J. T. Murphy

Against Cops. and Bosses

“Red” Struggle Supported by Cotton Workers

Source: Workers’ Life, September 27, 1929
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.

The full effect of the arbitration award in the cotton industry of Lancashire is now becoming more and more evident. The revolt against the 6¼ per cent. wage cut has developed considerably during the last week.

Rochdale is the storm centre at the moment.

At Dunlop’s mill here the workers thought they would not get the wage cut because the firm was outside the Federation. But they have got it all right. An incident about pay for a stoppage when the electricity supply failed (reported in WORKERS’ LIFE last week) is now leading to trouble.

The workers thought they had got their demand conceded. They find they have been misled. This has increased the spirit of revolt. Last Monday, when Comrade Bright came down to the mill gates, there was a great crowd waiting for a meeting. He started to address them, but the police came on the scene in full force and prohibited the meeting.

Bright refused to be intimidated; promptly the police began to remove him by force. The workers began to mob the police. The women especially thumped them and battered them with clods of earth. But the police managed to get Bright away.

The same night Bright and I returned to Rochdale for a meeting in the market place. When we arrived at the mill gates the next day fifteen hundred workers were waiting. So were a large number of police. The police were met with howls of derision.

Hooting the Police

Immediately we began the meeting the Chief Constable and several police officers forced their way to the front and threatened us with arrest if we persisted in holding a meeting on what they claimed was private property.

We promptly put the issue to the workers: “Were they prepared to hold the meeting, and if the police persisted to refuse to go back to work that afternoon?” All hands went up and the police were hooted vigorously. Large sections of the crowd were preparing more than howls; they were gathering clods of earth and getting ready to set about the police.

The Chief Constable threatened “to smash Bright’s face.” He went off and telephoned for a van to take us away under arrest. We refused to be intimidated and proceeded to address the meeting.

Just at this moment a shop steward arrived from the night shift to report on negotiations. Naturally we handed the meeting over to him. This averted a really violent scene. Had the police laid hands on either of us there would have been a riot.

The shop steward was not interfered with. He was not a Communist.

Interesting developments followed. The workers insisted that the question was one which affected them all. We had been advocating that they should all act together and set up committees of action in the mill representative of all departments and all workers. This they proceeded to do.

They met the night workers, who acted on similar lines. By the week-end they were all united on the demand for the return of the wages lost by the arbitration award.

At the time of writing we are awaiting a message as to their decisions to give 48 hours’ notice of strike action.

The workers of Rochdale are moving in other factories, too, and there are good prospects that in a few days several large mills will be setting the pace for all Lancashire, in a fight for the return of the lost wages.

Hundreds of workers are refusing to belong to any unions, so deep is their disgust at what has happened.

This only makes it more imperative that the workers take the initiative out of the hands of the union bureaucrats. Dunlop workers are setting the pace and showing the real way to act. They need the Communist Party leadership more than ever at this juncture, and our Party will give it.

The mill committees of rank and file workers prepared to fight for the return of the lost wages will not be stampeded by intimidation either of the police or the trade union leaders.

“Strike now” is the message to Rochdale, and to the whole of the Lancashire cotton workers. We say—Act at once! Set up the mill Committees of Action! Strike now with the Rochdale workers for the return of the 6¼ per cent.

There can be no victory without struggle, nor can there be victory without leadership. The creation of a Communist Party leadership in this struggle is the need of the hour.