Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

  • Crusader Kings II Expansion Subscription

    Subscribe to the CK II Expansion and enjoy unlimited access to 13 major expansions and more!


  • Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
I just want to say that this is a lovely AAR, and that you've managed to at once make the alt-history seem plausible (at least to a non-Brit) and make the variety of texts have their own unique and interesting voices, which is extremely hard to do even when you have a lot of game material to draw from.

Thanks GangsterSynod! That's really encouraging to hear, and it's good of you to drop by with a comment. Hopefully you'll enjoy the rest of the AAR just as much. :)

I am loving the ever so unbiased account :)

Naturally! We're all right-thinking citizens in the Commonwealth of Britain. :D

Cheers stnylan.

I have to say I'm somewhat saddened by this update; the fact that it exists at all clearly indicates that Gramscians and Existentialists are not only a thing in this timeline, but in positions of relative power and influence within the party. That all but rules out the possibility of Revolutionary Britain falling into some dark Mosleyite dystopia.

It's a valid point. I suppose the slightly annoying answer is that (as you will hopefully see) it depends on what you consider to be a 'dark Mosleyite dystopia'. I'll admit that the timeline is only really sketched out as things move into the fifties and sixties at this point, and things are still up for change. But as good old EP Thompson hinted in the first update, the party's own importance within the Mosley years is sort of a tricky issue in itself.

Name-dropping Stuart Hall was also an interesting choice for obvious reasons. I take it Windrush will be featuring in a future update?

The relationship of the colonies to metropolitan Britain is something I've yet to fully work out, but I'm sure at some point there will be an overview of migration to and from the Commonwealth.
 
Voices of the Struggle: The General Strike, 30 years on

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



VOICES OF THE STRUGGLE

MARGHANITA LASKI

1957

For the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the General Strike of 1927, writer and broadcaster Marghanita Laski was commissioned by CBC television to create a series of programmes documenting the experiences of some of the men and women who took part in the action. Laski returned to the CBC with three hour-long films, each a record of events for each of the years from 1927 to 1929. Entitled Voices of the Struggle, each programme contained the accounts of people all somehow involved in revolutionary activity. A dozen people were interviewed, and Laski created the series almost exclusively from their testimony, complemented with some pieces of footage and sound recording from the archive. Excerpted below are accounts given by six of the people interviewed for the first programme, with explanatory notes to elaborate on certain references where appropriate.


CBC%20TV%20IDENT%201957.jpg

CBC TV was the flagship television channel of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Committee, the successor organisation to the former British Broadcasting Company. At its inception, the channel was predominately a broadcaster of news bulletins, informative programmes and sporting events. By the 1950s, programming encompassed a wider variety of light entertainment and drama.



Cast



Rebecca Bloom, 52, an anti-fascist volunteer from Spitalfields who spent a brief period in prison after being convicted of participating in direct action against the OMS in the aftermath of Black Thursday.


Wilson John, 63, a bus driver from Liverpool who was a shop steward for the TGWU in 1927 and one of the first Black union organisers in Britain.


Tom McKitterick, 49, a docker from Hull who aged 19 was one of the youngest delegates to attend the National Conference for Action.


George Reeves, 70, a print-worker for the Daily Herald who was present when the press was raided by police in June 1927.


Alice Shaw, 50, a factory-worker from Derby who took over as a TUC motorcycle dispatch rider when her brother was injured on the picket.


Joe Vaughan, 66, a checkweighman from Aberfan who as a met A. J. Cook at the first conference of the Communist Party of South Wales and the West of England in Cardiff, 1920. Worked as an organiser for the South Wales Miners’ Federation during the strike and was a delegate at the National Conference for Action.



Joe Vaughan

“It felt like for years we had been kept in the dirt. It was obvious to all of us that the Tories didn’t have one shred of feeling for the miners. I remember Stanley Baldwin coming on the radio after the men had been locked out at Newcastle[1], telling us that we all had to take the pay cut for the good of the industry. What he meant of course was for the good of the people who controlled the industry. There was a radio in the local working men’s institute in Aberfan and a number of us, our wives and our children even, had all come out to hear what the prime minister had to say for himself. We were disgusted.


“I knew Arthur [A. J. Cook] at the time from my work with the SWMF [South Wales Miners’ Federation] and I remember seeing him maybe a fortnight or so after Baldwin’s gloating over the radio. My God, was he was indignant! He was totally convinced by this point that [Walter] Citrine and his gang at the TUC were in bed with the government and the mine owners. They had never wanted revolution like we had, they’d only ever been in it to make things a little better round the edges really, and that’s as fair as I can put it. But to have it displayed for all to see was a real turning point. I think then a lot of us realised that the only way forward was with the troublemakers, because the government certainly weren’t going to give us anything. That was when we saw the battle ahead– I did, certainly.


“A few months later, of course, police started ramping up their campaign against working men’s organisations. I remember hearing about the arrest of the bus drivers in Dundee, I think it was in March, and thinking, ‘Give the Tories half a yard to move in and that will be us, too.’ We were determined not to give them anything. Because the community had links to Cook and the [National] Minority Movement we knew the fight wasn’t over– or more accurately, I suppose, we knew it hadn’t even started yet! And because we kept faith that action was coming we were able to hold our nerve in those early months. Absolutely nothing, we gave them. You could ask the police today if they’re still around and they’ll tell you, not one person gave them any trouble until we had the union behind us. Everyone knew the importance of discipline.”



Tom McKitterick

“After West Stanley, a lot of us could see that the government had plans to go after the miners. Baldwin had always tried to sound respectable, but underneath it all it wasn’t hard to see him for what he was – and he was no friend of the worker, whatever he claimed. Of course, Dundee followed soon after and it was clear that there was something to the rumours of Churchill’s campaign against the trade unions. The transport workers’ union had one of the most collaborationist leaderships at that point, and as dockers we of course were members ourselves. There was little love for [Ernest] Bevin, I tell you. I’d been working on the docks for three years by that time. At the start of the decade, Bevin had done some good work to support the Hands Off Russia movement, but by the time I started that had largely died out. My dad worked on the docks as well, and as a schoolboy I remember him coming home one day – it must have been early in 1920 – with some pamphlets about the Soviets he’d bought from a comrade outside the shipyards– about how we must keep vigilant against the government’s attempts to load up barges and ships with munitions to fight against the Red Army. Dad gave me some stick-back posters and I put one up in the bedroom window. I couldn’t’ve been older than 13.


“Bevin had given his support to a lot of this action, or I imagine he probably didn’t know about a lot of it. But from memory he had helped with the Jolly George[2]. What I mean to illustrate anyway is that by 1927 he was somehow less receptive to helping his own workers when they found themselves in trouble with the state. I think he was genuinely convinced that reform could work. But as long as he refused to put his backing behind the men on the docks and on the buses, any reforms he might win in the future hardly seemed worth it. There really was a feeling that the TUC had simply let go of the cause– that it was glad after so many months to have an excuse to diffuse any talk of a strike. Of course, in many cases their inaction just made things worse.


JOLLY%20GEORGE%20STAMP.jpg

Soviet-issued stamp commemorating the efforts of British dockers in preventing the SS Jolly George from sailing for Poland with a cargo of ammunition for the White Army in 1920.


“Dad had been a shop steward, and when the Minority Movement called for a conference of action in London he was the natural person to send as a delegate. He took ill a few weeks before and we had to find another person to fill his place. I wanted to go, of course; who wouldn’t want to experience an event like that, especially at that age? But some of the older union men weren’t sure and thought it best to send someone more experienced. In the end, dad put a word in and won them over. I think they probably expected I’d just do as he would’ve done anyway. Which was true!


“I travelled to London on my own, by train. I say on my own– the minority section of the transport union had sorted things out so a lot of us from the area were able to go down together. I remember a railwayman from Doncaster – older guy – telling me how not in his lifetime had he seen such a wave of urgent feeling spread across the working class. I always thought that was very poetic. Because the union had pulled some strings, we didn’t have to worry about sharing the journey with any bourgeois and the mood was very festive. We sang songs coming off the platform at King’s Cross all the way to the conference hall – ‘We’ll keep the red flag flying here!’ The conference was in a hall in Bloomsbury, and about twelve-hundred men had come from across the country. It was warm, not long after May Day, and I remember the march from the station – a couple of hundred of us with flags and songs and banners. The majority of delegates I think were Northerners, though there was a large Welsh contingent also. The valleys of South Wales had been particularly enthusiastic in their adoption of the Minority Movement programme. A. J. Cook was their man, of course; he was one of them. But it was not just about Cook, and a number of others gave addresses to the delegates about the importance of keeping up the fight. This was in the morning– the atmosphere was like that you’d find at a gala, and in a way that was what it was. I think they claimed that the delegates in London that day represented something like 1.2 million workers, and there was a sense that a real workers’ movement was building momentum. It was not like anything I’d known, though I spoke to one man – a furniture maker, I think, from the East End – who said that he’d felt all of this before, in 1917. ‘This is a conference for action,’ he said. ‘Keep your head until the talking’s done, and then we’ll see where we’re at.’


“In the afternoon, we voted on various resolutions people wished to bring up, mostly just commitments to continue the work of building a united workers’ front. Harry Pollitt did a lot of that work, I think. Most things were passed by sheer acclamation. The biggest cheer came towards the end, just before the famous resolution in favour of strike action, when we confirmed the aims of the movement. I still remember the wording; it had a profound effect on me, actually hearing it spoken: ‘The Minority Movement exists to organise the working masses of Great Britain for the overthrow of capitalism; to carry on a wide agitation for the principles of the revolutionary class struggle against the present tendency towards social peace and class collaboration; and to pave the way towards the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth.’ Before that, I had not heard anyone actually speak of a Commonwealth before. After that day, I was totally convinced of the need to bring it into existence.”


Alice Shaw

“I was working in a clothes factory in Derby when the general strike was called. The TUC leadership had been careful to limit participation in the strike to what they called the key industries: transport and railway workers, dockers, printers, metal workers, and of course the miners. Our union weren’t included, but we had links with the Minority Movement and they were telling us to keep alert to any ways we could help the action.


“In the first days of the strike, what always sticks out in my mind is the memory of all the flags and marches. That was how it started, like a festival of some kind. Of course, soon the [lack of] coal became an issue, and I remember having to use things from the garden for kindling. The government had a plan in place to keep things running, the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. Mainly they were just bourgeois types who volunteered out of a sense of duty, I think. I remember how angry my brother was when he found out they were keeping the buses running – he worked as a conductor and used to man the picket every day. A lot of people who volunteered I think quite enjoyed playing these new parts in society for a little while, though the novelty wore off eventually of course. After the first few weeks it was only really the hardliners who stayed on, those who really were convinced they were fighting some sort of counter-revolutionary war.


“At the end of May, my brother started working as a motorcycle dispatch rider for the TUC. He used to go out every morning and deliver copies of the Daily Herald to striking workers to keep them informed of union business. Sometimes he would do a sort of paper round of some of the bourgeois streets, I think because he wanted them to know that the movement wasn’t giving up easily. One day he came off his bike and injured his arm. He always said that he’d been thrown off after swerving to avoid a policeman who refused to get out of his way, but between you and me I’ve always suspected that he just said that so he could feel heroic instead of embarrassed. After that, I used to skive off work to take over from him. Carried on for the whole summer! In September, after Hardy took over the TUC and widened participation in the strike, I stopped biking and started working as a shop steward. I was still doing my bit, of course, but I always did miss those morning rides.”



George Reeves

“I had worked in the printing trade for I reckon about twenty-five years, and never had I been aware of so strong a feeling that this really was the time for action. There had been murmurings of discontent for years, of course – ‘Red Clydeside’ and all the rest[3] – but nothing had ever quite captured the moment like May 1927.


CLYDESIDE%20TANK.jpg

The British government send tanks into Glasgow's George Square after rioting in 1919.


“On the fifth of June – I always remember the date because it was my wife’s birthday – I had gone into work as I had done every day since the strike was called. Not because I was blacklegging mind; I was in charge of a printer’s office and had been running off copies of the Daily Herald to support the TUC’s own efforts in Scotland. It was a small operation relative to some others in Glasgow, but we did out bit. At about eleven o’clock, policemen came in with what they claimed was a warrant to stop the presses and seize all copies of the paper that hadn’t yet left the office. I was naturally dubious, but as I say it was a small operation so there weren’t enough of us in the building to really offer any sort of resistance. I say this like I was a young man who would’ve been able to fight back anyway. And frankly, I thought little of it: if the police didn’t have anything better to do than bother middle-aged men like me about a few thousand copies of news-sheet then good: we must’ve been getting somewhere. They weren’t taking the presses, after all; we’d just go again the next day.


“About five minutes after they left, one of my printers came into the office and asked what had gone on, so I explained. He was not happy at all, and started shouting about the government’s campaign against the freedom of the press. This was only a few months after Dundee, remember, and a lot of people still suspected Winston Churchill of all sorts of things. As legitimate as his concerns were, mind, there was little I could do about them, so I sort of let him down gently, adopted I guess a sort of fatherly tone and told him to find some people who could do something about it. And having got himself in such a state, that’s of course exactly what he did. Next thing I know he’s out in the streets shouting a sort of impromptu speech about workers’ freedom. All very stirring stuff, he had a real way with words. Not that it helped him any; as soon as he drew a big enough crowd the police – same ones who’d raided my printers – the police arrested him and charged him with incitement, that sort of thing. Did a little bit of time for it I think, and all. At least, I didn’t see him for a few weeks after that. For all I knew he could’ve just found another cause to back, but I’m sure he wouldn’t’ve been kept down for long. Christopher Grieve, his name was. Think he became a writer himself in the end. Maybe you know him?”



Rebecca Bloom

“In those days I was working as a nurse in the East End, not far from where I grew up. I would’ve been about 21, 22. Still very young, but by no means the youngest of us. I was one of five children, and my three brothers all worked on the docks. One of them still does. All of them were militant back then, especially after the strike was called. My eldest brother, Jacob, had been old enough to realise the significance of the Russian Revolution when it happened, and had been calling for a workers’ revolution ever since. He was influenced a lot by my father, who had been born in Russia but came to Britain as a child. He wasn’t a Bolshevik, but it’s fair to say he had little sympathy for the Romanovs.


“All three of my brothers were on the picket on the ninth of June. This was the third week of the strike, and by this point the dockers were quite used to the daily presence of OMS special constables patrolling picketing sites. I think by this point a lot of the bourgeois day-trippers had started to filter out of the organisation, and what mostly remained was the hardcore. Or maybe that was just a quirk of geography: it was hard to find volunteers who could carry on the work of the dockers, so in the East End a lot of OMS work tended to be what they called ‘keeping order’. Usually this just meant looking the part, waving truncheons and shouting orders. They were easy enough to ignore. Sometimes one of the Q Division boys would shout abuse and taunt the workers to fight back[4], but the dockers never rose to the threats. That Thursday, however, the OMS turned up armed with rifles. I think it was meant to be a display of power by the state, the government trying to force the dockers to break up the picket themselves. Whether or not whoever it was in government that had authorised the arming of the special constables knew this would happen or not, the commanding officer gave the order to charge the picket in a direct attempt to gain access to the docks, probably thinking the dockers would scatter. But they didn’t, and instead of calling off the charge the forces moved in. I think they were angry they’d had their bluff called. The special constables started attacking, with their batons and rifle butts mainly, and the dockers responded by throwing rocks and half-bricks. 6 workers died on the picket that day. 18 more died in the following days of injuries sustained at the hands of the special constables. Many more were injured and, thank goodness, nursed back to health. I treated some of them.


“Everyone knows this story, of course: ‘Black Thursday’, the ‘London Docks Massacre’ … whatever name you give to it, the outcome is the same. To this day I am thankful beyond belief that none of my brothers came to any serious harm. My youngest brother sprained his wrist punching one of the constables in the jaw. When he got home that evening, my father looked at him very sternly and said, ‘David, if you are going to fight the fascists then at least have the sense to learn how to punch first!’


ANTIFASCIST%20ARREST.jpg

An anti-fascist activist in arrested by officers of the Metropolitan Police in the East End, c. 1928.

"I don’t think he thought my brother would actually take him seriously, but after that David went to the boxing gym every evening. I’d go with him sometimes. After a while people asked him what he was training for, and he would just tell them the truth, ‘so that I don’t have to worry about hurting my wrist every time I wan’t to beat up the Fascisti.’ I think people were worried he might do himself an injury, because soon after that he ended up meeting some lads from the actual anti-fascist movement. I went along with him to meet some of them after one evening at the gym and they explained that they had found out the address of one of the special constables who had led the charge against the dockers, and that he lived quite close, down by St. George’s in the East. Then one of them – Phil – turned to me and David and asked, ‘Next Monday we’re going to go and put bricks through his windows. Are you in?’ It wasn’t really a question in our minds. This was a man who had played a leading role in the murder of 22 of our friends and comrades. Of course we said yes.


“There were four of us, including David and me. Around eleven o’clock on Monday night, we took two motorbikes over to the other end of Cable Street, parked them in the next street over from where he lived then walked round the corner to his house. We were each carrying half of a brick, one missile for each of his front windows. I think we might have even written slogans on them: ‘Solidarity forever!’ Then we just threw them at the house and legged it. The adrenaline was fantastic, like nothing I’d ever felt.


“That summer I got involved with anti-fascist organising for myself. I think I got more out of it than David did; after a while he became more interested in boxing for its own sake. Phil was my age, a bit younger actually, but he quickly established himself as a leading figure in the cause. Later on, of course, he became very prominent, but in those days we operated on quite a small scale. Usually just about half a dozen of us doing various actions against the OMS. In the aftermath of the Docks Massacre the government gradually phased out the OMS and brought in the Metropolitan Police to replace them, figuring that they might be less prone to violence. In July, a policeman caught me slashing the tyres on a special constable’s motorbike. I refused to pay the fine so I ended up spending a month in prison. I don’t think my mother ever quite got used to having a criminal for a daughter, but when I came home my dad took me aside and just said, ‘Next time, try to be a little less careless.’”


Wilson John

“I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1894. When I was 21, I came to Europe as a volunteer in the British West Indies Regiment and served in France during the Great War, first as a labourer loading and unloading ships, and then later as a stretcher bearer. I came back to Britain and settled in Toxteth in 1919, where I found work on the docks. In 1924, I injured my back and had to stop working as a docker. Instead, I found a job on the buses.


BWIR%201916.jpg

Volunteers of the BWIR performing labour stacking artillery in France, c. 1916.


“I had always been aware of the injustices that existed for the working man, and in particular for the Black man. In the army, it was no coincidence that the work given to us volunteers from the West Indies was far more arduous and dangerous than the work assigned to the white British soldiers. They were also paid more. On the docks I only rarely experienced racial prejudice, but the streets of Liverpool were a different matter. I lived in what was a relatively mixed part of the city, but it was not immune to racialist attitudes and prejudices. I was drawn to the idea of worker solidarity as a tool for fighting against not just the violences of Capitalist exploitation, but as a means of trying to find some way to advance at the same time the cause of the Black man in Britain.


“Of course, it was not as simple as saying it and it coming true. I joined the Communist Party, and after a while I found my way into the Minority Movement. By 1927, I was a shop steward in the TGWU [Transport and General Workers’ Union], but my comrades respected me because of my dedication to the struggle against class exploitation. What they could not recognise was my desire also to see the abolition of the oppressive dividing structures of racialism and racialist prejudice.


“I did not let it stop me in my work. After the attacks against the dockers in London, it became clear to many of us that if we did nothing then the same fate would be awaiting us. In July, some dock workers managed to procure arms – I never asked from where, although I have my suspicions. I hadn’t worked on the docks for years, but I supported by comrades in their efforts to defend themselves. When Ernest Bevin threatened to take the strike pay from any Transport Union member found to have armed himself, I used my voice as a union organiser to argue that it was only natural that the men wanted protection when the British state had made its intentions so clear. Bevin thought he could rely on his allies in the TUC to protect him, but he was unable to protect himself against his own workers. I was very happy the day we voted him out of office.”


___________________________

1. After the implementation of the 10 per-cent pay cut recommended by the National Wage Board from New Year 1927, mineworkers at the West Stanley pit, just outside Gateshead, had launched a wildcat strike against the reduction. In response to their action, the mine owners staged a lock-out, effectively taking away the men’s jobs, and threatened to evict them from their colliery-owned housing if they did not return to work. Under pressure from the TUC leadership nationally after having significantly lengthened the ongoing dispute, the Miners’ Federation was not in a strong enough political position to back the workers outside of a situation of general strike. The MFGB was thus forced to advise the workers to accept the cut while it agitated for strike action in the months ahead. This was a significant propaganda victory for the Conservative government, which soon put out the line nationally that the unions’ claims of direct action were easily overcome by the realities of the situation.


2. The Jolly George was a ship moored at the East India Dock who in May 1920 was scheduled to be loaded with boxes of cargo bearing the label ‘OHMS Munitions for Poland’. A number of boxes had already been loaded when dockers discovered that the munitions were to be used in the war in Russia against the Red Army. On learning this, coal heavers refused to load the ship with coal, thus preventing it from leaving port, unless the guns were removed. A stand-off ensued with dockside authorities, resolved partly following assurances from Ernest Bevin that the Dockers’ Union would back strike action to prevent the ship sailing. This was an action of the Hands Off Russia movement, a broad coalition of leftists in Britain, many of whom were not naturally disposed to the Soviet Union, but who nevertheless resented the idea of involving Britain in another conflict so soon after the end of the Great War.

3. A blanket term for a period of political and industrial militancy in Glasgow and the surrounding areas from the 1910s onward.

4. The Q Divisions were paramilitary groups set up under the auspices of the British Fascisti, led by Rotha Lintorn-Orman. Lintorn-Orman, a young heiress who believed in the existence of a Jewish–Communist plot to destroy the British Empire, was at first optimistic of being able to join the counter-revolutionary movement via the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. When the Conservative government blocked registered fascists from signing up as special constables, a split emerged among the Fascisti. A group of former Fascisti under the leadership of Brigadier-General R. B. D. Blakeney renounced their political affiliation in order to join the state-backed movement. Lintorn-Orman and her followers circumvented the proscription on service in the OMS by forming the Q Divisions. In reality, under the direction of Winston Churchill as the cabinet minister with responsibility for the OMS, the government often turned a blind eye to the extent of its involvement with the fascist movement.
 
  • 3Like
Reactions:

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
A great update, always appreciate reading these individual narratives that feed into the wider story. You really manage to get us in the mood of the time with these accounts! Looking forward to read the next one. :)
 

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
A great update, always appreciate reading these individual narratives that feed into the wider story. You really manage to get us in the mood of the time with these accounts! Looking forward to read the next one. :)

Cheers Loup! It was good fun to write. So often it’s easy just to keep the focus on wider political events and I think looking at some details of everyday life can be fascinating.
 
Remembering "Red Wadham" (October 1927)

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



RED WADHAM

OXFORD, 1927


“Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer / We’ll keep the red flag flying here!”



One of the most bizarre episodes from the first half-year of political and industrial militancy is undoubtedly the stunt remembered – by those who remember it all – as “Red Wadham”. The story starts at the end of September, when a small group of students at the University of Oxford travelled to London and turned up at the Communist Party headquarters in Covent Garden. The front desk was unconvinced by these boys in their varsity outfits and claimed that there was no one around who could see them. Undeterred, the group returned to Oxford and planned a stunt that would both get the attention of the CPGB and prove their sincerity to the workers’ cause.

Early in the morning on the Tuesday before the start of Michaelmas term, the first term in the Oxford academic year, a group of three boys broke into Wadham College and climbed up to the roof of the gatehouse. They were met in the college by a fourth member, John Lawson, who was the only one of the group to have actually been a student at Wadham. Two of the group, Tom Driberg and Alan Taylor, had left Oxford at the end of the previous year – Taylor with a degree – but returned to assist with the coup. The final member was Cecil Reid; together they called themselves the Oxford University Communist Party.

Just before dawn, the group lowered the college flag, flying ready for the start of term, and in its place ran the Red Flag up the flagpole. On its own, this would be little more than a standard student prank, hardly worth remembering. The heady mix of boarding-school chauvinism and aristocratic homoeroticism that pervaded Oxford at the time result in countless practical jokes being played, many far more ambitious than simply changing a flag. Six months into arguably the most serious display of working-class consciousness in British history, however, the jape acquired an altogether more serious meaning. Oxford, a centre of counter-revolutionary sentiment and a fertile provider of special constables for the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, had generally little sympathy for the workers’ movement. However much coated in a sense of upper-class levity, the OUCP’s stunt demonstrated the existence, however marginal, of pockets of genuine solidarity in the university town.

A final twist elevates the tale beyond simple student larks into an altogether wittier political action. Driberg, Lawson, Reid and Taylor, conscious of the fact that raising the Red Flag over an Oxford College, however well intentioned, would always be an inward-looking gesture, planned their coup to coincide with the photographing of Wadham for that year’s postcard, available to buy from the college visitor’s shop. The photographers had been hired from a local firm and, unsurprisingly, were not well versed in the intricacies of college vexillology. In any case, the Wadham College flag was itself predominately red; flapping around at eight in the morning, it was hard for the untrained eye to make out any change at all. The college authorities saw that the flags had been changed almost immediately, of course, and within the hour the college banner had been restored. But it wasn’t until a delivery of postcards arrived ready for sale three weeks later that Wadham realised the OUCP’s true genius. Too embarrassed to admit what had happened, the cards were sold anyway in the hope that, like the photographers, visiting tourists wouldn’t notice the error. On October 27th, a “Red Wadham” postcard arrived on the desk of CPGB general secretary Albert Inkpin. On the back was a short message, signed by all four members of the OUCP:


Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we’ll keep the Red Flag flying here!

Solidarity from the Communist Party of the University of Oxford.


RED%20WADHAM.jpg


In the aftermath of Red Wadham, the embarrassed college faculty made numerous attempts to identify the perpetrators. They were all unsuccessful – sabotaged in all likelihood by then-dean of college Maurice Bowra, a fellow-traveller with a penchant for witty mockeries of authority.


Albert Inkpin, intrigued by the Oxonians’ obstinacy in getting the attention of the Communist leadership, after a series of enquiries eventually made contact with the OUCP. Driberg and Taylor, having graduated, were offered work as dispatch riders for party magazine the Worker’s Weekly. Lawson and Reid were engaged in various small-scale activities against the OMS in Oxford.

Under the Commonwealth, all four members of the group maintained various associations with the CPGB machinery: Lawson and Reid as members only, and Taylor in his capacity as an historian as an author of numerous pamphlets. As a journalist, Driberg was a correspondent for the Worker’s Weekly during the Spanish War, and later occupied the magazine’s Washington desk between 1940–1943. He was the only one of the four not to distance himself from the mainstream CPGB after 1956.

Largely unknown at the time and forgotten in the decades after, nothing more was ever officially said of the matter. The identities of the perpetrators remained unknown until 1959, when Tom Driberg claimed partial responsibility during an appearance at the Oxford Union. He had been invited to the Union as a panellist in a debate on the legacy of the University’s role in the counter-revolutionary effort.
 
  • 3Like
Reactions:

SibCDC

Mayor of Königsberg
27 Badges
Nov 4, 2015
602
23
www.youtube.com
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Federations
  • Prison Architect
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Stellaris
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Hearts of Iron IV: La Resistance
Another enjoyable chapter in this well-written history of an alternate Britain. I like your way of dropping little breadcrumbs about the world out there, the Spanish War certainly sounds like something worth exploring further.
 

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
Intriguing short story, and as already pointed out the Spanish War also immediately strikes the eye, together with the date of 1956, and as a reader I'm also left wondering about how both unfolded in this alternate history.
 
Last edited:

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
Another enjoyable chapter in this well-written history of an alternate Britain. I like your way of dropping little breadcrumbs about the world out there, the Spanish War certainly sounds like something worth exploring further.

Cheer, SibCDC! I'm looking forward to getting onto Spain, but that's still a little way ahead of us yet.

Intriguing short story, and as already pointed out the Spanish War also immediately strikes the leader, together with the date of 1956, and as a reader I'm also left wondering about how both unfolded in this alternate history.

Thanks loup! 1956 and the years after, as far as I've planned so far, is still a significant period for the international Left. Exactly how it plays out in Britain (not to mention the rest of Europe, which is quite different than our own by the 1950s) is something I'm still, gradually, working on. It's an exciting time and I'm looking forward to being able to write about it eventually.

That said, for the purposes of this AAR, my immediate focus remains on the period between 1927 and 1934, with various hints dropped in here and there about the 'world to come'. There's still a revolution to win, after all! :p

________________

Due to various factors (here's lookin' at you, casualisation of labour!), my schedule wasn't as busy as I'd anticipated this week so I've actually got a pretty hefty political update written and ready to go. That said, I don't think I'll be able to get as much writing done next week so I'm tempted to keep things at a steadier pace. If there's appetite for it, I'm happy to put the update online and maybe do one or two shorter 'breadcrumb' pieces next week. If people are happy to wait, no problem; I'll hold out a couple of days.

Until then, victory to the workers! :D
 

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
Spreading things out and keeping a consistent pace seems like a better option to me, especially if any lurkers out there have trouble catching up with daily updates. Although those are just my two cents, not that I would be unsatisfied with getting the update immediately given the effort you put into them and how this AAR keeps delivering.
 

LordTempest

You mother baka
61 Badges
May 14, 2009
7.756
3.465
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • March of the Eagles
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Iron Cross
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Victoria 2
  • 500k Club
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Knight (pre-order)
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Pride of Nations
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron III Collection
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • Deus Vult
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Cities in Motion
  • Hearts of Iron II: Armageddon
  • East India Company
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Arsenal of Democracy
All this talk of Oxford makes one wonder what's going on at Britain's other great universities, like Cambridge and Hull.
 

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
Spreading things out and keeping a consistent pace seems like a better option to me, especially if any lurkers out there have trouble catching up with daily updates. Although those are just my two cents, not that I would be unsatisfied with getting the update immediately given the effort you put into them and how this AAR keeps delivering.

Aye, I think it's sensible. I've got a handful of updates ready to go now so I'll be posting them over the coming week.

All this talk of Oxford makes one wonder what's going on at Britain's other great universities, like Cambridge and Hull.

I haven't pushed the timeline far enough by any means, but that does make me wonder whether it might be fun to do some updates on the alt-historical Blackadder universe somewhere down the line... :p

________________________________

Update incoming.
 
The Revolutionary Turn: The General Strike after London Docks (1927–28)

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



THE REVOLUTIONARY TURN
THE GENERAL STRIKE AFTER LONDON DOCKS

ERIC HOBSBAWM
1947



Just after eleven o’clock on the morning of June 9th, 1927, after three weeks of peaceful, if passionate, working-class action, the character of the General Strike was irreversibly turned towards violence. Following an escalation of policing activities by the government’s Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, an attempt to clear the picket line at the London Docks in Wapping led to the deaths of 22 striking workers at the hands of volunteer special constables. In the two decades after this dark moment in the history of the British workers’ movement – known as the ‘London Docks Massacre’, or simply ‘Black Thursday’ – much has been written on its importance with regard to the so-called “revolutionary turn”, the evolution of the General Strike from an industry-specific dispute over the problem of coal into a broader, working-class effort towards the abolition of Capitalist ownership and, eventually, the overthrow of the British state. In this paper, I will give a brief outline of the events of the revolution from Black Thursday until the collapse of the Baldwin government in January 1928. This outline will be divided into two parts, each dealing with the period before and after the Riverside Massacre of November 12th, respectively. I will offer a contrast of the Baldwin government’s response to each tragedy, before attempting to make an argument for the differences between them.


While in the East End, particularly the Jewish East End centred around Spitalfields and Whitechapel, the reaction to the events of Black Thursday was immediate and angered, up the river in the Palace of Westminster the response was less urgent. The next morning, prime minister Stanley Baldwin expressed his profound regret for the deaths of the dockers but made little firm commitment to action. He equivocated in particular on the question of the arming of the special constables: while those in Wapping had been outfitted with rifles as well as batons, no shots had been fired and the deaths had almost universally been the result of blunt force traumas. A later inquiry vindicated claims made by the government that the OMS had not had access to live ammunition at Wapping. More so than sheer carelessness, London Docks was a display of institutional thuggery – spurred on in no small part by the presence of British Fascisti within the ranks of the special constables. In a signal display of the government’s priorities vis-à-vis the workers’ movement, it was this factor, rather than the deaths themselves, which arguably contributed most to moving Baldwin towards political action. The one immediate concession to the popular mood of outrage was the ritual sacrifice of Winston Churchill, who was dismissed from his cabinet post as chancellor of the exchequer having co-ordinated the bulk of the government’s efforts in setting up a paramilitary force in defence against industrial action.


Churchill was enraged by Baldwin’s decision to remove him from the cabinet, feeling that he had been unjustly scapegoated. Of course, it was not the deaths of working men that he regretted; he profoundly regretted the apparent death of his own ministerial career. There is little doubt that he played a key rôle in fostering the climate that allowed Black Thursday to take place. His professional indifference towards the loosening of restrictions on who exactly could volunteer to serve in the OMS was undeniable. In particular, as cabinet minister with responsibility for the co-ordination of the government’s response to the strike effort, he was shamefully lax in upholding the proscription of members of the British Fascisti from becoming special constables without first renouncing their political affiliation. Were it not for his later willingness to work publicly with the Fascisti Q Divisions, it might be possible for apologists to claim that this laxity was the inevitable result of a man combining the treasury portfolio with responsibility for the anti-strike effort. In any event, the zeal with which Churchill took to his job as chief strikebreaker is well-documented. Churchill wrote in one government memo in May, shortly before the outbreak of strike action, that “a group of extremists in the trade union movement … see a General Strike as the supreme weapon of labour.” In his mind, under the guise of breaking the strike Churchill had also been given an unprecedented opportunity to break the unions.


The historical irony of the situation is hard to ignore. Having set the conditions for an over-inflated sterling earlier in the decade, tethering the currency to the gold standard in an effort to peg its value to that of the dollar, Churchill’s time as chancellor had been acutely damaging to the situation of the working class. The over-inflation of sterling played a key rôle in the gradual decrease of miners’ wages between 1920 and 1927. It was this deflation that sparked the anger amongst the working class that fed directly into the appetite for a General Strike. His work in forming the OMS in the lead up to 1927 was, arguably, in many ways an attack on the fruits of his own labour.



OMS%20VOLUNTEERS%201926.jpg

The bourgeoisie play at strike-breaking as volunteer special constables within the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. The men are almost uniformly of the upper middle classes, and a significant number came down from varsity for some extracurricular counter-revolutionary action.


For opposition leader Ramsay MacDonald, London Docks illuminated a clearer path of resistance to the Conservative government. MacDonald’s Labour Party was intensely reformist in its socialism, and its unease at the radical syndicalism of certain union leaders – in particular, the general secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, Arthur Cook – was only thinly veiled. MacDonald was keenly exercised by the need for the Labour Party, untested in power, to appear as a credible party of government in the eyes of the electorate. Were Baldwin to fall, he would be a likely candidate as any to succeed him as prime minister. The Labour leader had no intention of sacrificing the possibility of forming a government in the name of class conflict.


The party position was echoed by mainstream union leadership. Walter Citrine and Ernest Bevin, general secretaries of the Trades Union Congress and the Transport and General Workers’ Union, respectively, joined much of the parliamentary Labour Party in regretting the strike. After Black Thursday, these men felt that their reasons for opposing industrial action had been vindicated: no good would come to the working man by choosing the path of action. MacDonald had been largely hampered in the effectiveness of his parliamentary opposition by this steadfast commitment to reform. Any differences of opinion between him and the government were rendered largely immaterial by the fact of their mutual opposition to the strike. After the deaths at Wapping, space was formed for MacDonald to now make a critique of the government without expressly having to come out in support of the strike. He was unsparing in his denunciations of government recklessness and demanded an inquiry into the extent of the alleged links between the OMS and the Fascisti. Rid of Churchill, Baldwin was more or less able to weather the Labour leader’s attacks and cultivated a demeanour of renewed dutifulness in taking full control of the effort to end the coal dispute. He did little material, however, making promises of an inquiry but no commitment. In the meantime, he assured the country that links between the OMS and the Fascisti were unfounded, and that all precautions were being taken to ensure the independence of the strikebreaking effort from extreme right-wing groups.


There is some irony in the fact that Baldwin was aided in his defence against the Labour opposition by Churchill himself, who in his capacity of editor of the government’s anti-strike newspaper the British Gazette did incalculable work in stemming the worst of the loss of public confidence. In spite of the government’s efforts to wrest control of the situation, however, they achieved only limited success. Baldwin and his cabinet had anticipated a short period of disruption, estimating that a strike could last no more than a fortnight. Yet by the end of June striking workers celebrated one month of action, and fears of flagging morale amongst those out on the picket were reversed after London Docks. The Daily Herald urged workers to continue the fight, warning that the state violence as displayed on June 9th was an indication of the government’s true indifference to their cause. Here a shift begins to be seen, from the workers’ movement framing its battle in terms of the coal problem, to a conception of a wider fight for the dignity of the working class in Britain. For now, this was confined to a significant minority – but it was a sentiment spreading fast.


In the ranks of the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, on the other hand, morale was fading at a comparable rate. After Black Thursday, enthusiasm for the volunteer cause lost significant momentum and a large number of people resigned their commissions as special constables in discomfort at being co-opted into what now appeared to be a paramilitary organisation. While many stayed on in ‘civilian’ strike-breaking rôles – driving buses, delivering food and the like – the government found itself increasingly reliant on hardline counter-revolutionary volunteers to staff the policing department of the OMS. In practice, this meant being forced to quietly forfeit any reluctance towards recruiting Fascisti. As much as it marks a turning point in the working-class conception of the strike as something approaching a struggle against the British state, so too does it mark a turning point in the composition of the effort against the strike movement. Gone was the initial character of the OMS as a brigade of middle-class play-actors taking up a trade for a week or so. The organisation now could be divided quite neatly in two: on the one arm, a skeleton staff of bourgeois volunteers in civilian rôles; on the other, a cadre of special constables increasingly assuming the character of a paramilitary force. Moreover, this was an ill-trained, ill-disciplined force motivated by little more than fear of revolution, and in some cases outright hatred of the working class. In 1910, magistrates in South Wales requested the support of the armed forces in response to rioting by workers in Tonypandy. Churchill, then home secretary in a Liberal cabinet, sent the troops no further than Cardiff and left the violent work of quelling the revolt to the Metropolitan Police. At the time, he was criticised by Conservatives for his restraint, and on the basis that the troops would have conducted themselves with more discipline than the police, who enacted a zealous revenge against the Welsh rioters. The resulting image that crystallised in the popular imagination of the British Left, not entirely congruent with the actual fact, was one of a state declaring war on its working population. Seventeen years after Tonypandy, Churchill was again at the heart of a violent scandal of workers being attacked by their own government. In this case, the Left had a far stronger case for painting him as the villain. Nevertheless, it was only after Churchill’s removal from a position of influence that the truly perilous consequence of Black Thursday became apparent: the transformation of the special constabulary from an ill-disciplined group motivated by a sense of duty, albeit to a misguided cause, to a force motivated increasingly by the base emotions of fear, hatred, and a desire for retribution against the working class.



Q%20DIVISION%20MEMBERS%201920S.jpg

Members of a British Fascisti "Q Division", sometime during the General Strike. Those convinced of the Fascisti cause were often 'eccentric' upper-class men and women of leisure, although the party maintained links with groups of thugs in the East End.


Within the unions, two main trends of reaction emerged: the first, that of the right-wing leadership who saw the deaths of the dockers as reason to renew attempts at negotiating a settlement with the government; the second, a resolution that no settlement could be reached with a government who had demonstrated such fatal indifference to working-class lives. In organisational terms, this could be described as a split between the TUC and the National Minority Movement, a CPGB-attached group within the trade unionist movement for the promotion of radical syndicalist tactics. At the end of June, without making his intentions public, Walter Citrine appointed anti-communist Ernest Bevin, head of the TUC’s Strike Organisation Committee, to re-open talks with the government. Negotiations continue into the next month. Privately, Bevin and Citrine are anxious that, even in the event that they are able to reach an agreement, the decision to end the strike is, in practical terms, no longer in their hands.


Meanwhile, the Minority Movement set about strengthening their own organisational capabilities, partly in anticipation of an imminent takeover of the wider TUC. General secretary Harry Pollitt entrusted Arthur Cook with the formation of an official ways and means committee, while J. T. Murphy – a functionary of the Comintern-backed Red International of Labour Unions – was covertly dispatched to the Soviet Union, charged with securing financial backing for the NMM strike fund. Herbert Smith, a taciturn Yorkshireman who was president of the Miners’ Federation, was given the task of canvassing other unions to ascertain the extent of favourable attitudes towards a settlement. Smith conducted his campaign against a backdrop of mounting hostility between workers and the anti-strike movement. Dockers in Hull and Liverpool, fearful of being targeted by the OMS, begin to fight back against police on the picket lines. Some manage to arm themselves. The Daily Herald, increasingly independent of the moderate TUC leadership, describes the dockers’ plight as a “spirited defence against a government which has proven itself, once and for all, to be an enemy of the working man.” Bevin, TGWU general secretary, was alarmed by the news of docker militancy and threatened to withdraw strike payments from any man found to have armed himself. His pronouncement calmed governmental fears of a drift amongst the trade union leadership towards “Bolshevism”, but attracted little sympathy from the workers themselves. At the end of July, Minority Movement ally Ben Tillett, a veteran leader within the old docker’s union, announced his intention to challenge Bevin for the general secretaryship of the TGWU at the next conference in August. Outwardly unperturbed, Bevin and Citrine ended the month by securing an agreement from the government for a restoration of miners’ wages to New Year levels, with the retention of an eight-hour day. Pollitt, Cook and the NMM are horrified to discover Bevin and Citrine’s secret negotiations and reaffirm their commitment to oppose any settlement with the Conservative government.


The previous October, an attempt by the NMM to mount a challenge for the leadership of the TUC had been defeated when Citrine was elected permanent general secretary, winning 55 per-cent of the vote. Since October there had been no official test of the strength of the Minority Movement within the TUC. In the aftermath of the revelation of the existence of the Bevin settlement, Harry Pollitt called for a display of Minority Movement strength and threatened to instruct friendly delegates to withdraw from the extraordinary conference called to resolve the settlement issue. He was ultimately persuaded against a boycott by Cook and Smith, who, optimistic of the strength of the NMM throughout the TUC membership, proposed instead that the movement tested its strength by springing a coup for leadership of the congress. Pollitt agreed and, after the TUC leadership was defeated on the issue of the settlement, he pushed NMM organisational secretary George Hardy to challenge Citrine for the position of general secretary. Hardy took 52 per-cent of the vote. When Ben Tillett defeated Ernest Bevin at the TGWU annual conference a week later, the Minority Movement takeover of the trade unions was all but secured.


Hardy’s first act as general secretary of a newly-militant TUC was to announce negotiations with the government suspended, until the election of “a ministry not inherently opposed to the very lives of the working people it claims to represent and protect”. He followed this in early September with a renewed call for strike action, without restrictions on the industries affected, not just in response to the coal problem, but “in defence of the lives and the livelihoods of all working people in Britain”. Baldwin, wrong-footed by events within the TUC, denounced the strike and quickly began proceedings for an injunction against the organisation to sequester its assets in an attempt to force the strikers back to work. The injunction was granted by Mr Justice Astbury, who in his infamous ruling gave the opinion that “no industrial dispute may exist between the TUC and the government of the nation”. Arthur Cook leapt at the government’s attacks with the writing and publication of a pamphlet, entitled Fifteen Weeks, which celebrated the achievements of the strike and exhorted workers not to be cowed by the suppression tactics of the state. Its peroration is now famous:



We, who have endured so much at the hands of this government, are now moments from enacting its final defeat. Not content with having taken our wages, this government took our jobs; not content with having robbed us of our communities, this government robbed us of our livelihoods. Now Mr. Baldwin, his arsenal all but spent, has turned to the courts to take the penny from our pocket and the bread from our table. The day will come when, desperate and with nowhere else to turn, he will come to take our lives. When that day arrives, we will say finally, No! On that day, Mr. Baldwin and his government will be reminded of the true strength of the working class in Britain – and on that day the working men of Britain will rise at last, like the lions of old after their slumber, and take for themselves their rightful place as the masters of their own fate!


PICKET%201926.jpg

Mineworkers on the picket, early summer 1927.


Cook’s reference – rise like lions after slumber – to the poet Shelley’s ode to non-violent resistance, The Masque of Anarchy, was deliberate. The workers’ movement was keen to play up the image of the martyred dockers as essentially peaceful, in contrast with the undisciplined state troops quick to violence. In reality, of course, the dockers had fought back, though inflicted no casualties on the OMS. And while Fifteen Weeks spread throughout the workers’ movement, its proliferation supported by a large, informal network of underground printers, the mood of the strike was slowly turning towards militancy. Dockers in Hull and Liverpool succeeded in their attempts to drive police from the picket lines by the end of the first week of September, and agitation began to seep into the largely conservative south by the end of the month, by which point the number of workers on strike surpassed 2 million for the first time. At the start of October, the Red Flag could even be seen flying over Wadham College, Oxford – though only for about an hour. A group of undergraduates apparently raised it over the college as a joke.


Violence was also provoked by the British Fascisti, who maintained an increasingly public presence over the summer and into the autumn. Most startling was the retention of one of Rotha Lintorn-Orman’s “Q Divisions” by Winston Churchill during a speaking tour of the country in August. Churchill’s decision to associate publicly with the Fascisti in this way was a source of embarrassment to Baldwin, who had expended considerable effort in giving the appearance of there existing no links between the Conservative Party and the fascist movement. The Fascisti were a young movement of largely middle-class anti-Communists who combined Italian fascism with extreme British patriotism. Members ranged from the eccentric to the ultra-violent, with a larger concentration of the former in the Home Counties and a tendency towards the latter in the East End. They were taken seriously by few amongst the wider bourgeoisie, though waged a violent campaign against the workers’ movement in the name of “crushing sedition”. Baldwin was forced to send in the troops to assist the Metropolitan Police after Fascisti street-fighters began a series of attacks against Jewish trade unionists and anti-fascist fighters in Spitalfields on October 20th. This marked the first time troops had been officially deployed to assist with the strike-breaking effort. Baldwin was adamant that the armed forces had been instructed to act only within stringent rules of engagement, yet the move was greeted with scepticism by the workers. Even those in the middle class began to question the degree to which Baldwin and his government had the situation under control.


On November 12th, Baldwin sent troops into the Liverpool in order to re-take areas of the docks which had been under worker control since the start of September. Five months after Black Thursday, it was a contentious move. As in Spitalfields, however, Baldwin gave assurances that the troops were tasked only with “restoring order”, and had been given strict terms of engagement. These included a prohibition on firing into crowds of striking workers, and more generally a warning that mortal force could be used only in the face of extreme danger to the policing mission. In the event, tensions flared up immediately following the arrival of troops at the Albert Dock. Dockers began throwing rocks and half-bricks at the armed forces, and operational commander Colonel James Leeson gave the order to begin arresting workers, though did not sanction the use of lethal force. The clash between the arresting troops and the dockers was fierce, the troops beating the dockers with clubs while dockers continued to throw improvised missiles, or else fought hand-to-hand.


At about ten o’clock, one soldier under the command of Major Frank Rudd-Gore shot into the crowd after being hit in the eye with a rock. Docker John Hegarty was killed, while two more were injured by rifle fire. Colonel Leeson repeated the order not to fire into the crowd and, as some dockers began to flee towards Duke’s Dock, ordered troops not to chase them down, but instead to remain in position at Albert Dock and arrest those who continued to offer resistance. Major Rudd-Gore disobeyed the order, leading his company to Wapping Dock with the aim of cutting off the routes of escape for fleeing dockers. At 10:17am, troops in Major Rudd-Gore’s company fired into a crowd of docks running to safety across Wapping Basin, killing 12 and injuring 16. Hearing gunshots and believing the order to open fire to have been given, troops back at Albert Dock opened fire at 10:19am, killing 14. At 10:23am, Colonel Leeson gave the final order to cease fire and repeated that fleeing dockers were not to be chased down. Of those who were unable to escape that day, 27 were killed and 35 more were seriously injured. Three died of their injuries in the following days, and an unknown number of those arrested – over 500 – were abused in custody. Having navigated his way to safety after Black Thursday, the Riverside Massacre mortally wounded both Baldwin’s reputation and that of his government. In response to public outcry and renewed attacks from MacDonald’s opposition, Baldwin suspended the use of troops to police the strike effort and announced that an inquiry into the events at Riverside would be carried out. For once, MacDonald and the militant trade unionists were united in their message that no settlement could be reached so long as the government represented a credible threat the the lives of the working class in Britain. After Christmas, in a show of solidarity to those killed at both Wapping and Riverside, over 4 million people refused to go back to work. The country was brought to a complete standstill in the week before the New Year, and MacDonald vowed to bring a motion of no confidence in the Conservative government as the first item of business once Parliament reconvened. Aided by a considerable Churchillite backbench rebellion, the motion passed. Baldwin announced a general election on January 13th.


What separated the government’s responses to London Docks and Riverside? After Black Thursday, Baldwin was content to let Churchill take the blame for the outbreak of violence. Churchill had been in charge of the co-ordination of the anti-strike effort, and thus Baldwin was able to argue that it was the chancellor and not the prime minister who was ultimately accountable for its failure. Five months later, Baldwin had no such shield available: the blame, clearly, fell at his feet. Yet, morally, there is little to separate the two events: irrespective of at precisely whose hands, a total of 57 striking dockers had been killed by forces of the anti-strike movement. In his willingness to accept the security offered by distinctions between “fascisti infiltrators” and the British Army itself, Baldwin exposed the underlying antipathy held by the Conservative party towards the ultimate fate of the British working class. Baldwin massaged a question of simple moral consequence – the accountability of the government for the murders of 57 men – into a matter of parliamentary procedure. Even at the end, Baldwin could not bring himself to admit that he had played a leading rôle in the killings. His government was not defeated by an admission of guilt or even wrongdoing, but by simple parliamentary arithmetic. His earlier gambit of sacking Churchill had only given him an extra seven months, and after the New Year it was Churchill’s votes that doomed him. MacDonald’s own measured fury would have been impotent were it not for the internal struggles of the Conservative Party. Thus it was with no dignity that the politics of the United Kingdom entered a state of terminal decline. It would scarcely redeem itself before the end.




Eric Hobsbawm (b. 1917) is a British Marxist historian. His works deal predominately with socialism, working-class movements and the rise and fall of industrial capitalism in Britain. He is currently a reader in history at Birkbeck College, University of London.
 
Last edited:
  • 3Like
Reactions:

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
So the country goes to the polls in a state of political crisis, with a massive ongoing strike and a discredited and divided Conservative Party. Although given that things are to go further in a revolutionnary direction, the question is what platform MacDonald's Labour Party will stand upon.
 

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
So the country goes to the polls in a state of political crisis, with a massive ongoing strike and a discredited and divided Conservative Party. Although given that things are to go further in a revolutionnary direction, the question is what platform MacDonald's Labour Party will stand upon.

Aye, Britain is in a bit of a mess. And MacDonald, as we shall see, is not exactly the man for the hour...

Thanks for your comment as always, Loup. :)

______________________________________

I have a handful of updates written up and plan on releasing them over the next couple of weeks. Depending on how I'm feeling, I might put the next one out either later today or some point tomorrow. (What better week to get some momentum going than when I've been so graciously named WritAAR of the Week? :p) In the meantime, if anyone is lurking around the thread please do feel free to check in with a comment! I'm always grateful for people's takes on what I'm doing. :)
 

stnylan

Compulsive CommentatAAR
123 Badges
Aug 1, 2002
36.954
3.571
  • 500k Club
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • March of the Eagles
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Rome Gold
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • Hearts of Iron III Collection
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Stellaris: Necroids
  • Deus Vult
  • Hearts of Iron II: Armageddon
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For The Glory
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
Aye, Britain is in a bit of a mess.
Sorry, but when I read this reply I just laughed, given, well, no need to go into it.

:D

I must admit considering where a certain Edmund Blackadder might end up in this timeline is quite intriguing.
 

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
Sorry, but when I read this reply I just laughed, given, well, no need to go into it.

:D

I had the forums up in one tab, news of the reshuffle in another… :p

I must admit considering where a certain Edmund Blackadder might end up in this timeline is quite intriguing.

Blackadder as a conniving shop steward forced to deal with the idiocy of his union leadership? Baldrick as a hapless TUC dispatch driver, revolutionised as a private soldier in the trenches? George as an Oxbridge Communist? Melchett and Darling as Labour reformists? Flasheart as Oswald Mosley?

Writes itself, really. :p
 
A False Dawn: Memories of the General Election of 1928

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg


A FALSE DAWN
MEMORIES OF THE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1928

GLADYS HATHERLEY
1953



When I was five years old, my parents took me to see Jessie Stephens speak at the Portsmouth docks. It is perhaps my first reliable memory. I remember how cold it was, even on the coast, and I was stuffed into my winter coat as protection against the wind coming off the sea. I remember my father putting me on his shoulders so I could better see the small stage over the crowd of dockers. I remember hearing Miss Stephens and thinking that her words sounded magical, like something out of a storybook, though I remember nothing of what she said and would not have been able to understand it anyway. Neither do I remember seeing afterwards any signs of trouble, although I know now that they must have been present. I have no recollection of the group of Q Division thugs who kept watch from over the road, who after the speech was over heckled the members of the crowd as they left to go back to their own business.


In February 1928, when the voters of Britain went to the polls for the third time since the start of the decade, it was clear that there was little hope of restoring something of the political peace that had been established in Westminster after great effort three years earlier. Stanley Baldwin, the third Conservative prime minister since 1922, had been heralded upon his accession to the leadership of both his party and his country in 1925 as a man of sober, common-sense principles who would do good work in establishing a sense of “business as usual”. When he proved able to lead a united Conservative Party into a general election only months after his elevation to the premiership, hopes seemed to be confirmed that he was, indeed, the man for the job. Needless to say, the new Baldwin’s government’s response to the coal problem, with which it was faced only months into its tenure in office, cast serious doubt over this assessment. By turns shamelessly cynical and hopelessly lethargic, Baldwin’s default mode of operation – that of the sensible patrician – was found wanting in its attempts to answer simultaneously the conflicting demands of unity of the classes and unity of party. An entrenched defender of the bourgeoisie, Baldwin’s often-stated concern for the welfare of the working class abandoned him when it mattered, and in so doing only hastened Britain’s progress along the road from industrial unrest to class warfare. The Conservative Party he led at the start of 1928 had been all but overtaken by events, and envisaging the conditions for its return to power seemed a considerable task of imagination. The only question worth asking seemed to be to what extent the claims that it made, of being the only party equipped to stop the surrender of the British government to the trade unionist movement, would be taken in by the voting public.


Some in the Conservative Party took the job of demonstrating the apparent truthfulness of this claim more seriously than others. While as a young child I had no awareness of the bitterness that wracked the 1928 election, for the conscious public it was something keenly felt. My parents, both members of the Communist Party, were on occasion actively caught up in the troubles. When my father came home from the picket one evening some hours later than usual, my mother explained to me how he had been delayed by some business with the union. It wasn’t until years later that he told me the full details of this business, that he had been arrested after picketing a speech given by the Conservative candidate, a shipping magnate who had taken on protection from the Q Divisions out of fears that he would be targeted for attack by the dockers. This was not an exceptional precaution for a Conservative candidate to take; across the country, the presence of Fascisti and pseudo-Fascisti “protection details” was not uncommon at Conservative events during the election campaign. Most infamously, Winston Churchill was accompanied at a speech given to constituents in Epping by seven rifle-wielding men and women in Fascisti uniform. These displays came to little in the way of physical violence, but contributed without question to a continued mood of hostility that discredited any idea of the election as offering a pause in the wider class dispute.


Indeed, the election was in many ways a sideshow for the millions of working men and women across the country participating in direct action. Frustrated for the moment in its attempts to bring the immediate violent forces of the British state to bear against the strike movement, the establishment attempted a change of tack. The election offered a novel way of shoring up the counter-revolutionary effort, co-opting the instruments of bourgeois democracy in an attempt to dent the workers movement. For the working class, the choice offered at the polling booth was of little consequence: the fight would go on regardless of who emerged as victorious in Westminster. But for the bourgeoisie, the election offered the first chance to influence events since the hobbling of the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies. The re-election of the Conservative government would be action in favour of the tactics of direct repression employed first, zealously, by Churchill and later, with protestations of reluctance, by Baldwin. The election of the country’s first ever Labour government, on the other hand, would offer some vindication of Ramsay MacDonald’s steadfast commitment to reformist, bourgeois-democratic socialism. Through Labour, Britain would be allowed to experiment with tactics unpalatable to the Conservatives: sentencing the workers’ movement to death by obsolescence. An appeal to the principles of good-hearted, high-minded socialism of the non-conformist sort made by a Labour ministry would, theoretically, reset the legitimacy of the British government in its dealings with the strike movement. Whereas the bourgeoisie were quick to show their unease at the violent (one might say murderous) opposition to the strike of the sort shown by Baldwin and his cabinet, the presence in Whitehall of a government whose opposition to the strike was not expressly violent, but rather purely methodological, would, it was hoped, tip the balance of public sympathy back in favour of the state. The decision of the voting public in Britain to a leftish government would present the workers’ movement with a burden of choice: continue with its action, and thus expose itself as a revolutionary movement to the exclusion of other identities; or settle, and give up on the dream of revolution and accept victory for the workers within a precarious system of parliamentary socialism. The grievances at the heart of George Hardy’s renewed declaration of strife action were usefully vague – “in defence of the lives and livelihoods of the working people of Britain” – and few, honestly, would have begrudged him too greatly for settling were a MacDonald government to show good faith in its dealings with the unions. It could reasonably be taken that, under Labour, the “lives and livelihoods of the working people” would be secure from attack. Were the coal problem solved also, full victory could be declared.



POLICE%20AID%20FASH.jpg

Police in the East End clear a barricade erected by anti-fascist volunteers. The reluctance of the state to engage the assistance of the Fascisti in their effort against the strike was not always apparent.


Yet these sorts of deliberations remained entirely within the realm of conjecture. MacDonald’s preoccupation with success in the public imagination and at the ballot box had let bad faith creep into his dealings with the unions, and he made little effort from the beginning to disguise his disdain for “aggressive” strike action. Even were a settlement to be reached over the coal problem – and it is hard to see how this could work in the favour of the miners without significant government action against the mine-owners – the survival of such a settlement would surely be reliant on the ability of Labour to protect itself and the legacy of its first ministry against future Conservative attacks. Thus any security won for the working class would be temporary from the start, its continued survival forever at the mercy of the survival of the Labour government or the goodwill of a Conservative one. The working class, after ten months of struggle, would have won better conditions of existence; crucially, it would not have won the right to determine for itself the conditions of its existence, which would still be in tow to the designs of the political class. This was in line with the thinking of Comintern, which from the summer of 1928 would begin to agitate explicitly for non-cooperation with bourgeois leftist movements under its doctrine of “social fascism”.


Polling took place on February 25th. In some areas, workers and Fascisti clashed at polling stations, usually in cases where Q Division thugs had taken it upon themselves to prevent “seditious” workers from exercising their right to vote. These clashes were mostly broken up by police, who maintained a large presence in a heavy-handed attempt by the government ensure the smooth running of proceedings. In the event, polling day was for the most part an anti-climactic affair; there was no grand coup staged against parliamentary democracy. (Working-class organisation was not yet at a level capable of mounting such a challenge.) For all of its scepticism, the workers’ movement still came out almost universally in support of the Labour Party, which for the moment retained the technical backing of the TUC. A large number of workers reasoned that, if there had to be a government, it would be better a government of nominal socialists less likely to call in the troops. Negotiations, not yet ruled out, could at least take place safe from the threat of armed paramilitaries, memories of the deployment of which still haunted the Conservatives. Little of Baldwin’s reputation as a reliable operator survived by polling day, and there was hardly a good record of premiership waiting to be vindicated. The question was how heavy the loss would be.


Ramsay MacDonald was able to declare victory two days later, his party having won over 5 million votes to take 340 seats in the House of Commons. The first Labour ministry was formed over the following days, and could call on a working majority of 32. The Conservative vote, meanwhile, did not entirely evaporate; Baldwin was hurt more by voters staying away from the polls than by any great defection to other parties, and his party held onto just under 5 million votes to win 233 seats. The Liberal parties, all but irrelevant, took less than 2 million votes between them. Albert Inkpin led the CPGB to victory in seven seats, predominately in the East End, South Wales, Liverpool and Glasgow. The fact of a vocal Communist minority in Westminster was cause for celebration, although Inkpin insisted on a policy of abstentionism so long as the strike persisted. Less eagerly received by the workers’ movement was the news of the election of two new Labour MPs, Ernest Bevin and Walter Citrine. MacDonald had found seats for each of the former union bosses, and their presence in parliament was taken by some within the strike leadership as a demonstration from the start of Labour’s intention to operate in bad faith.


A quarter of a century on, it becomes hard to recover any sense of the cautious optimism with which a large body of the working class met the formation of the new government. General opinion today is unsparing in its denunciation of MacDonald and his colleagues as Capitalist fellow travellers. This assessment, in large part, is warranted. But it is important to acknowledge also that this hostility towards the Labour victory more widely, and not just to MacDonald, is born of later events, and cannot be applied to the end of February 1928. Despite his hostility to the strike effort and the ultimate futility of his reforms, MacDonald can be credited with the immediate release of most political prisoners, including all of the dockers arrested at Riverside the previous November, and by the end of March had also taken steps to reverse the sequestration of the TUC’s assets, albeit in an attempt to wean the organisation off Soviet money. As a child, much of this passed me by. But I am reminded always of Jessie Stephens and her bold speech of a better life for the working class. At its core, divested of the frustration and the sadness to come, it is important to remember the election of the Labour government not for its own sake, but as a powerful display of the new-found consciousness of the working class, and as a small, imperfect hint of the brighter world to come.




Gladys Hatherley (b. 1922) is an English historian and academic, whose work deals with the political history of the labour movement from the 19th century until the formation of the Commonwealth. She is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Labour Studies at the University of Southampton.
 
Last edited:
  • 3Like
Reactions:

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
Labour gets into government for the second time in its history, this time with an absolute majority in Parliament, and MacDonald is once more Prime Minister. While the first signs of policies seem to be in favour of the workers movement, the question is how this attitude will fare in the longer term given that the situation will escalate further. Meanwhile the increased representation of the Communists indicates that there is a growing radicality.
 

DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
10.540
1.638
  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
Labour gets into government for the second time in its history, this time with an absolute majority in Parliament, and MacDonald is once more Prime Minister. While the first signs of policies seem to be in favour of the workers movement, the question is how this attitude will fare in the longer term given that the situation will escalate further. Meanwhile the increased representation of the Communists indicates that there is a growing radicality.

As the game started in 1920, even though I've picked up the action a bit later on things are actually a little different so this is the first ever Labour government. There will be some hints about what the UK looked like during 1920–1925 in later updates. For now though, MacDonald's infamous desire to appear credible above all else will have significant consequences as things play out.
 

loup99

Godogost of Armorica
78 Badges
Jan 22, 2013
16.420
5.507
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Warlock 2: The Exiled
  • 500k Club
  • Pride of Nations
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings Complete
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Arsenal of Democracy
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Darkest Hour
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • For The Glory
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • March of the Eagles
  • Rome Gold
  • Sengoku
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
As the game started in 1920, even though I've picked up the action a bit later on things are actually a little different so this is the first ever Labour government. There will be some hints about what the UK looked like during 1920–1925 in later updates. For now though, MacDonald's infamous desire to appear credible above all else will have significant consequences as things play out.
Oh, had not realised that, I had situated the point of divergence of the AAR later. Even more interesting though in a sense if it the first Labour government ever.