War and the transformation of British society c1903–28
Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform
Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front
The BEF and 1914. Overview
The end of the war. Overview
Key Topic 3: The home front and social change
DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview
Recruitment and rationing. Overview
The part played by women. Overview
Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28
The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview
The General Strike of 1926. Overview
The reasons why the TUC called off the General strike
The General Strike was called by the TUC in order to support the Miners claims over wages and hours worked. However it had not been supported by all of the union leadership and had failed to gain the support of the Labour Party: Ramsay McDonald, then leader of the Labour party, stated that "The election of this fool as miners' secretary looks as though it would be the most calamitous thing that ever happened to the T.U. movement" when writing about the leader of the Miner's Union.
The TUC had been engaged in negotiations with the Conservative Government in the run up to the strike and had been close to reaching an agreement with them: which the Miner's Union was not happy about. On May 7th, during the General Strike, the TUC, without telling the Miners Union, re-opened talks with Sir Herbert Samuel, Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry. Samuel and the TUC came up with a proposal that would:
The TUC felt that these proposals, whilst not perfect, were acceptable. The Miner's Federation did not.
On May 11th, 1926, Mr Justice Astbury, a judge in the high Court, ruled that the only strike that was legitimate and covered by the Trade Disputes Act was that of the Miner's, and that all other unions were in breach of the law for going on strike. He also added that the Miner's had not followed their own rules on calling industrial action. The next day the leaders of the TUC visited Downing Street and told the Prime Minister that they were calling off the General Strike.
Reasons why the strike was called off:
Reactions to the end of the General Strike:
"The effects on British labour will be profound. The history of 1921 has repeated itself. The support of other unions has been withdrawn, The Government has committed itself to little or nothing. The mineowners are committed to nothing."
“Everyone was confident that the Government had climbed down….Then the fuller reports became to come by wire….When they showed that the terms were only an arrangement with Sir Herbert Samuel and that the miners lock-out was to continue one simply could not believe one’s eyes”
“In the course of the afternoon while I was on my round of the picket stations, the news came through. The end of the strike had been announced as an ‘unconditional surrender’. The pickets could not at first believe it. They would wait until they heard from their headquarters before they left their post and I left them, still picketing, to rush home and sit before the wireless. No comfortable words came from the BBC The official governmental line was that the Samuel Memorandum was not binding upon them, being merely a recommendation, its terms were not, in the event, put into operation.”
A History of the National Union of Miner's:
Steadily, their control of the situation grew. The General Strike was not only solid, it was gaining more and more support. Then, suddenly, on May 12, it was called off.
The TUC General Council had sold out this unprecedented struggle for decent pay and conditions. Following a promise from Sir Herbert Samuel that, provided the General Strike was called off, negotiations on miners pay and conditions would resume on a status quo basis, the General Council agreed to a return to work despite fierce opposition from the MFGB.
This was a bitter betrayal. The MFGB was left to fight alone, its nearly one million members and their families bearing the full brunt of the Tory Governments attack. Although the TUC had abandoned them, however, mining communities were supported with food and donations from rank and file trade unionists in Britain and around the world.
"I do not regard for General Strike as a failure. It is true that it was ill-prepared and that it was called off without any consultation with those who took part in it. The fact is that the theory of the General Strike had never been thought out. The machinery of the trade unions was not adapted for it. Their rules had to be broken for the executives to give power to the General Council to declare the strike. However illogical it may seem for me to say so, it was never aimed against the state as a challenge to the Constitution. It was a protest against the degradation of the standards of life of millions of good trade unionists."
The General Strike of 1926 was an unmitigated disaster. Not merely for Labour but for England. Churchill and other militants in the cabinet were eager for a strike, knowing that they had built a national organisation in the six months' grace won by the subsidy to the mining industry. Churchill himself told me this on the first occasion I met him in person. I asked Winston what he thought of the Samuel Coal Commission. When Winston said that the subsidy had been granted to enable the Government to smash the unions, unless the miners had given way in the meantime, my picture of Winston was confirmed.
Stanley Baldwin promised that there would be no victimization when the miners went back to work. That was one more piece of deliberate deception. My father was not reinstated - from four months he trudged from pit to pit, turned away everywhere. Uncle Michael was also victimized, and so sadly he came to the decision that the only thing to do was to go off to America.