A. J. Cook

The Great Mining Crisis

Source: Labour Monthly, Vol. VIII, July 1926, No. 7
Publisher: 162 Buckingham Palace Rd., London, SW1
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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 Miners’ Lock-Out, the General Strike, and the Government’s Eight Hour Bill have created an unprecedented situation in Great Britain. Not for a century have the workers been stirred to such an extent. Capitalism has failed to smash trade unionism, the only barrier to their objective. Every industry, every worker at home and abroad, is affected by the struggle.

Just as the crisis is a world crisis, so the struggle is a world struggle.

Industrially the future of Britain is being determined. Politically, the fate of parties is being decided. Liberalism is dead. Toryism will be swept aside because of its brutal suppression of the workers’ rights. New methods, industrial and political, will be adopted to meet the great Capitalist Offensive. To live, Capitalism must crush Trade Unionism. Wages must be reduced; hours must be lengthened—all to the tune of “markets and competition.” The conflict between the new and the old ideas will be intensified in every trade union branch, in every Labour Party. UNITY is the need of the moment.

The events leading up to the General Strike are well known to all active workers. For many years the miners have been the strongest organised section, having militant leaders such as Robert Smillie and Herbert Smith. During the period prior to and during 1921, the Great Lock-Out, Frank Hodges and others were responsible for a policy which led to defeat.

The left wing leaders had long ago pointed out the necessity for preparing for the Capitalist Offensive, but another section, with the parrot cries of “Produce More,” “Increased Production,” “Sanctity of Agreements,” &c., doped the workers, while the economic realists worked for loo per cent. trade union organisation and a Workers’ Alliance, plus A11 Power to the General Council. In 1924, the Trades Union Congress declared in favour of change, as did also the Trades Union Congress in 1925. The rank and file, pressed and harassed in the pits, on the railways, workshops, &c., have had a real awakening: they demand action to protect their condition.

The First of May was a demonstration of the rank and file pressure which caused all the executives to be so unanimous, Every active worker could see in the miners’ struggle his struggle.

The lack of preparation is entirely due to the ignorance of the position in the minds of many leaders who believed, and still believe, you can temporise with Capitalism.

The terrible slander and abuse to which I have been subject is evidence of the ferocity of the Master Class in their fear of losing power and control. The whole world is stirred by the miners’ struggle, by the refusal of the men or their leaders to compromise on either hours or wages. The rallying of all Capitalism’s forces, the Government’s full support of the mineowners, their attempt with state aid and power to crush the miners, is proof positive of the nature of the struggle. The attempt to divide the prominent leaders failed. It is true Frank Hodges again played the masters’ game by suggesting longer hours, which would not only be detrimental to the British miners, but is in direct opposition to the interests of the international miners. For they would suffer just as badly as we should, if the Government and the owners succeed.

A calm review of events of the past three years will convince any thoughtful student of industrial affairs that our policy has been fully vindicated. The rank and file will fight: the rank and file will unite, given a proper lead. We are, indeed, at the cross roads, and we must not take the wrong turning. The whole of our forces, the whole of our organisation, must be harnessed in this great epic struggle. For the whole future of trade unionism will depend on the success of the miners’ struggle.

The need for scientific industrial re-organisation is now apparent to everyone. Let not personalities stand in the way. For drastic changes are necessary. The Trades Union Congress must be reconstructed as a real fighting machine. The Government has challenged the whole Labour Movement; Parliamentary and industrial passive resistance is useless. Men and women in industry are not to be palmed off with fine speeches of brotherhood, &c, They are realists; they have been made realists. And they will only place their faith and trust in men and movements that act.

The year 1926 has brought to the front new issues that are almost a New Age. Are we preparing ourselves to meet it? Internationally the miners and other workers are reuniting. We are linking up for the great offensive. The Russian Workers in their help to the miners gave given a lead to the world. The Capitalist Press with their murder stories all fall on deaf ears, because now the workers know their true friends. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

The struggle for trade unionism will be intensified until it forces action from the Trade Unions and Labour Party. The employers, backed by a reactionary Government, mean business. Therefore, let us realise the facts and prepare to meet them. The miners are leading the way in this historic battle for Freedom and Emancipation in which all workers at home and abroad must participate.

Prepare your Trades Councils. Attend your Trade Union meetings, study the problems so that we shall not fail to lead the workers out of bondage.