Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/444/5276
THE MORNING Star (12 June) printed a review by Graham Stevenson of Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe's book on the 1926 general strike.
Below we print the review and a reply by Peter Taaffe printed on the 15 June
Morning Star review:
PETER TAAFFE has competently retold standard, secondary accounts of the 1926 general strike. Given that the author is a veteran leader of the Trotskyist Socialist Party (aka Militant), it is not surprising, however, that he focuses mainly on the question of whether the "fledgeling Communist Party had the right strategy programme and tactics to take full advantage of the strike".
Taaffe enjoys himself regaling the reader with eulogistic reviews of Trotsky's prescient view that left social democrats would let the movement down. It becomes tiresome, though, to see the constant, sometimes forced, links to the fate of Militant in the 1980s -or their special role in the PCS, or in Liverpool - as if all roads lead to these events and the onslaught on the Communist Party in the 1920s.
This is a book that aspires to be the political basis for a programme for contemporary action rather than a history of the 1926 strike. It is the self-serving nature of these obsessions that mars what might have been a useful book.
Repeatedly, Taaffe adroitly brings us back to the undoubted big mistake of 1926, the slogan calling for "All Power to the General Council". But it was not the slogan that let the miners down. The thorny and perennial political problem of the British labour movement is its rejection of theoretical analysis.
Blind spots appear regarding the supposed neutrality of the state and its organs, class struggle and the role of unions - leadership is flawed. And it is this political legacy that still confronts us.
Peter's reply, printed in the Morning Star, 15 June:
I WAS not 'self-serving', as Graham Stevenson asserts in his 'review' of my book on the 1926 General Strike. I sought to explain the objective situation in 1926 while at the same time defending Trotsky's analysis of the strike. The leading theoreticians of the Communist Party, such as Palme Dutt and J.T. Murphy, also praised Trotsky's writings on Britain at the time.
Stevenson obviously believes that it is 'tiresome' to draw any parallels with the events of 1926 and the recent history of the labour movement in Britain. But the expulsion of the Communist Party from the Labour Party in 1925 was similar to the expulsion of Militant and the Liverpool councillors in the 1980s by Kinnock.
In 1925, this was a clear warning of the role which would be played later by the right-wing trade union leaders and the erstwhile lefts in the 1926 General Strike. The expulsion of the Liverpool Militants was the beginning of the end of the Labour Party as a distinct workers' party at the bottom.
Also, the slogan 'All Power to the General Council' was not the only error in 1926. The young Communist Party was subordinated to the mistaken policies of the Comintern (Communist International) at the time, which prevented it from emerging after the strike as a significant mass force.
Stevenson takes refuge from any serious analysis of these events by the alleged "rejection of theoretical analysis" of the British labour movement. Unfortunately, he doesn't enlighten us with his theoretical analysis of the strike.
We seek to provide a narrative of the events and the theoretical conclusions that could be drawn from them, which are extremely relevant today, both in Britain and internationally.
We hope your readers will decide whether we have succeeded in this aim.
WEST LONDON Trade Union Club was the venue for the West London launch of Peter Taaffe's new book 1926 General strike - workers taste power.
Socialist Party members and supporters including workers in local government, transport and education came to hear Peter Taaffe introduce the discussion around the lessons of the general strike for today, and to contribute to this discussion.
Peter spoke of the 1926 general strike being raised again in relation to the marvellous million strong strike of local government workers this year and of the inspiring recent strikes and protests in France and Chile. This successful event finished with about two dozen books being signed and sold and a few celebratory drinks.
1926 General Strike -
workers taste power
by Peter Taaffe
To commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the 1926 General Strike in Britain, and to draw out the lessons from this movement, Peter Taaffe has written a book outlining the course of the nine days in May that shook British capitalism to its foundations.
185 pages + images. Only £7.50 including p&p
Cheques payable to Socialist Publications
PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD.
Credit/debit cards tel. 020 8988 8771
See other titles on www.leftbooks.co.uk and request our free booklist.
In The Socialist 15 June 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news