The General Strike 4th May -13th May 1926

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Causes of the General Strike

  • Unemployment and growth of Trade Unions 
    • After WW1, Britain faces unemployment problems in its staple industries such as shipbuilding and coal. Trade Union membership had risen considerably 
  • The Coal Miners' Strike
    • Coal was Britain's most important staple industry - as an energy source and major export 
    • Coal mines were nationalised during WW1 then privatised afterwards - miners' wages were subsidised by the government. 
    • In June 1925, mine owners announced plans to cut wages
    • The TUC's support for the miners led to the Conservatives to back down from a major industrial confrontation known as Red Friday
    • Samuel Commission is set investigate the mining industry 
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Reasons for the failure of the General Strike

  • Government readiness
    • By the time the Samuel Commission reported, the government was well-prepared for a major industrial strike
    • The Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies was created to train volunteer strike breakers to drive trucks and assist with the distribution of food and fuel 
  • Baldwin's tactics
    • Organised the government's case by presenting the strike as a conflict between elected constitutional government and the Trade Unions 
    • The British Gazette was launched to convey this message 
    • Control of the BBC radio helped generate public backing for the government 
  • The Trade Union Congress' was unprepared 
    • Although the TUC supported the miners, it was not prepared to fight a long strike for fear of placing too great a strain on Trade Union funds
    • Miners continued to strike after May but most had returned to work by November 
    • Their refusal to accept the Samuel Commission's recommendations meant they had to accept the owners' terms for returning to work 
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Consequences of the General Strike

  • Miners maintained resistance for a few months before being forced by their own economic needs to return to the mines. 
  • Many miners remained unemployed for many years. 
  • Those that were employed were forced to accept longer hours, lower wages, and district wage agreements. 
  • The strikers felt as though they had achieved nothing.
  • The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions of 1927 forbade sympathetic strikes and mass picketing.
  • TUC lost support as people believed that they were not going to give the help required
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