1919 - strikes, struggles and soviets

1919: strikes, struggles and soviets

Published on: Sat, 19/01/2019 - 05:43

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In 1919, inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, British workers took more strike action than ever before. But communists in Britain had still not formed a united party. Labour's representation in Parliament was weak.

There were similar workers' mobilisations around Europe, rebellions in the British and other empires' colonies, and soviet republics declared in Bavaria, Hungary and elsewhere. All were, in the end, defeated. But only in the end.

Published to mark the centenary, this pamphlet written by Janine Booth,

The Bavarian Soviet Republics of 1919

Published on: Tue, 16/07/2019 - 14:52

Barrie Hardy

The Jewish community in Germany has been advised by their government not to wear the kippah in public in case they become targets of antisemitic attacks.

Antisemitic hate crimes have risen 20% in the last year and nine out of ten cases have been blamed on the extreme right. Concerns have also been raised about the growth in support for the far right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) within the ranks of the German army and police force - traditional breeding grounds for right wing authoritarianism.

Numerous Germans with Jewish backgrounds have made vital contributions to the cultural heritage

Amritsar, a hundred years on

Published on: Wed, 17/04/2019 - 10:29

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.

After the shootings Dyer returned to British Military Headquarters in

1919 - Ready for Rebellion

Published on: Tue, 16/04/2019 - 19:51

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.

They expected and demanded a better society than the one they had endured before the war had started four-and-a-half years previously. Their Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, had promised them a ‘land fit for heroes to live in’ and told them that by defeating Germany and its allies they had defended freedom and democracy. Liberal Lloyd George had just led his Tory-dominated coalition to a landslide victory in a general election called at very

1919 - Militarists and Mutineers

Published on: Mon, 15/04/2019 - 21:03

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.

But the army needed troops to defend Britain’s imperial possessions; and the war was not officially over yet. Lloyd George back-pedalled on his promises,

1919 - Whose Peace?

Published on: Mon, 15/04/2019 - 20:39

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.

The treaty required Germany to accept all responsibility for the war, to disarm, to concede territory, and to pay reparations later assessed at 132 billion marks, equivalent to around £284bn in 2018. The economist John Maynard Keynes, a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, criticised the

1919 - Hands Off Russia!

Published on: Mon, 15/04/2019 - 14:45

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.

On 8 February, Hands Off Russia held an even larger mass meeting, at the Royal Albert Hall. Shows of support took place beyond London too, with a

1919 - Purging the Police

Published on: Mon, 15/04/2019 - 11:39

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.

The year began with unfinished business. In 1918, British police had taken strike action and the government, keen to avoid distraction from its war effort, conceded all their demands except one. Official recognition of their trade union – the National Union of Police and Prison Officers

1919 - The fight for working women's rights

Published on: Sun, 14/04/2019 - 20:59

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.

That general election saw the first woman elected, but the successful candidate, Constance Markiewicz (pictured), refused to take her seat in the British Parliament that she and her Sinn Fein colleagues did not recognise as legitimate. Instead, Constance became Minister of Labour in the Dail Eireann, the first female Cabinet minister in Europe.

The Labour Party pushed for extension of women’s rights, and in March

1919 - Throwing off the shackles of Empire

Published on: Sun, 14/04/2019 - 12:45

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.


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.

The British left supported self-determination for India and other colonies, and in April, held a large public meeting in London, demanding ‘India for the

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