The year of strikes, struggles and soviets ...
The last issue of RMT News contained a useful pull-out on the historic 1919 railway strike. It captured some of the excitement of the action and its success in beating back pay cuts. The strikers and their supporters are heroes of our history and deserve to be remembered and honoured.
As 1919 began, working-class people in Britain and many other countries looked forward to leaving the Great War behind them and rebuilding their lives.
The ‘Great War’ was finally over. When it had begun in August 1914, the British government predicted that it would be won by Christmas, but it had dragged on for four more years, with dreadful suffering and loss of life. In 1916, Britain began conscripting its men to fight.
The stories of 1919 are historic struggles. But mostly, they failed. Even when they succeeded in heading off a particular attack or winning an advance, they did not succeed in remaking society.
This would be the year in which the capitalist state rigorously enforced the role of the police, purging them of rebels, ensuring their loyalty and cutting any link between them and the workers’ movement. The events of 1919 shaped the police force we have now: an obedient enforcer of the system’s interests.
After Britain and its Allies had won the war, proclaiming themselves champions of freedom and democracy, the people of its imperial possessions stepped up their democratic demand for some of that freedom for themselves.