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The British Scene

National Government in Sharp Attack
on the Workers’ Standards

(December 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 37, 26 December 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We can now turn to the present position in England: one that arises directly from the conditions outlined, in the preceding article.

The National Government, returned by a majority of voters at the General Election, is now in an extremely strong position: its huge majority in the House of Commons guarantees for the ruling class a constitutional cover for all their activities against the workers. Whatever measures are “necessary”; however strongly the Government may attack the workers’ movement; however great the misery and suffering inflicted upon the workers by the policy of the Government; all can be done in the name of “democracy”, since the Government is constitutionally elected, was given a free hand by the majority of the electors, and, whilst wielding the iron hand of the capitalist dictatorship, can conceal it beneath the silken glove of parliamentary democracy.

What does the immediate future threaten? Not Fascism, as some would appear to believe: that can, and perhaps will, come in England, but only when Parliamentary Government no longer, has the support of the middle-class and sections of the working class. Those obsessed with the possibility of Fascism are apt to overlook the problems of the present, the correct handling of which will, in advance, help to decide the tempo of England’s advance to Fascism.

National Government Lowers Workers’ Standards

The policy of the National Government is one of wage-reductions, tariffs bringing higher prices, inflation, and a ruthless reduction in the number of unemployed drawing benefit. Part of this program has been realized already: the wages of Civil Servants, teachers, and of the armed forces have been reduced; the benefit of the unemployed has been cut and in one week alone, out of eighty thousand workers brought before the authorities, seventy thousand have been removed from the unemployed exchange register and from benefit altogether.

The resistance to this attack offered by some sections of the working class has been dealt with in no uncertain manner: twenty-four sailors have been dismissed from the navy for their part in the mutiny of the Atlantic Fleet; all meetings have been stopped outside Labor Exchanges, a ruling enforced by the batoning and imprisonment of numbers of unemployed. The attack on conditions has begun and any assistance by the workers is to be crushed with all the force the employers can command.

Against such an attack resistance can and will be offered by many sections of the workers and in the only way possible – strike action. But such strike action must be general and widespread, for the old sectional methods of struggle can play no effective role in the present period. A sectional struggle, as a means of developing widespread strike action, certainly: but not the old long-drawn-out-certain-to-be-defeated strike of which we have experienced, so much in the last few years.

Such action however demands careful preparation and considerable agitation. A widespread strike can develop, of course, without this preliminary preparation, but only under such circumstances as will ensure its crushing defeat. General strike action, with a leadership prepared to face up to, and prepare for, all the implications of such a struggle – this idea must be spread amongst the workers.

Prepare For Struggles

The General Strike of 1926 was lead, and to some extent, organized by the Trade Union leaders. It represented an attempt to meet the new conditions with machinery and ideas which had grown up under old and very different conditions. The Union leaders were more or less forced into the struggle by the employers. Faced with the need for revolutionary mass struggle against the State, the Union leaders could only capitulate at the earliest possible opportunity. From then onwards the reformists could only follow the path of American Trade Unionism and advocate collaboration with the employers as against the alternative of revolutionary struggle. To expect such leaders, men who have betrayed every strike that has taken place during the last five years, to lead and organize a mass struggle against the present attack is foolish, and unwarranted.

The recent struggle of a section of the Postal Workers shows what role the union leaders will play. The Manchester Postmen carried on a “go slow” strike; two of the leaders were suspended: the union executive protested at the suspension but only on the grounds that there was no inquiry carried through first before the men were suspended. They then got the struggle called off on the grounds that it injured the chances of successful negotiations.

New leadership, new forms of organization, revolutionary ideas and revolutionary action are necessary in order to wage effective struggle under present day conditions.

Such a leadership can only come from the Communist Party, always providing that its policy is a correct one. The increase in the membership of the party during the past few weeks shows that, to thousands of workers, it stands out as the revolutionary leadership which alone can wage effective struggle against the employers’ attack and ultimately achieve the conquest of power.



(To be continued) [1]

Note by ETOL

1. No continuation of this article has been found.

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