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The British Labour Movement in 1912

V. I. Lenin

The miners' strike was the outstanding event of the past year. While the railway strike in 1911 showed the "new spirit" of the British workers, the miners' strike definitely marked an epoch.

Despite the "war" preparations of the ruling classes, and despite the strenuous efforts of the bourgeoisie to crush the resistance of the rebellious slaves of capital, the strike was a success. The miners displayed exemplary organisation. There was not a trace of blacklegging. Coal-mining by soldiers or inexperienced labourers was out of the question. And after six weeks of struggle the bourgeois government of Britain saw that the country's entire industrial activity was coming to a standstill and that the words of the workers' song, "All wheels cease to whir when thy hand wills it"[1], were coming true.

The government made concessions.

"The Prime Minister of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen attended a delegate meeting of the mine-owners' striking slaves and pleaded with them to agree to a compromise." That is how a well-informed Marxist summed up the struggle.

The British Government, which year after year usually feeds its workers with promises of reform "some day", this time acted with real dispatch. In five days a new law was rushed through Parliament! This law introduced a minimum wage, i.e., regulations establishing rates of pay below which wages cannot be reduced.

It is true that this law, like all bourgeois reforms, is a miserable half-measure and in part a mere deception of the workers, because while fixing the lowest rate of pay, the employers keep their wage-slaves down all the same. Nevertheless, those who are familiar with the British labour movement say that since the miners' strike the British proletariat is no longer the same. The workers have learned to fight. They have come to see the path that will lead them to victory. They have become aware of their strength. They have ceased to be the meek lambs they seemed to be for so long a time to the joy of all the defenders and extollers of wage-slavery.

In Britain a change has taken place in the balance of social forces, a change that cannot be expressed in figures but is felt by all.

Unfortunately, there is not much progress in Party affairs in Britain. The split between the British Socialist Party (formerly the Social-Democratic Federation) and the In dependent (of socialism) Labour Party persists. The opportunist conduct of the M.P.s belonging to the latter party is giving rise, as always happens, to syndicalist tendencies among the workers. Fortunately, these tendencies are not strong.

The British trade unions are slowly but surely turning towards socialism, in spite of the many Labour M.P.s who stubbornly champion the old line of liberal labour policy. But it is beyond the power of these last of the Mohicans to retain the old line!

[1] Lenin is quoting from the workers' song which Georg Herwegh, a German poet, wrote in 1863 for the General Association of German Workers.

Published: Pravda No. 1, January 1, 1913. Signed: W..
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 467-468.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive
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