germans to proceed with the policy of sinking ships making for and proceeding from British harbours!

Last Thursday the whole of the miners in Lanarkshire, with the exception of Harthill, where a holiday was held on Friday, did not dig coal, but made a hefty dig at the paunch of the profiteers and their flunkey Government. More than fifty thousand were engaged in this most healthy exercise. After processing, they assembled at thirteen places of meeting to call on the Government immediately to reduce prices. Smillie himself hinted to the whole working class that, if the Government did not take the hint, they ought to “take action.”

This event is certainly the most important in the whole history of the working class in Scotland. It easily transcends the spontaneous strike on the Clyde, that forced the Government to give us the House Letting Act. At the time those of us who did our bit in getting that Act realised that for the first time the workers of Scotland (perhaps Britain) struck for a political object of a class nature. In this case the object is also political, but it is a larger object—the whole cost of living. More significant still is the fact that the strike has been organised by the Executive Committee of the Lanarkshire Miners and loyally supported by the rank and file; for in the Clyde strikes the Buntons of the A.S.E. and the Sharps of the Boilermakers were in reality helping the masters against the men, and as a result have now obtained jobs from the capitalist class. The greatness and grandeur of Bob Smillie (the mightiest fighter the workers of Scotland have ever had) is seen in his refusal to accept the Food Controller’s job thrown at him by the Government, and the powerful lead he is giving to our class to force the Government’s hands on the food question. The organised miners have now raised themselves to the highest level; that is, as champions of the whole working class, and not merely of miners as miners. That is the beginning of the end of capitalism if other organised workers follow suit. I am confident, at any rate, that my comrades in the engineering and shipbuilding industries of the Clyde will fully appreciate the significance of Thursday’s great event in Lanarkshire.

This preliminary wipe at the profiteers must lead to a general battle. These worse-than Junker scoundrels, who exploit the patriotism of the people to rob them, are united, and are represented by their Grand Committee, the House of Commons, and their Executive, the two Cabinets. Now is the time for the whole workers to line up alongside Smillie and his merry men, for the time is on us when events will require the united effort of the organised workers of the world.

Significance also attaches to the extra resolutions passed in the Coalburn district, where the men threaten a “down-tool” policy against the further application of military and industrial conscription. This is the work of the South Lanark Miners’ Reform Committee, a link-up of all the Socialist forces in South Lanarkshire. This area is the centre of revolutionary fervour in the country, and I think MacDougall and myself can claim our share of credit in the work. Significantly enough, economic classes have been successful here, the last having been conducted by our comrade, George Pollock.

In view of the fact that the Executive of the Scottish Miners has foolishly resolved not to be represented at the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Conference this Saturday (August 11th), some may be inclined to depreciate the significance of Thursday’s strike. That would be foolish. Let the miners’ branches be represented, to show the Executive that their decision was a bad one. If Saturday’s conference is huge enough, then united action along Thursday’s lines may be facilitated and expedited. Let every reader of our plucky little paper, THE CALL, do his or her duty.

Comrades, let Thursday inspire us to beat Russia in the revolutionary race.