Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

Problems of the British Revolution

The General Strike

(May 1926)

Comrades, as I speak to you the miners are on strike in Britain. The General Strike has been strangled but the miners’ strike goes on. It is not out of the question that this miners’ strike holds within itself new revolutionary possibilities. But whatever the outcome, the miners’ struggle is a struggle of the world working class and therefore our struggle too. There is no going back from the General Strike. It is not out of place at this meeting to note a seemingly minor, but highly indicative fact: the importance of the strike was expressed in the production of such phenomena as wall newspapers and worker-journalists among the British working class. Wall newspapers in Britain! No one had dreamt of such a thing before the strike but two or three weeks later wall newspapers were appearing there. There is a general strike, no newspapers, they need communications and so out comes the wall newspaper.

The General Strike was strangled not so much by the capitalists as by the perfidious leaders. The miners’ strike goes on and if the signs are not deceptive, it will be sharp and bitter. Britain has entered a period of prolonged revolutionary shocks. there will of course be pauses and lulls, but The Times will not be able to relapse into the peaceful and prosperous existence it would like.

The gigantic upsurge experienced in this country during the days of the British General Strike was a truly great demonstration of the intimate ties linking the labouring masses of our Union with the life and struggle of the British proletariat and the world working class as a whole.

When our workers collected money and the trade unions sent it to the strikers, the British bourgeois press wrote that the Russians were supporting the strike out of patriotism, in order to wreck the British economy. It is curious that a few weeks before the strike the British quasi-socialist Bertrand Russell wrote that the Bolsheviks’ positions and advice regarding the revolutionary development of Britain were dictated by patriotism. The Russians, it is said, want to drag Britain into an armed uprising, and bring about her downfall in order to strengthen their own position.

These gentlemen forget that in 1917 there came to us in Petrograd a British quasi-socialist, Arthur Henderson, one of the purported leaders, but actual betrayers, of the recent General Strike. What he said to us was more or less this: “The Bolsheviks are traitors to Russia, they are serving German imperialism, they have not a drop of healthy national feeling or patriotism in their hearts. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are patriots who support the struggle for political independence and democracy.”

Thus spoke the voice of official British socialism in 1917 at the most crucial moment when the Bolsheviks were fighting against imperialist war. But now when the Comintern transplants the very same principles and methods to British soil, reflecting the objective course of events, the position of the British economy, the growth of its contradictions, and the desperate situation of the British proletariat under declining capitalism – when all these circumstances likewise transplant the methods of Bolshevism in British soil: then the selfsame Henderson, along with the Daily Mail on the one hand, and Russell on the other, no longer says that the Bolsheviks are turncoats and traitors to their country. No, he says: “The Bolsheviks are very crafty patriots, they are serving the national, Great Russian idea, they wish to continue the policy of Tsarism and undermine the power of old Britain.” These gentlemen hedge, lie and turn themselves inside out. But we remain the same as we were. Whether Messrs. Hendersons call us traitors to Russia or the most bloodthirsty Russian patriots is neither here nor there to us. We have been, are and shall remain the same as we were. If we are patriots then we are patriots to the entire working class, including the British workers, and patriots to the international proletarian revolution! [Applause]

From a speech to the All-Russian Conference of Agricultural Workers,
28th June 1926 (For Quality, Against Bureaucratism, For Socialism!)

Problems of the British Revolution

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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Last updated on: 2.7.2007