Causes of the General Strike 1926 - British History

A2 History - Britain 1918-51

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Causes of the General Strike ­ Essay
The General Strike marked the end of a time of industrial unrest and possibly
revolutionary feeling. This period dated from the years before WW1, i.e
syndicalism, labour unrest 1911-1913. Events between 1918-1922
demonstrated a high level of union militancy and class feeling, e.g the
Clydeside dispute; opposition to interventionism in the Soviet Union's civil and
Polish wars; and significant strikes including railway men, police and most
notably, coal miners. In 1919, 35 million working days were lost through strike
action, in 1920, the figure had fallen to 27 million, but it rose to 85 million in
The fear of the Government was that an industrial dispute, particularly in the
coal industry, could result in sympathy strike action by the miners' Triple
Alliance partners (rail and general transport) and that a General strike would
occur. Lloyd George's policy of delay, threat and bluff was to be successful in
the 1918-22 period. However, Lloyd George's tactics caused resentment and
bitterness in the labour movement, particularly in the Miners' Federation. This,
along with industrial decline, low wages and continued, though reduced,
syndicalist feeling, was to culminate in the strike of 1926.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) was considered to be the `Parliament' of the
trade union movement ­ an umbrella organisation to which all main unions
affiliated to. In 1920, the General Council was established, upon which
delegates from the main uions and occupations would be represented. The
General Council's purpose was to exercise day-to-day executive powers and to
act as a `general staff' for organised labour. This made the idea of a general
strike more attractive to many unionists as there was now a body which could
lead and co-ordinate such an action.
Another reason the general strike began was that the miners were the most
militant and unified of all work forces, which stemmed from the fact they
worked in appalling and dangerous conditions, relying on each other for safety.
The Miners' Federation had a history of militancy and represented workers
who felt a high degree of bitterness and resentment, stemming from
generations of dangerous working conditions, low wages and poor investment
management from the private owners.

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Another cause of the general strike was that Britain's economy suffered a
decline and severe unemployment in its traditional `staple industries' in the
period after WW1, resulting from the decline in the export market in these
industries. The response of factory owners was to reduce wages, which in turn
caused industrial disruption.
The coal industry was regarded as the `battleground' of industrial conflict and it
was problems in coal which were the root cause of the General Strike.…read more


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