Long Live the Fighting Traditions of the English Working Class

First Published: Worker’s England Daily News Release, No. 198, (special issue) May 1, 1973
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The history of the working class in England, Scotland and Wales has been a history of unremitting struggle against exploitation and oppression by the capitalist class. Born in violence, the capitalist system can only end in violence, in the overthrow of the parasitic ruling class by the working class, the creators of all wealth in society. Under the rule of the present monopoly capitalists, there can be no freedom for the workers – only freedom to be exploited as wage slaves.

The working class in England, Scotland and Wales came into existence by the forcible driving of the peasants from the land, in order to make way for profitable sheep runs. The landless peasants were then forced to work at starvation wages in the developing factories, under threat by Government legislation of branding, flogging and execution. Since then the ruling class, while in the main using lies and deception to exploit and oppress the workers of our countries as well as working people all over the world, has never shrunk from brutalising the people. From the driving of the peasants from the land, through the barbarities of the Industrial Revolution here and colonalisation a broad, to the present day, when in Ireland soldiers in disguise are used to murder unarmed people, the British ruling class has revealed its true features time and time again.

But where there is oppression there is always resistance and the working class has never been cowed. It has always struggled militantly to throw off the yoke of wage slavery. At the time of the First World War, which the ruling class used as an excuse to step up its exploitation of the workers, the workers’ struggles, particularly on the Clyde, thwarted every scheme of the ruling class, until finally mutinies by workers in the forces and massive strikes, agitations and protests by workers at home, forced the ruling class to end the war itself. The spirit of the workers has always been never to capitulate, even on such occasions as the successful 1911 Dockers’ Strike, when the arch-reactionary Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, mobilised 25,000 troops in London alone and threatened to “drown the strike in blood.”

The working class in England, Scotland and Wales has time and time again supported the struggles of its class brothers abroad – particularly in Ireland, England’s first and most viciously exploited colony. In 1869 working class agitation, led by the International Workingmen’s Association under Karl Marx, forced Gladstone’s Government to release most of the leaders of the Irish Fenian Movement, who were being cruelly tortured and ill-treated in English jails. In 1919-20, when the British imperialists intervened in order to try and crush the new-born Soviet Republic in Russia, huge demonstrations at home, refusal to transport arms by railway workers, the threatened sinking of an arms ship in the Thames by Dockers, and finally mutinies in the British army in Russia, forced the Government to call off the Intervention.

Why then has the mighty force of the working class in England, Scotland and Wales, so filled with the spirit of rebellion and international proletarian brotherhood, never overthrown their oppressors and taken the running of their countries into their own hands? Why has proletarian socialist revolution not so far triumphed here? As long ago as 1913 Lenin pointed out of Britain: “It is impossible to hold the people down by violence – it can only be done by deception. The working class movement is growing beyond all holding”. The main allies of the ruling class in this deception have been so-called leaders of the working class movement itself.

Time and time again the great mass struggles of the workers have been betrayed by their so-called leaders – from the Labour Party, the TUC, and the revisionist “Communist Party of Great Britain”. Who else was claiming that the 1926 General Strike was only about wages and hours when the workers themselves were fighting pitched battles every day with the forces of the State when worker’s Soviets were set up in various parts of the country and when the ruling class themselves saw the workers’ struggles as a threat to their very existence? Who else was organising Hunger Marches in the 1930’s to beg the ruling class for food, when countless workers were prepared to sacrifice everything to get rid of the their oppressors for good? The present so-called leaders of the working class are only the latest upholders of this inglorious tradition.

As Chairman Mao pointed out: “If there is to be revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a Revolutionary party, without a Party built on Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory, and in the Marxist-Leninist style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people in defeating imperialism and its running dogs.” The working class in England, Scotland and Wales has never lacked revolutionary spirit. It has only lacked a Party infused with the fighting spirit of the masses of the working people themselves. Such a Party now exists, new and immature, but the beginning of a growing trend which will inevitably engulf the parasites who now hold political power and clear the way for a bright future in our countries.