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1926 general strike

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From: The Socialist issue 643, 20 October 2010: Fight all cuts in jobs and services

Search site for keywords: Strike - Trade union - General strike - 1926 general strike


Days of Hope

By Jim Allen,
Reviewed by Leigh Cartwright

AT A car boot sale I bought (for 20p!) a book called Days of Hope by Jim Allen. The book, which can be found second-hand on the internet, was the fictional story (but historically accurate) of a group of workers between World War One and the 1926 general strike.

The book was turned into a short TV series by Ken Loach and shown on television in 1975. I remember the film series and its dramatic impact.

What particularly struck me was the book's utterly realistic portrayal of the events that led to the attack on the miners and the general strike. Jim Allen described in savage detail the spineless nature of the TUC general council and the trade union leaders - both right and left - who betrayed the aspirations of the millions who took part in the strike.

He also correctly criticised the tactics and strategy of the Communist Party at the time who, in showing over-reliance on the trade union leaders, ultimately led their own members up the garden path.

The TV series led to an outcry from the British establishment in 1975. They described the series as unbalanced and were angry at descriptions of the role of the government, the police and the army. The series producer Tony Garnett said at the time: "Our own anger is reserved for the phoney objectivity, the tone of balance and fairness affected by so many programmes.

"We deal in fiction and tell the truth as we see it. So many self-styled 'factual' programmes are full of unacknowledged bias... you really are in danger from them and not us."

In one thing little has changed between 1926 and today - most of the TUC general council would still act in such a spineless, unprincipled manner.

The book's descriptions of the union leaders grovelling at the feet of Tory cabinet members like prime minister Baldwin and chancellor Churchill - whilst the government was busy plotting to destroy the trade union movement - rang very true. Allen could have been describing many of our current union leaders.

As this government sets out about destroying the welfare state and attacking the living standards and livelihoods of working people, we are entering a period of massive industrial unrest.

A reading of the events that led to the 1926 general strike and its lessons for the current generation of activists is essential for us all.

If you can find a copy of Jim Allen's book I strongly recommend reading it. Searching for the film on the internet will take you to an online petition calling on the British Film Institute to release the series on DVD.

Sign the petition as it really was an extraordinary and realistic dramatic portrayal of these important events.

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