Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

They Will Try Again

(June 1958)

From The Newsletter, 28 June 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

June 18, 1958, has much in common with July 30, 1925, known to history as ‘Red Friday’.

On both occasions a Tory government intent on beating down a key section of the working class as a preliminary to a general onslaught discovered it had bitten off more than it could chew and hastily retreated.

Presumably nobody imagines that now any more than after Red Friday, the capitalists and their State have given up the struggle.

They will try again a little later, in a new way and perhaps on another part of the front, to make the breakthrough that failed this time.

And they will rely on the working-class movement committing the same mistakes again that it made after Red Friday – mistakes that led to the disastrous defeat of May 1926.

While the Government got busy forming its strike-breaking Organization for the Maintenance of Supplies and preparing its emergency system of Civil Commissioners for each region, so as to be ready for the next round, ‘masterly inactivity’ prevailed on the workers’ side. There was not even any exposure of these doings by the Tories.

Not entirely inert

As Julian Symons comments, in ‘The General Strike’ (1957): ‘The leaders of the Labour Party seem to have been unaware of the preparations being made: or perhaps, of course, they silently approved of them.’

To say that the leaders of Labour were entirely inert in the crucial months between Red Friday and the General Strike would give a false impression.

These months saw an intensified drive to expel Left-wingers from the movement, coinciding with a stepped-up campaign by the police against the same elements.

Some aspects of this ‘combined operation’ come across vividly in Leslie Paul’s novel of the period, Men in May (1937).

Two campaigns contrasted

The half-heartedness of the French Communist Party’s campaign during the last four years against the war in Algeria contrasts sharply with what it did in 1925–26, during the war in Morocco (the Riff war), though the party was then much smaller and had only a minority of the workers behind it.

A manifesto by the party declaring that the enemies of the Moroccans were the enemies of the French workers was translated into Arabic on the orders of Abd-El-Krim, the rebel leader, and widely distributed among his followers.

A Council of Action was set up in France, on which both socialist and communist workers were represented, and this organized a series of rank-and-file anti-war conferences in all the big industrial centres.

Some huge demonstrations were held, including one in Paris attended by 60,000 people. The Black Sea mutiny of 1919 was recalled in many speeches, and fraternization with the rebels called for, and a number of instances of mutiny and fraternization actually occurred.

900,000 workers struck

The slogan of peace with the Moroccans was linked with demands for higher wages and lower taxes, and the one-day protest strike summoned for October 12, 1925, involved 900,000 workers, in spite of the hostile attitude of the socialist leadership.

The funeral procession of a worker killed by the police during this strike was 100,000 strong.

Although the campaign failed to ensure victory to the rebel cause – Abd-El-Krim was forced to surrender in May 1926 – it had big political consequences, especially in bringing socialist and communist workers closer together and in convincing many North Africans that the French workers were their allies.

A British commentator (Allen Hutt) observed that this campaign was ‘the first organized intervention of the west European proletariat in a colonial war: the first case in which the workers of an imperialist country have, by deeds and not only by words, made common cause with one of “their” colonial people in revolt’ ...

A ‘comparative study’

An old Stalinist acquaintance of mine is engaged in research for a ‘comparative study’ of British and Soviet governmental institutions.

When I met him the other day he assured me that if one compares what goes on in the British Empire and in the Soviet Union, criticism of the latter’s rulers proves to be ‘idealist’, for what they do is no worse than what is done in Kenya etc.!

The mind boggles at the thought of what Lenin would have said if Stalin had replied to his criticisms of bureaucratic and sergeant-major tendencies in party and State in 1922–23 by saying: ‘Oh, come. Ilyich – this is nothing to what happens in India, you know.’

Actually, the Stalin of those days, and those around him. would probably have been incapable of such an ‘argument’. Which is a measure of the degeneration that has taken place among the Stalinists

Last updated on 10.10.2011