Tom Mann

The Situation in England

(23 August 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 71, 23 August 1922, pp. 535–536.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). 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.

“When things get to the worst they mend,” says the proverb. It is difficult to think that industrial depression can get much lower than it is now. If that is so, the economic pressure should soon be relaxing. Notwithstanding the reduction in wages in the Engineering Trades, there is very little in the way of industrial revival, general engineering giving scarcely any encouraging sign of development. Textile machinery is in demand largely for India, but marine engineering is distinctly dull.

On the top of substantial reductions in wages, comes a considerable increase in prices of ordinary family requirements, and employers in the engineering trades are again attacking the workers’ position by insisting upon the introduction of a system of “payment by results”; in some quarters attempts are being made to break down the recognized working-week.

In the printing trades the strike is still on in the provinces, resisting a reduction in wages; the men are making a splendid fight, but having no relationship with the. organized men in the printing industry in London, there is no solidarity, and consequently the struggle is a sectional one on the workers’ side.

The miners have had such serious reductions in their wages that in some districts it is impossible to maintain the families. Discontent is growing. But apart from general action by other trades, the miners have no resources to fall back upon, to enable them to put up a fight If the trade unionists were properly organized in industrial unions, and prepared to exhibit solidarity in each industry, not only could the downward tendency be effectively checked, but a considerable stimulus could be given to put labor force into action, to supply the urgent requirements of the people.

If anything is wanted to show the utter ineptitude of the capitalist controllers of industry, we have it exhibited in this country in the building industry. To meet the reasonable requirements of the people, fully a million additional houses are needed; yet men in the building trades have been thrown out of employment in increasing numbers for two years past, and one hundred thousand builders are now unemployed, and neither private enterprise nor plutocratic government is able to remedy the situation.

In a few weeks will be held the Annual Trade Union Congress, and if the right spirit prevails, a way out of the present morass would be found.

I should like to believe that the coming Congress will far exceed all previous ones, in breadth of outlook, in definite objective, and in courageous determination I prefer to take a kindly view of what may at least be attempted, and certainly I would not discourage by prophesying that nothing will be done.

I sincerely hope that something of real value will be done, that there will be less evidence of minds being constructed in water tight compartments, and a greater readiness to face broad issues, and a resolute determination to travel as rapidly as possible in the direction of abolishing the wage system.

Our international friends must not despair of the British movement, no matter what may happen at the coming Congress. The men and women who thoroughly appreciate the Red International are steadily and surely on the increase.

Each nation has its peculiar characteristics and some are less hide-bound than others. The industrial experiences of this country have been largely responsible for deciding our outlook; but if is indeed difficult to account for the relatively high standard of many thousands of our British Workers in many subjects, coupled with a lamentable dearth of ideas on social economic subjects. Yet it can be said with certainty that the innumerable demonstrations of class solidarity manifested in all parts of the country by the unemployed, in connection with the many disputes during the last twelve months, is genuinely indicative of a very real advance in class consciousness. The unemployed, organized as such, in addition to being members of the Trade Unions, have not only scorned the idea of blacklegging (scabbing) upon men who have been locked out or on strike, have in hundreds of instances rendered splendid assistance to the men in dispute, helping them in picket work, in holding meetings and enlightening public opinion respecting the dispute, and particularly in giving a militant stimulus to the movement, thus promoting working class solidarity, national and international.

Now that the minors and railwaymen in the United States are in the thick of a great industrial struggle, and the United States Government and the capitalists are aiming at the defeat of the workers by importing coal from other countries, especially from Britain, how magnificent it would be to help the miners and railway men of America by the workers of all countries showing genuine solidarity, and refusing to help the capitalists by refusing to supply coal!

Every worker affiliated with the Red International is pledged at all times to help all other workers in the most effective fashion, to help our brothers in any fight with the capitalist class, and to advance the class-struggle in the workers interests.

The fight so far of the miners and railroad men of America has been conducted very creditably, and the U.S. Govern[ment] and mine barons find they have a far tougher proposition than they had counted upon. And here I wish to congratulate our comrades of the Trade Union Educational League, for the splendid work they are doing, and for the success they are meeting with. At least one can see there is real hope for the labor movement of America, that hitherto has teen the despair of our class.

Comrades of all lands, be of good cheer. Every day brings us nearer to the triumph of the world proletariat over the vicious capitalist system. Let every one of us strive manfully to do his full share, young, middle aged, or elderly; let us rejoice at having the privilege of speaking our word, of sharing in the fight for the overthrow of an effete system that inflicts untold misery upon millions of fellow humans. Young men, on to the front! See that it is a United Front! Cheerfully declare that you stand unmistakably for the Red International of Labor Unions.

Sincere greetings to our comrades in Germany, in France, and Italy, in Scandinavia and all other countries, and hearty congratulations to our Comrades of Russia! We know they will keep the flag flying white we are getting our armies into time for a universal brotherhood the world over.

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