Workers' Liberty 3/4: The 1926 general strike

The defeats we learn from

The British general strike of May 1926 was one of the great events in working-class history. Its consequences were felt far beyond Britain, in far-off Russia and by Communist Parties all over the world.

It was a great working-class defeat. It was an unnecessary defeat brought about by the treachery of the leaders of the British trade union movement.

The story of the strike

By Stan Crooke

At the close of the nineteenth and opening of the twentieth centuries the international working class had added the weapon of the general strike to its arsenal in the war against capital. In the decades before the British General Strike, Belgium, Russia, Sweden and Germany had all experienced general strikes — Belgium more than once.

Drawing on the experience of such mass strikes, Trotsky wrote: “The general strike is one of the most acute forms of class war. It is one step from the general strike to armed insurrection… If carried through to the end, the general strike brings the revolutionary class up against the task of organising a new state power… A real victory for the general strike can only be found in the conquest of power by the proletariat.”

Workers’ defence

The problems facing the Councils of Action went much deeper than aid for arrested persons. The arrests themselves were in part based on political actions by the victims: as the reports show the members of the Communist Party were especially singled out for arrests under this heading. But the attack of the capitalist state machine was not confined to arrests of speakers or writers (or distributors) of “sedition.”

How the Communist Parties became “frontier guards of the USSR”

By Max Shachtman

The defeat of the September 1923 insurrection in Bulgaria and the October retreat in Germany, followed a few months later by the crushing of the Reval uprising in Esthonia, opened up a new period of development in Europe, replete with far-reaching consequences. The retreat in Germany gave the bourgeoisie the breathing space it sought and needed... In England, the MacDonald Labour government came into power for the first time. In France, the liberal Herriot ministry was established....