Ch 17 World War :World Crisis

CH.17-WORLD WAR-WORLD CRISIS

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CHAPTER XVII: WORLD WAR: WORLD CRISIS

SECTION 2: THE HOME FRONT

 

THE ‘SOCIALIST’ PARTIES OF THE WORLD AND THE LABOUR PARTY FAILED THE PEOPLE BY NOT OPPOSING THE WAR OF EXPANSIONISM.

 

EVEN KEIR HARDIE AND ARTHUR HENDERSON JOINED TO ‘AROUSE THE PEOPLE’ FOR WAR AND AGREED TO REMOVE THE WORKERS ONLY REAL WEAPON BY AGREEING TO END STRIKE ACTIONS AND SETTLE DISPUTES ‘AMICABLY’.

 

THIS CAPITULATION LEFT THE WORKERS LEADERLESS, AND ONLY THE BOLSHEVIKS CARRIED ON THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WAR ON REVOLUTIONARY LINES.

 

THERE WERE EXCEPTIONS. LUXEMBURG AND LIEBKNECHT IN GERMANY, MCLEAN IN SCOTLAND AND CONNOLLY IN IRELAND SAW THROUGH THEIR GOVERNMENTS DECEPTIONS.

 

THE SURRENDER OF TRADE UNION MACHINERY ENABLED THE GOVERNMENT TO SHAPE THE WHOLE ECONOMY OF THE COUNTRY FOR WAR AND TO CONTROL THE INDUSTRIES REQUIRED FOR IT.

 

STATE CAPITALISM ACCELERATED THE PROGRESS TO MONOPOLY CAPITALISM AND IMPERIALISM.

 

GREAT TRUSTS AND COMBINES WERE FOSTERED BY SUPER PROFITS, ALL AT THE WORKERS’ EXPENSE.

 

FACTORIES CONSTRUCTED BY THE GOVERNMENT WERE SOLD OFF AT A FRACTION OF ORIGINAL COST.

 

THIS WAR GAVE INDUSTRY AN ARTIFICIAL PROSPERITY AND PREPARED THE WAY FOR THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

 

THE NATIONAL DEBT ROSE BY £7,000 MILLION BETWEEN 1914 AND 1918.

 

IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE WAR, WAGES LAGGED BEHIND INCREASING PRICES, AND THERE WAS CONSIDERABLE UNEMPLOYMENT.

 

THE SHOP STEWARDS’ MOVEMENT ON THE CLYDE DIRECTED GRIEVANCES NOT AGAINST THE WAR, BUT THE ECONOMIC HARDSHIPS OF THEIR MEMBERS AND FAMILIES.

 

THERE WAS A STRUGGLE AGAINST CONSCRIPTION, WHICH, AFTER THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, TOOK ON A MORE POLITICAL CHARACTER.

 

A CLYDESIDE STRIKE WON A ONE SHILLING AN HOUR INCREASE FROM THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH HAD THEN PASSED THE MUNITIONS ACT TO PROHIBIT STRIKES IN THE WAR INDUSTRIES AND MAKE THEM ILLEGAL.

 

200,000 SOUTH WALES MINERS ANSWERED THIS WITH A STRIKE THAT WENT ON FOR A WEEK AND WON NEW AGREEMENTS FOR THEM.

 

THERE WERE RENT STRIKES, WHICH FORCED THE GOVERNMENT TO PASS THE RENT RESTRICTION ACT AGAINST LANDLORDISM.

 

THROUGHOUT 1915, THERE WERE CONSTANT ‘ILLEGAL’ STRIKES, WHICH NEITHER GOVERNMENT NOR UNIONS COULD PREVENT.

 

HOWEVER, THE PAPER ‘THE WORKER’ WAS SUPPRESSED, AND JOHN MCLEAN GOT THREE YEARS IN PRISON.

 

THE STRUGGLE MOVED SOUTH TO SHEFFIELD. 10,000 MEN STRUCK FOR THE RELEASE OF A CONSCRIPTED WORKER, AND THE GREATEST STRIKE OF ALL TOOK PLACE IN MAY 1917 WHEN 250,000 ENGINEERS ACROSS ENGLAND PROTESTED AT THE DILUTION OF LABOUR AND THE PROPOSED EXTENSION OF CONSCRIPTION.

 

THE STRIKE LEADERS WERE ARRESTED. AFTER TWO WEEKS, THE STRIKE PETERED OUT.

 

NEWS OF THE RUSSION REVOLUTION SPREAD EVERYWHERE, AND CONVENTIONS WERE HELD AT WHICH WORKERS AND SOLDIERS’ COUNCILS (SOVIETS) WERE SET UP ALL OVER ENGLAND.

 

CALLS FOR PEACE WERE LOUDEST.

 

IN 1919, LLOYD GEORGE SENT A BRITISH EXPEDITION TO ARCHANGEL AGAINST THE BOSHEVIKS, AND MANY OF THE SOLDIERS ORDERED TO GO MUTINIED AND REFUSED.

 

THE ‘HANDS OFF RUSSIA’ COMMITTEE FORCED THE GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW ITS FORCES AND CEASE DIRECT INTERVENTION, BUT MONEY AND SUPPLIES TO THE ‘WHITE’ ARMY CONTINUED.

 

POLAND WAS EVEN ENCOURAGED TO INVADE RUSSIA IN 1920, AND ACTION IN ENGLAND LED TO DOCKERS REFUSING TO LOAD MUNITIONS FOR POLAND ON TO THE ‘JOLLY GEORGE’.

 

WHEN THE BOLSHEVIKS PUSHED THE POLES BACK, LLOYD GEORGE THREATENED THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT WITH WAR UNLESS ITS TROOPS WITHDREW.

 

THE LABOUR PARTY AND TUC COMBINED TO DECIDE IN FAVOUR OF A GENERAL STRIKE TO PREVENT SUCH A WAR, AND LLOYD GEORGE ABANDONED HIS ATTITUDE AND ADVISED POLAND TO MAKE PEACE.

 

IN IRELAND, CONNOLLY CRYSTALLISED OPINION: “WE SERVE NEITHER KING NOR KAISER, BUT IRELAND.”


DIVISIONS AMONG THE IRISH LED TO THE FAILURE OF THE EASTER UPRISING OF 1916, AND ALTHOUGH IT TOOK 20,000 TO SUPPRESS IT, PEARCE, CONNOLLY AND MOST OF THE LEADERS WERE TAKEN PRISONER AND EXECUTED.

 

THIS WAS NOT THE END OF THE REBELLION, BUT THE BEGINNING. THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, INCLUDING SINN FEIN, GREW, AND IN 1921 A FREE IRISH STATE WAS SET UP.

 

THE END OF THE WORLD WAR BROUGHT CHAOS FOR THE GOVERNMENT.

 

NAVAL AND ARMY MUTINIES, POLICE STRIKES AND A UNIVERSAL DESIRE FOR A DIFFERENT LIFE WERE DEMANDED.

 

LLOYD GEORGE STATED “EUROPE IS FILLED WITH REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS.”

 

IN 1918, HE CLEVERLY CALLED AN EARLY ELECTION, KNOWN AS THE ‘KHAKI’ ELECTION. SOLDIERS WERE UNABLE TO VOTE, AND NEWLY FRANCHISED ELECTORS WERE NOT YET ON THE REGISTER.

 

HE PREPARED A PROGRAMME OF ‘HOUSES FOR ALL AND A LAND FIT FOR HEROES’ BUT INSTEAD DELIBERATELY STARTED A HATE CAMPAIGN AGAINST GERMANY.

 

EVEN THOUGH THE LABOUR PARTY POLLED 2.25 MILLION VOTES AND ACHIEVED 57 MEMBERS, AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY FOR THE LIBERALS WAS ASSURED. THEY COULD PRESS AHEAD WITH A MANDATE FOR THE CRAZY AND DISASTEROUS VERSAILLES SETTLEMENT, THE RESULTS OH HAVE NOT EVEN TODAY BEEN EXHAUSTED.

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