Arthur MacManus

Miners! Down Tools!!

Source: The Communist, October 14, 1920.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.

In our open letter to the miners in last week’s “Communist,” after carefully analysing the history of the recent negotiations and placing our finger on the weaknesses which led to the tragic abandonment of their original demands, we concluded by indicating what, in our opinion, were the tactical lessons to be learned for the future. Therein it was stated that so long as those defending the case of the miners clung tenaciously to the original demands of an increase of 2s. per shift based on the human needs of labour, and a reduction in the price of coal of 14s. 2d., their position was impregnable and victory was assured. It was argued that not only the legitimacy, but the sheer moderation of the wages demand, had earned for them the whole-hearted sympathy and support of the general body of the workers, and that their attempt to effect a reduction in the price of coal was a class-spirited move calculated to improve the general standard of the conditions of the masses. Had this position been maintained, and a definite and rigid refusal to depart one single inch from it been laid down at the last conference, the volume of working-class solidarity which would have rallied behind it, would have rendered victory assured almost before the fist blow had been struck. As it was the policy of vacillation led not only to the complete sacrifice of the miners demands, and the arrogant intrusion of the subtle datum line, to further swell the coffers of the mine-owner, but it tended in the process to demoralise that solidarity behind the miners, and set them quarrelling over an absolutely extraneous issue. The consequence was that the forces were stampeded and reaction gained grounds. The struggle which ensued is now reaching expression, in the ballot vote on the acceptance or rejection of the datum line. In the meantime fresh forces have been at work and the true significance of all that is involved has been borne in upon the miners, with the result that a definite move towards recovery is apparent, and the datum line looks like being damned after all. There is every indication that the vote will declare overwhelmingly for its rejection, despite the cajolery, intimidation and lying trickery of both Press and Politician. Should this be the case, then a big responsibility rests on the shoulders of the delegates attending the Conference on Thursday next. There is yet one more chance to undo most of the damage already done, and they alone are capable of this task. To accomplish it they must return completely and without equivocation to the absolute letter of their original demands. This is the first and indispensable step, and it must be taken immediately. Any attempt to compromise the position by the dropping of either of the original items is simply to court failure, by sacrificing at least a large portion, either way, of the necessary support behind them in their struggle, and must lead to an almost fatuous fight upon an issue which in itself is practically futile. To the delegates attending the Conference we would strongly counsel in the event of the datum line being turned down, that they revert to the old demands of the 2s. increase plus the reduction of 14s. 2d. in the price of coal, and that they have the courage to sternly withstand any attempt to further postpone the operation of the strike notices. Do not be intimidated by the huge accumulations all over the country of stacks of coal, and the frantic preparations being made to nullify the effects of the strike, but place your trust in the rank-and-file of the Triple Alliance. Whatever may be the ultimate attitude of the leaders of both the railwaymen and the transport workers, and despite the probability of their efforts being directed towards preventing the possibility of a sympathetic strike, rest assured that neither their individual nor collective influence is strong enough to compel the railwaymen or the dockers to blackleg!!!

The working-class, generally, is slowly beginning to realise, the true value of solidarity and are gradually becoming aware of the fact that their interests, whether they be railwaymen, dockers, engineers, or miners, are indissolubly wrapped up with one another, and that they stand or fall as a class. The giant machine of the Triple Alliance was built to be used as an instrument for waging the class struggle, and was not intended to serve simply as an ornament or a means of setting up official reputations. From the moment of its creation up to the present time, there has not been one single instance when it has been used for its proper purpose, while on the other hand those who control it have repeatedly used the Triple Alliance machinery to prevent strikes by crushing the workers into submission. This strike of the miners will also determine the fate of the Triple Alliance. Should it fail to move then those workers’ who are organised within it will have no other option but to set out and smash it. The day of its trial has come, and on its attitude towards the miners in their fight depends its future existence. The miners in their turn must not under any circumstances manifest any further sign of weakness in the negotiations, but must move forward solidly and determinedly for a strike. Turn down any suggestion of further parley. Heed not any specious pleas for the welfare of the community. The community heeded you not, when you evidenced concern for them. Once more fate has decreed that you have still another opportunity, see that the most is made of it. Matters stand clear and beyond confusion. The datum line securely damned, your original demands hold good, and this time it must be 2s. increase in wages, and 14s. 2d. decrease in the price of coal, and a strike until you have secured it. At the conference on Thursday let the unanimous declaration be DOWN TOOLS!!!