Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1007/27872

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 August 2018

100 years since police went on strike: "never nearer to Bolshevism"

Police officers on strike in 1918

Police officers on strike in 1918   (Click to enlarge)

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party national committee

On a number of occasions, the ruling class in Britain has trembled with fear when faced with mass struggles of workers which could threaten their rule. Such movements as the 1984-85 miners strike and the 1926 general strike brought clashes between striking workers and the powers of the capitalist state.

Nothing terrified the ruling class as much as the thought that the very 'armed bodies of men' making up part of their state machine - the police and army - could become infected with the revolutionary malady. But this was the very real prospect in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It led the then prime minister, David Lloyd George, to declare the country was 'at no time nearer to Bolshevism'.

Mutinies in the armed forces took place throughout 1917-19, in revolt against the bloody destruction of World War One, as well as once the armistice was signed in 1918. The demands were for rapid demobilisation, rather than continuing to be used as fodder for the imperialist powers now aiming to crush the Russian revolution by military force.

But the committees formed to organise the struggle in the army came and went as troops were dispersed and demobilised. Within the police, however, a more permanent form of organisation among the ranks developed through the formation of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO).

Over the course of the war, the wages of the police had declined relative to other workers. Policemen who had been recruited from the army in previous years were recalled to their original units. This resulted in shortages. Police officers lost 17 days leave without any compensation.

This combination of low wages and the restriction of leave became a breeding ground for revolt, and anger began to be channelled through the NUPPO which gained a new leadership as a result of the discontent.

This was brought to a head as those at the tops of the Metropolitan Police began to try and repress the union and its agitation by victimising its organisers. A prominent case was of Sergeant Tommy Thiel, the NUPPO organiser responsible for making links with police forces outside London. His victimisation provided the spark for the union to make demands not only for Thiel's reinstatement, but for a pay rise, an increased war bonus and the recognition of the union.

The strike caught the government off guard. Believing their own propaganda claiming that police officers had nothing to complain about, the key officials in the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office were out of London on Thursday 29 August 1918 - the evening NUPPO held a mass rally and put out the call to strike.

At midnight, policemen began to leave their patrols and refuse to turn up for duty. Meetings took place in police stations where officers voted to join the strike. Pickets at Scotland Yard even managed to get 25 sergeants and 16 constables from the Special Branch to take part in the action!

A mass march and rally addressed by the secretary of London Trades Council and other labour movement figures attracted 20,000. Following an abortive meeting with a government representative who refused to meet the union, the City Police were called out at 6pm, further swelling the ranks of the strikers.

Attempts to further solidify the strike saw roving pickets march from police station to station, checking for strike breakers. Vine Street police station was besieged until strike breakers holed up inside left the building.

With the soldiers who were replacing striking police guards beginning to fraternise with police pickets, and the possibility that the forthcoming TUC congress could declare a sympathy strike with the police, the government became prepared to agree almost anything to stop the strike developing further.

When a delegation from the union met with Lloyd George, he granted them the bulk of their demands, including Thiel's reinstatement, guarantees against victimisation for union membership, and an immediate pay rise.

But on the issue of recognising the union, he resorted to a subtle trick, claiming he couldn't recognise a union for the police in wartime. This was naively understood by the NUPPO leadership as meaning that once the war was over they would be recognised.

In truth, it was a measure - much like the nine-month subsidy to the coal industry - granted with the aim of giving the government breathing space to prepare to crush a general strike. Lloyd George certainly wasted no time in making preparations to break the union, appointing General Sir Nevil Macready, who had commanded troops during strikes in the 1910-14 'Great Unrest'.

Over the next year NUPPO was to grow into a national union with branches throughout the country, as industrial unrest continued to grow. NUPPO affiliated to the TUC and the Labour Party, which had just adopted the socialist Clause IV of its constitution, showing the developing radicalisation which the government was determined to crush.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 29 August 2018:


What we think

Capitalism is a chaotic, irrational system - we need socialist change


International socialist news and analysis

Trump ally prosecutions

Venezuela: How can reaction and imperialism be defeated?

China: Solidarity with Jasic Technology workers


News

Working families 50 a week short of paying for kids

Nationalise the energy giants to combat global warming

Them & us


Workplace

Restaurant tips walkout: "Hold the burgers, hold the fries, TGI are telling lies"

Sunderland: Resolute Liebherr workers in pay strike

Merseyside fire authority forced to postpone night closures

Northern Rail guards continue fight against driver-only operation

East Dunbartonshire council workers back further strikes


Youth and students

Exam factories, cuts and violence - Fight for our future!


CWI School 2018

The ongoing capitalist crisis and the struggle for a socialist world


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

NHS: Mass fightback is needed

Battle growing against Loch Lomond area big business sell-off

Leicester lobby calls for consultation on NHS closure plans

Socialist sales success in Cardiff

EDL sent packing in Worcester

Huddersfield Socialist Party organise counter-protest against EDL

Fracking companies backed by government and courts

Leeds protest against NHS treatment cuts


1918 police strikes

100 years since police went on strike: "never nearer to Bolshevism"


Opinion

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 29 August 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Police:

triangleOutrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd

triangleIrish police use Covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers' protest

triangleTV review: The Trial of Christine Keeler

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleProtesting is not terrorism

Strike:

triangle1920s Britain: A "country nearer Bolshevism than at any time since"

triangleThe Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2

trianglePlymouth students discuss rent strike

triangleRefuse collection workers strike

Union:

triangleCovid crisis boosts union membership but TUC leaders want to cosy up to the bosses!

triangleEnergy firm plans to make 2,600 redundant

triangleNo return to unsafe construction sites

Government:

triangleSchools aren't safe

triangleChinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests

War:

triangleA new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

Workers:

triangleEconomic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon

General strike:

triangleIndia: Bloody pogrom fuelled by Modi's sectarianism

Russian revolution:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Russian Revolution 1917

Prison officers:

triangleTV: Crime and Punishment - this brutal watch is a damning indictment of cuts and capitalism

1926 general strike:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Military:

triangleEnd repression in Chile - freedom for soldier David Veloso

Historic events

Historic events

27/5/20

Britain

1920s Britain: A "country nearer Bolshevism than at any time since"

27/5/20

Lucas Aerospace

The 'Lucas Plan'

13/5/20

War

A new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

13/5/20

War

The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"

13/5/20

Europe

'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism

6/5/20

Obituary

Peter Hadden remembered

6/5/20

Tyneside

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2

29/4/20

May Day

130 Years of May Day in Britain: Fight for workers' rights more relevant than ever

29/4/20

War

No return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'

22/4/20

Lenin

Lenin at 150: A revolutionary life - and the relevance of his ideas for today

15/4/20

WW1

How the catastrophe of WW1 sparked revolution

8/4/20

War

Class collaboration and worker militancy in World War Two Britain

1/4/20

War

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth

25/3/20

Poll tax

30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built

18/3/20

Apartheid

South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre

triangleMore Historic events articles...


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

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: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999