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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 August 2011

The Great Unrest 1911

When the press raged about 'mob rule'

Jack Palmer

"Mobs" control British cities. "We are facing an absolute disintegration of society." "Yesterday mob law reigned in London." "Mob law is in fact supreme". "It is what one might call a reign of terror."

These quotes are not from the recent riots but from newspapers 100 years ago. Then the 'mob' was trade unionists and their families fighting for a pay rise.

For young workers today the study of the strikes of the Great Unrest will provide many valuable lessons.

Instead of a few hundred out on the streets, in 1911 the 'mob' sometimes numbered 100,000 and they would march the streets of the east end of London three times a day - it was more like a revolt of the poor. The police were powerless against such vast numbers.

With shade temperatures above 100°F, the Times newspaper theorised that the hot weather caused many of the men "to lose their heads". Like today, there was no attempt to understand the real causes of the unrest.

The workers were winning. The Times commented: "As we write the sands are running out, the period of truce is coming to an end, and in a few hours we shall know whether it is peace or war."

The Riot Act was read in ten places and every city and major town reported disturbances between strikers and the police.

The conservative Morning Post considered that, "open revolution" was closer at hand than at any time in living memory and advocated: "The time has come for a whiff of gunshot." To end the strike, the King demanded that the troops: "should be given a freehand and the mob should be made to fear them."

The government obliged. Churchill, the home secretary, following "disturbances of a serious character" moved a Guards Brigade and the Aldershot garrison into London's parks - 25,000 troops to support the police.

The warship Antrim was anchored in the Mersey. There were an extra 2,400 police and 5,000 troops in the city. The Gordon Highlanders were dispatched to Sheffield, and many other areas were occupied by troops, including Derby, Leeds and Bradford. Even the Irish Command mobilised for transfer.

But the troops could not quell the anger of the strikers. The government and the bosses conceded defeat and wage increases were paid.

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In The Socialist 17 August 2011:

The street eruptions and aftermath

Con-Dems to blame for anger of youth - mass, trade union-led workers' response needed

Workers & youth unite!

After the riots... A mass workers’ movement is needed

Tell the TUC - call a 24-hour public sector general strike!

Birmingham peace rally shows need for jobs and services, not cuts

North London Unity demo - 'Workers and youth, unite and fight'

Defend council tenants from eviction!

Build strike action to defeat Con-Dems

Vital services "dying" because of cuts

Extracts from a statement from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU):

Youth workers' warnings ignored across the country

Trade union branch model resolution

Socialist Party news and analysis

World economy: Capitalists unable to stop the turmoil

News in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Stop the far-right EDL thugs

EDL try to act as vigilantes in Leicester

Reports: Pride gets political

Winston Silcott - framed by the police and justice system

Socialist Party youth and students

Doors continuously shutting on young people's futures

Youth march in Wales to demand jobs

Socialist history

The Great Unrest 1911

Liverpool 1911 - Jack's story

Socialist Party workplace news

Massive vote to continue action against Southampton cuts

Angry construction workers meet to plan strike action

Reinstate Paddy Brennan at Honda

Comments and reviews

Racist Starkey attacks rap


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