William Morris. Commonweal 1890

The Great Coal Strike

Source: “The Great Coal Strike” Commonweal, Vol 6, No. 219, 22 March 1890, p.91;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The great coal strike is ominous of coming changes, and cannot be looked on as even a great strike might have been a few years ago. The demands of the miners are so moderate, and so uncomplicated with any difficulties as to method of employment and the like, and moreover, the business facts on which the strike is based are so clear and so much in favour of the men, that it was expected in many quarters that the masters would give in at once, and in ordinary times they would have done so. The fact that they are preparing for an obstinate resistance shows that they are not so much thinking of the present strike as of their general position in [the] face of the awakening of Labour. The red spectre of Revolution looms threateningly in the distance before them, and instinctively they are prepared to fight.

Let us look at it from the same point of view, and understand that it is a battle, not a mere business dispute. If the miners act well together, and if they are supported by the sympathy of their brother workers, even those who will suffer by the strike, they will now for the first time understand their power, and a weapon for the hand of revolution will be fashioned, which will be irresistible; which can only be resisted by the brute-force in the hands of the upper classes — ie., the army and police. This instrument, the striking-power of the coal miners backed by the assent of their fellow workers, being once ready, there will be nothing between us and revolution but a knowledge on the part of the workers of what to claim, which can be nothing short of an abolition of the monopoly of the resources of nature — ie.. the land and all that is on it which is used for the reproduction of wealth.

This, and not a pitiful rise in wages, is what in the long run lies before the strike of the coal miners: let us hope that the events of this strike will show them how necessary it is for them to make this claim, how feasible to get what they demand.