1919 - strikes, struggles and soviets

Amritsar, a hundred years on

Author

Len Glover

On 13 April 1919, in Amritsar in the Punjab, India, 50 soldiers under the command of the British General Dyer opened fire on a crowd gathering in the Jallainwala Bagh – a garden-cum-open area popular for meetings and social or religious gatherings.

Many of the crowd were there to celebrate Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year. No one was armed, there were no disturbances, it was peaceful.

The British authorities put the number of dead at 379, with more than a thousand injured. The actual number of fatalities will never be known.

1919 - Ready for Rebellion

Author

Janine Booth

As 1919 began, working-class people in Britain and many other countries looked forward to leaving the Great War behind them and rebuilding their lives.

1919 - Militarists and Mutineers

Author

Janine Booth

The ‘Great War’ was finally over. When it had begun in August 1914, the British government predicted that it would be won by Christmas, but it had dragged on for four more years, with dreadful suffering and loss of life. In 1916, Britain began conscripting its men to fight.

Now that the fighting was done, the soldiers expected to go home to their civilian lives. Lloyd George had induced then to vote for him by pledging rapid demobilisation.

1919 - Whose Peace?

Author

Janine Booth

11 November 1918 had been merely an armistice. The war would not be officially over until peace terms had been negotiated.

The victorious Allied countries began six months of talks in Paris in January 1919, before compelling Germany to sign the treaty that ended the war at Versailles on 28 June.

1919 - Hands Off Russia!

Author

Janine Booth

The British left hailed the Russian revolution in 1917.

On 18 January 1919 in London, a mass meeting launched the ‘Hands Off Russia’ campaign to oppose British military intervention in support of the White armies’ attack on Bolshevik Russia. The campaign’s National Committee brought together the scattered sections of the British left: the British Socialist Party, Independent Labour Party, Workers’ Socialist Federation and Socialist Labour Party.

1919 - Purging the Police

Author

Janine Booth

This would be the year in which the capitalist state rigorously enforced the role of the police, purging them of rebels, ensuring their loyalty and cutting any link between them and the workers’ movement. The events of 1919 shaped the police force we have now: an obedient enforcer of the system’s interests.

1919 - The fight for working women's rights

Author

Janine Booth

1918 had ended with British women voting in a general election for the first time ever. But it was only those aged 30 or over and who met a property qualification who could vote.

1919 - Throwing off the shackles of Empire

Author

Janine Booth

After Britain and its Allies had won the war, proclaiming themselves champions of freedom and democracy, the people of its imperial possessions stepped up their democratic demand for some of that freedom for themselves.

India

In its largest colony, India, Britain imposed the Rowlatt Act, extending wartime powers of indefinite imprisonment without trial. It prompted anger and rebellion, against both the Act and continuing British rule.

1919: Divided by Racism

Author

Janine Booth

While workers were angry and willing to fight, too often their anger was aimed at fellow workers of a different colour rather than at the employers and authorities responsible for their exploitation and poverty. Sometimes this occurred in the absence of socialist political leadership, but on occasion, labour movement misleadership played a poisonous role.

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