General Strike

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  • Created by: joanna
  • Created on: 06-05-13 23:57

Industrial Unrest

  • Had begun before the Great War
  • Difficult economic conditions had led employers to resist wage claims but also to enforce more closely conditions of work
  • Adverse legal decisions e.g. Taff Vale
  • Obvious contrast between great wealth and great poverty (most working men earned less than £160 p.a.)
  • Strikes before the war were often bitterly contested e.g. Tonypandy (1911)
  • The formation of the Triple Industrial Alliance  (Dockers, Miners and Railwaymen) in 1913 had suggested a General Strike was possible
  • Syndicalism was seen as a strong force among many Unions


During the war…

  • ...the Unions had agreed to ban strikes...
  • ...but young militants in areas like Clydeside had organised unofficial strikes.
  • The Russian Revolution had been well received by many workers but had greatly alarmed the ruling class.
  • Living conditions had improved dramatically and workers were determined to protect their new gains


After the war…

  • ...strikes were common and often violent.
  • Full employment helped fuel these strikes
  • The authorities were particularly alarmed by a Police Strike
  • Triple Alliance revived


The 1921 Coal Strike

  • There was a long and bitter strike in 1921
  • Neither side showed willingness to compromise
  • Lord Birkenhead, a Tory minister said, ‘I should have thought the miners the stupidest men in England had I not already met the Mine owners.’
  • After the Triple Alliance abandoned the Miners (Black Friday) they were starved back to work and forced to accept severe wage cuts
  • There was  a brief period of industrial peace


The Causes of the General Strike

  • Problems facing the Mining Industry
  • History of poor industrial relations
  • Government actions
  • The Samuel Report
  • The Daily Mail Incident


Problems facing the Mining Industry

  • Coal was struggling to compete with other fuels (oil) and sources of energy (electricity)
  • Too many British mines were small and un-modernised
  • Foreign Competition was damaging the profitable export trade


Poor Industrial Relations

  • Working conditions were harsh and safety poor
  • The Miners had been particularly angered by the Government’s decision to hurriedly restore the Mines to private ownership in 1921


A Recovery

  • In 1923 French troops occupied the Ruhr
  • German industrial production shut down
  • British industry stepped in
  • Coal exports increased
  • The miners got a pay rise


Government actions

  • In 1925 Churchill returned the pound to the Gold Standard
  • The pound (and therefore exports) was over-valued by 10%
  • All industry was hit hard, but especially coal
  • Baldwin had appealed for industrial moderation (‘Give peace in our time, O Lord’) from both sides.
  • This cleverly distanced him from the extremists on both sides.
  • However, he also announced that wage cuts were necessary to put industry on its feet.


Poor Industrial Relations

  • The return to production of the Ruhr and the impact of the Gold Standard meant that the mine owners demanded wage cuts and longer hours.
  • J. Cook coined the slogan, ‘Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day’.
  • Herbert Smith, the Miner’s President summed up their attitude to compromise; ‘Nowt. We’ve nowt to offer’.


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