Socialist Party
| Print

11 October 2017

Biography: Harry Constable in his own words

Poverty, repression and fightback on the docks

Bill Mullins, Southwark Socialist Party

This book is about Harry Constable, a leading activist in the struggle of the dock workers from before the war until the end of the 1950s.

It is told through a series of transcribed tapes he made 20 years ago with Bill Hunter, a member of the 'Socialist Labour League' in Liverpool.

Harry Constable was born into an East End family in London in World War One and grew up in poverty and struggle. His father and grandfather had been dockers and Harry became one after World War Two when he left the army.

His tale is one of obviously heroic struggle against not only the employers but often against the right-wing leaders of his own union, the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU - one of the main forerunners of Unite).

Harry, along with other left-wing dockers, was instrumental in setting up what became the unofficial dock workers' strike committees. They organised national strikes against the employers because too often the right wing in the union refused to take action.

Strike

At one stage the union expelled him - which under the system at the time meant he could not be a registered docker and was not entitled to work. The other dockers waiting in the "pens," the holding areas where they were called by the foreman to work, refused to "come out" until Harry was given work.

The book explains how the docks became organised over a number of years that led to many strikes, sometimes local and sometimes national, all led by the unofficial dockers' committees.

In 1951, Clement Attlee's Labour government ordered the arrest of Harry, along with other unofficial leaders, for calling a strike in contravention of 'Order 1305'. This was part of the undemocratic government regulations set under emergency wartime powers, and forbade strike action.

This led to a national strike of 45,000 dockers. The Labour government's answer was to send in 22,000 soldiers to do their jobs (which they couldn't).

At the subsequent Old Bailey trial the unofficial leaders, including Harry, were acquitted.

Harry went through many experiences including the 1926 general strike and the battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley's fascist Blackshirts.

All in all the book is well worth reading to give the modern generation of class fighters an idea of the rich history of class struggle in the docks.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26268




Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

triangle22 Feb Lecturers strike around country in defence of pensions

triangle21 Feb Facebook sides with state repression - reinstate the Tamil Solidarity...

triangle21 Feb Bosses divided - university pension strikes can win!

triangle21 Feb How can young people and students fight the Tories?

triangle21 Feb Northern Ireland talks process paralysed

triangle21 Feb Chatsworth ward victory shows we can save our NHS

triangle20 Feb After 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

More ...

WHAT'S ON

triangle24 Feb Socialist Students national conference

triangle26 Feb Teesside Socialist Party: The National Question

triangle26 Feb Leeds Socialist Party: Organising tenants in the private rented sector

triangle27 Feb Cardiff West Socialist Party: The campaign for a 10 an hour minimum wage

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

What we Stand For

About the Socialist Party

Our 2015 election manifesto

Joining the Socialist Party - what will it mean for you

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999