Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/437/5167
1926 General Strike -
Workers taste power by Peter Taaffe
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1926 General Strike in Britain and, more importantly, to draw out the lessons from this movement, Peter Taaffe has written a book outlining the course of the nine days that shook British capitalism to its foundations.
The book will particularly deal with the revolutionary possibilities of the General Strike and the question of whether the fledgling Communist Party of Great Britain had the right strategy, programme and tactics to take full advantage of the strike and the period.
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This letter was sent to the Guardian in answer to the claim that a general strike (as in 1926) is impossible today:
The recent strike of over one million local authority workers over the pensions issue shows that Anne Perkins is wrong to claim "strikes don't happen anymore" [the Guardian, 22 April 2006]. She is also mistaken in arguing that a "general strike (as in 1926) is impossible" today.
The French workers were on the verge of a one-day general strike this month - following two demonstrations in a week of three million people - with the clear threat of a repetition of the 1968 General Strike. This was only averted by the capitulation of the Chirac government from its neo-liberal offensive against the French working class. The Blair government also retreated before the 2005 general election when five million workers in the public sector threatened a one-day general strike.
The 1926 General Strike did not drop from the sky. It was a product of the economic decline of British capitalism, which the Baldwin government and the capitalists of the day wished the working class to pay for, as they do today through the government's panoply of neo-liberal assaults on the past gains of working-class people.
And as in 1926, organised labour will respond by pressurising their leaders to take strike action on industry-wide and national levels. The anti-trade union legislation of Thatcher, slavishly supported and implemented by Blair, will have as little effect as a dewdrop on a hot stove once working-class people move into action. When they do so, they will look back to the example of the 1926 General Strike, the single greatest event since Chartism in the annals of British labour history.
Because the working class in 1926 "tasted power" (the title of my book on the General Strike), it terrified the representatives of capital then as it does today. The lesson of 1926 is not "to pull the duvet over your head" but to understand what happened in order for the labour movement to score a victory next time.
Yours, Peter Taaffe
In The Socialist 27 April 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party election campaign
1926 General Strike
Environment: Nuclear power
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis