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Proletarian issue 12 (June 2006)
Editorial: Lessons of the British General Strike
This issue of Proletarian coincides with the 80th anniversary of the British General Strike of 1926, which lasted from 3 to 12 May 1926. The General Strike will be remembered as one of the most heroic, courageous and determined acts of the British working class, and as a particularly proud chapter in the history of the communist movement in Britain (the CPGB was the most consistent and effective organiser of the strike). Unfortunately, it will also be remembered for its ultimate failure, the result of being sold down the river by the social-democratic left, in the form of the leadership of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Labour Party. Readers can find a full analysis of the strike on our website.

Analysing the strike in its aftermath, Joseph Stalin commented as follows:

“How could it happen, it may be asked, that the powerful British proletariat, which fought with unexampled heroism, proved to have leaders who were either venal or cowardly, or simply spineless? That is a very important question. Such leaders do not spring up all at once. They grew out of the labour movement; they received a definite schooling as labour leaders in Britain, the schooling of that period when British capitalism was raking in superprofits and could shower favours on the labour leaders and use them for compromises with the British working class; whereby these leaders of the working class, becoming ever more closely identified with the bourgeoisie in their manner of life, became divorced from the masses of workers, turned their backs on them and ceased to understand them. They are the kind of working-class leaders who are dazzled by the glamour of capital, and who dream of ‘getting on in the world’. There is no doubt that these leaders – if I may call them that – are an echo of the past and do not suit the new situation. There is no doubt that in time they will be compelled to give way to new leaders who do correspond to the militant spirit and heroism of the British proletariat. Engels was right when he called such leaders bourgeoisified leaders of the working class.” (Collected Works, Vol 8, p170)

Reading this passage, it is difficult to believe that a full 80 years have passed since it was written, so closely does the text relate to the current state of the British working-class movement. The main reason that we have made so little progress in this time is the dominance of revisionism, which gained the upper hand in the British communist movement in 1949 with the publication of the notorious British Road to Socialism, and, more recently, Trotskyism. These ideologies, fundamentally petty bourgeois in their outlook, have for decades offered a ‘solution’ to those workers (and middle-class liberals) who find it difficult to cope with the idea of overthrowing imperialism, which does after all pay for our schools and hospitals (and widescreen tellies) with its ruthless exploitation of ‘third world’ labour and markets.

The British working class must, albeit belatedly, learn the lessons of the General Strike. Let the 80th anniversary serve as a reminder of the urgent need to defeat bourgeois trends within the labour movement. Social democracy is an albatross around the neck of the working class; it’s time to lose it and to pick up the weapon of revolutionary Marxism Leninism!

> History: British General Strike

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